In surat an-Nisaa' we read (4:3):

And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice].

It seems as if there's something missing here the verse jumps from the fear for being unjust to orphan girls -which was also discussed earlier in the surah- to marrying up to four women. I wonder what this missing information is!

One also may notice that much later in the same surah we may find a resumption of the topic of orphan girls this time in context of marrying them (I'm unclear whether there's a link between both verses):

And they request from you, [O Muhammad], a [legal] ruling concerning women. Say, " Allah gives you a ruling about them and [about] what has been recited to you in the Book concerning the orphan girls to whom you do not give what is decreed for them - and [yet] you desire to marry them - and concerning the oppressed among children and that you maintain for orphans [their rights] in justice." And whatever you do of good - indeed, Allah is ever Knowing of it. (4:127)

My question is:
What is the link between marrying up to four women/girls and fearing to deal unjustly with orphan girls?

  • Is there anything else you're looking for in an answer?
    – The Z
    Aug 31, 2022 at 1:16

3 Answers 3


There are several interpretations of the link. We can divide it into three major interpretations.

Interpretation 1: Forbidding Unjust Marriage to Orphans

The context of the verse is a man who has an orphan girl under his care and wishes to marry her for her wealth or beauty. Allah forbade him from marrying her if he cannot do full justice by giving her the deserved mahr and treating her well. If he cannot guarantee full justice to her, he should stick to marrying other women.

Allah says: ⟪And if you⟫ feel like marrying an orphan girl but ⟪fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan⟫ girls you marry by giving them a mahr that is worthy of their status or treating them with the proper treatment wives deserve, ⟪then⟫ do not marry the orphans under your care, but rather ⟪marry those that please you of⟫ other ⟪women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just⟫ by giving the rights of each wife properly, ⟪then⟫ only ⟪one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice].⟫

This interpretation is by Aisha (RA) and quoted in Sahih Bukhari (see here).

Interpretation 2: Forbidding Unjust Marriage in General Using the Fear of Mistreating Orphans

The context is that people at the time used to be very careful in treating orphans well and respecting their property but did not have the same care and good treatment of wives. So, Allah commands them to treat their wives fairly and limits marriage to four wives because marrying more than that would likely lead to injustice.

Allah says: ⟪And if you⟫ are cautious about treating orphans well and ⟪fear not dealing justly with the orphans⟫ due to the many severe commands regarding orphans in the Quran, then also remember to fear being unjust with women and ⟪marry those that please you of women⟫ only up to when there is no fear of injustice and that can only be up to ⟪two or three or four⟫ because marrying more than that will lead to injustice. ⟪But if you fear that you will not be just⟫ even when marrying up to four, ⟪then⟫ only ⟪one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline⟫ towards injustice against women.

This interpretation is reported from Ibn Abbas (RA), Saeed ibn Jubair, As-Suddi, Dhahhak, Qatadah, and Rabee’ in the Tafsir of Tabari. The narration from Ibn Abbas is through Ali ibn Abi Talhah. This is the interpretation that Tabari prefers as the most correct one.

Interpretation 3: Forbidding Many Marriages to Safeguard the Wealth of Orphans

The context is that some people in Jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic times) used to marry up to ten or more wives and, when that caused them financial trouble, they would be tempted to take some wealth from the inheritance of the orphans under their care. To safeguard the orphans from such injustice, Allah limited people from marrying more than four wives.

Allah says: ⟪And if you⟫ take care of orphans and ⟪fear that you will not deal justly with the orphans⟫ and might be tempted to take their money because you have too many wives to take care of, ⟪then⟫ limit yourself and only ⟪marry those that please you of women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just⟫ to the orphans even with four wives, ⟪then⟫ marry only ⟪one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline⟫ towards injustice to orphans.

This interpretation is reported from Ibn Abbas and Ikrimah. The narration from Ibn Abbas is through Atiyyah ibn Saad and Tawus. It is reported that Ibn Abbas said: “Men were limited to four wives because of the wealth of the orphans.” (Tafsir Ibn Abi Hatim)


Those are three major ways that the mufassiroon linked injustice of orphans to marriage and their opinions on why Allah connected them. See this article for a more detailed analysis of the interpretations along with a few more interpretations.

It is possible a combination of the interpretations are intended by the same verse.


I don't know much about the link here, but there are some explanations for it on: https://www.englishtafsir.com/Quran/4/index.html#sdfootnote4sym

The commentators ascribe three meanings to this:

(a) Hadrat 'A ' ishah says that this was revealed to remedy an evil that was prevalent in the days of "Ignorance." The guardians of the orphan girls used to marry them for their wealth and beauty, with the intention of keeping them under their power because they had no one to defend their cause; then they treated them unjustly without any fear. Therefore when they became Muslims, they had misgivings about marrying orphan girls. Accordingly, the Qur'an advised them to marry women of their choice other than orphan girls in their charge, if they feared that they would not be able to do justice to them. Verse 127 of this Surah also supports this comment.

(b) In commenting on this, Hadrat Ibn-i-Abbas and his disciple Ikrimah assert that this Commandment was given to eradicate an injustice that was prevalent at that time. In pre-Islamic days, there was no limit to the number of wives and some people would marry even a dozen of them but when they could not meet the increasing expenses, they were forced to grab the property of their orphan nephews and other helpless relatives. Therefore, Allah restricted the maximum number of wives to four, and enjoined that this too, was subject to the condition that one should do justice to all of them.

(c) SaÆid bin Jubair, Qatadah and some other commentators declare that this Command was given to safeguard the interests of wives. They say that even before the advent of Islam, injustice to the orphans was looked upon with disfavor, but in regard to wives, it was different; they would marry as many as they liked and would treat them cruelly and unjustly without any fear of the society or pangs of conscience. Therefore Allah warned them that they should refrain from doing injustice to their wives as they did in the case of the orphans. Therefore they should not marry more than four wives and that too, only if they would do justice to them.

And Allah knows better.

  • If you could elaborate on this I might consider accepting this answer, as is this looks like a 99% copy-paste with an empty introduction of your own.
    – Medi1Saif
    Sep 18, 2018 at 6:18

i always understood this this way: orphan(s) should be, naturally, somewhat like first candidates to marry, because it is likely hard for the people who look after them to take care of them. but whenever man fears he cannot deal correctly with an orphan wife, he should consider other options to marry.

so, now i have seen that probably the options are listed in order of from most hard to be just to the least hard to be just. orphan wifes are harder than 2, 3 or 4 wifes; 2, 3 or 4 are harder than 1 wife; 1 wife is harder than slave wife. i am not sure whether 2 wifes are harder than 3, and 3 than 4, but i think it is quite possible.

  • 1
    WIth this kinds of fals interpretation you'd be a good candidate to support argumentations such as this and this. Please learn about Islam and ask people of knowledge before coming out with your own misinterpretation. There's a rule in logic saying from a false statement you may conclude anything (false or true). "ex falso quodlibet"
    – Jamila
    May 18, 2020 at 0:17
  • @Jamila 1. exactly which parts of my interpretation you do not like? 2. can you prove that i do not have right to interpret quran by myself and to publish the interpetation? 3. what do you refer as false here, part of my text? 4. just a comment for comfort: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_explosion .
    – qdinar
    May 18, 2020 at 8:29

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