Allah’s rebuke to His Messenger and the Story of Zayd and Zaynab
Tafheem ul Quran
Surah 33 – Al-Ahzaab – Ayah 37
أَعـوذُ بِاللهِ مِنَ الشَّيْـطانِ الرَّجيـم
بِسْمِ اللّٰهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
وَاِذۡ تَقُوۡلُ لِلَّذِىۡۤ اَنۡعَمَ اللّٰهُ عَلَيۡهِ وَاَنۡعَمۡتَ عَلَيۡهِ اَمۡسِكۡ عَلَيۡكَ زَوۡجَكَ وَاتَّقِ اللّٰهَ وَتُخۡفِىۡ فِىۡ نَفۡسِكَ مَا اللّٰهُ مُبۡدِيۡهِ وَتَخۡشَى النَّاسَ ۚ وَاللّٰهُ اَحَقُّ اَنۡ تَخۡشٰٮهُ ؕ فَلَمَّا قَضٰى زَيۡدٌ مِّنۡهَا وَطَرًا زَوَّجۡنٰكَهَا لِكَىۡ لَا يَكُوۡنَ عَلَى الۡمُؤۡمِنِيۡنَ حَرَجٌ فِىۡۤ اَزۡوَاجِ اَدۡعِيَآئِهِمۡ اِذَا قَضَوۡا مِنۡهُنَّ وَطَرًا ؕ وَكَانَ اَمۡرُ اللّٰهِ مَفۡعُوۡلًا ۞
O Prophet, 67 remember the time when you were saying to the man, 68 whom Allah as well as you had favoured, “Keep your wife and fear Allah. ” 69 You were at that time keeping hidden in your heart that which Allah intended to reveal: you were fearing the people, whereas Allah has a greater right that you should fear Him. 70 So, when Zaid had fulfilled his desire of her, 71 We married (the divorced woman) to you 72 so that there remains no hindrance for the believers in regard to the wives of their adopted sons when they have fulfilled their desire of them. 73 And Allah’s Command had to be carried out.
67 The discourse from here to verse 48 was sent down after the Holy Prophet had married Hadrat Zainab, and the hypocrites, the Jews and the mushriks had started a relentless propaganda campaign against him. While studying these verses one should bear in mind the fact that this Divine discourse was not meant for the instruction of the enemies who were engaged. in a wilful campaign of vilification and slander and falsehood to defame the Holy Prophet intentionally and to satisfy their rancour. But its real object was to protect the Muslims against the influence of their campaign and to safeguard them against doubts and suspicions. Evidently, the Word of Allah could not satisfy the unbelievers. It could give peace of mind only to those who knew and believed it to be Allah’s Word. There was a danger that those righteous people also might be confused and influenced by the objections that were being raised by their enemies. Therefore, on the one hand, Allah removed all possible doubts from their minds, and on the other, taught the Muslims as well as the Holy Prophet himself how they should conduct themselves under the circrunstances.
68 It refers to Hadrat Zaid as has been mentioned clearly below. In order to understand how Allah had favoured him and how the Holy Prophet, it is necessary here to relate his story briefly. He was the son of Harithah bin Shurahbil, a person of the Kalb tribe, and his mother, Su’da bint Tha’labah, was from the Bani Ma’n, a branch of the Tay tribe. When he was eight years old, she took him along to her parents. There the people of Bani Qain bin Jasr raided their camp, plundered their good: and took some men prisoners, Hadrat Zaid included. Then they sold Zaid at the fair of ‘Ukiiz near Ta’if. His buyer was Hakim bin Hizam, a nephew of Hadrat Khadijah. Hakim brought him to Makkah and presented him to his paternal aunt. When the Holy Prophet married Hadrat Khadijah he found Zaid in her service and was so impressed by his good manners and conduct that he asked him of her. Thus, this fortunate boy entered the service of the best of men, whom Allah, after a few years, was going to appoint a Prophet. Hadrat Zaid at that time was 15 years old. Afterwards when his father and uncle came to know that their child was at Makkah, they came to the Holy Prophet and requested him to return him in exchange for ransom. The Holy Prophet said, “I shall call the boy and leave it to him whether he would like to go with you or stay with me. If he chose to go, I would take no ransom but would Iet Trim go with you. However, if he chose to stay back, I am not the one who would turn out a person who would like to stay with me.” They said, “This is perfectly right and just. Please ask the boy.” The Holy Prophet called Zaid and asked him, Do you know these two gentlemen?” He said, “Yes sir, this is my father and this my uncle.” The Holy Prophet then said, “Well, you know them as well as me. You have the choice to go with them, or stay with me if you so desire. ” He said, “I have no wish to leave you and go with anyone else. ” His father and uncle said, I ‘Zaid, will you prefer slavery to freedom, and choose to stay with others in preference to your parents and family?” He replied, “After what I have seen of this person I cannot now prefer anything else of the world to him.” Hearing the reply the father and uncle of Zaid were reconciled to his remaining with the Holy I Prophet. The Holy Prophet set Zaid fret immediately and proclaimed before a gathering of the Quraish in the Ka’bah, “Bear witness that hence-forth Zaid is my son: he will receive inheritance from me and I from him.” Thereafter, he began to be called Zaid bin Muhammad by the people. All this happened before the Holy Prophet’s advent as a Prophet. Then, when he was blessed with Prophethood by Allah, there were four persons who accepted his claim to it without a moment’s hesitation as soon as they heard of it from him. They were Hadrat Khadijah, Hadrat Zaid, Hadrat ‘AIi and Hadrat Abu Bakr. Hadrat Zaid was 30 years old then, and had already spent 15 years in the Holy Prophet’s service. In the fourth year after Hijrah, the Holy Prophet marred him to his first cousin Hadrat Zainab, paid her dower on his behalf and provided them with necessary articles for setting up the house. This is to what Allah has alluded in the verse, saying: “Whom Allah as well as you had favoured. ”
69 These words were said when the relations between Hadrat Zaid and Hadrat Zainab had become very strained, and after making repeated complaints Hadrat Zaid had finally told the Holy Prophet that he intended to divorce her. Although Hadrat Zainab had accepted to be married to him in obedience to Allah and His Messenger’s command, she could not overcome her feeling that Zaid was a freed slave, who had been brought up by her own family, and she in spite of being the daughter of a noble Arab family, had been wedded to him. Due to this feeling she could never regard Hadrat Zaid as her equal in matrimonial lift, and this caused more and more bitterness between them. Thus after a little more than a year the marriage ended in divorce.
70 Some people have misconstrued this sentence to mean this: The Holy Prophet desired to marry Hadrat Zainab and wanted that Zaid should divorce her. But when Zaid came to the Holy Prophet and said that he wanted to divorce his wife, the Holy Prophet stopped him from this only half-heartedly. At this Allaln said: ‘You were keeping hidden in your heart that which Allah intended to reveal. The real meaning, however, is contrary to this. If this the sentence is read with verses 1, 2, 3 and 7 of this Surah, one can clearly see that in the very days when bitterness was increasing between Hadrat Zaid and his wife, Allah had hinted to His Prophet that when Zaid had divorced his wife, he would Inave to marry the divorced lady. But since the Holy Prophet knew what it meant to marry the divorced wife of the adopted son in the contemporary Arab society, and that too at a time when apart from a handful of the Muslims the entire country had become jealous of him, he was hesitant to take any step in that direction. That is why when Hadrat Zaid expressed his intention to divorce his wife, the Holy Prophet said to him, `Fear Allah and do not divorce your wife.” What he meant by this was that Zaid should not divorce his wife so that he was saved from facing the trial, otherwise in case the divorce was pronounced he would have to comply with the command, and thus provoke a severe storm of criticism and vilification against himself. But when the Holy Prophet deliberately forbade Zaid to divorce his wife so that he himself might be saved from what he feared would cause him defamatian, Allah found this below the high position that He wanted His Prophet to enjoy, whereas Allah intended to effect a great reform through this marriage of the Prophet. The words ‘You were fearing the people, whereas Allah has a greater right that you should fear Him,” clearly point to the same theme.
