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 5 (Verses 33:35–33:40): Prophet’s Marriage with Zainab


اِنَّ الۡمُسۡلِمِیۡنَ وَ الۡمُسۡلِمٰتِ وَ الۡمُؤۡمِنِیۡنَ وَ الۡمُؤۡمِنٰتِ وَ الۡقٰنِتِیۡنَ وَ الۡقٰنِتٰتِ وَ الصّٰدِقِیۡنَ وَ الصّٰدِقٰتِ وَ الصّٰبِرِیۡنَ وَ الصّٰبِرٰتِ وَ الۡخٰشِعِیۡنَ وَ الۡخٰشِعٰتِ وَ الۡمُتَصَدِّقِیۡنَ وَ الۡمُتَصَدِّقٰتِ وَ الصَّآئِمِیۡنَ وَ الصّٰٓئِمٰتِ وَ الۡحٰفِظِیۡنَ فُرُوۡجَہُمۡ وَ الۡحٰفِظٰتِ وَ الذّٰکِرِیۡنَ اللّٰہَ کَثِیۡرًا وَّ الذّٰکِرٰتِ ۙ اَعَدَّ اللّٰہُ لَہُمۡ مَّغۡفِرَۃً وَّ اَجۡرًا عَظِیۡمًا ﴿۳۵﴾

33:35 Surely the men who submit and the women who submit, and the believing men and the believing women, and the obeying men and the obeying women, and the truthful men and the truthful women, and the patient men and the patient women, and the humble men and the humble women, and the charitable men and the charitable women, and the fasting men and the fasting women, and the men who guard their (own) chastity and the women who guard, and the men who remember Allah much and the women who remember — Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a mighty reward.1

وَ مَا کَانَ لِمُؤۡمِنٍ وَّ لَا مُؤۡمِنَۃٍ اِذَا قَضَی اللّٰہُ وَ رَسُوۡلُہٗۤ اَمۡرًا اَنۡ یَّکُوۡنَ لَہُمُ الۡخِیَرَۃُ مِنۡ اَمۡرِہِمۡ ؕ وَ مَنۡ یَّعۡصِ اللّٰہَ وَ رَسُوۡلَہٗ فَقَدۡ ضَلَّ ضَلٰلًا مُّبِیۡنًا ﴿ؕ۳۶﴾

33:36 And it does not befit a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided an affair, to exercise a choice in their matter. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he surely strays off to manifest error.2

وَ اِذۡ تَقُوۡلُ لِلَّذِیۡۤ اَنۡعَمَ اللّٰہُ عَلَیۡہِ وَ اَنۡعَمۡتَ عَلَیۡہِ اَمۡسِکۡ عَلَیۡکَ زَوۡجَکَ وَ اتَّقِ اللّٰہَ وَ تُخۡفِیۡ فِیۡ نَفۡسِکَ مَا اللّٰہُ مُبۡدِیۡہِ وَ تَخۡشَی النَّاسَ ۚ وَ اللّٰہُ اَحَقُّ اَنۡ تَخۡشٰہُ ؕ فَلَمَّا قَضٰی زَیۡدٌ مِّنۡہَا وَطَرًا زَوَّجۡنٰکَہَا لِکَیۡ لَا یَکُوۡنَ عَلَی الۡمُؤۡمِنِیۡنَ حَرَجٌ فِیۡۤ اَزۡوَاجِ اَدۡعِیَآئِہِمۡ اِذَا قَضَوۡا مِنۡہُنَّ وَطَرًا ؕ وَ کَانَ اَمۡرُ اللّٰہِ مَفۡعُوۡلًا ﴿۳۷﴾

33:37 And when you said to him (Zaid) to whom Allah had shown favour and to whom you had shown a favour: Keep your wife to yourself and keep your duty to Allah;3 and you concealed in your heart what Allah would bring to light, and you feared people, while Allah has a greater right that you should fear Him. So when Zaid dissolved her marriage-tie, We gave her to you as a wife, so that there should be no difficulty for the believers about the wives of their adopted sons, when they have dissolved their (wives’) marriage-tie.4 And Allah’s command is ever performed.

مَا کَانَ عَلَی النَّبِیِّ مِنۡ حَرَجٍ فِیۡمَا فَرَضَ اللّٰہُ لَہٗ ؕ سُنَّۃَ اللّٰہِ فِی الَّذِیۡنَ خَلَوۡا مِنۡ قَبۡلُ ؕ وَ کَانَ اَمۡرُ اللّٰہِ قَدَرًا مَّقۡدُوۡرَۨا ﴿۫ۙ۳۸﴾

33:38 There is no harm for the Prophet in what Allah has ordained for him. Such has been the way of Allah with those who have gone before. And the command of Allah is a decree that is made absolute —

الَّذِیۡنَ یُبَلِّغُوۡنَ رِسٰلٰتِ اللّٰہِ وَ یَخۡشَوۡنَہٗ وَ لَا یَخۡشَوۡنَ اَحَدًا اِلَّا اللّٰہَ ؕ وَ کَفٰی بِاللّٰہِ حَسِیۡبًا ﴿۳۹﴾

33:39 those who deliver the messages of Allah and fear Him, and fear none but Allah. And Allah is sufficient to take account.

مَا کَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ اَبَاۤ اَحَدٍ مِّنۡ رِّجَالِکُمۡ وَ لٰکِنۡ رَّسُوۡلَ اللّٰہِ وَ خَاتَمَ النَّبِیّٖنَ ؕ وَ کَانَ اللّٰہُ بِکُلِّ شَیۡءٍ عَلِیۡمًا ﴿٪۴۰﴾

33:40 Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the prophets. And Allah is ever Knower of all things.5


  1. This verse repeats ten times that women can attain every good quality to which men can have access and settles it conclusively that according to the Quran women stand on the same spiritual level as men.
  2. This refers to the marriage of Zainab, first cousin of the Holy Prophet through his paternal aunt, with Zaid, his freed slave and adopted son. Zainab and her relations wished for her marriage to the Holy Prophet. But he insisted that she marry Zaid. In deference to his wishes, she accepted marriage with Zaid.
  3. The marriage was not happy and Zaid expressed a desire to the Holy Prophet of divorcing Zainab. The news was grieving for the Prophet, for it was he who had insisted upon the marriage, and he therefore advised Zaid not to divorce her. According to one interpretation, the subsequent words “and you con­cealed in your heart” to “Allah has a greater right that you should fear Him” are a continuation of the Holy Prophet’s advice to Zaid not to divorce Zainab. (Editor’s Note: In this interpretation, “you feared people” is also said to refer to Zaid’s fear that, as the social standing of Zainab was much higher than his own, people would think he was not giving Zainab sufficient respect.)
  4. After Zainab was divorced the Holy Prophet took her in marriage, that being the wish of the lady and her relatives before her marriage to Zaid, and the Prophet was, now that the marriage arranged by him proved unsuccessful, morally bound to accept their wishes. Moreover, the Quran had declared against an adopted son being regarded as if he were a real son, and now there was an opportunity where the Holy Prophet could deal a death-blow to that custom. This reason is plainly given in the second part of the verse: so that there should be no difficulty for the believers about the wives of their adopted sons. The Quran does not give any other reason for the marriage. There is a baseless story that the Prophet, having seen Zainab by chance through a half-open door, was fascinated by her beauty, and that Zaid, having come to know of this, divorced her, and then she became the Prophet’s wife. That this story is absurd is shown by the admitted facts that the Holy Prophet knew her very well before her marriage to Zaid, that he himself insisted on her marrying Zaid despite she and her relatives being desirous of her marriage with the Holy Prophet, and that he strongly advised Zaid not to divorce her.
  5. The word khātam means a seal or the last part or portion of a thing, the latter being the primary significance of the word khātim. The words khātam al-qaum always means the last of the people — ākhiru-hum. Though the Holy Prophet was admittedly the last of the prophets, and even history shows that no prophet appeared after him in the world, yet the Quran has adopted the word khātam and not khātim, because a deeper significance is carried in the phrase Seal of the prophets than mere finality. It indicates finality combined with perfection of prophethood, along with a continuance among his followers of certain blessings of prophethood. He is the Seal of the prophets because with him the object of prophethood, the manifestation of Divine will in Laws which should guide humanity, was finally accomplished in the revelation of a perfect law in the Holy Quran, and he is also the Seal of the prophets because certain favours bestowed on prophets were forever to continue among his followers. The office of the prophet was only necessary to guide people, either by giving them a law or by removing the imperfections of a previously existing law, or by giving certain new directions to meet the requirements of the time or place. Hence prophets were cons­tantly raised. But through the Holy Prophet a perfect law was given, suiting the requirements of all ages and all countries, and this law was guarded against all corruption, and the office of the prophet was therefore no more required. But this did not mean that the Divine favours bestowed on His chosen servants were to be denied to the chosen ones among the Muslims. The highest of these favours is Divine inspiration, and it is recognized by Islam that the Divine Being speaks to His chosen ones now as He spoke in the past, but such people are not prophets in the real sense of the word. According to a most reliable hadith, the Prophet said “there will be in my community”, i.e., among the Muslims, “men who will be spoken to (by God), though they will not be prophets” (Bukhari, 62:6). According to another version of the same hadith, such people are given the name muḥaddath. There is also a saying of the Holy Prophet: Nothing has remained of pro­phethood except mubashsharāt, i.e., good news. And being asked what was meant by mubashsharāt, or good news, he said: “True visions” (Bukhari, 91:5). Accord­ing to another hadith: “The vision of the believer is one of the forty-six parts of prophethood” (Bukhari, 91:4). Prophethood itself has gone, but one of its bless­ings remains, and will exist forever among the followers of the Holy Prophet.