Commentary On Quran 66:1-2

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O Prophet, why do you prohibit [yourself from] what Allah has made lawful for you, seeking the approval of your wives? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
Allah has already ordained for you [Muslims] the dissolution of your oaths. And Allah is your protector, and He is the Knowing, the Wise. – Quran 66:1-2

The following commentaries of the Quran reveal the historical background of the verse, and why it was revealed.

Commentary

Ma’arifulul-Qur’an – Maulana Muhammad Shaffi

Cause of Revelation
It is recorded in Sahih of Bukhari and in other collection of Ahadith, on the authority of Sayyidah A’ishah, that it was a daily practice of the Messenger of Allah to visit each of his wives after asr prayer for a short time inquiring about their welfare. Once he visited Sayyidah Zainab and spent more time with her than normal and had some honey offered by her. Sayydah A’ishah says: ‘I developed some envy and in consultation with Hafsah decided that when the Messenger of Allah would visit any one of use, she should say to him ‘you have had Maghafir’, (a herb that resembled gum with a slightly unpleasant smell.)’ They executed their plan. The Messenger of Allah said: ‘I have not had any Maghafir. I only had some honey.’ The Holy wife said: ‘It is possible that the honeybee might have sat on the Maghfur shrub and the drank the Nectar. The Messenger of Allah, because of his natural dislike for unpleasant odour, swore and promised not to take honey any more. However, he did not want the feelings of Sayydah Zainab to be hurt, and therefore he said to his wife that the incident should be kept secret and should not be recounted to anyone else. But she told about it to another wife.
Some reports say that it was ay the house of Sayyidah Hafsah that he was served with honey, and that the wives who planned were Sayyidah A’ishah, Saudah and Safiyyah. Other reports recount the incident in other ways. It is possible that any incidents of similar nature might have taken place ad these verses were revealed after them [Bayan-ul-Quran].

In brief, these verses tell is that the Messenger of Allah banned a lawful thing [honey] on himself by swearing an oath. If such an act is done for a genuine need or expedience, [maslahah], it is permissible; it is not a sin. But the incident does not show that there was no such need for him to have the trouble of banning a lawful thing on himself. He had done this for the pleasure of his holy wives. In such circumstances, it was not necessary for him to have pleased them. Therefore, the verse compassionately addresses the Holy Prophet… (O Prophet, why do you ban (on yourself) something that Allah has made lawful for you, seeking the pleasure of your wives? And Allah is Most-forgiving, Very Merciful…66:1) According to the principles of general stylistics, the Qur’an does not dress the Holy Prophet by his name but by his Prophetic title thus: ‘O Prophet’ which is his special honour. Although this is a loving question posed by way of compassion, it could have created the misunderstanding that he has committed major error and he is being questioned about it. The concluding phrase allays this suspicion:… meaning that even if it would have been a sin (for the sake of argument), then Allah is Most-Forgiving, Very Merciful.’ [1]

In the same page Muhammad Taqi Usmani writes in Footnote 1, he says what was said was not ‘false statement’:

[1] It should be noted here that these words were spoken by them in an interrogative accent, and therefore it was not a false statement. (Muhammad Taqi Usmani)

The Holy Quran – Arabic Text with English Translation, Commentary and comprehensive Introduction – Maulana Muhammad Ali:

2a The expiation of oaths is sanctioned in 5:89. It should be noted that ila, or temporary separation, is mentioned as an introduction to the subject of divorce in 2:226, but it is actually prohibited here. Thus I’Ab’ is reported to have said to a man who said that he had forsworn his wife: Thou liest, for Allah says, Why dost thou forbid thyself that which Allah has made lawful? (Nas, 27:16). [2]

Authentic Hadith on this incident

Sahih Bukhari:

Narrated `Aisha: Allah’s Messenger used to drink honey in the house of Zainab, the daughter of Jahsh, and would stay there with her. So Hafsa and I agreed secretly that, if he come to either of us, she would say to him. “It seems you have eaten Maghafir (a kind of bad-smelling resin), for I smell in you the smell of Maghafir,” (We did so) and he replied. “No, but I was drinking honey in the house of Zainab, the daughter of Jahsh, and I shall never take it again. I have taken an oath as to that, and you should not tell anybody about it.” (Sahih Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Hadith 434)

Sahih Muslim:

