The two sections of this Surah were revealed in two separate periods.
The first section (vv. 1-19) is unanimously a Makki Revelation. This is supported both by its subject matter and by the traditions of the Hadith. This section was revealed at a time when the Prophet (pbuh) had openly started preaching Islam and the opposition to him at Makkah had grown active and strong.
About the second section, (v. 20) although many of the commentators have expressed the opinion that this too was sent down at Makkah, some other commentators regard it as a Madani Revelation. This same opinion is confirmed by the subject matter of this section. It mentions fighting in the way of Allah and, obviously, there could be no question of it at Makkah. It also contains the command to pay the obligatory Zakah, and it is confirmed that paying Zakah at a specific rate and with an exemption limit (Nisab) was enjoined at Madinah.
- Allah ordered the Prophet not to stand in prayer the whole night.
- Those who oppose the Prophet will be treated with heavy fetters and blazing fire.
- The Qur'an is a reminder for those who want to find the Right Way.
- Read from the Qur'an as much as you easily can.
- Whatever you spend in the way of Allah, you will find it in the Hereafter.
In the first seven verses, the Prophet (pbuh) has been commanded: "Prepare yourself to shoulder the responsibilities of the great Mission that has been entrusted to you; its practical form is that you should rise during the hours of night and stand up in Prayer for half the night, or for a little more or less of it. Devote yourself exclusively to that God Who is the Owner of the whole universe and entrust all your affairs to Him with full satisfaction of the heart. Bear with patience whatever your opponents may utter against you. Do not be intimate with them. Leave their affair to God: He Himself will deal with them." The people of Makkah are warned: "We have sent a Messenger to you just as We sent a Messenger to the Pharaoh. Just consider what fate Pharaoh met when he did not accept the invitation of the Messenger of Allah. Supposing that you are not punished by a torment in this world, how will you save yourselves from the punishment for disbelief on the Day of Resurrection."
The second section, according to a tradition from Sayyiduna Sa'id bin Jubair, was sent down ten years later, and in it the initial command given in connection with the Tahajjud Prayer, in the beginning of the first section, was curtailed. The new Command enjoined, "Offer as much of the Tahajjud Prayer as you easily can, but what the Muslims should particularly mind and attend to is the five times obligatory prayer a day:, they should establish it regularly and punctually; they should discharge their Zakah dues accurately; and they should spend their wealth with sincere intentions for the sake of Allah.
In conclusion, the Muslims are exhorted: "Whatever good works you do in the world will not go waste, but they are like the provision which a traveller sends up in advance to his permanent place of residence. Whatever good you send up from the world, you will find it with Allah, and the provision thus sent up is much better than what you will have to leave behind in the world, and with Allah you will also get a much better and richer reward than what you have actually sent up before."