Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(O Prophet! Lo! We have made lawful unto thee thy wives unto whom thou hast paid their dowries, and those whom thy right hand possesseth) Maria the Copt (of those whom Allah hath given thee as spoils of war, and the daughters of thine uncles on the father's side) and it is lawful for you to marry the daughters of your paternal uncle (and the daughters of thine aunts on the father's side) from the Banu 'Abd al-Muttalib, (and the daughters of thine uncles on the mother's side) from the Banu 'Abd Manaf Ibn Zahrah (who emigrated with thee) from Mecca to Medina, (and a believing woman) who believes in Allah's divine Oneness: i.e. Umm Sharik Bint Jabir al-'Amiriyyah (if she give herself unto the Prophet and the Prophet desire to ask her in marriage, a privilege for thee only) and a dispensation for you only, (not for the (rest of) believers. We are aware of that which We enjoined upon them) what We have made lawful for and enjoined upon the believers (concerning their wives) concerning marrying up to four wives after giving them their dowry and making a proper marriage contract (and those whom their right hands possess) without limit (that thou mayst be free from blame) regarding marrying that which Allah has made lawful for you to marry, (for Allah is Forgiving) of that which has ensued from you, (Merciful) regarding that which He made a dispensation for you.
O Prophet! Indeed We have made lawful for you your wives whom you have given their dowries and what your right hand owns, of those whom God has given you as spoils of war, from the disbelievers, [whom you have] taken captive, such as Safiyya and Juwayriyya, and the daughters of your paternal uncles and the daughters of your paternal aunts, and the daughters of your maternal uncles and the daughters of your maternal aunts who emigrated with you, as opposed to those who did not emigrate, and any believing woman if she gift herself [in marriage] to the Prophet and if the Prophet desire to take her in marriage, and ask for her hand in marriage without paying [her] a dowry — a privilege for you exclusively, not for the [rest of the] believers (nikāh, ‘marriage’, when expressed by the term hiba, ‘gift’, denotes [marriage] without dowry). Indeed We know what We have imposed upon them, namely, the believers, with respect to their wives, in the way of rulings, to the effect that they should not take more than four wives and should only marry with [the consent of] a legal guardian, [the presence of] witnesses and [the payment of] a dowry, and, with respect to, what their right hands own, of slavegirls, in the way of purchase or otherwise, so that the handmaiden be one lawful for her master, such as a slavegirl belonging to the People of the Scripture (kitābiyya), and not a Magian or an idolater, and that she should be ascertained [as not carrying child] with the necessary waiting period (istibrā’) before copulation; so that (li-kaylā is semantically connected to what came before [this last statement]) there may be no [unnecessary] restriction for you, [no] constraint in marriage [for you]. And God is Forgiving, of what is difficult to guard against, Merciful, in giving dispensations [allowing for latitude] in this respect.
Allah says, addressing His Prophet that He has made lawful for him of women his wives to whom he has given the dowery, which is what is meant by "their due'', which is used here, as was stated by Mujahid and others. The dowery which he gave to his wives was twelve and half `Uqiyah (measures of gold) so they all received five hundred Dirhams except for Umm Habibah bint Abi Sufyan, to whom An-Najashi, may Allah have mercy on him, gave four hundred Dinars (on behalf of the Prophet ) Safiyyah bint Huyay, whom he chose from among the prisoners of Khaybar, then he set her free, making her release her dowery. A similar case was that of Juwayriyah bint Al-Harith Al-Mustalaqiyyah -- he paid off the contract to buy her freedom from Thabit bin Qays bin Shammas and married her. May Allah be pleased with them all.
(those (slaves) whom your right hand possesses whom Allah has given to you,) means, `the slave-girls whom you took from the war booty are also permitted to you.' He owned Safiyyah and Juwayriyah, then he manumitted them and married them, and he owned Rayhanah bint Sham`un An-Nadariyyah and Mariyah Al-Qibtiyyah, the mother of his son Ibrahim, upon him be peace; they were both among the prisoners, may Allah be pleased with them.
(and the daughters of your paternal uncles and the daughters of your paternal aunts and the daughters of your maternal uncles and the daughters of your maternal aunts) This is justice which avoids going to either extreme, for the Christians do not marry a woman unless there are seven grandfathers between the man and the woman (i.e., they are very distantly related or not at all), and the Jews allow a man to marry his brother's daughter or his sister's daughter. So the pure and perfect Shari`ah came to cancel out the extremes of the Christians, and permitted marriage to the daughter of a paternal uncle or aunt, or the daughter of a maternal uncle or aunt, and forbade the excesses of the Jews who allowed marriage to the daughter of a brother or sister which is an abhorrent thing.