The same explanation of this verse has been given by Imam Zain-ul-‘Abedin Hadrat ‘AIi bin Husain (may Allah be pleased with him). He says, Allah had indicated to His Prophet that Zainab would be included among his wives. But when Zaid complained about her to him, the Holy Prophet admonished him to fear Allah and keep his wife. At this Allah said to His Prophet, ‘I had informed you that I would marry you to Zainab. But when you were forbidding Zaid to divorce his wife, you were hiding that which Allah was going to reveal’.” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir on the authority of Ibn Abi Hatim).
‘Allama Alusi also in his Ruh al-Ma ani has given the same meaning of it. He says, ‘This is an expression of displeasure on abandoning the better course, which was that the Holy Prophet should have kept quiet, or should have told Zaid to do as he liked. The displeasure amounted to this: ‘Why did you tell Zaid to keep his wife, whereas I had informed you beforehand that Zainab would be included among your wives?”
71 That is, Zaid divorced his wife and her waiting-period came to an end. The words “fulfilled his desire of her” by themselves give the meaning that Zaid was left with no desire attached to her. And this state of affairs does not appear on mere pronouncement of the divorce, because even during the waitingperiod the husband can take his wife back if he has any interest in her; and the husband also has this desire left with the divorced wife that it should become known whether she is pregnant or not. Therefore, the desire of her former husband with the divorced wife comes to an end only on the expiry of the waitingperiod.
72 These words are explicit that the Holy Prophet had married Hadrat Zainab not because of any personal desire but under the Command of Allah.
73 These words clearly indicate that Allah accomplished this social reform through the Holy Prophet to effect a great change which could not be enforced” by any other means. There was no way to put an end to the wrong customs that had become prevalent in Arabia in respect of the adopted relations but that Allah’s Messenger himself should take initiative to abolish them. Therefore, AIlah arranged this marriage not for the sake of adding a wife to the Holy Prophet’s household but for enforcing an important social change.
IBN Kathir Tafsir
﴿وَإِذْ تَقُولُ لِلَّذِى أَنعَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَأَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِ أَمْسِكْ عَلَيْكَ زَوْجَكَ وَاتَّقِ اللَّهَ وَتُخْفِى فِى نِفْسِكَ مَا اللَّهُ مُبْدِيهِ وَتَخْشَى النَّاسَ وَاللَّهُ أَحَقُّ أَن تَخْشَـهُ فَلَمَّا قَضَى زَيْدٌ مِّنْهَا وَطَراً زَوَّجْنَـكَهَا لِكَىْ لاَ يَكُونَ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ حَرَجٌ فِى أَزْوَاجِ أَدْعِيَآئِهِمْ إِذَا قَضَوْاْ مِنْهُنَّ وَطَراً وَكَانَ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ مَفْعُولاً ﴾
(37. And (remember) when you said to him on whom Allah has bestowed grace and you have done a favor: “Keep your wife to yourself, and have Taqwa of Allah.” But you did hide in yourself that which Allah will make manifest, you did fear the people whereas Allah had a better right that you should fear Him. So, when Zayd had completed his aim with her, We gave her to you in marriage, so that there may be no difficulty to the believers in respect of the wives of their adopted sons when the latter have no desire to keep them. And Allah’s command must be fulfilled.)
Allah tells what His Prophet said to his freed slave Zayd bin Harithah, may Allah be pleased with him, who was the one on whom Allah had bestowed grace, i.e., through Islam and following the Messenger .
