An-Nisa' (Arabic: ٱلنساء, An-Nisāʾ; meaning: The Women)[1][2] is the fourth chapter (sūrah) of the Quran, with 176 verses (āyāt). The title derives from the numerous references to women throughout the chapter, including verse 34 and verses 127-130.[3]

Sura 4 of the Quran
PositionJuzʼ 4–5
No. of Rukus24
No. of verses176
← Quran 3
Quran 5 →


Surah an-Nisā, is a chapter of the Quran regarding women.
  • 1 Man and his Creator
  • 2 Orphans, the duty of guardians to such
  • 3-5 Treat your wives and those your right hands possess fairly
  • 6-13 The law of inheritance
  • 14-15 The punishment of adulteresses
  • 16-17 Repentance enjoined
  • 18-19 Women's rights
  • 20-27 Forbidden and lawful degrees in marriage
  • 28-30 Gambling, rapine, and suicide forbidden
  • 31-33 Husband's superiority over woman recognised
  • 34 Reconcilement of man and wife
  • 35-36 Parents, orphans, the poor etc. to be kindly treated
  • 37-41 Hypocrisy in almsgiving condemned
  • 42 Prayer forbidden to the drunken and polluted
  • 43-45 Jewish mockers denounced
  • 46-53 Idolatry the unpardonable sin
  • 54-55 The rewards of faith and unbelief
  • 56 Trusts to be faithfully paid back
  • 57-68 Disputes to be settled by God and his Apostle
  • 69-74 Precautions etc., in warring for the faith
  • 75-84 The disobedient and cowardly reproved
  • 85 Salutations to be returned
  • 86-90 Treatment of hypocrites and apostates
  • 91-93 Believers not to be slain or plundered
  • 94-99 Believers in heathen countries to fly to Muslim lands
  • 100-102 Special order for prayer in time of war
  • 103 Exhortation to zeal for Islam
  • 104-114 Fraud denounced
  • 115-125 Idolatry and Islam compared
  • 126 Equity in dealing with women and orphans enjoined
  • 127-129 men are protectors of women
  • 130-132 God to be feared
  • 133 Fraud denounced
  • 134-138 Muslims exhorted to steadfastness
  • 139-143 Hypocrites to be shunned
  • 144-151 The reward of hypocrisy and belief compared
  • 152-154 Presumptuous and disobedient Jews destroyed
  • 155-158 The Jews defame Mary and Jesus
  • 159-160 Certain kinds of food forbidden to Jews as punishment
  • 161-168 Muhammad’s inspiration like that of other prophets
  • 169-174 Christians reproved for their faith in Jesus as the Son of God and in the doctrine of the Trinity
  • 175 The law of inheritance for distant relatives [4]

This Medinan surah aims at protecting the newly formed Muslim community by outlining acceptable behavior for Muslims.[5] It illustrates the Quran's role as an authoritative legal source[6] and its ability to shape the community. The surah aims to eradicate the earlier practices of pagan, Arab communities that are no longer considered moral in the Muslim society.[5] For example, the section of this surah about dealing fairly with orphan girls (4:2-4) addresses the pre-Islamic Arabic practice of marrying orphan girls to take their property.[7]

Shirk (refer 4:48 and 4:116)[1] is held to be the worst form of disbelief, and it is identified in the Quran as the only sin that God will not pardon.[8]

Thematically, "an-Nisā" not only addresses concerns about women, but also discusses inheritance, marriage laws, how to deal with children and orphans, legal practices, jihād, relations between Muslim communities and People of the Book, war, and the role of Jesus as a prophet, rather than the son of God as Christians claimed.[5] Furthermore, in discussing war, this surah encourages the Muslim community to fight for the vulnerable in war,[7] as demonstrated by 4:75: "Why should you not fight in God's cause and for those oppressed men, women, and children who cry out, ‘Lord, rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors! By Your grace, give us a protector and give us a helper!’?"[9] The surah addresses a multitude of issues faced by the early Muslim community and responds to the challenges the community faced. The wide variety of issues addressed in the surah and the length of the surah make it difficult to divide into literary structures. However, based on a study of themes present in each section of the Surah, Amīn Ahsan Islāhī divides the surah into three thematically-based sections: social reform, the Islamic community and its opponents, and a conclusion.[10] Mathias Zahniser presents an alternative means of looking at the structure of this surah. He claims that the central theme of this surah is the address to the Christians. He has come to this conclusion based on examination of the structure of the surah based on such devices as parallels, repetition, and ring composition.[11] However, Carl Ernst admits that more works needs to be done in this type of structural analysis to more fully understand the composition of such extensive suras.[11]

In Qur'an and Woman, Amina Wadud places interpretations of the Quran into three categories: traditional, reactive, and holistic.[12] The type of interpretation one applies to surah 4 greatly influences one's perspective on the role of women within Muslim society. Taking the third approach, a holistic approach allows for a feminist reading of the Quran,[13] which is particularly relevant to an-Nisā and can reshape the understanding of this surah.


Regarding the timing and contextual background of the believed revelation (Asbāb al-nuzūl), it is a Medinan surah[3] as confirmed by Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i, who states that the sura must have been revealed after the hijrah based on the subject matter.[14]

Although an-Nisā typically appears as the fourth surah, according to the Nöldeke classification of surahs, based on Islamic traditions, "The Women" was approximately revealed as the hundredth surah.[15] Amir-Ali places it as the 94th surah, while Hz. Osman and Ibn`Abbas believe it is the 92nd.[16] Ja`fer es-Sadik places it as the 91st surah revealed.[16] Based on the legislation concerning orphans, the surah was most likely revealed after many Muslims were killed at the Battle of Uhud, leaving numerous dependants in the new Muslim community.[17] The revelation, therefore, began around the year three, according to the Islamic calendar, but was not completed until the year eight.[5] Consequently, parts of this surah, the second-longest in the Quran, were revealed concurrently with portions of "The Examined Woman," sura 60.[5] However, the surah shows some thematic coherence, despite its disjointed and ongoing revelation.[18]

Furthermore, as relates to the placement of this surah within the Quran as a whole, Neal Robinson notes what he refers to as the "dovetailing" of surahs.[19] Based on this idea of structure, one surah ends with a topic that is immediately picked up in the next surah.[19] The Family of 'Imran, surah 3, includes a discussion of male and female near the end of the surah (3.195).[19] This theme continues at the beginning of surah 4:[19] "People, be mindful of your Lord, who created you from a single soul, and from it 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."[20] This dovetailing may indicate a complex editorial process involved in ordering the surahs.[21]


3 Institutions of Marriage and SlaveryEdit

And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry (other) women of your choice, two or three, or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one or (the captives and the servants) that your right hands possess. That is nearer to prevent you from Ta`ulu.[1]: 4:3 [22]

A detailed explanation of this verse is given in the 'interpretation' (Tafsir) of Ibn Kathir, a scholar of the Mamluk Sultanate\Mamluk era:

4:3 The Ayah commands, if you fear that you will not be able to do justice between your wives by marrying more than one, then marry only one wife, or satisfy yourself with only female captives.[1]: 4:3 

Al-Jalalayn, says:

4:3 Each man may marry two or three or four but do not exceed this; but if you fear you will not be equitable towards them in terms of their expenses and individual share; then marry only one or restrict yourself to what your right hands own of slavegirls since these do not have the same rights as wives; thus by that marrying of only four or only one or resorting to slavegirls it is likelier it is nearer in outcome that you will not be unjust that you will not be inequitable.[23]

15-16 Unlawful sexual intercourseEdit

In verses 4:15-16 the first, preliminary directives for the punishment for unlawful sexual intercourse are stated. The first verse deals with women. The punishment laid down was to confine them until further directives were revealed. The second verse (i.e. 16) relates to both sexes. The injunction lays down that they should be punished - that is, they should be beaten and publicly reproached. Later, another injunction was revealed see (Surah An-Nour Verse 24:2) which laid down that both the male and female should be given a hundred lashes.[24]

22-23 IncestEdit

Verses 4:22- 23 cover which classes of women within one's family with whom marriage or sexual intercourse would be considered haram.[25][26]

These relationships and limitations are defined and elaborated on within Tafsir al-Jalalayn.[27][28]

34 Admonish, banish, and scourge themEdit

4:34 Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are Qanitat and guard in the husband's absence what Allah orders them to guard. As to those women on whose part you see ill-conduct, admonish them, and abandon them in their beds, and beat them, but if they return to obedience, do not seek a means against them. Surely, Allah is Ever Most High, Most Great.[1]: 4:34 [29]

