Surah An-Nisa >> Currently viewing Surah An-Nisa Ayat 23 (4:23)

Surah An-Nisa Ayat 23 in Arabic Text

حُرِّمَتْ عَلَيْكُمْ أُمَّهَـٰتُكُمْ وَبَنَاتُكُمْ وَأَخَوَٰتُكُمْ وَعَمَّـٰتُكُمْ وَخَـٰلَـٰتُكُمْ وَبَنَاتُ ٱلْأَخِ وَبَنَاتُ ٱلْأُخْتِ وَأُمَّهَـٰتُكُمُ ٱلَّـٰتِىٓ أَرْضَعْنَكُمْ وَأَخَوَٰتُكُم مِّنَ ٱلرَّضَـٰعَةِ وَأُمَّهَـٰتُ نِسَآئِكُمْ وَرَبَـٰٓئِبُكُمُ ٱلَّـٰتِى فِى حُجُورِكُم مِّن نِّسَآئِكُمُ ٱلَّـٰتِى دَخَلْتُم بِهِنَّ فَإِن لَّمْ تَكُونُوا۟ دَخَلْتُم بِهِنَّ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَحَلَـٰٓئِلُ أَبْنَآئِكُمُ ٱلَّذِينَ مِنْ أَصْلَـٰبِكُمْ وَأَن تَجْمَعُوا۟ بَيْنَ ٱلْأُخْتَيْنِ إِلَّا مَا قَدْ سَلَفَ ۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ غَفُورًۭا رَّحِيمًۭا
Hurrimat ‘alaikum umma haatukum wa banaatukum wa akhawaatukum wa ‘ammaatukum wa khaalaatukum wa banaatul akhi wa banaatul ukhti wa ummahaatu kumul laateee arda’ nakum wa akhawaatukum minarradaa’ati wa ummahaatu nisaaa’ikum wa rabaaa’i bukumul laatee fee hujoorikum min nisaaa’ikumul laatee dakhaltum bihinna Fa il lam takoonoo dakhaltum bihinna falaa junaaha ‘alaikum wa halaaa’ilu abnaaa’ikumul lazeena min aslaabikum wa an tajma’oo bainal ukhtaini illaa maa qad salaf; innallaaha kaana Ghafoorar Raheema (End Juz 4)

English Translation

Here you can read various translations of verse 23

Sahih International
Then there will be no [excuse upon] examination except they will say, “By Allah, our Lord, we were not those who associated.”

Yusuf Ali
There will then be (left) no subterfuge for them but to say: “By Allah our Lord, we were not those who joined gods with Allah.”

Abul Ala Maududi
Then they will be able to play no mischief but will say (falsely): ‘By Allah, our Lord, we associated none (with You in Your divinity).’

Muhsin Khan
There will then be (left) no Fitnah (excuses or statements or arguments) for them but to say: “By Allah, our Lord, we were not those who joined others in worship with Allah.”

Then will they have no contention save that they will say: By Allah, our Lord, we never were idolaters.

Dr. Ghali
Thereafter they will have no temptation (i.e., contention, subterfuge. Literally: their temptation will be (nothing) except that they (will) say, “By Allah, our Lord, in no way were we associators (of other gods with Allah).”

Abdel Haleem
they will only say, ‘By God, our Lord, we have not set up partners beside Him!’

Quran 4 Verse 23 Explanation

For those looking for commentary to help with the understanding of Surah An-Nisa ayat 23, we’ve provided two Tafseer works below. The first is the tafseer of Abul Ala Maududi, the second is of Ibn Kathir.


(4:23) Forbidden to you are your mothers,[34] your daughters,[35] your sisters,[36] your father’s sisters and your mother’s sisters, your brother’s daughters and your sister’s daughters,[37] your milk-mothers, your milk-sisters,[38] the mothers of your wives,[39] and the stepdaughters – who are your foster-children,[40] born of your wives with whom you have consummated the marriage; but if you have not consummated the marriage with them, there will be no blame upon you (if you marry their daughters).

