The verse was revealed in Madinah, just after the battle of Uhud (Mawdudi).
“Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents DO GOOD, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side, the traveler, AND THOSE WHOM YOUR RIGHT HANDS POSSESS. Indeed, Allah does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful.” – Quran 4:36
This is a direct command, an order to be good and kind to human beings. The present verse emphasises and orders Muslims to be kind and do good to their parents, relatives, orphans, the needy, their neighbour(s), their wife, a traveller, captives of war who were in their possession and others.
Scholar Abdullah Yusuf Ali:
“550 The essence of Islam is to serve Allah AND DO GOOD TO YOUR FELLOW-CREATURES. This is wider and more comprehensive than “Love God and love your neighbour“. For it includes duties to animals as our fellow-creatures, and emphasises practical service rather than sentiment.
551 Neighbours who are near: that is, in local situation as well as intimate relationships, just as neighbours who are strangers includes those whom we do not know or who live away from us or in a different sphere altogether.
552 The Companion by your side may be your intimate friends and associates, just as the wayfarer you meet may be a carnal acquaintance on your travels. This last is much wider than the “stranger within your gate.”
553 WHAT YOUR RIGHT HANDS POSSESS: For the meaning of the phrase see n. 537 above. (R).
554 REAL DEEDS OF SERVICE AND KINDNESS PROCEED, not from showing off or from a superior sort of condescension ( Cf. “White Man’s Burden”), but from a frank recognition of our own humility and the real claims, before Allah, of all our fellow-creatures. For in our mutual needs we are equal before Allah, or perhaps the best of us (as the world sees us) may be worse than the worst of us (from the same point of view).” (The Meaning of The Noble Qur’an by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, page 54, online source)
Dr. Muhammad Asad:
“46 The expression shay’an (here rendered as “in any way”) makes it clear that shirk (“the ascribing of divinity to anything beside God”) is not confined to a worship of other “deities”, but implies also the attribution of divine or quasi-divine powers to persons or objects not regarded as deities: in other words, it embraces also saint-worship, etc.
47 I.e., “whether he belongs to your own or to another community”. That the expression “your own people” (dhu l-qurba) refers to the community and not to one’s actual relatives is obvious from the fact that “the near of kin” have already been mentioned earlier in this sentence. The Prophet often stressed a believer’s moral obligation towards his neighbours, whatever their faith; and his attitude has been summed up in his words, “Whoever believes in God and the Last Day, let him do good unto his neighbour” (Bukhari, Muslim, and other compilations).
48 According to ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud and other Companions, “the friend by your side” (as-sahib bi’l-janb) is one’s wife or husband (Tabari). By “THOSE WHOM YOU RIGHTFULLY POSSESS” (LIT., “WHOM YOUR RIGHT HANDS POSSESS”) ARE MEANT, IN THIS CONTEXT, SLAVES OF EITHER SEX. SINCE THIS VERSE ENJOINS THE “DOING OF GOOD” TOWARDS ALL PEOPLE WITH WHOM ONE IS IN CONTACT, AND SINCE THE BEST THAT CAN BE DONE TO A SLAVE IS TO FREE HIM, THE ABOVE PASSAGE CALLS, ELLIPTICALLY, FOR THE FREEING OF SLAVES (MANAR V, 94). See also surah 2, verse 177, as well as 9:60, where the freeing of human beings from bondage is explicitly mentioned as one of the objectives to which zakah funds are to be dedicated.” (The Message of The Quran translated and explained by Muhammad Asad, page 169 – 170, online source)
Maulana Muhammad Ali:
”36a. The neighbour of kin may mean a neighbour who is a relative or a Muslim neighbour, and the alien neighbour is either a neighbour not related or a neighbour of an alien religion (AH). The latter phrase (the qualifying word being derived from janb, meaning a side) signifies, according to lexicologists, the person who is one’s neighbour but who belongs to another people (LL). Thus the charity of Islam is not limited to one’s own people or one’s own co-religionists, but is extended to aliens also.
36b. By THOSE WHOM YOUR RIGHT HANDS POSSESS ARE MEANT ALL THOSE WITH WHOSE CARE A MAN IS ENTRUSTED, so that it includes even animals over which a man has control (AH, Rz). While dealing with the rights of women, THE QUR’AN GENERALIZES THE LAW OF DOING GOOD TO OTHERS, SO MUCH SO THAT IT REQUIRES GOODNESS TO BE EXTENDED even to a fellow traveller or to a mere wayfarer. If even companions whose company is so short-lived are to be treated generously, how generous must a man be to her who is the companion of his whole life!” (The Holy Quran Arabic Text with English Translation, Commentary and comprehensive Introduction [Year 2002 Edition] by Maulana Muhammad Ali, page 207)
Malik Ghulam Farid:
“604. AFTER HAVING ENJOINED IN THE PRECEDING VERSES THAT ONE SHOULD BE KIND to one’s wife, IN THE PRESENT VERSE THE QUR’AN DIRECTS A MUSLIM TO MAKE HIS KINDNESS SO COMPREHENSIVE AS TO INCLUDE IN ITS SCOPE THE WHOLE OF MANKIND, from parents, who the nearest, to strangers who are the farthest removed.
605. SLAVES, BONDWOMEN, SERVANTS, SUBORDINATES.” (The Holy Qur’an – Arabic Text With English Translation & Short Commentary by Malik Ghulam Farid, page 196)
Scholar Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi:
62″Assahib-i-bil -janb” as used in the Text may imply an intimate friend and also a person who accompanies one at any time. For instance, he may happen to accompany one in the street, or be a fellow customer at a shop, or be a fellow passenger in the bus or in the railway train, etc. Even such a temporary neighborhood requires a civilized and noble person TO TREAT THE COMPANION AS FAR AS POSSIBLE KINDLY, and scrupulously avoid giving him any sort of trouble.” (Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi – Tafhim al-Qur’an – The Meaning of the Qur’an, online source)
Shaykh Ashiq Ilahi Madni:
“‘…and those in your possession.’ THIS REFERS TO SLAVES WHO MUST ALSO BE TREATED AMICABLY AND THEIR FOOD AND CLOTHING DULY PROVIDED. IN NO WAY SHOULD THEY BE OPPRESSED and should never be given more work than they can manage.
Sayyidina Abu Dhar narrates that the Holy Prophet said, ‘Indeed these slaves are your brothers and servants whom Allah has placed at your disposal. So the one who has a slave in his possession should feed him from that which he himself eats and clothe him as he clothes himself. They should not be given more work than they are capable of. If you give them more than they can manage, you should assist them. [Bukhari p. 346]
Sayidina Abu Bakr NARRATES FROM THE HOLY PROPHET THAT THE PERSON WHO DOES NOT TREAT HIS SLAVE WELL SHALL NOT ENTER HEAVEN (Jannah). [Tirmidhi]
Sayyidah Umm Salamah narrates that on his deathbed the Holy Prophet enjoined the performance of Salah and cordial treatment of slaves [Mishkat p. 291]” (Illuminating Discourses on the Noble Quran – Tafseer Anwarul Bayan – by Shaykh Ashiq Ilahi Madni (r.a), volume 1, page 554 – 555)
“IN THIS PARTICULAR VERSE, THE DIRECTIVE BEGINS BY EMPHASISING THE NEED TO BE KIND to parents, before widening the area to include kinsfolk, and then at a later stage, extending this to orphans and the needy. These are given precedence over one’s neighbours because their need may be more pressing and they must be looked after more immediately. KINDNESS IS THEN URGED TOWARDS a neighbour who may be a relation, and so to any other neighbour. Both take precedence over friends, because a neighbour always remains next to us. We meet our friends intermittently. Commentators on the Qur’an have defined this type of friend as the one with whom we meet socially and whom we may choose as a travelling companion. The next type of person who deserves our kindness is a stranded wayfarer. THIS IS FOLLOWED BY SLAVES WHO SUFFER THE HARDSHIPS OF BONDAGE, BUT WITH WHOM WE HAVE HUMAN TIES COMMON TO ALL MANKIND. THIS COMMANDMENT TO EXTEND OUR KINDNESS TO ALL THESE GROUPS is followed by a comment which denounces conceit and arrogance, miserliness, suppression of God’s favours, boastfulness and showing off. All these are attributed to one basic cause, namely, lack of faith in God and the Day of Judgement.” (In The Shade Of The Quran (‘Fi Dhilal Al Qur’an’), by Sayyid Qutb volume, volume 3, page 123 – 124)
Tafsir Ibn Kathir:
“(AND THOSE (SLAVES) WHOM YOUR RIGHT HANDS POSSESS,) THIS IS AN ORDER TO BE KIND TO THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE WEAK, BEING HELD AS CAPTIVES BY OTHERS. An authentic Hadith records that during the illness that preceded his death, the Messenger of Allah continued advising his Ummah: ((Protect) the prayer, (protect) the prayer, and (those slaves) whom your hands possess.) He was repeating it until his tongue was still. Imam Ahmad recorded that Al-Miqdam bin Ma`dykarib said that the Messenger of Allah said, (What you feed yourself is a Sadaqah (charity) for you, what you feed your children is Sadaqah for you, what you feed your wife is Sadaqah for you and what you feed your servant is Sadaqah for you.) An-Nasa’i recorded this Hadith which has an authentic chain of narration, all the thanks are due to Allah. `Abdullah bin `Amr said to a caretaker of his, “Did you give the slaves their food yet” He said, “No.” Ibn `Amr said, “Go and give it to them, for the Messenger of Allah said, (It is enough sin for someone to prevent whomever he is responsible for from getting their food.)” Muslim recorded this Hadith. Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet said, ‘The slave has the right to have food, clothing and to only be required to perform what he can bear of work.’ Muslim also recorded this Hadith. Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet said, (When your servant brings meals to one of you, if he does not let him sit and share the meal, then he should at least give him a mouthful or two mouthfuls of that meal or a meal or two, for he has prepared it.) This is the wording collected by Al-Bukhari.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir on Surah 4:36 – online source)
“And worship God, declare His Oneness, and associate nothing with Him. BE KIND to parents, being dutiful and gentle-mannered, and near kindred, and to orphans, and to the needy, and to the neighbour who is near, to you in terms of [physical] vicinity or kinship, and to the neighbour who is a stranger, the one far from you in terms of [physical] vicinity or kinship; and to the friend at your side, a travelling companion, or a colleague at work, and, it is also said, one’s wife; and to the wayfarer, the one cut off during a journey, AND TO WHAT YOUR RIGHT HANDS OWN, OF BONDSMEN. Surely God loves not the conceited, the arrogant, and the boastful, [the one who boasts] before people of what he has been given.” (Tafsir al-Jalalayn on Surah 4:36 – online source)
Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas:
“‘And serve Allah’ acknowledge His divine Oneness. ‘Ascribe no thing’ no idol ‘as partner unto Him. (SHOW) KINDNESS unto parents’ be dutiful to parents, (and unto near kindred) Allah commands you to keep ties with your kin, ‘and orphans’ HE COMMANDS THAT YOU SHOW KINDNESS to orphans, and to protect their wealth, etc, ‘and the needy’ and He enjoins giving alms to the needy, (and unto the neighbour who is of kin (unto you)) the neighbour who also happen to be your relative has three rights over you: the right of kinship, the right of Islam, and the right of being a neighbour (and the neighbour who is not of kin) the neighbour who is not a relative has two rights: the right of Islam and the right of being a neighbour (and the fellow traveller) a fellow traveller has two rights: the right of Islam and the right of companionship; it is also said that this refers to one’s wife at home. ALLAH COMMANDS KINDNESS TOWARDS her (and the wayfarer) Allah commands the honouring of guests. Honouring a guest for three days is the guest’s right. The honour bestowed on the guest after the third day is considered a charity on the part of the host; ‘AND THE SLAVES’ WHOM YOUR RIGHT HANDS POSSESS ALLAH COMMANDS KINDNESS TOWARDS SLAVES, MALES AND FEMALES. ‘Lo! Allah loveth not such as are proud’ in their walking (and boastful) about the bounties of Allah, showing nothing but wantonness and arrogance towards Allah’s servants.” (Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas on Surah 4:36 – online source)
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