How should we understand verse 53 of the chapter of al-Ahzab about the Companions’ staying in the house of the Prophet for a long time?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Verse 53 of the chapter of al-Ahzab:

“O ye who believe! Enter not the Prophet’s houses,- until leave is given you,- for a meal, (and then) not (so early as) to wait for its preparation: but when ye are invited, enter; and when ye have taken your meal, disperse, without seeking familiar talk. Such (behaviour) annoys the Prophet: he is ashamed to dismiss you, but Allah is not ashamed (to tell you) the truth. And when ye ask (his ladies) for anything ye want, ask them from before a screen: that makes for greater purity for your hearts and for theirs. Nor is it right for you that ye should annoy Allah’s Messenger, or that ye should marry his widows after him at any time. Truly such a thing is in Allah’s sight an enormity.”

Tafsir of verse 53 of the chapter of al-Ahzab:

“O ye who believe! Enter not the Prophet’s houses,- until leave is given you...” The situation of the ummah regarding the Prophet (pbuh) is in two ways:

One is when the Prophet (pbuh) is alone. What is wajib in that case is not to disturb him. It is declared with verse 53 of the chapter of al-Ahzab: “O you who believe! Do not enter the houses of the Prophet without being invited to a meal and whenever you wish.”

The other is when the Prophet (pbuh) is among people. What is wajib in that case is to show him respect. It is declared with verse 56 of the same chapter: “O ye that believe! Send ye blessings on him, and salute him with all respect.”

The following is stated in the chapter of an-Nur: “O ye who believe! Enter not houses other than your own, until ye have asked permission and saluted those in them.” (an-Nur, 24/27) A prohibition was introduced so that you would not enter houses other than your own houses without the permission of their owners. Since the decree was of a general nature, it included the houses of the Prophet (pbuh) too.

However, it might have been thought that it was permissible for believers to enter the house of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) without permission since the Prophet (pbuh) was closer to the believers than their own selves and since his wives were their mothers due to the following verse: “The Prophet is closer to the Believers than their own selves, and his wives are their mothers.” (al-Ahzab, 33/6)   

Thus, verse 53 of the chapter of al-Ahzab not only tells that there is no room for such a misconception but also orders “hijab” (tasattur) to the wives of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), explaining the meaning of being mothers of believers.  

According to what is understood from the verse and what is narrated from Ibn Abbas, some people were given food to eat from time to time in the house of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). Sometimes they came early and waited until food was served and they did not leave immediately after the meal. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) felt disturbed and the verse above was revealed. It is reported in Bukhari, Tirmidhi and other books from Anas that the verse was revealed related to the wedding dinner held when the Prophet (pbuh) married Hz. Zaynab. The reason why it is not said لِطَعاَمٍ, but اِلَى طَعَامٍ unless you are allowed to eat is to include the meaning of invitation into the word permission. According to Baydawi’s statement, the reason for that meaning is to point out that it would not be nice to come without being invited to dinner even if they are given permission. Do not enter regardless of mealtime or to see whether or not there is a meal.

INA means the time of something to come or to reach the perfection of something. It is interpreted in both ways here. The condition “until leave is given” means do not enter unless you are allowed to eat and do not observe the time (do not wait). However, enter when you are invited even if it is before mealtime. Nevertheless, when you eat the food, disperse immediately. Do not stop. Do not enter to listen to a talk or chat unless you are given permission.

According to our understanding, the usefulness of that condition is to generalize the prohibition of entering for purposes other than food because that unpermitted and untimely coming and waiting harassed the Prophet (pbuh). It disturbed him and his household but he felt ashamed to tell you to go out or not to enter. However, Allah does not hesitate to tell the truth; He does not feel ashamed.

In other words, according to the verse in the chapter of an-Nur, it is a right to expel those who enter someone else’s house without permission and stay more than necessary. In that case, we should not feel ashamed to say it as Allah says:

“If ye are asked to go back, go back: that makes for greater purity for yourselves.” (an-Nur, 24/28)

When you enter with permission, when you want to ask a question or want something from women, ask them behind a curtain that will prevent them from being seen.

Henceforth, “haram” was rendered fard; and it was not customary among Arabs until then. Doing so, that is, not entering without permission, dispersing quickly, and asking women what you want behind a curtain, is more purity for both your hearts and theirs. If you stay away from satanic thoughts and delusions, both women’s and men’s feelings of chastity and innocence will increase; good manners, decency, taqwa and respect will increase too.

It is neither appropriate nor permissible for you to upset or hurt the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). You do not have the right and authority to do it; it does not suit you and it will not be good for you. Therefore, you should avoid all situations and deeds that can hurt him; you should not consider any of them permissible. You can never marry his wives after him, that is, after his death. That is the real meaning of them being the mothers of believers. Marrying them is not permissible for believers forever like their own mothers.

That sin, the sin of upsetting the Prophet (pbuh), including the sin of marrying his wives after he passed away, is considered a major sin in the eye of Allah. Hurting the Prophet (pbuh) intentionally is denial; so is regarding marriage with his wives as lawful. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) is so great in the eye of Allah; it is wajib to show him that respect.

(see Elmalılı M. Hamdi YAZIR, Kur’an-ı Kerim Tefsiri, the verse in question)

For more information, please click on the links given below;

Why is Hz. Aisha’s innocence narrated in ten verses in the Quran?

How did the Companions ask Hz. Aisha questions?

Why is the private life of the Prophet (PBUH) mentioned in the Quran?

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