33 - Al Ahzab (The allies)

5 Tafsir(s) related to verse 33.51


You may put off (read turji’ or turjī), you may postpone [consorting with], whomever of them you wish, namely, of your wives, from their turn [for intimacy], and consort, embrace [in conjugality], whomever you wish, of them, and come unto her, and as for whomever you may desire of those whom you have set aside, from their share, you would not be at fault, to desire her and consort with her [again]. He was given the choice in this respect after it had been obligatory for him to give each wife her [equal] share [of conjugality]. That, freedom of choice, makes it likelier that they will be comforted and not grieve, and that they will be satisfied with what you give them, of what has been mentioned of your freedom to choose [whom to consort with], every one of them (kulluhunna emphasises the subject of [the verb] yardayna, ‘they will be satisfied’) will be well-pleased with what you give her. And God knows what is in your hearts, with respect to [your] women and [your] preferring some [to others]. We have given you the freedom to choose [from among them] in order to make it easier for you to have what you desire. And God is Knower, of His creatures, Forbearing, in refraining from punishing them.

Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi

(Thou canst defer whom thou wilt of them…) [33:51]. The commentators of the Qur’an said: “This verse was revealed when some of the wives of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, felt jealous [of other co-wives] so much so that they harmed him and asked for increase in their maintenance. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, did not sleep with them in the same bed for a month until the verse of choice [33:29] was revealed. Allah, exalted is He, commanded him to ask them to choose between this worldly life and the Afterlife. He was commanded to divorce those who chose this worldly life and keep whoever among them chose Allah, glorified is He, and His Messenger as mothers of the believers who will never marry after him. He was also given permission to receive anyone of them he wanted to receive and defer anyone he wanted to defer; they had to be content whether or not he apportioned something for them, and regardless of whether or not he prefers some over the others with regard to the apportioning of provision and the time spent with them. It was all up to him to do as he wished. All of them accepted these terms. However, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, gave an equal part of maintenance to all his wives, even though Allah, exalted is He, had granted him wide compass [in his dealings with them]”. Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Muzakki informed us> ‘Abd al-Malik ibn al-Hasan ibn Yusuf al-Saqati> Ahmad ibn Yahya al-Halwani> Yahya ibn Ma‘in> ‘Abbad ibn ‘Abbad> ‘Asim al-Ahwal> Mu‘adhah> ‘A’ishah who said: “After the verse (Thou canst defer whom thou wilt of them…) was revealed, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to seek permission from us [to go to another of his wives] when it was the turn of one of us [to spend time with him]”. Mu‘adhah asked her: “What did you use to say?” I used to say: “If this is my turn, I would not prefer anyone else to have you instead of me!” This was narrated by Bukhari> Hibban ibn Musa> Ibn al-Mubarak and also by Muslim> Shurayh ibn Yunus> ‘Abbad; and both ‘Abbad and Ibn al-Mubarak related it from ‘Asim. Some commentators said: “When the verse of choice [33:29] was revealed, the wives of the Prophet were scared of being divorced. They said to him: ‘O Prophet of Allah, apportion for us whatever you like of your wealth and person; just leave us as we are’. And so this verse was revealed”. ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Abdan informed us> Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn Nu‘aym> Muhammad ibn Ya‘qub al-Akhram> Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab> Muhadir ibn al-Muwaddi‘> Hisham ibn ‘Urwah> his father> ‘A’ishah who used to say to the wives of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace: “Does a woman not feel ashamed of offering herself?” And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse (Thou canst defer whom thou wilt of them and receive unto thee whom thou wilt). ‘A’ishah then said: “I see that your Lord hastens for you what you desire”. This is narrated by Bukhari from Zakariyya ibn Yahya and also by Muslim from Abu Kurayb; both Zakariyya ibn Yahya and Abu Kurayb related it from Abu Usamah who related it from Hisham.

Ibn Al Kathir

The Prophet has the Choice of either accepting or rejecting Women who offer Themselves to Him

Imam Ahmad recorded that `A'ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, used to feel jealous of the women who offered themselves to the Prophet. She said, "Would a woman not feel shy to offer herself without any dowery'' Then Allah revealed the Ayah,

تُرْجِى مَن تَشَآءُ مِنْهُنَّ وَتُؤْوِى إِلَيْكَ مَن تَشَآءُ

(You can postpone whom you will of them, and you may receive whom you will.) She said, "I think that your Lord is hastening to confirm your desire.'' We have already stated that Al-Bukhari also recorded this. This indicates that what is meant by the word:


(postpone) is delay, and

مَن تَشَآءُ مِنْهُنَّ

(whom you will of them) means, `of those who offer themselves to you.'

وَتُؤْوِى إِلَيْكَ مَن تَشَآءُ

(and you may receive whom you will.) means, `whoever you wish, you may accept, and whoever you wish, you may decline, but with regard to those whom you decline, you have the choice of going back to them later on and receiving them.' Allah says:

وَمَنِ ابْتَغَيْتَ مِمَّنْ عَزَلْتَ فَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكَ

(And whomsoever you desire of those whom you have set aside, it is no sin on you (to receive her again).) Others said that what is meant by:

تُرْجِى مَن تَشَآءُ مِنْهُنَّ

(You can postpone (the turn of) whom you will of them,) means, `your wives: there is no sin on you if you stop dividing your time equally between them, and delay the turn of one of them and bring forward the turn of another as you wish, and you have intercourse with one and not another as you wish.' This was narrated from Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Abu Razin, `Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam and others. Nevertheless, the Prophet used to divide his time between them equally, hence a group of the scholars of Fiqh among the Shafi`is and others said that equal division of time was not obligatory for him and they used this Ayah as their evidence. Al-Bukhari recorded that `A'ishah said: "The Messenger of Allah used to ask permission of us (for changing days) after this Ayah was revealed:

تُرْجِى مَن تَشَآءُ مِنْهُنَّ وَتُؤْوِى إِلَيْكَ مَن تَشَآءُ وَمَنِ ابْتَغَيْتَ مِمَّنْ عَزَلْتَ فَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكَ

(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 (the narrator) said to her: "What did you say'' She said, "I said, `If it were up to me, I would not give preference to anyone with regard to you, O Messenger of Allah!''' This Hadith indicates that what is meant in this Hadith from `A'ishah is that it was not obligatory on him to divide his time equally between his wives. The first Hadith quoted from her implies that the Ayah was revealed concerning the women who offered themselves to him. Ibn Jarir prefered the view that the Ayah was general and applies both to the women who offered themselves to him and to the wives that he already had, and that he was given the choice whether to divide him time among them or not. This is a good opinion which reconciles between the Hadiths. Allah says:

ذَلِكَ أَدْنَى أَن تَقَرَّ أَعْيُنُهُنَّ وَلاَ يَحْزَنَّ وَيَرْضَيْنَ بِمَآ ءَاتَيْتَهُنَّ كُلُّهُنَّ

(that is better that they may be comforted and not grieved, and may all be pleased with what you give them.) meaning, `if they know that Allah has stated that there is no sin on you with regard to dividing your time. If you wish, you may divide you time and if you do not wish, you need not divide your time, there is no sin on you no matter which you do. Therefore if you divide your time between them, this will be your choice, and not a duty that is enjoined upon you, so they will feel happy because of that and will recognize your favor towards them in sharing your time equally among them and being fair to all of them.'

وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا فِى قلُوبِكُمْ

(Allah knows what is in your hearts.) means, `He knows that you are more inclined towards some of them than others, which you cannot avoid.' Imam Ahmad recorded that `A'ishah said: "The Messenger of Allah used to divide his time between his wives fairly and treat them equally, then he said:

«اللَّهُمَّ هَذَا فِعْلِي فِيمَا أَمْلِكُ،فَلَا تَلُمْنِي فِيمَا تَمْلِكُ وَلَا أَمْلِك»

(O Allah, I have done as much as I can with regard to what is under my control, so do not blame me for that which is under Your control and not mine.)'' It was also recorded by the four Sunan compilers. After the words "so do not blame me for that which is under Your control and not mine,'' Abu Dawud's report adds the phrase:

«فَلَا تَلُمْنِي فِيمَا تَمْلِكُ وَلَا أَمْلِك»

(So do not blame me for that which is under Your control and not mine.) meaning matters of the heart. Its chain of narration is Sahih, and all the men in its chain are reliable. Then this phrase is immediately followed by the words,

وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَلِيماً

(And Allah is Ever All-Knowing,) i.e., of innermost secrets,


(Most Forbearing.) meaning, He overlooks and forgives.

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an

This verse was meant to relieve the Holy Prophet of the domestic worries and anxieties so that he could carry out his duties with full peace of mind. When Allah clearly gave hire the power and the authority to treat any of his wives as he liked, there remained no chance that those believing ladies would trouble him in any way, or would create complications for him by their mutual rivalries and domestic squabbles. But in spite of having this authority from Allah the Holy Prophet meted out full justice to his wives. He did not prefer one to the other and would visit each of them regularly by turns. Only Abu Razin from among the traditionalists has said that the Holy Prophet visited only four of his wives (Hadrat 'A'ishah, Hadrat Hafsah, Hadrat Zainab and Hadrat Umm Salamah) by turns and no turn had been fixed for the other wives. But all other traditionalists and commentators contradict this and prove by authentic traditions that even after having this authority the Holy Prophet visited all his wives in turn and treated there alike. Bukhari, Muslim, Nasa'i, Abu Da'ud and others have reported on the authority of Hadrat 'A'ishah that even after the revelation of this verse the Holy Prophet's practice was that whenever he wanted to visit any of us, his wives, on the turn of another wife, he would first ask her permission for it. Abu Bakr al-Jassas relates from 'Urwah bin Zubair that Hadrat 'A'ishah told him, "As to our rants the Holy Prophet never preferred any of us to the other, although it seldom happened that he did not visit all his wives on the same day, but he never touched a wife unless it was her day by turn." And this also is a tradition from Hadrat 'A'ishah that during his last illness when it became difficult for him to move about he asked for his other wives' permission to stay with her, and only on their approval he passed his last days in her apartment. Ibn Abi Hatim has cited this from Imam Zuhri that the Holy Prophet is not known to have deprived any of his wives of her turn. To this Hadrat Saudah only was an exception, who on account of her advanced age had willingly surrendered her turn in favor of Hadrat 'A'ishah

Here, nobody should entertain the doubt that Allah had, God forbid, shown an undue privilege to His Prophet and deprived his wives of their rights. As a matter of fact, the great objectives for the sake of which the Holy Prophet had been made an exception to the general rule in respect of the number of wives, also demanded that he should be afforded full peace in domestic life and anything that could cause him distraction and embarrassment should be eradicated. It was a unique honor for the holy wives that they were privileged to be the life-partners of the greatest of all men like the Holy Prophet, and by virtue of this they got the opportunity to become his Companions and helpers in the great task of reform and invitation that was to become the means of true success for mankind till the end of time. Just as the Holy Prophet was offering every kind of sacrifice for the sake of this objective and the Companions also were following his example according to their capabilities, so it was the duty of his wives also to display selflessness in every way. Therefore, all the wives accepted Allah's decision with regard to themselves happily and willingly.

This is a warning for the Holy Prophet's wives as well as for all other people. For the wives it is a warning in the sense that if after the coming down of this Divine Command they did not feel reconciled to it in their hearts, they would not escape Allah's punishment. And for others the warning is that if they entertained any kind of suspicion in their hearts in regard to the Holy Prophet's matrimonial life, or harbored any misgiving in any recess of their minds, this would not remain hidden from Allah. Along with this Allah's attribute of forbearance also has been mentioned so that one they know that although even a thought of insolence in regard to the Prophet is also punishable, yet if a person got rid of such a suspicion he might have the hope of His forgiveness.

This has two meanings:

(1) `No other woman except those made lawful to you in verse 50 above, is any more lawful to you"; and

(2) 'when your wives have become pleased and ready to stay with you through every kind of hardship and have rejected the world in preference to the Hereafter, and are satisfied that you may treat them as you please, it is no longer lawful for you that you should divorce any of them and take another wife instead."

This verse explains why one is permitted to have conjugal relations with one's slave-girls besides the wedded wives, and there is no restriction on their number. The same thing has also been stated in Surah An-Nisa': 3, AI-Mu'minun: b, and AI-Ma'arij: 30. In all these verses the slave-girls have been mentioned as a separate class from the wedded wives, and conjugal relations with them have been permitted. Moreover, verse 3 of Surah An-Nisa' lays down the number of the wives as four, but neither has Allah fixed the number of the slave-girls, in that verse nor made any allusion to their number in the other relevant verses. Here, of course, the Holy Prophet is being addressed and told: "It is no more lawful for you to take other women in marriage, or divorce any of the present wives and take another wife in her stead; slave-girls, however, are lawful." This shows that no restriction has been imposed in respect of the slave girls.

This, however, does not mean that the Divine Law has provided the rich an opportunity to purchase as many slave-girls as they like for their carnal indulgence. This is in fact how the self-seeking people have exploited and abused the Law. The Law had been made for the convenience of the people; it had not been made to be abused. One could, for instance, similarly abuse the Law concerning marriage. The Shari'ah permits a man to marry up to four wives and also gives him the right to divorce his wife and take another one. This law had been made in view of man's requirements and needs. Now, if a person, merely for the sake of sensual enjoyment, were to adopt the practice of keeping four wives for a time and then divorcing them to be replaced by another company of them, it would be abusing the provisions of the law, for which the person himself would be responsible and not the Shari`ah. Likewise the Shari'ah has allowed that the women who are captured in war and whose people do not exchange them for Muslim prisoners of war nor ransom them, may be kept as slave-girls, and gave the persons to whom they are assigned by the government the right to have conjugal relations with them so that they do not become a moral hazard for the society. Then, as it was not possible to determine the number of the prisoners of war, legally also it could nor be determined how many slave girls a person could keep at a time. The sale of the slaves and slave-girls was also allowed for the reason that if a slave or a slave-girl could not pull on well with a master, he or she could be transferred to another person so that the same person's permanent ownership did not become a cause of unending torture for both the master and the captive. The Shari`ah made all these laws keeping in view human conditions and requirements for the convenience of men. If these have been made a means of sexual enjoyment and luxury by the rich, it is they who are to blame for this and not the Shari'ah.

Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

(Thou canst defer) you can leave (whom thou wilt of them) from among the daughters of your aunts from your father's side, and or the daughters of your uncles from your mother's side, and not marry them (and receive unto thee whom thou wilt) and marry them, (and whomsoever thou desirest) to marry (of those whom thou hast set aside (temporarily), it is no sin for thee (to receive her again)) it is also said that this could be understood in this manner: you can abstain from whoever you will of your wives and you can go to whoever you will of your wives and there is no sin for you in abstaining from some and going to others; (that) the widening of the scope and dispensation (is better; that they may be comforted) when they know that this widening of scope is from Allah (and not grieve) for fear of divorce, (and may all be pleased with what thou givest them) of sharing your physical presence with them. (Allah knoweth what is in your hearts) whether it is contentment or resentment; (and Allah is Knower) of your righteousness and theirs, (Clement) in that which He explained to you and forgave you.