[ Saheeh International ]
O Prophet, why do you prohibit [yourself from] what Allah has made lawful for you, seeking the approval of your wives? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
5529 The Prophet's household was not like other households. The Consorts of Purity were expected to hold a higher standard in behaviour and reticence than ordinary women, as they had higher work to perform. See n. 3706 to 33:28. But they were human beings after all, and were subject to the weaknesses of their sex, and they sometimes failed. The behavior of 'A'ishah once caused serious difficulties: the Prophet's mind was sore distressed, and he renounced the society of his wives for some time. This renunciation seems to be referred to here. The situation was none the less difficult for him because she was a daughter of Abu Bakr, one of the truest and most intimate of his Companions and lieutenants. The commentators usually cite the following incident in connection with the revelation of these verses. It is narrated from 'A'i sh ah, the wife of the Prophet (peace be on him) by al Bukhari, Muslim, al Nasa'i. Abu Dawud and others that the Prophet usually visited his wives daily after 'Asr Prayer. Once it so happened that he stayed longer than usual at the quarters of Zaynab bint Jahsh, for she had received from somewhere some honey which the Prophet liked very much. "At this", says 'A'ishah, "I felt jealous, and I, Hafsah, Sawdah and Safiyah agreed among ourselves that when he visits us each of us would tell him that a peculiar odour came from his mouth as a result of what he had eaten, for we knew that he was particularly sensitive to offensive smells". So when wives hinted at it, he vowed that he would never again use honey. Thereupon these verses were revealed reminding him that he should not declare to himself unlawful that which Allah had made lawful to him. The important point to bear in mind is that he was at once rectified by revelation, which reinforces the fact that the prophets are always under divine protection, and even the slightest lapse on their part is never left uncorrected. (R).
5530 The tender words of admonition addressed to the Consorts in 33:28-34 explain the situation far better than any comments can express. If the Prophet had been a mere husband in the ordinary sense of the term, he could not have held the balance even between his private feelings and his public duties. But he was not an ordinary husband, and he abandoned his renunciation on his realisation of the higher duties with which he was charged, and which required conciliation with firmness.