The first seven verses of this Surah were revealed during the early period at Makkah. The rest of the Surah (vv. 8-56) was revealed on the occasion of the first Hajj, after the Prophet started preaching Islam openly.
- Instructions to the Prophet for cleanliness and patience.
- The fact that the Day of Judgement will be very difficult especially for those who deny Allah's revelations and oppose His cause.
- Actions which lead to the hellfire are: Not offering Salah, not feeding the poor, wasting time in vain talk and denying the Day of Judgement.
The earliest revelation to the Prophet (pbuh) was the first five verses of Surah Al-'Alaq, in which it was said: "Read (O Prophet), in the name of your Rabb, Who created: created man from a clot of congealed blood. Read; and your Rabb is Most Generous, Who taught knowledge by the pen, taught man what he did not know."
This was his first experience of revelation, therefore, in this Message it was not told what great mission he was being entrusted with and what duties he had to perform in the future. He was only initiated into it and then left alone for a while in order to absorb the great strain this experience had caused him and to allow him to become mentally prepared to receive the revelation and perform the prophetic mission in the future. After this intermission, when the revelation was resumed, the first seven verses of Surah Al-Muddaththir were revealed. In these Ayat, he was for the first time commanded to arise and warn the people of the consequences of the way of life they were following and to proclaim the greatness of Allah in a world where others were being magnified without any justification. He was given this instruction: "The demand of the unique mission that you are to perform now, is that your life should be pure in every respect and you should carry out the duty of reforming your people sincerely, irrespective of any worldly gain." Then, in the last sentence, he is exhorted to endure with patience, for the sake of his Rabb, all the hardships and troubles that he might have to face while performing his mission.
In the implementation of this Divine Command, when the Prophet began to preach Islam and recite the Qur'anic Surahs revealed successively, the people of Makkah felt alarmed, and it provoked a great storm of opposition and hostility. A few months passed in this state until the Hajj season approached. The people of Makkah feared that if Muhammad (pbuh) started visiting the caravans of the pilgrims coming from all over Arabia at their resting places reciting the spell binding and unique verses of the Qur'an to their assemblies, his message would eventually reach every part of Arabia and influence countless people. Therefore, the Qureysh chiefs held a conference and decided that they would start a propaganda campaign against the Prophet (pbuh) among the pilgrims as soon as they arrived. After they had agreed on this, Walid bin Al-Mughirah said to the assembled people: "If you say contradictory things about Muhammad, we all would lose our trust among the people. Therefore, let us agree upon one opinion, which we should all say without dispute. They all requested Walid to come up with some statement and he said: "Let me think it over for awhile." Then, after prolonged thought and consideration, he said: "The nearest thing to the truth is that you tell the Arabs that he is a sorcerer, who has brought a message by which he separates a man from his father, and from his brother, and from his wife and children, and from his family." They all agreed on what Walid had proposed. Then, in accordance to the scheme, the men of Qureysh spread out among the pilgrims of Hajj and warned everyone that they should avoid the sorcery of Muhammad through which he stirs up division among the families." But the plan, which the Qureysh chiefs carried out, yielded results contrary to what they had expected and actually favored the Prophet and his name became known throughout Arabia. (Ibn Hisham, pp. 288-289).
In conclusion, this Surah clearly states: "Allah does not stand in need of anybody's faith. The Qur'an is an admonition that has been presented before the people openly; now whoever wants may accept it. Allah has the right that the people should fear Him and He Alone has the power to forgive the one who adopts piety and God consciousness, even though one may have committed many acts of disobedience in the past."