‘A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) narrated that Allah’s Apostle used to spend time with Zainab daughter of Jahsh and drank honey at her house. She (‘A’isha further) said:
I and Hafsa agreed that one whom Allah’s Apostle would visit first should say: I notice that you have an odour of the Maghafir (gum of mimosa). He (the Holy Prophet) visited one of them and she said to him like this, whereupon he said: I have taken honey in the house of Zainab bint Jabsh and I will never do it again. It was at this (that the following verse was revealed): ‘Why do you hold to be forbidden what Allah has made lawful for you… (up to). If you both (‘A’isha and Hafsa) turn to Allah” up to:” And when the Prophet confided an information to one of his wives” (lxvi. 3). This refers to his saying: But I have taken honey. (Sahih Muslim Book 9, Hadith 3496)

Sunan Abi Dawud:

“A’ishah said that the prophet used to stay with Zainab, daughter of Jahsh, and drink honey. I and Hafsah counseled each other that if the Prophet enters upon any of us, she must say :
I find the smell of gum (maghafir) from you. He then entered upon one of them; she said that to him. Thereupon he said : No, I drank honey at (the house of) Zainab daughter of jahsh, and I will not do it again. Then the following verse came down :’’O Prophet !why holdest thou to be forbidden that which Allah has made lawful to thee ? ‘’Thou seekest. . . If you two turn in repentance to Allah ‘’ refers to Hafsah and A’ishah , and the verse: ‘’When the Prophet disclosed a matter in confidence to one of his consorts’’ refers to the statements of the Prophet disclosed a matter in confidence to one of his consorts’’ refers to the statement of the Prophet :No, I drank honey.” (Sunan Abi Dawud Book 26, Hadith 3705, Sahih Albani)

Sunan an-Nasa’i:

Ubaid bin ‘Umair said: I heard ‘Aishah say: “The Prophet used to stay with Zainab bint Jahsh and drink honey at her house. Hafsah and I agreed that if the Prophet came to either of us, she would say: ‘I detect the smell of Maghafir (a nasty-smelling gum) on you. Have you eaten Maghafir?’ He went to one of them and she said that to him. He said: ‘No, rather I drank honey at the house of Zainab bint Jahsh, but I will never do it again.’ Then the following was revealed: ‘O Prophet! Why do you forbid (for yourself) that which Allah has allowed to you’ up to: ‘If you two turn in repentance to Allah’ -‘Aishah and Hafsah- ‘And (remember) when the Prophet disclosed a matter in confidence to one of his wives.’ refers to him saying: ‘No, rather I drank honey.'” (Sunan an-Nasa’i volume 4, Book 35, Hadith 3826)

Sunan an-Nasa’i:

“‘Ubaid bin ‘Umair narrated from ‘Aishah, the wife of the Prophet:
“The Prophet used to stay with Zainab bint Jahsh and drink honey at her house. Hafsah and I agreed that if the Prophet came to either of us, she would say: ‘I detect the smell of Maghafir (a nasty-smelling gum) on you; have you eaten Maghafir?’ He came to one of them and she said that to him. He said: ‘No, rather I drank honey at the house of Zainab bint Jahsh, but I will never do it again.’ Then the following was revealed: ‘O Prophet! Why do you forbid (for yourself) that which Allah has allowed to you.’ ‘If you two turn in repentance to Allah, (it will be better for you).’ addressing ‘Aishah and Hafsah; ‘And (remember) when the Prophet disclosed a matter in confidence to one of his wives.’ refers to him saying: “No, rather I drank honey.”” (Sunan an-Nasa’i volume 4, Book 27, Hadith 3450, Sahih, Darussalam)

Sunan an-Nasa’i

‘Aishah said that the Messenger of Allah used to stay with Zainab bint Jahsh and drink honey at her house. Hafsah and I agreed that if the Prophet entered upon either of us, she would say:
I perceive the smell of Maghafir (a nasty-smelling gum) on you; have you eaten Maghafir?” He came in to one of them, and she said that to him. He said: “No, rather I drank honey at the house of Zainab bint Jahsh, but I will never do it again.” Then the following was revealed: ‘O Prophet! Why do you forbid (for yourself) that which Allah has allowed to you.’ ‘If you two turn in repentance to Allah, (it will be better for you)’ about ‘Aishah and Hafsah, ‘And (remember) when the Prophet disclosed a matter in confidence to one of his wives’ refers to him saying: “No, rather I drank honey.” (Sunan an-Nasa’i: volume 4, Book 36, Hadith 3410, Sahih, Darussalam)

References:

[1] Ma’arifulul-Qur’an By Maulana Muhammad Shaffi volume 2, page 518 – 519
[2] The Holy Quran – Arabic Text with English Translation, Commentary and comprehensive Introduction [Year 2002 Edition] by Maulana Muhammad Ali, page 1107

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