3:7:48 2023-09-20 135


The Surah derives its name Al-Ahzab from verse 20.

Period of Revelation

The Surah discusses three important events which are: the Battle of the Trench (or Al-Ahzab: the Clans) which took place in Shawwal A. H. 5; the raid on Bani Quraizah which was made in Dhil-Qa'dah A. H. 5; and the Holy Prophet's marriage with Zainab which also was contracted in Dhil-Qa'dah A. H. 5. These historical events accurately determine the period of the revelation of this Surah.

Historical Background

The Islamic army's setback in the Battle of Uhud (A. H. 3) that resulted from the error of the archers appointed by the Holy Prophet so boosted up the morale of the Arab pagans and the Jews and the hypocrites that they started entertaining the hope that they would soon be able to exterminate Islam and the Muslims completely. Their high state of morale can be judged from the events that occurred in the first year after Uhud. Hardly two months had passed then the tribe of Bani Asad of Najd began to make preparations for a raid on Madinah and the Holy Prophet had to dispatch an expedition under Abu Salamah to counteract them. In Safar A. H. 4 some people of the tribes of Adal and Qarah asked the Holy Prophet to send some men to instruct them in Islam. Accordingly six of the Companions were allowed to accompany them for the purpose. But when they reached Raji (a place between Rabigh and Jeddah) they summoned Hudhail against them who killed four of the Companions and took the other two (Khubaib ibn Adi and Zaid ibn al-Dathinnah) to Mecca and sold them to the enemy. Then in the same month of Safar on the request of a chief of Bani Amir the Holy Prophet sent another deputation of 40 (according to others 70) preachers consisting of the Ansar young men to Najd.But they were also betrayed. The people of Usayyah and Ri'l and Dhakwan tribes of Bani Sulaim surrounded them suddenly at Bir Maunah and slew all of them. Meanwhile the Jewish tribe of Bani an-Nadir of Madinah getting encouragement continued to commit breaches of the treaties; so much so that in Rabi'ul Awwal A.H. 4 they plotted against the life of the Holy Prophet himself. Then in Jamadi al-Ula A. H. 4 Bani Thalbah and Bani Muharib the two tribes of Bani Ghatafan started making preparations to attack Medina and the Holy Prophet had to go to punish them. Thus after their setback at Uhud the Muslims went on encountering repercussions continuously for seven to eight months.

However, it was the Holy Prophet's determination and wisdom and his great Companions' spirit of sacrifice that changed these adverse conditions completely within a short span of time. The economic boycott by the Arabs had made life hard for the people of Medina. All the polytheistic tribes around Medina were becoming rebellious. Inside Medina itself the Jews and the hypocrites were beat upon mischief. But the successive steps taken by a handful of the sincere Muslims under the leadership of the Holy Prophet not only restored the image of strength of Islam in Arabia but also increased it manifold.

Subject Matter and Topics

These were the questions that were engaging the attention of the Holy Prophet and the Muslims at the time Sura Al-Ahzab was revealed and replies to the same form the subject matter of this Surah.

A perusal of the theme and the background shows that the Sura is not a single discourse which was sent down in one piece but it consists of several injunctions and commandments and discourses which were sent down one after the other in connection with the important events of the time and then were put together in one Sura. Its following parts stand out clearly distinguished from one another:

Verses 1-8 seem to have been sent down before the Battle of the Trench. Their perusal keeping the historical background in view shows that at the time of their revelation Zaid had already divorced Zainab. The Holy Prophet was feeling the necessity that the concepts and customs and superstitions of ignorance concerning the adoption of the son should be eradicated and he was also feeling that the delicate and deep sentiments the people cherished about the adopted relations merely on emotional grounds would not be rooted out until he himself took the initiative to eradicate the custom practically. But at the same time he was hesitant and considering seriously that if he married the divorced wife of Zaid then the hypocrites and the Jews and the unbelievers who were already bent on mischief would get a fresh excuse to start a propaganda campaign against Islam. This was the occasion of the revelation of vv. 1-8.

In verses 9-27 an appraisal has been made of the Battle of the Trench and the raid against the Bani Quraizah. This is a clear proof that these verses were sent down after these events.

The discourse contained in vv. 28-35 consists of two parts. In the first part Allah has given a notice to the wives of the Holy Prophet who were being impatient of the straitened circumstances to the effect:" Choose between the world and its adornments and Allah His Prophet and the Hereafter. If you seek the former you should say so openly: you will not be kept back in hardship even for a day but will be sent off gracefully. And if you seek the latter you should cooperate with Allah and His messenger and bear patiently." In the second part initial steps were taken towards the social reforms whose need was being felt by the minds molded in the Islamic pattern themselves. In this regard reform was started from the house of the Holy Prophet himself and his wives were commanded to avoid behaving and conducting themselves in the ways of the pre Islamic days of ignorance to remain in their houses with dignity and to exercise great caution in their conversation with the other men. This was the beginning of the Commandments of Purdah.

Verses 36-48 deal with the Holy Prophet's marriage with Zainab. In this section the opponents' objection about this marriage have been answered; the doubts that were being created in the minds of the Muslims have been removed; the Muslims have been acquainted with the Holy Prophet's position and status; and the Holy Prophet himself has been counseled to exercise patience on the false propaganda of the disbelievers and the hypocrites.

In verse 49 a clause of the law of divorce has been laid down. This is a unique verse which was sent down on some occasion probably in connection with the same events.

In verses 50-52 a special regulation of marriage has been laid down for the Holy Prophet which points out that he is an exception to the several restrictions that have been imposed on the other Muslims in regard to marital life.

In verses 53-55 the second step was taken towards social reform. It consists of the following injunctions: Restriction on the other men to visit the houses of the Holy Prophet's wives; Islamic etiquette concerning visits and invitations; the law that only the near relatives could visit the holy wives in their houses; as for the other men, they could speak to or ask them a thing from behind a curtain; the injunction that the Holy Prophet's wives were forbidden for the Muslims like their mothers; and none could marry any of them after him.

In verses 56-57 warning was given to stop criticizing the Holy Prophet's marriage and his domestic life, and the believers instructed not to indulge in fault finding like the enemies of Islam, but to invoke the blessings of Allah for their Prophet; moreover, they were instructed that they should avoid falsely accusing one another even among themselves, not to speak of the person of the Prophet.

In verse 59 the third step for social reform was taken. All the Muslim women were commanded that they should come out well covered with the outer garments and covering their faces whenever they came out of their houses for a genuine need.

After this till the end of the Surah the hypocrites and other foolish and mean people have been rebuked for the propaganda that they were carrying on at that time against Islam and the Muslims.


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