Tafsir On Surah 24:31-32

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Madinan verse (Mawdudi, Dr. Muhammad Asad and Ibn Kathir)

Analysing Verses

“And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their headcovers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons, their women, that which their right hands possess, or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment. And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed.
And marry the unmarried among you and the righteous among your male slaves and female slaves. If they should be poor, Allah will enrich them from His bounty, and Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.” – Quran 24:31-32

Surah 24:31 orders Muslim woman to cover their bosoms and hair. Surah 24:32 encourages marriage with female and male slaves. This was done to free them from slavery, 1300 years ago. For them to get equal rights. To be shown that they are equal to others in the sight of God. The abolishment of slavery was a gradual process.



“54 The best commentary on these verses are the Traditions which have been reported from the Holy Prophet in this connection. Hadrat ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud has related that the Holy Prophet once said: “O young men, whoso among you can afford to marry, he should marry, because this will be a means of restraining the eyes from casting the evil look and of keeping one pure and chaste, and the one who cannot afford, should fast, because fasting helps cool down the passions.” (Bukhari, Muslim). According to Hadrat Abu Hurairah, the Holy Prophet said: “Allah has taken upon Himself to succor three men: (a) the one who marries with a view to guarding his chastity, (b) the slave who works to earn his freedom, and (c) the one who goes out to fight in the way of Allah.” (Tirmizi, Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, Ahmad) For further explanation, see Surah An-Nisa: 25” (Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi – Tafhim al-Qur’an – The Meaning of the Qur’an, online source http://www.englishtafsir.com/Quran/24/index.html#sdfootnote55sym )

Tafsir al-Jalalayn:

“And tell believing women to lower their gaze, away from what is not lawful for them to look at, and to guard their private parts, from what is not lawful for them to do with them, and not to display their adornment except for what is apparent, namely, the face and the hands, which may be seen by a stranger, when there is no danger of [either or both falling into] temptation — this being one of two opinions. The second [of these] is that [even] this is forbidden because there is a presumption that these [parts] will cause temptation — and this is the preferred opinion, if one must settle this topic [with a definitive opinion]; and let them draw their veils over their bosoms, that is, let them cover up their heads, necks and chests with veils, and not reveal their, hidden, adornment, namely, all that is other than the face and the hands, except to their husbands (bu‘ūl is the plural form of ba‘l, ‘male spouse’) or their fathers, or their husbands’ fathers, or their sons, or their husbands’ sons, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or what their right hands own, all of whom are permitted to look thereat… And marry off the spouseless among you (ayāmā is the plural form of ayyim, namely, a spouseless female, whether she be a virgin or one previously married, or a spouseless male), this [stipulation] relates to free men and free women, and the righteous ones, the believers, among your male slaves and your female slaves (‘ibād is one plural form of ‘abd). If they, the free men, are poor, God will enrich them, through marriage, out of His bounty. God is Embracing, of [the needs of] His creatures, Knowing, of them.” (Tafsir al-Jalalayn on surah 24:31-32, online source http://www.altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=74&tSoraNo=24&tAyahNo=32&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0&LanguageId=2 )

Muhammad b. al-Sa’ib al-Kalbi (d. 146/763)::

“Then Allah guided them to marry their boys and girls, brothers and sisters, who do not have spouses, saying: (And marry such of you as are solitary) your daughters and sisters; and it is said that this means: your children and brothers and sisters who are still unmarried (and the pious of your slaves and maid servants) and also get your pious slave men and women married. (If they) i.e. those who are free (be poor; Allah will enrich them of His bounty) of His provision. (Allah is of ample means) He provides for both those who are free as well as for the slaves, (Aware) and He is Aware of the provision of all of them.
Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas, online source http://www.altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=73&tSoraNo=24&tAyahNo=32&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0&LanguageId=2 )

Malik Ghulam Farid:

“2045. Ayama is the plural of Ayyim which means, a woman having no husband, whether she be a virgin or not, or whether she had married before or not; a free woman (Lane); also a man having no wife (Mufradat). The marriage of widows and virgins, is strongly urged. In fact, Islam views with extreme disfavour the unmarried state and regards the married state as the normal and natural one. The Holy Prophet is reported to have said: ‘Marriage is my Sunnah (usage or practice) and whoso disapproves and forsakes my Sunnah is not of me’ (Muslim, Kitab al-Nikah).” (The Holy Qur’an – Arabic Text With English Translation & Short Commentary By Malik Ghulam Farid, page720)

Tafsir Ibn kathir:

“The Command to marry
These clear Ayat include a group of unambiguous rulings and firm commands.
(And marry those among you who are single (Al-Ayama)….) This is a command to marry. The Prophet said: (O young men, whoever among you can afford to get married, let him marry, for it is more effective in lowering the gaze and protecting the private parts. Whoever cannot do that, then let him fast, for it is a protection for him.) This was recorded in the Two Sahihs from the Hadith of Ibn Mas`ud. In the Sunan, it was recorded from more than one person that the Messenger of Allah said: (Marry and have children, for I will be proud of you before the nations on the Day of Resurrection.) The word Al-Ayama, the plural form of Ayyim, is used to describe a woman who has no husband and a man who has no wife, regardless of whether they have been married and then separated, or have never been married at all. Al-Jawhari reported this from the scholars of the (Arabic) language, and the word is applied to men and women alike. (If they be poor, Allah will enrich them out of His bounty.) `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported from Ibn `Abbas: “Allah encouraged them to get married, commanded both free men and servants to get married, and He promised to enrich them.” (If they be poor, Allah will enrich them out of His bounty.) It was recorded that Ibn Mas`ud said: “Seek the richness through marriage, for Allah says: (If they be poor, Allah will enrich them out of His bounty.)” This was recorded by Ibn Jarir. Al-Baghawi also recorded something similar from `Umar. It was reported from Al-Layth from Muhammad bin `Ajlan from Sa`id Al-Maqburi from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah said: (There are three whom it is a right upon Allah to help: one who gets married seeking chastity; a slave who makes a contract with his master with the aim of buying his freedom; and one who fights for the sake of Allah.) This was recorded by Imam Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah. The Prophet performed the marriage of a man who owned nothing but his waist wrap, and could not even buy a ring made of iron, but he still married him to that woman, making the Mahr his promise to teach her whatever he knew of the Qur’an. And it is known from the generosity and kindness of Allah that He provided him with whatever was sufficient for her and for him.
The Command to keep Oneself Chaste if One is not able to get married
Allah’s saying: (And let those who find not the financial means for marriage keep themselves chaste, until Allah enriches them of His bounty.) This is a command from Allah to those who do not have the means to get married: they are to keep themselves chaste and avoid unlawful things, as the Prophet said: (O young men, whoever among you can afford to get married, let him marry, for it is more effective in lowering the gaze and protecting the private parts. Whoever cannot do that, then let him fast, for it is a protection for him.) This Ayah is general in meaning, and the Ayah in Surat An-Nisa’ is more specific, where Allah says: (And whoever of you have not the means wherewith to wed free believing women)until His statement; (and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful) ﴿4:25﴾. (And let those who find not the financial means for marriage keep themselves chaste,) `Ikrimah said, “This refers to a man who sees a woman and it is as if he feels desire; if he has a wife then let him go to her and fulfill his desire with her, and if he does not have a wife, then let him ponder the kingdom of heaven and earth until Allah grants him means of livelihood.'”(Tafsir Ibn Kathir on Surah 24:32, online source http://www.alim.org/library/quran/AlQuran-tafsir/TIK/24/32)

Maulana Muhammad Ali:

“31a. To guard the relations between males and females and to check a too free intermingling of men and women, the Qur’an now lays down another injunction in addition to that which requires both sexes to lower their gaze when they meet each other. It requires women in particular not to display their adornment. There is a difference of opinion as to what zinat means. According to some it includes the beauty of the body, while according to others it is exclusively applied to external adornments. The use of the same word in the concluding portion of the verse, let them not strike their feet so that the zinat that they hide may be known, clearly supports the latter view, as the only adornment that can be known by the striking of the feet consists of external ornaments. But even taking the first view, there is a clear exception here, illa ma ahara min-ha — except what appears thereof or except that which it is customary and natural to uncover. Now in the first place it must be remembered that what is prohibited is the display of beauty, as elsewhere expressly indicated by the word taburruj: “And display not (your beauty) like the displaying of the ignorance of yore” (33:33). As to what parts of the body the woman is required to cover and what she may uncover the following summary of the earlier views relating to this exception given by IJ should suffice: (1) it means the adornment of dress or the clothes that a woman wears; in other words, she is not required to cover the clothes she wears; (2) it means the adornment which the woman is not required to cover, such as collyrium, rings, bracelets and her face; (3) the exception relates to a woman’s clothing
and her face. After relating these opinions, IJ adds: The most correct opinion is that the exception relates to the face and hands. As an argument corroborating this opinion he says that, when praying, the woman is not required to keep her face and hands covered — hands up to the elbow — while she is required to cover the rest of the body. According to Hadith, the Prophet himself is reported to have told Asma’, his wife ‘Å’ishah’s sister, when she appeared before him in thin clothes, through which parts of her body could be seen: “O Asma’, when woman attains her puberty it is not proper that any part of her body should be seen except this, and he pointed to his face and hands” (AD. 31:30). This settles conclusively that Islam never enjoined the veil or covering of the face. 31b. Before Islam women used to appear in public with their breasts partly uncovered. The khimar (pl. khumr) means a head-covering, and women were thus required to cover their breasts with a part of their head-covering. The head-covering as worn in the East conceals the arms, the neck and the bosom, as also the ornaments worn in the ears or on the neck or over the bosom, and the covering over of these parts is what is required here by the addition of the words over their bosoms. 31c. By their women, some commentators understand Muslim women, but it is a fact that women of other faiths mingled with believing women in the time of the Prophet, and therefore all women are meant. I think the word their has been added only to indicate all such women who come in contact with them, or women who are on the same social level with them. Those whom their right hands possess include male and female slaves. Next to slaves are mentioned tabi‘en, or those who follow, from tabi‘a, he followed. Servants are here called followers because they follow the master. To this is added the qualifying phrase ghairi uli-l-irbati, which is ordinarily translated as meaning not having need (of women). But irb really means cunning or guile or deceit or wickedness or mischievousness (LL), need being only its secondary significance when the need leads to cunning, the proper word for need being arab. Therefore some take these words as meaning idiots or persons deficient in intellect (LL). But while an idiot is not necessarily free from sexual impluse, he is certainly unfit for service. According to Mujahid these words mean people for whom their belly is their sole concern and about whom it is not feared that they will mislead women — la yuhimmu-h∂ illa ba∆nu-h∂ wa la yukhafu ‘ala-l-nisa’i (B. 65:24). This is really what is meant. In these words, ghari uli-l-irbati, are spoken of male servants, who take up service only as a means of living and not with the mischievous intention of getting intimacy in the house. It should be noted that women are nowhere forbidden to employ male servants or to appear before them. What this verse prevents is only display of female beauty except to those most nearly related to women, and this is a preventive measure against the spread of loose ideas of morality, and a step to help restraint of sexual passions, which is all that the Holy Qur’an aims at. 32a. The Holy Qur’an looks upon the married state as the normal state, and hence it enjoins that, so far as is possible, those who are single should be married. It also requires both male and female slaves to be kept in a state of marriage. The keeping of concubines or unmarried slave-girls is clearly inconsistent with this. As a religion Islam is against celibacy, and considers parenthood to be the duty of every human being. In the civilized society of today most persons refuse to accept the responsibilities of parenthood, offering as an excuse the insufficiency of means to support a family. The Qur’an disposes of this false excuse in the simple words, if they are needy, Allah will make them free from want out of His grace. The Holy Prophet, too, laid stress on Muslim men and women living in a married state. Thus he is reported to have said: “He who is able to marry should marry. For it keeps the gaze low and guards chastity; and he who cannot should take to fasting (occasionally), for it will have a castrating effect on him” (B. 30:10). On another occasion he said, addressing some young men who talked of fasting in the day-time and keeping awake during the night, and keeping away from marriage: “I keep fast and I break it, and I pray and I sleep, and I am married, so whoever inclines to any other way than my sunnah, he is not of me” (B. 67:1). According to one Hadith, the man who marries perfects half his religion (Msh. 13:1, iii). Celibacy is expressly forbidden (B. 67:8).”(The Holy Quran Arabic Text with English Translation, Commentary and comprehensive Introduction [Year 2002 Edition] by Maulana Muhammad Ali, page 704 – 706)

Dr. Muhammad Asad:

