(ENGLISH) COMMENTARY BY MUHAMMED ESED
( BY MUHAMMED ESED )
33 - AL-AHZAB
In the name of god, the most gracious, The dispenser of grace: (1)

1 - According to most of the authorities, this invocation (which occurs at the beginning of every surah with the exception of surah 9) constitutes an integral part of "The Opening" and is, therefore, numbered as verse I. In all other instances, the invocation "in the name of God" precedes the surah as such, and is not counted among its verses. - Both the divine epithets rahman and rahrm are derived from the noun rahmah, which signifies "mercy", "compassion", "loving tenderness" and, more comprehensively, "grace". From the very earliest times, Islamic scholars have endeavoured to define the exact shades of meaning which differentiate the two terms. The best and simplest of these explanations is undoubtedly the one advanced by Ibn al-Qayyim (as quoted in Mandr I, 48): the term rahman circumscribes the quality of abounding grace inherent in, and inseparable from, the concept of God's Being, whereas rahrm expresses the manifestation of that grace in, and its effect upon, His creation-in other words, an aspect of His activity.

        
THE DESIGNATION of this surah is derived from the references in verses 9-27 to the War of the Confederates, which took place in the year 5 H. (see note on verse 9 below). The tone of these references, and especially of verse 20, shows that this part of the surah was revealed immediately after that war, i.e., towards the end of 5 H. Verses 37-40, which deal with the Prophets marriage to Zaynab bint Jahsh, were revealed in the same year, probably a few months earlier; the same can be said of verses 4-5, which apparently contain an indirect allusion to the Prophets adoptive relationship with Zaynabs first husband, Zayd ibn Harithah (see in this connection note on verse 37 below). On the other hand, verses 28-29 and 52 cannot have been revealed earlier than the year 7 H., and may even belong to a later period (cf. note on verse 52). There is no clear evidence as to the date of the rest of this surah, although some authorities (e.g., Suyuti) maintain that much - if not most - of it was revealed after surah 3 (The House of Imran) and before surah 4 (Women), which would place it towards the end of 3 H., or in the early part of 4 H. In brief, it can be stated with certainty that the surah was revealed in small segments at various times between the end of the first and the middle of the last third of the Medina period. This, together with the fact that a considerable portion of it deals with the personal history of the Prophet, the relationship between him and his contemporaries - in particular, his family - and certain rules of behaviour which applied explicitly, and specifically, to his wives alone, explains why this surah is so complex in its structure and so diversified in its modes of expression.
1. PROPHET! Remain conscious of God, and defer not to the deniers of the truth and the hypocrites: for God is truly all-knowing, wise.
2. And follow [but] that which comes unto thee through revelation from thy Sustainer: (1) for God is truly aware of all that you do, [O men].

1 - Lit., what is revealed to thee from thy Sustainer - indicating that He is the source of all revelation.

3. And place thy trust in God [alone]: for none is as worthy of trust as God.
4. NEVER has God endowed any man with two hearts in one body: (2) and [just as] He has never made your wives whom you may have declared to be as unlawful to you as your mothers bodies [truly] your mothers, (3) so, too, has He never made your adopted sons [truly] your sons: (4) these are but [figures of] speech uttered by your mouths - whereas God speaks the [absolute] truth: (5) and it is He alone who can show [you] the right path.

2 - Lit., within him. In the first instance, this connects with the preceding passage, implying that man cannot be truly conscious of God and at the same time defer to the views of the deniers of the truth and the hypocrites (Razi). Beyond this, however, the above sentence forms a conceptual link with the sequence, which states that it is against the God-willed laws of nature - and, therefore, unreasonable and morally inadmissible - to attribute to one and the same person two mutually incompatible roles within the framework of human relationships (Zamakhshari).

3 - This is a reference to the pre-Islamic Arabian custom called zihar, whereby a husband could divorce his wife by simply declaring, Thou art [henceforth as unlawful] to me as my mothers back, the term zahr (back) being in this case a metonym for body. In pagan Arab society, this mode of divorce was considered final and irrevocable; but a woman thus divorced was not allowed to remarry, and had to remain forever in her former husbands custody. As is evident from the first four verses of surah 58 (Al-Mujadalah) - which was revealed somewhat earlier than the present surah - this cruel pagan custom had already been abolished by the time of the revelation of the above verse, and is mentioned here only as an illustration of the subsequent dictum that the figures of speech [lit., your sayings] which you utter with your mouths do not necessarily coincide with the reality of human relations.

4 - I.e., in the sense of blood relationship: hence, the marriage restrictions applying to real sons - and, by obvious implication, daughters as well - do not apply to adoptive children. This statement has a definite bearing on verses 37 ff. below.

5 - Sc., by bringing into being the factual, biological relationship of parent and child in distinction from all man-made, social relationships like husband and wife, or foster-parent and adoptive child. In this connection it should be borne in mind that the Quran frequently uses the metaphor of Gods speech to express His creative activity.

5. [As for your adopted children,] call them by their [real] fathers names: this is more equitable in the sight of God; and if you know not who their fathers were, [call them] your brethren in faith and your friends. (6) However, you will incur no sin if you err in this respect: (7) [what really matters is] but what your hearts intend - for God is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace!

6 - I.e., make it clear that your relationship is an adoptive one, and do not create the impression that they are your real children - thus safeguarding their true identity.

7 - I.e., by making a mistake in the attribution of the childs parentage, or by calling him or her, out of love, my son or my daughter.

