| Al-Ma'idah - The Table, The Table Spread
This Sarah takes its' name from verse
112 in which the word mai'dah occurs. Like the names of
many other surahs, this name has no special relation to
the subject of the Surah but has been used merely as a
symbol to distinguish it from other surahs.
|Period of Revelation
The theme of this Surah
indicates, and traditions support it, that it was revealed
after the treaty of Hudaibiyah at the end of 6 A. H.
or in the beginning of 7 A. H. That is why it deals with
those problems that arose from this treaty.
The Holy Prophet with 1400 Muslims went to Makkah in
Zil-Qaadah 6 A. H. to perform `Umrah, but the Quraish
spurred by their enmity, prevented him from its performance,
though it was utterly against all the ancient religious
traditions of Arabia. After a good deal of hard and harsh
negotiations, a treaty was concluded at Hudaibiyah according
to which it was agreed that he could perform `Umrah the
That was a very appropriate occasion for teaching the
Muslims the right way of performing a pilgrimage to Makkah
with the true Islamic dignity, and enjoining that they
should not prevent the disbelievers from performing pilgrimage
to Makkah as a retaliation for their misbehavior. This
was not difficult at all as many disbelievers had to
pass through Muslim territory on their way to Makkah.
This is why the introductory verses deal with the things
connected with pilgrimage to Makkah and the same theme
has been resumed in vv. 101-104. The other topics of
this Surah also appear to belong to the same period.
The continuity of the subject shows that most probably
the whole of the surah was revealed as a single discourse
at one and the same time. It is also possible that some
of its verses were revealed at a later period and inserted
in this Surah at different places where they fitted in.
But there appears to be not the least gap anywhere in
the surah to show that it might have comprised two or
|Occasion of Revelation
|This Surah was revealed to suit the requirements
of the changed conditions which were now different from
those prevailing at the time of the revelation of Al-i-'Imran
and An- Nisa. Then the shock of the set-back at Uhd had
made the very surroundings of Al-Madinah dangerous for
the Muslims, but now Islam had become an invulnerable power
and the Islamic State had extended to Najd on the east,
to the Red Sea on the west, to Syria on the north and to
Makkah on the south.
This set-back which the Muslims had suffered at Uhd had
not broken their determination. It had rather spurred them
to action. As a result of their continuous struggle and
unparalleled sacrifices, the power of. the surrounding
clans, within a radius of 200 miles or so, had been broken.
The Jewish menace which was always threatening Al-Madinah
had been totally removed and the Jews in the other parts
of Hijaz had-become tributaries of the State of Al-Madinah.
The last effort of the Quraish to suppress Islam had been
thwarted in the Battle of the Ditch. After this, it had
become quite obvious to the Arabs that no power could suppress
the Islamic movement. Now Islam was not merely a creed
which ruled over the minds and hearts of the people but
had also become a State which dominated over every aspect
of the life of the people who lived within its boundaries.
This had enabled the Muslims to live their lives without
let or hindrance, in accordance with their beliefs.
Another development had also taken place during this period.
The Muslim civilization had developed in accordance with
the principles of Islam and the Islamic viewpoint. This
civilization was quite distinct from all other civilizations
in all its' details, and distinguished the Muslims clearly
from the non Muslims in their moral, social and cultural
behavior. Mosques had been built in all territories, prayer
had been established and' Imam (leader) for every habitation
and clan had been appointed.
The Islamic civil and criminal laws had been formulated
in detail and were being enforced through the Islamic courts.
New and reformed ways of trade and commerce had taken the
place of the old ones. The Islamic laws of marriage and
divorce, of the segregation of the sexes, of the punishment
for adultery and calumny and the like had cast the social
life of the Muslims in a special mould. Their social behavior,
their conversation, their dress, their very mode of living,
their culture etc., had taken a definite shape of its own.
As a result of all these changes, the non-Muslims could
not expect that the Muslims would ever return to their
Before the treaty of Hudaibiyah, the Muslims were so engaged
in their struggle with the non-Muslim Quraish that they
got no time to propagate their message. This hindrance
was removed by what was apparently a defeat but in reality
a victory at Hudaibiyah. This gave the Muslims not only
peace in their own territory but also respite to spread
their message in the surrounding territories. Accordingly
the Holy Prophet addressed letters to the rulers of Iran,
Egypt and the Roman Empire and the chiefs of Arabia, inviting
them to Islam. At the same time the missionaries of Islam
spread among the clans and tribes and invited them to accept
the Divine Way of Allah. These were the circumstances at
the time when Al-Ma'idah was revealed.
It deals with the following three main topics:
Commandments and instructions about the religious, cultural
and political life of the Muslims.
In this connection, a code of ceremonial rules concerning
the journey for Haj has been prescribed; the observance
of strict respect for the emblems of Allah has been enjoined;
and any kind of obstruction or interference with the pilgrims
to the Kaabah has been prohibited. Definite rules and regulations
have been laid down for what is lawful and unlawful in
the matter of food, and self-imposed foolish restrictions
of the pre-Islamic age have been abolished. Permission
has been given to. take food with the people of the Book
and to marry their women.
