Blogging the Qur’an: Sura 33, “The Confederates,” verses 21-73

posted at 7:50 am on July 13, 2008 by Robert Spencer

During the Battle of the Trench, Muhammad’s trust in Allah when things looked bleak for the Muslims stood him in good stead. Allah tells the Muslims to imitate him, for in him is “a beautiful pattern” of conduct (v. 21). This is the foundation of Muhammad’s singular position in Islam as the supreme example for behavior. Muqtedar Khan of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy explains:

No religious leader has as much influence on his followers as does Muhammad (Peace be upon him) the last Prophet of Islam….And Muhammad as the final messenger of God enjoys preeminence when it comes to revelation – the Qur’an – and traditions. So much so that the words, deeds and silences (that which he saw and did not forbid) of Muhammad became an independent source of Islamic law. Muslims, as a part of religious observance, not only obey, but also seek to emulate and imitate their Prophet in every aspect of life. Thus Muhammad is the medium as well as a source of the divine law.

Allah sometimes seem anxious to grant his prophet his heart’s desires. In verses 28-35 Allah addresses Muhammad’s wives, enjoining upon them modesty and piety; then verses 36-37 refer obliquely to one of the most notorious incidents of Muhammad’s prophetic career. Zaynab bint Jahsh had been married to Muhammad’s adopted son Zayd bin Haritha. According to the Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Muhammad asked for Zaynab’s hand on behalf of Zayd; Zaynab and her brother “were loathe” to agree, “for they had thought that the Prophet (s) wanted to marry her himself.” But they ultimately agreed because of the admonition that “it is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path” (v. 36).

The Tafsir al-Jalalayn says that Muhammad “caught sight” of Zaynab “and felt love for her,” while Zayd “lost his affection for her” and told Muhammad, “I want to part with her.” But Muhammad told him: “Keep thy wife to thyself, and fear Allah” (v. 37). Aisha later remarked, “If Allah’s Apostle were to conceal anything (of the Quran) he would have concealed this Verse” – because it shows him unwilling to accept Allah’s will, which was that he marry Zaynab. Then one day, according to Tabari, an esteemed, if not the most esteemed, historian and expositor of the Qur’an, Muhammad went to Zayd’s house and found her wearing only a chemise. Muhammad hastened away, murmuring, “Glory be to God the Almighty! Glory be to God, who causes hearts to turn!”

Soon afterward, according to Tabari, Muhammad was talking with Aisha when “a fainting overcame him.” Then he smiled and asked, “Who will go to Zaynab to tell her the good news, saying that God has married her to me?” He then recited the revelation Allah had just given him, scolding him for being concerned about what people might think and thus refusing to marry Zaynab (v. 37). The Tafsir al-Jalalayn explains what Allah is telling Muhammad here: “But you had hidden in your heart what God was to disclose, [what] He was to manifest of your love for her and of [the fact] that should Zayd part with her you would marry her, and you feared people, would say, ‘He has married his son’s wife!’, though God is worthier that you should fear Him, in all things, so take her in marriage and do not be concerned with what people say.”

According to Tabari, Aisha said: “I became very uneasy because of what we heard about her beauty and another thing, the greatest and loftiest of matters—what God had done for her by giving her in marriage. I said that she would boast of it over us.” Zaynab did, saying to Muhammad’s other wives: “You were given in marriage by your families, while I was married (to the Prophet) by Allah from over seven Heavens.”

Verses 38-48 continue defending Muhammad. Muhammad cannot be criticized for doing what Allah has given him as a duty (v. 38). Muhammad is the seal of the prophets (v. 40); as he himself explained, “Messengership and Prophethood have come to an end, and there will be no more Messengers or Prophets.” Muhammad is a witness, a bearer of good news, and a warner (v. 45), and should not obey the unbelievers (v. 48) – such as those who say he did wrong in marrying Zaynab.

Then follow (verses 49-52) regulations concerning marriage. A man may divorce a woman before consummating the marriage (v. 49). Muhammad may marry women who offer themselves to him; believers do not share this privilege (v. 50). ‘Ikrimah explained: “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.” Muhammad may go to his wives in any order he chooses, and may postpone the turn of any of them if he wishes (v. 51). When this verse was revealed, Aisha said acidly to Muhammad: “I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires.”

Verses 53-59 reinforce Muhammad’s exalted position. Allah tells believers to be circumspect about barging into Muhammad’s house or staying there too long after dinner, for such behavior “annoys the Prophet”; they should also only speak to his wives from behind screens (v. 53). Allah and his angels bless Muhammad, and the believers should also (v. 56), while those who annoy him are cursed in this world and the next (v. 57). It is also a serious sin to annoy the believers (v. 58). Muhammad’s wives and daughters should cover themselves when in public (v. 59).

Verses 60-73 return to familiar themes. Allah has cursed the hypocrites (v. 61) and unbelievers (v. 64). Men scornfully ask when the Day of Judgment will come (v. 63); in hell they will regret that they disobeyed Muhammad (v. 66) and will ask Allah to give their leaders a double penalty (v. 68). The believers should not be like those who insulted Moses (v. 69). Ibn Kathir explains that Moses “was a shy and modest man who would never show anything of his skin because of his shyness,” which led some of Jews to claim: “He only keeps himself covered because of some defect in his skin, either leprosy or scrotal hernia or some other defect.” So Allah, wanting to clear Moses, did so one day when Moses “was alone, so he took off his garment and put it on a rock, then he took a bath. When he had finished, he turned back to pick up his garment, but the rock moved away, taking his garment with it.” Moses chased the rock “until he reached a group of the Children of Israel, who saw him naked and found that he was the best of those whom Allah had created. Thus he was cleared of what they had said about him.”

Allah offered the al-amanah, the obedience of created things, to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they refused it. Man took it, but performed badly – so now Allah must punish the hypocrites and unbelievers (vv. 72-73).

Next week: Sura 34, “Sheba”: the unbelievers ridicule Muhammad’s message.

(Here you can find links to all the earlier “Blogging the Qur’an” segments. Here is a good Arabic Qur’an, with English translations available; here are two popular Muslim translations, those of Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, along with a third by M. H. Shakir. Here is another popular translation, that of Muhammad Asad. And here is an omnibus of ten Qur’an translations.)


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Convenient revelations, indeed.

flipflop on July 13, 2008 at 8:53 AM

No religious leader has as much influence on his followers as does Muhammad …

Oh, I dunno ’bout that, if there’s a billion muslims and only 1% of them are terrorists, then he’s not being properly followed by the other 99%.

Tony737 on July 13, 2008 at 9:01 AM

Muhammad was talking with Aisha when “a fainting overcame him.” Then he smiled and asked, “Who will go to Zaynab to tell her the good news, saying that God has married her to me?”

Ah yes, the oldest trick in the book, you smooth dawg, you!

Muhammad may marry women who offer themselves to him …

I can’t decide between “Pimpin’ ain’t easy.” and “It’s GOOD to be the king!”

… believers do not share this privilege …

Of course not, what man would allow his followers to have as many ho’s as himself?

Tony737 on July 13, 2008 at 9:16 AM

Muhammad went to Zayd’s house and found her wearing only a chemise…

“Who will go to Zaynab to tell her the good news, saying that God has married her to me?”…blockquote>

Sounds like simple lust to me.

Zorro on July 13, 2008 at 10:05 AM

Apoligies for the lost blockquote.

Muhammad went to Zayd’s house and found her wearing only a chemise…

“Who will go to Zaynab to tell her the good news, saying that God has married her to me?”…

Zorro on July 13, 2008 at 10:06 AM

Who would not want to be a Muslim?

[email protected] on July 13, 2008 at 10:43 AM

Interesting little story. I like the one at the end about Moshe. Here is another vignette along the same lines:

Smile! Submitted by reader R.B.
An ingenious example of speech and politics is said to have occurred at the U.N.
and to have made the world community smile.
A representative from Israel began: “Before beginning my talk I want to tell you
something about Moses. When he struck the rock and it brought forth water,
he thought, ‘What a good opportunity to have a bath!’ He removed his clothes,
put them aside on the rock and entered the water. When he got out and wanted
to dress, his clothes had vanished. A Palestinian had stolen them.”
The Palestinian representative jumped up furiously and shouted, “What are you
talking about? The Palestinians weren’t there then!” The Israeli representative
smiled and replied, “And now that we have made that clear, I will begin my
speech.”
Published in ZLM July 2008 Newsletter pg 30

OkieDoc on July 13, 2008 at 11:00 AM

And Muhammad as the final messenger of God enjoys preeminence when it comes to revelation – the Qur’an – and traditions. So much so that the words, deeds and silences (that which he saw and did not forbid) of Muhammad became an independent source of Islamic law.

I take it all we know of the Koran came from “the last prophet” Muhammed. Allah spoke of all that is in the Koran to Muhammed, and only to him. So it’s simple faith in Muhammed, and not so much (or by default) faith in Allah that drives Islam since.

And good Muslims should strive to emulate the prophet Muhammed. But from what we know of Muhammed’s life prior to his revelation in the cave, his life’s actions were far from someone who should be emulated.

