33. Al-Ahzab (The Confederates)

This sūrah of 73 verses was revealed in the 5th year of the Madīnan period, and derives its name from verse 20, where the word Ahzāb or Al-Ahzab (The Confederates or The Clans) occurs, referring to the allied enemy forces that besieged Madīnah. The sūrah concentrates on the Battle of the Trench, which ensued from that siege, and the campaign against the Banū Qurayzah that followed the battle. In addition, the sūrah introduces laws pertaining to marriage and divorce; describes new regulations concerning the law of inheritance and Islamic family life; and discusses the relation between the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, and his wives and the Islamic community. It also abolishes a form of adoption that had been an established custom in the pre-Islamic period.

In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.

1. O (most illustrious) Prophet! Keep your duty to God in utmost reverence for Him and piety, and pay no heed to (the offers of) the unbelievers and hypocrites. Surely God is All-Knowing, All-Wise.1

2. Follow what is revealed to you from your Lord. Surely God is fully aware of all that you do.

3. And put your trust in God. God suffices as One on Whom to rely (and to Whom to refer all affairs).

4. God has not made for any man two hearts within his body (one to be assigned for belief in and worship of Him, and the other to belief in and worship of others). Nor has He made your wives whom you may declare to be unlawful to you by using against them the expression, “Be as my mother’s back to me!” (to mean you divorce them2), your mothers (in fact). Nor has He made your adopted sons your sons (in fact).3 Those are only expressions you utter with your mouths, whereas God speaks the truth and He guides to the right way.

5. Call them (the children you have adopted) after their (real) fathers: doing so is more equitable in the sight of God. If you do not know who their fathers are, then (they are) your brothers in religion and your protégés (so observe the duties of brotherhood between you and them). However, there is no blame on you because of the mistakes you may make unintentionally (in naming them), but what your hearts have premeditated (matters greatly). God is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate.

6. The Prophet has a higher claim on the believers than they have on their own selves, and (seeing that he is as a father to them) his wives are (as) their mothers.4 Those who are bound by blood have a greater right (in inheritance and charity) upon one another according to God’s Book than other believers and the Emigrants – except that you must (nevertheless) act with kindness toward your friends (and bequeath some of your goods to them).5 That is what is written in the Book (of God’s Decree).

7. And (remember) when We took from the Prophets their covenant, and from you (O Muhammad), and from Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus son of Mary, we took from them a solemn covenant,

8. So that He may question the truthful concerning their truthfulness (and all that which was entrusted to them);6 and He has prepared a painful punishment for the unbelievers.

9. O you who believe! Remember God’s favor on you when hosts (of the enemy) came down on you, and We sent against them a fierce (freezing) wind and (heavenly) hosts that you could not see. And God saw all that you did.7

10. (Remember) when they came upon you from above you (from the east), and from below you (from the west), and when (your) eyes turned dull, and (your) hearts came up to the throats, and (those of weak faith among) you were harboring vain thoughts about God.8

11. There (amid those circumstances) the believers were tried, and shaken with a mighty shock.

12. And (remember) when the hypocrites and those in whose hearts was a disease (at just that point in the situation) were saying: “God and His Messenger promised us nothing but delusion.”9

13. And when a group among them said: “O people of Yathrīb!10 You cannot withstand the enemy (here); therefore, go back (to your homes).” And a party among them asked for leave of the Prophet, saying, “Surely our houses are exposed (to attack),” though they were not exposed (indeed). They desired nothing but to flee.

14. Now if they (and their houses) had been invaded from all sides (of the city), and they had been asked to betray (their faith), they would certainly have done so with but little hesitation.

15. Yet before that they had (in swearing allegiance to God’s Messenger) made a covenant with God, that they would never turn their backs (in the face of the enemy). Covenants with God will certainly be accounted for.

16. Say: “Flight will be of no avail to you if you flee from death or being killed (in battle). However you fare, you are not allowed to enjoy life more than a little while (only until your appointed time).”

17. Say: “Who is there that can hinder God from it, if He wills evil for you, or if He wills mercy for you?” They will not find for themselves, apart from God, either guardian or helper.

18. God certainly knows those of you who are bent on diverting (others from fighting), as well as those who (being hypocrites) say to their brothers, “(Give up risking your life, so) come and join with us,” and they do not join the struggle (of battle) except only a little,

19. Being very miserly (in joining you, and reluctant to help you in God’s cause). So when (danger threatens in battle and) fear comes, you see them (O Messenger) looking to you (for help), their eyes rolling (in terror) like the eyes of one who swoons to death. But once (the battle subsides and) fear departs, they assail you with sharp tongues, being avaricious for (a share in) the goods thereof (the gainings of victory). Those have never (truly) believed; and, therefore, God has caused their deeds to come to nothing. That is ever easy for God.

20. (They are so fearful that) they think that the Confederates have not (really) retreated. Should the Confederates come once more, they would much rather be among the Bedouins in the deserts and ask for news about you (than remain in Madīnah and face the battle). Even if they were among you, they would fight only a little.

21. Assuredly you have in God’s Messenger an excellent example to follow for whoever looks forward to God and the Last Day, and remembers and mentions God much.11

22. When the (true) believers saw the Confederates before them, they said: “This is what God and His Messenger promised us, and God is true and so is His Messenger. This has but increased them in faith and submission.12

23. Among the believers are men (of highest valor) who have been true to their covenant with God: among them are those who have fulfilled their vow (by remaining steadfast until death), and those who are awaiting (its fulfillment). They have never altered in any way.

24. In consequence, God will reward the truthful ones for having been true to their covenant, and punish the hypocrites if He wills, or turn to them in lenience and accept their repentance (if they repent). Surely God is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate.13

25. God repulsed those who disbelieved still in their rage without gaining any good. God sufficed for the believers in the fighting. Surely God is All-Strong, All-Glorious with irresistible might.

26. And He brought down from their strongholds those of the People of the Book who had supported them (the Confederates in their attack on Madīnah), and cast fright in their hearts: some of them you killed, and others you took as prisoners of war.

27. And He made you heirs to their lands, their habitations, and their possessions, and a land (Khaybar) on which you never yet set foot. God has indeed full power over everything.14

28. O (most illustrious) Prophet! Say to your wives: “If you desire the present, worldly life and its charms, then come and let me make the necessary provision for you (in return for divorce),15 and release you with a handsome release.

29. But if you desire God and His Messenger, and the abode of the Hereafter, then it is a fact that God has prepared a tremendous reward for those among you who act in a good manner, aware that God is seeing them.”16

30. O wives of the Prophet! If any of you were to commit a manifestly sinful deed, the punishment would be doubled for her. That is easy for God.

31. But if any of you devoutly obeys God and His Messenger and does good, righteous deeds, We will give her reward doubly; and We have prepared for her an honorable, generous provision (in Paradise).

32. O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any of the other women, provided that you keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety (and, therefore, act with awareness of your special status). So (even more than other believing women) do not be complaisant in your speech (when addressing men), lest he in whose heart is a disease should be moved to desire, but speak in an honorable way.

33. And (prefer to) remain in your homes (unless there is a need. If you do go out for a need,) do not go out flaunting your charms as (women used to do) in the former times of Ignorance. And establish the Prayer in conformity with its conditions, and pay the Prescribed Purifying Alms, and obey God and His Messenger (in whatever they command). God only wills to remove from you, O members of the (Prophet’s) household,17 all that may be loathsome, and to purify you to the utmost of purity.

34. Keep in mind and study what is recited in your homes of God’s Revelations and the Wisdom (which especially includes the Sunnah of His Messenger). Surely God is All-Subtle (penetrating down into the innermost part of people’s heart and mind), All-Aware.

35. Surely all men and women who submit to God (whose submission is attested by their words and deeds), and all truly believing men and truly believing women, and all devoutly obedient men and devoutly obedient women, and all men and women honest and truthful in their speech (and true to their words in their actions), and all men and women who persevere (in obedience to God through all adversity), and all men and women humble (in mind and heart before God), and all men and women who give in alms (and in God’s cause), and all men and women who fast (as an obligatory or commended act of devotion), and all men and women who guard their chastity (and avoid exposing their private parts), and all men and women who remember and mention God much – for them (all), God has prepared forgiveness (to bring unforeseen blessings) and a tremendous reward.

36. When God and His Messenger have decreed a matter, it is not for a believing man and a believing woman to have an option insofar as they themselves are concerned.18 Whoever disobeys God and His Messenger has evidently gone astray.

37. (Remember) when you (O Messenger) said to him whom God has favored (with guidance to Islam and close companionship with the Prophet), and whom you have favored (with kind treatment, special consideration, and emancipation): “Retain your wife in marriage and fear God (concerning your treatment of her).” You were hiding within yourself what God (had already decreed and) would certainly bring to light: you were feeling apprehensive of people (that they might react in a way harmful to their faith), while God has a greater right that you should fear Him (lest you err in the implementation of His commands). So, when Zayd had come to the end of his union with her (and she had completed her period of waiting after the divorce), We united you with her in marriage, so that there should be no blame (or legal impediment) for the believers in respect of (their marrying) the wives of those whom they called their sons (though they really were not), when the latter have come to the end of their union with them. And God’s command must be fulfilled.19

38. There is no hindrance for the Prophet with respect to what God has ordained and made lawful for him. This was God’s way with those (Prophets) who passed before. The command of God is a decree determined (in due measures for every thing, event and individual).

39. (The Prophets are those) who convey God’s Messages and feel great awe of Him; and they hold none but God in awe. God suffices as One Who reckons and settles the accounts (of His servants).

40. (O believers, know that) Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Messenger of God and the Seal of the Prophets.20 God has full knowledge of everything.

41. O you who believe! Remember and mention God much,

42. And glorify Him (in that He is absolutely above all defects and having partners) in the morning and in the evening (day and night)!21

43. He it is Who (in return for your remembrance of Him) bestows His special blessings upon you, with His angels (praying and asking His forgiveness for you), that He may lead you out of (all kinds of intellectual, spiritual, social, economic, and political) darkness into light (and keep them firm therein). He is All-Compassionate toward the believers.

44. On the Day when they meet Him, their greeting (from those who welcome them will be), “Peace” (the promise of eternal security from punishment). And He has prepared for them an honorable, generous reward.

45. O (most illustrious) Prophet! We have surely sent you (with the mission of Messengership) as a witness (to the truth through your life, and through your testimony on Judgment Day for your community concerning their deeds), and as a bearer of glad tidings (of prosperity in return for faith and righteousness) and a warner (against the consequences of misguidance);

46. And as one who calls (all humankind and jinn) to God by His leave, and a light-diffusing lamp (enlightening minds and hearts, and showing the way to those who follow that light).22

47. And (so) give the believers the glad tidings that, surely, for them is a great bounty from God ( in addition to what they may have merited by their faith and good deeds).

48. And pay no heed to (the offers of) the unbelievers and the hypocrites, and do not mind the sufferings they cause you, and put your trust in God. God suffices as the One to rely on and to Whom affairs should be referred.

49. O you who believe! When you have made a marriage contract with any of the believing women (including those belonging to the People of the Book), and then divorce them before you have touched them, you have no reason to ask them to observe any waiting-period for you. Make some provision for them and release them in fair manner.23

50. O (most illustrious) Prophet! We have made lawful for you your wives to whom you have already paid their bridal-due, as well as those whom your right hands possess from among the captives of war that God has granted you, and the daughters of your paternal uncles and paternal aunts, and the daughters of your maternal uncles and maternal aunts, who have emigrated (to Madīnah) for God’s cause as you did; and any believing woman who offers herself to the Prophet (freely, without demanding any bridal-due), if the Prophet wants to marry her – a rule (of privilege) for you exclusively, not for the believers (in general)24 – We have (already decreed and) made known what We have enjoined on them with regard to their wives and those whom their right hands possess.25 (This exceptional privilege26 is) in order that there may not be any hindrance to you (in fulfilling your mission because of marriage relationships).27 God is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate.

51. You can put off whomever among them (who offer themselves to you freely) you please, and accept to yourself whomever you please; as you can defer the turn of visiting any of them (your wives) you please, and take to you whomever you please.28 There is no blame on you if you give precedence to one whom you deferred before. It will make it more likely that they are pleased, and do not grieve (when they are deferred), and that all of them will be content with your treatment of them. God knows (O people) whatever is in your hearts. God is indeed All-Knowing, All-Clement.

52. Other women (than those just mentioned, and those already married to you29) will not be lawful for you to take; nor (seeing that they – your wives – have preferred God and His Messenger over the charms of the world,) are you allowed to change them for other wives, even though their fineness should please you, except those whom your right hands possess. God is ever watchful over everything.

53. O you who believe! Do not enter the Prophet’s rooms (in his house) unless you have been given leave, (and when invited) to a meal, without waiting for the proper time (when the meal is to be served). Rather, when you are invited, enter (his private rooms) at the proper time; and when you have had your meal, disperse. Do not linger for mere talk. That causes trouble for the Prophet, and he is shy of (asking) you (to leave). But God does not shy away from (teaching you) the truth. When you ask something of them (his wives), ask them from behind a screen. Your doing so is purer for your hearts and for their hearts. It is not for you to cause hurt to God’s Messenger, as it is unlawful for you ever to marry his widows after him. That (marrying his widows) would be an enormity in God’s sight.

54. Whether you reveal something or keep it secret, (know) that surely God has full knowledge of everything.

55. There is no blame on them (the wives of the Prophet, if they speak without a screen) with their fathers (including grandfathers and uncles, both paternal and maternal), or their sons (including grandsons), or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or the sons of their sisters, or the Muslim women and women of good conduct with whom they associate, or those (bondsmaids) whom their right hands possess. Keep (O wives of the Prophet), from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety (observing this command as well as all of His other commands). God is indeed a witness over everything.

56. Surely God and His angels bless the Prophet (He always treats him with His special mercy, with the angels praying to Him to grant him the highest station of praise with Him, and for the decisive victory of his Religion). O you who believe, invoke the blessings of God on him, and pray to God to bestow His peace on him, greeting him with the best greeting. (Love and follow him with utmost sincerity and faithfulness, and give yourselves to his way with perfect submission).30

57. Those who affront God and His Messenger (through disrespect for Him in words and acts and for His Messenger and Islamic values), God certainly curses them (excludes them from His mercy) in this world and the Hereafter, and He has prepared for them a shameful, humiliating punishment.31

58. And those who affront believing men and believing women without their having done any wrong to deserve it, they have surely burdened themselves with calumny and a blatant sin.32

59. O (most illustrious) Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters, as well as the women (wives and daughters) of the believers, to draw over themselves some part of their outer garments (when outside their homes and when before men whom they are not forbidden to marry because of blood relation).33 This is better and more convenient for them to be recognized (and respected for their decency and decorum) and not harrassed.34 God is indeed All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate.35

60. Assuredly, if the hypocrites and those in whose hearts there is a disease, and those scare-mongers in the City (given to spreading false rumors to cause disturbance in the heartland of the Islamic Community) do not desist, We will most certainly urge you against them, and then they will not be able to remain in it as your neighbors except a little while only,

61. Excluded from God’s Mercy forever; and wherever they may be found, they will be seized, and killed one and all.36

62. (That was) the way of God with those who passed before. You will never find any change in God’s way.

63. People ask you about the Last Hour (when it will befall). Say: “Knowledge of it rests with God alone.” For all you know, the Last Hour may well be near.

64. Surely God has cursed (eternally excluded from His Mercy) the unbelievers, and has prepared for them the Blaze,

65. To abide therein forever. They will find neither guardian nor helper.

66. On the Day when their faces are turned over and over in the Fire, they will exclaim, “Oh, woe to us! Would that we had obeyed God and obeyed the Messenger!”

67. And they will say: “Our Lord! Surely we obeyed our chiefs and our great ones, and they caused us to follow a misleading path.

68. “Our Lord! Cause them to suffer the punishment doubled, and curse them with a mighty curse (so that they are utterly excluded, absolutely and eternally, from Your Mercy)!”

69. O you who believe! Do not be like those (among the Children of Israel) who affronted Moses, and (be mindful that) God proved him to be innocent of all that they alleged against him. He was of great honor in God’s sight.37

70. O you who believe! Act in reverence for God and piously, without doing anything to incur His punishment, and always speak words true, proper and straight to the point,

71. That He will make your deeds good and upright and forgive you your sins. Whoever obeys God and His Messenger has surely attained to a mighty triumph.

72. We offered the Trust to the heavens, and the earth, and the mountains, but they shrank from bearing it, and were afraid of it (fearful of being unable to fulfill its responsibility), but man has undertaken it; he is indeed prone to doing great wrong and misjudging, and acting out of sheer ignorance.38

73. (As a consequence of the choice of each individual) God will punish the hypocrites, men and women, and those men and women who associate partners with God, and He will turn to the believing men and women with forgiveness (and compassion, in return for their repentance for any wrong they do). God is indeed All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate.39

The Qur'an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English

The Qur’an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English

1. The Muslims had to suffer many hardships after the Battle of Uhud. A group from the Adal and al-Qārah tribes, who were apparently from the same ancestral stock as the Quraysh and who lived near Makkah, came to God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and, declaring that they had accepted Islam, asked for some teachers to be given to them. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, selected six Companions to go with them. Upon reaching the land of the Hudhayl tribe, the group halted and the Companions settled down to rest. Suddenly, a group of Hudhaylī tribesmen fell upon them and martyred four of them, handing Hubayb ibn ‘Adiyy and Zayd ibn Dasīnah over to the Quraysh for execution. In the same year, 40 (according to another report, 70) Muslim teachers were requested by the chief of the Banū ‘Āmir to teach the Qur’ān to a tribe from Najd and were martyred near the Well of Ma‘ūnah.

The following year, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was informed that the tribe of Banū Asad were making preparations for war against Madīnah, and dispatched an army of 150 soldiers to combat them, under the command of Abū Salamah.

The Jewish Banū Nadīr tribe was originally the sworn ally of the Muslims in Madīnah. However, its members secretly conspired with the Makkan pagans and the Madīnan hypocrites. They even tried to kill the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, while he was visiting them, breaking both the laws of hospitality and their treaty. The way in which this happened is as follows: the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, asked them to abandon their strategic position, about three miles south of Madīnah, and they agreed to do so. But when ‘Abdullāh ibn Ubayy, the chief of the Hypocrites, promised to help them in case of war, the Banū Nadīr reneged on their agreement. The Muslim army then besieged them in their fortresses. The Banū Nadīr, seeing that neither the Makkan polytheists nor the Madīnan hypocrites cared enough to help them, abandoned the city. They were dismayed, but their lives were spared. Given ten days to leave, along with their families and all they could carry, most of them joined their brethren in Syria and others in Khaybar (Ibn Hishām, 3: 47–49, 190–192).

While returning from Uhud, Abū Sufyān challenged the Muslims to meet them at Badr in the following year (Ibid., 3: 94). However, when God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, reached Badr with an army of 1,500 fighters, there was no enemy to meet him. They stayed there for eight days, waiting for the threatened encounter. When there was no sign of the Quraysh army, they returned to Madīnah. This campaign was called Badr as-Sughrā (Badr the Minor).

In 627CE, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was told that the desert tribes of Anmār and Sa‘labah had decided to attack Madīnah. He went to Dhāt ar-Riqa’ with 400 fighters and, hearing that the enemy tribes had fled, returned to Madīnah. (Ibid, 3: 213). In the same year, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, marched upon the people of Dūmat al-Jandal, who had lived on the border between Arabia and Syria. These people had previously attacked Muslim tradesmen and robbed them. When the Muslim army came upon them, they fled and the territory came under Muslim control.

It was in these difficult days that a group from the leaders of the Quraysh, under the leadership of Abū Sufyan came to Madīnah and, together with ‘Abdullāh ibn Ubayy ibn Salūl, the leader of the hypocrites, offered the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, their support if he would not oppose their worship of their idols and declare that these idols had a right of intercession with God. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, categorically rejected this offer. This verse was revealed in connection with this event (az-Zamahsharī).

2. This refers to a pre-Islamic custom among the pagan Arabs. A husband would say to his wife, “You are henceforth as my mother’s back to me,” and thus removed himself from conjugal relations with his wife. This was the equivalent of an irrevocable divorce, but a woman thus divorced could not marry again. The Qur’ān’s forceful disapproval here was the first step to abolishing this custom, soon followed by its explicit abolition in Sūrat al-Mujādilah.

3. In the pre-Islamic period, adopted and foster children were regarded as enjoying the same legal status as biological children. This custom had other implications, notably that the adopted child held the same status within the forbidden degrees of marriage as a biological child. Islam abolished this practice and declared that adoption has no legal effect. (A father may not marry his natural son’s former wife, nor a son his natural father’s former wife. The extension of that prohibition to adopted children is the specific occasion of the abolition of the custom.)

4. The relationship described in the verse is of course a spiritual relationship with no legal implications, with the exception that the Prophet’s wives were eternally forbidden to other believers. As reported by al-Bukhārī (“Īmān,” 8) and Muslim (“Īmān,” 70), the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, said: “None of you is a true believer unless I am dearer to him than his father, and his children, and all humankind.” A believer must prefer the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, to their own person and to all other people in all matters, including love and protection; and they must put the decisions of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, above their own.

5. Following the Hijrah, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, had joined the believers in brotherhood, declaring one from among the Emigrants as a brother to one from among the Helpers (the Muslims of Madīnah), to the degree that they could even inherit from one another. This verse abolished this practice, but it reiterated the brotherhood in faith among the believers. However, it allowed believers to bequeath some proportion (to a maximum, as stipulated by the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, of one-third of the whole) of their wealth in lawful ways, including, of course, to help their brothers and sisters in faith.

6. The covenant which God took from the Prophets, except the Messengers, was that which is in the verse: And when God took compact with the Prophets: “That I have given you a Book and Wisdom; then there will come to you a Messenger confirming what is with you – you shall certainly believe in him and you shall certainly help him” (3: 81). But this verse mentions another covenant which was taken in particular from the five greatest of all the Prophets and Messengers, namely the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, and the Prophets Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, upon them be peace. When it is considered that these five Messengers were also those to whom God granted the Sharī‘ah – the collection of the Divine laws to govern human life in the world – which enabled God’s Religion to be applied in full and allowed it to be observed without giving way to any deviations (42: 13), this covenant must be understood as their conveying and establishing God’s Message fully and realizing the eternal unity of all the believers, as declared in the verse: So, this community of yours (which all the Messengers and their followers have formed) is one single community of the same faith, and I am your Lord (Who creates, sustains, and protects you); so worship Me alone (21: 92).

As for questioning the truthful concerning (that which was entrusted to) their truthfulness, there are two aspects, as in the verses: And (remember) when God will say: “Jesus, son of Mary, is it you who said to people: ‘Take me and my mother for deities besides God?” and he will answer: “All-Glorified You are (in that You are absolutely above having a partner, as from any need or deficiency whatever)! It is not for me to say what I had no right to! Had I said it, You would already have known it. You know all that is within myself, whereas I do not know what is within Yourself. Surely You and You alone have knowledge of the Unseen (of all that lies beyond the reach of any created being’s perception)” (5: 116); and, So We will surely question those to whom Messengers were sent (as to how they responded to them), and We will surely question those sent with Our Message (concerning their duty of conveying it and how their peoples reacted to it) (7: 6). So “the truthful” here refers both to the Prophets and to the believers who gave allegiance to them and remained true to their allegiance.

7. In 627CE, a leading group of the expelled Banū Nadīr Jews went to Makkah. They met with the Quraysh, urging them to continue fighting with the Muslims, and promised their help and support. These Jews then went to the Ghatafān and Qays Aylān tribes and, promising them help, encouraged them to fight against the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings (Ibn Hishām, 3: 225–226; Waqidī, Maghazī, 441–443). These intrigues resulted in a great anti-Muslim confederacy of Makkan polytheists, the desert tribes of central Arabia, the Jews (both those already expelled from and those still resident) in Madīnah, and the hypocrites. The last two constituted a fifth column within Madīnah.

When God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, received intelligence of this anti-Muslim gathering of confederates, he consulted his Companions. It was their unanimous view that they should remain in Madīnah and fight from there. Salmān al-Fārisī suggested digging a trench around the city. It took six days of intense labor to dig this trench. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, divided the Muslims into groups of ten and told them to compete with each other. It was a hard task, there was not much time, winter was about to come in, and there was great hunger. Yet all the Companions worked enthusiastically. In order to not feel the hunger, each fastened a rock around his stomach. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, dug alongside them and fastened two rocks around his stomach. He kept strict control of the city so that no news of the preparation should reach the enemy.

The enemy forces advanced against Madīnah in the hope of destroying the Muslims on an open battlefield. However, this new strategy that they faced was the first blow. Numbering around 20,000, the enemy forces camped near the trench. The Madīnans had no more than 3,000 soldiers. Moreover, the Jewish Banū Qurayzah and the hypocrites of the fifth column had already contacted the enemy.

The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, once again displayed his sagacity: he kept the soldiers within the city and stationed them so that they could both defend the city and safeguard their homes against possible attacks of the Banū Qurayzah.

While the war was continuing with exchanges of arrows and stones, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, engaged in diplomatic attempts to split the allied enemy forces. He was able to do that and dissension grew among them (Ibn Hishām, 3: 240–242).

The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, protected by Mount Sal, that lay behind the city, had ordered a narrow point to be made in the trench, as he expected that leading Qurayshī horsemen would try to cross there. This is indeed how it happened, for some of the most renowned Qurayshī warriors tried to cross to engage in hand-to-hand combat with the Muslim fighters. ‘Ali, may God be pleased with him, the Messenger’s cousin and son-in-law, killed three of them, which discouraged the enemy from any new attempts.

The siege lasted 27 days. The Muslims suffered greatly from hunger, cold, unending barrages of arrows and stones, attempts and concentrated assaults to cross the trench, and betrayals and intrigues within Madīnah. The Qur’ān describes this situation in the verses that follow.

After almost four weeks, during which the enemy was disheartened by their failure and the believers proved their steadfastness and loyalty, there was a piercing blast of cold wind from the east. God also sent hosts of angels. (For God’s sending angels and its purpose, see 3: 124–127; 8: 9–10, 12) The enemy’s tents were torn up, their fires were extinguished, and sand and rain beat their faces. Terrified by the portents against them, they soon gave up.

The Battle of the Trench was the last Qurayshī attempt to destroy Islam and the Muslims.

8. Some thought that the unbelievers would be victorious and invade Madīnah; others that Islam would be wiped out; and still others that pre-Islamic unbelief would come back, or entertained other negative thoughts.

9. As the Qur’ān promised in several of its verses that Islam would be victorious and prevail over all other faiths, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, also made similar promises from the very first day of his message. Even during the digging of the trench, he said: “I have been given the keys to Persia. God is the Greatest. I have been given the keys to Byzantium” (Ibn Hishām, 3:235–236; al-Bidāyah, 4: 123).

10. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, changed the name of Yathrīb into Madīnah after the Hijrah. By continuing to call Madīnah Yathrīb, the hypocrites were displaying their inward unbelief and hope for the failure of the Messenger’s mission.

11. Islam is the universal religion which encompasses human life in its totality, and God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, set a perfect example to follow in all aspects of life. He set this example as a spiritual guide, a teacher of minds, a perfect model of morality, an educator, a president, a commander, a diplomat, and a husband, father, friend, neighbor, and as an individual human being among other human beings. The French historian, Lamartine, writes:

Never had a man set himself, voluntarily or involuntarily, a more sublime aim, since this aim was superhuman: to subvert superstitions which had been interposed between man and his Creator, to render God unto man and man unto God; to restore the rational and sacred idea of divinity amidst the chaos of the material and disfigured gods of idolatry then existing. Never has a man undertaken a work so far beyond human power with so feeble means, for he had in the conception as well as in the execution of such a great design no other instrument than himself, and no other aid, except a handful of men living in a corner of desert. Finally, never has a man accomplished such a huge and lasting revolution in the world, because in less than two centuries after its appearance, Islam, in faith and arms, reigned over the whole of Arabia, and conquered in God’s name Persia, Khorasan, Western India, Syria, Abyssinia, all the known continent of Northern Africa, numerous islands of the Mediterranean, Spain, and a part of Gaul.

If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astounding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great men to Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, laws, and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man moved not only armies, legislation, empires, peoples, and dynasties, but millions of men in one-third of the then-inhabited world; and more than that, he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and the souls. On the basis of a Book, every letter of which has become law, he created a spiritual nationality which has blended together peoples of every tongue and of every race. He has left to us as the indelible characteristic of this Muslim nationality, the hatred of false gods and the passion for the One and immaterial God. This avenging patriotism against the profanation of Heaven formed the virtue of the followers of Muhammad: the conquest of one-third of the Earth to his creed was his miracle. The idea of the Unity of God, proclaimed amidst the exhaustion of fabulous theogonies, was in itself such a miracle that upon its utterance from his lips, it destroyed all the ancient temples of idols and set on fire one-third of the world. His life, his meditations, his heroic revilings against the superstitions of his country, his boldness in defying the furies of idolatry, his firmness in enduring them for thirteen years at Mecca, his acceptance of the role of public scorn, and his almost of being a victim of his fellow-countrymen— all these— and, finally his incessant preaching, his wars against odds, his faith in his success and his superhuman security in misfortune, his forbearance in victory, his ambition which was entirely devoted to one idea, his endless prayer, his mystic conversations with God, his death and his triumph after death— all these attest not to an imposture but to a firm conviction. It was his conviction which gave him the power to restore a creed. This creed was two-fold, the unity of God and the immateriality of God: the former telling what God is; the latter telling what God is not. Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, of a cult without images, the founder of twenty terrestrial states and of one spiritual state: that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask: Is there any man greater than he? (Histoire de la Turquie, 2: 276–277.)

12. Since the hypocrites pursued only worldly gains and judged everything according to apparent circumstances, when they found themselves besieged in the center of Islam, they thought that the promises of God and His Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, concerning the future successes of Islam were a delusion. However, the true believers were well aware of the way in which God acts and of the fact that God did not promise them success without them having to do something in return. They knew that God would not leave them at ease merely because they had professed, “We have believed,” without putting them to a test. He certainly tested those who had preceded them. This was His unchanging way; it was done so that He might mark out with certainty those who proved to be true in their profession of faith, and so that He might mark out with certainty the liars (29: 2–3). He would certainly test them with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth, lives and benefits. The good tidings were for those who, when they were visited by an affliction, said: “Surely we belong to God (as His creatures and servants), and surely to Him we are bound to return” (2: 155–157), and they acted accordingly. He would certainly reward those who succeeded in the test and made them victorious. The Battle of the Trench once more showed that God and His Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, are always true to their promises.

13. The verse subtly implies that God’s punishment depends on His Will: if He so wills, He punishes those who deserve it, but He may pardon them as well. But if any of His servants turn to Him with true repentance, He accepts their repentance. The conclusion of the verse mentioning God as All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate emphasizes His forgiveness and, therefore, encourages His sinful servants and even the hypocrites to turn to Him in true faith and repentance and mend their ways with the hope of being forgiven.

14. After the Confederates who had held Madīnah under siege for four weeks were routed and returned to their homes, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, focused on the Banū Qurayzah, who had betrayed their agreement with him and allied with the Quraysh during the war. According to the agreement, they should have defended the city against any foreign attack, along with the Muslims. They also had given asylum to Banū Nadīr’s leaders, like Huyayy ibn Akhtāb, who had been expelled from Madīnah and continued to conspire against the Muslims.

No sooner had the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, returned from this battle than he ordered his Companions to march upon the Banū Qurayzah upon God’s order (al-Bukhārī, “Maghazī,” 30). He had his tent pitched opposite their fortresses. He would have forgiven them if they had asked, but they preferred to resist. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, besieged them for 25 days. At last, they asked for surrender terms, agreeing to submit to the judgment of Sa‘d ibn Mu‘ādh, because they thought that he might judge in their favor as the leader of the Aws tribe, with whom they had once had an alliance. Sa‘d decreed the sentence according to the Torah. This was the end of the Banū Qurayzah’s conspiracies (Ibn Hishām, 3: 101, 249–251).

15. When a husband divorces his wife, just as he cannot take back anything of the bridal-due he gave her during marriage (4: 20), he is also obliged to make provision for her according to his standards of living during her waiting period – three full menstrual cycles – appointed by God (2: 228, 241).

16. The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, personifies the roles of perfect father and husband. He was so kind and tolerant with his wives that they could not envisage their lives without him, nor did they want to live away from him.

The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, discussed matters with his wives as friends, although he did not need their advice because he was directed by Revelation. However, he wanted to teach his nation that Muslim men were to give women every consideration. This was quite a radical idea in his time, as it is today in many parts of the world. He began teaching his people through his own relationship with his wives (al-Bukhārī, “Shurūt,” 15).

When the Muslim people of Madīnah began to extricate themselves from the utter poverty that they had been suffering for years, a few of his wives (who numbered four at that time) asked him: “Couldn’t we live a bit better, like other Muslims do?”

The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, reacted by going into retreat. He excused himself, saying: “I cannot afford what they want” (Muslim, “Talaq,” 34, 35).

It is not easy to merit being together with the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, in this world and the Hereafter. Others might save themselves by simply fulfilling their obligations, but those who were at the very center of Islam had to devote themselves fully to the cause of Islam, so that no weakness would appear at the center. There were advantages in being the Prophet’s wife, but these advantages brought responsibilities and potential risks. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was preparing them to be exemplars for all present and future Muslim women. He was especially worried that they might enjoy the reward for their good deeds in this world, and thereby be included in: You consumed in your life of the world your (share of) pure, wholesome things, and enjoyed them fully (without considering the due of the Hereafter, and so have taken in the world the reward of all your good deeds) (46: 20).

Thus, these special women were put to a great test. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, allowed them to choose his poor home or the world’s luxury. If they chose the world, he would give them what he could afford to, and then dissolve his marriage with them. If they chose God and His Messenger, upon him be peace, and blessings, then they had to be content with their lives. This was a peculiarity of his family. Since this family was unique, its members had to be unique. The head of the family was chosen, as were the wives and children.

The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, first called ‘Ā’isha and said: “I want to discuss something with you. You had better talk with your parents before making a decision.” Then he recited the verses mentioned above. Her decision was exactly what would be expected from the truthful daughter of a truthful father: “O Messenger of God, do I need to talk with my parents? By God, I choose God and His Messenger” (Muslim, “Talaq,” 35).

‘Ā’isha herself tells us what happened next: “The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, received the same answer from all his wives. No one expressed a different opinion. They all said what I had said.”

17. As declared in a hadīth, Fātimah, the Messenger’s daughter, and her husband ‘Ali, may God be pleased with him, and their sons Hasan and Husayn are also included in the Prophet’s household (Muslim, “Fadāil asSahābah,” 37, 61).

18. This means absolute submission to the Islamic Law, and the rule of the Law. Since the Islamic Law is primarily based on the rules established by God in the Qur’ān and the Sunnah of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, everyone is equal before it, and no one can impose their own decisions or ideas upon others. So Islam has brought absolute equality and freedom to humankind and saved us from submission or slavery to the choices and decisions of others. It is God Who creates human beings and He is, therefore, their owner. Human beings cannot even claim ownership over themselves, as it is not they who have created themselves or who maintain or provide for themselves. Servanthood, or submission to God, means freedom from all kinds of slavery to the created powers, including the human carnal soul, which always calls humankind to the evil that is opposed to our duty.

19. The Messenger’s actions and norms of conduct constitute, like his sayings, the second source of the Islamic Law or constitution. His Companions inherited and transmitted whatever they observed while he was living among them, while his wives narrated and conveyed the rules and norms of the Islamic personal and family life. This heavy responsibility required that he should have wives of different temperaments, upbringing, and character. A great many of the religious matters and rules were narrated by these women, known as the Pure Wives.

Zayd ibn Hārithah was the Messenger’s emancipated slave and servant, whom he called “my son,” according to the customs of the time before adoption was legally abolished. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, had requested that Zaynab bint Jahsh, a “noble-born” lady from the Messenger’s clan, be married to this former slave to show in action that people should not judge others by their color or social status. However, their marriage did not last long. Zayd, realizing his wife’s sublime character, admitted that he was spiritually and intellectually inferior to her. So, he eventually divorced her. As stated in: We united you with her in marriage, God ordered His Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, to marry Zaynab. This was extremely difficult for the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, to do, because according to the prevailing customs, “adopted” children were treated as if they were real children, and Zayd, as mentioned above, was his emancipated slave and servant. But God willed that this custom be abolished and first put it into effect through His Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, apprehended that the people might draw incorrect conclusions and think unbecoming things about him if he were to perform such an action, and this would, therefore, harm their faith. But such a grounded “legal” fiction was to be eternally abolished, and God willed that such an established custom be abolished through His Messenger’s actions, because only then would it be able to have the desired effect upon the people. So, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, had no alternative other than to obey God’s decree, as he always did.

20. The verse implies that those of superior rank and responsibility feel a fatherly affection toward those who work under them. If they are spiritual leaders, Prophets, or saints, for example, their compassion and affection will far exceed that of a father. As the people will see them as a father, they may consider it improper for such people to marry one of their women. To remove this illusion, the Qur’ān tells us that: “Divine Mercy causes the Prophet to have great affection for you. Due to his position as your leader, you are like his children. But as he is not your biological father, he can marry one of your women. His calling you ‘my sons’ does not mean you are legally his sons.”

The verse also contains an implicit prediction, which, of course, proved to be true. It is that God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, would not have a male child to survive and succeed him. He would be succeeded by a female child, and his progeny would continue through her. As known, the Messenger’s line continued through Fātimah, his beloved daughter, who alone survived him from among his children.

21. All words of praise and glorification of God – extolling Him with His Perfect Attributes of Power and Majesty, Beauty and Sublimity, and declaring that He is absolutely above having any defects or negative attributes shared by the creation, or above doing useless things, whether one utters these words vocally or says them silently in one’s heart – are known as dhikr (remembrance of God). So, glorification of Him is also included in the meaning of dhikr. In addition to this, reading, reflecting, studying to gain knowledge of God, and speaking about Him to others, are also included in the concept of dhikr.

In a hadīth qudsī (a Tradition whose meaning God directly inspired in the heart of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings), the Messenger narrated: “God says: ‘I am to My servant as he expects of Me, I am with him when he remembers Me. If he remembers Me in his heart, I remember him to Myself; if he remembers Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly better than his; if he draws nearer to Me a hand’s span, I draw nearer to him an arm’s length; if he draws nearer to Me an arm’s length, I draw nearer to him a fathom’s length; and if he comes to me walking, I rush to him with (great) speed’ ” (al-Bukhārī, “Tawhīd,” 50; Muslim, “Dhikr,” 2).

God has bestowed a special distinction upon those who remember Him. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, said: “The devotees have surpassed all.” They asked: “Who are these exceptional people, O Messenger of God?” He replied: “They are men and women who remember God unceasingly” (Muslim, “Dhikr,” 2). These are the people who are truly alive. Abū Mūsā reported from the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings: “The likeness of the house where God is mentioned and the one where He is not is like that of a living person to a dead person” (al-Bukhārī, Da‘awāt,” 66). Mujāhid, one of the earliest interpreters of the Qur’ān, explained: “A person cannot be one of ‘those men and women who remember God much,’ unless he or she remembers God at all times, standing, sitting, or lying in bed (as stated in 3: 191).”

Joining the assemblies or circles of dhikr is commendable, as shown by the following hadīth: Ibn ‘Umar reported: “The Prophet, upon him peace and blessings, said: ‘When you pass by a garden of Paradise, avail yourselves of it.’ The Companions asked: ‘What are the gardens of Paradise, O Messenger of God?’ The Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, replied: ‘The assemblies or circles of dhikr. There are some angels of God who go about looking for such assemblies of dhikr, and when they find them, they surround them’ ” (Muslim, “Dhikr,” 39).

22. The Qur’ān describes the sun as a lamp and the moon as a shining object (reflecting light) placed in the heavens (on this description and its meaning, see 25: 61, note 15). This verse presents God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, through the simile of a light-diffusing (shining) lamp. This implies that the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is a sun in the heaven of humankind and jinn, enlightening their worlds and through which they can find their way. The fact that the Qur’ān uses for the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, the word (lamp) used for the sun, as well as the phrase light-diffusing or shining which it uses for the moon, suggests that the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, has a very bright light; and although he has absorbed this light, it is, in fact, from God, Who is the Source of all lights. As is known, the moon derives its light from the sun. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, is like the sun with respect to his radiance, and like the moon with respect to the source of his light.

23. If the divorce mentioned in the verse takes place before any marriage-portion or bridal due has been determined, the husband must make provision according to his means. If it takes place after a bridal-due has already been appointed, half of what has been appointed should be given to the divorced woman. However, the woman can make remission and forgo it, or the man can make remission and pay the full amount. (See 2: 236–237.)

24. On the injunctions about the women whom Muslim men can lawfully marry, see sūrah 4: 22–25, notes 7–9.

25. On these injunctions, see: 2: 221; 4: 3–4, notes 2–3.

26. Because of his mission, there are some exceptional rules for the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings. Unlike other believing men, he was allowed to marry a believing woman who would come to him without demanding any bridal due. While all other Muslim men could marry the daughters of their uncles and aunts, whether they had emigrated or not, the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, was allowed to marry any among them provided they had emigrated. There were other exceptions that were just pertinent to the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings: for example, the Tahajjud Prayer (in the last third or later part of the night) was prescribed for the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, until his death; this is only supererogatory for other Muslims. Like other Prophets, his inheritance could not be shared by his “heirs” but was used as alms for the Muslim Community. Eating of the Zakāh was forbidden to him and his family, while all other needy Muslims could partake of it. The permission for him to marry as many as nine women was also exceptional for him, while other Muslims can only have four women together in marriage. While all other Muslim men can marry until their death, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was prohibited to marry after some point in his life, as stipulated in verse 52 of this surah.   

27. These special conditions were not introduced due to a need for women, but rather merely because of the role women played in the fulfillment of the Messenger’s mission. Islam has specific rules for women, and many of those rules can only be learned from women teachers and could be put to the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, only by women who had close relationships with him. So the reasons behind the Messenger’s several marriages, while differing from case-to-case, all have to do with his role as the leader of the new Muslim community, and his responsibility to guide his followers toward the norms and values of Islam.

The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, married his first wife, fifteen years older than him, when he was 25 years old, fifteen years before his Prophethood began. He lived with her for almost 25 years, and after her death, he lived for nearly six years without a wife. Given the cultural and moral climate in which he lived, not to mention his youth and other factors, he nevertheless enjoyed an impeccable reputation for chastity, integrity, and trustworthiness. As soon as he was called to the Prophethood, he acquired enemies who made all sorts of charges. However, not even his fiercest enemies attacked his reputation, for doing so would have caused them to be ridiculed and discredited immediately. It is important to realize that his life was founded upon chastity and self-discipline from the outset, and remained thus. All his other marriages began when he was 53 years old, an age when very little real interest and desire for marriage remains, especially in Arabia where people grow old relatively earlier, and when, especially in those days, people’s average life-expectancy was much lower.

