When debate arose over verses 3:56 and 5:118 on the meaning of the word tawaffi, some argued that this word could mean “to take completely, with body and soul,” and that this verse proved that Jesus liter- ally ascended to the heavens. The Promised Messiah as challenged these people and stated:
If anyone can cite a single instance from the Holy Quran or Hadith, or from ancient or modern Arabic poetry and prose, that the word tawaffi, when applied to a human being, God being the subject, has been used in any connotation other than death and taking possession of the soul, I shall pay that person one thousand rupees. And shall always hold him in high esteem as a great scholar of the Holy Quran and Hadith.(Essence of Islam, vol. 3, p. 198)
Concerning this verse, Surah an-Nisa’, 4:35, The Promised Messiah as, Hadrat Musleh Mau‘ud ra, and Hadrat Khalifatul-Masih IV rta have translated the words as “hit them” (Tafsir Hadrat Masih Mau‘ud, vol. 3, p. 239; Tafsir Sagheer, p. 114; Holy Quran Urdu with Simple Translation, p. 134).
This is the primary meaning of the word. If we wish to translate these words differently to refute their primary meaning, such a position will contradict the Promised Messiah as, Khulafa’, and Arabic literature. If we wish to offer a secondary meaning to these words, we would have to cite examples of such use from the Holy Quran, Hadith, or classical Arabic literature-as can be understood from the challenge given by the Promised Messiah as. The people who try to justify other translations give examples of uses of the root ب-ر-ض in forms and contexts that are different from the form and context used in Surah an-Nisa’, 4:35, wherein is applied to a human being, the subject being a human being, and it is not qualified by a preposition.
There are no examples in the Holy Quran where the root ب-ر-ض is used in the same way that it is used in Surah an-Nisa’, 4:35. The Holy Quran is a relatively brief book; it does not always have multiple examples of each use of a word, so we have to turn to ahadith and Arabic literature to find similar uses of a word. When someone quotes examples of the root ب-ر-ض in different uses and contexts in the Holy Quran, it is invalid and irrelevant to its use in the verse under discussion.
For example, in 2:74, the word “hit” (ُبوه ِر ْض ا) is accompanied by the word “with” (ِب ). When trying to translate the words “hit them” (بوهن ِر اض) in Surah an-Nisa’, 4:35, this example is not valid. Also, when Hadrat Malik Ghulam Farid ra translated the words بوه ِر اض as “compare” in 2:74, he interpreted the “person that was hit” not as a human but as an “incident”:
And we said, “Compare this incident with some other similar ones.”(Holy Quran English with Short Commentary, p. 39)
Then We said, “Smite him (the murderer) for a part of his offense.”(Holy Quran English with Short Commentary, p. 39)
If we wish to present a valid alternate translation, we must be able to cite examples of this word being used in the same form and context to mean something different.
For example, the root م-ت-خ is used many times in the Holy Quran, but 33:41 is the only place where it is used in the form خاتم, while being accusative, and it’s genitive being in the plural and referring to humans. When we prove to people that Khatamun-Nabiyyin means “Seal of the Prophets,” we have to turn to ahadith and Arabic literature to find similar uses of the word. Quoting examples of the root م-ت-خ in different uses and contexts is not relevant to its use in the verse under discussion. For instance, Hadrat Abū Hurairah ra said:
A man who drank wine was brought to the Prophet sas. The Prophet sas said, “Beat him (ُبوه ِر ْض ا).” Abū Hurairah said, “So some of us beat him with our hands, and some with their shoes, and some with their garments (by twisting it) like a lash, and then when we finished, someone said to him, ‘May Allah dis- grace you!’” On that the Prophet sas said, “Do not say so, for you are helping Satan to overpower him.”(Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 86, Hadith 6)
Here, the words ُ ُوه ِ ب ْ ر اض are used with the subject as humans (the companions) and the object as a human (the drunk man), and was not qualified by a preposition (words like “with,” “upon,” or “against”). Here, the root ب-ر-ض is used in the same form and context as it is used in the Surah an-Nisa’, 4:35 and means “hit.”
If someone can find any example of the root ب-ر-ض used to mean “shun” in this use and context, then he will have a valid basis to present an argument that it can mean something other than “hit.” Otherwise, this is not a valid argument.
As an example, imagine that the Holy Quran was revealed in English. Imagine the actual revealed words in Surah an-Nisa’, 4:35 were the English words “and hit them.” Now we know that the word “hit” can have many meanings in English. “Hit” can mean “to try to seduce” as used in “he hit on her.” “Hit” can mean “to study” as used in “he hit the books.” However, if someone tried to prove that “he hit her” can mean “he tried to seduce her” by quoting the example “he hit on her,” that would obviously not be valid. If someone tried to prove that “he hit her” can mean “he studied her” by quoting the example “he hit the books,” that would obviously not be valid. Hit can mean many things when it is accompanied with words like “on,” or “upon,” or “up,” and it can mean many things when it’s object is not a human, like “books” or “bottle” or “road,” but we know that when “hit” is used with the “hit-ter” as a human, and the “person being hit” as a human, and there are no words accompanying it like “on,” or “upon,” or “up,” then it can only mean “strike physically.”
If someone wishes to prove that can mean “shun them,” he would have to find at least one example from ahadith or Arabic literature where the root ب-ر-ض is used where the subject (doer of action) and object (to whom action is done) of the root ب-ر-ض is a human, and is not qualified by a preposition (words like “with,” “upon,” and “against”).