Translated by Aisha Bewley from Muhammad, Messenger of Allah, Ash-Shifa of Qadi ‘Iyad, Madinah Press, Granada (1991), pp. 352-354
If you asked what Allah means in the story of Zayd ibn Haritha by His words,
“When you said to the one whom Allah had blessed and you have blessed, ‘Keep your wife’ and you were concealing in yourself what Allah should reveal, fearing other men; and All?has a better right for you to fear Him. When Zayd had accomplished what he would of her, then We gave her in marriage to you, so that there should not be any fault in the believers, concerning the wives of their adopted sons when they had accomplished what they would of them; and Allah’s command must be performed.” (Qur’an, 33:37)
know without doubt that the Prophet(P) is innocent of the apparent meaning and he ordered Zayd to keep his wife when Zayd wanted to divorce her, as a group of commentators have mentioned.
The soundest version concerning this matter is in what the commentators have related from ?Ali ibn Husayn. Allah knew better than His Prophet that Zaynab would be one of his wives. When Zayd complained about her to the Prophet(P), he told him, “Keep your wife and fear Allah” He hid in himself what Allah had intimated to him about his marriage to her but All?brought it into the open by bringing her marriage to an end through Zayd’s divorcing her.
‘Amr ibn F?d said that Az-Z???? said that Jibril came to the Prophet(P) to tell him that Allah would make him marry Zaynab bint Jahsh. That was what he concealed in himself. The commentators verify this by All?s saying, “The command of Allah must be performed”, i.e. you must marry her. This makes it clear that the only thing Allah revealed about the matter was that he was going to marry her. He indicated that what the Prophet(P) concealed was part of what All?had intimated to him.
All?continues in this story, “There is no fault in the Prophet in what Allah has decreed for him.” (33:37) He indicates that the Prophet(P) was in no way at fault in the matter. At-Tabari said that All?would not say His Prophet(P) had acted wrongly by doing something He had made lawful for Messengers before him. Allah then continues, “The sunna of All?with those who passed away before” (33:38) i.e. among the Prophets regarding what He had made lawful for them.
If it had been the way it is related in the hadith of Qatada, where it talks of what happened in the heart of the Prophet(P) when he admired her and wanted Zayd to divorce her, there would have been a great fault in it and which would not befit him. That would rather have been the action of someone who extends his eyes to what has been forbidden to him of the fruits of the life of this world.1 Doing this would have been manifesting in respect of Zayd that same blameworthy envy referred to in the ayah alluded to above, which is not pleasing to Allah and to which no godfearing person is prone. How then could that be the case with the Master of the Prophets?
Al-Q????yr?aid that saying such a thing is a great audacity on the part of the one who says it and a lack of recognition of what is due to the Prophet(P) and of his supreme excellence. How could it be said that he saw her and admired her when she was his cousin and he had been seeing her since the time when she was born? Women did not veil themselves from him and he himself had married her to Zayd.
Allah made Zayd divorce Zaynab and marry the Prophet(P) to remove the barrier set up by ties of adoption and invalidating its customs. He says, “Muhammad is not the father of any of your men.” (33:40) And He says, “So that there would not be any fault for the believers regarding the wives of their adopted sons.” (33:37)
Ab????Layh as-Samarq?? said that if people ask what is the benefit in the Prophet(P) commanding Zayd to keep Zaynab when Allah had informed him that she was to be his wife, it is that the Prophet(P) forbade Zayd to divorce his wife because of the disharmony between Zayd and her while concealing in himself what Allah had informed him about. When Zayd divorced her, her feared that people would say he was marrying his son’s wife, so Allah commanded him to marry her to make what he was doing lawful for his community as Allah said, “So that there would not be any fault for the believers regarding the wives of their adopted sons.” (33:37)
It is said that the Prophet’s(P) command to Zayd to keep Zaynab was to restrain the appetite which comes to the self from its desire. If we allow this, it must be that he saw her and suddenly thought her beautiful. Things like this are unobjectionable since it is the nature of the Banu Adam2 to find beauty beautiful. The sudden glance is forgiven. Then he restrained himself from her and told Zayd to keep her.
Abu Bakr ibn F???? said that the Prophet(P) was free from hypocrisy and manifesting the opposite of what was inside him. Allah freed him of that when He said, “There is no fault in the Prophet in what Allah has decreed for him.” (33:38) Whoever thinks that about the Prophet(P) has lied.
He said that the timidity (khashya) referred to here does not mean fear itself (khawf). It means to be modest or shy, i.e. he was shy before them because they would say, “He has married his son’s wife.” The Prophet’s(P) fear of people was because of the lies spread by the hypocrites and Jews when they made controversies for the Muslims by saying, “He has married his son’s wife” after he had forbidden them to marry the wives of their sons. Allah censured him for this and freed him from paying any attention to them concerning what He had made lawful for him as He censured him for his deference to his wives’ pleasure in Sura at-Tahrim when He said, “Why do you make haram what Allah has made halal for you?” (66:1) This is the same as when Allah says to him, “You fear people and it is more fitting to fear Allah.” (33:37)
Al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali and `Aishah elated, “If the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, had concealed anything, he would have concealed this ayat since it contains blame of him and uncovers what he had concealed.”