Suratul Ahzab (verse 51 – 53)

Sura Ahzab goes further in verse 51 and says:

51. You (O Muhammad S.A) can postpone (the turn of) whom you will of them (your wives), and you may receive whom you will. And whomsoever you desire of those whom you have set aside (her turn temporarily), it is no sin on you (to receive her again), that is better; that they may be comforted and not grieved, and may all be pleased with what you give them. Allah knows what is in your hearts. And Allah is Ever All-Knowing, Most Forbearing.

Here, the Prophet (S.A) is granted the option to appoint a turn (time) for a wife or to exclude her from it. The normal rule regarding a Muslim who has more than one wife is that he must divide his time in a manner that he is just and fair in distributing his time for each wife. This is the well established rule of the Holy Quran and it is compulsory upon the believers. However, the Prophet (S.A) was informed by Allah (in this verse) that he was exempted from this, and that he had the option and liberty to distribute his time as he desired.

It should be noted here that the Prophet (S.A) was sent as the final Prophet and as the universal Messenger to the entire mankind. He was the vessel through which Allah brought guidance on the face of the earth, and his task was to establish the religion of Allah among men and jinn. His days and nights, along with the moments of his life were spent in the propagation of Allah’s religion. Owing to the great mission which he was chosen for, Allah did not place restrictions and limitations on him which will obstruct him from his real duty as a Messenger of Allah. Hence, the special allowances granted to him are for the sake of removing difficulties and to give him the entire time to dedicate towards the religion of Allah.

As such, in verse 51, Allah granted him the option to fix the ‘times’ or ‘turns’ for his wives in the manner he wanted. In this option, he was allowed to appoint a time for a wife, and was also allowed to exclude her (or delay her) from a turn. It was also allowed for him to re-appoint a turn for a wife whom he had previously excluded from the division of his time.

The verse goes further to state that this allowance given to the Prophet (S.A) was in reality a comfort for the wives since through this they  became aware that Allah has not made it mandatory upon the Prophet (S.A) to appoint or ‘fix’ a turn for anyone of them. Therefore, whatever ‘time’ and ‘turn’ they got from the Prophet (S.A), they became extremely happy and were pleased with it. It is about this, Allah says, ‘that is better that they may be comforted and not grieved, and may be pleased with what you give them’.

At the end of the verse, Allah says, ‘Allah knows what is in your hearts. And Allah is Ever All Knowing, Most Forbearing’. Here, Allah tells the Prophet (S.A) that He is fully aware of what is in his heart and in the heart of every person. Allah has full knowledge of every thought and intention that enters the heart. He knows the direction in which the heart turns to, and has full knowledge of who is more beloved to the Prophet (S.A) from his wives. He also has full knowledge of what is in the hearts of the wives of the Prophet (S.A) and that of the believers. In all cases, Allah is Most Forbearing. His comprehensive and perfect knowledge makes Him aware of all that is made manifest through the tongues/actions or what is kept hidden in the corners of the heart. His perfect attribute of ‘Forbearance’ brings about tolerance and leniency and so, He puts matters in its proper place and in a good order for the benefit of His servants. Although He knows of the undesirable thoughts of the hearts, He does not make haste in punishment, instead, He delays and grants respite.

With respect to the allowance granted to the Prophet (S.A) to include or exclude a wife from his ‘time’, it should be understood that the Prophet (S.A) always maintained equality among his wives and did not practice upon the allowance granted to him. He divided his time among all wives with fairness, and was equally just to all. Even when undertaking a journey, he will not select one of his wives at random (based on his personal desire), instead, he will draw lots to decide who will accompany him.

Regarding the Prophet’s fair distribution of time to his wives, it is narrated in a tradition from Aisha (R.A) that she said, ‘The Messenger of Allah (S.A) used to maintain equality among all wives, and used to supplicate, ‘O Allah, this is my division in what I am able to do, so do not call me to account in that which I have no control’. (Tirmizi)

Sura Ahzab goes further in verse 52 and states:

52. It is not lawful for you (to marry other) women after this, nor to change them for other wives even though their beauty attracts you, except those (captives or slaves) whom your right hand possesses. And Allah is Ever a Watcher over all things.

According to some commentators, this verse instructed the Prophet (S.A) that besides the wives he had in the contract of marriage, it was not allowed for him to marry other women. It was also not permissible for him to change anyone of them by divorcing one and marrying a new wife.

As mentioned by some commentators, this restriction was in appreciation to those wives of the Prophet (S.A) who were pleased to choose Allah and His Messenger, and the life hereafter, when they were given the choice to make. Allah was pleased with them and is pleased with their being in the marriage of the Prophet (S.A). Hence, Allah disallowed the Prophet (S.A) from marrying other women besides them. (Tafseer Ibn Katheer vol.3 pg. 501 Amjad Academy Lahore Pakistan)

Some commentators have explained that the verse informs the Prophet (S.A) that he was not allowed to marry other women besides the types which have been allowed in the verses before. (Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol.14 pg. 192-194)

Having mentioned certain matters connected to the marriages of the Prophet (S.A), Allah goes further in verse 53 to highlight some etiquettes (Adaab) which the companions were required to adopt when they entered the house of the Prophet (S.A). The verse states:

53. O you who believe! Enter not the Prophet’s houses, except when leave is given to you for a meal, (and then) not (so early as) to wait for its preparation. But when you are invited, enter, and when you have taken your meal, disperse, without sitting for a talk. Verily, such (behavior) annoys the Prophet, and he is shy of (asking) you (to go), but Allah is not shy of (telling you) the truth. And when you ask (his wives) for anything you want, ask them from behind a screen. That is purer for your hearts and for their hearts. And it is not (right) for you that you should annoy Allah’s Messenger, nor that you should ever marry his wives after him (his death). Verily! With Allah that shall be an enormity.

As mentioned by the commentators, the above verse was revealed regarding an incident which occurred with the companions of the Prophet (S.A). It is narrated from Anas bin Malik (R.A) that when the Prophet (S.A) married Zainab bint Jahsh (R.A), he invited the companions for a meal (i.e. the waleema). After having their meals, the companions remained seated and were talking to each other (for some time). (Although it was time to leave, the companions were not leaving), so the Prophet (S.A) stood up and left the house. Upon this, some companions stood up and also left, however, some remained sitting. When the Prophet (S.A) returned, they were still there (seated). The Prophet (S.A) left again and the remaining people also left. The Prophet (S.A) was then informed about this, and he returned to his house.

This conduct of some companions caused inconvenience to the Prophet (S.A) and his family, but due to his noble and gentle nature, the Prophet (s.a.s) did not say anything to the companions. Hence, to correct this situation and to give guidelines to the believers regarding etiquettes and social behavior, Allah revealed the above mentioned verse (i.e. v.53). (Tafseer Ibn Katheer vol.3 pg. 503; Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol.14 pg. 198 – Bukhari, Muslim)

In the verse, Allah instructed the companions and all believers in general: ‘O you who believe! Enter not the Prophet’s houses, unless permission is given’.