It is also forbidden for you to take the wives of the sons who have sprung from your loins[41] and to take two sisters together in marriage,[42] although what is past is past. Surely Allah is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate.[43]

34. The word ‘mother’ applies to one’s step-mother as well as to one’s real mother. Hence the prohibition extends to both. This injunction also includes prohibition of the grandmother, both paternal and maternal. There is disagreement on whether a woman with whom a father has had an unlawful sexual relationship is prohibited to his son or not. There are some among the early authorities who do not believe in such prohibition. But there are others who go so far as to say that a woman whom a father has touched with sexual desire becomes prohibited to the son. Likewise, there is disagreement among the scholars of the early period of Islam in regard to a woman with whom a person has had an illegitimate sexual relationship whether she is prohibited to his father or not. In the same way there has been disagreement in regard to a man with whom a mother or daughter has had an illegitimate sexual relationship, whether or not marriage with him is prohibited for both the mother and daughter. (See Jassas, vol. 2, pp. 113 ff., and Bidayat al-Mujtahid, vol. 2, pp. 33 f. – Ed.) There is a great deal of formal, legal discussion on this point. But even a little reflection makes it evident that if a man marries a woman who is at once the object of the desire of either his father or his son, and if a man marries a woman and is attracted to either her mother or daughter, this militates against the requirements of a righteous society. The spirit of the Law is opposed to the legal hair-splitting which makes a distinction between sexual relations that take place either within the marital framework or outside it, and between either touching or looking with desire and so on. The plain fact is that if the sexual passions of both the father and the son are focused on the same woman, or conversely, if the sexual passions of both the mother and daughter are focused on the same man, this situation is full of evil and mischief for family life and the Law can never tolerate it. The Prophet (peace be on him) has said: ‘Whoever looks at the genitals of a woman, both the mother and daughter of that woman become prohibited for him.’ In another tradition, the Prophet (peace-be on him) said: ‘God will not even care to look at the person who casts his look at the genitals of a woman as well as those of her daughter.’ (Jassas, Ahkam al-Qur’an, vol. IV, p. 141.) These traditions bring out the intent of the Law very clearly.

35. The injunction with regard to daughters applies to grand-daughters on both the paternal and maternal sides as well. There is disagreement, however, whether a daughter born of an illegitimate relationship becomes prohibited or not. According to Abu Hanifah, Malik and Ahmad b. Hanbal such a daughter is prohibited in the same way as a daughter born in wedlock; Shafi’i, however, is of the opinion that such daughters are not prohibited. The very idea, however, of marrying a girl who was born of one’s own semen would be repulsive to any decent person.

36. This applies to full sisters as well as to half-sisters.

37. In all these relationships, no distinction is made between the full and step-relationships. The sister of a man’s father or mother, whether full sister or step-sister, is prohibited to him. Likewise, the daughters of a man’s brothers and sisters are prohibited just as if they were one’s own daughters. (See Bidayat al-Mujtahid, vol. 2, pp. 31 ff. – Ed.)

38. There is consensus among Muslims that if a boy or girl is breast-fed by a woman, that woman attains the status of mother, and her husband the status of father. It is forbidden to marry relatives through milk where the degree of relationship is such as /to constitute a bar to marriage in the case of blood-relations. The basis of this rule is the saying of the Prophet (peace be on him): ‘Whatever is rendered prohibited by descent (nasab) is likewise rendered prohibited by breast-feeding.’ (Bukhari, ‘Shahadat’, 4, 7,13,14; Muslim, ‘Rida’ah’, 1-14,26-30; etc. – Ed.) According to Abu Hanifah and Malik prohibition is established if a child suckles milk from a woman’s breast equal to that minimum quantity which nullifies fasting. But according to Ahmad b. Hanbal, it is established by three sucklings; and according to Shafi’i by five. There is also disagreement about the maximum age up to which breast-feeding leads to prohibition of marriage with the woman concerned. In this connection, jurists have expressed the following opinions:

(1) Suckling is of legal significance only when it occurs before a child has been weaned, and when milk is its main source of nourishment. If a child suckles from a woman’s breast after having been weaned, this is legally no different from drinking anything else. This is the opinion of Umm Salamah and Ibn ‘Abbas, and a tradition to this effect has also been reported from ‘Ali. This is also the view of al-Zuhri, Hasan al-Basri, Qatadah, ‘Ikrimah and Awza’i.

(2) Prohibition is established by breast-feeding during the first two years of a child’s life. This is the view of ‘Umar, Ibn Mas’ud, Abu Hurayrah and ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Umar. Among jurists, Shafi’i, Ahmad b. Hanbal, Abu Yusuf, Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Shaybani and Sufyan al-Thawri followed this view; and according to a report, so did Abu Hanifah. Malik largely followed this view, but he was of the opinion that if breast-feeding took place a month or two after the age of two, the prohibition would still remain in effect.

(3) The generally-reported opinion of Abu Hanifah and Zufar is that a bar to marriage is created by breast-feeding up to an age limit of two and a half years.

