Surah al-Ma'idah (The Table) 5 : 15

يَٰٓأَهْلَ ٱلْكِتَٰبِ قَدْ جَآءَكُمْ رَسُولُنَا يُبَيِّنُ لَكُمْ كَثِيرًا مِّمَّا كُنتُمْ تُخْفُونَ مِنَ ٱلْكِتَٰبِ وَيَعْفُوا۟ عَن كَثِيرٍ ۚ قَدْ جَآءَكُم مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ نُورٌ وَكِتَٰبٌ مُّبِينٌ


 Muhsin Khan
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
O People of the Book, there has come to you Our Messenger making clear to you much of what you used to conceal of the Book and overlooking much. There has come to you from Allāh a light and a clear Book [i.e., the Qur’ān]

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

Those people who received revelations in the past found it rather hard to accept that a Prophet who did not belong to them should call on them to submit themselves to God. This Prophet belonged to a nation of illiterate people whom they used to despise, on account of their being unlettered while they themselves had Divine Scriptures. God wanted to bestow a great honour on those unlettered people and, therefore, He chose from among them the individual who was to become the last of all Prophets. He also gave them His final message, addressed to all mankind. He taught those unlettered people to become the ones with the highest standard of knowledge on earth. This transformation made them the ones with the highest beliefs, the most consistent and sound way of life, the most complete system and legal code, the soundest social set-up and the most sublime standard of morality. All this was part of the grace God bestowed on them when He chose Islam to be their faith. Those unlettered people could not have aspired to be the guides for humanity without this grace they received from God. Indeed, they never had and will never have anything to offer humanity except for what their faith gives them.

In this Divine address to the people of earlier Scriptures, it is made clear that they are called upon to accept Islam, believe in Muĥammad and support him, as this has been part of their covenant which God accepted from them. They are clearly told that God Himself is a witness that this Prophet who could not read and write was His Messenger to them as well as to the Arabs and to all mankind. There is no denying the fact that his message was given to him by God, and no claim can be admitted that his message was addressed to the Arabs only; it is, indeed, addressed also to the people of earlier revelations: “People of earlier revelations, Our Messenger has come to you to make clear to you much of what you have been concealing of the Scriptures, and to forgive you much.” He has sent a Messenger to you, and his role is to open things up to you so that you see them in their reality. You can thus see how he brings out into the open what you have conspired to suppress of the basic truth of the revelations given to you.

This applies to both the Christians and Jews. The Christians suppressed the very basic and fundamental principle of faith, namely, the concept of God’s oneness, and the Jews suppressed many Divine legislations such as the punishment of adulterers with stoning and the total prohibition of usury. Both the Christians and the Jews also suppressed the news of the future mission of the unlettered Prophet, “whom they find mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel in their hands.” (7: 157) He (peace be upon him) pardons them for much of what they had distorted or suppressed as it is not included in his revelations. God has abrogated many of the rulings of earlier Scriptures and Divine codes as these had fulfilled their purpose in the particular community to which the message had been revealed. They had no longer any role to play in human society. Now the final, comprehensive and everlasting message has been revealed and become well-established as a demonstration of the perfection of the grace God has bestowed on man, when He chose self-surrender, or Islam, as the basis of the faith acceptable to Him. No abrogation or modification can be introduced into this message.

The nature of what the last Messenger has been given, the role it is destined to play in human life and its practical effect are then explained: “There has come to you from God a light and a clear Book.” Perhaps nothing expresses the nature of the Qur’ān and the Divine message of Islam more accurately and comprehensively than stating that it is “a light”. In his heart of hearts, in everything in his life, in his evaluation of things, events and people, a believer realises as soon as he accepts the truth of faith that he has a light that makes everything clear to him. Everything brightens up in front of him. No longer is he confused about anything; no longer does he suffer any hesitation before taking a serious decision; no longer is he travelling an unmarked road and no longer is he uncertain of his direction. His ultimate goal is clear. His way towards it is straight and he is certain of his footsteps. Two qualities describe the message which was given to the noble Messenger: “a light and a clear book”

It has been God’s pleasure to choose self-surrender, or Islam, as a religion for mankind. Anyone who follows what God has been pleased to choose for him and accepts it with pleasure will be guided by God “to the paths of peace”. How true and accurate this description is. What this faith imparts to life as a whole is peace, in the broadest sense of the term. It is peace within the individual, the community and the whole world. It is peace with one’s conscience, with one’s mind and body. It is peace within the home and family, society and the community and with humanity at large. It is peace with life, the universe and with the Creator, God. Mankind never knew or experienced this sort of peace except through following this faith and implementing its laws and systems.

