Forbidding oneself from lawful things

February 5, 2010 at 11:58 pm (Islam, moral issues, why I didn't convert to Islam)

As promised, I start off with a…


Surah 66 “At-Tahrim” (1) O PROPHET! Why dost thou, out of a desire to please [one or another of] thy wives, impose [on thyself] a prohibition of something that God has made lawful to thee? But God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace: (2) God has already enjoined upon you [O believers] the breaking and expiation of [such of] your oaths [as may run counter to what is right and just]: for, God is your Lord Supreme, and He alone is all-knowing, truly wise.

I don’t believe swearing off honey would be a serious enough thing to warrant these verses.

Moreover, I think the criticism is a red herring, deflecting attention from the real wrongdoing here, which by some accounts had everything to do with sexual passions and nothing to do with honey. It is actually very clever – have a verse criticise you for something extremely minor, and people might overlook the bigger wrong. And how do I know it was a wrongdoing (aside from my own personal opinion about it)? – a person only swears off something (or someone) if they feel guilty about it.

And just what is so wrong with forbidding yourself something that is lawful? Does that mean we can’t go on diets, or give up coffee?

Or was the pleasing of one’s wife (by imposing restrictions on oneself) the thing that is being criticised here? So men who are inclined to think twice about taking a second wife for the sake of keeping the first wife happy, for example, should snap out of that and just take what’s lawful to them?




  1. susanne430 said,

    Honey could be sexual passion? I don’t know these verses in context, but your train of thought is interesting…hmmm.

    I smiled at the “Pfffft.” 🙂

  2. LK said,

    Im a little confused as to your objection of the passage? I mean yes the passage is vague but I guess I don’t clearly understand why it upsets you? I take it you feel this passage is making excuses for Muhammad?

    I was taught that one of the interpretations of this passage may be to avoid making what is halal haram in so far as to keep people from forbidding things for their own gain as we have seen countless times in the muslim community. There is a truck load of stuff considered haram that isnt even mentioned in the Qur’an or hadith. I think that is the danger of forbidding what is halal.

    Honey could be sexual passion, I could see that.

    According to the commentary in my Qur’an this might refer to the situation with Muhammad and Aisha when Aisha was accused of false adultry and he left her for awhile. It also says that yes in fact it is telling ordinary men to NOT take more than one wife for they will not have the resources or capabilities to properly care for multiple wives as the prophet did.

    huh my verse 2 commentary is talking about how if an oath made to someone compromises you morally or keeps you from doing good you should break the oath and do good….interesting….

    Its like the Bible verse game all over again!

  3. NeverEver said,

    okay another way you might look at it. I’m just rolling with your “sexual pleasure” = “honey” thing, and this is just me extending what you suggested, not taken from any source. Just my own logic here 😛

    two of his wives were upset that he was spending so much time with the third wife. because she gave him “honey”

    so, if you are looking at honey as a metaphor for sexual pleasure, and he swears off sexual pleasure (honey) with this third wife for the sake of the other two, then he is violating his third wife’s rights to sexual pleasure.

    it is halal for him to have sex with the third wife, and if he swears off of it for the sake of the other two, that is wrong to his third wife.

    get my thinking?

    even if he was just spending less time with her than the other two, this violates the third wife’s rights as she deserves equal time and attention.

  4. Wrestling With Religion said,

    Sorry everyone… I didn’t fully explain the different interpretations.

    This tafsir gives some alternative explanations for the context for verse 1 –

    One explanation is that it had to do with honey:

    Sawdah bint Zam’ah had relatives from her mother’s side in the Yemen who used to gift her honey. Among all the wives of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, Hafsah and ‘A’ishah were very close to each other. One of them said to the other: “Do you not see this? He goes to her when it is not her turn just to have some of that honey. So when he comes to you hold your nose, and when he asks you about the reason, say: I smell something in you that I do not know what it is. When he comes to me, I shall say the same thing”. When the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, went to her she held her nose. He asked her: “What’s wrong?” She said: “I smell something in you and I think it is the smell of Maghafir”. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to put on him good perfume whenever he found it. When he went to his other wife and she said the same thing. He said: “So-and-so said the same thing to me; this must be something that I ate at the house of Sawdah, and, by Allah, I will never eat it again!” Ibn Abi Mulaykah reported that Ibn ‘Abbas said: “The verse (O Prophet! Why bannest thou that which Allah hath made lawful for thee, seeking to please thy wives?) was revealed about this [the incident reported above]”.