(and a believing woman if she offers herself to the Prophet, and the Prophet wishes to marry her -- a privilege for you only,) means, `also lawful for you, O Prophet, is a believing woman if she offers herself to you, to marry her without a dowery, if you wish to do so.' This Ayah includes two conditions. Imam Ahmad recorded from Sahl bin Sa`d As-Sa`idi that a woman came to the Messenger of Allah and said, "O Messenger of Allah, verily, I offer myself to you (for marriage).'' She stood there for a long time, then a man stood up and said, "O Messenger of Allah, marry her to me if you do not want to marry her.'' The Messenger of Allah said:
«هَلْ عِنْدَكَ مِنْ شَيْءٍ تُصْدِقُهَا إِيَّاهُ؟»
(Do you have anything that you could give to her as a dowery) He said, "I have only this garment of mine.'' The Messenger of Allah said:
(If you give her your garment, you will be left with no garment. Look for something.) He said, "I do not have anything.'' He said:
«الْتَمِسْ وَلَوْ خَاتَمًا مِنْ حَدِيد»
(Look for something, even if it is only an iron ring.) So he looked, but he could not find anything. Then the Messenger of Allah said to him:
«هَلْ مَعَكَ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ شَيْءٌ؟»
(Do you have know anything of the Qur'an) He said, "Yes, Surah such and such and Surah and such,'' he named the Surahs. So, the Messenger of Allah said:
«زَوَّجْتُكَهَا بِمَا مَعَكَ مِنَ الْقُرْآن»
(I marry her to you with what you know of the Qur'an.) It was also recorded by (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) from the Hadith of Malik. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded a narration from his father that `A'ishah said: "The woman who offered herself to the Prophet was Khawlah bint Hakim.'' Al-Bukhari recorded that `A'ishah said, "I used to feel jealous of those women who offered themselves to the Prophet and I said, `Would a woman offer herself' When Allah revealed the Ayah:
(You can postpone whom you will of them, and you may receive whom you will. And whomsoever you desire of those whom you have set aside, it is no sin on you) I said, `I see that your Lord hastens to confirm your desires.''' Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Ibn `Abbas said: "The Messenger of Allah did not have any wife who offered herself to him. '' This was recorded by Ibn Jarir. In other words, he did not accept any of those who offered themselves to him, even though they were lawful for him -- a ruling which applied to him alone. The matter was left to his own choice, as Allah says:
إِنْ أَرَادَ النَّبِىُّ أَن يَسْتَنكِحَهَا
(and if the Prophet wishes to marry her) meaning, if he chooses to do so.
خَالِصَةً لَّكَ مِن دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
(a privilege for you only, not for the (rest of) the believers.) `Ikrimah said: "This means, it is not permissible for anyone else to marry a woman who offers herself to him; if a woman offers herself to a man, it is not permissible for him (to marry her) unless he gives her something.'' This was also the view of Mujahid, Ash-Sha`bi and others. In other words, if a woman offers herself to a man, when he consummates the marriage, he has to give her a dowery like that given to any other woman of her status, as the Messenger of Allah ruled in the case of Barwa` bint Washiq when she offered herself in marriage; the Messenger of Allah ruled that she should be given a dowery that was appropriate for a woman like her after her husband died. Death and consummation are the same with regard to the confirmation of the dowery, and the giving of a dowery appropriate to the woman's status in the case of those who offer themselves to men other than the Prophet is an established ruling. With regard to the Prophet himself, he is not obliged to give a dowery to a woman who offers herself to him, even if he consummated the marriage, because he has the right to marry without a dowery, Wali (representative) or witnesses, as we have seen in the story of Zaynab bint Jahsh, may Allah be pleased with her. Qatadah said, concerning the Ayah:
خَالِصَةً لَّكَ مِن دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
(a privilege for you only, not for the (rest of) the believers.) no woman has the right to offer herself to any man without a Wali or a dowery, except to the Prophet.
(Indeed We know what We have enjoined upon them about their wives and those (servants) whom their right hands possess,) Ubayy bin Ka`b, Mujahid, Al-Hasan, Qatadah and Ibn Jarir said, concerning the Ayah:
(Indeed We know what We have enjoined upon them about their wives) means, `concerning the limiting of their number to four free women, and whatever they wish of slave-girls, and the conditions of a representative, dowery and witnesses to the marriage. This is with regard to the Ummah (the people), but We have granted an exemption in your case and have not imposed any of these obligations upon you.'
(in order that there should be no difficulty on you. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.)
