Qur'an 33:21

Priority: b, Quality: b
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Qur'an 33:21
Verse's Information
NameAl-Ta'assi Verse
Content Information
Cause of
Battle of Ahzab
Place of
AboutIntroducing Prophet (s) as an excellent role-model
Related VersesQur'an 60:4,6

Al-Ta'assi Verse (Arabic:آية التأسي, the Verse of Emulation) is the twenty first verse of Qur'an 33 in which Prophet Muhammad (s) is introduced by God as an excellent pattern or role-model, asking Muslims to follow, and not disobey, him.

The verse was revealed amidst verses of the Battle of Ahzab. However, according to some Quranic exegetes, the Prophet (s) being a pattern or a role-model is not restricted to that battle. Indeed, it might be extended to all times and places and all of his deeds and sayings. In other words, it includes the Prophet's tradition, and it is a permanent obligation of Muslims to follow his tradition. However, the role-model can be followed only if one believes in God's mercy and the day of resurrection, and remembers God all the time.

Some Quranic exegetes maintain that it is obligatory to follow the Prophet's pattern and others take it to be only recommended or supererogatory. Others believe that it is obligatory to follow his lead in religious matters and recommended to do so in this-worldly matters.

The Prophet Abraham (a) has also been characterized in the Qur'an as an excellent pattern in combatting polytheists.

Texts and Translation

Brief Introduction

The verse twenty first of Qur'an 33 is known as al-Ta'assi Verse (the Verse of Emulation)[1]. In its preceding verses[2], God reprehends hypocrites, and in its following verses, He enumerates some characteristics of true believers. In this verse, God refers to Prophet Muhammad (s) as the leader and role-model of believers, asking Muslims or duty-bound (mukallaf) people[3], or those who have not followed the Prophet (s) yet or those who disobey him[4], to follow the Prophet (s) or stop disobeying him[5]. According to this verse, a true Muslim follows the Prophet (s) and does not disobey any of his orders[6].

This verse was revealed amidst verses of the Battle of Ahzab. Given the phrase "for you" in the verse, some people restrict it to participants of the Battle of Ahzab who had abandoned the Prophet (s) during hardships, while they pretended to be Muslims and believers in God and the Day of Resurrection and considered themselves as performers of prayers. However, some exegetes do not restrict the verse to participants of the Battle of Ahzab. They maintain that the Prophet (s) is a pattern or role-model for believers in all respects.

Some exegetes appeal to phrases in the verse, believing that it is a permanent obligation of all Muslims to follow the Prophet (s). In verses four and six of Qur'an 60,[7] the Prophet Abraham (a) is also introduced as an "excellent pattern" because he resisted polytheism and dissociated himself from polytheists[8].[10]

The Meaning of "Uswa"

Literal meanings of the Arabic word "uswa" include leader[11] as well as one's gesture when following another person[12] ; that is, the gesture of following or emulating. The word also means to follow someone in good deeds. In this verse, it means to follow the Prophet (s)[13], since he is the best role-model who can lead people to the right path[14].

Many hadiths have been cited regarding the meaning or exegesis of the verse[15]. For example, there is a hadith from Ibn Abbas in which "al-uswa al-hasana" (the excellent pattern) is interpreted as the Prophet's righteous tradition[16]. Some exegetes point out two interpretations of the verse: the Prophet (s) himself is an excellent pattern, or he has a characteristic that is worthy of being emulated[17].

Conditions of Emulation

In this verse, the Prophet (s) is introduced as an excellent pattern for those who believe in God's mercy and the Day of Resurrection[18] and are hopeful of this-worldly and afterlife rewards[19] for their righteous deeds[20]; those who remember God all the time[21] and in all circumstances—both in hardships and convenience[22]. Some people interpret "remembering Allah often" as the five daily prayers[23]. Given the last part of the verse, the belief in God and the resurrection and constant remembrance of God can be said to be motivations for following the Prophet (s)[24].

Limits of Following the Prophet (s)

Since the verse in unqualified, the Prophet (s) should be considered as a pattern in all respects, both in wars and otherwise[25]. That is to say, the Prophet (s) should be emulated in all respects: his speeches, his deeds[26], and his moral character[27]. According to Makarim Shirazi in Tafsir-i nimuna, the Prophet (s) is an excellent pattern for all Muslims in his high spirits, resistance, patience, alertness, tact, purity, attention to God, and tolerance of hardships[28]. Some others restrict the emulation of the Prophet (s) to his patience[29] or his actions during battles or his tolerance of injuries and hardships[30], whereas they believe that this might imply that the Prophet (s) may well be followed in other deeds as well[31], although this is not implied by the verse to be obligatory. Some other exegetes believe that the verse only implies that the Prophet (s) was a pattern only in the Battle of Ahzab[32].

The Jurisprudential Ruling of Emulation

There is a disagreement among scholars as to whether the emulation of the Prophet (s) is obligatory or recommended. Some of them believe that it is obligatory; some of them believe that it is recommended unless there is a specific reason for its obligation, and others distinguish between worldly matters and afterlife or religious matters, taking it to be obligatory in the latter and recommended in the former[33].

Messages of the Verse

In his exegesis of the Qur'an, Nur, Muhsin Qara'ati has gleaned messages from the verse. For example, one method of training is to introduce someone as a pattern, people can be guided to the right path if they have a good pattern, and they can thus be prevented from following bad patterns. Thus, there is no doubt that the Prophet (s) is the best pattern for people all the time[34]. The author of the exegesis of the Qur'an, Qur'an-i Mihr, concludes from the verse that all people need to have patterns or role-models, taking the leader of Islam to be the best pattern for everyone[35].


  1. Farhang-i fiqh muṭabiq-i mazhab-i Ahl al-Bayt (a), vol. 1, p. 168
  2. Nizam al-a'raj, Ghara'ib al-Qur'an, vol. 5, p. 455.
  3. Tusi, al-Tibyan, vol. 8, p. 328;Tabrisi, Majma' al-bayan, vol. 8, p. 548;Sibziwari, Irshad al-adhhan, p. 425.
  4. Qurtubi, al-Jami' li ahkam al-Qur'an, vol. 14, p. 155;Tabari, Jami' al-bayan, vol. 21, p. 91.
  5. Al-Tha'alabi, al-Kashf wa al-Bayan, vol. 8, p. 22; al-Tabari, Jami' al-bayan, vol. 21, p. 91.
  6. Mughniah, al-Tafsir al-kashif, vol. 6, p. 205.
  7. There is certainly a good exemplar for you in Abraham and those who were with him,...(4) There is certainly a good exemplar for you in them—for those who look forward to Allah and the Last Day...(6)
  8. Qur'an 60:4, 6.
  9. Kamyabi, Ta'ammuli dar ma'na shinasi waja-yi uswa dar Qur'an wa hadith, p. 35.
  10. Since the Qur'an is not a book of history, there must be a purpose for its narrations of the life histories of earlier prophets, one significant purpose being the introduction of patterns or role-models for believers.[9]
  11. Ibn Manzur,Lisan al-'arab, vol. 14, p. 35.
  12. Al-Raghib al-Isfahani, Mufradat alfaz al-Qur'an, p. 76.
  13. Al-Samarqandi, Bahr al-'ulum, vol. 3, p. 53; Jurjani, Darj al-durar, vol. 2, p. 456.
  14. Makarim Shirazi, Tafsir Nimuna, vol. 17, p. 243.
  15. Al-Suyuti, al-Durr al-manthur, vol. 5, p. 189; Qummi Mashhadi, Kanz al-daqa'iq, vol. 10, p. 349.
  16. Al-Maturidi, Ta'wilat Ahl al-Sunna, vol. 8, p. 368.
  17. Al-Zamakhshari, al-Kashshaf, vol. 3, p. 531; Qurashi Bunabi, Tafsir Ahsan al-Hadith, vol. 8, p. 335.
  18. Makarim Shirazi, Tafsir Nimuna, vol. 17, p. 241.
  19. Al-Tabarani, al-Tafsir al-kabir, vol. 5, p. 179.
  20. Ibn Atiyya, al-muharrar al-wajiz, vol. 4, p. 377.
  21. Al-Samarqandi, Bahral-ulum, vol. 3, p. 53.
  22. Al-Tha'alabi, al-Kashf wa al-bayan, vol. 8, p. 22; al-Tabari, Jami' al-bayan, vol. 21, p. 91.
  23. Mughniya, al-Tafsir al-kashif, vol. 6, p. 205.
  24. Makarim Shirazi, Tafsir Nimuna, vol. 17, p. 243.
  25. Ridayi, Isfahani, Tafsir Qur'an-i mihr, vol. 16, p. 288.
  26. Al-Tusi, al-Tibyan, vol. 8, p. 328;al-Tabataba'i, al-Mizan, vol. 16, p. 288.
  27. Al-Qurtubi, al-Jami' li Ahkam al-Qur'an, vol. 14, p. 155; Fayd al-Kashani, Fayd al-Kashani, Tafsir al-safi, vol. 4, p. 180; Shakuri, Tafsir sharif lahiji, vol. 3, p. 622.
  28. Makarim Shirazi, Tafsir nimuna, vol. 17, p. 242.
  29. Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-masir, vol. 3, p. 455; al-Tha'alabi, Tafsir al-tha'alabi, vol. 4, p. 340.
  30. Ibn Sulayman, Tafsir Muqatil b. Sulayman, vol. 3, p. 483; al-Tabarani, al-Tafsir al-kabir, vol. 5, p. 179; abu -Futuh al-Razi, Rawd al-jinan, vol. 15, p. 379.
  31. Al-Tabrisi, Jawami' al-jami', vol. 3, p. 308; al-Tusi, al-Tibyan, vol. 8, p. 328.
  32. Al-Tusi, al-Tibyan, vol. 8, p. 328.
  33. Al-Qurtubi, al-Jami' li Ahkam al-Qur'an, vol. 14, p. 156.
  34. Qara'ati, Tafsir Nur, vol. 7, p. 345.
  35. Ridayi Isfahani, Tafsir Qur'an-i mihr, vol. 16, p. 322-23.


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