Surah An-Nisa Ayat 171 in Arabic Text
Here you can read various translations of verse 171
Quran 4 Verse 171 Explanation
For those looking for commentary to help with the understanding of Surah An-Nisa ayat 171, we’ve provided two Tafseer works below. The first is the tafseer of Abul Ala Maududi, the second is of Ibn Kathir.
(4:171) People of the Book! Do not exceed the limits in your religion, and attribute to Allah nothing except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only a Messenger of Allah, and His command that He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him (which led to Mary’s conception). So believe in Allah and in His Messengers, and do not say: (Allah is a) trinity. Give up this assertion; it would be better for you. Allah is indeed just one God. Far be it from His glory that He should have a son. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth. Allah is sufficient for a guardian.
211. The expression ‘People of the Book’ refers here to the Christians and the word ghuluw denotes the tendency to exceed the limits of propriety in support of something. The fault of the Jews was that they had exceeded the limits of propriety in rejecting and opposing Jesus, whereas the crime of the Christians was that they had gone beyond the proper limits in their love for and devotion to Jesus.
212. What is meant by sending the ‘command’ to Mary is that God ordered Mary’s womb to become impregnated without coming into contact with sperm. In the beginning the Christians were told that this was the secret of the fatherless birth of Jesus. Later on, under the misleading influence of Greek philosophy, they equated this with the ‘Logos’, which was subsequently interpreted as the Divine attribute of speech. The next step in this connection was the development of the notion that this Divine attribute entered into the womb of Mary and assumed the physical form of Jesus. Thus there developed among the Christians the false doctrine of the godhead of Jesus, and the false notion that out of His attributes God caused that of speech to appear in the form of Jesus.
213. Here Jesus himself is called ‘a spirit from God’. The same idea is also expressed elsewhere in the Qur’an: ‘And We supported him with the spirit of holiness’ (Surah al-Baqarah 2: 87).The import of both verses is that God endowed Jesus with a pure, impeccable soul. He was therefore an embodiment of truth, veracity, righteousness, and excellence. This is what the Christians had been told about Christ. But they exceeded the proper limits of veneration for Jesus. The ‘spirit from God’ became the ‘spirit of God’, and the ‘spirit of holiness’ was interpreted to mean God’s own Spirit which became incarnate in Jesus. Thus, along with God and Jesus, there developed the third person of God – the Holy Ghost. It was this unjustified exaggeration which led the Christians to even greater error. Ironically, however, Matthew contains the statement that: ‘But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.’ (The Bible, Authorized version, p. 771.)
214. The followers of Christ are urged to acknowledge God as the only God and to believe in the prophethood of all the Prophets, and that Jesus was one of them. This was the teaching of Christ and a basic truth which his followers ought to recognize.
215. They are urged to abandon the trinitarian doctrine, regardless of the form in which it was found. The fact is that the Christians subscribe simultaneously to the unity and the trinity of God. The statements of Jesus on this question in the Gospels, however, are so categorical that no Christian can easily justify anything but the clear, straightforward doctrine that God is One and that there is no god but He. The Christians, therefore, find it impossible to deny that monotheism is the very core of true religion. But the original confusion that in Jesus the Word of God became flesh, that the Spirit of God was incarnate in him, led them to believe in the godhead of Jesus and of the Holy Ghost along with that of God. This gratuitous commitment gave rise to an insoluble riddle: how to combine monotheism with the notion of trinity. For over eighteen centuries Christian theologians have grappled with this self-created riddle. The concept of the trinity is capable of such a myriad of interpretations that literally dozens of sects have arisen as a result of its ambiguity. And it has been largely responsible for the various Christian churches indulging in mutual excommunication. Moreover, it is logically impossible to maintain belief in trinity without impairing belief in One God. This problem has arisen because of the extravagance in which the Christians have indulged. The easiest course to get out of the morass is to give up the innovated belief in the godhead of Jesus and of the Holy Ghost, acknowledge God as the Only God, and accept Jesus as His Messenger rather than as God’s partner in godhead.