    Another explanation is that it had to do with sleeping with his concubine Mariya in his wife’s bed:

    “The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, entered the house of Hafsah along with the mother of his son, Mariyah. When Hafsah found him with her [in an intimate moment], she said: ‘Why did you bring her in my house? You did this to me, to the exception of all your wives, only because I am too insignificant to you’. He said to her: ‘Do not mention this to ‘A’ishah; she is forbidden for me [i.e. Mariyah] if I ever touch her’. Hafsah said: ‘How could she be forbidden for you when she is your slave girl?’ He swore to her that he will not touch her and then said: ‘Do not mention this incident to anyone’. But she went ahead and informed ‘A’ishah. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, decided not to go to his wives for a month. He stayed away from them twenty nine days when Allah, glorious and exalted is He, revealed (O Prophet! Why bannest thou that which Allah hath made lawful for thee, seeking to please thy wives?)”.

    There are other tafsirs that give the story about Mariya as well:

    O Prophet! Why do you prohibit what God has made lawful for you, in terms of your Coptic handmaiden Māriya — when he lay with her in the house of Hafsa, who had been away, but who upon returning [and finding out] became upset by the fact that this had taken place in her own house and on her own bed — by saying, ‘She is unlawful for me!’, seeking, by making her unlawful [for you], to please your wives? And God is Forgiving, Merciful, having forgiven you this prohibition.

    (O Prophet!) i.e. Muhammad (pbuh). (Why bannest thou that which Allah hath made lawful for thee) i.e. marrying Maria the Copt, the Mother of Ibrahim; that is because he had forbidden himself from marrying her, (seeking to please thy wives) seeking the pleasure of your wives ‘A’ishah and Hafsah by forbidding yourself from marrying Maria the Copt? (And Allah is Forgiving) He forgives you, (Merciful) about that oath.

  5. Wrestling With Religion said,

    I could understand a criticism about attributing made-up prohibitions to God, but that doesn’t seem to be what he did. He just swore off it – whatever it was.

    Maybe it was unfair to Mariya to swear off her, but it doesn’t actually say that, and since she was a concubine and not a wife, I can’t assume that she minded being relieved of duties.

  6. Achelois said,

    Early historians always explained these verses as being said for Mariya and not honey. I suspect honey was a later addition to explanations. Eating honey doesn’t make one’s mouth stink and it would have been very naive of anyone to accept that their mouth stank and then swear never to eat it again. It isn’t like he swore he’d never see the wife who gave him the honey but rather that he’d never eat honey which is a bit hard to believe considering that it made it’s way into the Quran. This incidence is the cause of division of months into 29 and 30 days, telling Muhammad’s wives that he could divorce them all at once, giving them the choice to leave him, and praising them for not leaving him and thereby a prohibition on Muhammad from marrying ever again (which he didn’t abide by, btw and which most commentators claim was abrogated!).

    BTW, a teacher friend has done something so odd numerous times – when there is something she has to do (like give a spot quiz on a day students have another exam) and she knows students will protest, she claims that she has been asked by the supervisor to do it 😀 She has gone as far as to claim in class that she was scolded by the supervisor for giving students extra points or not giving a quiz. This way she comes out all sweet and friendly in the students’ eyes while doing something all the while that they don’t appreciate. It was this same friend who once said to me that she suspects Muhammad was doing the same thing – adding verses that caution and criticise to seem genuine and acceptable.

    Only God knows what really happened.

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      I can understand why people might want it to be about honey. But I’d still be confused as to why I couldn’t forbid myself something I was eating too much of that was having adverse effects of some sort… like honey or (more likely) peanut butter or chocolate. 🙂

      I can understand your friend! It’s an easy thing to do.

  7. Stacy said,

    I would go with the tafsir about it referring to Maria. I’ll be seeing a friend today who knows the Quranic context really well, so I will run it by him and get back to you.

  8. Wrestling With Religion said,

    Thanks Stacy, do let us know what your friend says. I really just meant this as a “getting it off my chest” kind of post, recording something I was particularly bothered by, but I am of course interested to hear what Muslims think about it too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: