Interpretation of Sura Cow - Verse 221
221. " And do not marry idolater women until they believe, and a believing maid is definitely preferable to an idolater (free) woman even though she may please you. Nor give (your women) in marriage to idolater men until they believe; and certainly a believing servant is preferable to an idolater (free man) , though he may please you. Those invite to the Fire while Allah invites to paradise and forgiveness by His Will, and He makes clear His Signs to people, so that they may take heed."
Occasion of Revelation
Once there came a man into Mecca by the name of Marthad. He was a brave man who had converted to Islam. He occasionally met " 'Anagh ", the beautiful woman whom he was acquainted with formerly, at the time of Ignorance. She invited him to sinful actions as before, but Marthad, who had become a Muslim, did not accept her wish. Hence, the woman asked him to marry her. Marthad replied that it was contingent on the permission of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) . Then, after performing his affairs, he returned to Medina and told the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) about the matter. So, this verse was revealed and stated that the idol-worshippers and pagan women are not eligible to be married by Muslim men.
The term /nikah/ in Arabic philology means: ' matrimony, wedlock, and marriage '. Islam has considered a number of conditions for the wife that a man wants to select. These conditions are identified in Islam because this religion takes the matrimonial life important for the sake of the assured heritable effects upon offspring, and, also, for the sake of the training issues of the family environment over the fate of the children. It says, for example, that a pagan woman is not suitable to be married by a Muslim. Supposing that such a woman be chosen for marriage, the resulting children will naturally obtain her spiritualities and qualities under the principle of heritage, and after birth, if they trained by that mother, (whereas it is often thus) , these children may have an abominable end. That is why the Holy Qur'an, in this verse, has explicitly prohibited marriage with the women who are infidel or idol-worshippers.
" And do not marry idolater women until they believe, and a believing maid is definitely preferable to an idolater (free) woman even though she may please you. ... "
In addition to that, if pagans, who are counted foreigners in an Islamic society, penetrate into the houses of Muslims by means of marriage, that society will be inflicted with disorder and interior enemies. In such a situation the different rows and categories therein are not recognized from each other. Hence, the Qur'an, hereby, tells them not to marry with that group of women. However, Islam has not closed all the doors absolutely to them. Therefore, in order to use their sexual tendency towards their felicity, the Qur'an says:
" ... Nor give (your women) in marriage to idolater men until they believe; and certainly a believing servant is preferable to an idolater (free man) , though he may please you. ..." Similar to the statement at the threshold of the verse that prohibits men from marrying idolatress or infidel women, in this part of the verse, giving girls and women in marriage to infidels and idolater men is prohibited, too. And, similar to the idea that the believing maids are more eligible to marry with than the free idolater women even with admirable beauty or wealth, the believing servants and slaves are more eligible to marry with than the handsome men who are apparently of dignity but disbelieving. In fact, the wedlock of believing women with disbelieving men is forbidden while they are infidels; but there is no sin in marrying them when they accept the truth and believe. This is the very way of return which was also pointed out at the beginning of the verse. In the subsequent sentence, the reason of the prohibition for the wedlock of believing ones with idolaters and infidels, men and women, is expressed:
" ... Those invite to the Fire while Allah invites to Paradise and forgiveness by His Will, ... " The prohibition of marriage with an idolater is for the reason that they call their companions towards idolatry and some disgraceful manners. Their behaviour, of course, originates from idolism especially when this companionship is via matrimony whose intensity of mutual effect is deeper and more impressive. The fruit of this conduct is the blazing Fire of Hell.
Briefly speaking, acquaintance with them, particularly through the way of marriage, is inacquaintance with Allah; and approaching them is, indeed, keeping aloof from the Lord.
The believers, unlike that group, because of belief and high human qualities resulting from their true Faith, call their companions to the Truth and excellence. The fate of this manner is Paradise and the forgiveness of Allah. In this occasion, regarding the close and sincere relation that the true believers have with Allah, He has applied His own appellation instead of using 'believers' and has said: " ... Allah invites to Paradise and forgiveness by His Will, ... " Commenting on the last part of this holy verse, the author of Atyab-ul-Bayan says: 107 " Allah (s.w.t) makes His Signs clear to people to be guided and consequently, they haply take heed. When they recognize the difference between obedience and disobedience, they may avoid sin and follow worship. These Signs are irrespective of revealed prescripts, applicable duties, and ethical instructions; or the verses of macrocosm and microcosm which lead the servants towards the path of felicity and salvation so that they are rescued from the calamities of this world and those of the next world." "... and He makes clear His signs to people, so that they may take heed."
107. Atyab-ul-Bayan, vol. 2, p. 441
Adapted from the book: "The Light of The Quran - Interpretation of Sura Al-Baqarah (The Cow)" by: "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and A Group of Muslim Scholars"
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