The verse further tells the believing women that, ‘they must not display themselves like that of the times of ignorance’. It means that they must not display their adornment and their beauty to strange men (non-Mahram) as the women of the days of ignorance used to do. At that time, a woman will come out to the market places, displaying her beauty and exposing from her body what she wanted to expose. Believing women therefore, must not follow the traits of these women of the pre-Islamic period nor should they adopt the fashion of those who behave in this manner.
From the above verse, two instructions are made clear to the Muslim women. The first is that they should remain in their houses as much as possible. This is a directive from Allah, and is most desirable to Him, since in this, a believing woman is protected from the evils and the sins that are prevalent in the society at large. Hafiz Ibn Katheer has mentioned a few Ahadith in his Tafseer which shows that the Prophet (S.A) advised the women to remain as much as possible, in their houses (except for a need to come out).
In this regard, the narration of Anas (R.A) is mentioned in which he states, ‘A group of women came to the Prophet (S.A) and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, the men have taken all the virtues and the Jihad in the path of Allah. We do not have any such action through which we can achieve the action of the Mujahideen (fighters) in the path of Allah’. Upon this, the Prophet (S.A) said, ‘Whoever from amongst you remains in her home, then she will achieve the action of the fighters in the path of Allah’. (Tafseer Ibn Katheer vol.3 pg. 482. Print Amjad Academy Lahore Pakistan 1982)
In another narration, Abdullah bin Masood (R.A) narrates that the Prophet (S.A) said, ‘A woman is an object of concealment. When she comes out from her home, Satan stares at her; and the closest a woman can get to the pleasure of her Lord is when she is at her home’. (Ibn Katheer from Tirmizi – Tafseer Ibn Katheer vol.3 pg. 482. Print Amjad Academy Lahore Pakistan 1982)
The second instruction of the above verse is that if a woman needs to go out of her home to attend to a need/necessity, then she must not go out in the manner that the women of the pre-Islamic period used to go out. From among the traits of the women of the ‘times of ignorance’ which the Quran has condemned are:
1) They used to make a display of their adornment and beauty. They would expose their body so that men will look at them.
2) They used to mix freely with men while coming out on the streets and going to the market places.
3) They used to come out from their homes without a need to do so. They would loiter aimlessly on the streets and market places.
4) While walking on the streets, they would walk in front of men, so that they can be seen by men.
5) They walked and behaved in a flirtatious and coquettish manner.
6) They would at times, place a scarf on their heads in a manner that their necklaces, earrings and necks will be visible.
All these were from among the practices adopted by the women who lived in the pre-Islamic period which the believing women have been ordered to shun. (Tafseer Ibn Katheer vol.3 pg. 482-483, Anwarul Bayaan vol.4 pg. 233). Therefore, when there is a need for a Muslim woman to exit her home, she must not adopt any of the above mentioned traits of the pre-Islamic period (ignorant times).
Allah goes further to give more instructions in verse 33 and states, ‘and establish Salaah, pay Zakaah and obey Allah and His Messenger’. Here, special instructions and reminders are given to the wives of the Prophet (S.A) along with all believing women that they should worship Allah by establishing Salaah, and must be kind and charitable to others by giving Zakaah, and must continue to be obedient to Allah and His Messenger in all matters, commandments and prohibitions. These will raise them to the level of pious women.
The verse tells the women of the Prophet’s household that through the institution of these instructions, Allah wishes to purify them from all forms of evil deeds and sins. He wants to rid and purge them from the pollution and blemish of disobedience, and purify them from sins, which contaminate the honour and dignity of man just as impurities contaminate his body. In this way, they will be purified from the filth of sins and disobedience with a thorough purification.
While giving more instructions to the blessed wives of the Prophet (S.A), Allah says in verse 34:
34. And remember (O you the members of the Prophet’s family, the Graces of your Lord), that which is recited in your houses of the Verses of Allah and Al-Hikmah. Verily, Allah is Ever Most Courteous, Well-Acquainted with all things.
Here, the blessed wives have been told by Allah to recite and remember the verses of the the Quran and the Hikmah (which refers to the Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A)) in their homes. For verily in this, lies their success. Commentators of the Holy Quran have stated that in this verse, the wives were reminded that their homes were the places in which verses of the Holy Quran were revealed, hence, they should not forget what was revealed in their homes of the Holy Quran. They should also not forget the laws and teachings which were given in the Holy Quran. (Safwatut Tafseer vol.12 pg. 59)
While commenting on this verse, Hafiz Ibn Katheer (A.R) stated, ‘(Here) the wives of the Prophet (S.A) are commanded to practice upon the Holy Quran which was revealed in their homes, and on the Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A). They should remember this great gift which Allah has given specifically to them among all human beings, in that revelation came in their homes. They should therefore thank Allah and show gratitude to Him. (Tafseer Ibn Katheer vol.3 pg. 486)
The verse states, ‘Verily Allah is Ever Most Compassionate, Well Acquainted (with all things)’. It means that it was only on account of the great compassion of Allah that He chose the houses of the wives of the Prophet (S.A) as a place where the Quraanic verses were sent. He was also well informed about them when He chose them to be the wives of the blessed Messenger (S.A). (Tafseer At Tabari vol.22 pg. 14 – Print Dar At Turath Al Arabi Beirut). In gratitude, they were expected to carry out the best of deeds about which Allah is well informed.