A Verse of Sūrah Tahrīm
Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

I am having difficulties in understanding the following verse of Sūrah Tahrīm:

And remember when the Prophet disclosed a confidentail matter to one of his wives. So when she disclosed it [to another] and Allah made it known to him, he informed part of it [to her] and abstained from a part. Then when he told her, she said: Who told you this? He replied: The all-knower, the all-aware [Allah] has told me. (66:3)

The verse seems to be referring to an incident. I have read a few entirely different verions of this incident in the various commentaries of the Qur’ān. Please explain.


To understand any verse of the Qur’ān, it is necessary to appreciate that it is not a disjointed collection of verses. It is a coherent book which has a context and every verse must be interpreted with reference to its context. One aspect of the coherence of the Qur’ān is that generally all the sūrahs of the Qur’ān form adjacent pairs which are complementary in nature. Sūrahs Talāq and Tahrīm (nos 65 & 66) is one such pair with regard to their subject matter.

In Sūrah Taghābun (64:14-16), the sūrah which precedes these two sūrahs, it is pointed out that a person’s family can become a great source of trial for him; therefore, he must remain very conscious in their affairs. In the next two sūrahs (nos 65 & 66), some delicate aspects of this issue are discussed. In Sūrah Talāq (65) a Muslim is instructed about the right attitude in observing the limits of Allah in situations when he is overcome with hatred for his wife, while in Sūrah Tahrīm (66) a Muslim is guided about the right attitude in observing the limits of Allah in situations when he is overcome with love for his wife.

Now I come to initial verses of Sūrah Tahrīm (66). The first five verses which form the opening section of the sūrah can be analyzed thus:

VERSES 1-2: The Prophet (sws) is checked in a particular matter in which though his motivating force was fairly admirable yet since he is to become an example for the whole Ummah, any virtuous deed which crosses the limits set by Allah is not permissible. The Prophet (sws) might be doing something to console and please his wives and he might be showing sympathy to their perfectly human weaknesses, yet owing to his position as a Prophet (sws) he must remain within the bounds set by Allah even in the smallest of affairs.

VERSES 3-5: The pious wives of the Prophet (sws) are checked in a matter in which something said by the Prophet (sws) to a particular wife was disclosed by her to another wife, though in an atmosphere of mutual trust. However, since they too are to become an example for all women of the Ummah, even a small thing which crosses the limits set by Allah cannot be tolerated. The higher the position and status of a person, the higher the extent of his accountability.

In other words, in the verse you have referred to (verse 3), the teaching which emerges for the believers is that their wives must be the true confidants of their husbands (as referred to in 4:34) and must always keep the secrets which have been entrusted to them. In this regard, the Prophet’s wives should be even more careful in observing this directive since they have to set an example.

As far as the actual incident which is referred to in this verses is concerned, there is nothing which can be said with certainty. Also, there is no need to go after the details of an incident which the Qur’ān itself has left alone. The verses present a complete guidance to Muslims in a particular affair and following it is only what is required of them.

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