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Holy Quran Section > English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (Table of Contents) > Chapter 66 (Al-Tahrim- The Prohibition) > Section 1 (Verses 1 to 7)



Section/Ruku 1 [Verses 1 to 7]: Prophet’s domestic relations:
Chapter 66: (Al-Tahrim: The Prohibition)
(Revealed at Madinah: 2 sections; 12 verses)

1. Introduction:

This chapter is called The Prohibition, the title being taken from the statement made in the first verse that the Prophet, as well as those who follow him, should not forbid themselves what Allah has made lawful. The incident referred to is no other than the Prophet’s temporary separation from his wives; and the arrangement of chapters, the chapter on divorce being followed by a chapter on temporary separation, corroborates this conclusion.

The first section of this chapter speaks of the relations of the Holy Prophet with his wives, while the second speaks of the progress to be made by his faithful followers. The connection between these two sections may not be clear to a superficial reader. The word zauj, which means a wife or a husband, also signifies an associate or a comrade (LL), and the spiritual relation between the Prophet and a true follower of his is often metaphorically compared to the relation subsisting between husband and wife. It should also be noted that disbelievers and believers are in the concluding verses of the section compared to women, the wives of Noah and Lot on the one hand, and the wife of Pharaoh and Mary, the mother of Jesus, on the other.

The date of revelation of this chapter may be placed about the year 7 A.H., which is the probable date of the separation.

2. Translation:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

1 O Prophet, why dost thou forbid (thyself) that which Allah has made lawful for thee? Seekest thou to please thy wives? And Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.a

2 Allah indeed has sanctioned for you the expiation of your oaths; and Allah is your Patron, and He is the Knowing, the Wise.a

3 And when the Prophet confided an information to one of his wives — but when she informed (others) of it, and Allah informed him of it, he made known part of it and passed over part. So when he told her of it, she said: Who informed thee of this? He said: The Knowing, the One Aware, informed me.a

4 If you both turn to Allah, then indeed your hearts are inclined (to this); and if you back up one another against him, then surely Allah is his Patron, and Gabriel and the righteous believers, and the angels after that are the aiders.

5 Maybe, his Lord, if he divorce you, will give him in your place wives better than you, submissive, faithful, obedient, penitent, adorers, fasters, widows, and virgins.a

6 O you who believe, save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is men and stones; over it are angels, stern and strong. They do not disobey Allah in that which He commands them, but do as they are commanded.

7 O you who disbelieve, make no excuses this day. You are rewarded only as you did.

3. Commentary:

1a. This verse is said to contain a reference to the Prophet’s conjugal relations with Mary, the Coptic lady, which, it is alleged, being discovered by his wife Hafsah, the Prophet swore not to have anything more to do with her. How far this story is worthy of credit may be gathered from the fact that Mary did enjoy the honour of standing in the same relation to the Prophet as his other wives, and that she gave birth to Ibrahim, a son of the Holy Prophet, who died in infancy. Why then should the Prophet’s conjugal relation with her be regarded with a suspicious eye? Mary was not an Arab lady, and therefore socially her status may not have been the same as that of the other wives, but so far as her relation with the Holy Prophet was concerned, there was nothing in it of a clandestine nature, and as a son’s mother (Ar. umm walad) she is ranked equally with the Holy Prophet’s wives. It is a fact that the Prophet never kept a slave. The case of Safiyyah illustrates this. She was a prisoner of war and might have been treated as a slave, but from the first she enjoyed the honour of being a wife, and no distinct or separate treatment was ever accorded to her. Nor does it appear that Mary was ever treated otherwise than as a son’s mother. The story therefore that Hafsah’s discovery of the Prophet having conjugal relations with her upset the Prophet to such a degree that he swore not to have anything more to do with her is a pure invention, and the known facts not only nullify the calumny, but brand it as another of those fables invented by Christian writers who seek to vilify Islam.

Some commentators’ version is that the Holy Prophet had gone in to Mary when he ought to have been in Hafsah’s house, but IJ holds that the reference may as well be to the Prophet’s forbidding himself the company of his wives for a month, or to his having forbidden himself the use of honey in deference to the wishes of one of his wives; other commentators are also of the opinion that the reference may be to one of these latter incidents. One of the Christian critics calls the latter incident a "ludicrous story", while Noeldeke says that it was probably invented by ‘A’ishah, the reason given being that she was chiefly concerned in this quarrel. Strange to say, the reason given is just the opposite of what is held by Noeldeke himself to be true. It was Hafsah that was chiefly concerned in the quarrel, if the story credited by Sale, Muir, and others is to be taken as correct. Again, we do not see what blame rested on either Hafsah or ‘A’ishah, if that story is correct, whereas the incident of the honey casts the blame upon both of them. Why should ‘A’ishah herself have invented a story which cast a blame (slight though it be) on her? According to the story of the Christian critics she was blameless. Not only had she no motive in inventing the story, but she should have been the first person to repudiate the incident of the honey, if it were false. In fact, it is a proof of the great trustworthiness of the reports relating to the Holy Prophet that ‘A’ishah herself is found circulating a report which cast blame on her. It shows how scrupulous, how conscientious, and how true were the companions in reporting sayings and incidents relating to the life of the Holy Prophet. For the incident is thus narrated by ‘A’ishah: "The Holy Prophet (peace and the blessings of Allah be on him!) used to take honey at Zainab’s house, and Hafsah and I agreed to tell the Prophet that he smelled as if he had taken Maghafir", which being done, the Holy Prophet, accepting their word, solemnly promised that he would take honey no more.

