Lessons from Surah An-Nur (Verse 3)

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بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Bismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

اللهم صلي على سيدنا محمد وعلى اله وصحبه وسلم

Allahumma salli ala Sayyidina Muhammad wa ala alihi wa sahbihi wasallim

O Allah, send your peace and blessings upon our Master Muhammad and upon his family and companions

Lessons from Surah An-Nur (Verse 3)

This article is a summary of takeaways from Ustaz Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram’s Tafsir Online Lecture on 29th November 2020. Summaries of previous lectures on Surah Maryam, Surah Taha, Surah Al-Anbiya’ and Surah Al-Hajj can be found here. The previous lecture of Surah Al-Mu’minun can be found here.

Recap of previous verses

Last week, we heard of the story of a companion of Rasulullah SAW, Thumamah bin Uthaal. He was the first Muslim to walk into Makkah, to perform Umrah, calling out the Talbiyah. We also heard how he had decided to withhold wheat trade from the Meccans resulting in a severe famine in Mecca.

When this calamity was removed, the Meccans did not learn from their mistake. Instead, they remained in arrogance and disbelief. Allah SWT tells us in Surah Al-Mu’minun that for those whose hearts are blinded and hardened with darkness, disbelief and misguidance, no amount of distress or calamity or the removal thereof will make them open their hearts to faith.

May we take this as a reminder for ourselves. We do not want to be amongst the people who persist in ignorance and stubbornness. We do not want to be amongst those who wait until a calamity befalls them before they want to repent and turn over a new leaf.

We fear, my brothers and sisters, that even before Allah SWT sends us a calamity in this world, that He SWT takes our lives away from us. We do not want to die in desolation and ignorance. Na’uzhubillah.

As a believer, we want to be always remembering Allah SWT whether in good times and not so good times. May Allah SWT make us amongst those who receive Husnul Khotimah (a good ending).

Before we move on to the next verse, I will start with a story. We are going to speak about another Companion of Rasulullah SAW who, just like Thumaamah RA, is not very well-known. This companion has a remarkably interesting story.  He was also the reason behind the revelation of one verse of the Qur’an.

Marthad ibn Abi Marthad

The Courageous Soldier

After the Hijrah, Rasulullah SAW and his companions lived a new phase of their lives, continuing their work of Dakwah in an environment that was new to them. Amongst the things that Rasulullah SAW did in Madinah was to pair a Muhajirun (someone who migrated from Makkah) together with an Ansar (someone who was originally in Madinah); Rasulullah SAW would make them brothers.

So, life went on, the cause of Dakwah accelerated, the verses of Revelation began to deal with the way of life of the Muslims – laws were introduced that had not been established in Makkah.

The reality was that the enemy threat from Makkah had not been eliminated completely. The disbelievers of Makkah were still out to destroy Rasululllah SAW and his religion of Islam. There were still conflicts between the disbelievers of Makkah and the believers in Madinah.

The Battle of Badr was one such incident. Before this battle, as Rasulullah SAW was preparing his troops to face the enemy, Rasulullah SAW asked his soldiers, “O Companions, during the battle, when it comes to the point where you come face to face with the enemy, how would you confront them?”.

A youth stepped forward. He was known by his people for his strength and ferocity, although he is not often mentioned by Muslims today. He said, “During the war, if the enemy is still at 200 cubits (about 100m) away, I will fight with my arrow.

When the enemy comes closer, I will use my spear. And when the enemy has come even closer, I will lift my sword and fight to my death!”. Rasulullah SAW praised him RA. He loved the answer that showed enthusiasm, courage, and fortitude in the face of the enemy.

Rasulullah SAW said, “O companions, when you meet the enemy later, fight the way our companion here has described.” This companion’s name was Sayyiduna Marthad bin Abi Marthad. During the battle, Sayyiduna Marthad fought with his life.

He did not show even a bit of fear or worry, he defeated the enemy one after another. It was through this battle that Allah SWT granted the believers an essential victory in the life of Rasulullah SAW – victory in the battle of Badr.

Rescuer of the Trapped

During the period of Hijrah, there was a portion of Muslim companions who had decided not to migrate to Madinah. Amongst them was Sayyidinah Zainab, the daughter of Rasulullah SAW, who chose to stay with her husband who was a disbeliever.