6. The Prophet has a higher claim on the believers than [they have on] their own selves, [seeing that he is as a father to them] and his wives are their mothers: (8) and they who are [thus] closely related have, in accordance with Gods decree, a higher claim upon one another than [was even the case between] the believers [of Yathrib] and those who had migrated [there for the sake of God]. (9) None the less, you are to act with utmost goodness towards your [other] close friends as well: (10) this [too] is written down in Gods decree.

8 - Thus, connecting with the preceding mention of voluntary, elective relationships (as contrasted with those by blood), this verse points to the highest manifestation of an elective, spiritual relationship: that of the God-inspired Prophet and the person who freely chooses to follow him. The Prophet himself is reported to have said: None of you has real faith unless I am dearer unto him than his father, and his child, and all mankind (Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Anas, with several almost identical versions in other compilations). The Companions invariably regarded the Prophet as the spiritual father of his community. Some of them - e.g., Ibn Masud (as quoted by Zamakhshari) or Ubayy ibn Kab, Ibn Abbas and Muawiyah (as quoted by Ibn Kathir) - hardly ever recited the above verse without adding, by way of explanation, seeing that he is [as] a father to them; and many of the tabi in including Mujahid, Qatadah, lkrimah and Al-Hasan (cf. Tabari and Ibn Kathir) - did the same: hence my interpolation, between brackets, of this phrase. (However, see also verse 40 of this surah and the corresponding note.) As regards the status of the Prophets wives as the mothers of the believers, this arises primarily from the fact of their having shared the life of Gods Apostle in its most intimate aspect. Consequently, they could not remarry after his death (see verse 53 below), since all the believers were, spiritually, their children.

9 - See note on the last but one sentence of 8: 75. As explained in that note, neither of these two passages (8: 75 and 33: 6) can be satisfactorily interpreted as bearing on the laws of inheritance: all endeavours to interpret them in that sense only do violence to the logical build-up and inner cohesion of the Quranic discourse. On the other hand, it is obvious that both passages have basically a similar (namely, spiritual) import - with the difference only that whereas the concluding sentences of Al-Anfal refer to the brotherhood of all believers in general, the present passage lays stress on the yet deeper, special relationship between every true believer and Gods Apostle.

10 - I.e., towards all other believers, as stressed so often in the Quran, and particularly in 8: 75 (see preceding note): in other words, a believers exalted love for the Prophet should not blind him to the fact that all believers are brethren (49:10). The extremely complex term maruf rendered by me in this context as innermost goodness, may be defined as any act [or attitude] the goodness whereof is evident to reason (Raghib).

7. AND LO! We did accept a solemn pledge from all the prophets (11) - from thee, [O Muhammad,] as well as from Noah, and Abraham, and Moses, and Jesus the son of Mary -: for We accepted a most weighty, solemn pledge from [all of] them,

11 - This parenthetic passage connects with verses 1-3 above, and relates to every prophets pledge - i.e., sacred duty - to convey Gods message to man, and thus to act as a bearer of glad tidings and a warner.

8. so that [at the end of time] He might ask those men of truth as to [what response] their truthfulness [had received on earth]. (12) And grievous suffering has He readied for all who deny the truth!

12 - Cf. 5: 109 and, more particularly, 7: 6 - We shall most certainly call to account all those unto whom Our message was sent, and We shall most certainly call to account the message-bearers [themselves].

9. O YOU who have attained to faith! Call to mind the blessings which God bestowed on you (at the time) when [enemy] hosts came down upon you, whereupon We let loose against them a storm wind and [heavenly] hosts that you could not see: (13) yet God saw all that you did.

13 - Cf. 3: 124-125 and the corresponding note. The present passage (verses 9-27) relates to the War of the Confederates (al -ahzab) - also called the War of the Trench (al -khandaq) - which took place in 5 H. AAt the instigation of the Jewish tribe of Banu n-Nadir, who had been expelled from Yathrib (Medina) after they had broken the treaty binding them to the Muslims, several of the most powerful Arabian tribes formed a confederacy with a view to overcoming, once and for all, the threat posed by Islam to the beliefs and many of the customs of pagan Arabia. In the month of Shawwal, 5 H., a force of well over 12,000 men, composed of the Quraysh and their allies - the Banu Kinanah, Banu Asad and the people of the coastlands (the Tihamah), as well as the great Najdi tribe of Ghatafan and its allies, the Hawazin (or Banu Amir) and Banu Sulaym - converged upon Medina. Forewarned of their coming, the Prophet had ordered a deep trench to be dug around the town - a defensive measure unknown in pre-Islamic Arabia - and thus brought the assault of the Confederates to a halt. At that point, however, another danger arose for the Muslims: the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayzah, who lived in the outskirts of Medina and until then had been allied with the Muslims, broke the treaty of alliance and openly joined the Confederates. Nevertheless, during a siege lasting several weeks all the attempts of the latter to cross the trench - manned by the numerically much weaker and less well-armed Muslims - were repulsed with heavy losses to the attackers; dissensions, based on mutual distrust, gradually undermined the much-vaunted alliance between the Jewish and the pagan Arab tribes; in the month of Dhu l-Qadah their frustration became complete when a bitterly-cold storm wind raged for several days, making life unbearable even for hardened warriors. And so, finally, the siege was raised and the Confederates dispersed, thus ending the last attempt of the pagans to destroy the Prophet and his community.

10. [Remember what you felt] when they came upon you from above you and from below you, (14) and when [your] eyes became dim and [your] hearts came up to [your] throats, and [when] most conflicting thoughts about God passed through your minds: (15)

14 - The Ghatafan group tried to take the trench by assault from the upper, eastern part of the Medina plain, while the Quraysh and their allies launched an attack from its lower, i.e., western part (Zamakhshari), and this obviously in consonance with their original lines of approach - the Ghatafan having come from the highlands (Najd), and the Quraysh from the coastal lowlands (the Tihamah).

15 - Lit., [when] you thought all [manner of] thoughts about God: i.e., whether He would save you or allow your enemies to triumph.

11. [for] there and then were the believers tried, and shaken with a shock severe.
12. And [remember how it was] when the hypocrites and those with hearts diseased (16) said [to one another], God and His Apostle have promised us nothing but delusions! (17)

16 - This phrase obviously denotes here the weak of faith among the believers.

17 - This is a reference to Muhammads prophetic vision, at the time of digging the trench, of the future Muslim conquest of the whole Arabian Peninsula as well as of the Persian and Byzantine Empires (Tabari). Several authentic Traditions testify to the Prophets announcement of this vision at the time in question.

13. and when some of them said, O you people of Yathrib! You cannot withstand [the enemy] here: (18).] hence, go back [to your homes]! Whereupon a party from among them asked leave of the Prophet, saying, Behold, our houses are exposed [to attack]! The while they were not [really] exposed: they wanted nothing but to flee.

18 - I.e., outside the city, defending the trench

14. Now if their town had been stormed, (19) and they had been asked [by the enemy] to commit apostasy, [the hypocrites] would have done so without much delay (20)

19 - Lit., if entry to them had been forced.

20 - Lit., and would not have tarried more than a little [while].

15. although ere that they had vowed before God that they would never turn their backs [on His message]: and a vow made to God must surely be answered for!
16. Say: Whether you flee from [natural] death or from being slain [in battle], flight will not profit you - for, however you fare, (21) you are not [allowed] to enjoy life for more than a little while!

21 - Lit., for then or in that case (idhan), signifying here however it may be.

17. Say: Who is there that could keep you away from God if it be His will to harm you, or if it be His will to show you mercy? For, [do they not know that] besides God they can find none to protect them, and none to bring them succour?
18. God is indeed aware of those of you who would divert others [from fighting in His cause], as well as of those who say to their brethren, Come hither to us [and face the enemy]! The while they [themselves] join battle but seldom,
19. begrudging you all help. But then, when danger threatens, thou canst see them looking to thee [for help, O Prophet], their eyes rolling [in terror] like [the eyes of] one who is overshadowed by death: yet as soon as the danger has passed, they will assail you [believers] with sharp tongues, begrudging you all that is good! [People like] these have never known faith - and therefore God will cause all their works to come to nought: for this is indeed easy for God.
20. They think that the Confederates have not [really] withdrawn; (22) and should the Confederates return, these [hypocrites] would prefer to be in the desert, among the bedouin, asking for news about you, [O believers, from far away;] and even were they to find themselves in your midst, they would but make a pretence at fighting [by your side]. (23)

22 - Sc., but would come back in force and resume the siege.

23 - Lit., they would not fight except a little.

21. VERILY, in the Apostle of God you have a good example for everyone who looks forward [with hope and awe] to God and the Last Day, and remembers God unceasingly. (24)

24 - This verse (and the passage that follows) connects with verses 9 - 11 above, and especially with verse 11 - there and then were the believers tried, and shaken with a shock severe - which summarizes, as it were, their experiences during the critical days and weeks of the War of the Trench. Although it is addressed, in the first instance, to those early defenders of Medina who were thus exhorted to emulate the Prophets faith, courage and steadfastness, the above verse is timeless in its import and its validity for all situations and conditions. Since the verb rajawa, as well as the noun-forms rajw, rujuww and raja derived from it, carry the connotation of both hope and fear (or awe), I have rendered yarju accordingly.

22. And [so,] when the believers saw the Confederates [advancing against them], they said, This is what God and His Apostle have promised us!- and, Truly spoke God and His Apostle ! (25) and all this but increased their faith and their readiness to surrender themselves unto God.

25 - These seem to be allusions to 29: 2 (which may have been one of the last Meccan revelations) as well as to 2:155 and 214 (i.e., verses of the first surah of the Medina period).]

23. Among the believers are men who have [always] been true to what they have vowed before God; (26) and among them are such as have [already] redeemed their pledge by death, and such as yet await [its fulfillment] without having changed [their resolve] in the least.

26 - Specifically, this verse is said to apply to certain of the Companions who vowed, at the time of the early campaigns, that they would fight until death at the Prophets side (Zamakhshari); in its wider sense, however, it relates to all efforts involving a supreme sacrifice in Gods cause.

24. [Such trials are imposed upon man] so that God may reward the truthful for having been true to their word, and cause the hypocrites to suffer - if that be His will - or [if they repent,] accept their repentance: (27) for, verily, God is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace!

27 - Cf. 6: 12 God, who has willed upon Himself the law of grace and mercy - and the corresponding note.

25. Thus, for all their fury, God repulsed those who were bent on denying the truth; (28) no advantage did they gain, since God was enough to [protect] the believers in battle - seeing that God is most powerful, almighty;

28 - I.e., the pagans among the Confederates (see note on verse 9 above); their Jewish allies are mentioned separately in the next verse.