It is a true fact that through this religion of Islam God guides anyone who seeks His pleasure by following it “to the paths of peace” in all the aforementioned aspects of life. No one can appreciate how profound a blessing this is except a person who has experienced what life is like along the paths of war in ignorant societies, old and modern, or one who has experienced the turmoil of worry and restlessness generated within man’s conscience by deviant faiths, or erroneous laws and systems. Those who were the first to be addressed by these Qur’ānic revelations realised, as a result of their past experience in ignorant societies, the true meaning of this peace which brought happiness into their personal lives.


2. Linguistic Analysis

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Frequency of Root words in this Ayat used in this Surah *

3. Surah Overview

4. Miscellaneous Information

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5. Connected/Related Ayat

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6. Frequency of the word

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7. Period of Revelation

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The theme of this Surah indicates and traditions support it, that it was revealed after the treaty of Hudaibiyah at the end of 6 A.H. or in the beginning of 7 A.H.

The Prophet set out along with 1400 Muslims to Makkah in 6 A.H. to perform Umrah (the lesser pilgrimage). Even though it was against all the ancient religious traditions of Arabia – the Quraysh prevented them. After a fair amount of negotiation,  a treaty was concluded at Hudaibiyah according to which it was agreed that he would be allowed to perform Umrah the following year. This is why the introductory verses deal with with the pilgrimage to Makkah and the same theme has been resumed in v. 101-104. The other topics of this Surah also appear to belong to the same period. [REF: Mawdudi]

8. Reasons for Revelation

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The general attitude towards the Muslims had now changed since the revelation of the previous Surahs 3: Al-Imran (Family of Imran) and Surah 4: An-Nisa (The Women)

Islam had become a force and the Islamic State had extended to Najd on the east, to the Red Sea on the west, to Syria on the north, and to Makkah on the south. The set-back which the Muslims had suffered at Uhud had not broken their determination. It had rather spurred them to action. As a result of their continuous struggle and unparalleled sacrifices the power of the surrounding clans within a radius of 200 miles or so had been subdued. The conspiracies of the Jewish tribes -  which had always threatened Madinah -  were totally removed and the Jews in other parts of the Arabian Peninsula (Hijaz) had become tributaries of the State of Madinah. The last effort of the Quraysh to suppress Islam had been thwarted in the Battle of the Ditch. After this it had become quite obvious to the Arabs that no power could suppress the Islamic movement.

Islam was no longer merely a creed which ruled over the minds and hearts of the people but had also become a State which dominated over every aspect of the life of the people who lived within its boundaries. This had enabled the Muslims to live their lives without any hindrance in accordance with their beliefs.

Another development had also taken place during this period. The Muslim state had developed in accordance with the principles of Islam and this was quite distinct from all other civilisations in all its details. It identified the Muslims clearly from the non-Muslims in their moral, social and cultural behaviour. Mosques had been built in all territories, prayer had been established and a leader (Imam) for every habitation and clan had been appointed. The Islamic civil and criminal laws had been formulated in detail and were being enforced through the Islamic courts. New and reformed ways of trade and commerce had taken the place of the old ones. The Islamic laws of marriage and divorce, of the segregation of the sexes, of the punishment for adultery and slander and the like had cast the social life of the Muslims in a special mould. Their social behaviour, their conversation, their dress, their very mode of living, their culture etc., had taken a definite shape of its own. As a result of all these changes, the non-Muslims could not expect that the Muslims would ever return to their former ways. Before the treaty of Hudaibiyah, the Muslims were so engaged in their struggle with the non-Muslim Quraysh that had little time to propagate their message. This was resolved by what was apparently a defeat but in reality a victory at Hudaibiyah. This gave the Muslims not only peace in their own territory but also respite to spread their message in the surrounding territories. Accordingly, the Prophet addressed letters to the chiefs of Arabia, the rulers of Persia, Egypt and the Roman Empire 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 Way of God. These were the circumstances at the time when al- Ma’idah was revealed.

9. Relevant Hadith

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  • The Prophet Muhammad [saw] said," Allah [swt] said, إِنَّمَا بَعَثْتُكَ لأَبْتَلِيَكَ وَأَبْتَلِيَ بِكَ وَأَنْزَلْتُ عَلَيْكَ كِتَابًا لاَ يَغْسِلُهُ الْمَاءُ تَقْرَؤُهُ نَائِمًا وَيَقْظَانَ“I have sent you [O Prophet] in order to put you to test and put those to test through you. And I sent the Book to you which cannot be washed away by water, so that you may recite it while in the state of wakefulness and sleep." [Hadith Qudsi, Muslim no. 2865a - صحيح [Sahih]

10. Wiki Forum

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11. Tafsir Zone


12. External Links

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