Sayyidinah Zainab had asked for her father’s permission to remain in Makkah with her two children. She had hopes that she might eventually soften the heart of her husband, Abu Al-‘As, and that he might someday enter into Islam. Some people stayed in Makkah out of their own willingness and for certain reasons.

There were, however, some people who wanted to migrate but could not. There were people who had been held back because they were helpers and slaves. They were prevented from coming to Madinah, imprisoned in Makkah. The companions who have migrated often thought of them. Rasulullah SAW did not forget them.

It came to a point when Rasulullah SAW planned a strategy to send some people to infiltrate into Makkah and find a way to free the Muslims who were stuck there. It was a kind of adventure, a special mission. Find the companions that had been tied up, trapped, or locked up, then free them and bring them back to Madinah.

Amongst the people sent on this mission was Sayyiduna Marthad bin Abi Marthad. He was very athletic; he ran fast and could carry heavy loads effortlessly. This was what he would often do: sneak into Makkah, often at night, identify and find Companions who were held back, and find ways to free them.

There are narrations where he would carry the companion being rescued, on his back without first freeing him from the rope that binds him. Only when they were a distance from Makkah would he free the companion and support the companion’s weak body in walking with him to Madinah.

This was not an easy feat. It was a dangerous and difficult job and there was a long journey to undertake. This was what Sayyiduna Marthad did wholeheartedly and courageously.

A Reunion of Long-Lost Lovers

There was an incident where Sayyiduna Marthad AS had returned to Makkah for another rescue at night. Lit by the moonlight, his figure cast a shadow on the wall which was spotted by a lady. This lady was someone whom Sayyiduna Marthad had been in love with before he accepted Islam.

This woman, named ‘Inaq, was in fact a prostitute. During his time of ignorance, Marthad used to visit her often; they were mutually attracted to one another. They used to be close and enjoyed one another’s company often during that period. So, in this incident, ‘Inaq spotted his shadow while he was on the way to rescuing someone. She recognised his shadow immediately and called out, “Is that you Marthad?”.

Sayyiduna Marthad heard the voice of the woman he missed badly and had once loved dearly. He responded, “Yes, it is me, O ‘Inaq.” It was a reunion of two lovers, Marthad who was now Muslim, and ‘Inaq, a woman who was a prostitute. ‘Inaq was overjoyed to hear him and invited him to spend the night with her at his home.

Marthad, as someone who had accepted Islam with his heart, when faced with such an invitation by the love of his life, someone with whom he had spent many nights with before, responded firmly, “O ‘Inaq, in my religion this is considered Zina, and is forbidden by Allah. I cannot follow you.”.

‘Inaq was furious. She felt like she was being insulted. He had enjoyed her company many times before, and yet he was saying that it was Haram. Marthad stood firm that he had chosen the religion of Rasulullah SAW and he was not going to do what had been forbidden by Allah SWT.

‘Inaq gave him a warning, “I feel humiliated, O Marthad. If you refuse to follow me home, I will scream and announce to the whole of Makkah that you are here”. In the dead of the night, ‘Inaq raised her voice and announced to everyone that Marthad had arrived and that it was he who had been freeing the Muslims who had been imprisoned.

The Meccans awoke and chased after him. Marthad fled, finding somewhere to hide. The Meccans chose their eight strongest youth to find Marthad and capture him. Marthad ran to a hilly area where there was a small cave. He hid in it and surrendered to Allah SWT.

The eight youth, with their swords and horses were ready to capture him and searched to no avail. Marthad later narrated that as the youth were about to leave after a failed search, one of them had urinated into the cave where Marthad hid. The urine had hit his head, but their eyes did not see him, by the Power of Allah SWT.

Now, Sayyidina Marthad knew that the Meccans were aware of what he was up to, and that they were on high alert. If you were him, what would you have done? We would have returned to Madinah and told Rasulullah SAW, “I’m sorry, there is nothing I could have done. It was all ‘Inaq’s fault. She exposed me!”.

We would not have risked ourselves in such a dangerous situation and would have fled at the first moment of safety. But Sayyiduna Marthad took his mission seriously. He took the command of Rasulullah SAW as his responsibility to fulfil. He returned to Makkah, found the person he wanted to rescue, slung him over his soldier and carried him to safety before untying him.

