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Select Translation What is This? Selections include: The Koran Interpreted, a translation by A.J. Arberry, first published 1955; The Qur'an, translated by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, published 2004; or side-by-side comparison view
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The Qurʾan What is This? A current English-language version of the Qur'an, published in 2004
Translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem

4. Women (1 – 21)

A Medinan sura which takes its title from the many references to women throughout the sura (verses 3–4, 127–30). It gives a number of instructions, urging justice to children and orphans, and mentioning inheritance and marriage laws. Verses 5–12 of the sura give rulings on property and inheritance, and so does the verse which concludes the sura. The sura also talks of the tensions between the Muslim community in Medina and some of the People of the Book (verses 44, 61), moving into a general discussion of war: it warns the Muslims to be cautious and to defend the weak and helpless (verses 71–6). Another similar theme is the intrigues of the hypocrites (verses 88–91, 138–46).

In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy

1People, be mindful of your Lord, who created you from a single soul, and from ita ‘From the same essence’. Razi convincingly reached this conclusion based on comparison with many instances when min anfusikum is used in the Qurʾan. created its mate, and from the pair of them spread countless men and women far and wide; be mindful of God, in whose name you make requests of one another. Beware of severing the ties of kinship:b Literally ‘the womb-relationships’, i.e. all those to whom you are related. This expression occurs again in 47: 22. God is always watching over you. 2Give orphans their property, do not replace [their] good things with bad, and do not consume their property with your own—a great sin. 3If you fear that you will not deal fairly with orphan girls,c In pre-Islamic Arabia, some guardians of orphan girls used to marry them in order to take their property (see 4: 127). you may marry whichever [other]d This is a widely accepted interpretation. women seem good to you, two, three, or four. If you fear that you cannot be equitable [to them], then marry only one, or your slave(s):e ‘Literally ‘what your right hands possess’. that is more likely to make you avoid bias. 4Give women their bridal gift upon marriage, though if they are happy to give up some of it for you, you may enjoy it with a clear conscience.

5Do not entrust your property to the feeble-minded. God has made it a means of support for you: make provision for them from it, clothe them, and address them kindly. 6Test orphans until they reach marriageable age; then, if you find they have sound judgement, hand over their property to them. Do not consume it hastily before they come of age: if the guardian is well off he should abstain from the orphan's property, and if he is poor he should use only what is fair. When you give them their property, call witnesses in; but God takes full account of everything you do.a kaffa bi here is used idiomatically.

7Men shall have a share in what their parents and closest relatives leave, and women shall have a share in what their parents and closest relatives leave, whether the legacy be small or large: this is ordained by God. 8If other relatives, orphans, or needy people are present at the distribution, give them something too, and speak kindly to them. 9Let those who would fear for the future of their own helpless children, if they were to die, show the same concern [for orphans]; let them be mindful of God and speak out for justice. 10Those who consume the property of orphans unjustly are actually swallowing fire into their own bellies: they will burn in the blazing Flame.

11Concerning your children, God commands you that a son should have the equivalent share of two daughters. If there are only daughters, two or more should share two-thirds of the inheritance, if one, she should have half. Parents inherit a sixth each if the deceased leaves children; if he leaves no children and his parents are his sole heirs, his mother has a third, unless he has brothers, in which case she has a sixth. [In all cases, the distribution comes] after payment of any bequests or debts. You cannot know which of your parents or your children is more beneficial to you: this is a law from God, and He is all knowing, all wise. 12You inherit half of what your wives leave, if they have no children; if they have children, you inherit a quarter. [In all cases, the distribution comes] after payment of any bequests or debts. If you have no children, your wives' share is a quarter; if you have children, your wives get an eighth. [In all cases, the distribution comes] after payment of any bequests or debts. If a man or a woman dies leaving no children or parents,b This is the most generally accepted meaning of the Arabic word kalala. There are many others. but a single brother or sister, he or she should take one-sixth of the inheritance; if there are more siblings, they share one-third between them. [In all cases, the distribution comes] after payment of any bequests or debts, with no harm done to anyone: this is a commandment from God: God is all knowing and benign to all. 13These are the bounds set by God: God will admit those who obey Him and His Messenger to Gardens graced with flowing streams, and there they will stay— that is the supreme triumph! 14But those who disobey God and His Messenger and overstep His limits will be consigned by God to the Fire, and there they will stay—a humiliating torment awaits them!

15If any of your women commit a lewd act, call four witnesses from among you, then, if they testify to their guilt, keep the women at home until death comes to them or until God shows them another way.a Through another regulation, or marriage, or any other way. See also end of 65: 2, which uses nearly identical words. 16If two men commit a lewd act, punish them both; if they repent and mend their ways, leave them alone—God is always ready to accept repentance, He is full of mercy. 17But God only undertakes to accept repentance from those who do evil out of ignorance and soon after wards repent: these are the ones God will forgive, He is all knowing, all wise. 18It is not true repentance when people continue to do evil until death confronts them and then say, ‘Now I repent,’ nor when they die defiant: We have prepared a painful torment for these.

19You who believe, it is not lawful for you to inherit women against their will,b In pre-Islamic Arabia, if a man died leaving a widow, her stepson or another man of his family could inherit her. nor should you treat your wives harshly, hoping to take back some of the bride-gift you gave them, unless they are guilty of something clearly outrageous. Live with them in accordance with what is fair and kind: if you dislike them, it may well be that you dislike something in which God has put much good. 20If you wish to replace one wife with another, do not take any of her bride-gift back, even if you have given her a great amount of gold. 21How could you take it when this is unjust and a blatant sin? How could you take it when you have lain with each other and they have taken a solemn pledge from you?

Notes:

a ‘From the same essence’. Razi convincingly reached this conclusion based on comparison with many instances when min anfusikum is used in the Qurʾan.

b Literally ‘the womb-relationships’, i.e. all those to whom you are related. This expression occurs again in 47: 22.

c In pre-Islamic Arabia, some guardians of orphan girls used to marry them in order to take their property (see 4: 127).

d This is a widely accepted interpretation.

e ‘Literally ‘what your right hands possess’.

a kaffa bi here is used idiomatically.

b This is the most generally accepted meaning of the Arabic word kalala. There are many others.

a Through another regulation, or marriage, or any other way. See also end of 65: 2, which uses nearly identical words.

b In pre-Islamic Arabia, if a man died leaving a widow, her stepson or another man of his family could inherit her.

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