Read Hajj Magazine

The Story of “Zihar” from Surah “Al-Mujadila ” : A lesson to a Women who has Problems with her Spouse

Assalamu Alaikum,

The Story of Zihar : "The Marital dispute of a Pleading Woman"

Today’s reflection is Surah Al Mujadilah :”The Story of Zihar “

Allah hath heard the saying of her that disputeth with thee (Muhammad) concerning her husband, and complaineth unto Allah. And Allah heareth your conversation. Lo! Allah is Hearer, Knower.Qad Sami`a Allāhu Qawla Allatī Tujādiluka Fī Zawjihā Wa Tashtakī ‘Ilá Allāhi Wa Allāhu Yasma`u Taĥāwurakumā ‘Inna Allāha Samī`un Başīrun
58 1

Do You Know that this Chapter of Quran Mujaadala itself means “the Pleading Woman” . So Let us read Who was the Pleading Woman and what was her Story .

The Pleading Woman in the Surah Al Mujadilah is Hadhrat Khowla bint Maalik (R.A) .She was an extremely eloquent and well-spoken person. Her story is being related to teach all Muslim women what to do when they have problems with their husbands.

Quran ad
The Story of Zihar : "The Marital dispute of a Pleading Woman" 20

Ahmad recorded that Khuwaylah bint Thalabah said, “By Allah! Allah sent down the beginning of Surat Al-Mujadilah in connection with me and Aws bin As-Samit. He was my husband and had grown old and difficult. One day, he came to me and I argued with him about something and he said, out of anger, `You are like my mother’s back to me.’ He went out and sat with some of his people. Then he came back and wanted to have sexual intercourse with me. I said, No, by the One in Whose Hand is the soul of Khuwaylah! You will not have your way with me after you said what you said, until Allah and His Messenger issue judgement about our case.’ He wanted to have his way regardless of my choice and I pushed him away from me; he was an old man.’ I next went to one of my neighbors and borrowed a garment from her and went to the Messenger of Allah .

The Story of Zihar : "The Marital dispute of a Pleading Woman" 21

She Pled the case of her Husband (Zihar)  before Allah

She presented her case thus, “O Rasulullaah (pbuh)! My husband has consumed my youth and I have given birth to his children. I have served him all my life and now that I am an old woman and my children have left me, he has carried out Zihar with me. If my small children are left with me, they would probably die of starvation and if they are left with my husband, they would be destroyed.” As she was saying this, she raised her eyes to the heavens saying, “O Allah! I plead my case before You. Reveal a command to Your Nabi SAW so that my difficulty is alleviated.”

Allah  then revealed the opening verses of Surah Mujaadalah(1-6 )saying, “Allaah had certainly heard the speech of the lady who debated with you concerning her husband and who complained to Allah . Allah was listening to your discussion. Verily Allah is All Hearing, All Seeing.” [Ma’aariful Qur’aan Vol. 8 Pg. 331]

Rasulullaah SAW then addressed Hadhrat Khowla (R.A) saying, “O Khowla! You cousin (husband) has grown old, so fear Allah Ι with regard to him (i.e. exercise patience with him).”  This statement was commonly used by the Arabs to divorce their wives and it is referred to as Dhihaar. When Hadhrat Aws bin Saamit RA used the words on this occasion, it was the first time that a Muslim had done so. Consequently, the opening verses of Surah Mujaadalah were revealed to clarify the issue. Verses pertaining to Zihar were revealed, Rasulullaah  (pbuh) told Hadhrat Khowla (R.A) to inform her husband that he would have to free a slave in expiation of his act (of Zihar).

When she told Rasulullaah  (pbuh) that he was unable to do this, Rasulullaah SAW said that he will then have to fast for two consecutive months. When she submitted that he was unable to do this also, Rasulullaah SAW mentioned that he should then feed two meals to sixty poor people. When she informed Rasulullaah SAW that her husband would not be able to afford this either, Rasulullaah SAW offered to assist by supplying some dates. Hadhrat Khowla (R.A) then said that she would also supply some dates to assist her husband. Thereupon, Rasulullaah SAW said, “You have done well. Go and act charitably towards him and treat him kindly.”

The Story of Zihar : "The Marital dispute of a Pleading Woman" 22

Hadhrat Khowla (R.A) was such a distinguished woman in Islamic history that Allaah  responded to her plea and the Ummah will remember her as long as the Quraan is recited. Hadhrat Umar RA was once riding his donkey when an old lady stopped him to say something. When Hadhrat Umar  stopped, the people asked him why he stopped for a frail old woman. Hadhrat Umar RA said to them, “Don’t you know who this old lady is? She is Khowla bint Thalaba. Allaah  listened to her from above the seven heavens. How can Umar not listen to her when Allaah  did.”

