It is derived from the sentence idh andhara qauma-hu bil Ahqaf-i
of verse 21.
Period of Revelation
It is determined by an historical event that has been mentioned
in vv. 29-32. This incident of the visit of the jinn and their
going back after listening to the Qur'an had occurred, according
to agreed traditions of the Hadith and biographical literature,
at the time when the Holy Prophet had halted at Makkah during
his return journey from Ta'if to Makkah. And according to all
authentic historical traditions he had gone to Ta'if three
years before the Hijrah; therefore it is determined that this
Surah was sent down towards the end of the 10th year or in
the early part of the 11th year of the Prophethood.
The 10th year of the Prophethood was a year of extreme persecution
and distress in the Holy prophet's life. The Quraish and the
other tribes had continued their boycott of the Bani Hashim
and the Muslims for three years and the Holy Prophet and the
people of his family and Companions lay besieged in Shi'b Abi
Talib. The Quraish had blocked up this locality from every
side so that no supplies of any kind could reach the besieged
Only during the Hajj season they were allowed to come out and
buy some articles of necessity. But even at that time whenever
Abu Lahab noticed any of them approaching the market place
or a trading caravan he would call out to the merchants exhorting
them to announce forbidding rates of their articles for them,
and would pledge that he himself would buy those articles so
that they did not suffer any loss. This boycott which continued
uninterrupted for three years had broken the back of the Muslims
and the Bani Hashim; so much so that at times they were even
forced to eat grass and the leaves of trees.
At last, when the siege was lifted this year, Abu Talib, the
Holy Prophet's uncle, who had been shielding him for ten long
years, died, and hardly a month later his wife, Hadrat Khadijah,
who had been a source of peace and consolation for him ever
since the beginning of the call, also passed away. Because
of these tragic incidents, which closely followed each other,
the Holy Prophet used to refer to this year as the year of
sorrow and grief.
After the death of Hadart Khadijah and Abu Talib the disbelievers
of Makkah became even bolder against the Holy Prophet. They
started treating him even more harshly. So much so that it
became difficult for him to step out of his house. Of these
days Ibn Hisham has related the incident that a Quraish scoundrel
one day threw dust at him openly in the street.
At last, the Holy Prophet left for Ta'if with the intention
that he should invite the Bani Thaqif to Islam, for even if
they did not accept Islam, they might at least be persuaded
to allow him to work for his mission peacefully. He did not
have the facility of any conveyance at that time, and traveled
all the way to Ta'if on foot.
According to some traditions, he had gone there alone, but
according to others, he was accompanied by Zaid bin Harithah.
He stayed at Ta'if for a few days, and approached each of the
chiefs and nobles of the Bani Thaqif and talked to him about
his mission. But not only they refused to listen to him, but
plainly gave him the notice that he should leave their city,
for they feared that his preaching might "spoil" their younger
generation. Thus, he was compelled to leave Ta'if.
When he was leaving the city, the chiefs of Thaqif set their
slaves and scoundrels behind him, who went on crying at him,
abusing him and petting him with stones for a long way from
either side of the road till he became broken down with wounds
and his shoes were filled with blood. Wearied and exhausted
he took shelter in the shade of the wall of a garden outside
Ta'if, and prayed:
"O God, to Thee I complain of my weakness, little resource,
and lowliness before men. O Most Merciful, Thou art the Lord
of the weak, and Thou art my Lord. To whom wilt Thou confide
me? To one afar who will misuse me?Or to an enemy to whom Thou
hast given power over me?If Thou art not angry with me I care
not. Thy favor is more wide for me. I take refuge in the light
of Thy countenance by which the darkness is illumined, and
the things of this world and the next are rightly ordered,
lest Thy anger descend upon me or Thy wrath light upon me.
It is for Thee to be satisfied until Thou art well pleased.
There is no power and no might save in Thee." (Ibn Hisham:A.
Guillaume's Translation, p. 193).
Grieved and heart broken when he returned and reached near
Qarn al-Manazil, he felt as though the sky was overcast by
clouds. He looked up and saw Gabriel in front of him, who called
out:"Allah has heard the way your people have responded. He
has, therefore, sent this angel incharge of the mountains.
You may command him as you please." Then the angel of the mountains
greeted him and submitted :"If you like I would overturn the
mountains from either side upon these people." The Holy Prophet
replied : "No, but I expect that Allah will create from their
seed those who will worship none but Allah, the One." (Bukhari,
Dhikr al Mala'ikah; Muslim: Kitab al-Maghazi; Nasa'i :Al-Bauth).
After this he went to stay for a few days at Makkah, perplexed
as to how he would face the people of Makkah, who, he thought,
would be still further emboldened against him after hearing
what had happened at Ta'if. It was here that one night when
he was reciting the Qur'an in the Prayer, a group of the jinn
happened to pass by and listened to the Qur'an, believed in
it, and returned to their people to preach Islam. Thus, Allah
gave His Prophet the good news that if the men were running
away from his invitation, there were many of the jinn, who
had become its believers, and they were spreading his message
among their own kind.
Subject Matter and Topics
Such were the conditions when this Surah was sent down. Anyone
who keeps this background in view, on the one hand, and studies
this Surah, on the other, will have no doubt left in his mind
that this is not at all the composition of Muhammad (upon whom
be Allah's peace), but "a Revelation from the All Mighty, All
For nowhere in this Surah, from the beginning to the end, does
one find even a tinge of the human feelings and reactions,
which are naturally produced in a man who is passing through
such hard conditions. Had it been the word of Muhammad (upon
whom be Allah's peace) whom the occurrence of personal griefs
one after the other and the countless and the recent bitter
experience at Ta'if had caused extreme anguish and distress,
it would have reflected in some degree the state of the mind
of the man who was the subject of these afflictions and griefs.
Consider the prayer that we have cited above: it contains his
own language its every word is saturated with the feelings
that he had at the time. But this Surah which was sent down
precisely in the same period and was recited even by him under
the same conditions, is absolutely free from every sign or
trace of the time.
The subject matter of the Surah is to warn the disbelievers
of the errors in which they were involved, and also resisted
arrogantly, and were condemning the man who was trying to redeem
them. They regarded the world as a useless and purposeless
place where they were not answerable to anyone. They thought
that invitation to Tauhid was false and stuck to the belief
that their own deities were actually the associates of Allah.
They were not inclined to believe that the Qur'an was the Word
of the Lord of the worlds. They had a strange erroneous concept
of apostleship on the basis of which they were proposing strange
criteria of judging the Holy Prophet's claim to it.
In their estimation one great proof of Islam's not being based
on the truth was that their elders and important chiefs of
the tribes and so called leaders of their nation were not accepting
it and only a few young men, and some poor folks and some slaves
had affirmed faith in it. They thought that Resurrection and
life after death and the rewards and punishments of the Hereafter
were fabrications whose occurrence was absolutely out of the
In this Surah each of these misconceptions has been refuted
in a brief but rational way, and the disbelievers have been
warned that if they would reject the invitation of the Qur'an
and the Prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's
peace) by prejudice and stubbornness instead of trying to understand
its truth rationally, they would only be preparing for their