Friday 28 December 2018

Surah At Tahrim - The Prohibition: Summary of 66th Chapter of the Holy Quran

Sūrat at-Taḥrīm is the sixty sixth surah with 12 ayats with two rukus, part of the 28th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an. The Surah derives its name from the words "lima tuharrimu" of the very first verse. Thus the name implies that it is the Surah in which the incident of tahrim (prohibition, banning) has been mentioned. 

The subject matter of this surah is very important as some questions of grave significance with reference to some incidents concerning wives of the Holy Prophet (ﷺ) have been mentioned. These events indicate that this Surah was sent down some time during A.H. 7 or A. H 8.

As per eminent scholar of Pakistan and the Muslim world Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, author of the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an", the surah is very important for the following five reasons: [1]
  • First, that the powers to prescribe the bounds of the lawful and the unlawful, the permissible and the forbidden, are entirely and absolutely in the hand of Allah and nothing has been delegated even to the Prophet of Allah himself, not to speak of any other man. The Prophet cannot declare something lawful or unlawful unless he receives an inspiration from Allah to do so. However, even the Prophet is not authorized to declare anything made permissible by Allah unlawful by himself, much less to say of another man.
  • Second, that in any society the position of a Prophet is very delicate. A minor incident experienced by an ordinary man in his life may not be of any consequence, but it assumes the status of law when experienced by a Prophet. That is why the lives of the Prophets have been kept under close supervision by Allah so that none of their acts, not even a most trivial one, may deviate from Divine Will. Whenever such an act has emanated from a Prophet, it was rectified immediately so that the Islamic law and its principles should reach the people in their absolute purity not only through the Divine Book but also through the excellent example of the Prophet, and they should include nothing which may be in disagreement with Divine Will,
  • Thirdly, and this automatically follows from the above mentioned point, that when the Holy Prophet (ﷺ) was checked on a minor thing, which was not only corrected but also recorded, it gives us complete satisfaction that whatever actions and commands and instructions we now find in the pure life of the Holy Prophet concerning which there is nothing on record in the nature of criticism or correction from Allah, they are wholly based on truth, are in complete conformity with Divine Will and we can draw guidance from them with full confidence and peace of mind.
  • The fourth thing relates to the Holy Messenger himself, whose reverence and respect Allah Himself has enjoined as a necessary part of the Faith of His servants, it has been stated in this Surah that once during his sacred life he made a thing declared lawful by Allah unlawful for himself only to please his wives; then Allah has severely reproved for their errors those very wives of the Holy Prophet, whom He Himself has declared as mothers of the faithful and worthy of the highest esteem and honor by them. Then, this criticism of the Prophet and the administration of the warning to the wives also has not been made secretly but included in the Book, which the entire Ummah has to read and recite for ever.
  • The fifth thing that has been explicitly mentioned in this Surah is that Allah's Religion is absolutely fair and just. It has for every person just that of which he becomes worthy on the basis of his faith and works. No relationship or connection even with the most righteous person can be beneficial for him in any way and no relationship or connection with the most evil and wicked person can be harmful for him in any way. In this connection three kinds of women have been cited as examples before the holy wives in particular in verse 10-11.
Let us now read explanation of the Surah segmented into portions as per the subject matter:

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ 
"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful"

Before we read the first verse, it would be pertinent to mention an incident due to which this surah was revealed. 
  • The Prophet (ﷺ) usually paid a daily visit to all his wives after the Asr Prayer. Once it so happened that he began to stay in the house of Zainab bint-Jahsh longer than usual, for she had received some honey from somewhere as a gift and the Prophet was very fond of sweet things; therefore, he would have a drink of honey at her house. Aishah states that she felt envious of this and spoke to Hafsah, Saudah and Safiyyah about it and together they decided that whoever of them was visited by the Prophet, she should say to him: Your mouth smells of Maghafir (a kind of flower, which gives out an offensive smell, and if the bee obtains honey from it, it is also tainted by the same odor). 
  • Wives of Prophet knew the he was a man of very fine taste and he would not like that he should emit any kind of unpleasant smell. When several of his wives told him that his mouth smelt of Maghafir, he made a promise not to use the honey any longer. In one tradition his words are to the effect: Now, I will never have a drink from it: I have sworn an oath. In another tradition he only said: I will never have a drink from it, and there is no mention of the oath. And in the tradition which Ibn al Mundhir, Ibn Abi Hatim, Tabarani and Ibn Marduyah have related from Ibn Abbas the words are to the effect: By God, I will not drink it.
  • There is yet another incident concerning Hafsah and Aishah and Mariyah. Due to jealousy of the former two wives, they had said something about Mariyah  that the Prophet  forbade her for himself. There upon, Allah sent down this verse: O Prophet, why do you make unlawful that which Allah has made lawful for you. But this incident has not been covered in any of the authentic Hadith books. 
  • The other incident of foul smelling if the honey is well covered in Sahi Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, Nasai and several other books of Hadith from Aishah herself. Thus it is agreed upon by all major Hadith collectors that the opening verse of this surah concerns the incident as explained in detail above.
Now read the first verse and its revelation will be be better understood:
1. O Prophet! Why do you ban (for yourself) that which Allah has made lawful to you, seeking to please your wives? And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
2. Allah has already ordained for you (O men), the dissolution of your oaths. And Allah is your Lord, and He is the All-Knower, the All-Wise.
As per the exegesis, the second verse above means: "Act according to the method Allah has prescribed for absolution from oaths by expiation in (Surah Al-Maidah, Ayat 89) and break your promise that you have made to forbid yourself of a lawful thing. 

Here, an important legal question arises and it is this: Is this command applicable to the case when a person has forbidden upon himself a lawful thing on oath, or is forbidding oneself a lawful thing by itself tantamount to swearing an oath, whether the words of the oath have been used or not. The jurists in this regard have expressed different opinions:
  • One section opines that mere forbidding oneself of a lawful thing is not an oath. If a person without swearing an oath has forbidden upon himself a wife, or some other lawful thing, it is an absurd thing which does not entail any expiation, but he can resume without any expiation the use of the thing that he had forbidden for himself. 
  • The second group says that to forbid oneself something without using the words of oath is not an oath by itself, but the case of the wife is an exception. If a person has forbidden himself a garment, or an article of food, it is meaningless, and one can use it without expiation. But if concerning a wife or a slave-girl he has said: I forbid myself an intercourse with her, she would not become unlawful and forbidden, but one would have to expiate the oath before going in to her. 
  • The third group says that to forbid oneself something is by itself an oath even if the words of oath have not been used. This is the opinion of Abu Bakr. Aishah, Umar, Abdullah bin Masud, Zaid bin Thabit and Abdullah bin Abbas. Although from Ibn Abbas another opinion has been reported in Bukhari to the effect: If a man has forbidden himself his wife, it is meaningless, yet it has been interpreted to mean that according to him this is not divorce but an oath which entails an expiation. 
The verse 3 below again describes an incident on which commandant from Allah was received:
3. The Prophet confided something to one of his wives and then she disclosed it (to another); so after Allah revealed to the Prophet (that she had disclosed that secret), he made a part of it known to her and passed over a part of it. And when he told her about this (i.e., that she had disclosed the secret entrusted to her), she asked: “Who informed you of this?” He said: “I was told of it by He Who is All-Knowing, All-Aware.
The object relating the matter in the Quran is to warn the wives of the Prophet (ﷺ) wives and the wives of the responsible people among the Muslims not to be careless in the matter of guarding secrets. Had it been only a private and personal affair, as is generally the case between the husband and the wife in the world, there was no need that Allah should have directly informed the Prophet (ﷺ) of it through revelation, and then did not rest content only with giving the information, but should also have recorded it in the Book which the whole world has to recite forever. The reason why it was given such importance was that this wife was not the wife of an ordinary husband but of that illustrious husband, whom Allah had appointed to the office of the highest responsibility. In the house of such an illustrious man there could be countless things which if not kept secret but disclosed before time, could harm the great mission which he was performing. Therefore, when a lady of the house happened to show this weakness for the first time in that she disclosed a secret that had been told her in confidence, to another (a member of her own household), the weakness was immediately pointed out to her, not secretly but openly in the Quran, so as to impart training in the guarding of secrets not only to the wives of the Prophet (ﷺ) but also to the wives of all responsible people of the Muslim community. 

The verses 4-5 re;ate to the wives of the Prophet (ﷺ) for in ( verses 1-5 of this Surah ) the affairs concerning the Prophet’s (ﷺ) wives only have been discussed continuously, and this becomes obvious from the style of the Quran itself. 
4. If the two of you turn in repentance to Allah (that is better for you), for the hearts of both of you have swerved from the Straight Path. But if you support one another against the Prophet,8 then surely Allah is his Protector; and after that Gabriel and all righteous believers and the angels are all his supporters.

The details of subject matter in verses 4-5 have been related by Ibn Abbas quoting Umar bin Al Khattab, who narrated the incident to him:
  • Umer said: They two ladies mentioned in verses 4-5 were Aishah and Hafsah. 
  • Then he began to relate the background, saying: We, the people of Quraish, were used to keeping our women folk under strict control. Then, when we came to Al-Madinah, we found that the people here were under the control of their wives, and the women of Quraish too started learning the same thing from them. One day when I became angry with my wife, I was amazed to see that she argued with me. I felt badly about her conduct. She said: Why should you feel so angry at my behavior. By God, the wives of the Prophet (ﷺ) answer him back face to face, (the word in the original is li yuraji nahu) and some one of them remains angrily apart from him for the whole day. (According to Bukhari: the Prophet (ﷺ), remains angry and apart from her the whole day). 
  • Hearing this I came out of my house and went to Hafsah (who was Umar’s daughter and the Prophet’s, (ﷺ), wife). I asked her: Do you answer back to the Prophet (peace be upon him) face to face? She said: Yes. I asked: And does one of you remain apart from him for the whole day, (according to Bukhari: the Holy Prophet remains angry and apart from her for the entire day). She said: Yes. 
  • I said: Wretched is the one from among you, who behaves thus. Has one of you become so fearless of this that Allah should afflict her with His wrath because of the wrath of His Prophet (ﷺ) and she should perish, So, do not be rude to the Prophet (ﷺ)
  • Here also the words are: la turaji-i, nor demand of him anything, but demand of me whatever you desire. Do not be misled by this that your neighbor (i.e. Aishah) is more beautiful and dearer to the Prophet (peace be upon him). 
  • After this I left her house and went to the house of Umm Salamah, who was related to me, and talked to her on this subject. She said: Son of Khattab, you are a strange man: you have meddled in every matter until you are now interfering in the affair between Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and his wives. She discouraged me. Then it so happened that an Ansari neighbor came to my house at night and he called out to me. We used to sit in the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) assembly by turns and each used to pass on to the other the news of the day of his turn. It was the time when we were apprehending an attack by the Ghassanids any time. On his call when I came out of my house, he said that something of grave significance had happened. I said: Have the Ghassanids launched an attack? He said: No, but something even more serious. The Prophet (ﷺ) has divorced his wives. I said: Doomed is Hafsah (the words in Bukhari are: Raghima anfu Hafsah wa Aishah). I already had a premonition of this.
  • We have left out what happened after this, how next morning Umar went before the Prophet (peace be upon him) and tried to appease his anger.
Here, what needs to be considered carefully is that if it was such an ordinary and trivial matter that when the Prophet (ﷺ) said something to his wives they would retort to Him, why was it given so much importance that in the Quran Allah administered a severe warning directly to the wives themselves? And why did Umar take it as such a grave matter that first he reproved his own daughter, then visited the house of the other wives and asked them to fear the wrath of Allah? And, above all, was the Prophet (peace be upon him) also so sensitive that he would take offense at minor things and become annoyed with his wives, and was he, God forbid, so irritable that once having been annoyed at such things he had severed his connections with all his wives and retired to his private apartment in seclusion? If a person considers these questions deeply, he will inevitably have to adopt one of the two views in the explanation of these verses. Either on account of his excessive concern for reverence for the wives he should not at all mind if a fault is imputed to Allah and His Messenger, or else he should admit in a straightforward way that at that time the attitude and behavior of these wives has actually become so objectionable that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was justified in becoming annoyed over it, and more than that, Allah Himself was justified that He should administer a severe warning to the wives on their unseemly behavior and attitude.
5. It may be if he divorced you (all) that his Lord will give him instead of you, wives better than you, Muslims (who submit to Allah), believers, obedient to Allah, turning to Allah in repentance, worshiping Allah sincerely, fasting or emigrants (for Allah's sake), previously married and virgins.
The verse 5 shows that the fault did not lie only with Aisha and Hafsah but the other wives also had some share in it. That is why, after them, all the other wives too, have been warned in this verse. No light has been thrown on the nature of the error in the Quran. In Bukhari, a tradition has been reported from Anas, saying that Umar said: The Prophet’s (peace be upon him) wives because of their mutual envies and rivalries had utterly displeased him. At this I said to them: It may well be that if the Prophet (peace be upon him) divorced you, Allah would give him in your place better wives than you.

In Muslim, Abdullah bin Abbas has related that Umar said to him: When the Prophet (peace be upon him) separated himself from his wives, I went to the mosque and found the people worried and upset and playing with pebbles and saying to one another: The Prophet (peace be upon him) has divorced his wives. After this Umar related his visiting the apartments of Aishah and Hafsah and admonishing them. Then he said: I went before the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said: Why do you feel upset with regard to your wives? If you divorce them, Allah is with you, all the angels and Gabriel and Michael are with you, and I and Abu Bakr and all the believers are with you. I thank Allah that seldom has it so happened that I said a thing and did not have hope from Allah that He would testify to what I said. So, after this these verses of Surah At-Tahrim were sent down. Then I asked the Prophet (peace be upon him): Have you divorced your wives? He said: No. Thereupon I stood at the entrance of the Mosque and announced in a loud voice: The Prophet has not divorced his wives.
6. O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who disobey not, (from executing) the Commands they receive from Allah, but do that which they are commanded.
7. (It will be said in the Hereafter) O you who disbelieve (in the Oneness of Allah - Islamic Monotheism)! Make no excuses this Day! You are being requited only for what you used to do .
In the verse 8 below, the word taubat an-nasuh-an has been used which may either mean that one should offer such true repentance as may have no tinge of pretense and hypocrisy in it, or that one should wish his own self well and repenting of sin should save oneself from the evil end, or that one should so adorn and improve his life after repentance as to become a cause of admonition for others, and seeing his example others also also reform themselves accordingly. 
8. O you who believe! Turn to Allah with sincere repentance! It may be that your Lord will remit from you your sins, and admit you into Gardens under which rivers flow (Paradise) the Day that Allah will not disgrace the Prophet (Muhammad ) and those who believe with him, their Light will run forward before them and with (their Records Books of deeds) in their right hands they will say: "Our Lord! Keep perfect our Light for us [and do not put it off till we cross over the Sirat (a slippery bridge over the Hell) safely] and grant us forgiveness. Verily, You are Able to do all things ."
As for its religious meaning of taubat an-nasuh, its explanation is found in the Hadith which Ibn Abi Hatim has related on the authority of Zirr bin Hubaish. He says: When I asked Ubayy bin Kaab the meaning of taubat an-nasuh, he said that he had asked the Prophet (ﷺ) the same question, and he had replied: It implies that when you happen to commit an error, you should feel penitent for it, then should implore Allah for forgiveness remorsefully, and then should refrain from committing the same error again. 

After offering repentance one should not even think of committing the sin, not to speak of repeating it. In fact a repentance should be accompanied by six things:
(1) You should feel penitent for the wrong you have done. (2) You should carry out the duties that you have ignored. (3) Restore the rights that you have usurped. (4) Ask forgiveness of him whom you have wronged. (5) Make a resolve not to repeat the sin again. (6) Consume yourself in obedience to Allah as you have so far been consuming it in wrongdoing, and cause it to taste the bitterness of obedience as you have so far been causing it to enjoy the sweet taste of disobedience and sin. 
9. O Prophet (Muhammad )! Strive hard against the disbelievers and the hypocrites, and be severe against them, their abode will be Hell, and worst indeed is that destination.

In the verse 10 below, the mention of wives of Prophets Nuh and Lut (may peace be upon them)
10. Allah sets forth an example for those who disbelieve, the wife of Nuh (Noah) and the wife of Lout (Lot). They were under two of our righteous slaves, but they both betrayed their (husbands by rejecting their doctrine) so they [Nuh (Noah) and Lout (Lot)] benefited them (their respective wives) not, against Allah, and it was said: "Enter the Fire along with those who enter!"
This betrayal was not in the sense that they had committed an indecency but in the sense that they did not follow the Prophets Noah and Lot (peace be upon them) on the way of faith but sided with their enemies against them. Ibn Abbas say: No Prophet’s wife has ever been wicked and immoral. The betrayal of these two women in fact was in the matter of faith and religion. They did not acknowledge the religion of the Prophets Noah and Lot (peace be upon them). The Prophet Noah’s wife used to convey news about the believers to the wicked of her people, and the Prophet Lot’s wife used to inform the immoral people about those who visited him in his house. 

The verse 11 below mentions the pious wife a wretched Pharaoh who lamented to Allah to save her from the the treacheries of her husband:
11. And Allah has set forth an example for those who believe, the wife of Fir'aun (Pharaoh), when she said: "My Lord! Build for me a home with You in Paradise, and save me from Fir'aun (Pharaoh) and his work, and save me from the people who are Zalimun (polytheists, wrong-doers and disbelievers in Allah).
In the last verse, mention of Maryam (Mary, the mother of Prophet Eesa / Jesus Christ):
12. And Maryam (Mary), the daughter of 'Imran who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into (the sleeve of her shirt or her garment) through Our Ruh [i.e. Jibrael (Gabriel)], and she testified to the truth of the Words of her Lord [i.e. believed in the Words of Allah: "Be!" and he was; that is 'Eesa (Jesus) - son of Maryam (Mary); as a Messenger of Allah], and (also believed in) His Scriptures, and she was of the Qanitin (i.e. obedient to Allah).
Here it may be noted that the name of Maryam’s father was Imran, or she may have been called daughter of Imran because she belonged to the family of Imran. This is a refutation of the accusation by the Jews that the birth of Jesus was, God forbid, the result of a sin of his mother. Their same accusation has been called a monstrous calumny in (Surah An-Nisa, Ayat 156). That is, without her having any connection with a man, Allah breathed into her womb a Spirit from Himself. 

You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Sūrat at-Taḥrīm with English subtitles:

You may refer to our post "114 Chapters (Sūrahs) of the Holy Qur'an" for translation, meaning and summary of other chapters (Though not complete but building up from 30th Part backwards for chapters in 30th Part are shorter and easier to understand). 

References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |
An effort has been made to gather explanation of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic souses and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. However, those wanting detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to sites the references of which are given above.

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