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
This, in fact, is an answer to the objection of the people who said that Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace) forbade others to keep more than four wives at a time but had himself taken a fifth wife. This objection was raised because at the time the Holy Prophet married Hadrat Zainab, he already had four wives with him:
(1) Hadrat Saudah whom he had married in the 3rd year before the Hijrah,
(2) Hadrat 'A'ishah whom he married in the 3rd year before the Hijrah but who came to live with him in Shawwal, A.H. I,
(3) Hadrat Hafsah whom he married in Sha'ban, A.H. 3, and
(4) Hadrat Umm Salamah whom he married in Shawwal. A.H. 4. Thus, Hadrat Zainab was his fifth wife. Here Allah has answered the objection of the disbelievers and the hypocrites, as if to say, O Prophet, We have made lawful for you all these five wives whom you have married by giving them their dowers." In other words, the answer means this: "It is We Who have imposed the restriction of four wives on others, and it is also We Ourselves Who have made Our Prophet an exception to the restriction. When We could impose the restriction, We could also make the exception."
About this answer also one should note that it was not meant to satisfy the disbelievers and the hypocrites but those Muslims to whom the opponents of Islam were trying to impart evil suggestions. Since they believed that the Qur'an is Allah's speech and has been sent down in Allah's own words, Allah declared through a clear and decisive verse that the Prophet had not made himself an exception from the general law about four wives of his own accord, but the exception in regard to him had been decreed by Allah.
Besides making the fifth wife lawful for the Prophet, Allah in this verse also granted him the permission to marry a few other kinds of the women:
(1) The woman who came into his possession from among the slave-girls granted by Allah. According to this the Holy Prophet selected for himself Hadrat Raihanah from among the prisoners of war taken at the raid against the Bani Quraizah, Hadrat Juwairiyah from among the prisoners of war taken at the raid against the Bani al-Mustaliq, Hadrat Safiyyah out of the prisoners of war captured at Khaiber, and Hadrat Mariah the Copt, who was presented by Maqauqis of Egypt. Out of these he set three of them free and married them, but had conjugal relations with Mariah on the ground of her being his slave-girl. In her case there is no proof that the Holy Prophet set her free and married her.
(2) The ladies from among his first cousins, who emigrated along with him. The words "who emigrated with you"do not mean that they accompanied the Holy Prophet in his migration journey but this that they also had migrated in the way of Allah for the sake of Islam. The Holy Prophet was given the choice to marry any one of them he liked. Accordingly, in A.H. 7 he married Hadrat Umm Habibah. (Incidentally, in this verse it has been elucidated that the daughters of one's paternal and maternal uncles and aunts are lawful for a Muslim. In this regard the Islamic Law is different both from the Christian Law and from the Jewish Law. Among the Christians one cannot marry a woman whose line of descent joins one's own anywhere in the last seven generations, and among the Jews it is permissible even to marry one's real niece, i.e. daughter of one's brother or sister).
(3) The believing woman who gives herself to the Prophet, i.e. who is prepared to give herself in marriage to the Prophet without a dower, and he may like to marry her. On account of this permission the Holy Prophet took Hadrat Maimunah as his wife in Shawwal, A.H. 7, but he did not think he should have conjugal relations with her without paying her the dower. Therefore, he paid her the dower even though she did not demand or desire it. Some commentators say that the Holy Prophet did not have any wife who had offend herself to him; but this in fact means that he did not keep any wife without paying her the dower although she offered herself to him.
If this sentence is taken to be related with the preceding sentence, it will mean that it is not permissible for any Muslim to take in marriage a woman who gives herself to him, without paying her the dower; and if it is taken to be related with the whole preceding passage, it will imply that the concession to marry more than four wives is only reserved for the Holy Prophet, not for the other Muslims. This verse also shows that certain commandments are specifically meant for the Holy Prophet to follow and are not applicable to the other Muslims. A study of the Qur'an and Sunnah reveals several such commandments. For example, the Tahajjud prayer was obligatory for the Holy Prophet but is voluntary for the Ummah. It is unlawful for him and his family to receive charities though it is not so for others. The inheritance left by him cannot be divided; as for the inheritance left by others relevant commandments have been given in Surah An-Nisa'. Keeping of more than four wives was made lawful for him though he was not enjoined to do equal treatment with them. He was permitted to marry a woman who gave herself to him without any dower, and after his death his wives wen forbidden for the Ummah. None of these privileges could be enjoyed by any other Muslim. Another special thing that the commentators have mentioned in this regard is that it was forbidden for the Holy Prophet to marry a woman from among the people of the Book though it is lawful for the Muslims to do so.
This is the reason why Allah made the Holy Prophet an exception to the general rule. "So that there may be no restraint on you" does not mean that he was, God forbid, a very lustful person, and therefore, he was permitted to marry several wives so that he might not feel any hindrance due to the restriction to four wives. This meaning will be understood only by the person who, blinded by prejudice, forgets that the Holy Prophet at the age of 25 married a lady who was 40 years old, and lived a happy, contented married life with her for full 25 years. Then, when she died, he marred another old lady Hadrat Saudah, who remained his only wife for the next four years. Now, no sensible and honest person can imagine that when he became over fifty-three he was suddenly filled with lust and needed to have more and more wives. In fact, in order to understand the meaning of "no restraint", one should, on the one hand, keep in view the great task whose responsibility Allah had placed on the Holy Prophet, and on the other, understand the conditions and circumstances under which he had been appointed to accomplish the great task. Anyone who understands these two things with an unbiased mind, will certainly realize why it was necessary to grant him freedom in respect of the wives and what 'hindrance" was there for him in the restriction to tour wives.
The task entrusted to the Holy Prophet was that he should mold and chisel by all-round education and training an uncouth, uncultured nation which was not uncivilized only from the Islamic point of view but from a general viewpoint as well, into a highly civilized, refined and virtuous nation. For this purpose it was unbiased mind, will certainly realize why it was necessary to grant him freedom in respect of the wives and what "hindrance" was there for him in the restriction to four wives.
The task entrusted to the Holy Prophet was that he should mold and chisel by all-round education and training an uncouth, uncultured nation which was not uncivilized only from the Islamic point of view but from a general viewpoint as well, into a highly civilized, refined and virtuous nation. For this purpose it was not enough only to train men but the training of the women also was equally necessary. However, the principles of social life and civilization which he had been appointed to teach forbade free mixing of the sexes together, and it was not possible for him to impart direct training to the womenfolk himself without violating this rule. Therefore, for imparting education to the women the only alternative left for him was that he should marry several women of different ages and mental capabilities and should prepare them by education and training to become his helpers, and then employ them to give religious instructions to the young, middle-aged and old women of the city and desert and teach them the new principles of morality and civilization.
Moreover, the Holy Prophet had also been appointed to abolish the system of life of the pre-Islamic days of ignorance and replace it with the Islamic system of life practically. For the accomplishment of this task a conflict was inevitable with those who upheld the system of ignorance, and this conflict was being encountered in a country where the tribal system of life was prevalent with all its peculiar customs and traditions. Under these conditions, besides other devices, it was also necessary that the Holy Prophet should marry in different families and clans in order to cement many ties of friendship and put an end to enmities. Thus, the selection of the ladies whom he marred was to some extent determined by this object besides their personal qualities. By taking Hadrat 'A'ishah and Hadrat Hafsah to wife he further strengthened and deepened the relations with Hadrat Abu Bakr and Hadrat 'Umar. Hadrat Umm Salamah was the daughter of the family to which Abu Jahl and Khalid bin Walid belonged, and Umm Habibah was the daughter of Abu Sufyan. These marriages neutralized the enmity of these families to a large extent; so much so that after Umm Habibah's marriage Abu Sufyan never confronted the Holy Prophet on the battlefield. Hadrat Safiyyah, Hadrat Juwairiah and Raihanah belonged to Jewish families. When the Holy Prophet married them, after setting them free, the hostile Jewish activities against him subsided. For according to the Arab traditions when the daughter of a clan or tribe was married to a person, he was regarded as the son-in-law of not only the girl's family but of the entire tribe, and it was disgraceful to fight the son-in-law.
Practical reformation of the society and abolition of its customs of ignorance was also included among the duties of his office. Therefore, he had to undertake one marriage for this purpose also, as has been related in detail in this surah Ahzab itself.
For these reasons it was essential that there should be no restriction for the Prophet in respect of marriage so that in view of the requirements of the great mission entrusted to him he could marry as many women as he wanted.
This also brings out the error of the view of those people who think that polygamy is permissible only under special personal requirements and apart from these there can be no other object for which it may be permissible. Evidently, the reason for the Holy Prophet to marry more wives than one was not that the wife was sick, or barren, or that he had no male child. or that there was the question of the bringing up of some orphans. Without these restrictions he married all his wives either in view of the educational requirements, or for the reformation of society, or for political and social objectives. The question is, when Allah Himself has not kept polygamy restricted to a few particular needs, which arc being mentioned these days and the Messenger of Allah took several wives for many purposes other than these, how is another person entitled to propose some restrictions in the law and then claim that he is imposing these in accordance with the Shari'ah? As a matter of fact, the root cause for the imposition of these restrictions is the Western concept that polygamy is an evil in itself. That very concept has given rise to the idea that this unlawful thing can become lawful only in case of extreme circumstances. Now, however hard one may try to label this imported concept with Islam artificially. it is entirely alien to the Qur'an and,Sunnah and the whole Muslim literature.