Revealed at Madina.


THE title of this chapter is taken from the statement of the first verse. According to Sale, who writes on the authority of Baidhawi, Jalaluddin, and Yahya, the occasion of this chapter was as follows: "Muhammad having lain with a slave of his, named Mary, of Coptic extract (who had been sent him as a present by al Muqauqas, governor of Egypt), on the day which was due to Ayesha or to Hafsa, and, as some say, on Hafsa's own bed, while she was absent; and this coming to Hafsa's knowledge, she took it extremely ill, and reproached her husband so sharply, that, to pacify her, he promised, with an oath, never to touch the maid again; and to free him from the obligation of this promise was the design of the chapter."

As, however, such a contretemps was looked upon as improper, another ludicrous story is related to explain vers. 1-5 of this chapter. It is alluded to by Sale thus: "There are some who suppose this passage to have been occasioned by Muhammad's protesting never to eat honey any more, because, having once eaten some in the apartment of Hafsa or of Zainab, three other of his wives, namely, Ayesha, Sauda, and Safia, all told him they smelt he had been eating of the juice which distils from certain shrubs in those parts, and resembles honey in taste and consistence, but is of a very strong savour, and which the Prophet had a great aversion to."

This story, NoŽldeke thinks, was probably invented by Ayesha, as she was chiefly concerned in this quarrel. Scarcely any portion of the Quran has been attacked so violently by Christians, or defended so strenuously by Muslims and their apologists as this chapter. In it the character of Muhammad appears in anything but a favourable light. From the Christian standpoint, he appears to have been guilty of breaking a solemn vow, and that in order to gratify unholy


passion. This done, he justifies himself by pretending to have the sanction of God for the act. In this light it is difficult to see how he is to be cleared of the charge of imposture. We see here the low and selfish ends which these revelations of the Quran were now made to subserve. The only parallel to it, and that perhaps an imitation of it, is the pretended revelation by which Smith, the Mormon prophet, sought to justify his adultery.

It appears to me that vers. 69, which manifestly relate to other circumstances, and which break the continuity of sentiment between vers. 1-5 and 11-12, were inserted here by mistake, probably by the compilers.

Probable Date Of the Revelations.

According to NoŽldeke, the first and last portions of this chapter, i.e., vers. 1-5 and 10-12, belong to the year A.H. 7. The remaining verses belong to a later period, when Muhammad was in a position to deal harshly with the infidels and hypocrites.

Principal Subjects.

Muhammad reproved for making a vow to please his wives...1
He is relieved from his vow .. . 2
Muhammad's wives reproved and threatened for their jealousy in the affair of Mary, the Coptic slave . . . 3-5
Exhortation to believers to exercise faith, repentance, &c. . . 6-8
Muhammad commanded to treat infidels and hypocrites with severity... 9
The wives of Noah, Lot, Pharaoh, and the daughter of Imran examples to Muslim women . . . 10-12


R 1/10.

(1) O Prophet, why holdest thou that to be prohibited which GOD hath allowed thee, seeking to please thy wives;

(1) O Prophet, why holdest thou, &c. On this verse Sale has the following: "I cannot here avoid observing, as a learned writer has done before me, that Dr. Prideaux has strangely misrepresented this passage. For having given the story of the Prophet's amour with his maid Mary a little embellished, he proceeds to tell us that in this chapter Muhammad brings in God allowing him, and all his Muslims, to lie with their maids when they will, notwithstanding their wives (whereas the words relate to the Prophet only, who wanted not any new permission for that purpose, because it was a


since GOD is inclined to forgive, and merciful ? (2) GOD hath allowed you the dissolution of your oaths; and GOD

privilege already granted him [chap. xxxiii.] though to none else); and then, to show what ground to show what ground he had for his assertion, adds that the first words of the chapter are,'O Prophet, why dost thou forbid what God hath allowed thee, that thou mayest please thy wives? God hath granted unto you to lie with your maid-servants.' Which last words are not to be found here, or elsewhere in the Quran, and contain an allowance of what is expressly forbidden therein (Sale's note on chap. iv. 3), though the Doctor has thence taken occasion to make some reflections which might as well have been spared. I shall say nothing to aggravate the matter, but leave the reader to imagine what this reverend divine would have said of a Muhammadan if he had caught him tripping in the like manner. (But see notes on chaps. iv. 3, 24.-E.M.W.)

