As mentioned in the introduction to Surah An-Naml, according to Ibn Abbas and Jabir bin Zaid, Surahs Ash-Shu'ara, An-Naml and Al-Qasas were revealed one after the other during the middle stage of the Prophet's residence at Makkah.
- The story of Fir'on (Pharaoh) who plotted to kill all the male children of the Israelites. How Allah saved Musa (pbuh) and arranged for him to be brought up in Fir'on's own household.
- Youth of Prophet Musa (pbuh), his folly of killing a man, his escape to Madyan, his marriage, his seeing a fire at Mount Tur, and his assignment as a Rasool to Fir'on.
- The stories of prior generations are related in The Qur'an as an eye opener for the disbelievers to learn a lesson.
- Unbiased Jews and Christians; when they hear The Qur'an, can recognize the Truth and feel that they were Muslims even before hearing it.
- The Prophets cannot give guidance; it is Allah Who gives guidance.
- The fact that on the Day of Judgement, disbelievers will wish that they had accepted guidance and became Muslims.
- Allah has not allowed the mushrikin to assign His powers to whom they want.
- The story of Qarun, the legendary rich man.
- Allah's commandment that the revelation of The Qur'an is His mercy; a believer should let no one turn him away from it.
This Surah removes the doubts and objections that were being raised against the Prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and invalidates the excuses which the unbelievers had for not believing in him. Then the story of the Prophet Musa (pbuh) is related to emphasize that Allah is All-Powerful and can provide the means for whatever He wills to do. He arranged for the child Musa, through whom Fir'on was to be removed from power, to be brought up in Fir'on's own house thus Fir'on would not know whom he was fostering.
The unbelievers wondered about Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) - how he could be blessed with Prophethood all of a sudden. This is explained through the example of the Prophet Musa (pbuh) who was given the Prophethood unexpectedly during a journey, while he himself did not know what he was going to be blessed with. In fact, he had gone to bring a piece of fire, but had returned with the gift of Prophethood.
The unbelievers were wondering why Allah would assign the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) this mission without any special help or supernatural forces to aid him. Again, the example of the Prophet Musa (pbuh) is used to explain that a person from whom Allah wants to take some service always appears without any apparent helper or force behind him, yet he can put up with much stronger and better-equipped opponents. The contrast between the strengths of Musa (pbuh) and those of Fir'on is far more extreme than that between Muhammad (pbuh) and the Qureysh; yet the whole world knows who came out victorious in the end and who was defeated.
The unbelievers were referring to the Prophet Musa (pbuh) again and again, saying: "Why has Muhammad not been given the same which was given to Musa (pbuh)?" That is to say, the miracles of the Staff and the Shining Hand; as if to suggest that they would readily believe only if they were shown the kind of the miracles that Musa (pbuh) showed to Fir'on. The disbelievers are admonished, that those who were shown those miracles did not believe even after seeing the miracles. Instead they said: "This is nothing but magic," for they were full of stubbornness and hostility to the Truth just like the disbelievers of Makkah. Then a warning is given by citing the fate of those who disbelieved after witnessing those miracles. This was the background against which the story of the Prophet Musa was narrated and a perfect analogy is made in every detail between the conditions prevailing then in Makkah and those which were existing at the time of the Prophet Musa (pbuh).
In conclusion, the disbelievers of Makkah are admonished for mistreating those Christians who came to Makkah and embraced Islam after hearing the verses of the Qur'an from the Prophet. Instead of learning a lesson from their acceptance of Islam, the Makkans leader, Abu Jahl, humiliated them publicly. Then the real reason for not believing in the Prophet is mentioned. The disbelievers were thinking, "If we give up the polytheistic creed of the Arabs and accept the doctrine of Tawhid (Oneness of God), it will be an end to our supremacy in the religious, political and economic fields. As a result, our position as the most influential tribe of Arabia will be destroyed and we shall be left with no refuge anywhere in the land." This was the real motive of the chiefs of the Qureysh for their antagonism towards the Truth, and their doubts and objections were only a pretence invented to deceive the common people.