This page contains all verses of surah Al-Ahzaab in addition to Interpretation of all verses by Maarif-ul-Quran (Mufti Muhammad Shafi). In the first part you can read surah الأحزاب ordered in pages exactly as it is present in the Quran. To read an interpretation of a verse click on its number.
This is a Madani Surah. Most of its subjects feature is the loveable persona of the Holy Prophet ﷺ and his special place with Allah. There it has been variously emphasized that showing reverence for him is obligatory and that causing any pain to him is haram (forbidden). Then the rest of the subjects taken up in the Surah also serve as complements to the ultimate perfection of his station.
The background of revelation
Some narrations have been reported outlining the cause of the revelation of this Surah:
1. When the Holy Prophet ﷺ came to live in Madinah after his hijrah, the environs of the city were inhabited by Jewish tribes, some of whom being Quraizah, Nadir and Banu Qainuqa . Being the prophet of mercy for all, he wished and tried that they somehow embrace Islam. It so happened that a few men from among these Jews started visiting him and posing as Muslims hypocritically. There was no faith in their heart. The Holy Prophet ﷺ took this as sufficient to begin within the hope that the incidence of some people becoming Muslims would make it easier for him to invite others. Therefore, he used to welcome everyone from among these people particularly and warmly, so much so that even if they happened to do something bad, he would ignore it as a measure of religious expediency. It was because of this event that the initial verses of Surah al-Ahzab were revealed. (al-Qurtubi)
According to another event reported by Ibn Jarir from Sayyidna Ibn ` Abbas ؓ ، it was after hijrah that Walid Ibn Mughirah and Shaibah Ibn Rabi'ah from among the kuffar of Makkah came to Madinah. They made an offer before the Holy Prophet ﷺ that they would let him have half of the entire wealth of the Quraish of Makkah, if he were to withdraw his claim of prophethood. And the hypocrites and Jews of Madinah gave him a threat that they would kill him, if he did not withdraw from his claim and call. Thereupon, these verses were revealed. (Ruh al-Ma’ ani)
The third event has been reported by Tha` alibi and Wahidi with no ascription of authority. This event, according to them, goes back to the time when a no war pact was signed between the pagans of Makkah and the Holy Prophet t at Hudaibiyah. It was at that time that Abu Sufyan, ` Ikrimah, Ibn Abi Jahl and Abu al-A'war Sulami came to Madinah. There they said to the Holy Prophet ﷺ ، ` You stop speaking ill of our objects of worship - or simply say that they will also intercede on our behalf and bring benefits to us. If you do just that much, then we, on our part, will forget about you and your Lord - and the dispute will be all over.'
What they said was very unpleasant for the Holy Prophet ﷺ and for all Muslims who wanted to kill them. The Holy Prophet ﷺ said, ` I have made a peace pact with them, therefore, this cannot be done.' Thereupon, these verses were revealed. (Ruh al-Ma’ ani) Though, these reports are different but, in reality, there is no contradiction therein. These events could also be the cause of the revelation of the cited verses.
In these verses, the Holy Prophet ﷺ has been asked to do two things: (1) اِتَّقِ اللہَ (ittaqillah), that is, 'fear Allah.' (2) لَا تُطِیعِ الکَافِرِینَ (la tuti'il-kafirin), that is, 'do not obey the disbelievers.' The order to fear Allah was given for the reason that killing them was a breach of trust which is haram (forbidden). As for the order of not obeying the disbelievers, it was given for the reason that the demands made by the infidels in all these events were unacceptable. Relevant details follow.
Explanation of Verses
In the opening verse of the Surah: یَٰایُّھَا النَّبِیُّ اتَّقِ اللہَ (0 Prophet, fear Allah - 1), the wording of the address to the Holy Prophet ﷺ is significant. This is a singular honor given and the high regard shown to the Holy Prophet ﷺ . Nowhere in the entire Qur'an, has he ever been addressed directly by his name - as has been the case in addressing other prophets. They have been addressed as یَا آدَمُ (0 'Adam), یَا نُوحُ (0 Nuh), یَا اِبرَاھِیمُ (0 Ibrahim), یَا مُوسیٰ (0 Musa) and likewise, repeatedly. Contrary to this, wherever throughout the Qur'an an address was made to the last among the prophets, may peace and the blessings of Allah be upon him, he was addressed by some title, like nabiyy (prophet) or rasul (messenger of Allah) etc. The only exception is that of four occasions [ 3:144; 33:40; 47:2; 48:29] where the very purpose was to declare that he is the rasul of Allah. It is there only that his blessed name has been mentioned - which was functionally necessary.
In this address, two orders were given to the Holy Prophet ﷺ : (1) That of fearing Allah in the sense that the peace pact entered into with the Mushriks of Makkah should not be contravened. (2) That of not yielding to what is said by the disbelievers, hypocrites and the Jews. At this point, a question may arise. Is it not that the Holy Prophet ﷺ is, after all, protected from all sins? Now, a breach of solemn pledge is obviously a major sin, and similarly, it is also a great sin to accept the offer of disbelievers and polytheists, quoted under the background of revelation. Since the Holy Prophet ﷺ was already protected from all kinds of sins, what was the need for such an order? According to Ruh al-Ma’ ani, these orders have the sense of instruction to abide by this conduct in future as well - as he did in the event concerned. And the order of: اِتَّقِ اللہ (ittaqillah: fear Allah) was made to come earlier for the reason that Muslims wanted to kill the Mushriks of Makkah with whom a treaty of peace was already in effect. Therefore, the instruction to avoid a breach of pledge was made to precede through the expression: اِتَّقِ اللہ (ittagillah: fear Allah). As for the instruction of not yielding to the kuffar and mushrikin, since no one had even wanted to do that, it was mentioned later.
And some respected commentators have said that, in this verse, though the address is to the Holy Prophet ﷺ ، but the purpose is to warn the Muslim community at large. As for him, he was ma` sum, that is, protected in the sense that there was just no probability of the contravention of Divine injunctions from him. But, the law is for the whole community. So, a corresponding mode was employed to make the community hear it and become alerted, and the address was made to the Holy Prophet ﷺ which enhanced the importance of the order significantly by suggesting: When, even the rasul of Allah is the addressee of the order, how can any individual of the Muslim community remain exempted from it?
And Ibn Kathir has said: In this verse, the real purpose of prohibiting the obedience of the disbelievers is that the Holy Prophet ﷺ should not consult with them or let them have the opportunity of sitting with him frequently, because such consultation or mutual interaction generally becomes the cause of ending up in a disposition favouring the acceptance of what they proposed. Though, there was no probability that the Holy Prophet ﷺ would do what they asked him to do, still, he was stopped from maintaining such liaison with them and from having them participate in his consultations. It is this idea that has been expressed through the word: اِطَاعَۃ (ita’ ah: obedience, submission or listening to and doing the bidding of someone), because such consultations and mutual interaction usually become the cause of ultimate acceptance. So, what has really been done here is that he has been prohibited from adopting the ways that could lead to such 'itaa'ah or obedience. As for obedience itself, there was no probability that he would ever do that.
Now the second question that may arise here is that according to this verse, the disbelievers and the hypocrites were expected to propose things counter to the true Islamic position. To the extent of open disbelievers, such proposals coming from them were not improbable, and warning against yielding to them is understandable. But, if the hypocrites said anything counter to Islam, they would no longer remain hypocrites, because in that case they would become open disbelievers. What, then, was the need to mention them separately? The answer is that it is possible that although the hypocrites may not have said anything against Islam very openly, but that they may have said something in support of other disbelievers.
And if the event featuring the hypocrites, described under the background of revelation, is taken to be the cause of revelation, it simply leaves no difficulty or vagueness behind - because, in terms of this event, the Holy Prophet ﷺ has simply been prohibited from dealing with Jews calling themselves Muslims in a spirit of extra civility and accommodation.
Later, towards the end of this verse, by saying: اِن اللہَ عَلِیماً حَکِیمَاً (Surely, Allah is All- Knowing, Wise - 1), stated there is the wisdom of the order given immediately earlier - that is, 'fear Allah and do not obey the disbelievers and hypocrites.' The reason is that Allah Ta’ ala, who knows the consequences of everything, is most wise, and fully aware of what is better for His servants. This was said to counter some of the things put forth by the disbelievers or hypocrites which could generate for them certain advantages of lesser tension and increased mutual tolerance. But, from this Allah Ta’ ala prohibited him by declaring that even this tolerance of such people was counter to what was expedient under the circumstances and that such a policy was not going to end well.
