(Wed not idolatresses till they believe…) [2:221]. Abu 'Uthman ibn 'Amr al-Hafiz informed us> his grandfather> Abu 'Amr Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Jurashi> Isma'il ibn Qutaybah> Abu Khalid> Bukayr ibn Ma'ruf> Muqatil ibn Hayyan who said: “This verse was revealed about Abu Marthad al-Ghanawi who sought the permission of the Prophet, Allah, bless him and give him peace, to marry 'Anaq, who was a poor, fairly beautiful woman from Quraysh. But this woman was an idolatress whereas Marthad was Muslim. Marthad said to the prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace: 'O prophet of Allah! I like her!' Allah then revealed this verse (Wed not idolatresses till they believe…)”. Abu 'Uthman informed us> his grandfather> Abu 'Amr> Muhammad ibn Yahya> 'Amr ibn Hammad> Asbat> al-Suddi> Abu Malik> ibn 'Abbas who said regarding this verse: “This verse was revealed about 'Abd Allah ibn Rawahah who owned a black slave. It happened that 'Abd Allah punched this slave because he got angry with her. But then he became worried as a result of what he had done which made him rush to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, to inform him of what had happened. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, asked him: 'And what is it that is really making you worried?' 'Abd Allah said: 'O Messenger of Allah! She fast and prays and performs the ritual ablution in the proper way and she bears witness that there is no god but Allah and that you are His Messenger'. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: 'O 'Abd Allah! She is a believer!' 'Abd Allah said: 'By Him who has sent you with the truth, I will set her free and marry her'. And he did. A group of Muslims reproached him for doing so, saying: 'He married a slave!' This is because Muslims were still looking forward to marry idolatresses and marry their own daughters to idolaters, out of desire for their noble lineages. Allah, exalted is He, therefore revealed about them (for lo! a believing bondwoman is better than an idolatress though she please you…)”. Ibn 'Abbas is reported to have said according to the narration of al-Kalbi from Abu Salih: “The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, sent a man from Ghaniyy called Marthad ibn Abi Marthad, an ally of Banu Hashim, to Mecca to try to free some Muslims who were held prisoners there.
Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi , trans. Mokrane Guezzou