The series of mystics Sūras beginning with S. 31 having been closed with the last Sūra, we now come back to the hard facts of this life. Two questions are mainly considered here, viz.
, (1) the attempt by violence and brute force to poison the relations of women with men.
As regards the first, the story of the Aḥzāb or Confederates, who tried to surround and annihilate the Muslim community in Medīna, is full of underhand intrigues on the part of such diverse enemies as the Pagan Quraish, the Jews (Banū Madh
īr) who had been already expelled from Medīna for their treachery, the Ǥaṭafān tribe of Bedouin Arabs from the interior, and the Jewish tribe of Banū Quraiẓa in Medīna. This was the unholy Confederacy against Islam. But though they caused a great deal of anxiety and suffering to the beleaguered Muslims, Islam came triumphantly out of the trial and got more firmly established than ever.
The Quraish in Mecca had tried all sorts of persecution, boycott, insult, and bodily injuries to the Muslims, leading the their partial hijrat
to Abyssinia and their Hijrat as a body to Medīna. The first armed conflict between them and the Muslims took place at Badr in Ramadh
ān A.H. 2, when the Quraish were signally defeated. (See note to verse 3:13
). Next year (Shauwāl A.H. 3) they came to take revenge on Medīna. The battle was fought at Uḥud, and though the Muslims suffered severely, Medīna was saved and the Meccans had to return to Mecca with their object frustrated. Then they began to make a network of intrigues and alliances, and besieged Medīna with a force of 10,000 men in Shauwāl and Ẓul-qaʿd A.H. 5. This is the siege of the Confederates referred to in 33:9
, which lasted over two weeks: unceasing shower of arrows, and constant general or concentrated assaults. But it ended in the discomfiture of the Confederates, and established Islam firmer than ever. It was a well-organised and formidable attack, but the Muslims had made preparations to meet it. One of the preparations, which took the enemy by surprise, was the Trench (Khandaq
) dug round Medīna by the Prophet’s order and under the supervision of Salmān the Persian. The siege and battle are therefore known as the Battle of the Trench or the Battle of the Confederates.
As regards the position and dignity of the ladies of the Prophet’s Household and the Muslim women generally, salutary principles are laid down to safeguard their honour and protect them from slander and insult. The ladies of the Household interested themselves in social work and work of instruction for the Muslim women, and Muslim women were being trained more and more in community service. Two of them (the two Zainabs) devoted themselves to the poor. The nursing of the wounded on or the battlefield was specially necessary in those days of warfare. The Prophet’s daughter Fāṭima, then aged about 19 or 20, lovingly nursed her father’s wounds at Uḥud (A.H. 3); Rufaida nursed Saʿd ibn Muʿāẓʾs wounds at the Siege of Medīna by the Confederates (A.H. 5); and in the Kh
aibar expedition (A.H. 7) Muslim women went out from Medīna for nursing service.
A portion of this Sūra sums up the lessions of the Battle of the Trench and must have been revealed some time after that Battle (Shauwāl A.H. 5). The marriage with Zainab referred to in verse 37
took place in the same year. Some portions (e.g.
and belonging note) were probably revealed in A.H. 7 after the Kh
aibar settlement. Summary—The pagan customs in human relationships should be abandoned, and men and women should be hold in honour according to natural relationship and spiritual position (33:1-8 and C. 186).
The Battle of the Trench and its lessions: hypocrites and their fears: Truth and noble examples to be followed (33:9-27 and C. 187).
High position and seemly conduct for the Apostle’s wives: unhappy marriages (like Zainab’s) not to be perpetuated on false scruples: Prophet’s wives to be treated kindly and gently (33:28-52 and C. 188).
Respect due to Apostle and his family: slander to be avoided and punished guard your words and yours responsibilities (33:53-73 and C. 189).
C. 186 | [33:1-8] The issue of all things depends
On God alone: we must put our trust
On Him as the Guardian of all affairs
He loves truth in all things, both great
And small: call things by their right names.
If false relationships custom or superstition
Do harm to men or women, shun them.
The spiritual Guide is more than Father:
The ladies of his household are Mothers
To the Believers—in rank, dignity, and duty.
The Guide will have to give an account,
In the Hereafter, of how the Truth was received
Which he was charged to proclaim to men