Interpretation of Sura an-Nur - Verse 61
Adopted from the book: "The Light of the Holy Qur'an - Interpretation of Sura an-Nur" by: "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani & a Group of Muslim Scholars"
61. "There is no blame upon the blind nor any blame upon the lame nor any blame upon the sick nor on yourselves that you eat from your houses, or the houses of your fathers, or the houses of your mothers, or the houses of your brothers, or the houses of your sisters, or the houses of your fathers' brothers, or the houses of your fathers' sisters, or the houses of your mothers' brothers, or the houses of your mothers' sisters, or(from that) whereof you hold the keys, or (from the house) of your friend. No sin shall it be for you whether you eat together or apart. But when you enter houses, salute one another with a greeting from Allah, blessed and good. Thus does Allah make clear His revelations for you, so that you might understand."
Imam Baqir (a.s.) said: "efore Islam the blind, the lame and the sick were not allowed to eat food with healthy people. This verse permitted them to eat food in group, with healthy people or if they wanted they could eat food lonely." 128
Anyway, since the previous verses talked about taking permission at certain times or when entering special place of parents, the concerned verse is, in fact, an exception from this ordinance, indicating that a group can enter their relatives' home and the like in certain conditions and without taking permission, and they can even eat food without having permission. At first, the verse says:
"There is no blame upon the blind nor any blame upon the lame nor any blame upon the sick nor on yourselves that you eat from your houses,..."
According to some narrations, before converting to Islam, the people of Medina prevented the blind, the lame and the sick to eat with them at a table. They did not eat with those people and they hated such a matter.
And, on the contrary, after Islam some people thought that this kind of people must eat lonely, not because they hated eating with them, but maybe because they thought that the blind could not see the existing good food while they could and they ate, which was against ethics, and also the lame and the sick were not as fast in eating as healthy people were so they tarried. Anyway, they did not eat food with such people for any reason they had , so the blind, the lame and the sick withdrew themselves, because it was possible that they caused others to worry and also thought that this was a sin.
This matter was presented to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and this verse was sent down, indicating that there is no blame upon the blind, nor any blame upon the lame nor any blame upon the sick, nor on yourselves that you eat food with together. 129
The writer of Jawami'-ul-Jami' says: In the advent of Islam, some of believers brought the disabled and the afflicted persons to the houses of their wives, to the houses of their own offsprings, their relatives' houses, and their friends' houses, and they fed them. Gradually these believers thought that this job might be counted a sin for them, and so they avoided this deed. Then this verse was sent down and indicated that this deed is not as sin.
The purpose of: "There is no blame ... nor on yourselves..." is that there is no heaviness and sin for you and for the believers who are like you.
Some have said that the sick and the poor did not eat and associate with other people, because they thought people might not like their company.
Some others have said that when Muslims wanted to go to war, they gave the key of their houses to the disabled so that these people could eat whatever they found in those houses. But they thought that this interference might be unlawful for them, then they avoided eating food of their houses. Then Allah said that there is no blame on them and you in this eating.
Then the holy Qur'an adds implying that there is not any blame on yourselves if you eat from these houses without permission: from your houses, (the objective is the children and wives which have been rendered into 'your houses'). The verse continues:
"... or the houses of your fathers, or the houses of your mothers, or the houses of your brothers, or the houses of your sisters, or the houses of your fathers' brothers, or the houses of your fathers' sisters, or the houses of your mothers' brothers, or the houses of your mothers' sisters, or (from that) whereof you hold the keys, or (from the house) of a friend. No sin shall it be for you whether you eat together or apart...."
It seems that, at the advent of Islam, some Muslims avoided eating food lonely and if they could not find anyone as company for eating food, they would remain hungry for a time. Then the Qur'an taught them that eating lonely, or with other persons, is lawful. 130
Some commentators have also said that some Arabs believed that, as a respect, the food of their guest must be served separately and they ought not to be with him during eating food (lest the guest might become shy or feel uneasy). This verse removed these considerations and taught them that this was not an admirable custom. 131
Another group of commentators have said that some people believed that the poor must not eat with the rich, and class division must be observed even at the time of eating food. The holy Qur'an rejected this wrong and unjust custom with the above sentence.
There is no problem if this verse refers to all of above affairs. Then the verse refers to another ethical matter, where it says:
"... But when you enter houses, salute one another with a greeting from Allah, blessed and good...."
And finally it says:
"... Thus does Allah make clear His revelations for you, so that you might understand."
That which houses are the purpose of the Qur'anic word /buyut/ (houses), some say that it refers to 11 houses that are mentioned in above.
Some others say it refers specially to mosques. But, as it is clear, the verse is unconditional and it embraces all houses, including those 11 ones which a person enters for eating food, or other houses such as: friends' houses and relatives' houses and so on, because there is no reason for limiting the vast concept of the verse.
