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Period of Revelation

As this Surah contains the characteristics of both Makki and the Madani Surahs, the commentators have differed as to its period of revelation. From its style it appears that a part of it (vv. 1-24) was sent down in the last stage of the Prophet's residence at Makkah, shortly before migration and the rest (vv. 25-78) after migration, most probably in the month of Zul-Hijjah, during the first year of his residence at Madinah. That is why this Surah combines the characteristics of both Makki and the Madani Surahs.

Major Issues, Divine Laws, and Guidance
  1. A scene from the Hour of Doom.
  2. Human life cycle: life in this world and life in the Hereafter.
  3. Behavior of those individuals who were standing at the verge of faith is identified.
  4. The fact that Allah always helps His Rasools.
  5. Divine law granting equal rights to all believers in Masjid-al-Haram, whether they are natives or foreigners.
  6. The fact that Allah Himself identified the site and asked Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) to build the Ka'bah and call mankind to come for Hajj (Pilgrimage).
  7. Someone who commits Shirk is like someone who falls from the sky and his body is snatched away by birds.
  8. The fact that it is not the blood or the flesh of a sacrificed animal which reaches Allah but the piety of the individual who is offering the sacrifice.
  9. The first Commandment of Allah granting permission to the believers to defend themselves and fight against the unbelievers and mushrikin.
  10. On the Day of Judgement, Allah Himself will be the Judge for all.
  11. Allah's promise to those who migrate for His sake that He will reward them generously.
  12. The fact that Allah called the believers Muslims in the prior scriptures and also in The Qur'an.

It appears that after the migration, when the month of Zul-Hijjah arrived, it brought to the immigrants the memories of their homes in Makkah, and naturally they must have thought about the Ka'bah and the Hajj congregation. These memories grieved them to think that the mushrikin Qureysh had debarred them from visiting the Sacred Mosque. Therefore, they might have been praying for and expecting Divine permission to wage war against those tyrants who had expelled them from their homes and prevented them from visiting the House of Allah. This Surah specifies the purpose for which the Ka'bah was built and clearly states that Hajj (pilgrimage) was enjoined for the worship of the One God (Allah). But it is an irony that it had been dedicated to the rituals of shirk, the worship of 360 idols and the real worshippers of One God (Allah) had been debarred from visiting it. Through this Surah, Allah also granted the Muslims permission to wage war against the tyrant mushrikin in order to oust them and establish the righteous way of life. According to Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, Urwah bin Zubair, Zaid bin Aslam, Muqatil bin Hayyan, Qatadah and other great commentators, v. 39 is the first verse that granted the Muslims permission to wage war.

This Surah has also addressed the mushrikin of Makkah, the wavering Muslims, and the true believers as follows:

The mushrikin are warned in a forceful manner in these words: "You have persisted in your ignorance and trusted your deities instead of Allah, though they possess no power to protect you." They are also admonished time and again for their creed of shirk through providing sound arguments in favor of Tawhid (Oneness of God) and the Hereafter.

The wavering Muslims, who had embraced Islam but were not prepared to endure any hardship in its way, have been admonished in these words: "What is this faith of yours? You are ready to believe in Allah and become His servants provided you are given peace and prosperity, but if you meet with afflictions and hardships in His Way, you discard Allah and cease to remain His servants. You should bear in mind that this wavering attitude of yours cannot avert those misfortunes and losses which Allah has ordained for you."

The true believers are told that the mushrikin of Makkah have no right to debar them from visiting the Ka'bah. They have no right to prevent anyone from performing Hajj because the Ka'bah is not their private property. This objection acted as an effective political weapon against the Qureysh because it posed this question: "Are the Qureysh mere attendants of the Ka'bah or its owners? This question implied that if the Qureysh succeeded in debarring the Muslims from Hajj without any protest from others, they would feel encouraged in the future to debar others who happened to have strained relations with the Qureysh. In order to emphasize this point, the history of the Ka'bah's construction is cited to show that it was built by the Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) by the command of Allah and he had invited all of mankind to perform Hajj. That is why people coming from outside Makkah had enjoyed equal rights with the local people from the very beginning. It is also made clear that the House had not been built for the rituals of shirk but for the worship of One Allah. Thus it was sheer tyranny that the worship of Allah was being forbidden there while the worship of idols enjoyed full licence.