26. and He brought down from their strongholds those of the followers of earlier revelation who had aided the aggressors, (29) and cast terror into their hearts: some you slew, and some you made captive;

29 - Lit., them, i.e., the tribes allied against Muhammad and his community. The followers of earlier revelation (ahl al-kitab) referred to here were the Jews of the tribe of Banu Qurayzah, who despite their monotheistic faith had betrayed the Muslims and made common cause with the pagan Confederates. After the dismal rout of the latter, the Banu Qurayzah, anticipating the vengeance of the community which they had betrayed, withdrew to their fortresses in the vicinity of Medina. After a siege lasting twenty-five days they surrendered to the Muslims, forfeiting all that they possessed.

27. and He made you heirs to their lands, and their houses, and their goods - and [promised you] lands on which you had never yet set foot: (30) for God has indeed the power to will anything.

30 - I.e., lands which the Muslims were to conquer and hold in the future. This clause - with its allusion to yet more prosperous times to come - provides a connection between the present passage and the next.

28. O PROPHET! Say unto thy wives: If you desire [but] the life of this world and its charms - well, then, I shall provide for you and release you in a becoming manner; (31)

31 - By the time this verse was revealed (see note on verse 52 of this surah) the Muslims had conquered the rich agricultural region of Khaybar, and the community had grown more prosperous. But while life was becoming easier for most of its members, this ease was not reflected in the household of the Prophet who, as before, allowed himself and his family only the absolute minimum necessary for the most simple living. In view of the changed circumstances, it was no more than natural that his wives were longing for a share in the comparative luxuries which other Muslim women could now enjoy: but an acquiescence by Muhammad to their demand would have conflicted with the principle, observed by him throughout his life, that the standard of living of Gods Apostle and his family should not be higher than that of the poorest of the believers.

29. but if you desire God and His Apostle, and [thus the good of] the life in the hereafter, then [know that], verily, for the doers of good among you God has readied a mighty reward! (32)

32 - When, immediately after their revelation, the Prophet recited the above two verses to his wives, all of them emphatically rejected all thought of separation and declared that they had chosen God and His Apostle and the [good of the] hereafter (recorded in several compilations of ahadith, among them Bukhari and Muslim). Some of the earliest Islamic scholars (e.g., Qatadah and Al-Hasan, as quoted by Tabari) held that the subsequent revelation of verse 52 of this surah constituted Gods reward, as it were, for this attitude.

30. O wives of the Prophet! If any of you were to become guilty of manifestly immoral conduct, (33) double [that of other sinners] would be her suffering [in the hereafter]: for that is indeed easy for God.

33 - Regarding this connotation of the term fahishah, see surah 4, second note on verse16. According to Zamakhshari, in his commentary on the present verse, this term comprises all that may be described as a gross sin (kabirah).

31. But if any of you devoutly obeys God and His Apostle and does good deeds, on her shall We bestow her reward twice-over: for We shall have readied for her a most excellent sustenance [in the life to come].
32. O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any of the [other] women, provided that you remain [truly] conscious of God. (34) Hence, be not over-soft in your speech, lest any whose heart is diseased should be moved to desire [you]: but, withal, speak in a kindly way.

34 - Sc., and, thus, conscious of your special position as the consorts of Gods Apostle and mothers of the believers.

33. And abide quietly in your homes, and do not flaunt your charms as they used to flaunt them in the old days of pagan ignorance; (35) and be constant in prayer, and render the purifying dues, and pay heed unto God and His Apostle: for God only wants to remove from you all that might be loathsome, O you members of the [Prophets] household, and to purify you to utmost purity.

35 - The term jahiliyyah denotes the period of a peoples - or civilizations - moral ignorance between the obliteration of one prophetic teaching and the emergence of another; and, more specifically, the period of Arabian paganism before the advent of Muhammad. Apart from these historical connotations, however, the term describes the state of moral ignorance or unconsciousness in its general sense, irrespective of time or social environment. (See also note on 5: 50.)]
34. And bear in mind all that is recited in your homes of Gods messages and [His] wisdom: for God is unfathomable [in His wisdom], all-aware. (36)

36 - For the meaning of the term latif as applied to God, especially in combination with the term khabir, see note on 6: 103.

35. VERILY, for all men and women who have surrendered themselves unto God, and all believing men and believing women, and all truly devout men and truly devout women, and all men and women who are true to their word, and all men and women who are patient in adversity, and all men and women who humble themselves [before God], and all men and women who give in charity, and all self-denying men and self-denying women, (37) and all men and women who are mindful of their chastity, (38) and all men and women who remember God unceasingly: for [all of] them has God readied forgiveness of sins and a mighty reward.

37 - The term saim, usually rendered as fasting, has here its primary connotation of one who abstains [from anything] or denies to himself [anything]: cf. 19: 26, where the noun sawm denotes abstinence from speech.

38 - Lit., the men who guard their private parts and the women who guard [them]: see note on 24: 30.

36. Now whenever God and His Apostle have decided a matter, (39) it is not for a believing man or a believing woman to claim freedom of choice insofar as they themselves are concerned: (40) for he who [thus] rebels against God and His Apostle has already, most obviously, gone astray. (41)

39 - I.e., whenever a specific law has been formulated as such in the Quran or in an injunction promulgated by the Prophet.]

40 - Lit., to have a choice in their concern (min amrihim) - i.e., to let their attitude or course of action be determined, not by the relevant law, but by their personal interests or predilections.

