Note [original edition] : Why holdest thou that to be prohibited which God hath allowed
.] There are some who suppose this passage to have been occasioned by
’s protesting never to eat honey any more, because, having once eaten
some in the apartment of Hafsa,
or of Zeinab,
three other of his wives,
namely, Ayesha, Sawda,
all told him they smelt he had been eating
of the juice which distils from certain shrubs in those parts, and resembles
honey in taste and consistence, but is of a very strong flavour, and which the
prophet had a great aversion to1
. But the more received opinion is, that the
chapter was revealed on the following occasion. Mohammed
having lain with a
slave of his named Mary,
extract (who had been sent him as a present
by al Mokawkas,
governor of Eygpt
), on the day which was due to Ayesha,
and, as some say, on Hafsa
’s own bed, while she was absent; and this
coming to Hafsa
’s knowledge, she took it extremely ill, and reproached her
husband so sharply that, to pacify her, he promised, with an oath, never to
touch the maid again1
and to free him from the obligation of this promise was
the design of the chapter.
I cannot here avoid observing, as a learned writer
has done before me,
that Dr. Prideaux
has strangely misrepresented this passage. For having given
the story of the prophet’s amour with his maid Mary,
a little embellished, he
proceeds to tell us that in this chapter Mohammed
brings in God
and all his Moslems,
to lie with their maids when they will, notwithstanding
their wives (whereas the words relate to the prophet only, who wanted not any
new permission for that purpose, because it was a privilege already granted
though to none else;) and then, to shew what ground he had for his
assertion, adds that the first words of the chapter are, O prophet, why dost
thou forbid what God hath allowed thee, that thou mayest please thy wives?
God hath granted unto you to lie with your maid servants
Which last words
are not to be found here, or elsewhere in the Korân,
and contain an allowance
of what is expressly forbidden therein5
though the doctor has thence taken
occasion to make some reflections which might as well have been spared. I
shall say nothing to aggravate the matter, but leave the reader to imagine
what this reverend divine would have said of a Mohammedan
if he had caught him
tripping in the like manner.
Having digressed so far, I will venture to add a word or two in order to
account for one circumstance which Dr. Prideaux
relates concerning Mohammed
. that after her master’s death, no account was had of her
or the son which she had born him, but both were sent away into Egypt,
mention made of either ever after among them; and then he supposes (for he
seldom is at a loss for a supposition) that Ayesha,
out of the hatred which
she bore her, procured of her father, who succeeded the impostor in the
government, to have her thus disposed of6
But it being certain, by the
general consent of all the eastern writers, that Mary
continued in Arabia
her death, which happened at Medina
about five years after that of her master,
and was buried in the usual burying-place there, called al Bakí,
and that her
son died before his father, it has been asked, whence the doctor had this7
I answer, that I guess he had it partly from Abul’faragius,
according to the
printed edition of whose work, the Mary
we are speaking of is said to have
been sent with her sister Shirin
(not with her son) to Alexandria
though I make no doubt but we ought in that passage to read min,
instead of ila, to
(notwithstanding the manuscript copies of this author
used by Dr. Pocock,
the editor, and also a very fair one in my own possession,
agree in the latter reading;) and that the sentence ought to run thus, quam
(viz. Mariam) unà cum sorore
Al Zamakh. Al Beidawi.
Idem, Jallal. Yahya.
Gagnier, not. ad Abulf. vit. Moh. p. 150.
See chap. 33. p. 348, 349.
Prid. Life of Moh. p. 113.
See chap. 17. p. 230. chap. 4. p. 64. and chap 24. p. 287, &c.
Prid. Life of Moh. p. 114.
Gagnier, ubi supra.
Abul’Farag. Hist. Dynast. p. 165.