“I Want to Marry Her”

The story does not end here. In Madinah, Sayyiduna Marthad RA came to meet Rasulullah SAW. He said to him, “O Rasulullah, I want to marry ‘Inaq”. ‘Inaq was well known by everyone in Makkah. Even Rasulullah SAW recognised her name.

Rasulullah SAW remained silent. He neither agreed nor refused. Marthad returned a second time saying, “O Rasulullah, I want to marry ‘Inaq”. Rasulullah SAW remained silent. It was after that that revelation came down in the form of this verse, and Rasulullah SAW responded to Marthad saying, “O Marthad, do not marry ‘Inaq”.

Now that the command of Allah and Rasulullah SAW had come, Marthad’s resolve was made firm to leave the woman who filled his heart. He accepted this order wholeheartedly, letting go of any uncertainty and desire to marry ‘Inaq. He considered it an honour for him that a verse of the Qur’an had been specifically sent down for him. Subhan Allah.

This story seems to be getting lots of comments from the live audience members! It does sound like a Hindustan drama. But let it be a reminder for us. Even though it is a story of long-lost lovers and an old flame, do not get carried away with your feelings or with nostalgia.

This is a source of a lot of domestic problems today. People who have been married for years, who have multiple children under their wing… thanks to Facebook and Instagram, they reconnect with an ex-girlfriend from Secondary 3… and problems start to arise.

My brothers and sisters, what has passed has passed. Set that aside. That is now history. Allah has given us the blessings of being fated to be with someone, then that person is the best for us. If we encounter any issues, then we need to adjust out hearts and take action to fix that issue.

Do not invite problems to enter your household, all because of distant memories. Sayyiduna Marthad showed us that when it comes to choosing between Allah SWT and His Rasul, and his heart that is bound to his lover, he chose Allah and Rasulullah over the latter.

Whatever we choose because of our desires will only bring problems that lead to exhaustion. Remember my brothers and sisters, that a marriage is a blessing, given to us by Allah. Having a family is a huge blessing, one that Allah has gifted to us. Our memories may be sweet and beautiful, but they are no longer a reality that we have to resurrect into our lives.

Tafsir of Surah An-Nur, Verse 3

So, going back to the story of Marthad. What was the verse that was revealed for him? This verse was revealed in Surah An-Nur, a Surah that was revealed shortly after Surah Al-Mu’minun.

ٱلزَّانِى لَا يَنكِحُ إِلَّا زَانِيَةً أَوْ مُشْرِكَةًۭ وَٱلزَّانِيَةُ لَا يَنكِحُهَآ إِلَّا زَانٍ أَوْ مُشْرِكٌۭ ۚ وَحُرِّمَ ذَٰلِكَ عَلَى ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ

The fornicator does not marry except a [female] fornicator or polytheist, and none marries her except a fornicator or a polytheist. That is forbidden to the believers. [24:3]

Scholars have discussed this verse, looking into what it means. Is this verse saying that it is Haram for a fornicator to marry a Muslim? Or is Allah saying that if someone has certain characteristics, what usually happens is that they will be fated to marry someone like them? Perhaps it is not a prohibition from Allah.

Allah SWT tells us “laa yanqihu”. The word ‘yanqihu’ in the Arabic language means “to marry” and is used for the third person pronoun ‘he’. In the Arabic language, whenever a verb follows the word ‘laa’ it is usually in referring to a second person, in the form of a prohibition. You do not prohibit in the third person.

You say, “you don’t… both of you don’t… you all don’t…”. So, one would expect the word following ‘laa’ to be ‘tanqihu’ not ‘yanqihu’. If the word ‘laa’ is used in front of a second person verb, it usually means ‘does not’ rather than ‘do not’; it is used as a negation not a prohibition.

There is a difference between “Do not eat” and “does not eat”; the former is a prohibition and the latter, a statement.

Is it Haram to Marry a Someone who does Zina?

In this verse, ‘laa’ is a negation not a prohibition. Based on this, the scholars hold two opinions on what this means. The first is that it is haram for a Muslim to marry a fornicator.

This verse first of all tells us the norm; naturally, this is how Allah would arrange things. If we do not protect ourselves from deeds that are criticised by Allah, then know that in the future, when the time comes for you to look for a partner, Allah will match you to someone like you.

If you do not know how to take care of your relationship with Allah, if you do not know how to honour your dignity as a servant of Allah, if you always let yourself fall to your desires in committing sin, then know that in the future Allah will match you with someone like you.

