Surah al-Ma'idah (The Table) 5 : 48

وَأَنزَلْنَآ إِلَيْكَ ٱلْكِتَٰبَ بِٱلْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ مِنَ ٱلْكِتَٰبِ وَمُهَيْمِنًا عَلَيْهِ ۖ فَٱحْكُم بَيْنَهُم بِمَآ أَنزَلَ ٱللَّهُ ۖ وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَآءَهُمْ عَمَّا جَآءَكَ مِنَ ٱلْحَقِّ ۚ لِكُلٍّ جَعَلْنَا مِنكُمْ شِرْعَةً وَمِنْهَاجًا ۚ وَلَوْ شَآءَ ٱللَّهُ لَجَعَلَكُمْ أُمَّةً وَٰحِدَةً وَلَٰكِن لِّيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِى مَآ ءَاتَىٰكُمْ ۖ فَٱسْتَبِقُوا۟ ٱلْخَيْرَٰتِ ۚ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
And We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], the Book [i.e., the Qur’ān] in truth, confirming that which preceded it of the Book and as a criterion over it. So judge between them by what Allāh has revealed and do not follow their inclinations away from what has come to you of the truth. To each of you We prescribed a law and a method. Had Allāh willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good. To Allāh is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

This is a definitive statement, expressed in the clearest of terms. It takes extreme care to forestall any temptation to abandon even a small part of this law, regardless of the circumstances. When one reflects on this, one is bound to wonder how a person who claims to be a Muslim can abandon God’s law in its totality, justifying his action by force of circumstance. How can he find it in himself to continue to claim that he is a Muslim after so doing? How can people call themselves Muslims when they have refused to acknowledge God’s Godhead, turned their backs on God’s law and denied its suitability for all situations!

“And to you, We have revealed the Book, setting forth the truth.” Since it is revealed by God, the only One who has the authority to enact laws, then it certainly sets forth the truth. Everything that it contains of matters of faith, law, directives and stories are true.

Hence, it is the Book of the truth. Moreover, it confirms “the Scriptures which had already been revealed before it and superseding them.” It, thus, provides the final version of the Divine faith. It is the final arbiter not only in this regard, but also with regard to the way of life mankind should follow, the legislation that should be implemented and the system that should be established. No modification is admissible. Any disagreement over any of these matters, whether between followers of Divine religions or between Muslims themselves, must be referred to this Book. No opinion advanced by any human being has any value unless it is supported by this final authority.

As this is an undeniable fact, it must have its practical implementation: “Judge, then, between them in accordance with what God has revealed and do not follow their vain desires, forsaking thereby the truth that has come to you.” This command is addressed in the first instance to God’s Messenger (peace be upon him) with respect to those of the followers of earlier religions who came to him for arbitration. But its import is not confined to this particular aspect. It is a general order, applicable till the end of time since there will never be a new messenger or a new message to modify anything in this final version of God’s message to mankind.

This religion has been made complete, and through it God has perfected the grace He has bestowed on Muslims. Moreover, God has been pleased to choose this religion as a way of life for all mankind. As we have repeatedly said, no modification or amendment is possible or admissible. When God chose it for human life, He knew its inherent suitability. As God makes it the final arbiter, He knows that it benefits all mankind and that it can be implemented in all generations till the Day of Judgement. Anyone who seeks to modify it, let alone abandon it altogether, takes himself out of the fold of Islam altogether, even though he reiterates a thousand times his claim to be a Muslim.

Twice in this short passage God warns the Prophet (peace be upon him) against yielding to the desires of those who come to him for arbitration trying to tempt him away from any part of his revelations. At times, the thought may occur to some people that under certain circumstances, a certain provision of God’s law may be modified or set aside. One such motivation could be the desire to establish a measure of unity among all sects and faiths living in the same country. Some people, however, may advocate a conciliatory attitude in matters which may not appear to be so fundamental.

Some reports suggest that the Jews in Madinah made an offer to the Prophet (peace be upon him) that they would follow him, if he agreed to waive certain provisions of the law including that of stoning adulterers. These reports suggest that the warning contained in these verses relate to that particular offer. It is perfectly clear, however, that the order given here has general application. The followers of this Divine faith may face similar temptations and similar offers. God chooses to give His final word in such matters and to leave no room for a compromise. He tells His Messenger that had He so willed, He would have made all mankind a single community. But He has chosen to give each community a code of law and a way of life in order to test them according to what He has given them. Each community will follow its own way but they will all return to God when He will hold them accountable for their actions and the method they had chosen to implement. He will tell them the truth over which they differ. As such, no compromise can be pursued in order to unite those who differ in method and way of life. Such a unification is out of the question: “To every one of you We have given a code of law and a way of life. Had God so willed, He could have made you all one community; but (it is His wish) to test you by means of that which He has bestowed on you. Vie, then, with one another in doing good works. To God you shall all return. He will then make you understand all that over which you now differ” As we clearly see, God has left no loophole. Even when a compromise may promise good results, such as national unity, it is inadmissible. God’s law is too precious for any part of it to be sacrificed in return for something which God knows will never happen. People have been created with varying susceptibilities and different methods and ways. God has created them so for a particular purpose of His. He has offered them His guidance and called on them to vie with one another in doing good works. When they return to Him, He rewards them according to their deeds.

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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10. Wiki Forum

Comments in this section are statements made by general users – these are not necessarily explanations of the Ayah – rather a place to share personal thoughts and stories…

11. Tafsir Zone

 

12. External Links

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