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Interpretation of Sura Cow - Verses 226-227

226. " For those who swear to abstain from their wives, there shall be a waiting of four months; so if then they revert, surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful."

227. " And if they have resolved on divorce, then surely Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.


One of the methods that was customary in the Age of Ignorance for the separation of a husband from his wife was /'ila'/ ' forswear '. This method was also followed by those Muslims who had newly embraced Islam. The word means: ' oath of sexual abstention '. At the Age of Ignorance, when a man displeased his wife, he sometimes took oath to abstain from associating with her, and by this unmanly way, he created a straitened circumstance for her. He neither divorced her legally to make her free to marry with her desired husband and obtain her own wishes, nor he himself was ready to make peace with her and continue to live with her as a spouse.

" For those who swear to abstain from their wives, ..." So, the verse under discussion speaks about the design that Islam has planned for that problem to put an end to it. It says that husband has a respite of four months to make the woman free from this captivity and entanglement. He may either renounce his oath, and continue to live with his wife, or legally divorces her and lets her be free. "...there shall be a waiting of four months; ..." Choosing the first way, and not to disturb the assembly of the family, is undoubtedly reasonable and also pleases Allah. Therefore, at the end of the verse, it says:

"...so if then they revert, surely Allah is Fogiving, Merciful."

The concluding sentence: "...surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful" denotes that renouncing this oath will not be counted a sin, (though it is understood from the statement that the essence of taking oath is not an agreeable action) .

If the man decides to become separate from her and divorces her, forgiveness and mercy is not assured for his action, and Allah, Who is aware of all secrets, knows whether his sensuality has forced the husband to misuse the law of divorce, or his situation and conditions have really required that. The Lord is All-Hearing unto the apparent execution of divorce and is All-Knowing about the motive of it, as well. So, the Qur'an says:

" And if they have resolved on divorce, then surely Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. But it should be noted that, although Islam has not absolutely nullified the proposition of forswear, but it has, indeed, wiped out its effects, because, it does not allow any man to separate from his wife and abandon sexual intercourse by forswearing and taking oath. If we see that the verse has given this kind of man a respite of four months' time to decide, it is not for showing that it is really possible to reject any right of the matrimonial rights by forswearing, but it is for the sake that sexual intercourse, as a religious obligation, is necessary at least once every four months. (It is, of course, so that the woman might not commit sin because of this length of time, otherwise, especially for the young ladies that may commit sin as a result of that long time, the length of time between the sexual intercourses should be shortened as much as that her sexual need be provided for.)


1 - To wipe out the social customs and old traditions treated superstitiously and ignorantly has been a principle among the duties of prophets.

2- Being attentive to the rights and spiritual and instinctive needs of one's wife is a principle for the husband.

3- Sometimes, Man uses the most sacred appellations for the worst aims.

4- For the return of some individuals to the right path and that they make a wise decision, giving a respite is necessary.

5- Islam is the advocator of the oppressed. Women have always been oppressed and their rights have been transgressed all along the length of the history. Therefore, the Qur'an has frequently supported them.

6- People should be encouraged to lead safe and sound lives. The statement: "...so if then they revert, sruely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful " has occurred in the verse to make man aware of the fact that reverting to the course of life is the secret of receiving the forgiveness and mercy of Allah.

7- Islam accepts divorce, with all its bitterness and ugliness, but it does not bear that a wife be suspended and her situation unclear.

8- Be careful of sensuality and be in awe of a decision that destroys the livelihood of a woman, because:

" Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing ".

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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