“37 My interpolation of the word “decently” reflects the interpretation of the phrase illa ma zahara minha by several of the earliest Islamic scholars, and particularly by Al-Qiffal (quoted by Razi), as “that which a human being may openly show in accordance with prevailing custom (al-‘adah al-jariyah)”. Although the traditional exponents of Islamic Law have for centuries been inclined to restrict the definition of “what may [decently] be apparent” to a woman’s face, hands and feet – and sometimes even less than that – we may safely assume that the meaning of illa ma zahara minha is much wider, and that the deliberate vagueness of this phrase is meant to allow for all the time-bound changes that are necessary for man’s moral and social growth. The pivotal clause in the above injunction is the demand, addressed in identical terms to men as well as to women, to “lower their gaze and be mindful of their chastity”: and this determines the extent of what, at any given time, may legitimately – i.e., in consonance with the Qur’anic principles of social morality – be considered “decent” or “indecent” in a person’s outward appearance.
38 The noun khimar (of which khumur is the plural) denotes the headcovering customarily used by Arabian women before and after the advent of Islam. According to most of the classical commentators, it was worn in pre-Islamic times more or less as an ornament and was let down loosely over the wearer’s back; and since, in accordance with the fashion prevalent at the time, the upper part of a woman’s tunic had a wide opening in the front, her breasts were left bare. Hence, the injunction to cover the bosom by means of a khimar (a term so familiar to the contemporaries of the Prophet) does not necessarily relate to the use of a khimar as such but is, rather, meant to make it clear that a woman’s breasts are not included in the concept of “what may decently be apparent” of her body and should not, therefore, be displayed.
39 I.e., very old men. The preceding phrase “those whom they rightfully possess” (lit., “whom their right hands possess”) denotes slaves; but see also note 78.
40 Lit., “so that those of their charms which they keep hidden may become known”. The phrase yadribna bi-arjulihinna is idiomatically similar to the phrase daraba bi-yadayhi fi mishyatihi, “he swung his arms in walking” (quoted in this context in Taj al-‘Aras), and alludes to a deliberately provocative gait.
41 The implication of this general call to repentance is that since “man has been created weak” (4:28), no one is ever free of faults and temptations so much so that even the Prophet used to say, “Verily, I turn unto Him in repentance a hundred times every day” (Ibn Hanbal, Bukhari and Bayhaqi, all of them on the authority of ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Umar).
42 I.e., from among the free members of the community, as is evident from the subsequent juxtaposition with slaves. (As most of the classical commentators point out, this is not an injunction but a recommendation to the community as a whole: hence my interpolation of the words “you ought to”.) The term ayyim of which ayama is the plural – signifies a person of either sex who has no spouse, irrespective of whether he or she has never been married or is divorced or widowed. Thus, the above verse expresses the idea – reiterated in many authentic sayings of the Prophet – that, from both the ethical and the social points of view, the married state is infinitely preferable to celibacy.
43 The term as-salihin connotes here both moral and physical fitness for marriage: i.e., the attainment of bodily and mental maturity as well as mutual affection between the man and the woman concerned. As in 4:25, the above verse rules out all forms of concubinage and postulates marriage as the only basis of lawful sexual relations between a man and his female slave.” (The Message of The Quran translated and explained, by Dr. Muhammad Asad, page 760 – 762, online source http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/private/cmje/religious_text/The_Message_of_The_Quran__by_Muhammad_Asad.pdf )

Shaykh Ashiq Ilahi Madni:

“After commanding the marriage of free people, Allah then says that Muslims should also be concerned to arrange the marrying of ‘those slave men and women who are righteous’. Certain commentators have interpreted the verse to those slaves who are capable of marrying. Whatever the interpretation, it will be Mustahab for a master to seek a partner for his or her slave. The details of marriage pertaining to slaves are mentioned in the books of jurisprudence.
‘If they are poor then Allah will make each of them wealthy by His Grace. Allah is of ample means, All knowing.’ Allah promises people in this verse that He will grant them financial assistance when they marry. They should never fear poverty, but should marry when the opportunity presents itself.

Sayyidina Abu Hurayra reports from the Holy Prophet that Allah has assumed the responsibility of assisting the following three persons:
1. The Mukatab slave who intends to repay his master.
2. The person who intends to marry to preserve his chastity.
3. The person who strives in Allah’s way. [Nasai]

‘Those who are unable to marry (because of a lack of resources) should preserve their chastity until Allah grants them both independence through His Grace.’ These people should never think that they will be permitted to fornicate until they are able to marry. They should be patient and keep fasting until Allah opens the way for them.” (Illuminating Discourses on the Noble Quran – Tafseer Anwarul Bayan – by Shaykh Ashiq Ilahi Madni, volume 3, page 588 – 589)

Scholar Abdullah Yusuf Ali:

“2984 The need for modesty is the same in both men and women. But on account of the differentiation of the sexes in nature, temperaments, and social life, a greater amount of privacy is required for women than for men, especially in the matter of dress and the uncovering of the bosom.
2985 Zinah means both natural beauty and artificial ornaments. I think both are implied here, but chiefly the former. The woman is asked not to make a display of her figure or appear in undress except to the following classes of people: (1) her husband, (2) her near relatives who would be living in the same house, and with whom a certain amount of neglige is permissible: (3) her women, i.e., her maidservants, who would be constantly in attendance on her: some Commentators include all believing women; it is not good form in a Muslim household for women to meet other women, except when they are properly dressed; (4) slaves, male and female, as they would be in constant attendance (but with the abolition of slavery this no longer applies); (5) old or infirm men-servants; and (6) infants or small children before they get a sense of sex. Cf. also 33:59.
2986 It is one of the tricks of showy or unchaste women to tinkle their ankle ornaments, to draw attention to themselves.
2987 While all these details of the purity and good form of domestic life are being brought to our attention, we are clearly reminded that the chief object we should hold in view is our spiritual welfare. All our brief life on this earth is a probation, and we must make our individual, domestic, and social life all contribute to our holiness, so that we can get the real success and bliss which is the aim of our spiritual endeavour. (R). 2988 The subject of sex ethics and manners brings us to the subject of marriage. “Single” (ayama, plural of Ayyim) here means any one not in the bond of wedlock, whether unmarried or lawfully divorced, or widowed. If we can, we must marry in our own circle, but if we have not the means, there is no harm if we choose from a lower circle, provided our choice is determined by virtue. Poverty in the other party does not matter if there is virtue and love. A happily married man has the best wealth in a virtuous wife, and his very happiness makes him a better potential earner of wealth. A slave becomes free by marriage.
2989 Cf. 10:57 Allah’s mercy is for all: it is not confined to a class or grade of people. (The Meaning of The Noble Qur’an by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, page 237, online source http://www.ulc.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/English-Quran-With-Commentaries.pdf )

Ali Unal:

“31. And tell the believing women that they (also) should restrain their gaze (from looking at the men whom it is lawful for them to marry, and from others’ private parts), and guard their private parts,16 and that they should not display their charms except that which is revealed of itself;17 and let them draw their veils over their bosoms,18 and (tell them) not to display their charms to any save their husbands, or their fathers (and grandfathers, and both paternal and maternal uncles), or the fathers of their husbands, or their sons, or the sons of their husbands (both their own and step-sons and grandsons), or their brothers (and foster- and step-brothers), or the sons of their brothers, or the sons of their sisters, or the Muslim women and the women of good conduct with whom they associate, or those (slave-girls) their right hands possess, or the male attendants in their service free of sexual desire, or children that are as yet unaware of femininity. Nor should they stamp their feet (i.e. act in such a manner as to) draw attention to their charms (and arouse the passion of men). And, O believers, turn to God all together in repentance that you may attain true prosperity.
16. A woman should not expose any part of her body other than her hands, feet, and faces before men whom she can marry. According to some scholars, she must cover her face also, except for her eyes. She is not obliged to cover her face while performing the rites of the Hajj, or in places like court or during a marriage contract. Nor can a woman wear such thin, tight or transparent clothes that her body is exposed, revealing its shape. As for the parts of the body which she is obliged to keep covered before other women of faith, good character and chastity, these consist of the lower body,
between the navel and the knee. She should also cover herself in the presence of women of loose morals, just as she must cover before men whom she can marry.
17. What is meant by the charms that must not be displayed are the parts of the woman’s body on which she wears ornaments, such as ears, wrists, and ankles. As these should not be displayed in the presence of others than those mentioned in the verse, especially when adorned, women should also not show any adornments which they use to make them look attractive, such as eye-catching dresses, jewelry, and cosmetics.
Scholars interpret the statement, that which is revealed of itself, to mean that women should not intentionally display their beauty and charms. But sometimes it may happen that the outer garment, for example, is blown up by the wind, causing something to be exposed. However, a believing woman must take precautions against such occasions. Some scholars hold that what is meant by this statement – that which is revealed of itself – is garments like a veil, gloves, and head-cover; and the parts of the body which a woman is allowed to keep uncovered, namely, her hands, feet and eyes, and her face, in cases of necessity, and the adornment which she wears on them.
18. In the pre-Islamic age of Jahiliyyah, women wore head-bands to keep their tied hair up in a bun at the rear of their head, thus revealing their neck and the upper part of their bosoms. With this verse, the Qur’an ordered them to wear their hair-covering in such a way that it covered their head and bosoms. When this order was communicated to the believing women in the Messenger’s time, they immediately cast away their transparent clothes and veils and made veils of thick material, wearing them in a way that fully covered their head and bosoms (Abu Dawud, “Kitab al-Libas,” 32).
19. This is not a compulsory order, as marriage depends on the choice of an individual. However, if a person wants to marry but cannot afford it, those responsible for them among their relatives or, in case of their being without relatives, the state should arrange their marriage.” (The Qur’an With Annotated Interpretation in Modern English Ali Unal, online source http://mquran.org/content/view/2823/4/ )


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