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  • The Social Shariah (Qanoon-e-Muashrat): (7) Directive Of Ila And Zihar

    Posted by Umer on September 4, 2020 at 7:03 am

    Directive of ila:

    لِلَّذِينَ يُؤْلُونَ مِنْ نِسَائِهِمْ تَرَبُّصُ أَرْبَعَةِ أَشْهُرٍ فَإِنْ فَاءُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ وَإِنْ عَزَمُوا الطَّلَاقَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ (2: 226-227)

    Those who swear to abstain from their wives must wait four months. If they change their mind, Allah is Forgiving and Ever-Merciful; but if they decide to divorce them, [they should know that] He hears all and knows all. (2:226-227)

    These verses of Surah Baqarah mention the directive of اِيْلَاء. This is a term of the Arab jahiliyyah society which means to swear an oath to sever sexual relations with one’s wife. Such an oath leaves the wife in an indefinite state and is as such against justice and fairness, virtue and piety. Consequently, the Almighty has fixed a four month period after which a husband must decide to either resume the marital relationship or to divorce her.

    About the first situation, the Almighty says that He is Forgiving and Ever-Merciful. The implied meaning being that although this oath was sworn to usurp rights and it is not lawful to swear such oaths, but if a person mends his ways the Almighty shall forgive him.

    In such a case, the husband would of course have to atone the termination of his oath in the way prescribed by the shariah.

    Regarding the second situation, the Almighty says that He hears all and knows all. In other words, what is implied is that if a person decides to divorce his wife, then he must abide by the rules and regulations that the Almighty has prescribed in this regard. Allah hears and knows everything. Excesses committed against someone else will not remain concealed from Him.

    It is evident from this directive that it is not allowed to sever sexual relations from one’s wife without a valid reason. So much so, if a person swears such an oath, he must break it. Such relations are the right of a wife and if a husband does not fulfil them, then he can be regarded a criminal both in the eyes of the law and before the Almighty in the Hereafter.

    In return, the wife also does not have the right to refuse compliance to these relations without a valid reason. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:

    إذا دَعَا الرَّجُلُ امْرَأَتَهُ إلى فِرَاشِهِ فَأَبَتْ فَبَاتَ غَضْبَانَ عليها لَعَنَتْهَا الْمَلَائِكَةُ حتى تُصْبِحَ

    When a husband calls his wife to bed for intimacy, and she refuses and [as a result] the husband spends the night in anger, then angels curse the wife all night till dawn.[1]


    الَّذِينَ يُظَاهِرُونَ مِنْكُمْ مِنْ نِسَائِهِمْ مَا هُنَّ أُمَّهَاتِهِمْ إِنْ أُمَّهَاتُهُمْ إِلَّا اللَّائِي وَلَدْنَهُمْ وَإِنَّهُمْ لَيَقُولُونَ مُنْكَرًا مِنْ الْقَوْلِ وَزُورًا وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَعَفُوٌّ غَفُورٌ وَالَّذِينَ يُظَاهِرُونَ مِنْ نِسَائِهِمْ ثُمَّ يَعُودُونَ لِمَا قَالُوا فَتَحْرِيرُ رَقَبَةٍ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ يَتَمَاسَّا ذَلِكُمْ تُوعَظُونَ بِهِ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ فَمَنْ لَمْ يَجِدْ فَصِيَامُ شَهْرَيْنِ مُتَتَابِعَيْنِ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ يَتَمَاسَّا فَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَإِطْعَامُ سِتِّينَ مِسْكِينًا ذَلِكَ لِتُؤْمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَتِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ (58: 2-4)

