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Select Translation What is This? Selections include: The Koran Interpreted, a translation by A.J. Arberry, first published 1955; The Qur'an, translated by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, published 2004; or side-by-side comparison view
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The Qurʾan What is This? A current English-language version of the Qur'an, published in 2004
Translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem

4. Women (11 – 33)

11Concerning your children, God commands you that a son should have the equivalent share of two daughters. If there are only daughters, two or more should share two-thirds of the inheritance, if one, she should have half. Parents inherit a sixth each if the deceased leaves children; if he leaves no children and his parents are his sole heirs, his mother has a third, unless he has brothers, in which case she has a sixth. [In all cases, the distribution comes] after payment of any bequests or debts. You cannot know which of your parents or your children is more beneficial to you: this is a law from God, and He is all knowing, all wise. 12You inherit half of what your wives leave, if they have no children; if they have children, you inherit a quarter. [In all cases, the distribution comes] after payment of any bequests or debts. If you have no children, your wives' share is a quarter; if you have children, your wives get an eighth. [In all cases, the distribution comes] after payment of any bequests or debts. If a man or a woman dies leaving no children or parents,b This is the most generally accepted meaning of the Arabic word kalala. There are many others. but a single brother or sister, he or she should take one-sixth of the inheritance; if there are more siblings, they share one-third between them. [In all cases, the distribution comes] after payment of any bequests or debts, with no harm done to anyone: this is a commandment from God: God is all knowing and benign to all. 13These are the bounds set by God: God will admit those who obey Him and His Messenger to Gardens graced with flowing streams, and there they will stay— that is the supreme triumph! 14But those who disobey God and His Messenger and overstep His limits will be consigned by God to the Fire, and there they will stay—a humiliating torment awaits them!

15If any of your women commit a lewd act, call four witnesses from among you, then, if they testify to their guilt, keep the women at home until death comes to them or until God shows them another way.a Through another regulation, or marriage, or any other way. See also end of 65: 2, which uses nearly identical words. 16If two men commit a lewd act, punish them both; if they repent and mend their ways, leave them alone—God is always ready to accept repentance, He is full of mercy. 17But God only undertakes to accept repentance from those who do evil out of ignorance and soon after wards repent: these are the ones God will forgive, He is all knowing, all wise. 18It is not true repentance when people continue to do evil until death confronts them and then say, ‘Now I repent,’ nor when they die defiant: We have prepared a painful torment for these.

19You who believe, it is not lawful for you to inherit women against their will,b In pre-Islamic Arabia, if a man died leaving a widow, her stepson or another man of his family could inherit her. nor should you treat your wives harshly, hoping to take back some of the bride-gift you gave them, unless they are guilty of something clearly outrageous. Live with them in accordance with what is fair and kind: if you dislike them, it may well be that you dislike something in which God has put much good. 20If you wish to replace one wife with another, do not take any of her bride-gift back, even if you have given her a great amount of gold. 21How could you take it when this is unjust and a blatant sin? How could you take it when you have lain with each other and they have taken a solemn pledge from you?

22Do not marry women that your fathers married—with the exception of what is past—this is indeed a shameful thing to do, loathsome and leading to evil. 23You are forbidden to take as wives your mothers, daughters, sisters, paternal and maternal aunts, the daughters of brothers and daughters of sisters, your milk-mothers and milk-sisters,c Islam regards women who breastfeed other people's infants as their ‘milk-mothers’, not merely ‘wet nurses’. your wives' mothers, the stepdaughters in your care—those born of women with whom you have consummated marriage, if you have not consummated the marriage, then you will not be blamed—wives of your begotten sons, two sisters simultaneously—with the exception of what is past: God is most forgiving and merciful—24women already married, other than your slaves.a Slave women were often unclaimed war captives, who would not be in a position to dissolve any previous marriage. An owner was not permitted to touch a slave woman whose husband was with her (Abu Hanifa, in Razi). God has ordained all this for you. Other women are lawful to you, so long as you seek them in marriage, with gifts from your property, looking for wedlock rather than fornication. If you wish to enjoy women through marriage, give them their bride-gift—this is obligatory—though if you should choose mutually, after fulfilling this obligation, to do otherwise [with the bride-gift], you will not be blamed: God is all knowing and all wise.

25If any of you does not have the means to marry a believing free woman, then marry a believing slave—God knows best [the depth of] your faith: you are [all] part of the same familyb Literally ‘you are from one another’. —so marry them with their people's consent and their proper bride-gifts. [Make them] married women, not adulteresses or lovers. If they commit adultery when they are married, their punishment will be half that of free women. This is for those of you who fear that you will sin; it is better for you to practise self-restraint. God is most forgiving and merciful, 26He wishes to make His laws clear to you and guide you to the righteous ways of those who went before you. He wishes to turn towards you in mercy—He is all knowing, all wise—27He wishes to turn towards you, but those who follow their lusts want you to go far astray. 28God wishes to lighten your burden; man was created weak.

29You who believe, do not wrongfully consume each other's wealth but trade by mutual consent. Do not kill each other, for God is merciful to you. 30If any of you does these things, out of hostility and injustice, We shall make him suffer Fire: that is easy for God. 31But if you avoid the great sins you have been forbidden, We shall wipe out your minor misdeeds and let you in through the entrance of honour.32Do not covet what God has given to some of you more than others—men have the portion they have earned;c The preposition min here is taken to have an explanatory rather than a partitive function, which would render the translation ‘some of what they have earned’. and women the portion they have earned—you should rather ask God for some of His bounty: He has full knowledge of everything. 33We have appointed heirs for everything that parents and close relatives leave behind, including those to whom you have pledged your hands [in marriage], so give them their share: God is witness to everything.

Notes:

b This is the most generally accepted meaning of the Arabic word kalala. There are many others.

a Through another regulation, or marriage, or any other way. See also end of 65: 2, which uses nearly identical words.

b In pre-Islamic Arabia, if a man died leaving a widow, her stepson or another man of his family could inherit her.

c Islam regards women who breastfeed other people's infants as their ‘milk-mothers’, not merely ‘wet nurses’.

a Slave women were often unclaimed war captives, who would not be in a position to dissolve any previous marriage. An owner was not permitted to touch a slave woman whose husband was with her (Abu Hanifa, in Razi).

b Literally ‘you are from one another’.

c The preposition min here is taken to have an explanatory rather than a partitive function, which would render the translation ‘some of what they have earned’.

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