(4) Some other jurists are of the opinion that the prohibition comes into effect irrespective of the age when breast-feeding takes place. This opinion is based on the view that the effective cause of the prohibition is a woman’s milk, rather than the age of the person fed. Hence, even in the case of an older person, the same prohibition would apply as in the case of an infant. This is the view of ‘A’ishah and this has been supported on the basis of a tradition from ‘Ali, which is presumably .authentic. Among the jurists this opinion has been followed by ‘Urwah b. al-Zubayr, ‘Ata’, Layth b. Sa’d and Ibn Hazm. (On this subject see Jassas, vol. 2, pp. 124 ff.; and Ibn Rushd, Biddyat al-Mujtahid, vol. 2,’pp’. 35 ff. -Ed.)

39. There is disagreement about prohibition in respect of the mother of the woman with whom one has merely contracted marriage (without having consummated it). Abu Hanifah, Malik, Ahmad b. Hanbal and Shafi’i believe that such a relationship is prohibited. ‘Ali, however, holds the opinion that unless the marriage has been consummated the mother of one’s wife does not become prohibited.

40. The prohibitive restriction in regard to such girls is not based on the consideration of their having been brought up in the house of a step-father. The reference to the child’s upbringing in his house points to the delicacy of this relationship. The jurists are almost unanimous that it is prohibited to marry one’s step-daughter irrespective of whether or not she has been raised in the step-father’s house.

41. This restriction has been added because the widow of one’s adopted son is, according to Islam, not prohibited. It is only the wife of one’s own son who is prohibited. Likewise, the wives of grandsons (paternal and maternal) are prohibited to grandfathers (on both the mother’s and father’s side).

42. The Prophet (peace be on him) has taught that it is prohibited for a man to combine in marriage an aunt – whether maternal or paternal – with her niece. The guiding principle is that it is prohibited to have as wives two women who, if one were male, would be prohibited to each other. (See Bidayat al-Mujtahid, vol. 2, p. 41 – Ed.)

43. This is an assurance that God would not call them to task for such misdeeds of the Jahiliyah period as combining two sisters in matrimony, provided they abstained from doing so in the future. See also( n. 32 above.) For this reason a man with two sisters as his wives is required to divorce one of them when he embraces Islam.


23. Forbidden to you (for marriage) are: your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your father’s sisters, your mother’s sisters, your brother’s daughters, your sister’s daughters, your foster mothers who suckled you, your foster milk suckling sisters, your wives’ mothers, your stepdaughters under your guardianship, born of your wives unto whom you have gone in — but there is no sin on you if you have not gone in unto them (to marry their daughters), — the wives of your sons who (spring) from your own loins, and two sisters in wedlock at the same time, except for what has already passed; verily, Allah is Oft- Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Degrees of Women Never Eligible for One to Marry

This honorable Ayah is the Ayah that establishes the degrees of women relatives who are never eligible for one to marry, because of blood relations, relations established by suckling or marriage. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, “(Allah said) I have prohibited for you seven types of relatives by blood and seven by marriage.” Ibn `Abbas then recited the Ayah,

﴿حُرِّمَتْ عَلَيْكُمْ أُمَّهَـتُكُمْ وَبَنَـتُكُمْ وَأَخَوَتُكُمْ﴾

(Forbidden to you (for marriage) are: your mothers, your daughters, your sisters…) At-Tabari recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, “Seven degrees of blood relation and seven degrees of marriage relation are prohibited (for marriage).” He then recited the Ayah,

﴿حُرِّمَتْ عَلَيْكُمْ أُمَّهَـتُكُمْ وَبَنَـتُكُمْ وَأَخَوَتُكُمْ وَعَمَّـتُكُمْ وَخَـلَـتُكُمْ وَبَنَاتُ الاٌّخِ وَبَنَاتُ الاٍّخْتِ﴾

(Forbidden to you (for marriage) are: your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your father’s sisters, your mother’s sisters, your brother’s daughters, your sister’s daughters) and these are the types prohibited by blood relation.” Allah’s statement,

﴿وَأُمَّهَـتُكُمُ الْلاَّتِى أَرْضَعْنَكُمْ وَأَخَوَتُكُم مِّنَ الرَّضَاعَةِ﴾

(Your foster mothers who suckled you, your foster milk suckling sisters) means, just as your mother who bore you is prohibited for you in marriage, so is your mother from suckling prohibited for you. Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded that `A’ishah, the Mother of the Faithful, said that the Messenger of Allah said,

«إِنَّ الرَّضَاعَةَ تُحَرِّمُ مَا تُحَرِّمُ الْوِلَادَة»

(Suckling prohibits what birth prohibits.) In another narration reported by Muslim,

«يَحْرُمُ مِنَ الرَّضَاعَةِ مَا يَحْرُمُ مِنَ النَّسَب»

(Suckling establishes prohibited degrees just as blood does.)

`Suckling’ that Establishes Prohibition for Marriage

Less than five incidents of suckling will not establish prohibition for marriage. In his Sahih, Muslim recorded that `A’ishah said, “Among the parts of the Qur’an that were revealed, is the statement, `Ten incidents of suckling establishes the prohibition (concerning marriage).’ It was later abrogated with five, and the Messenger of Allah died while this statement was still recited as part of the Qur’an.”’ A Hadith that Sahlah bint Suhayl narrated states that the Messenger of Allah ordered her to suckle Salim the freed slave of Abu Hudhayfah with five.” We should assert that the suckling mentioned here must occur before the age of two, as we stated when we explained the Ayah in Surat Al-Baqarah,

﴿يُرْضِعْنَ أَوْلَـدَهُنَّ حَوْلَيْنِ كَامِلَيْنِ لِمَنْ أَرَادَ أَن يُتِمَّ الرَّضَاعَةَ﴾

((The mothers) should suckle their children for two whole years, (that is) for those (parents) who desire to complete the term of suckling) ﴿2:233﴾. The Mother-in-Law and Stepdaughter are Prohibited in Marriage Allah said next,

﴿وَأُمَّهَـتُ نِسَآئِكُمْ وَرَبَائِبُكُمُ اللَّـتِى فِى حُجُورِكُمْ مِّن نِّسَآئِكُمُ اللَّـتِى دَخَلْتُمْ بِهِنَّ فَإِن لَّمْ تَكُونُواْ دَخَلْتُمْ بِهِنَّ فَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ﴾

(Your wives’ mothers, your stepdaughters under your guardianship, born of your wives unto whom you have gone in – but there is no sin on you if you have not gone in unto them,) As for the mother of the wife, she becomes prohibited for marriage for her son-in-law when the marriage is conducted, whether the son-in-law has sexual relations with her daughter or not. As for the wife’s daughter, she becomes prohibited for her stepfather when he has sexual relations with her mother, after the marriage contract is ratified. If the man divorces the mother before having sexual relations with her, he is allowed to marry her daughter. So Allah said;

﴿وَرَبَائِبُكُمُ اللَّـتِى فِى حُجُورِكُمْ مِّن نِّسَآئِكُمُ اللَّـتِى دَخَلْتُمْ بِهِنَّ فَإِن لّمْ تَكُونُواْ دَخَلْتُمْ بِهِنَّ فَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ﴾

(Your stepdaughters under your guardianship, born of your wives unto whom you have gone in — but there is no sin on you if you have not gone in unto them,) to marry the stepdaughter.

Allah said,

﴿وَرَبَائِبُكُمُ اللَّـتِى فِى حُجُورِكُمْ﴾

(…your stepdaughters under your guardianship,) The majority of scholars state that the stepdaughter is prohibited in marriage for her stepfather ﴿who consummated his marriage to her mother﴾ whether she was under his guardianship or not. The Two Sahih recorded that Umm Habibah said, “O Messenger of Allah! Marry my sister, the daughter of Abu Sufyan (and in one narration `Azzah bint Abu Sufyan).

«أَوَ تُحِبِّينَ ذلِك»

؟ قالت: نعم. لست لك بمخلية، وأحب من شاركني في خيرٍ أختي، قال:

«فَإِنَّ ذلِكِ لَا يَحِلُّ لِي»

قالت: فإنا نتحدث أنك تريد أن تنكح بنت أبي سلمة، قال:

«بِنْتَ أُمِّ سَلَمَة»

؟ قالت: نعم. قال:

«إِنَّهَا لَوْ لَمْ تَكُنْ رَبِيبَتِي فِي حِجْرِي مَا حَلَّتْ لِي، إِنَّهَا لَبِنْتُ أَخِي مِنَ الرَّضَاعَةِ، أَرْضَعَتْنِي وَأَبَا سَلَمَةَ ثُوَيْبَةُ، فَلَا تَعْرِضْنَ عَلَيَّ بَنَاتِكُنَّ وَلَا أَخَوَاتِكُن»

(“Do you like that I do that” She said, “I would not give you up for anything, but the best of whom I like to share with me in that which is righteously good, is my sister.” He said, “That is not allowed for me.” She said, “We were told that you want to marry the daughter of Abu Salamah.” He asked, “The daughter of Umm Salamah” She said, “Yes.” He said, “Even if she was not my stepdaughter and under my guardianship, she is still not allowed for me because she is my niece from suckling, for Thuwaybah suckled me and Abu Salamah. Therefore, do not offer me to marry your daughters or sisters. ”) In another narration from Al-Bukhari,

«إِنِّي لَوْ لَمْ أَتَزَوَّجْ أُمَّ سَلَمَةَ مَا حَلَّتْ لِي»

(Had I not married Umm Salamah, her daughter would not have been allowed for me anyway.) Consequently, the Messenger stated that his marriage to Umm Salamah was the real reason behind that prohibition.