What is said in verse وَاتَّبِعْ مَا يُوحَىٰ إِلَيْكَ مِن رَّبِّكَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا وَاتَّبِعْ مَا يُوحَىٰ إِلَيْكَ مِن رَّبِّكَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا (And follow what is revealed to you from your Lord. Surely Allah is All-Aware of what you do.) is actually a complement of the first order. It means: Do not be beguiled or taken in by what the disbelievers and hypocrites say and do not agree or yield to it. Instead of all that, whatever you have been told by Allah through walhy (revelation) remains the only thing you and your companions should follow. Since, the noble companions ؓ and Muslims at large are included under this address, therefore, by saying: بِمَا تَعمَلُونَ (what you do) in the plural form at the end, everyone was alerted.
Once again, the last statement: وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّـهِ ۚ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّـهِ وَكِيلًا (And place your trust in Allah and Allah is enough as a guardian- 3) is also a complement of the same order. Here it is being said: As for your approach, just pay no heed to what they say and, in order to succeed in your objective, you should trust no one but Allah for He, in Himself and by Himself, is the ultimate doer, maker and fixer of all matters and things. With Him there, you do not need to acquiesce in the opinion of anyone.
The cited verse proves that, in religious matters, even consulting with disbelievers is not permissible. In other matters relating to technical or functional experience, there is no harm in doing so. And Allah knows best.
Previous verses carried instructions to the Holy Prophet ﷺ asking him not to act upon their advice and not to be cajoled into what they wanted to achieve. In the cited verses, there is a refutation of three customs prevailing among disbelievers as well as of their false notions.
(1) During jahiliyyah, Arabs used to say about a person who was smarter than others that he had two hearts in his chest cage.
(2) Then they had a custom about their wives following which a person would declare his wife to be like the back of his mother, or some other part of the body, and go on to say, 'you are, for me, like the back of my mother.' This, in their usage, was called "Zihar." It is a derivation from: Zahr, which means 'back'. They thought that if a person who had done "Zihr" with his wife, she becomes haram (unlawful) to him forever.
(3) And then they had another custom under which one person would make the son of another his so-called or adopted son and who so would take a son in that manner, the boy would become known as 'his' son and would be addressed as such. According to their practice, this so-called or adopted son used to be recognized in all rules and regulations as a 'real' son. For instance, he would be regarded as a sharer even in inheritance, like a real offspring along with the children from his loins. Then, they would also regard the marriage relations of the so-called or adopted son as falling under the standard rule whereby the marriage with a category of certain women is unlawful. For example, as marriage with the wife of one's real son remains unlawful even after he has divorced her, they also took the divorced wife of the so-called or adopted son to be unlawful for that person.
Since the first of the three notions of the period of Jahiliyyah were not tied up with religious belief or conduct, therefore, the Shari'ah of Islam had no need to refute it. To determine whether there is just the one heart inside the chest or, may be, there are two as well was simply a case of anatomical inquiry. That it was obviously false was known to everyone. Therefore, most likely, the matter of its refutation was also introduced as a prologue to the other two issues and it was said: The way false is the saying of the people of Jahiliyyah - that 'someone could have two hearts in his chest', the falsity of which is known to everyone - similarly, false are their notions in the matters of Zihar (falsely declaring one's wife unlawful to him like his mother) and adoption of sons.
As for the injunctions governing the two issues of Zihar and adopted son, these are among the social and familial issues that have a great importance in Islam - to the extent that even their subsidiary details have been given in the Qur'an by Allah Ta’ ala Himself. unlike other matters, this has not been left at the declaration of principles only with its detailed enunciation entrusted with the Holy Prophet t. Regarding both these issues, the people of Jahiliyyah, following their baseless whims, had a bunch of self-made laws relating to the lawful and the unlawful, the permissible and the impermissible. It was the duty of the True Religion that it should refute these false notions and make the truth manifest. Therefore, it was said:i It means: 'You are wrong in thinking that, should someone call his wife the equal or like of his mother, the wife does not go on to become unlawful for him forever like his real mother. Just because you say so, a wife does not become a mother, in reality. Your mother is but she who gave birth to you.' Now, at least, the notion of the people of Jahiliyyah that Zihar makes one's wife unlawful for ever is refuted by this verse. What happens next? Does saying so bring about any legal effect? The standing injunction in this connection appears in Surah al-Mujadalah [ 58:2-4] where saying so has been called a sin and abstention from it obligatory. And it is provided there that he who has made such a declaration should offer a kaffarah (expiation) of having done zihar after which having intercourse with his wife becomes lawful for him. The details of this issue will appear in the Commentary on Surah al-Mujadalah (Ma` ariful-Qur'an, Volume VIII).
The second issue was that of the mutabanna, i.e adopted son. About that, it was said: وَمَا جَعَلَ أَدْعِيَاءَكُمْ أَبْنَاءَكُمْ (nor did he make your adopted sons your (real) sons - 4). The word: اَدعِیَاء (ad'iya' ) is the plural of: دَعِیُّ (da'iyy) which means a so-called son. The sense is that the way no man has two hearts inside him and the way by likening one's wife to one's mother, the wife does not become the mother - similarly, the so-called son does not become your real son. In other words, neither will he be entitled to a share in inheritance with other sons, nor the precepts of the unlawfulness of marriage will apply to him. For example, the way the divorced wife of a real son is unlawful for his father forever, the divorced wife of an adopted son is not unlawful for his so-called father. Since this last matter affects many other matters, therefore, it was complimented by another injunction, that is, even an adopted son should be attributed to his real father, and not to the person who has adopted him - because, this spells out the danger of misgiving and confusion creeping in many matters.
There is a hadith from Sayyidna Ibn ` Umar ؓ appearing in al-Bukhari, Muslim and others in which it has been said: 'Before the revelation of this verse, we used to call Zayd Ibn Harithah by the name of Zayd Ibn Muhammad (because the Holy Prophet ﷺ had taken him in as his mutabanna, adopted son). After the revelation of this verse, we abandoned this practice.'
This tells us about many people who call the children of others as 'son' which, if because of simple affection, not because of declaring him an adopted son or a mutabanna , then, this would though be permissible, still, it is not the better choice, because it looks like violating the prohibition, at least in appearance. (As in Ruh a1-Ma` ni from al-Khafaji Ala al-Baidawi)
And this is the same matter which, by throwing the Quraish of Arabia into deception, led them to commit a sin of terribly serious proportions to the extent that they started blaming the Holy Prophet t by saying that he had married the divorced wife of his 'son', while in fact, he was not his son, but only a mutabanna (adopted son) - something that will be mentioned in this very Surah a little later.
As stated earlier, most of the subjects in Surah al-Ahzab relate to the reverence of the Holy Prophet t and to the unlawfulness of causing pain to him. After the mention of pains caused to him by disbelievers and hypocrites at the beginning of the Surah, some instructions were given to the Holy Prophet ﷺ following which three customs of the Jahiliyyah were refuted. Out of these, the last custom related to such a pain inflicted on the Holy Prophet ﷺ because the disbelievers had - at the time of the marriage of Sayyidah Zainab ؓ the divorced wife of Sayyidna Zayd, and on the basis of their pagan custom of mutabanna - blamed the Holy Prophet ﷺ of having married the divorced wife of his 'son.' Thus, from the beginning of the Surah up to this point, the subject concerned the pain caused to the Holy Prophet ﷺ . In the present verse (6), it has been stated that the reverence of and the obedience to the Holy Prophet ﷺ more than the whole creation is wajib (necessary in the degree of obligation)
The meaning of the expression: "The Prophet ﷺ is closer to the believers than their own selves" mentioned by Maulana Thanavi is based on the saying of Ibn ` Atiyyah and others which has been opted for by al-Qurtubi and most commentators. According to it, every Muslim is duty-bound to obey and implement the command of the Holy Prophet ﷺ ، more than the command of his parents. If one's parents oppose any command of the Holy Prophet ﷺ ، their obedience in that matter is not permissible. Similarly, the implementation of his command takes precedence even over the pulls of one's own desiring self.
In a hadith of Sayyidna Abu Hurairah ؓ appearing in the Sahih of al-Bukhari and others, the Holy Prophet ﷺ has been reported to have said:
مَا مِن مُّؤمِنٍ اِلَّا وَ انَا اَولَی النَّاسِ بِہٖ فِی الدُّنیَا وَ الاٰخِرَۃِ اِقرَءُوٓا اِن شِٔتُم اَلنَّبِیُّ اَولٰی بِالمُؤمِنِیںَ مِن اَنفُسِھِم
There is no such believer for whom I am not the closest of all people in this world and in the world to come. Read if you wish (this verse of the Qur'an to confirm):... (The Prophet is ...).
The sense of the statement is that his affection for every Muslim exceeds the affection of the whole world and, as such, the necessary outcome has to be no other but that every believer holds him dearer than anyone else - which is something also said in another hadith:
لَا یُؤمِن اَحَدُکُم حَتَّی اَکُونَ اَحَبَّ اِلَیہِ مَن وَّالَدَہٖ وَ وَلَدَہٖ وَ النَّاس، اَجمَعِین
None of you can become a believer until I become the dearest one to him, dearer than his father, and his son, and the whole world full of people/and the rest of the human beings, all of them. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim - Mazhari)
Said in the following sentence of the verse was: وَ اَزوَاجُہُ اُمَّھَاتُھُم (and his wives are your mothers). Here, the reference to the blessed wives of the Holy Prophet as mothers of the Muslim community means being mothers in terms of their respect and honor. Injunctions relating to the mother and her children, and those of the forbiddance of marriage, and of the absence of hijab due to having the status of a mahram, and of holding a share in the inheritance are injunctions which have nothing to do with it - as made explicit towards the end of the verse. As for the forbiddance of the marriage of the blessed wives with anyone in the Muslim community, this has been declared in a separate verse. Therefore, it is not necessary that even this forbiddance of marriage may be for the reason of being mothers.
The cited verse proves that the least breach of etiquette in the case of anyone of the blessed wives ؓ is forbidden for two reasons: (1) That they are the mothers of the Muslim community and (2) also because any pain caused to them would cause pain to the Holy Prophet ﷺ - which is forbidden in a far too extreme a degree.
The literal sense of the expression: اُولُوا الاَرحاَم (ulu 'l-arham) in the next sentence of the verse: اُولُوا الاَرحاَم بَعضُھُم اَولٰی بِبَعضٍ (And those having mutual kinship are closer to one another (for the purpose of inheritance) than (other) believers and emigrants) covers all relatives, whether they are those whom Muslim jurists call by the name of: عصبَات (` asbat: agnates) or those who are juxtaposed as اُولُوا الاَرحاَم "ulu 'l-arham" against "` asbat" in the light of a particular terminology. This terminology used by Muslim jurists, a later day product, is not what is meant here in the Holy Qur'an.
Thus, it means that the relationship of the revered rasul and his blessed wives with the believers of the community is, though of a degree which precedes even that of a mother and father but, on the injunctions relating to the distribution of inheritance, this has simply no bearing. This inheritance, in fact, will be distributed only on the basis of lineal and closer relationships.
In the early stage of Islam, entitlement to shares in the inheritance was based on spiritual relationship. Later on, it was abrogated in favour of closeness of relationships which has been announced by the noble Qur'an itself. This entire detail of the abrogating and the abrogated verses has appeared in Surah al-Anfal (Ma’ ariful-Qur'an, Volume IV). And in that context, the mention of وَالمُھَاجِرِین (and the emigrants) after: مِنَ المُؤمِنِین (and the believers) is there to highlight their distinction.
And some early commentators have said that, at this place, the Believers ('al-mu'minin' ) mean the Ansar and the Emigrants (Muhajirin) mean the Quraish. When placed in contrast with the Muhajirin, it becomes clear that the word: 'al-mu'minin' (the believers) is for the Ansar. In that case, this verse will be an abrogator of the rule of inheritance on the basis of the Hijrah (تورات بالھجرۃ) because, during the early stage of Hijrah, the Holy Prophet ﷺ had, by establishing brotherly relations between the Muhajirin and the Ansar, ordered that they will also inherit from each other. This verse abrogated that rule of 'inheritance by virtue of Hijrah' (Qurtubi)
Soon thereafter, it was stated: إِلَّا أَن تَفْعَلُوا إِلَىٰ أَوْلِيَائِكُم مَّعْرُوفًا (unless you do some good to your friends (by making a will in their favour - 6). In other words, this means that inheritance as such will be received only on the basis of relationship - anyone unrelated will not be an inheritor - but, there may be people with whom you relate as your brothers in faith. If you wish to give them something, you have the right to do so. You could do so within your lifetime and give it to them as a gift, and it is also possible to make a will in their favour so that they get it after your death.