English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 33: Al-Ahzab — The Allies (Revealed at Makkah: 9 sections, 73 verses)

Section 4 (Verses 33:28–33:34): Prophet’s Domestic Simplicity

Translation:

33:28 O Prophet, say to your wives: If you desire this world’s life and its adornment, come, I will give you a provision and allow you to depart in a gracious manner.1
33:29 And if you desire Allah and His Messenger and the abode of the Hereafter, then surely Allah has prepared for the doers of good among you a mighty reward.
33:30 O wives of the Prophet, whoever of you is guilty of manifestly improper conduct, the punishment will be doubled for her. And this is easy for Allah.2
Part 2233:31 And whoever of you is obedient to Allah and His Messenger and does good, We shall give her a double reward, and We have prepared for her an honourable sustenance.3
33:32 O wives of the Prophet, you are not like any other women. If you would keep your duty, do not be soft in speech, in case he in whose heart is a disease yearn; and speak a word of goodness.4
33:33 And stay in your houses and do not display (your beauty) like the displaying of the earlier (days of) ignorance; and keep up prayer, and give the due charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah only desires to take away uncleanness from you, O people of the household, and to purify you a (thorough) purifying.5
33:34 And remember what is recited in your houses of the messages of Allah and the Wisdom.6 Surely Allah is ever Knower of subtleties, Aware.

Commentary:

  1. Muslims were now growing powerful and wealthier. It was natural, in the circumstances, that the wives of the Prophet should desire to be furnished with better necessities of life than they had previously enjoyed. But just at this time we find a revelation enjoining the strictest simplicity upon them. If the Prophet had allowed his wives to share in the general prosperity of the comm­unity, there could not have been the least objection. But he received a revelation which deprived him and those most nearly related to him of those material bene­fits which others could easily acquire. The splendours of this world were not forbidden to any Muslim, but such transitory vanities were not to be admitted into the household of God’s Prophet. As he possessed the means, his wives would be allowed to depart with rich and ample gifts, if such was their desire. This passage also shows that the object of the Prophet’s marriages was not sensual enjoyment, for he would not have been ready to sacri­fice the ease and comforts attendant upon mere carnal desire, and retain the simplicity enjoined upon his household.
  2. Not only are the Prophet’s wives denied the comforts of life which were available to other Muslim women, but any unseemly conduct on their part brought double the ordinary punishment. Could this be the work of an impostor? In their case the punishment is increased because, being in the Prophet’s house, they had a better chance to be guided aright and to pass their lives in the greatest purity. It should be noted that there is no actual occurrence of the least indecency on the part of any of the Prophet’s wives.
  3. Double reward means only greater reward, as the words honourable sustenance show. The greater reward is due to their having denied themselves the ordinary comforts of life by remaining in the Prophet’s house.
  4. The wives of the Prophet are here told that they were not like other women, as they had to come in contact with large numbers of people, who would come to them to learn the treasures of wisdom which they received from the Prophet. An allusion to this is contained in the words: and speak a word of good­ness. As a safeguard against possible inclination of the heart to evil thoughts, they are told not to indulge in soft and amorous conversation with the opposite sex. It is really a rule of life for all Muslim women, and promotes purity of heart and chastity in the relations between the sexes.
  5. The means of purification are suggested in the preceding text: to observe the utmost simplicity of life, to avoid every indecency, and not to display their beauty to others. The uncleanness which Allah will thus take away is the uncleanness of the desire for worldly riches. As the Prophet himself was an exemplar to the faithful, so was his household to be an example of simplicity and purity to Muslim women; hence they are called mothers of the faithful; see v. 6. Not only did the wives of the Prophet retain the utmost simplicity of life in his lifetime, but even after his death, when the Muslims grew a very wealthy nation and big stipends were paid to the Prophet’s wives, they did not allow wealth to accumulate in their houses but distributed it to deserving people. Of Aishah especially it is related that she was so generous in giving away what came to her that she would sometimes be left without the means for an evening meal.
  6. The wives of the Prophet were not only to serve as models of virtue to the faithful, men as well as women, but they were also required to teach the precepts of religion to the faithful. Hence they are told that they must remember not only the injunctions of the Quran — the messages of Allah — but also the wisdom which the Prophet taught by his practice and word, i.e., the Sunna.

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