Meaning of `gone in unto them

The Ayah continues,

﴿اللَّـتِى دَخَلْتُمْ بِهِنَّ﴾

(Your wives unto whom you have gone in), meaning, had sexual relations with them, according to Ibn `Abbas and several others.

Prohibiting the Daughter-in-Law for Marriage

Allah said,

﴿وَحَلَـئِلُ أَبْنَآئِكُمُ الَّذِينَ مِنْ أَصْلَـبِكُمْ﴾

(The wives of your sons who (spring) from your own loins,) Therefore, you are prohibited to marry the wives of your own sons, but not the wives of your adopted sons, as adoption was common practice in Jahiliyyah. Allah said,

﴿فَلَمَّا قَضَى زَيْدٌ مِّنْهَا وَطَراً زَوَّجْنَـكَهَا لِكَىْ لاَ يَكُونَ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ حَرَجٌ فِى أَزْوَاجِ أَدْعِيَآئِهِمْ﴾

(So when Zayd had accomplished his desire from her (i.e. divorced her), We gave her to you in marriage, so that (in future) there may be no difficulty to the believers in respect of (the marriage of) the wives of their adopted sons when the latter have no desire to keep them (i.e. they had divorced them).) ﴿33:37﴾ Ibn Jurayj said, “I asked `Ata’ about Allah’s statement,

﴿وَحَلَـئِلُ أَبْنَآئِكُمُ الَّذِينَ مِنْ أَصْلَـبِكُمْ﴾

(The wives of your sons who (spring) from your own loins,) He said, `We were told that when the Prophet married the ex-wife of Zayd (who was the Prophet’s adopted son before Islam prohibited this practice), the idolators in Makkah criticized him. Allah sent down the Ayat:

﴿وَحَلَـئِلُ أَبْنَآئِكُمُ الَّذِينَ مِنْ أَصْلَـبِكُمْ﴾

(The wives of your sons who (spring) from your own loins),

﴿وَمَا جَعَلَ أَدْعِيَآءَكُمْ أَبْنَآءَكُمْ﴾

(nor has He made your adopted sons your real sons.) ﴿33:4﴾, and,

﴿مَّا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَآ أَحَدٍ مّن رِّجَالِكُمْ﴾

(Muhammad is not the father of any of your men) ﴿33:40﴾.”’ Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Al-Hasan bin Muhammad said, “These Ayat are encompassing,

﴿وَحَلَـئِلُ أَبْنَآئِكُمُ﴾

(the wives of your sons), and,

﴿وَأُمَّهَـتُ نِسَآئِكُمْ﴾

(your wives’ mothers). This is also the explanation of Tawus, Ibrahim, Az-Zuhri and Makhul. It means that these two Ayat encompass these types of women, whether the marriage was consummated or not, and there is a consensus on this ruling.

A Doubt and Rebuttal

Why is the wife of one’s son from suckling prohibited for him for marriage – that is, if she is no longer married to his son from suckling – as the majority of scholars state, although they are not related by blood The answer is the Prophet’s statement,

«يَحْرُمُ مِنَ الرَّضَاعِ مَا يَحْرُمُ مِنَ النَّسَب»

(Suckling prohibits what blood relations prohibit.)

The Prohibition of Taking Two Sisters as Rival Wives

Allah said,

﴿وَأَن تَجْمَعُواْ بَيْنَ الاٍّخْتَيْنِ إَلاَّ مَا قَدْ سَلَفَ﴾

(…and two sisters in wedlock at the same time, except for what has already passed;) The Ayah commands: you are prohibited to take two sisters as rival wives, or rival female-servants, except for what had happened to you during the time of Jahiliyyah, which We have forgiven and erased. Therefore, no one is allowed to take or keep two sisters as rival wives, according to the consensus of the scholars of the Companions, their followers, and the Imams of old and present. They all stated that taking two sisters as rival wives is prohibited, and that whoever embraces Islam while married to two sisters at the same time is given the choice to keep one of them and divorce the other. Imam Ahmad recorded that Ad-Dahhak bin Fayruz said that his father said, “I embraced Islam while married to two sisters at the same time and the Prophet commanded me to divorce one of them.”

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