85. From here again, the commandments for social life are being resumed. It is just possible that this portion of Surah An-Noor was revealed at a later date.
86. According to the majority of commentators and jurists, this refers to both male and female slaves. Ibn Umar and Mujahid, however, have expressed the opinion that it refers to the male slaves only. But in view of the commandment that follows there appears to be no reason for making this distinction. Violation of one’s privacy by his children is as undesirable as by his female slaves. All jurists agree that the commandment given in this verse is applicable both to the minor and to the grown up slaves.
87. Another translation can be: Who have not yet reached the age of seeing wet dreams. From this the jurists have deduced the principle that in case of boys puberty starts when they begin having nocturnal emissions. But the translation that we have adopted is preferable because the injunction is meant both for boys and for girls. If nocturnal emission is taken as the sign of attaining puberty, the injunction would be confined to boys only, because in the case of girls it is the menstrual discharge, and not nocturnal emission, which marks the beginning of puberty. In our opinion the intention is that the children of the house should follow this procedure till the time that they become sex conscious. After they have become sex conscious they have to follow the injunction that follows.
88. Literally aurat is a place of danger and trouble; it also means a private part of the body which one would not like to expose before others, and something which is not fully secured. All these meanings are close to each other and all are implied in the meaning of this verse. The verse means to say that these are your times of privacy when you are either alone or with your wives in a state when it is not proper for your children and servants to come in to see you unannounced. Therefore, they should be instructed that they must take your permission before coming in to see you in your places of privacy at these three times.
89. That is, at other times than these, there is no restriction on the entry of minor children and slaves in your private rooms without permission. If on such an occasion you are not properly dressed and they enter without permission, you will have no right to take them to task. For in that case, it will be your own folly to have kept yourself in an improper state at a time when you should have been properly dressed for the day’s business. However, if they enter without permission during the times of privacy, the blame will lie with them provided they have been taught the necessary etiquette.
90. This is the reason for the general permission for children and slaves to come without permission at other times than those mentioned above. This throws light on a fundamental fiqh principle that every religious injunction is based on some wisdom or good reason, whether it has been explained or not.
91. That is, when they have reached the age of puberty. As has been explained in E.N. 87 above, the signs of puberty in the case of boys and girls are nocturnal emission and menstrual discharge respectively. There is, however, a difference of opinion among the jurists regarding the beginning of puberty in those boys and girls who for some reason do not show these physical signs for an unduly long time. According to Imam Shafai, Imam Abu Yusuf, Imam Muhammad and Imam Ahmad, a boy or a girl of 15 years will be considered to have attained puberty, and a saying of Imam Abu Hanifah also supports this view. But the well known view of Imam Abu Hanifah is that in such cases the age of puberty will be 17 years for girls and 18 years for boys. Both these opinions are the result of juristic reasoning and neither is based on any injunction of the Quran or Sunnah. It is therefore not necessary that the age limits of 15 or 18 years be accepted as marking the beginning of puberty everywhere in the world in abnormal cases. In different countries and ages there are different conditions of physical development and growth. The age of puberty in a certain country can be determined by means of the law of averages in normal cases. As for abnormal cases, the mean difference of ages may be added to the upper age limit to determine the age of puberty. For instance, if in a country, the minimum and maximum ages for noctural discharge are normally 12 and 15 years respectively, the mean difference of one and a half years may be added to the maximum limit of 15 years to determine the beginning of puberty for abnormal cases. The same principle can be used by the legal experts of various countries to fix the age of puberty keeping in view their peculiar local conditions.
There is a tradition quoted from Ibn Umar in support of the age of 15 years for puberty. He says: I was 14, when I presented myself before the Prophet (peace be upon him) to ask his permission to join the battle of Uhud, but he declined permission. Then on the occasion of the battle of the Trench, when I was 15, I was again presented and he permitted me to join. (Sihah Sitta, Musnad Ahmad). This tradition, however, does not stand scrutiny for the following two reasons:
(a) The battle of Uhud took place in Shawwal, 3 A.H., and the battle of the Trench in Shawwal, 5 A.H. according to Ibn Ishaq, and in Zil-Qad, 5 A.H. according to Ibn Saad. There is an interval of two years or more between the two events. Now if Ibn Umar was 14 at the time of the battle of Uhud, he could not be 15 at the time of the battle of the Trench. It may be that he mentioned 14 years for 13 years and 11 months and 15 years for 15 years and 11 months.
(b) It is a different thing to be regarded as an adult for the purposes of war and quite different to be legally adult for social affairs. They are not necessarily interconnected. Therefor the correct view is that the age of 15 for an abnormal boy has been fixed on the basis of analogous and juristic reasoning and not on the basis of anything in the Quran or Sunnah.
92. Literally, this means those women who are no longer capable of bearing children, who no longer cherish sexual desires, and who cannot excite the passions of men.
93. Obviously it cannot mean that they should strip themselves naked. That is why all the jurists and commentators agree that it implies the outer garments which are used to hide the adornments as enjoined in (Surah Al-Ahzab, Ayat 59).
94. Tabarruj is display and exhibitionism. When used with regard to a woman, it would imply the one who displays her charms and adornments before other men. The permission to lay aside the outer garments is being given to those old women who are no longer interested in personal embellishments and whose sex desires are gone. But if they still have a hidden desire smoldering in their hearts and an urge to display, they cannot avail of this permission.
95. Three things are necessary to understand this verse:
(a) The verse consists of two parts: the first part relates to the sick, the lame, the blind and other handicapped people, and the second part to the other People.
(b) The moral teachings of the Quran had so thoroughly changed the Arab mind that they had become highly sensitive with regard to the distinction between the lawful and the unlawful. According to Ibn Abbas, when Allah commanded them “not to devour one another's property by unlawful ways” (Surah An-Nisa, Ayat 29), the people became unduly cautious and would not eat freely at each other’s house; so much so that unless a formal invitation was extended, they considered it unlawful even to dine in the house of a relative or a friend.
(c) The mention of taking meals at your own houses only means to impress that taking meals at the house of a relative or a friend is just like taking meals at one’s own house, where no permission is required.
With these three things in mind, one can easily understand the meaning of the verse. It says that the handicapped person can have his meal anywhere and at any house in order to satisfy his hunger, because the society as a whole owes to him this privilege on account of his handicap. As for the other people, for them their own houses and the houses of the relatives mentioned in the verse are equally good for the purpose. No formal invitation or permission is needed to have the meals of their houses. In the absence of the master, if his wife or children offer something, it can be taken without hesitation. In this connection, it should be noted that the houses of one’s children are just like one’s own house, and the friends imply close friends.
96. In ancient Arabia, some tribes had the tradition that each member sat and ate separately. Eating together in one place was considered bad as some Hindus do even today. On the contrary, some other tribes considered it bad to eat alone individually; so much so that they would even go without food if they did not have company at meals. This verse means to abolish such customs and restrictions.