In Qur’an 33:1-8, Allah tells Muhammad not to listen to the unbelievers and hypocrites (v. 1), but rather to follow divine inspiration (v. 2). We get a hint of what this is about when Allah says that no man has two hearts, a man cannot make his wife his mother, and a man cannot make an adopted son a real son (v. 4). In those days men would divorce their wives by telling them, “You are to me like the back of my mother” — the Qur’an is here saying that this doesn’t affect any real change or make them actually into their mothers, but the point here is not about divorce. Rather, the passage is intended to end the practice of adoption, starting with Muhammad’s own family. Ibn Kathir explains: “This was revealed concerning Zayd bin Harithah”¦the freed servant of the Prophet. The Prophet had adopted him before prophethood, and he was known as Zayd bin Muhammad. Allah wanted to put an end to this naming and attribution.” An adopted son should be known by the name of his natural father: he can never truly enter into his adoptive household (v. 5).
Why was Allah so intent on ending the practice of adoption? Because Muhammad wanted to marry Zayd’s ex-wife, Zaynab bint Jahsh “” and as a result of his dalliance with his former daughter-in-law, says Maulana Maududi, “the hypocrites and the Jews and the mushriks [unbelievers] who were already bent on mischief would get a fresh excuse to start a propaganda campaign against Islam.” So Allah here emphasizes that an adopted son cannot be a true son, and so by extension Zaynab was never really Muhammad’s daughter-in-law at all, and there is no cause for scandal.
Qur’an 33:36-37 refer obliquely to this notorious incident. According to the Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Muhammad asked for Zaynab’s hand on behalf of Zayd; Zaynab and her brother “were loathe” to agree, “for they had thought that the Prophet (s) wanted to marry her himself.” But they ultimately agreed because of the admonition that “it is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path” (v. 36).
The Tafsir al-Jalalayn says that Muhammad “caught sight” of Zaynab “and felt love for her,” while Zayd “lost his affection for her” and told Muhammad, “I want to part with her.” But Muhammad told him: “Keep thy wife to thyself, and fear Allah” (v. 37). Aisha later remarked, “If Allah’s Apostle were to conceal anything (of the Quran) he would have concealed this Verse” — because it shows him unwilling to accept Allah’s will, which was that he marry Zaynab. Then one day, according to Tabari, Muhammad went to Zayd’s house and found her wearing only a chemise. Muhammad hastened away, murmuring, “Glory be to God the Almighty! Glory be to God, who causes hearts to turn!”
Soon afterward, according to Tabari, Muhammad was talking with Aisha when “a fainting overcame him.” Then he smiled and asked, “Who will go to Zaynab to tell her the good news, saying that God has married her to me?” He then recited the revelation Allah had just given him, scolding him for being concerned about what people might think and thus refusing to marry Zaynab (v. 37). The Tafsir al-Jalalayn explains what Allah is telling Muhammad here: “But you had hidden in your heart what God was to disclose, [what] He was to manifest of your love for her and of [the fact] that should Zayd part with her you would marry her, and you feared people, would say, “˜He has married his son’s wife!”, though God is worthier that you should fear Him, in all things, so take her in marriage and do not be concerned with what people say.”
According to Tabari, Aisha said: “I became very uneasy because of what we heard about her beauty and another thing, the greatest and loftiest of matters””what God had done for her by giving her in marriage. I said that she would boast of it over us.” Zaynab did, saying to Muhammad’s other wives: “You were given in marriage by your families, while I was married (to the Prophet) by Allah from over seven Heavens.”
Soon afterward, Aisha said acidly to Muhammad: “I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires.” But according to Islamic theologians, this whole incident was all meant to end the process of adoption. And why? What was so immoral about adoption?
“Dewan Rakyat: ‘Muslim kids can’t use name of adoptive dad,'” by V. Vasudevan, Eileen Ng, Joseph Sipalan, Irdiani Mohd Salleh and Ili Liyana Mokhtar for NST Online, July 10 (thanks to Twostellas):
MUSLIM parents will no longer be allowed to give their names to their adopted children.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said instructions to this effect had been given to the National Registration Department yesterday.
“This is to adhere to the fatwa issued by the National Fatwa Council in 2000,” he said.
Adopted children must carry the names of their biological fathers with a “bin” or a “binti”….