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يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ ٱلأَهِلَّةِ قُلْ هِيَ مَوَاقِيتُ لِلنَّاسِ وَٱلْحَجِّ وَلَيْسَ ٱلْبِرُّ بِأَن تَأْتُواْ ٱلْبُيُوتَ مِن ظُهُورِهَا وَلَـٰكِنَّ ٱلْبِرَّ مَنِ ٱتَّقَىٰ وَأْتُواْ ٱلْبُيُوتَ مِنْ أَبْوَابِهَا وَٱتَّقُواْ ٱللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
-Al-Baqarah ( البقرة )

Asbab Al-Nuzul

(They ask thee, (O Muhammad), of new moons…) [2:189]. Said Mu‘adh ibn Jabal: “O Messenger of Allah! The Jews come to us and ask us excessively about new moons”. And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse. Said Qatadah: “It was mentioned to us that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, was asked about the reason why these new moons were created. And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed (…They are fixed seasons for mankind…)”. Said al-Kalbi: “This was revealed about Mu‘adh ibn Jabal and Tha‘labah ibn ‘Anmah, both of whom were of the Ansar. These two men said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! How is it that the moon first looks fine like a thread, then it grows until it becomes full and round, but then it starts to decrease and become fine again as it initially was. It never stays in one form?’ And as a response, Allah revealed this verse”. (It is not righteousness that ye go to houses by the backs thereof…) [2:189]. Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Muzakki informed us> Abu ‘Amr ibn Matar> Abu Khalifa> Abu’l-Walid and al-Hawdi who said: Shu‘bah informed us> Abu Ishaq> al-Bara’ ibn ‘Azib who said: “Upon returning from the pilgrimage, the Helpers used to avoid entering their houses through their front doors and instead use the back doors. One of the men entered the house through his front door and, because of this, he was insulted. This verse was revealed because of this incident”. This report was narrated by Bukhari from the report of Abu’l-Walid, and also by Muslim from the report of Bundar> Ghundar> Shu‘bah. Abu Bakr al-Tamimi informed us> Abu’l-Shaykh> Abu Yahya al-Razi> Sahl ibn ‘Ubayd> ‘Ubayda> al-A‘mash> Abu Sufyan> Jabir who said: “The tribe of Quraysh used to be called al-Humus. Their members used to enter through doors while in ritual consecration. Once, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, was in a walled field [while in a state of consecration]. When he left this field, he used the door. Qutbah ibn ‘Amir al-Ansari who was with him went out right behind him. People said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! Qutbah ibn ‘Amir al-Ansari is an impious person. He went out after you, using the door’. The Prophet then asked him: ‘Why did you do it?’ Qutbah said: ‘I saw you doing it and I followed your example’. The Prophet said: ‘But I am Ahmasi [i.e. from al-Humus]’. Qutbah replied: ‘But your religion is my religion’. And because of this Allah revealed (It is not righteousness that ye go to houses by the backs thereof…)”. The commentators of the Qur’an said: “In the pre-Islamic period and beginning of the Islamic period, a man did not enter a walled field, room or house from its door once he was in ritual consecration. If the man happened to be a city dweller, he would dig a hole at the back of his house and use it to come in and go out; or alternately use a ladder to get to his house from the top. If the man was a nomad, he would use the back of his tent. He would never enter from the door until the end of his ritual consecration. People considered this as part of the religion, and this applied to all unless one was of al-Humus who include: Quraysh, Kinanah, Khuza‘ah, Thaqif, Khath‘am, Banu ‘Amir ibn Sa‘sa‘ah and Banu’l-Nadr ibn Mu‘awiyah. These were called al-Humus because of their intense adherence to their religion. It so happened that one day the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, entered a house which belonged to one of the Helpers. One man of the Helpers, who happened to be in ritual consecration, followed him through the door. People censored him for doing so, and the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, asked him: ‘Why did you go through the door while in ritual consecration?' The man said: ‘I saw you entering through the door and I followed you’. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘But I am Ahmasi [i.e. of al-Humus]!’ The man said: ‘If you are Ahmasi, then so am I: our religion is one; I have accepted your guidance, way and religion’. As a result, Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse”.

Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi , trans. Mokrane Guezzou