This Surah was revealed during the middle stage of the Prophet's residence in Makkah. According to the traditions narrated by Sayyiduna Ibn Abbas and Sayyiduna Jabir bin Zaid, "First, Surah Ash-Shu'ara was sent down, then Surah An-Naml, and then Surah Al-Qasas".
- The Qur'an is a guide and good news to the believers.
- Prophet Musa's (pbuh) nine miracles were shown to Fir'on and his people.
- Story of Prophet Sulaiman and the Queen of Sheba.
- Stories of Prophets Saleh, and Lut (pbuh) and their people.
- The disbelievers actually doubt Allah's power of creation.
- A sign from the signs, and a scene from the scenes of Doomsday.
- Those who accept guidance do so to their own good and those who reject and go astray, do so to their own peril.
This Surah consists of the following two discourses.
The theme of the first discourse is that the only people that can benefit from the guidance of The Qur'an and become worthy of the good promises made in it, are those who accept the realities of the universe presented in this Book, and then show obedience and submission in their practical lives. But the greatest hindrance for man's following this way, is the denial of the Hereafter. For it makes him irresponsible, selfish, and greedy in this worldly life, which in turn, makes it impossible for him to submit himself to God and to accept the moral restrictions on his lusts and desires.
After this introduction, three types of character have been presented: Examples of the first type are Fir'on (Pharaoh), his chiefs, the nation of Thamud and the people of Prophet Lut (pbuh) who were all heedless of the Hereafter and consequently had become the slaves of their desires. That's why they did not believe even after seeing miracles. Rather, they turned against those who invited them to goodness and piety. They persisted in their evil ways, which were abhorred by every sensible person. They did not heed the admonition even moments before they were overtaken by the scourge of Allah.
An example of the second type is Prophet Sulaiman (Solomon) (pbuh), who had been blessed by Allah with wealth, kingdom and grandeur far greater than the chiefs of the disbelievers of Makkah. But, since he regarded himself answerable before Allah and recognized that whatever he had was only due to Allah's bounty, he adopted righteousness and the attitude of obedience.
An example of the third type is the Queen of Sheba, who ruled over the most wealthy and well-known people in the history of Arabia. She possessed all those means of life which could cause a person to become proud and arrogant. Her wealth and possessions far exceeded the wealth and possessions of the Qureysh. She professed shirk, which was not only an ancestral way of life for her, but she had to follow it in order to maintain her position as a ruler. Therefore, it was much more difficult for her to give up shirk and adopt the way of Tawhid than it could be for a common mushrik. But when the Truth became evident to her, nothing could stop her from accepting it. Her deviation was, in fact, due to her being born and brought up in a polytheistic environment, not because of her being a slave to her lusts and desires. Her conscience was not devoid of the sense of accountability before Allah.
The theme of the second discourse is to draw the attention of the people to some of the most glaring and visible realities of the universe by asking questions such as: "Do the realities of the universe testify to the creed of shirk which you are following, or to the truth of Tawhid to which the Qur'an invites you?" After this the real malady of the disbelievers is pointed out, saying, "The thing which has blinded them and made them insensitive to every reality is their denial of the Hereafter. This same thing has rendered every matter and affair of life non-serious for them. For, according to them, when ultimately everything has to become dust, and the whole struggle of existence is to enjoy this worldly life then the truth and falsehood are equal and alike. Therefore, the question of whether one's system of life is based on right or wrong foundations becomes meaningless."
In conclusion, the invitation of the Qur'an to serve One God (Allah) is presented in a concise but forceful manner, and the people are admonished to accept this invitation as being to their advantage and rejection will be to their disadvantage. For if they deferred their faith before they saw those signs of Allah, after the appearance of which they would be left with no choice but to believe and submit. Then they should know that believing at that time will be of no avail.