This Surah was revealed in the 9th year of Hijrah in three different discourses. The first discourse (vv. 1-37) was revealed in Zil-Q'adah and set a new policy towards the mushrikin. The second discourse (vv. 38-72) was revealed in Rajab and dealt with the Campaign of Tabuk. The third discourse (vv. 73-129) was revealed upon the Prophet's return from the Campaign of Tabuk. There are some pieces in this discourse that were sent down on different occasions during the same period and were afterwards consolidated by the Prophet into the Surah in accordance with the inspiration from Allah.
- Policy towards the mushrikin.
- Commandments relating to participation in Jihad.
- Regulations relating to hypocrisy, weak faith, and negligence.
- Campaign of Tabuk.
- Establishment of a Dar-ul-Islam (an Islamic state).
- Extending the influence of Islam to adjoining countries.
- Crushing the mischief of the hypocrites.
- Preparing the Muslims for a struggle in the cause of Islam.
Now that the administration of the whole of Arabia had come into the hands of the believers, and all the opposing powers had become helpless, it was necessary to make a clear declaration of the policy which was to be adopted to make this newly formed Islamic state a perfect Dar-ul-Islam. In order to accomplish this objective, the following measures were taken:
- A declaration was made that all the treaties with the mushrikin were abolished and the Muslims would be released from the treaty obligations with them after the expiration of four months notice.
- A decree was issued that the guardianship of the Ka'bah should be taken away from the mushrikin and placed permanently in the hands of the believers (vv. 12-18), that all the customs and practices relating to the era of "ignorance" should be abolished, and that the mushrikin should not be allowed in the vicinity of the Ka'bah (v. 28). A decree was issued to crush the non-Muslim powers and force them to accept the sovereignty of the Islamic State. The object of Jihad was not to coerce them to accept Islam, as they were free to accept or not accept it. The object was to allow them the freedom to remain misguided, if they chose to be so, provided that they paid Jizya, the protection tax (v. 29), as a sign of their subjugation to the Islamic State.
- To ensure the stability of the Islamic State, gangs of the hypocrites who were being tolerated in spite of their flagrant crimes, were crushed. The Muslims were enjoined to treat them openly as disbelievers (v. 73). Accordingly, the Prophet set on fire the house of Swailim, where the hypocrites used to gather for consultations in order to dissuade the people from joining the expedition of Tabuk. When the Prophet returned from Tabuk, he ordered pulled down and burned, the "masjid," which was being used by the hypocrites as a place for hatching plots against the true believers.
- Those people who lagged behind in the Campaign of Tabuk or showed the least negligence, were severely taken to task if they had no plausible excuse for not fulfilling that obligation. For there could be no greater internal danger to the Islamic community than weakness of faith, especially on the eve of a conflict with the whole non-Muslim world.
- A declaration was made that in the future, the sole criterion of an individual's true faith would be the exertion that individuals make for spreading the Word of Allah and the role they play in the conflict between Islam and Kufr. Therefore, if anyone shows any hesitation in sacrificing his life, money, time, and energies, his faith shall not be regarded as genuine. (vv. 81-96)