There are some commentaries on the purpose of the Qur'anic phrase: /fa sallimu 'ala 'anfusikum/ 'saluting one another':
Some say that it means 'to salute one another' as in the story of the Children of Israel the holy Qur'an says /faqtulu 'anfusakum/: "... and slay one another (the wrong doers) ..."! 132
Some commentators say that ,it means to greet to wife, issues and family, because they are considered as man himself and therefore, it is stated in the verse in the form of/'anfus/. In the verse of mutual cursing (Sura 'Al-i-'Imran, No. 3, verse 61) we see such a meaning, and it shows that sometime when a person gets relationally closed to one another the word /'anfus/ (self, man himself) will be used, as Imam Ali's closeness to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) is stated in this way.
Some commentators say that this verse refers to the houses in which no one lives and when one wants to enter them one salutes himself with this sentence: "Our greeting and peace will be from our Lord." or "Our peace be upon us and upon Allah's righteous servants," We think there is not any inconsistency between these commentaries; entering every home we must salute, believers must salute believers, household must salute each other, if there is no one we must salute ourselves, because all of these, in fact, refer to saluting oneself.
On the commentary of this verse, Imam Baqir (a.s.) said: "The purpose of saluting household at the time of entering home is that they will naturally answer him and returns peace and salutation on himself, and this is saluting oneself." 133
Again, Imam Baqir (a.s.) said: "When a person enters his home and sees some one there so he must salute him (or her), and if there is no one there, he must say, peace be upon us from Allah, as Allah has said in the holy Qur'an: "... a greeting from Allah, blessed and good ... " 134 Some Points:
1. Do we not need to take permission for eating others' food? As the above verse has mentioned, Allah has permitted man to eat food from close relatives' houses and some friends' houses and such like (on the whole these houses are 11). In this verse taking permission was not mentioned as its condition and certainly it does not need taking permission,because when permission is taken we can eat everyone's food and it will not be limited to these 11 houses. But, is obtaining inward consent necessary as a condition because of intimacy and close acquaintance that is between two parties?
The holy verse apparently rejects this condition, too, and considers it enough if only he or she is likely consent.
But if the status of two parties is in a way that certainly there is no assent, although the verse apparently includes all cases from this viewpoint, it is not impossible that the verse excludes such a case, especially when such people are rare and general applications do not cover these rare people.
Therefore, the above verse particularizes, in a certain field, verses and narrations that limit using others' property to having permission from their owners save in a special boundary; but we repeat that this particularization is inside a certain field, such as eating food as it is necessary and without immoderation.
What was said above is well known among our Islamic jurists and some of it is mentioned explicitly in narrations from Ahl-ul-Bayt (a.s.).
We read in an authentic narration that when Imam Sadiq (a.s.) was asked about the Qur'anic phrase /'a Saduqikum/ (or of a friend), he said: "By Allah! Its purpose is that man enters his friend's (brother's) home and eats food without having permission." 135
There are numerous narrations mentioned that have the same concept and in them it is said that taking permission is not necessary in these cases.
On 'lack of corruption and immoderation',some narrations have also mentioned it explicitly. 136
The only thing that remains is a narration that is about this matter. It says: "Only special nutritional materials can be eaten, not every food." But since this narration is objected by Islamic jurists, its document would not be valid.
Some Islamic jurists have excepted some foods which are superior and special, and possibly the landlord has kept for himself or for an honored guest or for some particular times. It is not impossible that the verse excepts this case. 137
2. The philosophy of this Islamic ordinance:
Comparing with other severe divine ordinances that prohibit usurpation, this ordinance may raise question how Islam permits such a thing while it is very exact and fastidious in the issue of usurping others' property.
We think that this question is proper for fully material environments, such as western societies, in which parents may force their children to go out of their house when they become a little old! And when parents get old and disable, they will be dismissed! They do not want to be kind and gratitude towards them, because in those societies all affairs are based on economical and financial relationships and usually humane sentiments do not exist.
With regard to the Islamic culture and humane profound sentiments, especially between the members of the family, relatives and particular friends, which dominate this culture, there is nothing to get surprised at.
In fact, Islam considers close relationships of relatives and friends as being superior to these issues. This, in fact, indicates the ultimate friendship and peacefulness that must dominate an Islamic society, and conceits, exclusionisms, and selfishness must be wiped out from it.
Undoubtedly, the ordinances of usurpation exist in fields other than this, but in this special field Islam gives priority to sentimental issues and humane relationships and it is, in fact, an example for other relations of relatives and friends.
3. Who does /sadiq/ mean?
Undoubtedly friendship and friendliness has got a vast meaning, and here its purpose is certainly those special and close friends that have very close relationship with each other and whose relation necessitates going to each other's house and to eat from their food. In such cases, as we said before, there is no need for being sure about the consent of other party, if only someone is not sure about the discontentment of that one, this will be enough.
Thus some commentators have said about this phrase that the purpose is a friend who treats sincerely with you in his friendship. Some others say that the purpose is a friend that usually has outwardly and inwardly the same relation with you. Apparently, all of these statements refer to one matter.
Meanwhile, in short, it gets clear that those who are not in this extent generous and forgiving toward their friends, are not in fact friend.
