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 4 (Verses 4:23–4:25): What Women may be Taken in Marriage

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Translation:

4:23 Forbidden to you are your mothers, and your daughters, and your sisters, and your paternal aunts, and your maternal aunts, and brother’s daughters and sister’s daughters, and your mothers that have suckled you, and your foster-sisters, and mothers of your wives, and your stepdaughters who are in your guardianship (born) of your wives with whom you have had sexual relations — but if you have not had sexual relations with them, there is no blame on you — and the wives of your sons who are of your own loins; and that you should have two sisters together, except what has already passed. Surely Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful,
Part 54:24 And all married women except those whom your right hands possess (are forbidden);1 (this is) Allah’s ordinance to you. And lawful for you are (all women) besides those, provided that you seek (them) with your property, taking (them) in marriage, not committing fornication. Then as to those whom you profit by (by marrying), give them their dowries as appointed. And there is no blame on you about what you mutually agree after what is appointed (of dowry).2 Surely Allah is ever Knowing, Wise.
4:25 And whoever among you cannot afford to marry free believing women, (let him marry) such of your believing maidens as your right hands possess. And Allah knows best your faith — you are (sprung) the one from the other. So marry them with the permission of their masters, and give them their dowries justly, they being chaste, not fornicating, nor taking lovers in secret; then if they are guilty of adultery when they are taken in marriage, they shall suffer half the punishment for free married women. This is for him among you who fears falling into evil. And that you abstain is better for you. And Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.3

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Commentary:

  1. It is thus forbidden to a man to marry a woman who is already married. An exception is made, however, regarding those whom your right hands possess. This expression may here mean those whom you have lawfully taken in marriage, and the meaning would be that all free women are prohibited to you except those whom you have lawfully married. Generally by this expression in the Quran are meant those who are taken prisoners in war. It sometimes happened that such prisoners became converts to Islam, and therefore they could not be sent back. Such women it was lawful to take in marriage, even though they might not have been divorced formally by their former husbands.
  2. The husband and the wife are free to increase or decrease the amount of dowry fixed at the time of marriage by agreement among themselves.
  3. There is no verse in the Quran or any instance in the Holy Prophet’s life sanctioning what is called concubinage. Whenever the establishment of con­jugal relations with slave-girls or women prisoners of war is mentioned, their taking in marriage is clearly laid down as a condition as in v. 3, v. 24, and this verse. Here marriage with such women is allowed under the following conditions: (1) they should be Muslims; (2) a man has not the means to marry a free woman, and (3) he fears to fall into evil.

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