Because Allah is Most Just. Do not hold wishful thoughts that someday, in the future, when you decide to repent and be someone good, that Allah will automatically grant you someone who is obedient to Allah. If we do not pray, fast, avoid sin, hold your tongue, or portray good character, then do not expect that you will get a righteous spouse.

So, scholars of this opinion say that the meaning of ‘laa’ here is that marriages of this kind are discouraged. If you are righteous, do not look for a partner who does Zina. So, the last line does not make nikah haram for believers, but to strongly discourage it. It is not that Allah makes it forbidden, it is highly disliked.

The second opinion that scholars hold is that it is haram to marry someone who does Zina. This is the opinion of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal. These scholars say that it is clear from the story of Marthad that he was forbidden from marrying her. So how do scholars make sense of the usage of third person after ’laa’?

These scholars say that there are rare occasions where a third person verb is used after a ‘laa’ where the word does act as a prohibition and not a negation. This is their opinion, that if a Muslim man finds out that a woman had committed Zina, he cannot marry her.

In the other three Mazhabs, Syafi’i, Maliki and Hanafi, marrying a person who has done Zina is not Haram, it is Makhruh. It is highly discouraged but not a sin if committed. They hold that this is a declaration by Allah, that it is likely that someone who committed Zina will end up with someone who also committed Zina. This will be the recompense for people who choose to commit sin.

Takeaways from this Verse

Either way, whichever the opinion you choose to hold, what we can learn from this is that as believers, we are told to maintain the purity of our dignity. Whether or not it is haram, what is clear is that Allah dislikes it.

If we want to someday in life, find a partner who completes you and your religion, who helps you in your Taqwa and with whom you will remind and guide one another in pleasing Allah… then before you go around looking for that spouse, you must yourself be that spouse.

For example, if you are a woman who is hoping that someone someday righteous may ask for your hand in marriage, if you want someone who is firm in his prayers, connected to the Qur’an, and distances himself from Maksiat, then you need to put in effort as well rather than just making du’a.

What kind of effort do you put in? You make sure that you are the partner you want to find. If you want a husband who is consistent in Salah, you need to be consistent in Salah. If you want someone who has mastery of the Qur’an, then you must upgrade yourself in your command of the Qur’an.

If you want a spouse that knows how to take care of their self-worth and dignity, then you must do that yourself. Allah will match you with someone like that because Allah is Most Just.

Do not make excuses, thinking to yourself, “It’s ok! I am still young. Other people can enjoy, I want to do so too. Someday, when the time comes and I want to look for a spouse, only then will I look for someone who is good and righteous, that can guide someone like me who does not even pray…”.

If you do have the realisation that you are disobeying Allah, then do not fool yourself into thinking that you will find someone who is the best of the best, someone who is righteous, active in the mosque, knowledgeable in religion etc. This is not what Allah SWT has arranged. The same is for women, if she does not act righteously, she will get an unrighteous spouse. Na’uzhubillah min zhalik.

Learn from the story of Marthad, when you have found Hidayah from Allah and accepted Islam in your hearts, embrace it as a gift from Allah SWT. Do not lose it or abuse it. If we love someone, we will respect and honour them, express our love for them, and gift even the most expensive gifts for them.

Even if we cannot afford something, we go all out to save up to ensure that we get to materialise our love for them. After buying it, we will wrap it up nicely and await the day when we can gift it to them. After that, we write a beautiful card and choose the best moment to gift it to them.

Imagine if that precious gift were given to your child, and instead of being happy, your son says, “Why would you give me this? My friend’s father got them something way more expensive. This is nothing in comparison!”. Imagine how you would feel in such a situation? Imagine what would happen if you were to see the next day that your gift for him had been discarded and tossed aside, or broken and unappreciated.

When Allah SWT grants us Iman in our hearts, it is a huge gift for us. An honoured treasure that should be valued. Look at Marthad, who despite the feelings he had in his heart, accepted what Rasulullah SAW had said and chose Allah SWT. The love of Allah is worth way more than what temporary happiness his lover could ever give him. Be firm in your beliefs, do not sway and float around, following your desires.

