Allah acknowledges our struggle in obedience to Him, and the wordings He uses in the Quran showcase our progress in our iman and Allah sympathizing with us in this struggle and understanding that struggle. It’s beautiful subhaanallah, and this gem came to me from me wondering why Allah uses فَرِيَضَة in An Nisaa 11 and وَصِيَّة in An Nisaa 12. Ustaadh Nouman explained why.
Look at the endings of these two ayaat.
An Nisaa 4:11
Allah instructs you concerning your children: for the male, what is equal to the share of two females. But if there are [only] daughters, two or more, for them is two thirds of one’s estate. And if there is only one, for her is half. And for one’s parents, to each one of them is a sixth of his estate if he left children. But if he had no children and the parents [alone] inherit from him, then for his mother is one third. And if he had brothers [or sisters], for his mother is a sixth, after any bequest he [may have] made or debt. Your parents or your children – you know not which of them are nearest to you in benefit. [These shares are] an obligation [imposed] by Allah . Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Wise.
After Allah lays out the instructions for distributing the shares of inheritance, He ends it with “[These shares are] an obligation [imposed] by Allah . Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Wise.” This ayah, when we see it in context with the surrounding ayaat, is the first ayah that lays out how the inheritance is supposed to be distributed. Surah An Nisaa is an early Madinan surah, and so, rules and laws are being introduced.
The attributes of Allah mentioned here are . Allah is every Knowing and Wise.
First and foremost, there has to be obedience. We obey Allah, we pray, we fast, even if we don’t fully understand why. Iman requires us to obey. So here in this ayat, the word فَرِيَضَة is used, which is translated as ‘Obligation’, and what this shows is that iman is at its beginning stages, and so Allah uses this word, because in the beginning, you do something because you are obeying. It’s very much like a child learning to pray. He prays because it’s the thing to do, and the child may not necessarily understand all the wisdom, virtues, history behind the salah for his level of maturity may not accommodate all those information yet. His iman also still has some growing to do. The attributes Allah includes at the end of this ayat are عليما حكيما, also supports this. Allah is ever Knowing and Wise. So, if we have believed in Him as our master and have submitted to Him as slaves, we are agreeing to be in complete obedience of Him. This doesn’t mean that it’ll be easy though. We may internally protest or get lazy in obeying Him, but because of that iman no matter how little it is in the beginning, we do it anyway. So there is struggle involved in this obedience at this level. Praying may not be easy, fasting may not be easy.
As iman grows however, we begin to further understand this at a deeper level. We begin to truly understand that there are wisdom behind Allah’s commands and prohibition. We begin to understand that whatever Allah decrees for us are good for us. This is how iman progresses and grows. The beautiful thing is, Allah acknowledges and understands the struggle, sympathizes with us, and so in the next ayah, He uses the word وَصِيّة after laying out the instructions for distributing inheritance between spouses. Below, it’s translated as ‘ordinance’.
An Nisaa 4:12
And for you is half of what your wives leave if they have no child. But if they have a child, for you is one fourth of what they leave, after any bequest they [may have] made or debt. And for the wives is one fourth if you leave no child. But if you leave a child, then for them is an eighth of what you leave, after any bequest you [may have] made or debt. And if a man or woman leaves neither ascendants nor descendants but has a brother or a sister, then for each one of them is a sixth. But if they are more than two, they share a third, after any bequest which was made or debt, as long as there is no detriment [caused]. [This is] an ordinance from Allah , and Allah is Knowing and Forbearing.
According to the Ustaadh Nouman, وَصِيّة means good counsel.So, if we look at these two ayaat, the gem that is hidden behind them is how we may struggle in obeying Allah at the beginning level of iman. Allah knows this, and through usage of different words in these two ayaat, He shows us this.
We may now truly understand that obeying Allah is actually good for us, that while we don’t fully know the wisdom of His commands and prohibitions, we trust Him. During the course of obedience though, we may have fallen short due to laziness or slight rebellion. The attributes Allah mentions at the end of this ayah are عليم حليم . Allah is ever Knowing and Forbearing. Again, Allah says that He knows, He knows how hard it must have been for us and He also knows our our shortcomings but He is Forbearing, that even if we may have acted rashly or slackened, He understands and sympathizes. Here, iman is at a higher and deeper level, and the word وصيَّة shows this. Allah is not saying, “This is an obligation, you have to do this,” anymore. Rather, it’s like He’s saying, “I know how hard it was for you, you have now reached this point. You know this is good for you.” It’s like that child who was learning to pray, now he is older, and he understands more about the virtues and wisdom of salah, and he can appreciate it spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally.
I was blown away by this explanation. Subhaanallah! It shows us how merciful and loving Allah is. It gives the Quran almost an animate quality. Imagine if we are able to interact with the Quran like this, how truly awesome (for lack of a better word) our relationship with Allah will be!