There are a number of interpretations of the original Arabic 4:34.[30]

The Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World terms Verse 4:34 the Quran's least egalitarian verse.[31]

Some Muslims, such as Islamic feminist groups, argue that Muslim men use the text as an excuse for domestic violence.[32]

48 Idolatry and polytheismEdit

4:48 Verily, Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him (in worship), but He forgives except that to whom He wills; and whoever sets up partners with Allah in worship, he has indeed invented a tremendous sin.[1]: 4:48 

Tafsir, Ibn Kathir says, "Verily, Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him (in worship), meaning, He does not forgive a servant if he meets Him while he is associating partners with Him".[1]: 4:48  The Enlightening Commentary into the Light of the Holy Qur'an says, "Polytheism is the worst form of sins and it is a barrier against the Divine forgiveness."[33]

59 Obedience VerseEdit

4:59 "O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination.[1]: 4:59 

65 VerseEdit

Muhammad al-Bukhari, Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, Ibn Majah and Nasa'i narrated a hadith transmitted by Zubayr ibn al-Awwam, that believed by some scholars as the Asbab al-Nuzul (cause of revelation) of the Sura of An Nisa verse 65.[34][35] However, there are contemporary Fatwa that the revelation of this verse were attributed to az-Zubayr were weak, as the stronger Hadith which attributed to the revelation of this verse were instead attributed to the tradition of Umar, the second Rashidun Caliph[36]

69 Martyrs, and the righteousEdit

Muhammad ibn Sulayman recorded that al-Sadiq relayed to his elderly father, Abu Muhammad ibn Sulayman, concerning the following verse: "And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger - those will be with the ones upon whom Allah has bestowed favor of the prophets, the steadfast affirmers of truth, the martyrs and the righteous. And excellent are those as companions." (4:69) stating, "The Messenger of Allah in this verse is from of the prophets, and we (Ahl al-Bayt) in this subject are the truthful and the martyrs and you all, (our followers), are the righteous, so adopt this name."[37]

74-76 Sword versesEdit

According to Dipak Kutha, "much of the religious justification of violence against nonbelievers (Dar ul Kufr) by the promoters of jihad is based on the Quranic "sword verses"[38] (traditionally Muslims speak of "the sword verse", singular, i.e. Quran 9:5). Quran 4:76 contains passages that could be interpreted to endorse violence,[39]

According to Ibn Kathir:

So fight those who trade the life of this world with the Hereafter, in the cause of Allah, and whoever fights in the cause of Allah, and is killed or gets victory, We shall bestow on him a great reward. And what is wrong with you that you fight not in the cause of Allah, and for those weak, ill-treated and oppressed among men, women, and children, whose cry is: "Our Lord! Rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from You one who will protect, and raise for us from You one who will help who believe, fight in the cause of Allah, and those who disbelieve, fight in the cause of the Taghut. So fight against the friends of Shaytan; ever feeble indeed is the plot of Shaytan.[1]: Verse 4.74 - 4:76 

Tafsir Ibn Kathir says, "Therefore, the believers fight in obedience to Allah and to gain His pleasure, while the disbelievers fight in obedience to Shaytan. Allah then encourages the believers to fight His enemies".[1]: 4.74 - 4:75  Islam allows war in self-defense (Quran 22:39), to defend Islam (rather than to spread it), to protect those who have been removed from their homes by force because they are Muslims (Quran 22:40), and to protect the innocent who are being oppressed (Quran 4:75).

"Some Muslim thinkers in the past and some radical Muslims today . . . (say about Verse 4:76) . . . the so-called 'sword verses', have "abrogated" (revoked or annulled) the verses that permit warfare only in defense. They used these 'sword verses' to justify war against unbelievers as a tool of spreading Islam"."But the idea of a total and unrestricted conflict is completely unIslamic (as per other verses of the Quran)."[40]

89-90 Kill them wherever you find themEdit

4:89 They wish that you reject faith, as they have rejected, and thus that you all become equal (like one another). So take not Awliya' from them, till they emigrate in the way of Allah. But if they turn back, take (hold of) them and kill them wherever you find them, and take neither Awliya' nor helpers from them.