    Those among you who commit zihar with their wives, they [–these wives–]cannot become their mothers: none can be their mothers except those who gave birth to them. And in fact such people say something very immoral and false. And truly Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. And [in this matter the directive is that] those who do ziharwith their wives then wish to go back on the words they uttered – then a slave should be liberated before they touch each other. Thus are you admonished to do and Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do. And if a slave is not available to a person, he should fast for two months consecutively before they touch each other. And if he is unable to do this even, he should feed sixty indigent ones. This is because you may show your faith in Allah and His Messenger. Those are limits set by Allah; [only the rejecters of Allah and His Messenger cross them]. And there is a grievous punishment for such rejecters. (58:2-4)

    The above quoted verses spell out the directive of zihar. Like اِيْلَاء, this was also a term of the Arab jahiliyyah society. It meant that a husband had uttered the following words for his wife: اَنْتَ عَلَّى كَظَهْر اُمِّى (if I touch you, it would as if I touched the back of my own mother). These words in those times would amount to giving such a divorce to the wife after which a wife had to be separated from her husband. The Arabs would think that by saying such words a husband is not only severing marital ties with his wife, he is also prohibiting her for himself like his own mother. Consequently, in their view, though after divorcing a wife a husband had the right to revoke it, but after doing zihar there was no chance left for him for any revocation. [2]

    The Quran here mentions this very directive.

    The first thing which is stated in the above quoted verses is that if a person is unseemly enough to regard his wife as his mother or likens some limb of his wife to that of his mother, then such an utterance does not make the wife his mother and neither is she endowed with the sanctity a mother has. To be a mother is a reality since she has given birth to a person. The sanctity in relationship she is invested with is because of this very fact. This is an eternal and natural sanctity which only a real mother has. No other lady who is called by this name in such a manner can ever possess this sanctity. Consequently, such an utterance neither breaks marital ties nor does a wife become prohibited for a person like his mother. The Quran, at another place, points to this aspect in the following words:

    وَمَا جَعَلَ أَزْوَاجَكُمْ اللَّائِي تُظَاهِرُونَ مِنْهُنَّ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ (4:33)

    And Allah has not made your wives whom you divorce by zihar your mothers. (33:4)

    The second thing which the verses of Surah Mujadalah quoted above point out is that if a person utters such a sentence, then he should know that these are very indecent and fallacious words, which no civilized person can ever think of let alone uttering them. Such a person could have been heavily taken to task by the Almighty, but He is most gracious and most merciful. So if a person overcome by anger says these false and abominable words and then realizes his mistake, he shall be forgiven by the Almighty.

    The third thing emphasized in the verses is that a person who utters these words shall not be allowed to go scot-free. Such lose talk gravely affects the social life, and thus it is essential that such a person be punished for this unbecoming behaviour so that he is careful in future and others also learn a lesson from this. Consequently, it is decreed that he must atone his sin before going near his wife in the following manner:

    A slave-woman or a slave-man should be set free. [3]

    If slaves are not available, he should fast consecutively [4] for two months.

    If this is also not possible, he should feed sixty indigent people.

    The Almighty has said that if this directive is followed by the believers in its true spirit, their faith in God and His Prophet will be strengthened. The reason for this is that if a person atones for any of his sins by taking such pains, this not only compensates his sin, but also increases his faith and beliefs.

    (Javed Ahmed Ghamidi)

    (Translated by Dr. Shehzad Saleem)


    [1]. Al-Bukhari, Al-Jami‘ al-sahih, 540, (no. 3237

    [2]. Jawwad ‘Ali, Al-Mufassal fi tarikh al-‘arab qabl al-islam, vol. 5, 551.

    [3]. The Arabic word used is رَقَبَة which means “neck”. This means that the gender of the slave does not matter. Whoever is available can be liberated to atone for the sin. This is one of the measures prescribed by Islam for the emancipation of slaves. Thus it has been set forth as the foremost option. After the abolishment of slavery only the last two options can now be availed.

    [4]. The Arabic word used is مُتَتَابِعَيْنِ (consecutively). This means that if a person goes to his wife before he completes these fasts, then he must start afresh and finish the count.

    Umer replied 3 years, 7 months ago 1 Member · 2 Replies
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