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Period of Revelation

This Surah appears to have been revealed after the treaty of Hudeybiyah at the end of 6 A. H. or the beginning of 7 A. H. It deals with problems that arose from this treaty. The continuity of the subject indicates that most probably the whole Surah was revealed as a single discourse at one and the same time.

Major Issues, Divine Law and Guidance
  1. Lawful (Halal) and unlawful (Haram) in the matters of food.
  2. Permission to eat the food of Ahl-al-Kitab (Jews and Christians).
  3. Permission to marry women of Ahl-al-Kitab (Jews and Christians).
  4. Regulations about bath, wudhu and Tayammum.
  5. The fact that Salah and Zakah were also obligatory for Jews and Christians.
  6. Invitation to Jews and Christians to become Muslims.
  7. Those who do not judge by the Laws of Allah are declared to be unbelievers, wrong doers and transgressors.
  8. Warning to guard against corruption of power.
  9. Punishment for rebellion, disturbing the peace and theft.
  10. Absolute prohibition of drinking and gambling.
  11. Additional rules for the laws of evidence.
  12. Miracles of Jesus - and the fact that he did not claim divinity.
  13. Testimony of Jesus which he shall give on the Day of Judgement.

Al-Ma'idah was revealed at the time when the last effort of the Qureysh to suppress Islam had been defeated in the Battle of the Ditch, and 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 was regulating the lives of people. Therefore, there was a need to formulate Islamic civil and criminal laws in detail and enforce them through Islamic courts. New and reformed ways of trade and commerce were needed to replace the old. Likewise, Islamic laws of marriage and divorce, segregation of the sexes, and punishment for adultery, were needed to mold the social life of Muslims. This Surah provided the guidelines to the believers in some of these aspects of their lives so that their social behavior, conversation, dress, way of life and culture could take a definite shape of its own.

The treaty of Hudeybiyah was also signed in the same year which gave the Muslims not only peace in their own territory but, also respite to spread the Message of Islam in the surrounding territories. The Holy Prophet wrote letters to the rulers of Iran, Egypt, and Rome and to 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 Message of Al-Islam.

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. Believers are enjoined to remain steadfast to the Covenant of Obedience to Allah and His Rasool. They should follow Allah's commands and prohibitions in order to save themselves from the evil consequences which were faced by the Jews and the Christians who had violated them. They have been instructed to avoid hypocrisy. In continuation of the instructions given in Surah An-Nisa' about the consolidation of the Islamic Community, the Muslims have been directed to observe and fulfill all their obligations. The Jews and the Christians are also admonished to give up their wrong attitudes towards the Right Way and accept the guidance which is being taught by the Prophet Muhammad ( peace be upon him).