The reference here, however, is to the well-known temporary separation, regarding which the Holy Prophet made a vow, and which is actually spoken of as being referred to in these verses by no less an authority than ‘Umar. Bukhari relates the following report of I‘Ab in his commentary on this chapter. I‘Ab was long doubtful as to the two women spoken of in this chapter, and, finding himself alone with ‘Umar on a certain day, questioned him about it. I‘Ab tells us that before he had finished the question, ‘Umar told him that these were ‘A’ishah and Hafsah, and then went on to tell him a long story. ‘Umar told I‘Ab that they did not customarily give women any status in the days of ignorance, until Allah revealed concerning them what He revealed in the Holy Qur’an. "One day," said ‘Umar, "my wife said to me that I should take such and such a course in such and such an affair". "It is no concern of yours," was the curt reply. "Your daughter (Hafsah) returns the Prophet answer for answer until he becomes displeased, and yet you do not like me to speak to you in an affair", was the rejoinder. ‘Umar at once repaired to Hafsah, and warned her against altercations with the Prophet. " ‘A’ishah should not mislead you in this matter," was the father’s counsel to the daughter. Then he went to Umm Salamah, who was equally curt, and told ‘Umar that he had no business to interfere in matters between the Holy Prophet and his wives. Soon afterwards the Prophet separated himself temporarily from all of his wives, swearing not to go to the house of anyone of them for a month. News of this being brought to ‘Umar, he immediately went to the Holy Prophet and related what had passed between Hafsah and Umm Salamah and himself, at which the Holy Prophet smiled (B. 46:25).

This incident shows clearly that ‘Umar understood this verse to refer to this temporary separation, and the incident being a very well-known one, of which the truth cannot be doubted, seems to be the real incident referred to in v. 1. A report in IJ further corroborates the view: ‘A’ishah says that the Messenger of Allah swore not to go to his wives, so he prohibited himself from having conjugal relations with them. So as regards the oath, he was commanded to expiate it, and as regards the prohibition, it was said to him, "O Prophet, why dost thou forbid thyself that which Allah has made lawful for thee" (IJ). This report makes it clear that ‘A’ishah also looked upon the opening words of v. 1 as referring to the Prophet’s temporary separation from his wives. It should be further borne in mind that the word tahrim (inf. n. of tuharrimu, the word used here), which generally means prohibiting a thing or making it unlawful, is applied in particular to the prohibition of conjugal relations, as was done in ila (LA). [Back to verse 1]

2a. The expiation of oaths is sanctioned in 5:89. It should be noted that ila, or temporary separation, is mentioned as an introduction to the subject of divorce in 2:226, but it is actually prohibited here. Thus I’Ab is reported to have said to a man who said that he had forsworn his wife: Thou liest, for Allah says, Why dost thou forbid thyself that which Allah has made lawful? (Nas. 27:16). [Back to verse 2]

3a. There is no trustworthy report showing to what particular incident reference is here made. But as these verses speak of temporary separation which the Prophet resorted to on account of his wives demanding more of worldly comforts (33:28), it is likely that this incident was also in connection with temporary separation. From what is related in connection with this incident, it appears that originally ‘A’ishah and Hafsah led this demand and later on the other wives joined. And when the Prophet on receiving Divine revelation gave an option to his wives either to remain in his house without more worldly comforts or to part company with him and have the desired comforts, he told ‘A’ishah not to take a decision without consulting her parents (B. 46:25). Maybe it was this matter which ‘A’ishah disclosed to the others, and hence their united decision to remain in the Prophet’s house with all the worldly privations. [Back to verse 3]

5a. This shows that all those qualifications which are mentioned here were met with in the Prophet’s wives. He had been given a choice to divorce any of his wives whom he did not desire but, when the wives decided not to leave him notwithstanding the extreme austerity of his home life, he did not divorce any of them; see 33:51a. [Back to verse 5]



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Chapter 65: Al-Talaq (The Divorce)

Chapter 67: Al-Mulk (The Kingdom)

Holy Quran Section > English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (Table of Contents) > Chapter 66 (Al-Tahrim- The Prohibition) > Section 1 (Verses 1 to 7)

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