This is another excerpt from Bill Warner’s book Abridged Koran where the verses of Koran are arranged in their chronological order and provided with facts from prophet Muhammad’s life, giving context for them.
CHAPTER 18 MOHAMMED’S FAMILY LIFE (end of chapter)
MARRIAGE TO HIS DAUGHTER-IN-LAW
Mohammed had an adopted son, Zaid, and went by his house. Zaid was not there and Mohammed went on in the house. He wound up seeing his daughter-in-law, Zeinab, in a thin dress, and her charms were evident. Mohammed was smitten and said, “Gracious Lord! Good Heavens! How thou dost turn the hearts of men!”
Well, Zeinab, had turned the head of the future king of Arabia and she told her husband what Mohammed said. The step-son went to Mohammed and said that he would divorce Zeinab so he could have her. Mohammed said no. But Zaid went ahead and divorced her anyway. In Arabia a union between a man and his daughter-in-law was incest and forbidden. But while Mohammed was with Aisha, he had a revelation and said, “Who will go and congratulate Zeinab and tell her that Allah has blessed our marriage?” The maid went right off to tell her of the good news. So Mohammed added another wife.
33:4 Allah has not given any man two hearts for one body, nor has He made your wives whom you divorce to be like your mothers, nor has He made your adopted sons like your real sons. [Previous to this verse, an Arab’s adopted children were treated as blood children. This verse relates to verse 37 of this sura.] These are only words you speak with your mouths, but Allah speaks the truth and guides to the right path. Name your adopted sons after their real fathers; this is more just in Allah’s sight. But if you do not know their fathers’ names, call them your brothers in the faith and your friends. There will be no blame on you if you sin unintentionally, but that which you intend in your heart will be held against you. Allah is forgiving and merciful.
33:36 And it is not the place of a believer, either man or woman, to have a choice in his or her affairs when Allah and His Messenger have decided on a matter. Those who disobey Allah and His Messenger are clearly on the wrong path. And remember when you said to your adopted son [Zaid], the one who had received Allah’s favor [converted to Islam], “Keep your wife to yourself and fear Allah,” and you hid in your heart what Allah was to reveal, and you feared men [what people would say if he married his daughter-in-law], when it would have been right that you should fear Allah. And when Zaid divorced his wife, We gave her to you as your wife, so it would not be a sin for believers to marry the wives of their adopted sons, after they have divorced them. And Allah’s will must be carried out.
33:38 The Messenger will not be blamed for anything that Allah has given him permission to do. This was Allah’s way with the messengers who came before you, and Allah’s commands are absolute. The messengers fulfilled Allah’s mission and feared Him, and feared no one but Allah. Allah takes sufficient account. Mohammed is not the father of any man among you. He is Allah’s Messenger and the last of the messengers. Allah knows all things.
Since Zaid was adopted, he was not really a son, so there was no incest.
It was about this time that the veil was imposed. The wives became mothers of the faithful and could not marry after Mohammed died.
33:55 There is no blame on the Messenger’s wives if they speak unveiled with their fathers, sons, brothers, nephews on either their brother’s or sister’s side, their women, or their slave-girls. Women! Fear Allah, for Allah witnesses all things.