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Al-Zihar Verse

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The Verse of Ẓihār, or Ayat al-Ẓihār (Arabic: آیة الظهار), is the second verse of Qur'an 58, in which the Jahili practice of zihar is reproached. Zihar refers to an utterance in which a husband assimilates his wife to his mother, whereby he bars himself from returning to her and he forbids her for himself for lifetime. In this verse, God reproaches zihar, abrogates its enforceability, punishes the man who practices zihar with expiation (kaffara), and obligates him to repent to God.

The Verse of Zihar was revealed about one of the companions of the Prophet (s) who had practiced zihar and then regretted it. He sent his wife to the Prophet (s) to find a solution. It was then that the verse and other related verses were revealed.

In verses following the Verse of Zihar, God states the rulings of expiation for zihar. Before paying the expiation, the husband is not permitted to have sexual intercourse with his wife. In order for rulings of zihar to be enforced and expiation being compulsory, certain conditions must hold, such as the presence of two righteous witnesses, the wife not being on her menstrual period, etc.

Texts and Translation

Brief Introduction

The Qur'an 58:2 is known as the Verse of Zihar, although four or six first verses of the sura are related to zihar. The verse condemns a practice of the Age of Ignorance concerning the separation of husbands and wives, specifying a heavy penalty for the practice.

Zihar was a Jahili practice, and it literally means "back". Technically, it refers to an utterance whereby the wife becomes forbidden for her husband. In zihar, the man assimilates his wife to his own mother or another mahram of his out of anger and hatred. With the utterance, the man will be separated from his wife and will be stripped of his right to return to her for lifetime. Zihar was an obvious injustice to women and caused a lot of hardship for them. Thus, with the revelation of this verse, God abolished the ruling of law and its effect, that is, lifetime forbiddance of the woman for her husband, and denied that a wife can be like her husband's mother.

Occasion of Revelation

The occasion of the revelation of the verse is said to be as follows: one day a companion of the Prophet (s), Aws b. Samit, made angry utterances of zihar for his wife. However, he regretted what he did after a while. Thus, he sent his wife to the Prophet (s) to find a solution and enquire about the Islamic ruling on zihar. It was then that the first four verses of Qur'an 58 (Sura al-Mujadila) were revealed concerning the ruling of zihar.

Exegesis

In the Verse of Zihar, God preaches that zihar is a false statement and reproaches the practice, characterizing it as wrong and blameworthy. The verse abolishes zihar and abrogates its effects, punishing those who practice zihar with expiation. According to the verse, one's mother is only the person who has given birth to him, and one's wife can never be treated like his mother. Appealing to the verse, Muslim scholars do not have a doubt about the forbiddance of zihar.

According to Makarim Shirazi, a contemporary exegete of the Qur'an, the mother-child relation is an external fact that cannot be generated with a mere utterance. Thus, if a man tells his wife, hundreds of time, that she is like his mother, she will not be like his mother. So, such an utterance is mere superstition and nonsense.

Some people have appealed to the apparent meaning of the verse as well as a hadith from Imam 'Ali (a) to show that if one practices zihar only once, then he is not obligated to pay the expiation. Payment of expiation will be obligatory only if it is practiced more than once. However, some people take this to be contrary to what the majority of scholars believe, because in this case the first time of zihar will remain without a expiation, which is not consistent with the context of the verse.

Conditions and Rulings

In the two verses following the Verse of Zihar, God specifies a particular expiation for regretting and returning to one's wife after zihar. The man must emancipate a slave if he can afford it. Otherwise, he must fast for sixty consecutive days, and if he cannot do this, then he must feed sixty poor people. Before the payment of expiation, the man is not permitted to have sexual intercourse with his wife. There is a disagreement among scholars as to cases in which the man cannot do any of the three expiations. It is believed by some that expiation for zihar was for purposes of learning a lesson, self-training, prevention of doing injustice to one's wife, and the protection of the family.

Zihar is said to have conditions such as the woman not being in her menstrual period, the man not having had a sexual intercourse with the woman before her last menstruation, and the presence of two just witnesses. The verse goes on to make it obligatory for a man who practices zihar to repent to God, in which case God will forgive the past sin.

See Also

References

  • The material for this article is mainly taken from آیه ظهار in Farsi WikiShia.