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
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
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.