41 - With the next verse, the discourse returns to the problem of elective relationships touched upon in verses 4 ff. Several years before Muhammads call to prophethood, his wife Khadijah made him a present of a young slave, Zayd ibn Harithah, a descendant of the North-Arabian tribe of Banu Kalb, who had been taken captive as a child in the course of one of the many tribal wars and then sold into slavery at Mecca. As soon as he became the boys owner, Muhammad freed him, and shortly afterwards adopted him as his son; and Zayd, in his turn, was among the first to embrace Islam. Years later, impelled by the desire to break down the ancient Arabian prejudice against slaves or even a freedmans marrying a free-born woman, the Prophet persuaded Zayd to marry his (Muhammads) own cousin, Zaynab bint Jahsh, who, without his being aware of it, had been in love with Muhammad ever since her childhood. Hence, she consented to the proposed marriage with great reluctance, and only in deference to the authority of the Prophet. Since Zayd, too, was not at all keen on this alliance (being already happily married to another freed slave, Umm Ayman, the mother of his son Usamah), it was not surprising that the marriage did not bring happiness to either Zaynab or Zayd. On several occasions the latter was about to divorce his new wife who, on her part, did not make any secret of her dislike of Zayd; and each time they were persuaded by the Prophet to persevere in patience and not to separate. In the end, however, the marriage proved untenable, and Zayd divorced Zaynab in the year 5 H. Shortly afterwards the Prophet married her in order to redeem what he considered to be his moral responsibility for her past unhappiness and to demonstrate that divorcee of ex-slave was worthy of being a wife of the prophet and thus one of the mother of believers. This marriage was also meant to exemplify a point of canon law as described below

37. AND LO, [O Muhammad,] thou didst say unto the one to whom God had shown favour and to whom thou hadst shown favour, (42) Hold on to thy wife, and remain conscious of God! And [thus] wouldst thou hide within thyself something that God was about to bring to light (43) for thou didst stand in awe of [what] people [might think], whereas it was God alone of whom thou shouldst have stood in awe! (44) [But] then, when Zayd had come to the end of his union with her, (45) We gave her to thee in marriage, so that [in future] no blame should attach to the believers for [marrying] the spouses of their adopted children when the latter have come to the end of their union with them. (46) And [thus] Gods will was done.

42 - I.e., Zayd ibn Harithah, whom God had caused to become one of the earliest believers, and whom the Prophet had adopted as his son.

43 - Namely, that the marriage of Zayd and Zaynab, which had been sponsored by Muhammad himself, and on which he had so strongly insisted, was a total failure and could only end in divorce (see also next note).

44 - Lit., whereas God was more worthy (ahaqq) that thou shouldst stand in awe of Him. Referring to this divine reprimand (which, in itself, disproves the allegation that the Quran was composed by Muhammad), Aishah is reliably quoted as having said, Had the Apostle of God been inclined to suppress anything of what was revealed to him, he would surely have suppressed this verse (Bukhari and Muslim).

45 - Lit., ended his want of [or claim on] her, sc., by divorcing her (Zamakhshari).

46 - Thus, apart from the Prophets desire to make amends for Zaynabs past unhappiness, the divine purpose in causing him to marry the former wife of his adopted son (stressed in the phrase, We gave her to thee in marriage) was to show that - contrary to what the pagan Arabs believed - an adoptive relationship does not involve any of the marriage-restrictions which result from actual, biological parent-and-child relations (cf. note on verse 4 of this surah).

38. [Hence,] no blame whatever attaches to the Prophet for [having done] what God has ordained for him. (47) [Indeed, such was] Gods way with those that have passed away aforetime (48) and [remember that] Gods will is always destiny absolute-;

47 - I.e., his marriage with Zaynab, which was meant to exemplify a point of canon law as well as to satisfy what the Prophet regarded as his personal moral duty.

48 - I.e., the prophets who preceded Muhammad, in all of whom, as in him, all personal desires coincided with their willingness to surrender themselves to God: an inborn, harmonious disposition of the spirit which characterizes Gods elect and - as the subsequent, parenthetic clause declares - is their destiny absolute (qadar maqdur).

39. [and such will always be His way with] those who convey Gods messages [to the world], and stand in awe of Him, and hold none but God in awe: for none can take count [of mans doings] as God does!
40. [And know, O believers, that] Muhammad is not the father of any one of your men, (49) but is Gods Apostle and the Seal of all Prophets. (50) And God has indeed full knowledge of everything.

49 - I.e., he is the spiritual father of the whole community (cf. note on verse 6 of this surah), and not of any one person or particular persons - thus, incidentally, refuting the erroneous idea that physical descent from a prophet confers, by itself, any merit on the persons concerned.

50 - I.e., the last of the prophets, just as a seal (khatam) marks the end of a document; apart from this, the term khatam is also synonymous with khitam, the end or conclusion of a thing: from which it follows that the message revealed through Muhammad - the Quran - must be regarded as the culmination and the end of all prophetic revelation (cf. note on the first sentence of the second paragraph of 5: 48, and note on 7: 158). See also note on 21: 107.

41. O YOU who have attained to faith! Remember God with unceasing remembrance,
42. and extol His limitless glory from morn to evening. (51)

51 - Lit., at morn and evening, i.e., at all times.

43. He it is who bestows His blessings upon you, with His angels [echoing Him], so that He might take you out of the depths of darkness into the light. And, indeed, a dispenser of grace is He unto the believers.
44. On the Day when they meet Him, they will be welcomed with the greeting, Peace; and He will have readied for them a most excellent reward.
45. [And as for thee,] O Prophet - behold, We have sent thee as a witness [to the truth], and as a herald of glad tidings and a warner,
46. and as one who summons [all men] to God by His leave, (52) and as a light-giving beacon.

52 - I.e., at His behest (Tabari).

47. And [so,] convey to the believers the glad tiding that a great bounty from God awaits them;
48. and defer not to [the likes and dislikes of] the deniers of the truth and the hypocrites, and disregard their hurtful talk, (53) and place thy trust in God: for none is as worthy of trust as God.

53 - Or: yet [withal,] abstain from injuring them (Zamakhshari - depending on whether adhahum is taken to mean the hurt caused by them or done to them.

49. O YOU who have attained to faith! If you marry believing women and then divorce them ere you have touched them, you have no reason to expect, and to calculate, any waiting period on their part: (54) hence, make [at once] provision for them, and release them in a becoming manner. (55)

54 - Lit., you have no waiting-period whatever upon them which you should count - i.e., which either of you should take into account as an obligation: cf. the first part of 2: 228, and the corresponding note. Since the question of pregnancy does not arise if the marriage has not been consummated, a waiting-period on the part of the divorced wife would be meaningless and of no benefit either to her or to her former husband.

55 - This injunction, relating to certain marital problems which affect the believers in general, forms an introduction, as it were, to resumption, in the next verse, of the discourse on the marital laws applying exclusively to the Prophet: thus, it connects with the passage beginning with the words, O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any of the [other] women (verse 32), as well as with the subsequent reference to his marriage with Zaynab (verses 37 f.).

50. O PROPHET! Behold, We have made lawful to thee thy wives unto whom thou hast paid their dowers, (56) as well as those whom thy right hand has come to possess from among the captives of war whom God has bestowed upon thee. (57) And [We have made lawful to thee] the daughters of thy paternal uncles and aunts, and the daughters of thy maternal uncles and aunts, who have migrated with thee [to Yathrib]; (58) and any believing woman who offers herself freely to the Prophet and whom the Prophet might be willing to wed: (59) [this latter being but] a privilege for thee, and not for other believers - [seeing that] We have already made known what We have enjoined upon them with regard to their wives and those whom their right hands may possess. (60) [And] in order that thou be not burdened with [undue] anxiety - for God is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace

56 - The term ajr is in this context synonymous with faridah in its specific sense of dower (mahr): see note on surah 2: 236.

57 - As pointed out in several places (see, in particular, note on 4: 25), Islam does not countenance any form of concubinage, and categorically prohibits sexual relations between a man and a woman unless they are lawfully married to one another. In this respect, the only difference between a free woman and a slave is that whereas the former must receive a dower from her husband, no such obligation is imposed on a man who marries his rightfully owned slave (lit., one whom his right hand possesses) - that is, a woman taken captive in a holy war (jihad) waged in defense of the Faith or of liberty (notes on 2 :190 and on 8: 67) -: for, in such a case, the freedom conferred upon the bride by the very act of marriage is considered to be equivalent to a dower.

58 - This was - in addition to his not being allowed to divorce any of his wives (see verse 52 below) - a further restriction imposed on the Prophet in the matter of marriage: whereas all other Muslims are free to marry any of their paternal or maternal cousins, the Prophet was allowed to marry only such from among them as had proved their strong, early attachment to Islam by having accompanied him on his exodus (the hijrah) from Mecca to Medina. In the opinion of Baghawi - an opinion obviously based on the corresponding, ancient Arabian usage - the term daughters of thy paternal uncles and aunts comprises in this context not only the actual paternal cousins but, in general, all women of the tribe of Quraysh, to which Muhammads father belonged, while the term daughters of thy maternal uncles and aunts comprises all women of his mothers tribe, the Banu Zuhrah.

59 - The relevant clause reads, literally, if she offered herself as a gift (in wahabat nafsaha) to the Prophet. Most of the classical commentators take this to mean without demanding or expecting a dower (mahr), which, as far as ordinary Muslims are concerned, is an essential item in a marriage agreement (cf. 4: 4 and 24, and the corresponding notes; also surah 2: 236).

60 - The above parenthetic sentence refers to the previously revealed, general laws relating to marriage (see 2: 221, 4: 3-4 and 19-25, as well as the corresponding notes), and particularly the laws bearing on the question of dower.

51. [know that] thou mayest put off for a time whichever of them thou pleasest, and mayest take unto thee whichever thou pleasest; and [that,] if thou seek out any from whom thou hast kept away [for a time], thou wilt incur no sin [thereby]: (61) this will make it more likely that their eyes are gladdened [whenever they see thee], (62) and that they do not grieve [whenever they are overlooked], and that all of them may find contentment in whatever thou hast to give them: for God [alone] knows what is in your hearts - and God is indeed all-knowing, forbearing. (63)

61 - Thus, the Prophet was told that he need not observe a strict rotation in the conjugal attentions due to his wives, although he himself, impelled by an inborn sense of fairness, always endeavoured to give them a feeling of absolute equality.

62 - I.e., by the inner certainty that whenever he turned to any of them, he did so on impulse, out of genuine affection, and not out of a sense of marital obligation.

63 - According to a hadith on the authority of Aishah, recorded in the Musnad of Ibn Hanbal, the Prophet used to divide his attentions equitably among his wives, and then would pray: O God! I am doing whatever is in my power: do not, then, blame me for [failing in] something which is in Thy power [alone], and not in mine!- thus alluding to his heart, and to loving some [of his wives] more than others.

52. No [other] women shall henceforth be lawful to thee (64) nor art thou [allowed] to supplant [any of] them by other wives, (65) even though their beauty should please thee greatly -: [none shall be lawful to thee] beyond those whom thou [already] hast come to possess. (66) And God keeps watch over everything.