216. This is the refutation of the fourth extravagance in which the Christians have indulged. Even if the reports embodied in the New Testament are considered authentic, the most that can be inferred from them (particularly those embodied in the first three Gospels) is that Jesus likened the relationship between God and His servants to that between a father and his children, and that he used to employ the term ‘father’ as a metaphor for God. But in this respect Jesus was not unique. From very ancient times the Israelites had employed the term father’ for God. The Old Testament is full of examples of this usage. Jesus obviously employed this expression in conformity with the literary usage of his people. Moreover, he characterized God not merely as his own father but as the father of all men. Nevertheless, the Christians exceeded all reasonable limits when they declared Jesus to be the only begotten son of God. Their strange doctrine on this question is that since Jesus is an incarnation, an embodiment of the Word and Spirit of God, he is therefore the only son of God, who was sent to the earth in order to expiate the sins of humanity through his crucifixion. The Christians hold this to be their basic doctrine even though they cannot produce one shred of evidence from the statements of Jesus himself. This doctrine was a later product of their fancies, an outcome of the extravagance in which they indulged as a result of their impression of the awe-inspiring personality of their Prophet.
God does not repudiate here the doctrine of expiation, for this is not an independent doctrine but a corollary of recognizing Jesus as the son of God, and is a mystical and philosophical answer to the query as to why the only begotten son of God died an accursed death on the cross. The doctrine of expiation automatically falls apart by repudiating the dogma that Jesus was the son of God and by dispelling the misapprehension that he was crucified.
217. This strongly emphasizes that the true relationship between God and His creatures is one between the Lord and His slave. This repudiates the idea that the relationship which exists is one between a father and his offspring.
218. God is Himself sufficiently powerful to govern His dominion and has no need of a son to assist Him.
171. O People of the Scripture! Do not exceed the limits in your religion, nor say of Allah except the truth. Al-Masih `Isa, son of Maryam, was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah and His Word, which He bestowed on Maryam and a spirit from ﴿created by﴾ Him; so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not: “Three!” Cease! (it is) better for you. For Allah is (the only) One God, hallowed be He above having a son. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is All-Sufficient as a Disposer of affairs.
Allah forbids the People of the Scriptures from going to extremes in religion, which is a common trait of theirs, especially among the Christians. The Christians exaggerated over `Isa until they elevated him above the grade that Allah gave him. They elevated him from the rank of prophethood to being a god, whom they worshipped just as they worshipped Allah. They exaggerated even more in the case of those who they claim were his followers, claiming that they were inspired, thus following every word they uttered whether true or false, be it guidance or misguidance, truth or lies. This is why Allah said,
(They took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah.) Imam Ahmad recorded that Ibn `Abbas said that `Umar said that the Messenger of Allah said,
(Do not unduly praise me like the Christians exaggerated over `Isa, son of Maryam. Verily, I am only a servant, so say, `Allah’s servant and His Messenger.’) This is the wording of Al-Bukhari. Imam Ahmad recorded that Anas bin Malik said that a man once said, “O Muhammad! You are our master and the son of our master, our most righteous person and the son of our most righteous person…” The Messenger of Allah said,
(O people! Say what you have to say, but do not allow Shaytan to trick you. I am Muhammad bin `Abdullah, Allah’s servant and Messenger. By Allah! I do not like that you elevate me above the rank that Allah has granted me.) Allah’s statement,
(nor say of Allah except the truth.) means, do not lie and claim that Allah has a wife or a son, Allah is far holier than what they attribute to Him. Allah is glorified, praised, and honored in His might, grandure and greatness, and there is no deity worthy of worship nor Lord but Him. Allah said;
(Al-Masih `Isa, son of Maryam, was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah and His Word, which He bestowed on Maryam and a spirit from ﴿created by﴾ Him;) `Isa is only one of Allah’s servants and one of His creatures. Allah said to him, `Be’, and he was, and He sent him as a Messenger. `Isa was a word from Allah that He bestowed on Maryam, meaning He created him with the word `Be’ that He sent with Jibril to Maryam. Jibril blew the life of `Isa into Maryam by Allah’s leave, and `Isa came to existence as a result. This incident was in place of the normal conception between man and woman that results in children. This is why `Isa was a word and a Ruh (spirit) created by Allah, as he had no father to conceive him. Rather, he came to existence through the word that Allah uttered, `Be,’ and he was, through the life that Allah sent with Jibril. Allah said,
(Al-Masih ﴿`Isa﴾, son of Maryam, was no more than a Messenger; many were the Messengers that passed away before him. His mother ﴿Maryam﴾ was a Siddiqah. They both ate food.) And Allah said,
(Verily, the likeness of `Isa before Allah is the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust, then (He) said to him: “Be! ـ and he was.)
(And she who guarded her chastity, We breathed into her (garment) and We made her and her son ﴿`Isa﴾ a sign for all that exits.) (21:91)
(And Maryam, the daughter of `Imran who guarded her chastity,) and Allah said concerning the Messiah,
(He ﴿`Isa﴾ was not more than a servant. We granted Our favor to him.)