‘Asim bin Thabit and his Team of Teachers

I would like to close this story of Marthad. After that incident, he went on to continue fighting courageously in the Battle of Uhud. He defeated many enemies. There came a point of time when ambassadors from two tribes were sent to Rasulullah SAW, the tribe of ‘Adhol and the tribe of Qara. These men told Rasulullah SAW that they had people in their tribes who wanted to accept Islam and requested for a teacher to come back with them to teach them the Deen.

Rasulullah gathered a team of teachers for them of six or ten people. Amongst them was Marthad bin Abi Marthad. The leader of the team was Sayyiduna ‘Asim bin Thabit. During the journey to their destinations, it was discovered that all of this had been a lie. These tribesmen were in fact resentful of the defeat of the Arab tribes in Badr and Uhud.

They set up an ambush of 200 armed men to surround this team of teachers. They told ‘Asim that they did not want to harm them. They only wanted to bring them back to Makkah. If they did not resist, no harm would be done to them. Sayyiduna ‘Asim did not want to step down in the face of treachery and deceit. He defended the truth and raised his arms, along with the other members of the team, including Marthad.

Marthad was a warrior. When he had been selected to join the team of teachers, he had accepted obediently, feeling honoured by the recognition given by Rasulullah SAW. However, he had very much preferred to be with the Prophet SAW fighting battles and defending the truth with his sword.

He thought that the bigger honour would be being in the battlefield, where if he died, he would enter paradise immediately. But he obeyed Rasulullah’s orders, keeping in his heart this desire to want to fight for Islam. So, in the end, Allah SWT had arranged for what he had intended to come true.

These six or ten people had to defend themselves against 200 armed men. In this battle, which was named Ar-Rajii’, four of them lost their lives including Marthad. The remaining two people were brought back to Makkah as prisoners of war.

The head of the team, Sayyiduna ‘Asim bin Thabit, in fact had a story of his own. When he was about to go into battle, ‘Asim made this du’a: “O Allah, at the start of the day, I fight the enemy in defence of Your Religion. So, let it be that at the end of the day, You defend my flesh at the end of the battle.”

‘Asim RA was known was someone who neither wanted nor accepted his body to be touched by any disbeliever. He RA made a du’a that if anything were to happen to him, to not let his body to be held by a disbeliever or idolator.

Sayyiduna ‘Asim was in fact being targeted by the Quraysh for having killed a father and his two sons in the Battle of Uhud. When the news of this came to the wife and mother of the family, she had such vengeance in her heart that the moment she heard about this team of teachers, she declared that if ‘Asim bin Thabit were to be in that group of teachers, she would reward anyone who would bring his head back to her with 100 camels.

So, when Sayyidina ‘Asim was killed in the battle, the enemy rushed to get that reward. At that moment, Allah answered ‘Asim RA’s prayers. When the troops were getting closer to him, Allah SWT sent a swarm of hornets or wasps that came out of nowhere to defend his body.

The enemy decided to wait for nightfall, when the insects would go away, before coming to retrieve their booty. When night came, a heavy rain came down, causing the area to flood. They could not come anywhere near to ‘Asim’s body. Everyone was left in confusion; it was not a season for rain.

This was how Allah SWT honoured the du’a of ‘Asim, such that no hands of disbelievers could touch the body of ‘Asim. This was how Allah SWT honours people who fight in the way of Allah and sacrifice their lives for His Deen.

How about us, my brothers and sisters? How will our end be? Will we be granted that honour and reward by Allah SWT for having defended His Deen whole-heartedly? Or would the reverse be true?

We do not know. But we can strive. Allah SWT will never deny His servants. If you try your best and do good, then you will get good. And if you do the opposite, then your reward will be equally poor. You have a say in what your life history will look like.

May Allah SWT continue to preserve and protect us. May He continue to guide us in this straight path. May Allah unite us once again next week in another lesson, with Iman in our hearts. Allah SWT bears witness that I love you all as the people Allah has chosen to be my brothers and sisters in Islam.


Summary by: Arina Adom

Arina Adom is a lover of learning who takes on the world with an open mind. Resourceful and adaptable, always ready to take on new challenges. Comfortable working with diverse groups of people, yet able to work independently. Thrives under pressure. Currently seeking a meaningful career that enables her to impact lives directly and bring about positive changes in the lives of others in the community.

Arina graduated with a degree in Science ( Hons ), Life Science from NUS. She is currently taking a diploma in Quran and Sunnah Studies from Al Zuhri.

Arina Adom – Linkedin Profile

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