Can You Throw Some Light on the Quranic Verse 34:52?
Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat
You have repeatedly mentioned that Prophet Mohammad’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) marriages were due to reasons besides lust, so why does Quran [34:52] mention to Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that he cannot have any more wives even after that if their beauty attracts them? Doesn’t this imply that he was taking wives for their beauty? Otherwise, why is the Quran mentioning this?
This specific verse has a context: the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was told at a certain point that he could not marry anyone else. This was a reward for his wives, who had chosen him over a life of wordiness. The verse uses a rhetorical device to emphasize that initiating another marriage – something in which appreciation of beauty plays a part-would not be permissible.
Is Marriage Based on Attraction Blameworthy?
Before looking at the verses in detail, let us ask: is it blameworthy to marry someone based on attraction? Is it a fault to consider someone as a prospective spouse, with physical attraction being one factor that draws you to a person? Clearly not.
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) married Khadija and remained with her for twenty-five years until she passed away. That was his prime. A time when a man was most likely to want multiple wives if the option was available.
Had he wanted to marry other ladies at the time, nothing would have stopped him. It was an accepted norm in Arabian society. This shows that the concern raised is nothing to be worried about.
The Choice Given to His Wives
The verse you cited in the question needs to be understood in a broader context. Their Jewish allies had betrayed the Muslims, which was an act of war. When the Muslims won the battles, they returned to Madina with some spoils.
Upon seeing this, the wives of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, started making excessive demands from him, asking him to raise their living standard drastically. They wanted to have the fineries that the wives of the Persian and Roman rulers had.
This is a normal human desire. However, they were the wives of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) who directed people to turn to Allah and the Hereafter. He encouraged people to spend their wealth, sending it to the afterlife. His wives were also looked up to. They were aware of all of this when they agreed to marry him.
Had this excessive luxury been granted to them, it would have had a negative effect on his teaching. It would also have set a precedent for others.
So, at this point, Allah decided to give them a choice to either remain with the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and choose to have their reward in the afterlife, or to part ways with him and take the life of this world.
“Say, O Prophet, to your wives, ‘If you want the meager life of this world and its adornment, then come; I’ll give you a parting give and part ways with you in a beautiful manner. And if you want Allah, His Messenger, and the abode of the Afterlife, then Allah has prepared, for those who excel in goodness amongst you, a tremendous wage.” [Quran. 33:28-29]
All his wives chose to remain with him, which pleased Allah. Based on this, the verse you cited was revealed. Allah rewarded the wives of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) with this ruling. He was not permitted to marry anyone else – and, usually, people are attracted to those they marry – so the most significant factor for attraction, beauty, was highlighted to emphasize this point.
Please don’t read too much into it. This is just a skillful usage of a rhetorical device. It is not a commentary on the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace). In fact, there could be a certain degree of psychological projection on a societal level in this matter. [Alusi; Ruh al Ma’ani; Abu al-Su’ud, Irshad al-‘Aql al Salim; Biqa’i, Nazm al Durar; Buti, Fiqh al-Sira al-Nabawiyya]
I hope that answers your question. Feel free to reach out again if anything else needs clarification.
May Allah grant you the best of both worlds.
[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim Reasat
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 where, for 18 months, he studied with many erudite scholars. In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years in Sacred Law (fiqh), legal theory (Usul al-fiqh), theology, hadith methodology, hadith commentary, and Logic. He was also given licenses of mastery in the science of Quranic recital and he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Quranic sciences, tafsir, Arabic grammar, and Arabic eloquence.