E. M. (Elwood Morris) Wherry.

A comprehensive commentary on the Qurán; comprising Sale's translation and preliminary discourse, with additional notes and emendations; together with a complete index to the text, preliminary discourse, and notes (Volume 2) online

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Online LibraryE. M. (Elwood Morris) WherryA comprehensive commentary on the Qurán; comprising Sale's translation and preliminary discourse, with additional notes and emendations; together with a complete index to the text, preliminary discourse, and notes (Volume 2) → online text (page 8 of 42)
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word other, inserted by Sale and others before women, is not re-
quired. The Muslim may marry of women such as are pleasing to
him, two, three, or four, whether his orphan wards or not.

Two, or three, or four. Literally, two and two, three and three,
and four and four. The meaning is, that each might have two, or
three, or four lawful wives. See Prelim. Disc, p. .206. Muhammad
did not bind himself by this law. See chap, xxxiii. 49.

The statement of Mir Aulad Ali, professor of Oriental languages
at Trinity College, Dublin, "that Muhammad had not enjoined
polygamy," but only permitted it, quoted by Mr. R. Bos worth Smith
{Mohammed and Mohammedanism, p. 144, note), is hardly borne
out by this passage. Nor is such a statement borne out by the
example of the Prophet. Nor is Mr. Smith's plea, that this per-
mission may be placed in the same category as slavtry not forbidden
in the Bible, at all justified by the facts. Slavery is contrary to the
whole spirit of the Bible, while polygamy is in accord with the
whole spirit of the Quran. Even the heaven of Islam is to witness
the perpetuation of almost unlimited polygamy (see chaps, lv.and lvi.)
The attempt to apologise for the polygamy of Islam, when made by

CHAP. IV.] ( 68 ) [SIPARA IV.

if ye fear that ye cannot act equitably totoards so many,
marry one only, or the slaves which ye shall have acquired *

Europeans, indicates either prejudice or a want of information
on the part of the writer ; when made by a few " enlightened
Orientals," it indicates their desire to cover up what they, by au
English education and by mingling in Christian society, have
learned to be thoroughly ashamed of.

One only, or the slaves. Were the requirements of this rule
Rtrictly observed, there would be no polygamy in practice, for the
simple reason that the impartial treatment of two or more wives is
with man an impossibility. Muhammad did not fulfil this his own
precept, as his marked preference, now for the Coptic Mary and
again for the sprightly Ayesha, clearly shows.

But whilst polygamy would be impracticable, the floodgates of
vice would be, and now are, opened wide by the permission to add
to the one wife any number of slave girls. Those who quote this
passage to show that Muhammad restricted polygamy and that
monogamy is entirely in accord with Muhammadanism, fail to
quote the words, " or the slaves which ye shall have acquired."
The whole force of the restriction h evaporated by these words.
There is absolutely no restriction in this direction. The number of
concubines may be as great as any Osmanli could desire, and yet it
receives the sanction of the Quran.

Instead, therefore, of any " strong moral sentiment " being aroused
by these laws, by which Muhammad " has succeeded, down to this
very day, and to a greater extent than has ever been the case else-
where, in freeing Muhammadan countries from those professional
outcasts who live by' their own misery,"* the very reverse is true.
No countries under heaven present such a cesspool of seething cor-
ruption and sensuality as those ruled over by the Muslims. To be
sure, the form under which it appears is different, but the fact, no man
acquainted with the state of things in Muslim harems, can honestly
deny. The distrust which Muslims show towards their own wives
and daughters testifies to the low state of morality among them.
" It is the Muslim theory that women can never, in any time, place,
or circumstances, be trusted ; they must be watched, veiled, sus-
pected, secluded." " In these days, when so much has been written
about the high ethical tone of Islam, we shall speak plainly on this
subject, unpleasant though it is. We would reiterate the position
already taken, that polygamv has not diminished licentiousness
among the Mohammedans. Ihe sin of Sodom is so common among
them as to make them in many places objects of dread to their
neighbours. The burning denunciations of the Apostle Paul in the
first chapter of Romans, vers. 24 and 27, are applicable to tens of
thousands in Mohammedan lands to-day." u In the city of Hamath,
in Northern Syria, the Christian population, even to this day, are
afraid to allow their boys from ten to fourteen years of age to appear

R. B. Smith's Mohammed and Mohammedanism, p. 242.

SIPARA IV.] ( 69 ) [CHAP. IV.

This will be easier, that ye swerve not from righteousness.
And give women their dowry freely ; but if they volun-
tarily remit unto you any part if it, enjoy it with satis-
faction and advantage. (4) And give not unto those who
are weak of understanding the substance which God hath
appointed you to preserve for them; but maintain them
thereout, and clothe them, and speak kindly unto them.
(5) And examine the orphans until they attain the age of

in the streets after sunset, lest they be carried off by the Moslems as
victims of the horrible practice of Sodomy. Mohammadan pashas
surround themselves with fair-faced boys, nominally scribes and
pages, when in reality their object is of entirely another character."
This, and much more, is told by Dr. Henry H. Jessup in his book
entitled The Mohammedan Missionary Problem, pp. 46-48.

In India the case may not be as bad as it is in Turkey, but I
think we can fairly agree with the Rev. J. Vaughan, who says :
" However the phenomenon may be accounted for, we, after mixing
with Hindoos and Mussulmans for nineteen years back, have no
hesitation in saying that the latter are, as a whole, some degrees
lower in the social and moral scale than the former." Nor have we
any hesitation in saying that the law here recorded, permitting as
many as four lawful wives and any number of slave women besides,
with whom even the form of a marriage is in no way necessary to
Legalist cohabitation, is responsible in large measure for this state of
things. It is one of the darkest of the many spots which mar the
pages of the Quran.

Or the slaves. It is not even necessary that a Muslim have even
one lawful wife. Should he feel it difficult to be impartial toward
many wives, he may take his slave girls, whom he may treat as he
please, and so avoid the responsibility of providing a dowry for even
one wife !

Give xoomen their dowry. The lawful and recpiired amount of
dowry is ten dirhams, but it may be fixed at any amount to which
the contracting parties agree. See chap. ii. 229, note.

If they voluntarily remit, &c. A woman may legally insist upon
the payment of the "lawful dowry," or that agreed upon by contract,
in case she be divorced, unless she voluntarily remits it in part or
altogether. In every case of dispute such remission must be proved
by competent witnesses or by legal documents.

(4) Tlwse of weak understanding, i.e., idiots or persons of weak
intellects, whose property is to be administered so as to provide for
their necessities. Their treatment must also be kindly. Here is
the Muslim lunatic asylum.

(5) Examine the orphans. If males, see to their intellect and
capacity to care for themselves ; if females, examine them as to
their ability to perform household duties.

The age of marriage. " Or age of maturity, which is generally

CHAP. IV.] ( 70 ) [SI PARA IV.

marriage : but if ye perceive they are able to manage
their affairs well, deliver tlreir substance unto them ; and
waste it not extravagantly or hastily, because they grow
up. Let him who is rich abstain entirely from the orphans
estates ; and let him who is poor take thereof according to
what shall be reasonable. And when ye deliver their
substance unto them, call witnesses thereof in their
presence : God taketh sufficient account of your actions.
(6) Men ought to have a part of what their parents and
kindred leave behind them when they die : and women also
ought to have a part of what their parents and kindred
leave, whether it be little, or whether it be much ; a de-
terminate part is due to them. (7) And when they who
are of kin are present at the dividing of what is left, and
also the orphans and the poor, distribute unto them
some part thereof ; and if the estate be too small, at least

reckoned to be fifteen ; a decision supported by a tradition of their
prophet ; though Abu Hanifah thinks eighteen the proper age."
Sale, Baidhdwi.

Waste it not . . . hastily, i.e., when ye see them growing up
rapidly to years of discretion, do not hasten to expend the orphan's
inheritance, seeing it is soon to pass from your hands." Tafafr-i-

What shall be reasonable. " That is, no more than what shall
make sufficient recompense for the trouble of their education." Sale,

Call witnesses, to prevent future dispute and trouble.

(6) Women also ouyht to have a part, &c, " This law was given to
abolish a custom of the pagan Arabs, who suffered not women or
children to have any part of their husband's or father's inheritance,
on pretence that they only should inherit who were able to go to
war." Hale, Baidhdtoi.

Complaints were first made against this old Arab custom by Omni
Kuha, in consequence of which this passage was revealed. Tafsir-i-

The importance of this reform cannot be overrated. Previous to
this, women and helpless children might be disinherited by the
adult male heirs, and thus be reduced to absolute penury, fur no
fault but that of being widows and orphans.

(7) And speik comfortably. The supposed ellipsis, filled in here
by Sale, has not any real existence. See the same expression in
ver. 4.. The idea is that, in any case, some portion of the estate
should be cheerfully given to the poor they were to be treated
kindly, notwithstanding that their presence would necessitate the

SIPARA IV.] (71 ) [CHAP. IV.

speak comfortably unto them. (8) And let those fear to
abuse orphans, who if they leave behind them a weak
offspring, are solicitous for them ; let them therefore fear
God, and speak that which is convenient. (9) Surely
they who devour the possessions of orphans unjustly shall
swallow down nothing but fire into their bellies, and
shall broil in raging flames.

|| (10) God hath thus commanded you concerning your ft TV
children. A male shall have as much as the share of two
females ; but if they be females only, and above two in

R :

parting with some portion of the property about to be divided.
This verse is abrogated by ver. 11 of this chapter. See Preface,
R. UrdU, Quran, Lodiana edition, p. xx.

(8) Let those fear. There is in this verse a threat of retributive
justice against those who would deal unjustly with the helpless
orphan. Their own children might be dealt with in a similar

No doubt Muhammad had learned the substance of this revelation
by his own experience as an orphan. Certainly the anxiety he ex-
hibited to alleviate the sad condition of such is most praiseworthy.
His terrible curses against the oppressors of such (see next verse)
evince the earnestness of his purpose to reform this abuse.

(10) A male . . . two females. "This is the general rule to be
followed in the distribution of the estate of the deceased, as may be
observed in the fallowing cases." Sale.

See also Prelim. Disc, p. 212.

Above two, or only two (Tafsir-i-Raufi). The two-third share of
the property must be shared equally by the daughters being the sole

One, she shall have the half. "And the remaining third part, or
the remaining moiety of the estate, which is not here expressly
disposed of, if the deceased leaves behind him no son, nor a father,
goes to the public treasury. It must be observed that Mr. Selden
is certainly mistaken when, in explaining this passage of the Qurdn,
he says, that where there is a son and an only daughter, each of
them will have a moiety : for the daughter can have a moiety but
in one case only, that is, where there is no son ; for if there be a
son, she can have but a third, according to the above-mentioned

If he have a child = a son. It is implied that the parents would
receive the same were the child a daughter. But of the remaining
two-thirds, while the son would get the whole, a daughter would
oidy get three-sixths or one-half of the whole estate. See note

His mother . . . the third, i.e., half as much as her husband (the
father), a man being entitled to the share of two women.

CHAP. IV.] ( 72 ) [SIPARA IV.

number, they shall have two third parts of what the
deceased shall leave; and if there be but one, she shall
have the half. And the parents of the deceased shall have
each of them a sixth part of what he shall leave, if he
have a child ; but if lie have no child, and his parents be
his heirs, then his mother shall have the third part
And if he have brethren, his mother shall have a sixth
part, after the legacies which he shall. bequeath and his
debts be paid. Ye know not whether your parents or
your children be of greater use unto you. This is an ordi-
nance from God, and God is knowing and wise. (11)
Moreover, ye may claim half of what your wives shall
leave, if they have no issue ; but if they have issue, then
ye shall have the fourth part of what they shall leave,
after the legacies which they shall bequeath and the
debts be paid. They also shall have the fourth part of

In the case where there are brethren, the mother receives a sixth
only. The remainder to be divided between his brethren and his
father, if living. The father would receive a sixth of the whole,
the remaining two-thirds of the estate being divided equally between
the brothers. If he have sisters as well as brothers, we would infer
from the following verse that they would share equally with the

The legacies. Those given for charitable purposes. According to
Muhammadan law in India, a man cannot, by a will, devote more
than one-third of his property in charity.

Your parents or your children. The meaning seems to be that
parents and children are equally near related to the deceased. From
this the inference is drawn that the brothers of the deceased can
only be regarded as lawful heirs in case the father be deceased also.
When living, the parents are the sole heirs, except where there be
children. See Tafsir-i-Raufi in loco.

(11) Fourth fart . . t eighth part. The principle that one man is
equal to two women is preserved here. There being issue to de-
ceased wives, they inherit the remainder of the property according
to the law of ver. 10. So, too, in regard to what remains after a
wife's eighth has been paid her.

Where there is no issue, the part remaining after the husband's
or wife's share has been paid goes to more distant relatives or to
the public treasury.

A distant relation. " For this may happen by contract, or on
some other special occasion." Sale.

The words in Arabic indicate a man rcho has neither parent* nor

sipara iv.] ( 73 ) [CHAP. IV.

what ye shall leave, in case ye have no issue ; but if ye
have issue, then they shall have the eighth part of what
ye shall leave, after the legacies which ye shall bequeath,
and your debts be paid. And if a man or woman's
substance be inherited by a distant relation, and he or she
have a brother or sister ; each of them two shall have a

children, and must therefore bequeath his property to more distant

Each of them. " Here, and in the next case, the brother and
sister are made equal sharers, which is an exception to the general
rule of giving a male twice as much as a female ; and the reason is
said to be, because of the smallness of the portions, which deserve not
such exactness of distribution ; for in other cases the rule holds be-
tween hrother and sister, as well as other relations." Sale.

The case of parents receiving each a sixth when there is a child
is also an exception. See note, ver. 10.

Without prejudice to the heirs, i.e., the distant relatives mentioned
above. Abdul Qadir, commenting on this passage, says: "This
relates to the inheritance of brothers and sisters, wlio have no claims
so long as there be father or son alive. Should there be neither
father nor son, then the brothers and sisters become heirs. There are
three classes of these : First, brothers and sisters by the same wife;
.secondly, by different wives ; and thirdly, by different fathers. The
inheritance belonging to these three classes is as follows : If there
be a single heir, he or she will receive a sixth part of the property ;
if more than one, then one-third of the property will be divided
among them, no distinction being made between men and women.
The first and second classes mentioned above rank as members of
the deceased person's family wlien there is left to him neither father
nor son. First the brothers by the same mother are heirs. If there
be none such, then the brothers by a different mother. It is only in
case there be no heirs of these classes that those of class third
become heirs.

"This passage also declares that bequests for charitable purposes
have the precedence, provided no injustice be done to the heirs.
This may take place in two ways : either by deceased's having
bequeathed in charily more than one-third of his property he may
not give in charity more than one-third of his property ; or in-
justice may be done the heirs by willing to some one of the heirs
more than his lawful share, through partiality. Such increased
bequest, beyond a third of the property, or partial bestowal of
property beyond the legal share, can only become legal by the con-
sent of the heirs at the time of bequest.

"These five classes of heirs (children, parents, widower, widow,
and brothers and sisters) all have fixed portions or fractional parts
of the inheritance. Besides these, there are other heirs, called
Usbah (distant relations), who have not portions. If there be no
heirs having portions, then the usbah receive the whole property.

CHAP. IV.] ( 74 ) [SIPARA IV.

sixth part of the estate. But if there be more than this
number, they shall be equal sharers in a third part, after
payment of the legacies which shall be bequeathed and
the debts, without prejudice to the heirs. This is an ordi-
nance from God, and God is knowing and gracious.
(12) These are the statutes of God. And whoso obeyeth
God and his apostle, God shall lead him into gardens
wherein rivers flow, they shall continue therein for ever ;
and this shall be great happiness. (13) But whoso dis-
obeyeth God and his apostle, and transgresseth his
statutes, God shall cast him into hell fire ; he shall remain
therein for ever, and he shall suffer a shameful punish-
R 14 || (14) If any of your women be guilty of whoredom,

produce four witnesses from among you against them,

But if there be both heirs with portions and usbah, then the latter
receive what remains after the former have had their portions. An
usbah must be a male, not a female, nor even a male connected on
the mother's side only (i.e., having no relatioii.-hip by blood with
the father's side). These are of four degrees : First, son and grand-
son ; second, father and grandfather (on father's side) ; third,
brothers and nephews (on father's side) ; fourth, uncle (father's elder
brother), his son, and his grandson (these all rank alike). If there
be several persons having claims, that one has the precedence who
is nearest related to the deceased, e.g., a son has the precedence of a
grandson, a brother of a nephew, the brother of a step-brother, &c.

"Finally, among the children and brothers and sisters of the
deceased, women have a portion, but among the usbah they have
no claim. Should there be no heir of the kind already enumerated,
then the ziwilrihm or relations by the 'female' (literally, woman)
side, and who have no portion, become heirs, e.g., a daughter's son, a
maternal grandfather, a sister's son, a mother's brother, a maternal
aunt, a father's sister, and their children, reckoned as in the case of
the usbah."

(14) Whoredom. Either fornication or adultery.

Imprison in apartments, i.e., they were to be built into a wall,
and be left there until they were dead.

Or God afford, <tc. "Their punishment in the beginning of
Muhamniadani>m was to be immured till they died, but afterwards
this cruel doom was mitigated, and they might avoid it by under-
going the punishment ordained in its stead by the Sunnat, accord-
ing to which the maidens are to be scourged with a hundred stripes,
and to be banished for a full year, and the married women to be
stoned." Sale, Jaldluddin.

See also note, chap. iii. 23.

SIPARA IV.] ( 75 ) [CHAP. IV.

and if they bear witness against them, imprison them in
separate apartments until death release them, or God
affordeth them a way to escape. (15) And if two of you
commit the like wickedness, punish them both : but if
they repent and amend, let them both alone ; for God is
easy to be reconciled and merciful. (16) Verily repent-
ance will be accepted with God from those who do evil
ignorantly, and then repent speedily; unto them will
God be turned : for God is knowing and wise. (17) But
no repentance shall be accepted from those who do evil
until the time when death presenteth itself unto one of
them, and he saith, Verily I repent now ; nor unto those

(15) Two of you. " The commentators are not agreed whether the
text speaks of fornication or sodomy. Al Zamakhsharf, and from
him, al Baidhawi, supposes the former is here meant ; hut Jalal-
uddin is of opinion that the crime intended in this passage must be
committed between two men, and not between a man and a woman;
not only because the pronouns are in the masculine gender, but
because both are ordered to suffer the same slight punishment, and
are both allowed the same repentance and indulgence ; and espe-
cially for that a different and much severer punishment is appointed
for tlie women in the preceding words. Abul Qasim Hibatullah
takes simple fornication to be the crime intended, and that this
passage is abrogated by that of the 24th chapter, where the man and
the woman who shall be guilty of fornication are ordered to be
scourged with a hundred stripes each." Sale.

Punish them both. " The original is, Do them some hurt or damage,
by which some understand that they are only to reproach them in
public, or strike them on the head with their slippers (a great
indignity in the East), though some imagine they may be scourged."
Sale, Baidhawi, Jaldluddln.

The Tafsir-i- Rauft declares the punishment is to be inflicted with
the tongue, by reproaches and admonitions ; at most, they are to be
smitten with the hand. Surely the partiality shown in the award
of punishment to the sexes sufficiently indicates the slavish position
of Muslim women. This law of Islam falls far short of attesting
the former Scriptures.

(16, 17) Repentance. The Muhammadans understand this verse
to refer to the infidels, who may be forgiven on the ground of
repentance, provided it be done before death, i.e., as I understand
it, if they repent sincerely. For Muslims there is always full and
free pardon when thev repent, or even say, " I seek forgiveness, O

This view of this passage is not borne out by the last clause,
" nor unto those who die in unbelief." The passage, therefore, pro-
bably refers to hypocritical professors of Islam.

CHAP. IV.] ( 76 ) fSIPARA IV.

who die unbelievers; for them have we prepared a
grievous punishment. (18) true believers, it is not
lawful for you to be heirs of women against their will,
nor to hinder them from marrying others, that ye may
take away part of what ye have given them in dowry ;
unless they have been guilty of a manifest crime : but
converse kindly with them. And if ye hate them, it may
happen that ye may hate a thing wherein God hath placed
much good. If ye be desirous to exchange a wife for
another wife, and ye have already given one of them a
talent, take not away anything therefrom : will ye take it
by slandering her, and doing her manifest injustice ? (19)
And how can ye take it, since the one of you hath gone
in unto the other, and they have received from you a
firm covenant? (20) Marry not women whom your
fathers have had to wife; (except what is already

(18) Heirs of women. " It was customary among the pagan
Arabs, when a man died, for one of his relations to claim a right
to his widow, which he asserted by throwing his garment over
her ; and then he either married her himself, if he thought fit, on
assigning her the same dower that her former husband had done,
or kept her dower and married her to another, or else refused to
let her marry unless she redeemed herself by quitting what she
might claim of her husband's goods. This unjust custom is abolished
by this passage." Sale.

This passage was occasioned, says the Tafsir-i-Raufi, by the wife

Online LibraryE. M. (Elwood Morris) WherryA comprehensive commentary on the Qurán; comprising Sale's translation and preliminary discourse, with additional notes and emendations; together with a complete index to the text, preliminary discourse, and notes (Volume 2) → online text (page 8 of 42)