66. At-Tahrim (The Prohibition)
Revealed in Madīnah seven or eight years after the Hijrah, this sūrah (At-Tahrim) of 12 verses takes its name from the infinitive form of the verb HarRaMa (forbid, make something unlawful) that occurs in the first verse. It warns against any disrespect toward God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and that righteousness lies not in belonging to a certain family but in one’s faith and good deeds. It also calls believers to repentance for their misdeeds.
In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.
1. O Prophet (you who are the greatest representative of Prophethood)! Why do you forbid (yourself) what God has made lawful to you, seeking to please your wives.1 And God is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate.
2. God has already decreed for you (O believers) on the breaking of your oaths (to do what is not just and right, and the expiation thereof).2 God is your Guardian, and He is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
3. (It so happened that) the Prophet confided something to one of his wives, and when she divulged it (to another), and God acquainted him of it, he made known part of it, and missed out part. And when he informed her of it, she asked: “Who has told you this?” He said: “He informed me Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Aware.”3
4. If you two (wives of the Prophet) turn to God in repentance (then that is indeed what you should do); for the hearts of both of you swerved (from what is right). But if you back each other up against him, (be mindful that) God Himself is His Guardian, and that Gabriel, and the righteous ones among the believers, and all the angels besides, are his helpers.4
5. It may happen that his Lord, if he should divorce you (O wives of the Prophet), will give him in your place wives better than you – submissive to God (muslimah), true in faith (mu’minah), devout in obedience to God, penitent, dedicated to worship and fasting – widows or virgins.5
6. O you who believe! Guard yourselves and your families (through the enabling discipline of the Islamic faith and worship) against a Fire whose fuel is human beings and stones. Over it are angels stern and strict (in executing the command to punish), who do not disobey God in whatever He commands them, and carry out what they are commanded (to carry out).
7. “O you who disbelieve! Do not offer excuses for yourselves this Day! You are only being recompensed for what you used to do (in the world).”6
8. O you who believe! Turn to God in sincere and reforming repentance.7 It is hoped8 that your Lord will blot your evil deeds from you and admit you into Gardens through which rivers flow, on a Day when God will not disgrace nor disappoint the Prophet and those who believe in his company. Their (the believers’) light will shine and spread before them, and on their right hands, as they say: “Our Lord! Perfect our light (by Your grace, so that we may reach Paradise), and forgive us.9 Surely You have full power over everything!”
9. O Prophet! Strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites (as occasion and conditions require), and be stern against them.10 Their final refuge is Hell: how evil a destination to arrive at!
10. God presents the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot as an example for those who disbelieve. They were married to two of Our righteous servants yet betrayed them (by rejecting the Messages they brought from God and collaborating with the unbelievers). But they (their husbands) availed them nothing against God, and it was said to them: “Enter the Fire with all those who enter it!”11
11. And God presents the wife of the Pharaoh as an example for those who believe. She prayed: “My Lord! Build for me a home in Paradise in nearness to You, and keep and save me from the Pharaoh and his conduct; and save me from the wrongdoing people.”12
12. And also Mary, the daughter of ‘Imrān,13 who kept herself chaste (body and soul), so We breathed into it out of Our Spirit,14 and who affirmed the truth of the words of her Lord (His Revelations – commandments, promises and warnings – to His Messengers), and His Books; and she was of those devoutly obedient to God.
1. Although there are some reports about what the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, had forbidden himself, that God had made lawful to him, the gist is as follows:
The Messenger was extremely kind. He was particularly kind toward his wives. In order not to cause any trouble for anybody, he had to bear many hardships. God established exceptional rules for him, particularly in relation to his family life, so that there would not be any undue problems for him (in fulfilling his mission) (33: 50). Therefore, the statement, “Why do you forbid (yourself) what God has made lawful to you?” expresses a consolatory warning. It is interesting that both this verse and verse 33: 50, which contains exceptional rules for the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, end with the phrase, God is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate. This means that God had willed ease for him and was particularly compassionate toward him.
2. See sūrah 2: 224–225; 5: 89.
3. This explicitly shows that the Revelations that the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, received did not consist only of what is in the Qur’ān. In addition to the Qur’ān, he received many other Revelations, and declared: “Take care! I have been given the Book and its like together with it” (Abū Dāwūd, “Sunnah,” 5).
4. This verse teaches us four important things:
- Doing something which will affront the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, causes one’s heart to swerve, as declared in 61: 5: And (remember) when Moses said to his people: “O my people! Why do you affront me while you know indeed that I am the Messenger of God sent to you?” And so, when they swerved from the right way, God made their hearts swerve from the truth. God does not guide the transgressing people.
- Any disloyalty from inside a home or country is usually more dangerous than that from outside.
- Whatever scheme is made against God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, God will absolutely protect him. In addition, Gabriel, who brings him God’s Revelation, those who are advanced in righteousness among the believers, and all other angels are also his helpers. So no one can cause any harm to him or his mission.
- Even being a wife of a Prophet is not enough to save one unless one believes and does good deeds. Rather, according to the rule, responsibility is proportionate to authority or blessing; the greater the favor God blesses one with, the greater the responsibility. (Also see 33: 29–32.)
5. This is the second warning in the Qur’ān to the wives of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings (for the first one, see 33: 29–33; and for the Messenger’s relationship with his wives, see 33, note 16). This verse does not mean that his wives did not have the praiseworthy qualities mentioned. Rather, it reminds them that, both as Muslim women and, especially, as the wives of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, they should set an example for all other believing women; thus, they should have these qualities in the highest degree and retain them.
6. This verse, which addresses the unbelievers, contains a severe warning for the Muslims also. It warns that any disobedience to God and His Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and doing things that will affront either of them may drive them to unbelief and, therefore, to the Fire in the Hereafter. So, they must also be on the alert against sins.
7. ‘Ali, may God be pleased with him, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law and the fourth Caliph, describes a sincere, reforming repentance as follows:
In order that your repentance can be a sincere, reforming, and valid one, you should (1) sincerely feel remorse for the sin you have committed; (2) fulfill all the obligatory religious duties and make up the missed ones; (3) return any right you have usurped to its owner; (4) beg the pardon of those you have offended; (5) resolve not to commit again the sin you have committed; and (6) make your carnal soul taste the difficulty of obedience to God as you have caused it to taste the pleasure of sinning (Yazır, Zamakhsharī ).
8. God is never obliged to accept repentance, but a repentant one should sincerely hope that He will accept it and forgive them.
9. This means that human beings are fallible, and except for the Prophets, almost everyone goes to the other world with some sins. In addition, the good deeds of human beings will not be enough for them to provide the light that they will need in order to reach Paradise from the very moment they will be resurrected. So they will pray to God to complete their light purely out of His grace (also see sūrah 57: 12, 19). They will also need forgiveness in order to be saved from the darkness of their sins. On the other hand, yhe hypocrites will not be able to advance toward Paradise and will be enveloped by the darkness of their hypocrisy (57: 13).
10. For an explanation, see sūrah 9: 73, note 15; 123, note 28.
11. This is the final judgment against them, and also a reference to their condition in the grave.
12. Some reports say that the name of the Pharaoh’s wife was Āsyā. The prayer the Qur’ān quotes from her explains her sincere and deeply established faith in and devotion to God, and her keeping away from the wrongdoings of the Pharaoh and the rebellion of his people against God. Some interpreters infer from “his deeds” that God also saved her from intercourse with the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh may have been (sexually) impotent and had no offspring, as many Pharaoh-like tyrants have been throughout history. This carries the implication that their tyrannical rule will not last long.
13. See sūrah 3: 33–34, note 7.
14. God not only breathed into Mary to conceive of Jesus, upon him be peace, a “spirit” from Him, but also breathed it into the “body” He fashioned out of clay so that Adam, upon him be peace, might come to the world. For the meaning of God’s breathing out of His Spirit, see 4: 171, note 34; 15: 29, note 8. Even though the verse attributes the breathing into Mary to God, this is because it is God Who creates every act of every being. In fact, it was the Archangel Gabriel or the Spirit who breathed into Mary (see 19: 17, note 3).