JetBoy on July 13, 2008 at 11:22 AM

An analysis of the term “last prophet” may be found in this YouTube video. It’s a good series.

desertdweller on July 13, 2008 at 11:34 AM

Who would not want to be a Muslim?

[email protected] on July 13, 2008 at 10:43 AM

I keep asking myself that same question. So I wondered how many people willingly convert each year and was able to find this:

Muslims

Total adherents
1,188,242,789

New from conversion
865,558

Number of adherents to make one new convert:
1,372

Christians

Total adherents
1,999,563,838

New from conversion
2,501,396

Number of adherents to make one new convert:
799

TheBigOldDog on July 13, 2008 at 11:35 AM

An analysis of the term “last prophet” may be found in this YouTube video. It’s a good series.

desertdweller on July 13, 2008 at 11:34 AM

How many contracts fatwahs does that guy have out on him? I bet he’s on their top ten list…

TheBigOldDog on July 13, 2008 at 12:20 PM

I tried this “woke up with a smile” routine on a girlfriend once.

Didn’t flush.

(Guess I forgot the part about “but Allah told me to!”.)

Allah: Mohmmad’s Cosmic sockpuppet.

profitsbeard on July 13, 2008 at 12:32 PM

So basically Muhammad did whatever he wanted to do by phrasing it as a divine revaluation from Allah? Did anyone else realize this besides and call him out besides Aihsa?

nazo311 on July 13, 2008 at 1:38 PM

It seems to me here we have a clear example of Islam being non-compatible with Jeffersonian Democracy. In verses 18, 36 and again in 50-52. It matters more WHO YOU ARE rather than WHAT YOU DO. Or as Tony737 states, “It’s good to be the king!”
It appears to me that these passages have a secular component with an air of superiority to them that is a far cry from “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights….”

dentalque on July 13, 2008 at 2:01 PM

nazo311:

So basically Muhammad did whatever he wanted to do by phrasing it as a divine revaluation from Allah? Did anyone else realize this besides and call him out besides Aihsa?

Offhand I can’t think of anyone else who did. There were some apostates, including one who had spent some time transcribing his Qur’anic revelations, that worried Muhammad. But I can’t think right now of anyone else who ever noticed how convenient some of his revelations were.

Robert Spencer on July 13, 2008 at 2:03 PM

I do see a reason for hope in Mohammed being a bandit and blatant sleezbag. The pettiness and immorality of the ancient Greek gods played a major role in their fall from favor. With freedom of speech, the same could happen to Islam.

thuja on July 13, 2008 at 2:04 PM

Just for clarity, what happens to Muhammad’s adopted son Zayd bin Haritha?

Eventually he dies, but when? Is he already dead at the time Muhammad takes his wife? He seems conspicuously absent from events that are, in many cultures, the basis for tales of wrong-doing, revenge for one’s family and honor (honor? who uses this word frequently in connection with women?), and triumph (or tragedy).

If not, is there any record of bin Haritha’s reaction, or of Zaynab’s or her brother’s actions?

Arbalest on July 13, 2008 at 2:30 PM

TheBigOldDog on July 13, 2008 at 11:35 AM

TheBigOldDog

Does the site you cited have any details on the number of people who leave Islam? That would be really revealing, since in Islamic countries, that would incite invite a death sentence. But if that sword of Damocles Mohammed weren’t there, I doubt whether the number of Mohammedans worldwide would be even a million, let alone a billion.

infidelpride on July 13, 2008 at 2:40 PM

Arbalest:

Just for clarity, what happens to Muhammad’s adopted son Zayd bin Haritha?

He was killed in 629 in the Battle of Mut’ah (between the Muslims and soldiers of the Byzantine Empire).

Robert Spencer on July 13, 2008 at 2:56 PM

Islamic Terrorists
have carried out more than
11,437
Deadly Terror Attacks
Since 9/11
TheReligionofPeace.com

byteshredder on July 13, 2008 at 2:59 PM

Does the site you cited have any details on the number of people who leave Islam?

infidelpride on July 13, 2008 at 2:40 PM

No, but I found this:

Six million African Muslims leave Islam per year

TheBigOldDog on July 13, 2008 at 3:34 PM

There’s a saying, “It’s better to be lucky than good” Mohammed was lucky, but he was certainly not good in any way, shape or form.

Moses chased the rock “until he reached a group of the Children of Israel, who saw him naked and found that he was the best of those whom Allah had created. Thus he was cleared of what they had said about him.”

Yeah, interesting ways Allah has to prove something to a group of people who, according to him, are already cursed and don’t matter.

4shoes on July 13, 2008 at 3:54 PM

I said it before and I’ll say it again: Aisha was a very perceptive woman with a very wry wit. If she lived today, she’d have her own sitcom on ABC: “Everybody loves Muhammad.”

And then there’s the “Big M” himself: over the months of following this series and reading Robert’s books, it’s been clear to me for a while that many of “Allah’s revelations” to Muhammad were really just ways for him to get what he wanted, particularly after the Great Skedaddle to Medina. But this surah takes it practically to the level of parody. Can you imagine any Western husband* saying with a straight face to his wife: “Honey, God has told me to start sleeping with another woman!” And can you imagine the wife not reaching for the nearest blunt instrument?

*(Outside of fringe polygamist cults)

More seriously, I think this surah may be evidence of serious grumbling and dissension, evidence that Muhammad jumped the shark with some of his followers. Robert wrote:

But I can’t think right now of anyone else who ever noticed how convenient some of his revelations were.

And yet the lengths to which “Allah” goes to justify Muhammad’s behavior and to reinforce his place as the Maximum Leader hints that there was a lot of grumbling in the wake of l’affaire Zaynab. Perhaps there were other incidents of Muhammad appropriating the belongings of others “by Allah’s command,” and this was the last straw for many. We don’t know, of course, due to the lack of a historical record, but this surah speaks of trouble in Paradise.

irishspy on July 13, 2008 at 3:55 PM

A representative from Israel began: “Before beginning my talk I want to tell you
something about Moses.”…The Palestinians weren’t there then!” The Israeli representative
smiled and replied, “And now that we have made that clear, I will begin my
speech.”
Published in ZLM July 2008 Newsletter pg 30

OkieDoc on July 13, 2008 at 11:00 AM

Except Moses was never in Israel… Ooops!

Can you imagine any Western husband* saying with a straight face to his wife: “Honey, God has told me to start sleeping with another woman!” And can you imagine the wife not reaching for the nearest blunt instrument?*(Outside of fringe polygamist cults)
irishspy on July 13, 2008 at 3:55 PM

Yeah, Joseph Smith*.

*I think the American prophet, Joseph Smith, didn’t start teaching polygamy at this point.

Gee, sometimes I wonder if, just if, the Koran is from God? Then what?

barry norris on July 13, 2008 at 4:30 PM

barry norris:

Gee, sometimes I wonder if, just if, the Koran is from God? Then what?

Then we all should become Muslims.

But in any case, this Blogging the Qur’an series is not about whether or not the Qur’an is true. It is simply about what the Qur’an says and how mainstream Muslim commentators understand it, with particular attention to what it says (and what the commentators say) about how Muslims should treat those who don’t believe it is from God.

Robert Spencer on July 13, 2008 at 5:43 PM

But in any case, this Blogging the Qur’an series is not about whether or not the Qur’an is true.
Robert Spencer on July 13, 2008 at 5:43 PM

Many thanks again Robert for all this work.
I just have not had the time to digest all of your work here, but it is great!!

Mcguyver on July 13, 2008 at 6:44 PM

I admit, I’m a bit surprised Robert had time for this week’s “Blogging the Qur’an” post, what with all the emails he’s been writing lately.

Lee on July 13, 2008 at 6:50 PM

Robert,

I have to ask, do you know this guy and have you gone through his Youtube series?

TheBigOldDog on July 13, 2008 at 6:58 PM

TheBigOldDog:

I have to ask, do you know this guy and have you gone through his Youtube series?

I never saw this site before, and wasn’t able to find any identification of who is behind it. The link to YouTube went to a page that said, “This account is suspended.”

It’s interesting that YouTube allows open jihadists to have accounts, but not virulent anti-jihadists.

Robert Spencer on July 13, 2008 at 8:04 PM

Robert Spencer on July 13, 2008 at 8:04 PM

He reopened the account here.

TheBigOldDog on July 13, 2008 at 8:15 PM

I have to ask, do you know this guy and have you gone through his Youtube series?
I never saw this site before, and wasn’t able to find any identification of who is behind it. The link to YouTube went to a page that said, “This account is suspended.”
It’s interesting that YouTube allows open jihadists to have accounts, but not virulent anti-jihadists.

Robert,
But doesn’t that have to do with the jihadists threatening anyone who hosts anti-jihad videos with violence? We’ve seen this before with LiveLeak hosting Fitna. Another avenue is the characterization of it as “hate speech.” They really want to silence any criticism whatsoever of Islam.

nazo311 on July 13, 2008 at 8:56 PM

nazo311:

But doesn’t that have to do with the jihadists threatening anyone who hosts anti-jihad videos with violence? We’ve seen this before with LiveLeak hosting Fitna. Another avenue is the characterization of it as “hate speech.” They really want to silence any criticism whatsoever of Islam.

I don’t know if it has to do with that, because I don’t know if anyone threatened YouTube, or the producer of these videos, with violence. I rather think it is more likely to be an example of YouTube’s tendency to act against (almost certainly after complaints) anti-jihad material, and to favor pro-jihad material.

Robert Spencer on July 13, 2008 at 9:07 PM

Robert Spencer on July 13, 2008 at 9:07 PM

We can only hope that it, “also”, stays up and running. I definitely saved it as another favorite!!

jerrytbg on July 13, 2008 at 9:14 PM

nazo311 on July 13, 2008 at 8:56 PM

Listen to one of the authors explain why

TheBigOldDog on July 13, 2008 at 9:24 PM

How many contracts fatwahs does that guy have out on him? I bet he’s on their top ten list…

TheBigOldDog on July 13, 2008 at 12:20 PM

I’m unsure the imams know who is behind this. There’s an interview at Muhammadtube you might want to hear (an account may be required to get to the video).

desertdweller on July 14, 2008 at 12:19 AM

We can only hope that it, “also”, stays up and running. I definitely saved it as another favorite!!

jerrytbg on July 13, 2008 at 9:14 PM

A relatively new site, Muhammadtube.com was launched just over a month ago to host videos “banned” from YouTube as Islamophobic.

There’s less activity on this site than on the AhmadsQuran account on YouTube, though. But the site seems to be gaining traction.

Oh, BTW, watch the whole series. I suspect there will be over 250 or so videos by the time it is done.

desertdweller on July 14, 2008 at 12:24 AM

desertdweller on July 14, 2008 at 12:24 AM

thanks, one more saved.

jerrytbg on July 14, 2008 at 7:32 AM

desertdweller on July 14, 2008 at 12:24 AM

The last thing in the world they should be doing is requiring people to register. Suspicious people might think it’s a front – a way to identify the critics of Islam….

TheBigOldDog on July 14, 2008 at 7:48 AM

TheBigOldDog on July 14, 2008 at 7:48 AM

Maybe….but then again, the knowledge obtained… very powerful.

jerrytbg on July 14, 2008 at 8:03 AM

If the Qur’an were to ever turn out to really be from God (although how that’d ever be demonstrated?) I’d rather make hell my home.

infidelpride on July 14, 2008 at 10:19 AM

The last thing in the world they should be doing is requiring people to register. Suspicious people might think it’s a front – a way to identify the critics of Islam….

TheBigOldDog on July 14, 2008 at 7:48 AM

Am not positive about the need to register. Sometimes I forget to log in and can’t see a linked video, though.

It would take a lot of restraint, which we know not to exist in the Muslim community, to keep the Infidelophobes from going nuts in the comments, which I don’t see so much.

When the site started up, and had only a few videos, I was unsure the site’s mission. But that has become clear now.

desertdweller on July 14, 2008 at 10:54 AM

Infidel Pride:

If the Qur’an were to ever turn out to really be from God (although how that’d ever be demonstrated?) I’d rather make hell my home.

And you would, too, if Allah so willed: “Many are the Jinns and men we have made for Hell…” (Qur’an 7:179).

Robert Spencer on July 14, 2008 at 11:24 AM

Gee, sometimes I wonder if, just if, the Koran is from God? Then what?

barry norris on July 13, 2008 at 4:30 PM

Then God is an evil vengeful deity, to which I, like IP, will choose to make Hell, my home.

awake on July 14, 2008 at 11:44 AM

Then God is an evil vengeful deity, to which I, like IP, will choose to make Hell, my home.

awake on July 14, 2008 at 11:44 AM

If the Qur’an is real, you don’t have a choice in the matter. It’s already been determined.

TheBigOldDog on July 14, 2008 at 12:13 PM

If the Qur’an were to ever turn out to really be from God (although how that’d ever be demonstrated?) I’d rather make hell my home.

Looks like the Quar’an already says you are going there:

98:5 The unbelievers among the People of the Book (i.e.
Christians and Jews) and the pagans shall burn for ever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures. But of all creatures those that embrace the Faith and do good works are the noblest. God will reward them with the gardens of Eden, gardens watered by running streams, where they shall dwell for ever.

nazo311 on July 14, 2008 at 12:59 PM

irishspy on July 13, 2008 at 3:55 PM

This one’s for you: And THEN it was Revealed Part 32

TheBigOldDog on July 14, 2008 at 2:30 PM