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Interpretation of Sura an-Nur - Verses 6-10

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"

6. " And (as for) those who accuse their wives (with adultery), and have (in support) no witness except themselves, then the testimony of one of them (shall be taken) four times (swearing) by Allah that verily he is of the truthful (ones);"

7. "And the fifth (oath to be) that the curse of Allah be on him if he is one of the liars."

8. "And it shall avert the punishment from her if she bears witness four times (swearing) by Allah that verily he is one of the liars,"

9. "And the fifth (oath) should be that the wrath of Allah be upon her if he is of the truthful (ones)."

10. "And had it not been Allah's grace and His mercy on you, and that Allah is Oft-Pardoning, All-Wise, (you would have been ruined and undone)."

Occasion of Revelation

Among some of the Companions, Sa'ad Ibn 'Ibadeh (the great of The Helpers) told the Prophet (p.b.u.h.): "O' Prophet of Allah! When accusing someone of this unchaste action has such a punishment that if an accuser can not prove it, he will be flogged with 80 stripes, so what can I do when I enter my home and I do see that a miscreant man is having sexual intercourse with my wife?

If I wait for four persons to come and see and then testify, the time has passed and that evil man has done his job, and if I want to kill him, no one believes me without witnesses and I will be retaliated justly as a murderer; and if I tell what I have seen to judge, I will be flogged with 80 stripes." Some minutes later his cousin (son of his uncle) by the name of Hilal-Ibn 'Umayyah entered to report to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) that he had seen a miscreant man with his wife at night. He explicitly said: "I have seen this fact with my own eyes and I heard their voice with my own ears."

At this time the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) became so annoyed that the sign of his unhappiness appeared in his blessed face. Hilal said: "I see by your face how annoyed you have become, but, by Allah, I tell the truth and I hope Allah Himself helps me." At this time Gabriel came down and revealed this verse and its following four verses to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and presented Muslims its real exact solution.

Here, the Holy Qur'an has excluded some cases from the judgment of Qathf (false accusation); if a husband accuses his wife of unchaste action and says that he has seen her while she was doing sexual intercourse with a strange man, Qathf judgment will not be imposed on this husband, and, on the other hand, the husband's claim about his wife will not be accepted without reason and witness.

Here, the holy Qur'an suggests a proposition that the problem will be solved justly and in a most excellent way. That proposition is that the husband must first testify four times for proving that his claim is true. As the Qur'an says:

" And (as for) those who accuse their wives (with adultery), and have (in support) no witness except themselves, then the testimony of one of them (shall be taken) four times (swearing) by Allah that verily he is of the truthful (ones);"

And in the next verse the Qur'an says:

"And the fifth (oath to be) that the curse of Allah be on him if he is one of the liars."

Thus it implies that the husband repeats this sentences for four times, saying: he testifies by Allah that he is telling the truth in accusing his wife of adultery!

In the fifth time the husband says that: May he be cursed by Allah if he tells a lie.

Now the wife is facing a dilemma; if she confirms her husband's words or she does not agree to deny this accusation, according to the way that is mentioned in the next verse, she will decisively be imposed with prescribed punishment of fornication. Thus in the next verse it says:

"And it shall avert the punishment from her if she bears witness four times (swearing) by Allah that verily he is one of the liars,"

And the next verse mentions:

"And the fifth (oath) should be that the wrath of Allah be upon her if he is of the truthful (ones)."

Thus, the wife testifies five times that her husband's five-time-declared testimony that she has committed adultery is untrue. Four times she repeats this sentence:"I testify by Allah that he is telling untruth in his accusation of my adultery."

In the fifth time she declares an oath saying: "Should be that she solemnly invokes the wrath of Allah upon herself if he (her accuser) is telling the truth."

The fulfilment of this Islamic custom in Arabic is called /li'an/ (conjugal anathema, or imprecation) because of the word /la'n/ (curse) mentioned in the above sentences. Doing /li'an/ leads to four certain judgments for these two spouses.

A) Without the formula of repudiation (divorce), they will immediately separate from each other.

B) This wife and husband will be perpetually unlawful to each other; and there will never be the chance of a new marriage between them.

C) There will be no Qathf punishment for this husband and the prescribed punishment of adultery for the wife.

D) The issue that is created through this phenomenon will not be related to husband, but the issue's affinity with wife remains.

Finally in the last one of the concerned verses, it says:

"And had it not been Allah's grace and His mercy on you, and that Allah is Oft-Pardoning, All-Wise, (you would have been ruined and undone)."

In fact this holy verse is as a compact indication that puts emphasis on the above judgments, because it shows that the custom of /li'an/ is a Divine bounteousness that solves the problem of relationship between wife and husband in a right way.

First, it does not compel husband to be silent when he saw his wife has committed a wrong action and to withdraw from instituting legal proceedings.

Second, as soon as the accusation takes place, it does not declare wife to the prescribed punishment of adultery and it grants wife the right to defend herself.

Third, it does not demand husband to go after four witnesses when he saw this scene and so lets the cat out of the bag.

Fourth, it divorces this wife and husband who are unable to continue their married life and even it does not allow them to be spouses with each other again in the future, because if this accusation is true, they can not psychically continue their married life and if it is a lie, wife's sentiment is so spoiled that returning to a new life becomes difficult, because the result of such affair is animosity and hostility not chilly detachment.

Fifth, it also settles the situation of the issue.

By using a delicate, measured, and just solution, Allah has cleared up this difficult problem. He has shown His bless, bounteousness, forgiveness, and intellect towards His servants. If we contemplate this matter, we see that the main judgment that demands four witnesses is not totally cancelled, but in case of wife and husband each of these four 'testimonies' are substituted for one 'witness' and some of its judgments are taken into consideration.

Some matters to be mentioned

1. Why is Qathf allocated to spouses?

The first question that is brought up here is that what characteristics do two spouses have that such an exceptional judgment has been declared about thema The answer of this question can be, on one hand, found in the occasion of revelation of the verse, and that is when a man sees his wife with a strange man he can not be silent, if he possibly wants. How does his jealousy allow him to show no reaction against infringement of his honour and reputation? If he wants to go to judge and say something, he will be imposed with Qathf punishment, because the judge does not know he is right, perhaps he tells a lie. If he wants to go after 4 witnesses, it will be against his face and reputation; moreover, it is possible that the affair ends during finding of witnesses.

On the other hand, strange persons accuse each other of this evil action very soon, but wife and husband accuse each other less. Thus, having 4 witnesses is necessary for strange persons, otherwise Qathf punishment will be carried out, but it is not the same for wife and husband. Therefore, this judgment is because of their characteristics.

2. Li'an, a Special Program

According to explanations that were given in the commentary of the verses, to annul Qathf punishment of man who accuses his wife of adultery, man must testify four times by Allah that he is telling the truth. As a matter of fact, in this special case, each of these four testimonies takes place of a witness. And in the fifth time he most heartedly and willingly wishes Allah's curse, if he tells a lie.

Considering that these regulations are usually carried out along with religious obligations in an Islamic environment, and when one person sees that he must so decisively testify by Allah in the presence of an Islamic judge, and he must curse himself, most of times this bad action (accusation) is not committed. And this prevents man from untrue accusations.

The fact that the wife must testify four times by Allah that this accusation is untrue, is to equalize the testimony of wife and husband. And, since wife is the one who is accused of adultery, she defends herself in the fifth time with a more severe sentence than that of the men and she demands Allah's wrath if the husband tells the truth. We know that 'La'nat' (curse)means not enjoying Allah's mercy, but 'Qadab' (wrath) is something worse than being aloof of Allah's mercy,because wrath demands a punishment that is more than cursing. Thus, in the commentary of Sura Al-Hamd, we said that 'Maqdub-i- 'Alayhim' ("...not (the path) of those inflicted with Your wrath") are persons who are worse than 'Dallan' ("...(those) gone astray."), though 'Dallah' or those who go astray do not certainly acquire Allah's mercy.

Some Traditions on Calumny

1. Imam Rida (a.s.) narrated from his fathers who said: "The Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) said: 'One who calumniates a faithful man or woman, or says something about her (or him) which is not in him (or her), in the Resurrection Day Allah, the Exalted, will set that calumniator on a heap of Fire so that what he has said about him or her comes out of him, (and he will be cleaned by suffering that chastisement)."[1]

2. Imam Ali (a.s.) said: "A believer does not deceive his (religious) brother, nor does he betray him, nor does he disappoint him, nor does he slander him, nor does he says: 'I hate you'."[2]

3. Imam Ali (a.s.) said: "The (sin of) culminating someone (who is clean and pure) is heavier than skies."[3]

4. Imam Ali (a.s.) said: "No shamelessness is like culmination."[4]

5. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: "Whoever calumniates a Muslim in order to bother him, on the Day of Judgment Allah will keep him in the bile sludge of Hell-dwellers till He judges between people."[5]

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