64 - Some commentators (e.g., Tabari) assume that this restriction relates to the four categories of women enumerated in verse 50 above: it is, however, much more probable that it is a prohibition barring the Prophet from marrying any woman in addition to those to whom he was already married (Baghawi, Zamakhshari). Some of the earliest, most outstanding authorities on the Quran, like Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, Ad-Dahhak, Qatadah, Ibn Zayd (all of them cited by Ibn Kathir), or Al-Hasan al-Basri (quoted by Tabari in his commentary on verses 28-29), link this prohibition of further marriages with the choice between the charms of worldly life and the good of the hereafter with which the wives of the Prophet were confronted on the strength of verses 28-29, and their emphatic option for God and His Apostle (cf. note on verse 29 above). All those early authorities describe the revelation of verse 52 and the assurance which it was meant to convey to the wives of the Prophet - as Gods reward, in this world, of their faith and fidelity. Since it is inconceivable that the Prophet could have disregarded the categorical injunction, No [other] women shall henceforth be lawful to thee, the passage in question cannot have been revealed earlier than the year 7 H., that is, the year in which the conquest of Khaybar and the Prophets marriage with Safiyyah - his last marriage - took place. Consequently, verses 28-29 (with which, as we have seen, verse 52 is closely connected) must have been revealed at that later period, and not, as some commentators think, in the year 5 H. (i.e., at the time of the Prophets marriage with Zaynab).

65 - I.e., to divorce any of them with a view to taking another wife in her stead (with the prohibitive accent on the supplanting- i.e., divorcing - of any of his wives).

66 - In my opinion, the expression ma malakat yaminuka (lit., what thy right hand possesses, or has come to possess) has here the same meaning as in 4: 24, namely, those whom thou hast come to possess through wedlock (see note on surah 4: 24); thus, the above verse is to be understood as limiting the Prophets marriages to those already contracted.

53. O YOU who have attained to faith! Do not enter the Prophets dwellings unless you are given leave; [and when invited] to a meal, do not come [so early as] to wait for it to be readied: but whenever you are invited, enter [at the proper time]; and when you have partaken of the meal, disperse without lingering for the sake of mere talk: that, behold, might give offence to the Prophet, and yet he might feel shy of [asking] you [to leave]: but God is not shy of [teaching you] what is right. (67) And [as for the Prophets wives,] whenever you ask them for anything that you need, ask them from behind a screen: (68) this will but deepen the purity of your hearts and theirs. Moreover, it does not behove you to give offence to Gods Apostle - just as it would not behove you ever to marry his widows after he has passed away: (69) that, verily, would be an enormity in the sight of God.

67 - Connecting with the reference, in verses 45-48, to the Prophets mission, the above passage is meant to stress his unique position among his contemporaries; but as is so often the case with Quranic references to historical events and situations, the ethical principle enunciated here is not restricted to a particular time or environment. By exhorting the Prophets Companions to revere his person, the Quran reminds all believers, at all times, of his exalted status (cf. note on 2: 104); beyond that, it teaches them certain rules of behaviour bearing on the life of the community as such: rules which, however insignificant they may appear at first glance, are of psychological value in a society that is to be governed by a genuine feeling of brotherhood, mutual consideration, and respect for the sanctity of each others personality and privacy.

68 - The term hijab denotes anything that intervenes between two things, or conceals, shelters or protects the one from the other; it may be rendered, according to the context, as barrier, obstacle, partition, screen, curtain, veil, etc., in both the concrete and abstract connotations of these words. The prohibition to approach the Prophets wives otherwise than from behind a screen or curtain may be taken literally - as indeed it was taken by most of the Companions of the Prophet - or metaphorically, indicating the excepttional reverence due to these mothers of the faithful.

69 - Lit., to marry his wives after him.

54. Whether you do anything openly or in secret, [remember that,] verily, God has full knowledge of everything.
55. [However,] it is no sin for them (70) [to appear freely] before their fathers, or their sons, or their brothers, or their brothers sons, or their sisters sons, or their womenfolk, or such [male slaves] as their right hands may possess. But [always, O wives of the Prophet,] (71) remain conscious of God - for, behold, God is witness unto everything.

70 - I.e., the wives of the Prophet (connecting with the injunction, in verse 53 above, that they should be spoken to from behind a screen).

71 - This interpolation is conditioned by the feminine gender of the subsequent plural imperative ittaqina.

56. Verily, God and His angels bless the Prophet: [hence,] O you who have attained to faith, bless him and give yourselves up [to his guidance] in utter self-surrender!
57. Verily, as for those who [knowingly] affront God and His Apostle - God will reject * them in this world and in the life to come; and shameful suffering will He ready for them. (72)

72 - *In classical Arabic, the term lanah is more or less synonymous with ibad (removal into distance or banishment); hence. Gods lanah denotes His rejection of a sinner from all that is good (Lisan al-Arab) or exclusion from His grace (Manar II, 50). The term malun which occurs in verse 61 below signifies, therefore, one who is bereft of Gods grace.

58. And as for those who malign believing men and believing women without their having done any wrong - they surely burden themselves with the guilt of calumny, and [thus] with a flagrant sin!
59. O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters, as well as all [other] believing women, that they should draw over themselves some of their outer garments [when in public]: this will be more conducive to their being recognized [as decent women] and not annoyed. (73) But [withal,] God is indeed much- forgiving, a dispenser of grace! (74)

73 - Cf. the first two sentences of 24: 31 and the corresponding notes.

