Surah Nisa Ayat 32 In Arabic
وَلَا تَتَمَنَّوْا مَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بِهِ بَعْضَكُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ ۚ لِلرِّجَالِ نَصِيبٌ مِمَّا اكْتَسَبُوا ۖ وَلِلنِّسَاءِ نَصِيبٌ مِمَّا اكْتَسَبْنَ ۚ وَاسْأَلُوا اللَّهَ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمًا ﴿32﴾
Surah Nisa Ayat 32 Transliteration
Wa laa tatamannaw maa faddalal laahu bihee ba’dakum ‘alaa ba’d; lirrijaali naseebum mimmak tasaboo wa linnisaaa’i naseebum mimmak tasabn; was’alullaaha min fadlih; innal laaha kaana bikulli shai’in ‘Aleemaa
Surah Nisa Ayat 32 Translation
And covet not the thing in which Allah hath made some of you excel others. Unto men a fortune from that which they have earned, and unto women a fortune from that which they have earned. (Envy not one another) but ask Allah of His bounty. Lo! Allah is ever Knower of all things.
In the injunctions of inheritance appearing previously, it was mentioned that, given the conditions, for a male there is a share equal to that of two females. There are other proved aspects of male prece¬dence as well. So, Sayyidah Umm Salmah رضی اللہ تعالیٰ عنہا once said to the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) Our share in the inheritance is half. Then, there are such and such elements of difference between us and men…’
Her purpose was not to raise an objection. Rather, she wished to be a man and to deserve the merits restricted for men. There were other women who wished: Had we been men, we would have taken part in Jihad and the merit of Jihad would have been ours.’
A woman asked the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) ‘A man gets a double share in the inheritance and the witness of a woman is half as compared with a man – does that mean that we shall be getting a half reward for all of our acts of worship?’ Thereupon, the present verse was revealed in which an answer to both these statements has been given. The answer to Sayyidah Umm Salmah (رض) was given by ‘and do not covet…’ and the answer to the last-mentioned woman was given by ‘for men there is a share…’
Coveting the Unacquirable
In this verse (32), coveting things, traits and merits given to others has been prohibited, for they are not acquirable by effort. The reason is that when a man finds himself lacking in wealth, comfort, beauty, merit, knowledge and similar other states of being, he naturally expe¬riences a surge of envy which urges him to come, at least, at par with that person, or, if possible, be ahead. But, he does not always have the capability or power to make his wish come true because there are merits and excellences which have nothing to do with man’s own efforts and acquisitions. They are simply the blessings of nature, for example, being a man or being the scion of a prophet’s family or having been born in the family of a ruler or having been born beau¬tiful. So, one who does not have access to these blessings – can never obtain them by effort even-if he were to spend a whole life-time devoted to that pursuit. A woman cannot become a man, nor can one choose to be born in the family of a prophet, or change his physique – become tall and handsome, acquire All beautiful features of his choice – because, this is not within his power. He simply cannot acquire these in the real sense, no matter how much he struggles with his medi¬cines, treatments and devices. Consequently, when he finds himself incapable of matching the other person, his inner self starts playing with the idea that it would be wonderful if such blessings were snatched away from him (the other person) as well, so that, he too becomes either equal or lower than him. This is envy, a terribly, shameful and damaging trait of human morals, which is the cause of so many disputes, disturbances, killings and ravages in this world.
This verse of the Holy Qur’an closes the doors of disorders by saying: وَلَا تَتَمَنَّوْا مَا فَضَّلَ اللَّـهُ بِهِ بَعْضَكُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ. It means that Allah Almighty, in His infinite wisdom, has blessed people with all sorts of merits and excellences. He gave someone a particular quality, then gave someone else yet another quality; less to some, more to some others. In this matter, everyone. should rest pleased with his or her destiny and stay clear from the envious desire to become the possessor of the other person’s merits and excellences, for the end-result of this game of desires is nothing but a biting sense of personal loss, and of course, that awful sin of envy.
It may sound a little simple, but the truth of the matter is that anyone Allah Almighty elects to be a man should be grateful for it, and anyone He elects to be a woman should be pleased with being just that, realizing that, had she been a man, may be, she could have failed to fulfill the responsibilities placed on a man, and would have thus ended up being a sinner. Then, anyone created beautiful by Allah Almighty should be all the more grateful for having been so blessed; and, anyone lesser in looks should also not grieve thinking of the good that may lie hidden behind this destiny, for being blessed with beauty does not necessarily guarantee good. It might have the recipient land into some unwelcome state of trial or corruption.
Again, anyone who is a true lineal descendant of the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) should thank Allah Almighty for the great blessing of this lineal connection; and, anyone who does not have this connection should neither worry about it, nor should he go about longing for it, because this is something which cannot be acquired by effort, and if one still insists on coveting it, what he would get involved with will be nothing but sin and the gain he would make would be nothing but a broken heart and an aching soul. So, rather than pine for a lineage one does not have, the best policy is to think about one’s own doings. Let these be good and righteous. Once a person enhances himself with such spiritual strengths, he can be ahead of those with higher or better lineage.
Striving to excel others in good deeds is different
There are verses of the Holy Qur’an and the sayings of the noble Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) which exhort people to excel each other in good deeds. In other words, this is an open field in which it is all right to look at the trail of merits and excellence left by others. Indeed, people have been persuaded to make all possible efforts to acquire them. Now, this relates to deeds within man’s control, and which can be acquired by learning, training and working. For example, if a person is impressed with someone’s intellectual merits, practical life and excel-lent morals, he can, by all means, strive to acquire these qualities.
