English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 4: Al-Nisa — Women (Revealed at Madinah: 24 sections, 176 verses)

Section 3 (Verses 4:15–4:22): Treatment of Women



وَ الّٰتِیۡ یَاۡتِیۡنَ الۡفَاحِشَۃَ مِنۡ نِّسَآئِکُمۡ فَاسۡتَشۡہِدُوۡا عَلَیۡہِنَّ اَرۡبَعَۃً مِّنۡکُمۡ ۚ فَاِنۡ شَہِدُوۡا فَاَمۡسِکُوۡ ہُنَّ فِی الۡبُیُوۡتِ حَتّٰی یَتَوَفّٰہُنَّ الۡمَوۡتُ اَوۡ یَجۡعَلَ اللّٰہُ لَہُنَّ سَبِیۡلًا ﴿۱۵﴾

4:15 And as for those of your women who are guilty of an indecency, call to witness against them four (witnesses) from among you; so if they bear witness, confine them to the houses until death takes them away or Allah opens a way for them.1

وَ الَّذٰنِ یَاۡتِیٰنِہَا مِنۡکُمۡ فَاٰذُوۡہُمَا ۚ فَاِنۡ تَابَا وَ اَصۡلَحَا فَاَعۡرِضُوۡا عَنۡہُمَا ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ کَانَ تَوَّابًا رَّحِیۡمًا ﴿۱۶﴾

4:16 And as for the two of you who are guilty of it, give them both a slight punishment; then if they repent and amend, turn aside from them.2 Surely Allah is ever Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful.

اِنَّمَا التَّوۡبَۃُ عَلَی اللّٰہِ لِلَّذِیۡنَ یَعۡمَلُوۡنَ السُّوۡٓءَ بِجَہَالَۃٍ ثُمَّ یَتُوۡبُوۡنَ مِنۡ قَرِیۡبٍ فَاُولٰٓئِکَ یَتُوۡبُ اللّٰہُ عَلَیۡہِمۡ ؕ وَ کَانَ اللّٰہُ عَلِیۡمًا حَکِیۡمًا ﴿۱۷﴾

4:17 Repentance with Allah is only for those who do evil in ignorance, then turn (to Allah) soon, so these it is to whom Allah turns (mercifully). And Allah is ever Knowing, Wise.

وَ لَیۡسَتِ التَّوۡبَۃُ لِلَّذِیۡنَ یَعۡمَلُوۡنَ السَّیِّاٰتِ ۚ حَتّٰۤی اِذَا حَضَرَ اَحَدَہُمُ الۡمَوۡتُ قَالَ اِنِّیۡ تُبۡتُ الۡـٰٔنَ وَ لَا الَّذِیۡنَ یَمُوۡتُوۡنَ وَ ہُمۡ کُفَّارٌ ؕ اُولٰٓئِکَ اَعۡتَدۡنَا لَہُمۡ عَذَابًا اَلِیۡمًا ﴿۱۸﴾

4:18 And repentance is not for those who go on doing evil deeds, until when death comes to one of them, he says: Now I repent; nor (for) those who die while they are disbelievers. For such We have prepared a painful punishment.3

یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا لَا یَحِلُّ لَکُمۡ اَنۡ تَرِثُوا النِّسَآءَ کَرۡہًا ؕ وَ لَا تَعۡضُلُوۡہُنَّ لِتَذۡہَبُوۡا بِبَعۡضِ مَاۤ اٰتَیۡتُمُوۡہُنَّ اِلَّاۤ اَنۡ یَّاۡتِیۡنَ بِفَاحِشَۃٍ مُّبَیِّنَۃٍ ۚ وَ عَاشِرُوۡہُنَّ بِالۡمَعۡرُوۡفِ ۚ فَاِنۡ کَرِہۡتُمُوۡہُنَّ فَعَسٰۤی اَنۡ تَکۡرَہُوۡا شَیۡئًا وَّ یَجۡعَلَ اللّٰہُ فِیۡہِ خَیۡرًا کَثِیۡرًا ﴿۱۹﴾

4:19 O you who believe, it is not lawful for you to take women as heritage against (their) will.4 Nor should you cause them hardship by taking part of what you have given them, unless they are guilty of manifest indecency.5 And treat them kindly. Then if you hate them, it may be that you dislike a thing while Allah has placed abundant good in it.

وَ اِنۡ اَرَدۡتُّمُ اسۡتِبۡدَالَ زَوۡجٍ مَّکَانَ زَوۡجٍ ۙ وَّ اٰتَیۡتُمۡ اِحۡدٰہُنَّ قِنۡطَارًا فَلَا تَاۡخُذُوۡا مِنۡہُ شَیۡئًا ؕ اَتَاۡخُذُوۡنَہٗ بُہۡتَانًا وَّ اِثۡمًا مُّبِیۡنًا ﴿۲۰﴾

4:20 And if you wish to have (one) wife in the place of another and you have given one of them a heap of gold, take nothing from it. Would you take it by slandering (her) and (doing her) manifest wrong?6

وَ کَیۡفَ تَاۡخُذُوۡنَہٗ وَ قَدۡ اَفۡضٰی بَعۡضُکُمۡ اِلٰی بَعۡضٍ وَّ اَخَذۡنَ مِنۡکُمۡ مِّیۡثَاقًا غَلِیۡظًا ﴿۲۱﴾

4:21 And how can you take it when you have been intimate with each other and they have taken from you a strong covenant?7

وَ لَا تَنۡکِحُوۡا مَا نَکَحَ اٰبَآؤُکُمۡ مِّنَ النِّسَآءِ اِلَّا مَا قَدۡ سَلَفَ ؕ اِنَّہٗ کَانَ فَاحِشَۃً وَّ مَقۡتًا ؕ وَ سَآءَ سَبِیۡلًا ﴿٪۲۲﴾

4:22 And do not marry women whom your fathers married, except what has already passed. This surely is indecent and hateful; and it is an evil way.



  1. The word “indecency” here signifies immoral conduct short of illicit sexual intercourse, the punishment for which is given in 24:2. Women guilty of immoral conduct are curtailed of their liberty. If they mend their ways, or being unmarried they get married, a way is opened for them by Allah, and they regain their liberty.
  2. The crime spoken of in this verse is the same as that in the previous verse. The committers are two, and though the masculine gender is used, it does not imply that they are both necessarily males. Slight punishment has been ex­plained as meaning reproving with the tongue.
  3. Repentance, according to the Quran, implies an actual change in the course of one’s life, not the mere utterance of words. In fact, the law stated here shows how repentance does away with sins. When the very course of a person’s life is changed in respect of a particular sin, the tendency to that sin is uprooted. But those who continue doing evil until death cannot obtain the benefit of repent­ance, because there is no time left for them to improve themselves.
  4. Among the pre-Islamic Arabs, when a man died his elder son or other relations had a right to possess his widow or widows, marrying them them­selves if they wished, without settling a dowry on them, marrying them to others, or prohibiting them from marriage altogether. This is abolished by these words.
  5. This passage remedies another evil. Some husbands who were dis­satisfied with their wives gave them trouble in order to force them to claim a divorce and remit the dowry (i.e., the legally-due nuptial gift from the husband to the wife). This is disallowed. If the judge finds that the fault lies actually with the husband, he will not allow the dowry to be remitted in his favour. It can only be taken back if the woman is guilty of immoral conduct. In such cases, when the fault is with the woman, she may be required to return it wholly or in part.
  6. Another social evil was that a husband, wanting to marry another woman instead, would accuse his wife of adultery or other gross immorality, thus compelling her to obtain a divorce by paying a large sum of money.
  7. Marriage is here called a covenant or agreement between the husband and the wife. As there can be no agreement unless both parties give their consent to it, marriage in Islam can only be entered into with the free consent of the hus­band and wife.