وَمَن يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يُكَفِّرْ عَنْهُ سَيِّئَآتِهِ وَيُعْظِمْ لَهُ أَجْرًا
Waman yattiqallāha yukaffir ‘anhu sayyi’ātihi wayu‘zim lahu ajrā
And whoever has taqwā (is careful of his duty) to Allah, He shall absolve him of his misdeeds and give him a great reward.
(Sūrat al-Talāq, No 65, Āyat 5)
The above verse is part of verses that discuss the rules of divorce. It talks about the important results of ‘taqwā’ for those who practice it. Taqwā is to protect oneself from displeasing Allah ‘azza wajall. One stage of taqwā or God consciousness is to abide by the laws of Allah. Another stage is staying away from prohibited things. Both are linked, as not following God’s commands is itself a prohibition.
According to ‘Allāmah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī in Tafsīr al-Mīzān, absolving of misdeeds of a believer is through forgiveness of minor sins. If a believer is God conscious and stays away from major sins, the Almighty overlooks and pardons his minor ones. This is also mentioned in Sūrat al-Nisā: If you avoid the major sins that you are forbidden, We will absolve you of your misdeeds and admit you to a noble abode (Q 4:31). Other commentators say, however, that it is possible that misdeeds here refer to all sins, major and minor.
To stay away from anything that displeases Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā is the basis of taqwā. Imam Ja‘far al-Sādiq (a) says: Strive more to perform good deeds. However, if you cannot perform a good act then do not disobey (the commands of Allah). Because if one lays the foundation of a building and does not spoil it, then, even if the progress is slow, the building will surely rise. But the person who lays the foundation and at the same time spoils it, then the walls of this building will never be raised. (https://www.al-islam.org/greater-sins-volume-1-sayyid-abdul-husayn-dastghaib-shirazi/taqwa)
It is important to note that disobeying the laws of divorce and ‘iddah as described in the preceding verses is considered sinful. Being mindful of Allah in the stressful and emotional time of divorce can be difficult to do. It is a test of God consciousness, where the believer must put aside his/her emotions and follow Allah’s command about the issue. Hence the repeated mention of taqwā in these verses and its rewards and results. Allah says in verse 2 of this Sūra: And whoever is careful of (his duty to) Allah, He will make for him a way out. Verse 3 talks about another result of taqwā: And gives him sustenance from where he does not expect. And in verse 4: and whoever is careful of (his duty to) Allah He will make easy for him his affair. And then verse 5 above also talks about taqwā.
The example of taqwā is like walking through prickly branches or thorns in a manner that avoids getting pricked. It is to walk a difficult path through life without incurring the displeasure of Allah (swt). When a marriage breaks, it becomes very easy to become bitter and resentful. Sometimes divorce can be very uncivil. The Almighty mentions taqwā so many times when talking about divorce, reminding believers of the great results and rewards of being God conscious at such a time.
Tafsīr Majma‘ al-Bayān connects this verse to other promises made by Allah, Who has made it binding on Himself that whoever:
- trusts Him, He will be sufficient for them (Q 65:3)
- believes in Him, He will guide them (Q 64:11)
- gives in His way, He will multiply it for them (Q 64:17)
- holds on to Him, He takes them to the right path (Q 3:101)
- asks from Him, He will answer them (Q 2:186)
- is conscious of his duty to Him, He will make a way out for them, make his affairs easy for him, and absolve his misdeeds, and grant him a great reward (Q 65:2,4 and 5).
Let us remember this verse when we go through stressful situations in which it is easy to forget what Allah’s pleasure lies in. Those are the times that our faith and desire to please Him are tested the most.
Sources: Shaykh Tabarsī, Tafsīr Majma‘ al-Bayān; ‘Allāmah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh.