Chapter Scripts

Surah Al-Ahzab: 33:1-10

In The Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace.

33:1 O Prophet! Remain conscious of God, and defer not to the deniers of the truth and the hypocrites, for God is Truly All-Knowing, Wise.


Lit., “what is revealed to thee from thy Sustainer” – indicating that He is the source of all revelation.

33:2 And follow [but] that which comes unto thee through revelation from thy Sustainer, for God is truly aware of all that you do, [O men].


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).

33:3 And place thy trust in God [alone], for none is as worthy of trust as God.


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 mother’s 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 husband’s 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.

33:4 Never has God endowed any man with two hearts in one body, 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, so, too, has He never made your adopted sons [truly] your sons: these are but [figures of] speech uttered by your mouths – whereas God speaks the [absolute] truth, and it is He alone who can show [you] the right path.


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.

33:5 [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. However, you will incur no sin if you err in this respect, [what really matters is] but what your hearts intend – for God is indeed Much-Forgiving, a Dispenser of Grace!


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 Qur’an frequently uses the metaphor of God’s “speech” to express His creative activity.

33:6 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, and they who are [thus] closely related have, in accordance with God’s 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]. Nonetheless, you are to act with utmost goodness towards your [other] close friends as well, this [too] is written down in God’s decree.


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.

33:7And Lo! We did accept a solemn pledge from all the prophets – 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. 


i.e., by making a mistake in the attribution of the child’s parentage, or by calling him or her, out of love, “my son” or “my daughter”.

33:8 So that [at the end of time] He might ask those men of truth as to [what response] their truthfulness [had received on earth]. And grievous suffering has He readied for all who deny the truth!


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., lbn Mas’ud (as quoted by Zamakhshari) or Ubayy ibn Ka’b, Ibn ‘Abbas and Mu’awiyah (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, ‘Ikrimah 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 50.) As regards the status of the Prophet’s wives as the “mothers of the believers”, this arises primarily from the fact of their having shared the life of God’s 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”

33:9 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 stormwind and [heavenly] hosts that you could not see: yet God saw all that you did.


See note 86 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 endeavors to interpret them in that sense only do violence to the logical build-up and inner cohesion of the Qur’anic 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 God’s Apostle.

33:10 [Remember what you felt] when they came upon you from above you and from below you, 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.


i.e., towards all other believers, as stressed so often in the Qur’an, and particularly in 8:75 (see preceding note): in other words, a believer’s exalted love for the Prophet should not blind him to the fact that “all believers are brethren” (49:10). The extremely complex term ma’ruf, 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).

Back to top button