It is appropriate here to mention a tradition narrated from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) who declared comprehensive conditions of friendship and its vast concept. He (a.s.) said: "Friendship is materialized only when its conditions and terms are met. Count a person who has all of these terms, or some of them, as friend. And a person who has nothing of these terms is not a friend. (Conditions and terms of friendship)
A) His outward and inward are the same for you.
B) He considers your honour, reputation, and enhancement as his and he counts your fault and gracelessness as his.
C) His rank, wealth and status do not change his position toward you.
D) He does not withhold from you what he can do.
F) A person who has got all of the above attributes does not leave you alone when you are down on your luck." 138
4. The commentary of /mamalaktum mafatihahu/ ('(from that) whereof you hold the keys'):
In some occasions of revelation we read that at the advent of Islam, when Muslims went to war, they sometimes gave the key of their house to the disabled who could not fight and even permitted them to eat whatever food was in the house, but they avoided eating food, because they thought that this might be sin.
According to this narration, the purpose of this phrase is 'the houses that you have become the owner of whose keys' 139
It has been narrated from Ibn Abbass who said the purpose of this sentence is man's lawyer or agent due to his domestic animals, farming, ground, and water. Such person is permitted to eat fruit from the garden and to drink milk from the animals as much as he needs. Some others also have interpreted it as storekeeper who has the right to eat some of the foodstuff.
But, with regard to other groups that are mentioned in this verse, it seems that the purpose of the phrase is those who give the key of their house to other person for the sake of close relationship and trust. Their close relationship has caused them to be like close relatives and friends, whether he is formally lawyer or not.
If we read in some narrations that this phrase has been interpreted as a lawyer who is responsible for someone's property, it is, indeed, only expressing the extension of the meaning and it is not limited to it.
5. Salutation and greeting:
As we said before, the Arabic word /tahiyat/ is derived from the word /hayat/ (life) and it means to pray for someone's health and life, whether this prayer is in the form of 'Salamun 'Alaykum' (peace on you), or 'As-Salamu 'Alayna' (Peace on us), or 'Hayyaka Allah' (Allah salutes you). But usually every kind of expression of kindness that is done in the beginning of a meeting is called 'Tahiyyat'.
The purpose of the sentence "... a greeting from Allah, blessed and good ..." is to join greeting with Allah in a way, that is, the purpose of 'Salamun 'Alaykum' will be that 'Allah salutes you' or 'I ask Allah your health.", because in the opinion of a believer every prayer that is in this form is both full of blessings (Muburak) and pure (Tayyib).
Some Islamic traditions on salutation and its importance and obligation to answer every kind of greeting:
1. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: "The stingiest person is the one who is reluctant to salute (and to greet), and the most generous person is one who spends his wealth and his life in the path of Allah." 140
2. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: "Salutation is recommended and answering salutation is obligatory." 141
3. Imam Hussayn (a.s.) said: "Salutation has got 70 good points of which 69 belong to one who begins salutation and one belongs to one who answers it." 142
4. Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said: "(This is the sign) of modesty that you salute to whom you meat."
5. Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said: "One who starts saluting is more prior to (have the blessing and favour of) Allah and the Prophet (p.b.u.h.)."
6. Imam Rida (a.s.) said: "One who salutes the poor in a way that is different from the way he salutes the rich will meet Allah, Almighty and Glorious, on the Day of Hereafter while He is angry at him." 143
7. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: "The stingiest individual is one who meets other Muslim and does not salute him." 144
8. Imam Ali (a.s.) said: "When someone salutes you, you salute him in a better way, and when someone confers you a blessing, you confer him a better blessing. But prior is the one who has started saluting and offering blessing." 145
128. Nar-uth-Thaqalyn, the Commentary
129. Dur-ul-Manthar and Nar-uth-Thaqalyn, following the verse. A part of other commentators also have mentioned this narration in their books such as: Tabarsa in Majma‘-ul-Bayan, the deceased Fiyd in Tafsar-us-Safa, Fakhr-i-Raza in Tafsar-ul-Kabar, and Shaykh Tasa in Tibyan.
130. Tibyan, the Commentary, following the verse
132. Sura Al-Baqarah, No.2, verse 54
133. Nar-uth-Thaqalyn, vol. 3, p. 627
135. Wasa’il-ush-Sha‘ah, Vol. 16, p. 434, the book of “At‘imah wa Ashribah”, chapters of ’adab-ul-Ma’idah, C. 24, Tradition No. 1
137. For more explation refer to the book Jawahir-ul-Kalam, Vol. 36, p. 406
138. ’Usal-i-Kafa, Vol. 2, p. 467
139. Qurtaba, the Commentary, following the verse
140. Bihar, Vol. 73, p. 12
142. Bihar, Vol. 75, p. 471
143. Wasa’il-ush-Sha‘ah, Vol. 5, p. 442
144. Bihar, Vol. 75, p. 12
145. Nahj-ul-Balaqah, Translated by Fiydul-Islam, p. 1114
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