33:31 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 most excellent sustenance [in the life to come].
By the time this verse was revealed (see note 65 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 God’s Apostle and his family should not be higher than that of the poorest of the believers.
33:32 O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any of the [other] women, provided that you remain [truly] conscious of God. 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.
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 God’s reward, as it were, for this attitude.
33:33 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; 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 [Prophet’s] household, and to purify you to utmost purity.
Regarding this connotation of the term fahishah, see surah 4, note 14. According to Zamakhshari, in his commentary on the present verse, this term comprises all that may be described as a “gross sin’ (kabirah).
33:34 And bear in mind all that is recited in your homes of God’s messages and [His] wisdom, For God is unfathomable [in His wisdom], All-Aware.
See note 5 on 8:4.
33:35 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, and all men and women who are mindful of their chastity, and all men and women who remember God unceasingly, for [all of] them has God readied forgiveness of sins and a mighty reward.
Sc., “and, thus, conscious of your special position as the consorts of God’s Apostle and mothers of the believers”.
33:36 Now whenever God and His Apostle have decided a matter, it is not for a believing man or a believing woman to claim freedom of choice insofar as they themselves are concerned, for he who [thus] rebels against God and His Apostle has already, most obviously, gone astray.
The term jahiliyyah denotes the period of a people’s or civilization’s – 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 71 on 5:50.)
33:37 And Lo, [O Muhammad] thou didst say unto the one to whom God had shown favor and to whom thou has hadst shown favor, “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 – for thou didst stand in awe of [what] people [might think], whereas it was God alone of whom thou shouldst have stood in awe! [But] then, when Zayd had come to the end of his union with her, 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. And [thus] God’s will was done.
For the meaning of the term latif as applied to God, especially in combination with the term khabir, see note 89 on 6:103.
33:38 [Hence] no blame whatever attaches to the Prophet for [having done] what God has ordained for him. [Indeed, such was] God’s way with those that have passed away aforetime – and [remember that] God’s will is always destiny absolute.
The term sa’im, 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”.
33:39 [And such will always be His way with] those who convey God’s messages [to the world], and stand in awe of Him, and hold none but God in awe: for none can take count [of man’s doings] as God does!
Lit., “the men who guard their private parts and the women who guard (them]”: see note 36 on 24:30.
33:40 [And know, O believers, that] Muhammad is not the father of any one of your men but is God’s Apostle and the Seal of all Prophets. And God has indeed full knowledge of everything.
i.e., whenever a specific law has been formulated as such in the Qur’an or in an injunction promulgated by the Prophet.