Commentary on the Quran (Chapter 2:233-235)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
وَالْوَالِدَاتُ يُرْضِعْنَ أَوْلَادَهُنَّ حَوْلَيْنِ كَامِلَيْنِ ۖ لِمَنْ أَرَادَ أَن يُتِمَّ الرَّضَاعَةَ ۚ وَعَلَى الْمَوْلُودِ لَهُ رِزْقُهُنَّ وَكِسْوَتُهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ ۚ لَا تُكَلَّفُ نَفْسٌ إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا ۚ لَا تُضَارَّ وَالِدَةٌ بِوَلَدِهَا وَلَا مَوْلُودٌ لَّهُ بِوَلَدِهِ ۚ وَعَلَى الْوَارِثِ مِثْلُ ذَٰلِكَ ۗ فَإِنْ أَرَادَا فِصَالًا عَن تَرَاضٍ مِّنْهُمَا وَتَشَاوُرٍ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا ۗ وَإِنْ أَرَدتُّمْ أَن تَسْتَرْضِعُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذَا سَلَّمْتُم مَّا آتَيْتُم بِالْمَعْرُوفِ ۗ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ ﴿٢٣٣﴾
2:233 Mothers may breastfeed their children two whole years for whoever wishes to complete the nursing [period]. Upon the father is the mothers’ provision and their clothing according to what is acceptable. No person is charged with more than his capacity. No mother should be harmed through her child and no father through his child. And upon the [father’s] heir is [a duty] like that [of the father]. And if they both desire to wean the child by mutual consent and (after) consultation, there is no blame upon either of them. And if you wish to have your children nursed by a substitute, there is no blame upon you as long as you give payment according to what is acceptable. And fear Allah and know that Allah is Seeing of what you do.
Commentary: Verse 2:233 describes the rights and responsibilities of spouses about the nursing period of their newborn child concisely.
Mothers (وَالْوَالِدَاتُ), regardless of married or divorced, may breastfeed their children (يُرْضِعْنَ أَوْلَادَهُنَّ) for two whole years (حَوْلَيْنِ كَامِلَيْنِ) if they (mother) wish to complete the period of nursing (لِمَنْ أَرَادَ أَن يُتِمَّ الرَّضَاعَةَ). Nonetheless, there is no sin on either spouse (فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا) if they decided by mutual consent and after consultation to wean the infant off breastfeeding earlier. (فَإِنْ أَرَادَا فِصَالًا عَن تَرَاضٍ مِّنْهُمَا وَتَشَاوُرٍ). The word (الْوَالِدَاتُ) means “person who gives birth to a child”, which is equivalent to the biological mother.
A mother may not be able to breastfeed her child due to an illness or other reasons. In these situations, there is no sin on the biological father (فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ) to employ a foster mother to nurse the child (وَإِنْ أَرَدتُّمْ أَن تَسْتَرْضِعُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ) while preserving the birth mother’s right; provided that the father compensates (سَلَّمْتُم) the foster mother fairly and reasonably (إِذَا سَلَّمْتُم مَّا آتَيْتُم بِالْمَعْرُوفِ). The word (سَلَّمْتُم) means “you surrender and pay” (مَّا) “what” (آتَيْتُم) “you give” (بِالْمَعْرُوفِ) “in a fair, just, reasonable, acceptable to the society and recognized in the religion manner.”
During the nursing period, the father (وَعَلَى الْمَوْلُودِ لَهُ) bears the typical cost of living of the mother, such as food and clothing (رِزْقُهُنَّ وَكِسْوَتُهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ). In case of the death of the father, the mother’s expenses devolve upon the father’s heir (وَعَلَى الْوَارِثِ مِثْلُ ذَٰلِكَ).
In general, no soul is charged with more than it can bear (لَا تُكَلَّفُ نَفْسٌ إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا). Hence, no father is obligated to spend on the mother more than what he can afford.
Parents love and care for the wellbeing of their children, although each gender expresses his or her affection differently. In general, spouses compromise their comfort and forgive each other’s shortcomings for the sake of the wellbeing of their children. At times, however, spouses use their children as bargaining chips to win arguments, or God-forbid, to hurt and take revenge from each other. This situation commonly seen in child custody battles in family courts. The verse asserts that no father should ever use the children as leverage to hurt the mother (لَا تُضَارَّ وَالِدَةٌ بِوَلَدِهَا), and similarly, no mother should hurt and harm the father through his children (وَلَا مَوْلُودٌ لَّهُ بِوَلَدِهِ), [Al-Mizan, Vol.2, P.316]
The verse’s end states, “And fear Allah and know that Allah is Seeing of what you do.” (وَاتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ)
2:233 [وَالْوَالِدَاتُ] And the mother [يُرْضِعْنَ] shall suckle [أَوْلَادَهُنَّ] their children [حَوْلَيْنِ] for two years [كَامِلَيْنِ] complete, [لِمَنْ] for whoever [أَرَادَ] wishes [أَن] to [يُتِمَّ] complete [الرَّضَاعَةَ] the suckling. [وَعَلَى] And upon [الْمَوْلُودِ] the father [لَهُ] on him [رِزْقُهُنَّ] is their provision [وَكِسْوَتُهُنَّ] and their clothing [بِالْمَعْرُوفِ] in a fair manner. [لَا] Not [تُكَلَّفُ] is burdened [نَفْسٌ] any soul[إِلَّا] except [وُسْعَهَا] its capacity. [لَا] Not [تُضَارَّ] made to suffer [وَالِدَةٌ] the mother [بِوَلَدِهَا] because of her child [وَلَا] and not [مَوْلُودٌ] the father [لَّهُ] on him [بِوَلَدِهِ] because of his child. [وَعَلَى] And on [الْوَارِثِ] the heirs [مِثْلُ] is a duty like [ذَٰلِكَ] that. [فَإِنْ] Then if [أَرَادَا] they both desire [فِصَالًا] weaning [عَن] through [تَرَاضٍ] mutual consent [مِّنْهُمَا] of both of them [وَتَشَاوُرٍ] and consultation, [فَلَا] then no [جُنَاحَ] blame [عَلَيْهِمَا] on both of them. [وَإِنْ] And if [أَرَدتُّمْ] you want [أَن] to [تَسْتَرْضِعُوا] ask another woman to suckle [أَوْلَادَكُمْ] your child [فَلَا] then there is no [جُنَاحَ] blame [عَلَيْكُمْ] on you [إِذَا] when [سَلَّمْتُم] you pay [مَّا] what [آتَيْتُم] you give [بِالْمَعْرُوفِ] in a fair manner. [وَاتَّقُوا] And fear [اللَّـهَ] Allah, [وَاعْلَمُوا] And know [أَنَّ] that [اللَّـهَ] Allah [بِمَا] of what [تَعْمَلُونَ] you do [بَصِيرٌ] is All-Seer.
Marriage with Widows
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
وَالَّذِينَ يُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنكُمْ وَيَذَرُونَ أَزْوَاجًا يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ أَرْبَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَعَشْرًا ۖ فَإِذَا بَلَغْنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِيمَا فَعَلْنَ فِي أَنفُسِهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ ﴿٢٣٤﴾ وَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِيمَا عَرَّضْتُم بِهِ مِنْ خِطْبَةِ النِّسَاءِ أَوْ أَكْنَنتُمْ فِي أَنفُسِكُمْ ۚ عَلِمَ اللَّـهُ أَنَّكُمْ سَتَذْكُرُونَهُنَّ وَلَـٰكِن لَّا تُوَاعِدُوهُنَّ سِرًّا إِلَّا أَن تَقُولُوا قَوْلًا مَّعْرُوفًا ۚ وَلَا تَعْزِمُوا عُقْدَةَ النِّكَاحِ حَتَّىٰ يَبْلُغَ الْكِتَابُ أَجَلَهُ ۚ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ يَعْلَمُ مَا فِي أَنفُسِكُمْ فَاحْذَرُوهُ ۚ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ غَفُورٌ حَلِيمٌ ﴿٢٣٥﴾
2:234 And those who are taken in death among you and leave wives behind – they, [the wives, shall] wait four months and ten [days]. And when they have fulfilled their term, then there is no blame upon you [the family of deceased husband] for what they do concerning themselves in a lawful (decent, reasonable, acceptable, just, fair) manner and in accordance with honorable norms. And Allah is [fully] Acquainted with what you do.
2:235 There is no blame on you that (during this waiting period) you indicate a marriage proposal to such women or keep it hidden in yourselves. God knows that you will think of them (with such proposals in mind), but do not make any secret engagement with them, except that you speak it properly in decent words. Do not decide on the marriage tie until the ordained term has come to its end. Know that Allah knows what is in your mind, so be careful about Him; and know that Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Forbearing, (Who shows no haste in punishing).
Commentary: Different cultures hold different views on the marriage of widows. In some cultures, it is believed that the wife should maintain the honor of the man she was married to and should thus be protected from the views of strange men even after the death of her husband. In those cultures, family members of the deceased husband, at times, intervene and prevent the remarriage of his widow. Nowadays, it is commonly allowed for widows to remarry, but many cultures still do not encourage it.
Verse 2:223 asserts that a widow maintains her full authority to remarry after completing the delegated period of grief and mourning, which is four months and ten days after the death of her husband. In particular, the verse states, “Those who pass away among you” (وَالَّذِينَ يُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنكُمْ) “and leave wives behind” (وَيَذَرُونَ أَزْوَاجًا), “their widows shall wait for four months and ten days (before remarrying)” (يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ أَرْبَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَعَشْرًا). During this period, the widow should mourn the death of her spouse. For instance, she should refrain from wearing makeup, perfume, new clothes, etc.
“Once they [the widows] have reached the end of the waiting period” (فَإِذَا بَلَغْنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ), “then there is no blame on you [the family of deceased husband]” (فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ) if the widow decides to marry the man of her choice lawfully (فِيمَا فَعَلْنَ فِي أَنفُسِهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ).
In the phrase “then there is no blame on you” (فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ), the pronoun “you” refers to the family of the deceased’s husband, who blamed themselves for allowing the widow to marry after her husband’s death. The literal meaning of the phrase (فِيمَا فَعَلْنَ فِي أَنفُسِهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ) is, “for what they may do concerning themselves in a lawful manner”, which implies marrying the man of their choice in lawful accordance with the ethical norms of the society.
In the end, the verse asserts that Allah (SWT) is aware of what people do (وَاللَّـهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ) and He rewards and punishes everyone for their good and bad deeds, respectively.
The next verse states that, while a widow is in her required period of grief and morning, a man incurs no sin (وَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ) if he alludes a marriage proposal to her (فِيمَا عَرَّضْتُم بِهِ مِنْ خِطْبَةِ النِّسَاءِ) or decides to keep the proposal to himself (أَوْ أَكْنَنتُمْ فِي أَنفُسِكُمْ). Allah (SWT) knows that you (men) will think of them (widows) with such a proposal in mind (عَلِمَ اللَّـهُ أَنَّكُمْ سَتَذْكُرُونَهُنَّ). However, men should not enter any secret arrangement with widows (وَلَـٰكِن لَّا تُوَاعِدُوهُنَّ سِرًّا) beyond hinting their inclination with the etiquette that fits the time of grief and sorrow (إِلَّا أَن تَقُولُوا قَوْلًا مَّعْرُوفًا).
In the phrase (فِيمَا عَرَّضْتُم بِهِ مِنْ خِطْبَةِ النِّسَاءِ), the word (عَرَّضْتُم) comes from the word (عَرْض) means to allude and state indirectly. The word (الخِطْبَةِ) means a marriage proposal to a woman. The literal meaning of the phrase (فِيمَا عَرَّضْتُم بِهِ مِنْ خِطْبَةِ النِّسَاءِ) is, “in what that you hint concerning a marriage proposal to the women.” Also, the literal meaning of the phrase (إِلَّا أَن تَقُولُوا قَوْلًا مَّعْرُوفًا) is, “except that you say a saying properly”, which implies decently speaking with widows. The word (مَّعْرُوفً) is translated to lawful, decent, reasonable, acceptable, just, fair manner and in accordance with ethical norms.
The verse further states, “Do not decide with tying the marriage-knot until the ordained term [4 months and 10 days] has come to its end” (وَلَا تَعْزِمُوا عُقْدَةَ النِّكَاحِ حَتَّىٰ يَبْلُغَ الْكِتَابُ أَجَلَهُ).
The word (تَعْزِمُوا) comes from (العزم) means to decide; the word (عُقْدَةَ) means knot and tie. Hence the phrase (وَلَا تَعْزِمُوا عُقْدَةَ النِّكَاحِ) means do not (even) decide on tying the marriage knot until after the period of grief and sorrow. That is, a man could hint at a marriage proposal to a widow during the mourning period, but the decision to marry should be postponed until after the period of grief and sorrow.
The verse likens the bond of marriage with the knot, which joins two cords together so that they become one; thus, the husband and wife become one by the marriage-tie.
In the end, the verse states, “And know that Allah knows what (is) in your minds, (وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ يَعْلَمُ مَا فِي أَنفُسِكُمْ) and therefore remain conscious of Him (فَاحْذَرُوهُ). And know that Allah (is) Oft-Forgiving, Most Forbearing, [and He does not rush to punish the servants].” (ۚوَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ غَفُورٌ حَلِيمٌ)
2:234 [وَالَّذِينَ] And those who [يُتَوَفَّوْنَ] pass away [مِنكُمْ] among you [وَيَذَرُونَ] and leave behind [أَزْوَاجًا] wives, [يَتَرَبَّصْنَ] the widow should wait [بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ] for themselves [أَرْبَعَةَ] for four [أَشْهُرٍ] months [وَعَشْرًا] and ten days. [فَإِذَا] Then when [بَلَغْنَ] they reach [أَجَلَهُنَّ] their specified term, [فَلَا] there is no [جُنَاحَ] blame [عَلَيْكُمْ] upon you [فِيمَا] for what [فَعَلْنَ] they do [فِي] concerning [أَنفُسِهِنَّ] themselves [بِالْمَعْرُوفِ] in a fair manner. [ وَاللَّـهُ] And Allah [بِمَا] of what [تَعْمَلُونَ] you do [خَبِيرٌ] is All-Aware.
2:235 [وَلَا] And there is no [جُنَاحَ] blame [عَلَيْكُمْ] upon you [فِيمَا] in what [عَرَّضْتُم] you hint [بِهِ] with it [مِنْ] of [خِطْبَةِ] marriage proposal [النِّسَاءِ] to the women [أَوْ] or [أَكْنَنتُمْ] you conceal it [فِي] in [أَنفُسِكُمْ] yourselves. [عَلِمَ] Knows [اللَّـهُ] Allah [أَنَّكُمْ] that you [سَتَذْكُرُونَهُنَّ] will mention them [وَلَـٰكِن] and but [لَّا] do not [تُوَاعِدُوهُنَّ] promise them (widows) [سِرًّا] secretly [إِلَّا] except [أَن] that [تَقُولُوا] you say [قَوْلًا] a saying [مَّعْرُوفًا] honorable. [وَلَا] And do not [تَعْزِمُوا] resolve on [عُقْدَةَ] the knot [النِّكَاحِ] of marriage [حَتَّىٰ] until [يَبْلُغَ] reaches [الْكِتَابُ] the promised term [أَجَلَهُ] its end. [وَاعْلَمُوا] And know [أَنَّ] that [اللَّـهَ] Allah [يَعْلَمُ] knows [مَا] what [فِي] is within [أَنفُسِكُمْ] yourselves [فَاحْذَرُوهُ] so beware of Him [وَاعْلَمُوا] [أَنَّ] that [اللَّـهَ] Allah [غَفُورٌ] is Oft-Forgiving [حَلِيمٌ] Most Forbearing.