"Having digressed so far, I will adventure to add a word or two, in order to account for one circumstance which Dr. Prideaux relates concerning Muhammad's concubine Mary, viz., that after her master's death no account was had of her or the son which she had borne him, but both were sent away into Egypt, and no mention made of either ever after among them; and then he supposes (for he seldom is at a loss for a supposition) that Ayesha, out of the hatred which she bore her, procured of her father, who succeeded the impostor in the government, to have her thus disposed of. But it being certain, by the general consent of all the Eastern writers, that Mary continued in Arabia till her death, which happened at Madina about five years after that of her master, and was buried in the usual burying-place there, called al Baki, and that her son died before his father, it has been asked whence the Doctor had this? I answer, That I guess he had it partly from Abulfaragius, according to the printed edition of whose work the Mary we are speaking of is said to have been sent with her sister Shirin (not with her son) to Alexandria by al Muqauqas: though I make no doubt but we ought in that passage to read min, from, instead of ila, to (notwithstanding the manuscript copies of this author used by Dr. Pocock the editor, and also a very fair one in my own possession, agree in the latter reading) ; and that the sentence ought to run thus: quam (viz. Mariam) una cum sorore Shirina ab Alexandria miserat al Muqauqas." See Prelim. Disc., p.206, note, Muir's reply to Sale's assertion that cohabitation with slave girls was not permitted. See the whole story of Mary, the Coptic maid, related in Muir's Life of Mahomet, vol. iv. pp.157-167.

(2) God hath allowed, &c. "By having appointed an expiation for that purpose; or, as the words may be translated, 'God hath allowed you to use an exception to your oaths if it please God;' in which case a man is excused from guilt if lie perform not his oath. The passage, though directed to all the Muslims in general, seems to be particularly designed for quieting the Prophet's consceince in regard to the oath above mentioned ; but Al Baidhawi approves not this opinion,


is your master; and he is knowing and wise. (3) When the Prophet intrusted as a secret unto one of his wives a certain accident; and when she disclosed the same, and GOD made it known unto him; he acquainted her with part of what she had done, and forbore to upbraid her with the other part thereof. And when he had acquainted her therewith, she said, Who hath discovered this unto thee? He answered, The knowing, the sagacious God hath discovered it unto me. (4) If ye both be turned unto GOD (for your hearts have swerved), it is well: but if ye join against him, verily GOD is his patron; and Gabriel, and the good men among the faithful, and the angels also are his assistants. (5) If he divorce you, his LORD can easily give him in exchange other wives better than you, women resigned unto God, true believers, devout, penitent, obedient, given to fasting, both such as have been known by other men, and virgins. (6) O true believers, save your souls, and those of your families, from the fire whose fuel

because such an oath was to be looked upon as an inconsiderate one, and required no expiation."-Sale.

See also note on chap. v.91.

(3) "When Muhammad found that Hafsa knew of his having injured her, or Ayesha, by lying with his concubine Mary on the day due to one of them, he desired her to keep the affair secret, promising, at the same time, that he would not meddle with Mary any more; and foretold her, as a piece of news which might soothe her vanity, that Abu Baqr and Omar should succeed him in the government of his people. Hafsa, however, could not conceal this from Ayesha, with whom she lived in strict friendship, but acquainted her with the whole matter whereupon the Prophet, perceiving, probably by Ayesha's behaviour, that his secret had been discovered, upbraided Hafsa with her betraying him, telling her that God had revealed it to him; and not only divorced her, but separated him from all his other wives for a whole month, which time he spent in the apartment of Mary. In a short time, notwithstanding, he took Hafsa again, by the direction, as he gave out, of the Angel Gabriel, who commended her for her frequent fasting and other exercises of devotion, assuring him likewise that she should be one of his wives in Paradise."-Sale, Baidhawi, Zamakhshari.

