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Interpretation of Sura an-Nur - Verses 19-20

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"

19. "Verily those who love that indecency should be spread concerning those who believe, theirs will be a painful punishment in the world and the Hereafter; and Allah knows, while you do not know."

20. "And had it not been for the grace of Allah and His mercy on you, and Allah is Compassionate, Merciful, (you would have been chastised)."


Interest in spreading indecency is sometimes materialized by tongue and pen and sometimes by setting up some centers of abomination and wickedness, encouraging others to commit sin, and providing others with facilities for doing wrong action and committing sin.

Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said: "One who hears or sees something about a believer and retells it for others is among the examples of this verse."[1]

There is a tradition that says one who gives publicity to an evil action is like the one who commits it.[2]

Therefore in this verse, for leaving no doubt, the words are changed from expressing a private phenomenon into statement of a general and comprehensive rule. It says:

"Verily those who love that indecency should be spread concerning those who believe, theirs will be a painful punishment in the world and the Hereafter;..."

It is worth-studying that the verse does not say: those who spread indecency, but it says "Verily those who love that indecency should be spread', and this is The ultimate emphasis on this field.

In other words, it says it must not be thought that such insistence and emphasis is just for the sake that the wife of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.), or someone as important as her, is accused, but if such a thing happens to anyone and to every faithful person, this emphasis and insistence will be applied to that person, because other aspects will be added to it.

By the way, we must pay careful attention to the fact that spreading indecency is not allocated to only spreading false baseless accusation of a faithful man and woman and to accuse them of an unchaste action. This is one of its examples and it is not limited to it. This phrase has got a wider concept that involves every kind of dissemination of corruption, spreading indecency and giving help to its development.

Of course, in the holy Qur'an, the Arabic word /fahisah/,or /fahsa/, is mostly applied to sexual deviations and obscenity in honour, (defilements of honour), but philologically, as Raqib says in the book Mufradat, 'Fuhsh', 'Fahsha', and 'Fahishah' refer to any behaviour and speech that the obscenity of it is very bad and great. And, in the holy Qur'an, it is sometimes used in the same vast meaning, such as the verse which says: "And those who shun the great sins and indecencies, ..."[1] Thus, the extent of the concept of the verse gets completely clear.

But, the sentence "... theirs will be a painful punishment in the world..." may refer to religiously prescribed punishments, social reactions, and individual gloomy consequences that in this very world will catch those who commit these actions. Moreover, their deprivation from the right of testimony and their condemnation to disgrace and iniquity are also its other worldly signs.

The agonizing punishment of the Hereafter is Hell Fire, Divine wrath and fury, and not enjoying Allah's bless.

At the end of the verse, it says:

"... and Allah knows, while you do not know."

Allah is well aware of the gloomy consequences and fatal results of spreading indecency both in the world and the Hereafter, but we are not aware of its different dimensions.

He does know in whose heart the interest and love of committing this sin lies. He knows those who carry out this evil action under beguiling names, but we do not know them. He knows how to reveal His ordinances to prevent this wicked and indecent action.

In the last verse in question, that is the last verse which is about 'Ifk', 'struggling with indecency', and 'Qathf, again emphasis is put on the fact that: Had it not been for the grace of Allah and His mercy unto you, and if Allah were not Clement, Merciful on you, He would have sent such a great and painful chastisement upon you in this world that your life could be ruined. The verse says:

"And had it not been for the grace of Allah and His mercy on you, and Allah is Compassionate, Merciful, (you would have been chastised)."

Pay attention to some matters

1- What is Spreading Indecency?

Since man is a social creature, the great community in which he lives, from one point of view, is like his home and its enclosure are counted as that of his home. The pureness of society helps his pureness and its defilement helps his defilement. Consequently, Islam is against anything that pollutes the atmosphere of the society and severely struggles with anything that defiles it.

If we see that backbiting is severely struggled with in Islam, one of its philosophies is that backbiting divulges secret faults and dishonours society.

If we see that it is commanded to hide faults, one of its reasons is to prevent sin from being common and widespread.

We see that open and seen sin is more important than hidden and covered sin. It is so important that Imam Rida (a.s.) says: "One who disseminates sin is rejected and one who hides sin is divinely forgiven."

If we see that in the above verses spreading indecency is severely reprimanded and condemned, is also because of this.

Essentially sin is like fire. When this fire is stirred in a part of society, it must be tried to put off the fire or at least to encircle it. But if we spread fire and move it from one part to the other part, fire will increase and no one can control it.

Moreover, the importance of sin in the opinion of people and saving the superficial aspect of society are great bars against corruption. Spreading slander and sin and pretending wickedness unbar it, belittle the sin and make being involved in it easy.

The Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) in a tradition said: "One who disseminates a wickedness is like one who has first (committed and) established it."[1]

Also there is a tradition that says: "One day a man came to Imam masa Ibn Ja'far (a.s.) and said: 'May I lay down my life for you!One of brothers retold me something about a religious brother, the thing which I disliked. I asked him (that religious brother), but he denied it, while some of trustworthy persons narrated this.' Imam said: 'When something bad is told about your brother, do not believe your eye and ear.

Even if 50 persons take oath that he has done it and he says he has not done it, accept him. Do not disseminate anything that causes him disgrace and slander in society. If you do it, you will be one of those about whom Allah says: 'Verily those who love that indecency should be spread concerning those who believe, theirs will be a painful punishment in the world and the Hereafter...[2]'."[3]

It is also necessary to mention that 'spreading indecency' has got different forms:

Sometimes there are centers that cause corruption and disseminate wickedness. Sometimes the case is in the form of providing people with means of sin, or encouraging people to commit wrong action. Finally the result is being no more decent and modest and then they commit sin in public. All of these are examples of 'spreading indecency', because the concept of this phrase is vast and extensive.

2- The Calamity of Rumour-mongering

Vamping and circulating false rumours is one of the main branches of conspirators' psychological warfare. When enemy cannot bring damage to the other party face to face, it resorts to spreading rumour. In this way enemy worries public opinion and makes people self-busy, so people are diverted from their main and crucial issues.

Rumour vamping is one of the ruinous weapons to mar the reputation of pure and good persons and to scatter people who are around them.

In the concerning verses, according to the famous occasions of revelation, for weakening and marring the reputation of the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.), some hypocrites fabricated and circulated the most unfair rumour. And, using a proper opportunity, they expressed doubts about pureness of some of the wives of the great Prophet of Islam (p.b.u.h.).

For a relatively long period, they upset Muslims so much that the real and steadfast believers twisted like the person who is bitten by a snake. And then the divine revelation was sent down to help them and it castigated the hypocrites so much that others would take lessen.

Though in societies in which there is political repression, spreading rumour is considered a kind of campaigning, other motivations such as retaliation, settlement of personal accounts, ruining public trust, marring some great persons' notability, and deviating people from thinking about political issues are also counted as the main factors of mongering rumour.

This is not enough for us to know what motivation is the cause of fabricating rumour,but it is important to give warning to people to avoid being puppet of rumour-fabricators and the factor of its circulation, and so they do not get the means of society destruction provided. People must be aware that when they hear a rumour, they must bury it immediately; otherwise we have made the enemy happy and successful. Moreover, we will be imposed with painful punishment of the world and the Hereafter, which has been mentioned in the above verses.

3- Sin should not be counted trifle

One of the issues that were reprimanded in the above verses was that people commit a sin, such as spreading calumny and slander, while they consider it rather little.

Verily belittling sin is itself one of the sins. A person who commits a sin, and then magnifies it and is upset by his action, tries to repent and make amends, but a person who belittles sin and even sometimes he says: "How blessed I am, because I have only committed this sin", is in a dangerous path and still he continues his sin.

Thus, Imam Ali (a.s.) in a tradition said: "The severest sin is the sin whose committer considers it light."[1]

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