This is a Madani Surah, that was sent down during the interval between the Battle of Uhud and the Truce of Hudeybiyah between the 4th and 5th year after Hijrah. This Surah was revealed at the time when the tiny Islamic State of Madinah was hemmed in by the disbelievers and the handful of ill equipped Muslims were entrenched against the combined powers of entire Arabia. In such circumstances Islam not only stood in need of the sacrifice of life from its followers, but it also needed monetary help and assistance. In this Surah a forceful appeal has been made for the same.
- Allah created the heavens and earth in six periods and has the knowledge of everything.
- On that Day, the true believers will have their light shining before them while the hypocrites will have a fate similar to the disbelievers.
- Those who spend in charity will be repaid manyfold and also be given a liberal reward besides it.
- The life of this world is but play, amusement and illusion.
- Do not grieve for the things that you miss, nor overjoy at what you gain.
- Prophets Nuh, Ibrahim and Isa (Jesus) were sent for guidance to the Right Path, as for the monasticism, people instituted it themselves.
This Surah persuades the Muslims to make monetary sacrifices in particular, and to make them realize that Islam did not merely consist in verbal affirmation and some outward practices, but its essence and spirit is sincerity towards Allah and His Religion. The faith of the one who was devoid of this spirit and who regarded his own self and wealth as dearer to himself than Allah and His Religion, was hollow and has no value in the sight of Allah. The attributes of Allah Almighty are mentioned in order to make the listeners realize as to Who is addressing them. Then, the following guidance is given:
- The inevitable demand of the Faith is that one should not shirk spending one's wealth for the sake of Allah. In fact the wealth belongs to Allah, and man has been granted proprietary rights only as His vicegerent. Yesterday this wealth was in other people's possession, today it is with you, and tomorrow it will pass onto someone else. Ultimately, it will go back to Allah, Who is the inheritor of everything in the universe. Only a portion of this wealth will be of any use to man, which he spends in the Cause of Allah during the period it is in his possession.
- Although making sacrifices for the Sake of Allah is commendable in all cases, the true worth of these sacrifices is determined by the nature of the occasion. There is an occasion when the power of paganism is overwhelming and there is a danger that it might subdue and overcome Islam completely; there is another occasion when Islam is in a stronger position in its struggle against paganism and the believers are attaining victories. Both these states are not equal as regards their respective importance. Therefore, the sacrifices that are made in these different states would also not be equal. Those who sacrifice their lives and expend their wealth to further promote the Cause of Islam when it is already strong cannot attain to the rank of those who struggled with their lives and their wealth to promote and uphold the cause of Islam when it was weak.
- Whatever is spent for the Cause of Islam is a loan to Allah. Allah will not only return it manifold, but will also give from Himself an extra reward.
- In the Hereafter, the Light shall be bestowed only on those believers who spent their wealth in the Cause of Allah. As for the hypocrites who watched and served only their own interests in the world, and who were least bothered whether the Truth or falsehood prevailed, they will be segregated from the believers in the Hereafter. Not only will they be deprived of the Light, but will be counted among the disbelievers.
- The life of this world is like a crop which flourishes and blooms, then turns pale and then finally is reduced to chaff. The everlasting life is the life Hereafter when results of great consequence will be announced. Therefore, if one has to envy for something, it should be for Paradise.
- Whatever good a man gets and whatever hardship he suffers in the world, is preordained by Allah. A true believer is he who does not lose heart in affliction and is not puffed up with pride in good times.
- Allah sent His Messengers with clear signs and the Book and the Law of Justice so that the people may conduct their affairs in justice, and He sent down iron so that power may be used to establish the Truth and vanquish falsehood.