56. A qawwam or qayyim is a person responsible for administering and supervising the affairs of either an individual or an organization, for protecting and safeguarding them and taking care of their needs.
57. The verb used here - a derivative of the root fdl - is not used to mean that some people have been invested with superior honour and dignity. Rather it means that God has endowed one of the sexes (i.e. the male sex) with certain qualities which He has not endowed the other sex with, at least not to an equal extent. Thus it is the male who is qualified to function as head of the family. The female has been so constituted that she should live under his care and protection.
58. It is reported in a tradition from the Prophet (peace be on him) that he said: 'The best wife is she who, if you look at her, will please you; who, if you bid her to do something, will obey; and who will safeguard herself and your property in your absence.' (Cited by Ibn Kathir, and reported by Tabari and Ibn Abi Hatim. See Mukhtasar Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 3 vols., ed. Muhammad 'All al-Sabuni, 7th edition, Beirut, 1402 A.H./1981 C.E.; vol. 1, p. 385 and n. 1 - Ed.) This tradition contains the best explanation of the above verse. It should be borne in mind, however, that obedience to God has priority over a woman's duty to obey her husband. If a woman's husband either asks her to disobey God or prevents her from performing a duty imposed upon her by God, she should refuse to carry out his command. Obedience to her husband in this case would be a sin. However, were the husband to prevent is wife from performing either supererogatory Prayer or Fasting - as distinct from the obligatory ones - she should obey him, for such acts would not be accepted by God if performed by a woman in defiance of her husband's wish. (See Abu Da'ud, 'Sawm', 73; Ibn Majah, 'Siyam', 53 - Ed.)
59. This does not mean that a man should resort to these three measures all at once, but that they may be employed if a wife adopts an attitude of obstinate defiance. So far as the actual application of these measures is concerned, there should, naturally, be some correspondence between the fault and the punishment that is administered. Moreover, it is obvious that wherever a light touch can prove effective.one should not resort to sterner measures. Whenever the Prophet (peace be on him) permitted a man to administer corporal punishment to his wife, he did so with reluctance, and continued to express his distaste for it. And even in cases where it is necessary, the Prophet (peace be on him) directed men not to hit across the face, nor to beat severely nor to use anything that might leave marks on the body. (See Ibn Majah, 'Nikah', 3 - Ed.)
60. The statement: 'if they both want to set things right', may be interpreted as referring either to the mediators or to the spouses concerned. Every dispute can be resolved providing the parties concerned desire reconciliation, and the mediators too are keen to remove the misunderstandings between them and to bring them together.
61. Whenever the relationship between a husband and a wife starts to break
down, an attempt should first be made to resolve the dispute at the family level,
before it is aggravated and leads to the disruption of the matrimonial tie.
The procedure to be followed is that two persons, one on behalf of each family,
should be nominated to look into the matter together and devise means whereby
the misunderstanding between the spouses may be brought to an end. Who should
nominate these mediators? God has not specified this so as to allow people full
freedom to choose the most convenient arrangement. The parties would be free,
for instance, to decide that the mediators be nominated either by the spouses
themselves or by the elders of their respective families. If the dispute is
brought before the court, the latter also has the right to nominate mediators,
representing the families of both parties, before referring the matter for judicial
There is disagreement among Muslim jurists about the extent of the mediators' authority. The Hanafi and Shafi'i schools are of the opinion that they normally have no authority to issue a binding verdict. All they may do is to recommend the solution they advocate, whereafter the spouses have the right either to accept or to reject it. The exception is if the spouses have nominated the mediators to act on their behalf in regard to either talaq or khul': they will then be bound by their verdict. This is the opinion of the Hanafi and Shafi'i schools. Another group of jurists argues that the authority of the mediators is confined to deciding how the spouses should reconcile their differences, and does not extend to the annulment of marriage. This is the opinion of Hasan al-Basri and Qatadah, among others. Yet another group holds the opinion that the mediators have full authority both in respect of reconciliation and annulment of marriage. This is the opinion of Ibn 'Abbas, Sa'id b. Jubayr, Ibrahim al-Nakha'i, al-Sha'bi, Muhammad b. Sinn and several other authorities. The precedents which have come down from early Islam, however, are the judgements of 'Uthman and 'Ali. These indicate that they conferred upon the mediators the authority to issue judgements binding on both parties. When the dispute between 'Aqil b. Abi Talib and his wife Fatimah b. 'Utbah b. Rabi'ah came up for the judgement of 'Uthman, he nominated Ibn 'Abbas and Mu'awiyah b. Abi Sufyan from the families of the husband and the wife respectively. He also told them that if they thought that separation was preferable, they should declare the marriage annulled. In a similar dispute 'Ali nominated mediators and authorized them either to bring about reconciliation or annul the marriage, whichever they considered appropriate. This shows that the mediators do not have judicial authority as such. (See the commentaries of Ibn Kathir and Jassas on this verse -Ed.) Such authority, however, may be conferred upon them by the courts, in which case their decision will have the force of a judicial verdict.
62. The expression al-sahib bi al-janb (the companion by your side) embraces those with whom one has friendly relations of an abiding nature as well as those with whom one's relationship is transient: for instance, either the person who walks beside one on the way to the market or who sits beside one while buying things from the same shop or one's fellow traveller. Even this temporary relationship imposes certain claims on every refined and decent person - that he should treat him, as far as possible, in a kind and gracious manner and avoid causing him any inconvenience.
63. Concealing God's bounty is to live, as if God had not bestowed that bounty. If anyone has considerable wealth and yet lives at a standard strikingly lower than that warranted by his income, if he shuns spending on himself and his family, and also on helping other creatures of God, and avoids providing financial support to any philanthropic cause, then he creates the false impression of being in a state of financial stringency. This is sheer ingratitude to God. The Prophet (peace be on him) is reported, according to a tradition, as saying: 'If God confers a bounty on somebody, He would like to see that benefaction displayed.' (Ibn Kathir, vol. 4, p. 486 - Ed.) This means that a person's day-to-day life, his eating and drinking, his dress and his abode and his spending on others, all these should reflect God's bounty.
64. The Prophet of each age will stand as a witness before God against his people; he will testify that he conveyed to them the true way of life, and showed them the right outlook and the fundamentals of moral conduct revealed to him by God. The testimony of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) will be to the same effect, and the Qur'an indicates that he will stand as a witness to the period beginning with his advent as a Prophet right through to the Day of Judgement. (See Towards Understanding the Qur'an, vol. I, (Surah 3, n. 69.)