(and you have done a favor ﴿to him﴾) means, by freeing him from slavery. And he was a great leader, held in high esteem and beloved by the Prophet . He was known as the beloved, and his son Usamah was known as the beloved son of the beloved. `A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, said: “The Messenger of Allah never sent him on a campaign but he appointed him as its commander, and if he had lived after him he would have appointed him as his Khalifah.” This was recorded by Imam Ahmad. The Messenger of Allah had given him in marriage to the daughter of his paternal aunt, Zaynab bint Jahsh Al-Asadiyyah, may Allah be pleased with her, whose mother was Umaymah bint `Abd Al-Muttalib. For her dowery he gave her ten Dinars, sixty Dirhams, a veil, a cloak and a shirt, fifty Mudds of food and ten Mudds of dates. This was stated by Muqatil bin Hayyan. She stayed with him for a year, more or less, then problems arose between them. Zayd complained about her to the Messenger of Allah , who told him, “Stay with your wife and have Taqwa of Allah.” Allah says:
﴿وَتُخْفِى فِى نِفْسِكَ مَا اللَّهُ مُبْدِيهِ وَتَخْشَى النَّاسَ وَاللَّهُ أَحَقُّ أَن تَخْشَـهُ﴾
(But you did hide in yourself that which Allah will make manifest, you did fear the people whereas Allah had a better right that you should fear Him.) Ibn Jarir narrated that `A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, said, “If Muhammad were to have concealed anything that was revealed to him of the Book of Allah, he would have concealed this Ayah:
﴿وَتُخْفِى فِى نِفْسِكَ مَا اللَّهُ مُبْدِيهِ وَتَخْشَى النَّاسَ وَاللَّهُ أَحَقُّ أَن تَخْشَـهُ﴾
(But you did hide in yourself that which Allah will make manifest, you did fear the people whereas Allah had a better right that you should fear Him.)”
﴿فَلَمَّا قَضَى زَيْدٌ مِّنْهَا وَطَراً زَوَّجْنَـكَهَا﴾
(So, when Zayd had completed his aim with her, We gave her to you in marriage,) meaning, `when her marriage to Zayd was over and he had separated from her, We married her to you,’ and the One Who was her Wali (guardian) in this marriage was Allah Himself, in the sense that He revealed to the Prophet that he should go in unto her without any Wali, contractual agreement, dowery or witnesses among mankind. Imam Ahmad recorded that Thabit said that Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “When Zaynab’s `Iddah finished, may Allah be pleased with her, the Messenger of Allah said to Zayd bin Harithah,
«اذْهَبْ فَاذْكُرْهَا عَلَي»
(Go to her and tell her about me (that I want to marry her).) So, he went to her and found her kneading dough. He (Zayd) said, `When I saw her I felt such respect for her that I could not even look at her and tell her what the Messenger of Allah had said, so I turned my back to her and stepped aside, and said, `O Zaynab! Rejoice, for the Messenger of Allah has sent me to propose marriage to you on his behalf.’ She said, `I will not do anything until I pray to my Lord, may He be glorified.’ So she went to the place where she usually prayed. Then Qur’an was revealed and the Messenger of Allah came and entered without permission. We were there when she entered upon the Messenger of Allah , and for the wedding feast we offered bread and meat. Then the people left, and some men stayed behind conversing in the house after they had eaten. The Messenger of Allah went out and I followed him. He started to go around all the apartments of his wives, greeting them, and they said, `O Messenger of Allah, how did you find your (new) wife’ I do not know whether I or someone else told him that those people had left, so he went and entered the house, and I went to enter after him, but he drew the curtain between himself and I. The ruling of Hijab was revealed and he exhorted the people as Allah had exhorted them:
﴿لاَ تَدْخُلُواْ بُيُوتَ النَّبِىِّ إِلاَّ أَن يُؤْذَنَ لَكُمْ﴾
(Enter not the Prophet’s houses, unless permission is given to you).” This was also recorded by Muslim and An-Nasa’i. Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, recorded that Anas bin Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “Zaynab bint Jahsh, may Allah be pleased with her, used to boast to the other wives of the Prophet , saying, `Your families arranged your marriages, but Allah arranged my marriage from above the seven heavens.”’ In (our Tafsir of) Surat An-Nur we mentioned that Muhammad bin `Abdullah bin Jahsh said: “Zaynab and `A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with them, were boasting to one another; Zaynab, may Allah be pleased with her, said, `I am the one whose marriage was revealed from above the heaven.’ `A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, said, `I am the one whose innocence was revealed from heaven.’ So, Zaynab conceded that, may Allah be pleased with her.”
﴿لِكَىْ لاَ يَكُونَ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ حَرَجٌ فِى أَزْوَاجِ أَدْعِيَآئِهِمْ إِذَا قَضَوْاْ مِنْهُنَّ وَطَراً﴾
(so that there may be no difficulty to the believers in respect of the wives of their adopted sons when the latter have no desire to keep them.) means, `We permitted you to marry her, and We did that so that there would no longer be any difficulty for the believers with regard to their marrying the ex-wives of their adopted sons.’ Before prophethood, the Messenger of Allah had adopted Zayd bin Harithah, may Allah be pleased with him, and he was known as Zayd, the son of Muhammad. Allah put a stop to this when He said:
﴿وَمَا جَعَلَ أَدْعِيَآءَكُمْ أَبْنَآءَكُمْ﴾
(nor has He made your adopted sons your real sons) until:
﴿ادْعُوهُمْ لاًّبَآئِهِمْ هُوَ أَقْسَطُ عِندَ اللَّهِ﴾
(Call them after their fathers, that is more just with Allah) (33:4-5). Then this was confirmed and made even clearer by the marriage of the Messenger of Allah to Zaynab bint Jahsh, may Allah be pleased with her, when Zayd bin Harithah divorced her. Allah says in Ayat At-Tahrim:
﴿وَحَلَـئِلُ أَبْنَآئِكُمُ الَّذِينَ مِنْ أَصْلَـبِكُمْ﴾
(the wives of your sons from your own loins) (4:23) which specifically excludes adopted sons. This custom (of adopting sons) was widespread among them.
﴿وَكَانَ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ مَفْعُولاً﴾
(And Allah’s command must be fulfilled.) means, `this that has happened was decreed by Allah and was inevitable.’ Allah knew that Zaynab, may Allah be pleased with her, would become one of the wives of the Prophet .
﴿مَّا كَانَ عَلَى النَّبِىِّ مِنْ حَرَجٍ فِيمَا فَرَضَ اللَّهُ لَهُ سُنَّةَ اللَّهِ فِى الَّذِينَ خَلَوْاْ مِن قَبْلُ وَكَانَ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ قَدَراً مَّقْدُوراً ﴾
(38. There is no blame on the Prophet in that which Allah has made legal for him. That has been Allah’s way with those who have passed away of old. And the command of Allah is a decree determined.)
﴿مَّا كَانَ عَلَى النَّبِىِّ مِنْ حَرَجٍ فِيمَا فَرَضَ اللَّهُ لَهُ﴾
(There is no blame on the Prophet in that which Allah has made legal for him.) means, in that which has been permitted for him and which he has been commanded to do, i.e. his marrying Zaynab, may Allah be pleased with her,, who had been divorced by his adopted son Zayd bin Harithah,
﴿سُنَّةَ اللَّهِ فِى الَّذِينَ خَلَوْاْ مِن قَبْلُ﴾
(That has been Allah’s way with those who have passed away of old.) means this is the ruling of Allah for the Prophets who came before him. Allah would not command them to do anything for which they might be blamed. This is a refutation of those hypocrites who imagined that there was anything wrong with his marrying the ex-wife of Zayd, his freed slave and adopted son.
﴿وَكَانَ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ قَدَراً مَّقْدُوراً﴾
(And the command of Allah is a decree determined.) means, His command which He has decreed must inevitably come to pass; nothing can prevent it or avert it, for whatever He wills happens, and whatever He does not decree, does not happen.