This is very desirable, and praiseworthy. As such, the present verse does not contradict it. In fact, the later part of the same verse (32), that is لِّلرِّجَالِ نَصِيبٌ مِّمَّا اكْتَسَبُوا ۖ وَلِلنِّسَاءِ نَصِيبٌ مِّمَّا اكْتَسَبْ , is actually supporting this view. It means that men will get a share of what they acquired with their effort and conduct, and the same will be true for women who will get a share of what they acquired with their effort and conduct. One is not likely to miss the hint here – that effort and struggle in the acquisition of merits and perfections do not go waste. On the contrary, every man and woman will definitely get a return, a share of his or her effort.
From here, we also know that desiring to have someone’s intellectual-moral excellence as combined with his model practical conduct, and then going ahead to see the fruition of these desires through effort and struggle, is certainly desirable and praiseworthy. Removed in the process here is an error which is committed by a lot of people who tend to do things not knowing what they are doing. Some of them become so devoted to their desire to acquire merits which cannot be acquired that they ruin their otherwise peaceful life right here in this mortal world. And if, bad come to worse, they are fired with envy, that is, they start wishing – ‘if I do not have this blessing, may this be taken away from the other’ – then, the very chances of salvation in the life to come also stand destroyed because of the grave sin of envy committed by him.
Moreover, there are another kind of people as well who lack courage, avoid action, or just have no sense of honour and shame, who do not even try to acquire merits which can be acquired. Such people, when approached with good counsel, would come back immediately, blaming their destiny and fate which is no more than an effort to camouflage their own timidity and inertia. The present verse has resolved this problem by stating a wise and just rule which is: Man’s effort is ineffective in acquiring merits which he does not control, such as, being high-born or handsome. Merits like these should be resigned to fate and one must be content with the divinely determined state he is in, and be grateful to Allah Almighty. Coveting anymore than that is absurd, ineffectual, meddlesome – an act which leaves behind nothing but a handful of sorrows.
As for merits which can be acquired by effort, wishing to have them is useful, only if such a wish is supported by the necessary struggle to achieve. Let us keep in mind that the verse carries the promise that the effort so made will not be wasted and everyone will get a share of what he or she worked for.
Referring back to injunctions prohibiting. the unjust use of someone’s property and the unjust taking of someone’s life (29), Tafsir al-Bahr al-Mishit points out that this verse aims to seal the very source of these crimes, and it is for this purpose that instructions have been given to stop people from coveting others who are ahead of them in wealth, comfort or influence. A little thought will reveal that theft, robbery and other illegitimate ways of usurping someone’s property, or to kill and destroy, are crimes which sprout from one particular emotional attitude. A person, when he finds the other ahead of him in wealth and other material acquisitions, first feels the pinch in his heart wishing to come at par with him, or even wishes to become superior to him. Then, it is the intensity of this desire which pushes him all the way to go ahead and commit these crimes. The Holy Qur’an, as said earlier, has blocked the source of these crime by blocking the very desire of the unacquirables and the unobtainables of life.
To ask for Allah’s grace is the ideal way
After that, the verse moves on to instruct by saying: وَاسْأَلُوا اللَّـهَ مِن فَضْلِهِ ; (And pray to Allah for His grace). It means, ‘when you see someone excel in one or the other graces of life,’ the ideal conduct is, ‘not to wish to come at par with the other person in respect of that particular excel¬lence, but that you should pray to Allah asking for graces and bless¬ings. from Him.’ The reason is that Allah’s grace appears in different forms for everyone. For some, wealth is a blessing from God for, if they were to become paupers, they might have fallen victims to sin and disbelief. For some others, grace lies in the very pecuniary circum-stances they are in, for if they were to turn rich, they might have succumbed to thousands of sins. Similarly, for some, grace appears in the form of power and influence, while for some others, the unremem¬bered and the unattended, the grace of Allah manifests itself in that very state. A look at the reality of things around would have told him that power and influence, if these were to be his lot, might have caused his falling into many a sin. Therefore, the verse instructs – when you ask Allah, do not ask for some fixed quality of life, instead, ask for His grace so that He, in his His infinite wisdom, opens the doors of His blessings on you.
Trust His Wisdom and Knowledge
The verse concludes by saying: إِنَّ اللَّـهَ كَانَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمًا (Surely, Allah is All-Knowing in respect of everything.) Here, the hint is that the arrangement of things made by Allah Almighty is the very quintes¬sence of wisdom and justice. Whoever has been created and sustained in whatever condition it may be is an arrangement perfectly matched with the ideal demand of wisdom and justice. But, man is not fully aware of the consequences of what he does. This is something only Allah knows best and thus He also knows how suitable it is to keep anyone in a given condition.
The law of inheritance: Reiteration of the wisdom in it
While describing the background in which the present verse was revealed, which appears in the introductory remarks preceding the Commentary, it was stated that some women, when they found out that men have beers given a share equal to that of two women, wished they were men so that they too would be getting a doubled share. In a relevant manner, the law of inheritance was reiterated in the second verse (33) and it was tersely said that all shares determined therein are based on perfect wisdom and justice. Since human reason cannot encompass the totality of factors that contribute to the order or disorder of the created universe, it is obvious that it cannot arrive precisely at those elements of wisdom which have been taken Into consideration in determining the laws of Allah Almighty. Therefore, whosoever has been allotted whatsoever share should be pleased with it, and be grateful for it.
Inheriting through pledge
The giving of a share on the basis of a pledge mentioned at the end of verse 33 refers to a practice during the initial period of Islam. This was later abrogated by the verse وَأُولُو الْأَرْحَامِ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلَىٰ بِبَعْضٍ (As for the womb – relatives, some of them are closer to some…) (33:6) Now, if other heirs exist, a pledge or mutual contract between two parties does not affect the inheritance in any manner whatsoever.
[From Ma’ariful Quran English by Mufti Taqi Uthmani]
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