(4) "This sentence is directed to Hafsa and Ayesha, the pronouns and verbs of the second person being in the dual number."-Sale.

(6) Angels fierce and terrible. See chap. lxxiv. 30, and Prelim. Disc., p.148.


is men and stones, over which are set angels fierce and terrible; who disobey not GOD in what he hath commanded them, but perform what they are commanded. (7) O unbelievers, excuse not yourselves this day; ye shall surely be rewarded for what ye have done.

R 2/20.

(8) O true believers, turn unto GOD with a sincere repentance: peradventure your LORD will do away from you your evil deeds, and will admit you into gardens through which rivers flow; on the day whereon GOD will not put to shame the Prophet, or those who believe with him: their light shall run before them and on their right hands, and they shall say, LORD, make our light perfect, and forgive us: for thou art almighty. (9) O Prophet, attack the infidels with arms, and the hypocrites with arguments; and treat them with severity: their abode shall be hell, and an ill journey shall it be thither. (10) GOD propoundeth as a similitude unto the unbelievers the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot: they were under two of our righteous servants, and they deceived them both: therefore their husbands were of no advantage unto them at all in the sight of GOD: and it shall be said unto

(7) "These words will be spoken to the infidels at the last day."-Sale.

(8) Their light shall run. Sec note on chap. lvii. 11.

(10) The wife of Noah and . . . of Lot. "Who were both unbelieving women, but deceived their respective husbands by their hypocrisy. Noah's wife, named Waila, endeavoured to persuade the people her husband was distracted; and Lot's wife, whose name was Wahila (though some writers give this name to the other, and that of Waila to the latter), was in confederacy with the men of Sodom, and used to give them notice when any strangers came to lodge with him, by a sign of smoke by day and of fire by night."-Sale, Jalaluddin.

Of no advantage, &c. "For they both met with a disastrous end in this world, and will be doomed to eternal misery in the next. In like manner, as Muhammad would insinuate, the infidels of his time had no reason to expect any mitigation of their punishment on account of their relation to himself and the rest of the true believers." - Sale.

The insinuation is evidently intended specially for his two wives, Ayesha and Hafsa.


them at the last day, Enter ye into hell-fire, with those who enter therein. (11) GOD also propoundeth as a similitude unto those who believe the wife of Pharaoh, when she said, LORD, build me a house with thee in Paradise, and deliver me from Pharaoh and his doings, and deliver me from the unjust people: (12) and Mary the daughter of Imran, who preserved her chastity, and into whose womb we breathed of our spirit, and who believed in the words of her LORD and his Scriptures, and was a devout and obedient person.

(11) The wife of Pharaoh, viz., "Asfiah, the daughter of Muzahim. The commentators relate, that because she believed in Moses, her husband cruelly tormented her, fastening her bands and feet to four stakes, and laying a large mill-stone on her breast, her face, at the same time, being exposed to the scorching beams of the sun. These pains, however, were alleviated by the angels shading her with their wings, and the view of the mansion prepared for her in Paradise, which was exhibited to her on her pronouncing the prayer in the text. At length God received her soul; or, as some say, she was taken up alive into Paradise, where she eats and drinks."-Sale, Jalaluddin.

Rodwell thinks the name Asfah is probably a corruption from that of Pharaoh's daughter, Bithiah, I Chron. iv. 18.

(12) Mary. See notes in chaps. iii. 35, xix. 29, and xxi. 91.

A devout and obedient person. "On occasion of the honourable mention here made of these two extraordinary women, the commentators introduce a saying of their Prophet,'That among men there had been many perfect, but no more than four of the other sex had attained perfection, to wit, Asiah, the wife of Pharaoh, Mary, the daughter of Imran, Khadijah, the daughter of Khuwailid (the Prophet's first wife), and Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad.'"-Sale.

Table of Contents
Answering Islam Home Page