Chapter Scripts

Surah Al-Ahzab: 33:41-50

33:41 O You who have attained to faith! Remember God with unceasing remembrance.


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.

33:42 And extol His limitless glory from morn to evening.


For this rendering of the particle idh, see surah 2, note 21. – With the above verse, the discourse returns to the problem of “elective” relationships touched upon in verses 4 ff. Several years before Muhammad’s 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 boy’s owner, Muhammad freed him, and shortly afterward 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 a slave’s or even a freedman’s marrying a “free-born” woman, the Prophet persuaded Zayd to marry his (Muhammad’s) own cousin, Zaynab hint 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 afterward the Prophet married her in order to redeem what he considered to be his moral responsibility for her past unhappiness.

33:43 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.


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.

33:44 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.


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).

33:45 [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. 


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 Qur’an was “composed by Muhammad”),  ‘A’ishah 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).

33:46 And as one who summons [all men] to God by His leave, and as a light-giving beacon.


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

33:47 And [so] convey to the believers the glad tiding that a great bounty from God awaits them. 


Thus, apart from the Prophet’s desire to make amends for Zaynab’s 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 3 on verse 4 of this surah).

33:48 And defer not to [the likes and dislikes of] the deniers of the truth and the hypocrites, and disregard their hurtful talk, and place thy trust in
God, for none is as worthy of trust as God.


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.

33:49 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: hence, make [at once] provision for them, and release them in a becoming manner.


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 God’s elect and – as the subsequent, parenthetic clause declares – is their “destiny absolute” (qadar maqdur).

30:50 O Prophet! Behold, We have made lawful to thee thy wives unto whom thou hast paid their dowers, as well as those whom thy right hand has come to possess from among the captives of war whom God has bestowed upon thee: 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], and any believing woman who offers herself freely to the Prophet and whom the Prophet might be willing to wed, [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. [And] in order that thou be not burdened with [undue] anxiety – for God is indeed Much-Forgiving, a Dispenser of Grace.


i.e., he is the spiritual “father” of the whole community (cf. note 8 on verse 6 of this surah), and not of anyone 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.


The divine scriptures are God’s beacons to the world. Surely God offered His trust to the heavens and the earth, and the hills, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it. And man undertook it.
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