4:90 Except those who join a group, between you and whom there is a treaty (of peace), or those who approach you with their breasts restraining from fighting you as well as fighting their own people. Had Allah willed, indeed He would have given them power over you, and they would have fought you. So, if they withdraw from you, and fight not against you, and offer you peace, then Allah has made no way for you against them.[1]: 4:89–90 

Muhammad advises his companions to avoid taking these individuals as helpers or guardians.[37] Al-Awfi reported from Ibn Abbas, if they abandon Hijrah, As-Suddi said that this part of the Ayah means, "If they make their disbelief public take (hold of) them and kill them wherever you find them, and take neither Awliya nor helpers from them". However, Ibn Kathir clarifies that non-combatants, those who are neutral or hesitant about fighting and those who offer you peace are not to be fought against.[1]

116 ShirkEdit

4:116 God forgiveth not (The sin of) joining other gods with Him; but He forgiveth whom He pleaseth other sins than this: one who joins other gods with God, Hath strayed far, far away (from the right).Translation Yusuf Ali (Orig. 1938)[41]

Tafsir Ibn Kathir says: "Shirk shall not be forgiven, in reality the idolators worship shaytan".[1]

127-130 Female orphans, desertion by husband, and desirability of marital peaceEdit

These verses cover issues associated with female orphans; desertion by the husband and the desirability of marital peace.[1]: 4:127–130 

145 HypocritesEdit

In Kitab al-Kafi, Ja'far al-Sadiq writes a letter to his companions stressing the importance of obeying Allah, his Messenger, and the "Wali al Amr" (Progeny of Muhammad)- going so far as to say that those who disobey and deny their virtues are "liars and hypocrites". He asserts that these are the individuals described as "hypocrites" in the verse, "Indeed, the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire - and never will you find for them a helper."

157 Islamic view on Jesus' deathEdit

4:157 And because of their saying, "We killed Al-Masih `Isa, son of Maryam, the Messenger of Allah", but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but it appeared like that to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts. They have no (certain) knowledge, they follow nothing but conjecture. For surely; they killed him not.[1]: 4:157 [42]

An explanation of the Islamic view of Jesus as a prophet, rather than as the son of God as Christians claim, is given in Tafsir Ibn Kathir.[1]: 4:157 

171 Islamic view of the TrinityEdit

4:171 Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son.[1]: 4:171 

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Ibn Kathir. "Tafsir Ibn Kathir (English): Surah Al Nisa". Quran 4 U. Tafsir. Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  2. ^ "The Meaning of the Glorious Qur'ân,: 4. an-Nisa': Women". Retrieved 2016-05-24.
  3. ^ a b Haleem, M. A. S. Abdel. The Qur'an. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.
  4. ^ Wherry, Elwood Morris (1896). A Complete Index to Sale's Text, Preliminary Discourse, and Notes. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, and Co.   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ a b c d e Qutb, Sayyid. In the Shade of the Qur'an. 3. eBook. Archived September 11, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Ernst, Carl W. How to Read the Qur'an : A New Guide, with Select Translations. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2011. Ebook Library. Web. 25 Nov. 2012.
  7. ^ a b Haleem, M. A. S. Abdel. The Qur'an. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print. 50.
  8. ^ "Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition — Brill".
  9. ^ Haleem, M. A. S. Abdel. The Qur'an. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print. 57.
  10. ^ Boullata, Issa J. Literary Structures of Religious Meaning in the Qur'an. Richmond: Curzon Press, 2000. eBook. 29
  11. ^ a b Ernst, Carl W. How to Read the Qur'an : A New Guide, with Select Translations. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2011. Ebook Library. Web. 25 Nov. 2012. 190.
  12. ^ Wadud, Amina. Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Texts from a Woman's Perspective. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Print. 1.
  13. ^ Wadud, Amina. Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Texts from a Woman's Perspective. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Print. 3.
  14. ^ “Tafsir Al-Mizan - An Exegesis of the Holy Quran by the Late Allamah Muhammad Hussain Tabatabai.” Web. 25 Nov. 2012.
  15. ^ Robinson, Neal. Discovering the Qur'an: A Contemporary Approach to a Veiled Text. London: SCM Press LTD, 1996. Print.77.
  16. ^ a b Smith, Clay Chip. "Revelation Order of the Qur'an According to 13 Sources." A Chronological Perspective of the Qur'an. N.p.. Web. 25 November 2012. Archived 13 September 2003 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Robinson, Neal. Discovering the Qur'an: A Contemporary Approach to a Veiled Text. London: SCM Press LTD, 1996. Print. 80.
  18. ^ Tafsir Al-Mizan - An Exegesis of the Holy Quran by the Late Allamah Muhammad Hussain Tabatabai.” Web. 25 Nov. 2012.
  19. ^ a b c d Robinson, Neal. Discovering the Qur'an: A Contemporary Approach to a Veiled Text. London: SCM Press LTD, 1996. Print. 266.
  20. ^ Haleem, M. A. S. Abdel. The Qur'an. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print. 50
  21. ^ Robinson, Neal. Discovering the Qur'an: A Contemporary Approach to a Veiled Text. London: SCM Press LTD, 1996. Print. 270.
  22. ^ "Quran 4:3 Translation Yusuf Ali (Orig. 1938)". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 22 January 2020.
  23. ^ Al-Jalalayn (2017). "The Tasfirs - Al-Jalalayn". Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  24. ^ "Towards Understanding the Quran". Islamic Foundation UK. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  25. ^ "Quran 4:22 Translation Yusuf Ali (Orig. 1938)". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  26. ^ "Quran 4:23 Translation Yusuf Ali (Orig. 1938)". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  27. ^ al-Jalalayn. "The Tasfirs Verse 4:22". Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  28. ^ al-Jalalayn. "The Tasfirs Verse 4:23". Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  29. ^ "Surah An-Nisa - 34".
  30. ^ "Surat Al Nisaa 4:34". Retrieved 19 February 2020.
  31. ^ Martin, Richard C (2004). "The Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World Vol 1". Thomson Gale. p. 267. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  32. ^ Nomani, Asra Q. (October 22, 2006). "Clothes Aren't the Issue". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2018-09-22.
  33. ^ "An Enlightening Commentary into the Light of the Holy Qur'an vol. 4". Al p. 47. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  34. ^ bin Musa 2006.
  35. ^ Bukhari, Muhammad. "Sahih al-Bukhari » Distribution of Water - كتاب المساقاة » Hadith 2359". Retrieved 7 November 2021.Bukhari, Muhammad. "Sahih al-Bukhari » Distribution of Water - كتاب المساقاة » Hadith 2361". Retrieved 7 November 2021.Nasa'i, Abū `Abd ar-Raḥmān Aḥmad ibn Shu`ayb ibn Alī ibn Sīnān. "Sunan an-Nasa'i » The Book of the Etiquette of Judges - كتاب آداب القضاة » Hadith 5407". Retrieved 7 November 2021.Ibn Muslim, Abū al-Ḥusayn ‘Asākir ad-Dīn Muslim ibn al-Ḥajjāj. "Sahih Muslim » The Book of Virtues - كتاب الفضائل » Hadith 2357". Retrieved 7 November 2021.Ibn Majah, Abū ʻAbdillāh Muḥammad ibn Yazīd. "Sunan Ibn Majah » The Book of the Sunnah - كتاب المقدمة » Hadith 15". Retrieved 7 November 2021.
  36. ^ Al-Faqeeh, Abdullaah (2006). "Fatwa of Quranic verse (4:65)" (Printed). Islamweb center. committee comprises a group of licentiate graduates from the Islamic University, Al-Imaam Muhammad Bin Sa’oud Islamic University in Saudi Arabia. Retrieved 28 November 2021. Fatwa center
  37. ^ a b al-Kulayni, Muhammad ibn Ya‘qūb (2015). Al-Kafi (Volume 8 ed.). NY: Islamic Seminary Incorporated. ISBN 9780991430864.
  38. ^ Gupta, Dipak K. (2008). Understanding terrorism and political violence: the life cycle of birth, growth, transformation, and demise. Taylor & Francis. p. 232. ISBN 9780203930274.
  39. ^ Roy, Saberi. "Islam, Islamic Fundamentalism and Islamic Terrorism". Globalpolitician. Archived from the original on 15 October 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2012.
  40. ^ "Religions". BBC. Retrieved 24 December 2019.
  41. ^ "Quran 4:116 Translation Yusuf Ali (Orig. 1938)". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 4 February 2020.
  42. ^ "Surah An-Nisa - 157".


External linksEdit