Those who put away their wives (by saying they are as their mothers) and afterward would go back on that which they have said, (the penalty) in that case (is) the freeing of a slave before they touch one another. Unto this ye are exhorted; and Allah is Informed of what ye do.Wa Al-Ladhīna Yužāhirūna Min Nisā’ihim Thumma Yaūdūna Limā Qālū Fataĥrīru Raqabatin Min Qabli ‘An Yatamāssā Dhālikum Tūažūna Bihi Wa Allāhu Bimā Ta’malūna Khabīrun
58 3

﴿الَّذِينَ يُظَـهِرُونَ مِنكُمْ مِّن نِّسَآئِهِمْ﴾

(Those among you who make their wives unlawful to them by Zihar) refers to Zihar, which is derived from Az-Zahr, meaning, the back. During the time of Jahiliyyah, when one wanted to declare Zihar towards his wife, he would say, “To me, you are like the back of my mother.” That was one way they issued divorce during that time. Allah allowed this Ummah to pay expiation for this statement and did not render it as a divorce, contrary to the case during the time of Jahiliyyah. Allah said,

﴿مَّا هُنَّ أُمَّهَـتِهِمْ إِنْ أُمَّهَـتُهُمْ إِلاَّ اللاَّئِى وَلَدْنَهُمْ﴾

(they cannot be their mothers. None can be their mothers except those who gave them birth.) meaning, when the husband says to his wife that she is like his mother, or the back of his mother etc., she does not become his mother. Rather his mother is she who gave birth to him. This is why Allah said,

﴿وَإِنَّهُمْ لَيَقُولُونَ مُنكَراً مِّنَ الْقَوْلِ وَزُوراً﴾

(And verily, they utter an ill word and a lie.) meaning, false and sinful speech,

﴿وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَعَفُوٌّ غَفُورٌ﴾

(And verily, Allah is Oft-Pardoning, Oft-Forgiving.) meaning, `what you used to do during the time of Jahiliyyah, and what accidentally slips out of your mouth, unintentionally. Allah’s statement,

Penalty of Zihar

Those who put away their wives (by saying they are as their mothers) and afterward would go back on that which they have said, (the penalty) in that case (is) the freeing of a slave before they touch one another. Unto this ye are exhorted; and Allah is Informed of what ye do.Wa Al-Ladhīna Yužāhirūna Min Nisā ihim Thumma Ya’ūdūna Limā Qālū Fataĥrīru Raqabatin Min Qabli An Yatamāssā Dhālikum Tū’ažūna Bihi Wa Allāhu Bimā Ta’malūna Khabīrun
58 3

﴿وَالَّذِينَ يُظَـهِرُونَ مِن نِّسَآئِهِمْ ثُمَّ يَعُودُونَ لِمَا قَالُواْ﴾

(And those who make unlawful to them (their wives) by Zihar and wish to free themselves from what they uttered,) Ash-Shafi’i said, “It means to keep her for a while after the Zihar, without divorcing her, even though his is able to do so.” Ahmad bin Hanbal said, “To return to having sexual relations with her or to merely intend to do so, but only after he pays the expiation mentioned in the Ayah for his statement.” It has been quoted from Malik that it is the intention to have sexual relations or to keep her or actually having sexual intercourse. Sa’id bin Jubayr said that this Ayah,

﴿ثُمَّ يَعُودُونَ لِمَا قَالُواْ﴾

(and wish to free themselves from what they uttered,) meaning, if they want to return to having sexual intercourse which was forbidden between them. Al-Hasan Al-Basri said that it is to utilize her sexual organ, and he did not see any harm in doing what is less than that before paying the expiation. Ali bin Abi Talhah reported from Ibn Abbas:

﴿مِّن قَبْلِ أَن يَتَمَآسَّا﴾

(before they touch each other.) “The ‘touching’ refers here to sexual intercourse.” Similar was said by  Ata, Az-Zuhri, Qatadah and Muqatil bin Hayyan. Az-Zuhri added, “He is not to kiss or touch her until he pays the expiation.” The Sunan compilers recorded from Ikrimah, from Ibn Abbas that a man said, “O Allah’s Messenger! I pronounced Zihar on my wife, but then had sexual intercourse with her before I paid the expiation.” The Messenger said,

«مَا حَمَلَكَ عَلى ذَلِكَ يَرْحَمُكَ الله»

(May Allah grant you His mercy, what made you do that) He said, “I saw the adornment she was wearing shining in the moon’s light.” The Prophet said,

«فَلَا تَقْرَبْهَا حَتْى تَفْعَلَ مَا أَمَرَكَ اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَل»

(Then do not touch her until you do what Allah the Exalted and Most Honored has ordered you to do.) At-Tirmidhi said, “Hasan Gharib Sahih.” Abu Dawud and An-Nasa’i also recorded it. Allah said,

﴿فَتَحْرِيرُ رَقَبَةٍ﴾

((the penalty) in that case is the freeing of a slave) indicating the necessity of freeing a slave before they touch each other. This Ayah mentions any slave, not only believing servants as in the case of the expiation for (unintentional) killing,

﴿ذَلِكُمْ تُوعَظُونَ بِهِ﴾

(That is an admonition to you.) meaning, a warning to threaten you in this case.And Allah is All-Aware of what you do.) meaning, He is All-Knower in what brings you benefit.

And he who findeth not (the wherewithal), let him fast for two successive months before they touch one another; and for him who is unable to do so (the penance is) the feeding of sixty needy ones. This, that ye may put trust in Allah and His messenger. Such are the limits (imposed by Allah); and for disbelievers is a painful doom.Faman Lam Yajid Faşiyāmu Shahrayni Mutatābi ayni Min Qabli ‘An Yatamāssā Faman Lam Yastaţi` Fa’iţ`āmu Sittīna Miskīnāan Dhālika Litu’uminū Billāhi Wa Rasūlihi Wa Tilka Ĥudūdu Allāhi Wa Lilkāfirīna Adhābun ‘Alīmun
58 4

And he who finds not must fast two successive months before they both touch each other. And he who is unable to do so, should feed sixty of the poor is explained by the Hadiths that prescribe these punishments in this order, just as in the Hadith collected in the Two Sahihs about the man who had sexual intercourse with his wife during the day, in Ramadan.

Allah said,That is in order that you may have perfect faith in Allah and His Messenger. meaning,We legislated this punishment so that you acquire this trait.These are the limits set by Allah.) meaning, the things that He has forbidden, so do not transgress them,

Lesson Learned:

Plead Only to Allah

The story of Hadhrat Khowla (R.A) displays the perfect confidence that a Muslim should have in Allah . Allah swt will always provide the solution for every problem because He brings ease after every difficulty. Everything comes from Him. Allah says in the Quraan,“It is certainly Him (Allah) Who makes (people) laugh and cry. It is only He Who gives death and life…Verily He grants affluence and poverty.”

Allah  creates every favourable condition just as he creates every unfavourable condition. He makes people happy just as He can make them sad. He gives wealth to whoever He pleases and takes wealth from whoever He pleases.There is therefore no need for anyone to be despondent.

When faced by any difficulty, all that one needs to do is to perform wudhu, perform two Rakaahs salaah with concentration and then plead to Allaah . One should supplicate to Allaah  by saying what Hadhrat Khowla (R.A) said. She said, “O Allaah ! I complain only to You. O Allaah ! I plead my case to you. O Allaah ! My home is deserted and my children are distressed. Reveal a command to Your Nabi SAW so that my difficulty is alleviated.”

Seek Counsel 

Allaah  says in the Qur’aan17, “O you who believe! Seek help by means of patience and salaah. Verily Allaah is with the p atient ones.” It is therefore necessary for every woman to plead to Allah Ι for the solutions to all her domestic problems.

Allah  is the Only One who can solve one’s problems. Whenever a woman is faced with a serious problem, she should seek counsel from a reliable person so that it may be addressed. This is necessary because when certain problems are pent up, they cause one’s mental and physical health to deteriorate.

Although Allah Ι is the One who solves all problems, Allah Ι has instructed us to consult with others. Even Rasulullaah (pbuh) consulted with the Sahabah . When Rasulullaah SAW received the first revelation, he did not keep the anxiety to himself and bottle it up within himself. Instead, he told Hadhrat Khadeeja (R.A) about it and together with consoling him, she took him to her cousin Waraqa bin Naufal who was learned in the previous scriptures. In this manner, Rasulullaah ’s found comfort and reassurance.


If a woman’s husband is extremely short-tempered, she should recite “Bismillaahir Rahmaan nir Raheem” seven times and blow on his food or drink. When blowing, tiny droplets of sputum should also be allowed to fall into the food/drink. Mulla Ali Qaari (A.R) has expressly mentioned this in is commentary of “Mishkaat”.

The same prescription can be used for one’s children and mother-in-law if they are short tempered. If this is done diligently, Insha Allaah the results will be visible after forty days. Tempers will be cooled and love will be generated between the members of the family. Such are the blessings of Allaah ’s pure names.(Collected from the book-A gift to the Bride )

Be Patient

The incident of Hadhrat Khowla (R.A) also teaches us that when one’s husband becomes irritable and difficult as he becomes old, one should exercise patience even though he may sometimes become intolerable. When Hadhrat Khowla (R.A) complained of this to Rasulullaah SAW, he advised her saying, “O Khowla! You cousin (husband) has grown old, so fear Allaah Ι with regard to him (i.e. exercise patience with him).”

This means that a woman should be even more patient when her husband ages and will therefore receive greater rewards.When a person is young and healthy, everyone is prepared to be with him. However, when he grows old and becomes sickly and temperamental, people stay far from him because they will have to offer some services.

At this stage, it will be only a good wife who will stay loyal to her husband. Only a good wife will agree with everything her husband says at this stage and who will fulfil his every wish before he expresses it. It is only such a dedicated wife who will refrain from anything he dislikes and who will take the blame for anything that he finds unpleasant.

If she becomes frustrated with his behaviour, she should think that Allaah  readily forgives when people fail to fulfil the rights they owe to Him. Similarly, she should also forgive him. If she does this, the spiritual benefit she will receive shall be tremendous and so too will be the rewards she will receive.

Following our Stories from Quran, Follow us in Facebook

Jazak Allah Khair. Keep us in your Prayers.