English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 2: Al-Baqarah — The Cow (Revealed at Madinah: 40 sections, 286 verses)

Section 28 (Verses 2:222–2:228): Divorce



وَ یَسۡـَٔلُوۡنَکَ عَنِ الۡمَحِیۡضِ ؕ قُلۡ ہُوَ اَذًی ۙ فَاعۡتَزِلُوا النِّسَآءَ فِی الۡمَحِیۡضِ ۙ وَ لَا تَقۡرَبُوۡہُنَّ حَتّٰی یَطۡہُرۡنَ ۚ فَاِذَا تَطَہَّرۡنَ فَاۡتُوۡہُنَّ مِنۡ حَیۡثُ اَمَرَکُمُ اللّٰہُ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ یُحِبُّ التَّوَّابِیۡنَ وَ یُحِبُّ الۡمُتَطَہِّرِیۡنَ ﴿۲۲۲﴾

2:222 And they ask you about menstruation.1 Say: It is harmful;2 so keep aloof from women during menstrual discharge and do not approach them (for intercourse) until they are clean. But when they have cleansed themselves, go to them as Allah has commanded you. Surely Allah loves those who turn much (to Him), and He loves those who purify themselves.

نِسَآؤُکُمۡ حَرۡثٌ لَّکُمۡ ۪ فَاۡتُوۡا حَرۡثَکُمۡ اَنّٰی شِئۡتُمۡ ۫ وَ قَدِّمُوۡا لِاَنۡفُسِکُمۡ ؕ وَ اتَّقُوا اللّٰہَ وَ اعۡلَمُوۡۤا اَنَّکُمۡ مُّلٰقُوۡہُ ؕ وَ بَشِّرِ الۡمُؤۡمِنِیۡنَ ﴿۲۲۳﴾

2:223 Your wives are a tilth for you, so go to your tilth when you like, and send (good deeds) beforehand for yourselves; and have regard for your duty to Allah and know that you will meet Him.3 And give good news to the believers.

وَ لَا تَجۡعَلُوا اللّٰہَ عُرۡضَۃً لِّاَیۡمَانِکُمۡ اَنۡ تَبَرُّوۡا وَ تَتَّقُوۡا وَ تُصۡلِحُوۡا بَیۡنَ النَّاسِ ؕ وَ اللّٰہُ سَمِیۡعٌ عَلِیۡمٌ ﴿۲۲۴﴾

2:224 And do not make Allah by your oaths a hindrance to your doing good and keeping your duty and making peace between people.4 And Allah is Hearing, Knowing.

لَا یُؤَاخِذُکُمُ اللّٰہُ بِاللَّغۡوِ فِیۡۤ اَیۡمَانِکُمۡ وَ لٰکِنۡ یُّؤَاخِذُکُمۡ بِمَا کَسَبَتۡ قُلُوۡبُکُمۡ ؕ وَ اللّٰہُ غَفُوۡرٌ حَلِیۡمٌ ﴿۲۲۵﴾

2:225 Allah will not call you to account for what is vain in your oaths, but He will call you to account for what your hearts have earned.5 And Allah is Forgiving, Forbearing.

لِلَّذِیۡنَ یُؤۡلُوۡنَ مِنۡ نِّسَآئِہِمۡ تَرَبُّصُ اَرۡبَعَۃِ اَشۡہُرٍ ۚ فَاِنۡ فَآءُوۡ فَاِنَّ اللّٰہَ غَفُوۡرٌ رَّحِیۡمٌ ﴿۲۲۶﴾

2:226 Those who swear that they will not have sexual relations with their wives should wait four months;6 then if they go back, Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

وَ اِنۡ عَزَمُوا الطَّلَاقَ فَاِنَّ اللّٰہَ سَمِیۡعٌ عَلِیۡمٌ ﴿۲۲۷﴾

2:227 And if they resolve on a divorce,7 Allah is surely Hearing, Knowing.

وَ الۡمُطَلَّقٰتُ یَتَرَبَّصۡنَ بِاَنۡفُسِہِنَّ ثَلٰثَۃَ قُرُوۡٓءٍ ؕ وَ لَا یَحِلُّ لَہُنَّ اَنۡ یَّکۡتُمۡنَ مَا خَلَقَ اللّٰہُ فِیۡۤ اَرۡحَامِہِنَّ اِنۡ کُنَّ یُؤۡمِنَّ بِاللّٰہِ وَ الۡیَوۡمِ الۡاٰخِرِ ؕ وَ بُعُوۡلَتُہُنَّ اَحَقُّ بِرَدِّہِنَّ فِیۡ ذٰلِکَ اِنۡ اَرَادُوۡۤا اِصۡلَاحًا ؕ وَ لَہُنَّ مِثۡلُ الَّذِیۡ عَلَیۡہِنَّ بِالۡمَعۡرُوۡفِ ۪ وَ لِلرِّجَالِ عَلَیۡہِنَّ دَرَجَۃٌ ؕ وَ اللّٰہُ عَزِیۡزٌ حَکِیۡمٌ ﴿۲۲۸﴾٪

2:228 Divorced women should keep themselves in waiting for three courses.8 And it is not lawful for them to conceal what Allah has created in their wombs, if they believe in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands have a better right to take them back in the meanwhile if they wish for reconciliation.9 And women have rights similar to those against them in a just manner,10 and men are a degree above them.11 And Allah is Mighty, Wise.



  1. Just as war made many children orphans, it made many women widows, but questions relating to widowhood and divorce being somewhat analo­gous, the two questions are treated together here and further on.
  2. The word used (adh-an) signifies anything that causes a slight harm. It is not, however, the menstrual discharge that is called harmful here but having sexual relations while the woman is in that condition. The Jewish law con­tains a similar prohibition in Leviticus 18:19 and 20:18, though Jewish prac­tice rendered it necessary that the separation between husband and wife should be complete. In Islam, it is limited to the cessation of sexual intercourse as the answer here shows.
  3. This verse shows that the real object of marital relations is not simply the satisfaction of sexual desires. (Editor’s Note: The comparison of women to the land that is tilled is to show that it is through them that the crop of the next generation of human beings grows and develops, both physically and in character. Men are also told here to do some act of moral goodness before approaching their wives sexually, and to have regard for duty to God which stands for having regard for one’s duties towards others as required by God. Thus the hus­band is required to be mindful also of moral duty and responsibility in the matter of sexual relations with his wife, so that it should not be merely an occasion for him to gratify his lust selfishly with no regard for moral goodness or the rights of his wife.)
  4. This verse refers to the pre-Islamic Arab custom of īla’, a way of temporarily putting off the wife which was effected by an oath in Allah’s name not to have sexual relations with her. The result of this was that the husband considered himself free from all marital obligations. The first step to bring about a reform in the relations of husband and wife was that this practice was abolished. It is in reference to this that the taking of oaths against the doing of good to others is prohibited. The fulfilment of marital obligations is thus referred to as the doing of good and observance of duty and making peace between people. But the subject is generalized and the taking of all oaths to forbid oneself the doing of good or fulfilment of obligations is prohibited. See also 66:2 footnote.
  5. By vain oaths are meant unintentional or thoughtless oaths in ordinary conversation, and by what the hearts have earned is meant an oath inten­tionally taken.
  6. Īla’ signifies an oath by a man that he shall not approach his wife. In pre-Islamic times the Arabs used to take such oaths frequently, and as the period of suspension was not limited, the wife was compelled sometimes to pass her whole life having neither the position of a wife nor that of a divorced woman free to marry elsewhere. The Quran declares that if the husband does not reassert conjugal relations within four months, the wife shall be divorced. Cases in which husbands desert wives, having neither conjugal relations with them nor divorcing them, must be dealt with practically as amounting to īla’, so that after four months the wife should be free if she wants a divorce.
  7. The Islamic law of divorce is elastic and does not strictly limit the causes of divorce. Divorce is allowed if sufficient reason exists, but the right is to be exercised under exceptional circumstances. A wife can claim a divorce accord­ing to the Islamic law, which was not a right conferred on her by Jewish and Chris­tian laws on divorce as formulated in Deuteronomy and Matthew.
  8. The period of waiting, or ‘iddat, forms the first condition in the Islamic law of divorce. But for cases in which marriage is not consummated, no period of waiting is necessary; see 33:49.
  9. These words give a clear right to the parties to effect a recon­cilia­tion and re-establish conjugal relations within the period of waiting. No special pro­cedure is necessary for this but both the divorce and the reconciliation must take place in the presence of witnesses. If, however, the ‘iddat is over and no reconciliation has been effected, the relation of husband and wife can be re-established by remarriage, which right is given to the parties by v. 232.
  10. The rights of women against their husbands are here stated to be similar to those which the husbands have against their wives. The change in this respect was really a revolutionizing one, for the Arabs hitherto regarded women as mere property. Women were now declared to have rights similar to those which were exercised against them. The equality of the rights of women with those of men was never previously recognized by any nation or any reformer.
  11. The statement that “men are a degree above them” does not nullify the rights asserted in the previous passage. The words are added simply to show that the husband is the head of the household.