Some marriages were contracted for specific reasons such as:

    • The Prophet’s wives were young, middle-aged, and elderly. The accurate requirements and norms of Islamic family life for every age could be learnt within the Prophet’s household better, and then conveyed to other Muslims through his wives.
    • Each wife was from a different clan or tribe, which allowed the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, to establish bonds of kinship and affinity throughout Arabia. This caused a profound attachment to him to spread Islam among the diverse peoples of the new Ummah, and also brought about and secured equality and brother/sisterhood among both in practical matters and in terms of religion.
    • Both before and after the Prophet’s death, each wife proved to be of great benefit and service. They conveyed and interpreted Islam to their people in all its inner and outer experiences, as well as the qualities, manners, and faith of the man who was the living embodiment of the Qur’ān in every aspect of his life. In this way, all of their people learned the Qur’ān, the Traditions, tafsīr (Qur’ānic interpretation and commentary), and fiqh (understanding of the Qur’an and Sunnah as law). Thus, through his wives, these people became fully aware of Islam’s essence and spirit.
    • These marriages allowed the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, to establish kinship ties throughout Arabia, and thus to move freely wherever he wished and to be accepted as a member in each family. In addition, everyone so connected to him felt that they could approach him personally for guidance on any issue. The entire tribe also benefited from this connection; they considered themselves fortunate and took pride in their new relationship. For example, such relationships were established for the Umayyads (through Umm Habībah), the Hashimites (through Zaynab bint Jahsh), and the Banū Makhzūm (through Umm Salamah).
    • It is also a highly notable fact that all the Prophet’s wives (except ‘Ā’ishah and Māriyah) were divorcees or widows, thus underlying the importance and care that needs to be given to lone women in Islamic society, as against the then-prevalent norm of casting them off to a life of destitution.

28. It is possible that this verse has both of the meanings given (i.e., it is related to both the Prophet’s treatment of the women who would offer themselves to him, and the rotation in the conjugal attention due to his wives.) Islam orders a husband who has more than one wife to be just in his relations with them and to observe a strict rotation in the conjugal attention due to his wives. Since this is difficult, it advises one to be content with one wife (4: 3). However, since the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, had many wise purposes for his marriages, some of which have been mentioned in the previous note, he was not obliged to observe this responsibility. But, as reported by ‘Ā’ishah in the books of Hadīth Abū Dāwūd, “Nikāh,” 39; at-Tirmidhī, “Nikāh,” 42), he showed no negligence in observing it during his life. Although the verse allows him freedom to prefer or defer any of his wives in visiting, it also offers him a way not to grieve any of them and make all of them happy. If he had postponed visiting any of them, he could give that one precedence the next time.

29. This prohibition is related to other women than those mentioned in verse 50. However, since the verse was revealed when the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, already had nine wives, it also forbids him to marry again. This implies that the purposes for his marriages have already been fulfilled.

30. Calling God’s blessings and peace upon God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, at least once in a lifetime is incumbent upon every Muslim. And doing so at each mention of his name is a highly recommendable act. According to the Shāfi‘ī and Hanbalī schools, it is obligatory in the last sitting of every Prayer (Salāh) after tashahhud, without which the Prayer is not acceptable. According to other schools, it is sunnah.

Calling God’s blessings and peace upon the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, is a link between him and the believers. His responsibility was extremely grave, and he is always concerned with the Muslims individually and collectively, even after his death. So calling God’s blessings and peace upon him as a religious duty was not restricted to his lifetime. By doing so, we are also praying for ourselves, because we are both building an important connection with him and petitioning God through him to help us with our religious responsibilities.

Upon the injunction of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, we must include his family and even his progeny in calling God’s blessings and peace upon him.

That the injunction of calling God’s blessings and peace upon him stays in effect even after his death, until the Last Day, signifies that praying for the dead is a valid religious act and may be of help for them.

31. The original word (which we have translated as affront) is adhā. It is mainly used to express any words that hurt another’s feelings. So the verse is warning us about any unbecoming words that we may utter concerning God and His Messenger, and Islamic values. The verse also forbids any disrespectful act toward God and His Messenger, and Islamic values.

32. If one says something about a believer with which the believer will not be pleased, this is backbiting, which the Qur’an decisively forbids. If one says something about a believer that is untrue, this is a calumny. In addition to forbidding such talk about the believers, the verse also forbids any unbecoming talk or act that will hurt a believer.

Before the injunction of flogging with a hundred stripes (24: 2), the Qur’an had ordered the punishment of fornicators by scolding and beating (4: 16). However, this was abrogated by the injunction regarding flogging them. Therefore, hurting a believer with unbecoming words is forbidden in any case. And, thus, the permission to hurt or affront them that this verse gives in case of their having done some wrong concerns any acts that the law may punish in this way; such a punishment can only be implemented by legal authorities.

While the Qur’an forbids affronting any believer without their having done any wrong that would deserve such an affront, it decisively forbids offending God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, without specifying any exception, and it regards offending him as if one has offended Almighty God. This shows the Messenger’s sinlessness and that he is exalted above any blemish.

33. The verse means that women must cover their heads and upper parts of their bodies. The majority of scholars conclude that they must also cover their faces except the eyes. As understood from the Traditions, this was the practice during the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and the Companions (Abū Dāwūd, “Libās,” 32, “Menāsik,” 34; Imam Mālik, “Hajj,” 16).

34. There are two important instances of wisdom in ordering Muslim women to cover themselves. Muslim women are women who deserve respect and who are to be protected from any offense or harassment. The veil both shows that they are Muslims, decent, and free (not bondsmaids), and demands protection against any harassment. Although no one can claim that a woman who does not wear a veil desires to attract the attention of men to herself, it is an undeniable and frequently witnessed reality that a woman who displays her charms often exposes herself to unwanted attention.

35. Despite all contrary assertions in the modern world, God, Who relates the injunction of veiling for women to His infinite forgiveness and compassion, explicitly declared that it is from compassion for women.

36. This is, as will be pointed out in the following verse, the end that the hypocrites must inevitably come to, as a consequence of the sedition they cause in society.

37. This warning came with respect to the Messenger’s marriage with Zaynab, the Mother of Believers. Hypocrites and some with weak faith spoke unbecomingly about this event and about the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings,  in connection with it. The same kinds of offending words were uttered about the Prophet Moses, upon him be peace. Just as the Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, was absolutely free of any such offences alleged against him, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, is also absolutely free of any similar allegations. As stated in verses 57 and 58, and notes 31 and 32 above, any offensive word uttered against the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, is as if uttered against God, for he is infallible and free of any blemish.

38. For the meaning of the Trust, see Appendix 14.

39. By concluding with the emphasis on God’s being All-Forgiving and All-Compassionate, this verse is stating that out of His Forgiveness and Compassion, God will support the believers and enable them to follow the Straight Path because they have chosen that Path and try to follow it. He will also accept their repentance when they repent for their sins, and forgive them their shortcomings in following His Path. The verse also encourages the hypocrites and those who associate partners with God not to sink into despair and to give up their way, turning to God instead. 

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