In verse 10 of this Surah it has been enjoined that the women
who emigrate to dar al-Islam (the Islamic State) and claim
to be Muslims, should be examined hence the title Al-Mumtahinah.
The word is pronounced both as mumtahinah and as mumtahanah,
the meaning according to the first pronunciation being "the
Surah which examines", and according to the second, "the woman
who is examined."
Period of Revelation
The Surah deals with two incidents, the time of the occurrence
of which is well known historically. The first relates to Hadrat
Hatib bin Abz Balta'a, who, a little before the conquest of
Makkah, had sent a secret letter to the Quraish chiefs informing
them of the Holy Prophet's intention to attack them.
The second relates to the Muslim women, who had started emigrating
from Makkah to Madinah, after the conclusion of the Truce of
Hudaibiyah, and the problem arose whether they also were to
be returned to the disbelievers, like the Muslim men, according
to the conditions of the Truce. The mention of these two things
absolutely determines that this Surah came down during the
interval between the Truce of Hudaibiyah and the Conquest of
Besides, there is a third thing also that has been mentioned
at the end of the Surah to the effect; What should the Holy
Prophet (upon whom be Allah's peace) make the women to pledge
when they come to take the oath of allegiance before him as
believers?About this part also the guess is that this too was
sent down some time before the conquest of Makkah, for after
this conquest a large number of the Quraish women, like their
men, were going to enter Islam simultaneously and had to be
administered the oath of allegiance collectively.
Theme and Topics
This Surah has three parts;
The first part consists of vv. 1-9, and the concluding verse
13 also relates to it. In this strong exception has been taken
to the act of Hadrat Hatib bin Abi Balta'a in that he had tried
to inform the enemy of a very important war secret of the Holy
Prophet (upon whom be Allah's peace) only for the sake of safe
guarding his family.
This would have caused great bloodshed at the conquest of Makkah
had it not been made ineffective in time. It would have cost
the Muslims many precious lives; many of the Quraish would
have been killed, who were to render great services to Islam
afterward; the gains which were to accrue from conquering Makkah
peacefully would have been lost, and all these serious losses
would have resulted only because one of the Muslims had wanted
to safeguard his family from the dangers of war.
Administering a severe warning at this blunder Allah has taught
the believers the lesson that no believer should, under any
circumstances and for any motive, have relations of love and
friendship with the disbelievers, who are actively hostile
to Islam, and a believer should refrain from everything which
might be helpful to them in the conflict between Islam and
disbelief. However, there is no harm in dealing kindly and
justly with those disbelievers, who may not be practically
engaged in hostile activities against Islam and persecution
of the Muslims.
The second part consists of vv. 10-11. In this a social problem
has been settled, which was agitating the minds at that time.
There were many Muslim women in Makkah, whose husbands were
pagans, but they were emigrating and reaching Madinah somehow.
Likewise, there were many Muslim men in Madinah, whose wives
were pagans and had been left behind in Makkah. The question
arose whether the marriage bond between them continued to be
valid or not. Allah settled this problem for ever, saying that
the pagan husband is not lawful for the Muslim women, nor the
pagan wife lawful for the Muslim husband. This decision leads
to very important legal consequences, which we shall explain
in our notes below.
The third section consists of verse 12, in which the Holy Prophet
(upon whom be Allah's peace) has been instructed to ask the
women who accept Islam to pledge that they would refrain from
the major evils that were prevalent among the womenfolk of
the pre-Islamic Arab society, and to promise that they would
henceforth follow the ways of goodness which the Messenger
of Allah may enjoin.