This Surah was revealed in the early period when opposition to the Prophet (pbuh) during his residence at Makkah had grown very strong and intense.
Success depends on keeping the soul pure and failure depends on corrupting it, people of Thamud were leveled to the ground for that very reason.
This Surah teaches that:
- Just as the sun and the moon, the day and the night, the earth and the sky, are different from each other and contradictory in their effects and results, so are good and evil different from each other and contradictory in their effects and results; they are neither alike in their outward appearance nor can they be alike in their results.
- Allah, after giving the human its body, sense and mind has not left it uninformed in the world, but has instilled into its unconscious, by means of a natural inspiration, the distinction between good and evil, right and wrong.
- The future of man depends on recognizing these differences, developing the good and suppressing the evil tendencies of the self. If he develops good inclinations and frees himself of evil inclinations, he will attain eternal success, and if, on the contrary, he suppresses good and promotes evil, he will meet with disappointments and failures.
This Surah then relates the story of the people of Thamud to show that a Rasool is raised in the world; because the inspirational knowledge of good and evil that Allah has placed in human nature is, by itself, not enough for the guidance of man; rather on account of his failure to understand it, man has invented wrong criteria, and theories of good and evil, and is going astray. The example of Thamud relates that Prophet Saleh (pbuh) was sent to that nation, but the people overwhelmed by their evil and became so rebellious, that they rejected him. And when he presented before them the miracle of the she camel, which was demanded by them, the one who was the most wretched of them hamstrung it in accordance with the will and desire of the people. Consequently, the entire tribe was overtaken by the wrath of Allah.