74 - The specific, time-bound formulation of the above verse (evident in the reference to the wives and daughters of the Prophet), as well as the deliberate vagueness of the recommendation that women should draw upon themselves some of their outer garments min jalabibihinna) when in public, makes it clear that this verse was not meant to be an injunction (hukm) in the general, timeless sense of this term but, rather, a moral guideline to be observed against the ever-changing background of time and social environment. This finding is reinforced by the concluding reference to Gods forgiveness and grace.

60. THUS IT IS: if (75) the hypocrites, and they in whose hearts is disease, (76) and they who, by spreading false rumours, would cause disturbances (77) in the City [of the Prophet] desist not [from their hostile doings]. We shall indeed give thee mastery over them, [O Muhammad] - and then they will not remain thy neighbours in this [city] for more than a little while: (78)

75 - For my above rendering of lain see note on surah 30: 51. With this passage, the discourse returns to the theme touched upon in verse 1 and more fully dealt with in verses 9-27: namely, the opposition with which the Prophet and his followers were faced in their early years at Yathrib (which by that time had come to be known as Madinat an-Nabi, the City of the Prophet).

76 - See note on verse 12 above.

77 - Thus Zamakhshari, explaining the term al-murjifun in the above context.

78 - I.e., there will be open warfare between thee and them, which will result in their expulsion from Medina: a prediction which was fulfilled in the course of time.

61. bereft of Gods grace, they shall be seized wherever they may be found, and slain one and all. (79)

79 - Lit., slain with [a great] slaying. See in this connection note on 2: 191. For my rendering of malunin as bereft of Gods grace, see note on verse 57 above.

62. Such has been Gods way with those who [sinned in like manner and] passed away aforetime - and never wilt thou find any change in Gods way!
63. PEOPLE will ask thee about the Last Hour. Say: Knowledge thereof rests with God alone; yet for all thou knowest, the Last Hour may well be near!
64. Verily, God has rejected the deniers of the truth, and has readied for them a blazing fire,
65. therein to abide beyond the count of time: no protector will they find, and none to bring them succour.
66. On the Day when their faces shall be tossed about in the fire, (80) they will exclaim, Oh, would that we had paid heed unto God, and paid heed unto the Apostle!

80 - As in several other instances in the Quran, the face, being the noblest and most expressive part of a human person, represents here mans personality in its entirety; and its being tossed about in the fire is symbolic of the annihilation of the sinners will and his reduction to utter passivity.

67. And they will say: O our Sustainer! Behold, we paid heed unto our leaders and our great men, and it is they who have led us astray from the right path!
68. O our Sustainer! Give them double suffering, and banish them utterly from Thy grace! (90)

90 - Lit., reject them (il anhum) with a great rejection, i.e., from Thy grace.

69. O YOU who have attained to faith! Be not like those [children of Israel] who gave offence to Moses, and [remember that] God showed him to be innocent of whatever they alleged [against him or demanded of him]: (91) for of great honour was he in the sight of God.

91 - This is an allusion to the aspersions occasionally cast upon Moses by some of his followers and mentioned in the Old Testament (e.g., Numbers xii, 1-13), as well as to the blasphemous demands of which the Quran speaks - e.g., O Moses, indeed we shall not believe thee until we see God face to face (2: 55) or, Go forth, thou and thy Sustainer, and fight, both of you! (5: 24). These instances are paralleled here with the frequently cited accusations that Muhammad had invented the Quran and then falsely attributed it to God, that he was a madman, and so forth, as well as with frivolous demands to prove his prophethood by bringing about miracles or - as is re-stated in verse 63 of this surah - by predicting the date of the Last Hour.

70. O you who have attained to faith! Remain conscious of God, and [always] speak with a will to bring out [only] what is just and true (92)

92 - The expression qawl sadid signifies, literally, a saying that hits the mark, i.e., is truthful, relevant and to the point. In the only other instance where this expression is used in the Quran (at the end of 4: 9) it may be appropriately rendered as speaking in a just manner; in the present instance, however, it obviously relates to speaking of others in a manner devoid of all hidden meanings, insinuations and frivolous suspicions, aiming at no more and no less than the truth.

71. [whereupon] He will cause your deeds to be virtuous, and will forgive you your sins. And [know that] whoever pays heed unto God and His Apostle has already attained to a mighty triumph.
72. Verily, We did offer the trust [of reason and volition] to the heavens, and the earth, and the mountains: (93) but they refused to bear it because they were afraid of it. Yet man took it up (94) for, verily, he has always been prone to be most wicked, most foolish.

93 - The classical commentators give all kinds of laborious explanations to the term amanah (trust) occurring in this parable, but the most convincing of them (mentioned in Lane I, 102, with reference to the above verse) are reason, or intellect, and the faculty of volition - i.e., the ability to choose between two or more possible courses of action or modes of behaviour, and thus between good and evil.

94 - Sc., and then failed to measure up to the moral responsibility arising from the reason and the comparative free will with which he has been endowed (Zamakhshari. This obviously applies to the human race as such and not necessarily to all of its individuals.

73. [And so it is] that God imposes suffering on the hypocrites, both men and women, as well as on the men and women who ascribe divinity to aught beside Him. (95) And [so, too, it is] that God turns in His mercy unto the believing men and believing women: for God is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace!

95 - In other words, on those who offend against what their own reason and conscience would have them do. This suffering, whether in this world or in the hereafter, is but a causal consequence - as the lam al-aqibah at the beginning of this sentence shows - of mans moral failure, and not an arbitrary act of God. (Cf. in this connection note on 2: 7. which speaks of Gods sealing the hearts of those who are bent on denying the truth.)