`Abdur-Razzaq narrated that Ma`mar said that Qatadah said that the Ayah,
(And His Word, which He bestowed on Maryam and a spirit from ﴿created by﴾ Him;) means, He said,
(Be) and he was. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Ahmad bin Sinan Al-Wasiti said that he heard Shadh bin Yahya saying about Allah’s statement,
(and His Word, which He bestowed on Maryam and a spirit from ﴿created by﴾ Him;) “`Isa was not the word. Rather, `Isa came to existence because of the word.” Al-Bukhari recorded that `Ubadah bin As-Samit said that the Prophet said,
(If anyone testifies that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah Alone Who has no partners, and that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger, and that `Isa is Allah’s servant and Messenger and His Word which He bestowed on Maryam and a spirit created by Him, and that Paradise is true and Hell is true, then Allah will admit him into Paradise with the deeds which he performed.) In another narration, the Prophet said,
(…through any of the eight doors of Paradise he wishes.) Muslim also recorded it. Therefore, `Ruh from Allah’, in the Ayah and the Hadith is similar to Allah’s statement,
(And has subjected to you all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth; it is all from Him.) meaning, from His creation. `from Him’ does not mean that it is a part of Him, as the Christians claim, may Allah’s continued curses be upon them. Saying that something is from Allah, such as the spirit of Allah, the she-camel of Allah or the House of Allah, is meant to honor such items. Allah said,
(This is the she-camel of Allah…) and,
(and sanctify My House for those who circumambulate it.) An authentic Hadith states,
(I will enter on my Lord in His Home) All these examples are meant to honor such items when they are attributed to Allah in this manner. Allah said,
(so believe in Allah and His Messengers.) believe that Allah is One and Alone and that He does not have a son or wife. Know and be certain that `Isa is the servant and Messenger of Allah. Allah said after that,
(Say not: “Three!”) do not elevate `Isa and his mother to be gods with Allah. Allah is far holier than what they attribute to Him. In Surat Al-Ma’idah (chapter 5), Allah said,
(Surely, disbelievers are those who said: “Allah is the third of the three.” But there is none who has the right to be worshipped but One God.) Allah said by the end of the same Surah,
(And (remember) when Allah will say (on the Day of Resurrection): “O `Isa, son of Maryam! Did you say unto men: `Worship me”’) and in its beginning,
(Surely, in disbelief are they who say that Allah is the Messiah, son of Maryam.) The Christians, may Allah curse them, have no limit to their disbelief because of their ignorance, so their deviant statements and their misguidance grows. Some of them believe that `Isa is Allah, some believe that he is one in a trinity and some believe that he is the son of Allah. Their beliefs and creeds are numerous and contradict each other, prompting some people to say that if ten Christians meet, they would end up with eleven sects!
Sa`id bin Batriq, the Patriarch of Alexandria and a famous Christian scholar, mentioned in the year four hundred after the Hijrah, that a Christian Council convened during the reign of Constantine, who built the city that bears his name. In this Council, the Christians came up with what they called the Great Trust, which in reality is the Great Treachery. There were more than two thousand patriarchs in this Council, and they were in such disarray that they divided into many sects, where some sects had twenty, fifty or a hundred members, etc.! When the king saw that there were more than three hundred Patriarchs who had the same idea, he agreed with them and adopted their creed. Constantine who was a deviant philosopher — gave his support to this sect for which, as an honor, churches were built and doctrines were taught to young children, who were baptized on this creed, and books were written about it. Meanwhile, the king oppressed all other sects. Another Council produced the sect known as the Jacobites, while the Nestorians were formed in a third Council. These three sects agreed that `Isa was divine, but disputed regarding the manner in which `Isa’s divinity was related to his humanity; were they in unity or did Allah incarnate in `Isa! All three of these sects accuse each other of heresy and, we believe that all three of them are disbelievers. Allah said,
(Cease! (it is) better for you.) meaning, it will be better for you,
(For Allah is (the only) One God, hallowed be He above having a son.) and He is holier than such claim,
(To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is All-Sufficient as a Disposer of affairs,) for all are creatures, property and servants under His control and disposal, and He is the Disposer of the affairs. Therefore, how can He have a wife or a son among them,
(He is the originator of the heavens and the earth. How can He have children.) and
(And they say: “The Most Gracious (Allah) has begotten a son. Indeed you have brought forth (said) a terrible evil thing.”) Up to His saying,
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