Suratul Ahzab (verse 35 continued and verse 36 – 37 )

In this regard, Abu Saeed Al Khudri (R.A) has stated, ‘I said, ‘O Prophet of Allah, which of the servants will have the best status in the sight of Allah on the Day of Judgement?’ The Prophet (S.A) said, ‘The men and women who remembered Allah in abundance’. (Ahmad – Tafseer Ibn Katheer vol.3 pg. 488)

There are many other traditions which speak of the greatness of Allah’s remembrance which must be in the life of every believer. One such narration is that of Abdullah bin Busr (R.A) in which he says that someone said to the Prophet (S.A), ‘The actions of Islam are numerous. Show me one action that I may continuously perform’. The Prophet (S.A) replied, ‘(The action is that) your tongue remains moist with the remembrance of Allah’ (that is, your tongue must always be busy with Allah’s remembrance). (Mishkaat)

Having highlighted the outstanding qualities of the believers, Allah concludes the verse by announcing the great rewards He has kept for those who possess these remarkable attributes. The verse says, ‘Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward’. It means that Allah has prepared great rewards and paradise for those pious believers who have inculcated those beautiful qualities. He would also forgive them for their sins on account of the good deeds they do.

After mentioning the outstanding qualities of the believers and their great status and honour, Allah goes further in verse 36 to explain to the believers that obedience to the Messenger (S.A) is obedience to Him, and the command given by the Messenger (S.A) is His command. The verse states:

36. It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed in a plain error.

The verse makes it abundantly clear that when Allah and His Messenger (S.A) have decreed a matter (or given a command), then it is not befitting/becoming of any believer (male/female) to have an opinion or choice in the matter. Instead, it is essential upon them to submit and adhere to the command. While commenting on this verse, Hafiz Ibn Katheer has stated, ‘(The teaching of) this verse is general (for) all cases. This is so because when Allah and His Messenger has ruled (or commanded) on any matter, then it is not allowed for anyone to oppose it. There is no choice, opinion or statement of anyone in this matter’. (Tafseer Ibn Katheer vol.3 pg. 490 Amjad Academy Lahore Pakistan)

In order to show the severity of opposing the command of Allah and His Messenger, the verse concludes by saying, ‘And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed into a plain error’. It means that whoever opposes and does not follow what has been decreed by Allah and His Messenger, then he has wandered and departed from the straight path. The verse tells us that the commands and instructions of the Prophet (S.A) must be carried out and adhered to by all believers since obedience to him is indeed obedience to Allah. The verse explains that when Allah and His Messenger have given orders and instructions to the believers regarding different matters , then it is not permissible for them to choose to do that which they desire, instead, it is essential upon them to make their opinions subservient to the opinion given by the Prophet (S.A), and they must make their choices and desires submissive to the choice of the Prophet (S.A). (Tafseer Ruhul Ma’ani vol.12 pg. 22)

With respect to the above verse (i.e. verse 36), the majority of commentators of the Holy Quran and scholars from among the Sahabahs and those afterwards including Abdullah bin Abbas (R.A), Qatada, Mujahid, Maqatil bin Hayan and others, have stated that the verse was revealed regarding the marriage of Zaid bin Haritha (R.A) to Zainab bint Jahsh (R.A). It is narrated that the Messenger of Allah (S.A) had sent a proposal of marriage to Zainab bint Jahsh who was the daughter of his maternal aunt. Thinking that the proposal (of marriage) was for the Prophet (S.A) himself, Zainab accepted it. However, later on, when she found out that the proposal was sent by the Prophet (S.A) on behalf of Zaid bin Haritha (R.A), she disliked it and refused to marry Zaid. Her brother, Abdullah bin Jahsh (R.A) also disliked the proposal since Zaid was previously a slave, and that they were nobler in family and lineage than him. Upon this, the above verse (36) was revealed in which it was stated, ‘And it is not fitting for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter, that they should have any opinion in their decision’. When Zainab bint Jahsh and her brother heard this verse, they revoked their former decision and accepted the proposal of marriage to Zaid bin Haritha (R.A). (Tafseer Ibn Katheer vol.3 pg. 489; Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol.14 pg. 165; Tafseer At Tabari vol.21 pg. 16; Tafseer Al Bahrul Muheet vol.8 pg.470; Tafseer Ruhul Ma’ani vol.12 pg. 23 Maktaba Imdadiya Multan Pakistan)

The instruction in the above verse which was given to Zainab bint Jahsh (r.a) and to all believers was that when the Messenger of Allah (S.A) orders someone to do something as an obligation, it becomes obligatory for that person to do it. The choice of not doing it does not remain valid under Islamic law. (Ma’ariful Quran vol.7 pg. 158)

Sura Ahzab continues in verse 37 and states:

37. And (remember) when you said to him (Zaid bin Harithah; the freed-slave of the Prophet) on whom Allah has bestowed Grace and you (O Muhammad too) have done favour (by manumitting him) “Keep your wife to yourself, and fear 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 Zaid had accomplished his desire from her (i.e. divorced her), We gave her to you in marriage, so that there may be no difficulty to the believers in respect of (the marriage of) the wives of their adopted sons when the latter have no desire to keep them (i.e. they have divorced them). And Allah’s Command must be fulfilled.

Here, Allah informs the Prophet (S.A) to remember the time when he told Zaid bin Haritha (R.A) to keep his wife and not divorce her. Regarding Zaid, Allah mentions that he was the one upon whom He (Allah) has bestowed His grace and favour by granting him guidance to Islam. He was also the one to whom the Prophet (S.A) was very kind and compassionate. Zaid was originally a slave bought by Khadijah (R.A) and given to the Prophet (S.A). After some time, the Prophet (S.A) manumitted him and adopted him as a son. When Zaid grew to be a young man, the Prophet (S.A) married him to his cousin Zainab bint Jahsh (R.A). In this way, the Prophet (S.A) bestowed his favour and grace upon Zaid. It is in regards to this, the verse (37) states, ‘And remember when you said to the one upon whom Allah had bestowed His grace (by granting him guidance to Islam) and upon whom you had bestowed your grace (by freeing him from slavery and taking care of him like a son)’. The commentators have stated that the person referred to in this verse is Zaid bin Haritha (R.A).

The verse states that the Prophet (S.A) said to him, ‘Keep your wife and fear Allah’. This relates to the situation when, after the marriage between Zaid bin Haritha and Zainab bint Jahsh, the couple encountered problems living together and they could not adapt to each other. On account of this, Zaid presented complaints before the Prophet (S.A) and expressed his intention to divorce Zainab (R.A). The Prophet (S.A) however, advised him that he should not divorce his wife, and should fear Allah regarding her.

The verse continues by saying, ‘And you concealed in your heart that which Allah will disclose’. Here, Allah tells the Prophet (S.A) that he had concealed something in his heart, which He (Allah) will make manifest. That which the Prophet (S.A) had kept in his heart and did not disclose to anyone, was regarding the inspiration he received from Allah. The inspiration was that he (the Prophet (S.A)) was informed by Allah prior to this situation that Zaid bin Haritha (R.A) will divorce his wife Zainab, and after this, he (the Prophet S.A) will marry her upon the decree of Allah. The Prophet (S.A) did not want to disclose this matter, and encouraged Zaid to keep his wife in marriage. (Tafseer Ibn Katheer vol.3 pg. 491)