Answered by Ustadh Abdullah Anik Misra
Question: Could you please point me to an explanation of the verse 43:18, that says:
“(Like they then for Allah) a creature who is brought up in adornments (wearing silk and gold ornaments, i.e. women) and who in dispute cannot make herself clear”?
Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate,
As salamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,
Thank you for your question.
The verse 43:18 is part of a series of verses in which Allah Ta’ala is refuting the polytheists who ascribed children to Allah by saying that the angels were His daughters. Yet, for themselves, they preferred having sons because they looked down on female children.
Allah Most High then uses their own stereotype against them: if they feel that a female child is simply raised in adornments and unable to defend herself in a dispute and thus undesirable, why do they then ascribe a daughter to Allah? This is a rhetorical technique that Allah often uses to expose their self-contradictory views, and thus disprove the entire belief system of polytheism as illogical and baseless.
An Analysis of the Verses
Allah Most High says:
“And they [the polytheists] invented an offspring for Him [Allah] from amongst His servants… truly, the people [who do that] are clear in their disbelief! / Or [do you claim that] He took daughters for Himself from that which He created, while dedicating sons for you all?!/
[Yet,] when one of them is given good news of [the birth of a daughter], which they ascribe to the Most-Merciful, their faces grow dark and they are brimming [with disappointment]! / [Do they even ascribe as child to Allah] a being who is ‘raised wearing adornments and unable to make a clear argument in a dispute’?” [Quran 43:15-18]
The background of this verse is that the disbelievers of Mecca used to falsely ascribe offspring to Allah Most High, who is exalted above having any sort of co-sharer in divinity, whether through partner, consort or child.
The polytheists went further to say that the angels were the daughters of Allah, while they used to prefer having boys for themselves. Their pre-Islamic culture saw daughters as weak, dependent and unable to earn and defend themselves- in short, a burden.
Allah Most High, when refuting the claims of the disbelievers, often uses their own cultural stereotypes against them to point out their contradictions. Allah describes female children not according to their essential reality, but rather, according to the cultural stereotype of the ones being addressed, to emphasize their hypocrisy.
As Ibn al-Athir comments, “The purpose of this [manner of argument] is to expose their false ideology, and that they do not soundly use their intellect in their beliefs. Otherwise, then when they ascribed children to Allah, they wouldn’t have chosen daughters to ascribe to Him, while they themselves considered daughters to be some disliked and weak.” [Ibn al-Athir, al-Tahrir wa al-Tanwir]
Daughters and their Place in Islam
These verses also contain a refutation of the false idea that daughters are inauspicious and useless compared to sons, by ascribing disappointment in having a daughter to people who do not worship Allah Most High. Had there been any shame in daughters, Allah would not have made His final Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) have four of them.
Islam has shattered this pre-Islamic outlook here and in many other ways, including the banning of the burial of baby girls, the optional slaughtering of a sheep in thanks and celebration for their birth, and the promising of Paradise alongside the Prophet (peace be upon him) as a reward for one who raises daughters properly.
As Imam al-Sakhawi said, “and had there not been auspiciousness in [daughters], the purest lineage and prophetic bloodline, would not have been carried forth through a woman”, because it was through the Prophet’s only surviving daughter, Fatima, that his lineage continues until this day, Allah’s peace and blessings be upon them both. [al-Sakhawi, al-Maqasid al-Hasana]
And Allah knows best.
Abdullah Anik Misra
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani