Welcome Friends: Ahlan wa sahlan!
So far, this Chapter has been unique in its subject-matter, and has dealt mostly with issues of a ‘personal’ nature, related to Prophet Muhammad, peace upon him. Since these issues are not immediately related to the Message, he is not addressed as ‘Messenger.’ These issues are immediately related to his everyday, private life and that of his family.
New Readers: Please check out the difference between ‘Prophet’ and ‘Messenger,’ discussed on Feb. 4th.
Most of this Chapter is a personal address to the Prophet.
Such details are significant!
Yusuf Ali’s Translation of this Chapter.
Muhammad Asad’s Translation of this Chapter.
Their commentaries can only be read in verse by verse view.
PAGE 424 Arabic Qur’an.
1. Verse 45 addresses the Prophet directly: ‘Ya ayyuhal Nabi!’
Actually, the address ‘O Prophet!’ appears 5 times in this Chapter which, from its very first verse, distinguished itself to be of a ‘personal’ character.
Indeed, of the 28 times the word ‘al nabi/ THE Prophet’ appears in the Qur’an, 12 are in this chapter alone put يا أيها النبيin Tanzil).
On the other hand, of the 45 times the word ‘al Rasool/ THE Messenger’ appears in the Qur’an, NONE are in this chapter.
Most of this Chapter is a personal address to the Prophet.
Nevertheless, in verses which are specifically addressed TO THE COMMUNITY, we do find mention of ‘Rasoolul-Lah/ Messenger of God’ (Verses 21, 40, 53), which serves to remind listeners of his unique relationship with God Himself.
2. Together, Verses 45 - 46 present us with the characteristics of the Prophet, who was ‘delegated’ or ‘sent’ (as Messenger) to be a Witness, a Bearer of glad Tidings, a Warner, an Advocate who calls people to God by His leave, and a Light-emitting Beacon.
Verse 47 warms the heart: The Prophet is told to deliver glad tidings to Believers مؤمنين-… may we be among them!
Verse 48 advises and encourages.
3. Verse 49 is about Divorce which takes place before the marriage has been consummated: in that case there would be no ‘waiting period’ (wherein the two might reconcile and wherein she should not remarry), because they hadn't lived as husband and wife in the first place. Divorce, if decided, should be straightforward, conducted in an exemplary manner and with provision.
PAGE 425 Arabic Qur’an.
4. Verse 50 also calls upon the Prophet (for private matters). Here he is told whom he can take in marriage under conditions particular to him, further expressed in Verses 51- 52 (also see Ali).
Although I have hyperlinked Asad and Ali’s interpretations, I do NOT agree with the following ‘even though their beauty should please thee greatly/ attract thee ولو أعجبك حسنهن-.’ Asad and Ali must have been echoing other commentators, in a ‘one-track-minded’ explanation (where women's looks, and men's attraction reign).
-We already mentioned on May 1st that the root-verb ‘ajaba عجب-’meant ‘to hold in high esteem, or to have a high opinion of.’
-As for the root-verb ‘hassana حسن-[i]’ it is related to whatever is admirable. Remember, the plural ‘hassanaat’ is opposed to ‘seyyi’aat,’ denoting ‘Good’ versus ‘Bad’ deeds. Here they denote good ‘traits.’
Therefore, I would translate this expression: “… nor (is it lawful for you) to exchange them (your own wives) for other wives even though you might value their admirable traits/ their Goodness…”
What a difference!
Please refer to Aug 10th for details on the Prophet’s marriages (his first monogamous marriage which lasted from youth to middle-age, was to Khadija, a twice-widowed mother of three who was fifteen years his senior. After her death he did wed more than on wife –each ALSO a widow with a story, except Aicha. Evidence indicates that these marriages were dictated by duty.
Anyway, these issues related to the Prophet and were unique to him.
As for Believers, see Feb 14th for our discussion on Polygyny or Polygamy, where we explained the ONLY VERSE in the Qur’an to sanction it, and noted that polygamy was CONDITIONAL on the community’s ‘fearing for orphans.’ At a time when there were no institutions to take care of them, their widowed mothers’ marrying into a FAMILY environment brought these orphans instant relief (their new father, as the verse seem to indicate, already had a wife):
“If you (m.pl) fear your inability to be just to the orphans, then wed what seem good to you of the women, as second, third, and fourth; but if you (m.pl) fear being inequitable, then one (f.), or what is already in your (m.pl) tenure, that is nearer to ensuring you (m.pl) will not burden yourselves with dependents*” (4:3)
5. Verses 53- 54 are addressed to Those who Attained Faith, advising them on how to behave around the Prophet, when invited to eat, in his quarters, and when asking any of his wives for something. These verses also reflect on Verse 6, where his wives were declared ‘Mothers’ of the Believers.
Both verses are well–explained by both Ali and Asad, but I hyperlinked Asad’s, who explained the word ‘hijaab.’
Many meetings took place in the Prophet’s quarters, and many meals were cooked and consumed there. The Prophet’s wives bore the brunt of the inconvenience. The ‘hijaab’ –which was a kind of indoor partition like a screen or curtain, was placed as a divider so that each of them could move about freely inside her home, knowing that visitors would never trespass even if they needed something from within (they could still talk through the screen). Contrary to what one might suppose, this indoor Hijaab was imposed upon the visitors, and not upon the lady of the house! Read the verse again, and note that the entire responsibility is delegated to visiting Believers.
Today, we mistakenly use the word ‘hijab’ to describe the head-cover. By using the connotation of a ‘barrier/ partition’ for something which should in reality have remained a ‘khimar/ cover,’ we have made this yard of cloth into something it isn’t.
Certainly, there are Muslim women in certain parts who are forced either to put it on, or to take it off (see article quoted below (*) and revisit our important discussion of Aug 24th, where we mourned for the girls forced back into the burning building).
But as many of us know: Most Muslim women are free to do with their hair what they want. Westerners should realize that the head-cover is ultimately a personal choice, and incidentally, many women would agree that:
Wearing it is a declaration of independence!
6. Verse 55 lists the categories to whom the wives of the Prophet could freely appear. Note that the verse begins by speaking of them in the third person (feminine ‘they’), and ends by commanding them in the second person (feminine ‘you’), to be Aware of God who is Witness over all things! This ties in with previous verses in this chapter (Verses 30-34), where they were told plainly that they were unlike any other women, and that their demeanor and public appearance had to portray their status (as the closest Companions of the Prophet, commanded by God to remember and disclose what was recited in their homes). Therefore, the 'no trespass zone' of 'hijab' was imposed upon their visitors, allowing the Prophet's wives to 'settle with dignity' (قرن) and comfort, in their own homes.
Our next Reading is from HQ 33:56-73, 34:1-14; a new chapter!
Peace unto all!
[i] حسن: الحُسن ضِدُّ القبح. يقال رجلٌ حسن وامرَأة حسناءُ وحُسّانَةٌ.
والمحاسنُ من الإنسان وغيره: ضدُّ المساوي. والحسن من الذراع: النصف الذي يلي الكوع، وأحسِبه سمّي بذلك مقابلةً بالنِّصف الآخر؛ لأنّهم يسمُّون النصف الذي يلي المِرفَق القبيح، وهو الذي يقال له كِسْرُ قبيحٍ.
* See "To Veil or Not to Veil?: Hijab and Muslim Women’s Rights in Afghanistan and France"
Quote from Part II (italics are mine):
“Throughout the ages and in every inhabitable land on this earth, women’s human rights have frequently been violated. The issues within women’s rights are huge, but as these articles have demonstrated, something as simple as the clothing worn by a woman can be used to violate her rights as a free agent. This has been the case in Afghanistan and France, two countries that reside on the extreme ends of this issue. In Afghanistan, the protectionist law of veiling that is enshrined in Islamic law has been employed by some in the Taliban as a tool to subjugate women. Some factions of this regime, which controlled Afghanistan prior to 2001, strictly enforced the veil over the women in that country, with punishment exacted on those who violated this dress code. In France, the decision to enforce a ban on headscarves in public schools negates the freedom of religion that is embedded in French law and international law. Under the pretext of protecting these girls from their families or the community that may be forcing them to wear the garment, the French government expressed its supposed good intentions for Muslim girls and its desire to maintain secular schools. Regardless of its intended good, by passing this law, France has violated international law on the freedom to practice religion and it may have inadvertently contributed to the further radicalization of a vulnerable population.”