Rules and regulations for the performance of Wudu (ablutions)
and bath and purification and tayammum (ablutions with
dust) have been prescribed. Punishment for rebellion, disturbance
of peace and theft have been specified. Drinking and gambling
have absolutely been made unlawful. Expiation for the breaking
of oath has been laid down and a few more things have been
added to the law of evidence.
|Admonition to the Muslims.
|Now that the Muslims had become a ruling
body, it was feared that power might corrupt them. At this
period of great trial, Allah had admonished them over and
over again to stick to justice and to guard against the
wrong behavior of their predecessors, the people of the
Book. They have been enjoined to remain steadfast to the
Covenant of obedience to Allah and His Messenger, and to
observe strictly their commands and prohibitions in order
to save them- selves from the evil consequences which.
befell the Jews and the Christians who had violated them.
They have been instructed to observe the dictates of the
Holy Quran in the conduct of all their affairs and warned
against the attitude of hypocrisy.
|Admonition to the Jews and the Christians.
As the power of the Jews had been totally
weakened and almost all their habitations in north Arabia
had come under the rule of the Muslims, they have been
warned again about their wrong attitude and invited to
follow the Right Way. At the same time a detailed invitation
has also been extended to the Christians. The errors of
their creeds have been clearly pointed out and they have
been admonished to accept the guidance of the Holy Prophet.
. Incidentally, it may be noted that no direct invitation
has been made to the Majusis and idolaters living in the
adjoining countries, because there was no need for a separate
address for them as their condition. had already been covered
by the addresses to the mushrik Arabs.
|Consolidation of the Islamic Community
In continuation of the instructions about
the consolidation of the Islamic Community given in Surah
AN-NISA, the Muslims have been directed to observe and
fulfill all their obligations: further regulations have
been prescribed to train the Muslims for that purpose.
They have also been particularly warned as rulers to guard
against the corruption, of power and directed to observe
the Covenant of the Quran. They have also been exhorted
to learn lessons from the failings of their predecessors,
the Jews and the Christians, who in their turn have been
admonished to give up their wrong attitudes towards the
Right Way and accept the guidance taught by Prophet Muhammad
(God's peace be upon him).
|Topics and their Interconnection
The Believers have been exhorted to fulfill
scrupulously all of their obligations and follow the regulations
prescribed by the Divine Law about food, sex, Salat, justice,
etc. 1 - 10
The Muslims have been warned to guard against the errors
of their predecessors; they should follow the Right Path
and avoid the bad example of the Jews and the Christians,
who broke their Covenants and went astray into evil ways.
They, in their turn, have been admonished to give up their
wrong ways and accept Islam. 11 - 26
The story of the two sons of Adam has been related to reproach
the Jews for their plot to kill the Holy Prophet and his
Companions. (v. 11 & E.N. 30). The story has also been
used to emphasize the sanctity of human life. 27 - 32
To achieve this object, punishments have been prescribed
for those who create chaos in the Islamic State, and the
Believers have been urged to exert their utmost to establish
the Right Way; the sanctity of property has also been emphasized.
33 - 40
The Holy Prophet (and through him the Muslims) has been
reassured that he should not mind the enmity, the evil
designs and the machinations of the Jews, but continue
exerting his utmost to establish the Right Way in accordance
with the Guidance of the Quran; for nothing better could
be expected from those who had forsaken their own Torah.
He should deal with the Christians likewise, for they,
too, had forsaken their Gospel. 41 - 50
In view of the degenerate moral condition of the Jews and
the Christians, the Believers have been warned not to make
them their friends and confidants. Likewise they should
be on their guard against the evil designs of the hypocrites,
the disbelievers and the like and should rely on the true
Believers alone. The people of the Book have, in their
turn been exhorted to give up their enmity and adopt the
right attitude, for they cannot get salvation without this.
51 - 69
The theme of the corruptions of the Jews and Christians
has been resumed. The Christians especially have been reproved
for their errors in regard to the doctrine of Tauhid. At
the same time they have been preferred to the hard hearted
Jews, for there are among them some who are more inclined
towards the Truth. 70 - 86
In this portion of the Surah, further regulations about
the lawful and the un-lawful, in addition to those contained
in vv. 1 - 10, have been given. 87 - 108
At the end of the Surah, the mention of the conversation
that will take place between Allah and His Prophets on
the Day of Judgment, has been made for the benefit of the
erring people to serve as a corrective to their creeds.
The conversation with Prophet Christ has been cited as
a specimen to warn particularly the Christians, who profess
to believe in him, and generally all those people who put
false hopes in their Prophets, etc. 109 - 119
Conclusion: "O man-kind! The Sovereignty of the heavens
and the earth belongs to Allah: therefore you should become
His true servants and fear Him, for He has full powers
over everything." 120