Surah al-Ma'idah (The Table) 5 : 49

وَأَنِ ٱحْكُم بَيْنَهُم بِمَآ أَنزَلَ ٱللَّهُ وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَآءَهُمْ وَٱحْذَرْهُمْ أَن يَفْتِنُوكَ عَنۢ بَعْضِ مَآ أَنزَلَ ٱللَّهُ إِلَيْكَ ۖ فَإِن تَوَلَّوْا۟ فَٱعْلَمْ أَنَّمَا يُرِيدُ ٱللَّهُ أَن يُصِيبَهُم بِبَعْضِ ذُنُوبِهِمْ ۗ وَإِنَّ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ ٱلنَّاسِ لَفَٰسِقُونَ


 Muhsin Khan
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
And judge, [O Muhammad], between them by what Allāh has revealed and do not follow their inclinations and beware of them, lest they tempt you away from some of what Allāh has revealed to you. And if they turn away - then know that Allāh only intends to afflict them with some of their [own] sins. And indeed, many among the people are defiantly disobedient.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

This principle is stated with greater clarity. The Prophet is warned against compromising even a portion of what has been revealed to him: “Judge between them in accordance with what God has revealed, and do not follow their vain desires and beware of them lest they tempt you away from any part of what God has revealed to you.” The warning here is more precise, stricter and stronger. It also states the matter in its true nature. It is a temptation which must be resisted. The choice is either to implement God’s law in full, or to follow vain desires.

At that time, they had the choice whether to refer their disputes to God’s law, a choice which was later abrogated in the land of Islam. God’s law has to be implemented except in those areas where the followers of other religions have specific provisions. These they are allowed to implement. As this was the case, the Prophet is told not to worry about them if they do not like his commitment to every detail of God’s law or if they turn away from Islam: “If they turn away, then know that it is God’s will to afflict them for some of their sins. Indeed, a great many people are transgressors.” Do not worry about them if they turn away. Do not let their attitude weaken your resolve to implement God’s law in full. It is they who will suffer as a result of their turning away because God will then afflict them with their sins. Neither the Prophet, nor the Muslim community, nor indeed God’s law will come to any harm as a result of their turning away. Moreover, it is in human nature that many people will transgress. The Prophet is told that he has no say in this state of affairs. Nor is it the fault of God’s law. It is they who will not follow the right path.

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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  • Ali said I heard the Messenger of Allah says,
    أَلَا إنَّها ستكونُ فتنةٌ ، فقلتُ : ما المَخْرَجُ منها يا رسولَ اللهِ ؟ قال : كتابُ اللهِ فيه نَبَأُ ما قَبْلَكم ، وخَبَرُ ما بعدَكم ، وحُكْمُ ما بينكم ، وهو الفَصْلُ ليس بالهَزْلِ مَن تركه من جَبَّارٍ قَصَمَهُ اللهُ ، ومَن ابْتَغَى الهُدَى في غيرِه أَضَلَّهُ اللهُ ، وهو حَبْلُ اللهِ المَتِينُ ، وهو الذِّكْرُ الحكيمُ ، وهو الصراطُ المستقيمُ . هو الذي لا تَزِيغُ به الأهواءُ ، ولا تَلْتَبِسُ به الْأَلْسِنَةُ ، ولا يَشْبَعُ منه العلماءُ ، ولا يَخْلَقُ عن كَثْرَةِ الرَّدِّ ، ولا تَنْقَضِي عجائبُه . هو الذي لم تَنْتَهِ الجِنُّ إذ سَمِعَتْه حتى قالوا : إِنَّا سَمِعْنَا قُرْآنًا عَجَبًا يَهْدِي إِلَى الرُّشْدِ فَآمَنَّا بِهِ . مَن قال به صدق ، ومَن عَمِلَ به أُجِرَ ، ومَن حكم به عدل ، ومَن دعا إليه هُدِيَ إلى صراطٍ مستقيمٍ
    Fitnah will certainly come.’ I asked what is the way out O Messenger of Allah? He replied, ‘The Book of Allah [swt] is the way, for it contains information of what happened before you, news of what will come after you and a decision regarding matters that will occur among you....It is deciscive [fasl] and not a joke [hazl]. Whoever leaves leaves it, is a tyrant and Allah [swt] will break him, and if anyone seeks guidance elsewhere [other than the Qur’ān] Allah will lead him astray.  It is the rope of Allah [swt], the wise reminder, the straight path, whims would not deviate it nor the tongue become confused, and the scholars cannot be fully satisfied [i.e. still more to explore]. It is not worn down by repetition nor do its wonders ever cease……He who quotes it speaks the truth, he who acts according to it is rewarded, he who judges according to it is just, and he who invites people to it [i.e. the Qur’ān] is [himself] guided to the Straight Path….’ Tirmidhee no. 2906,  [Da’eef - the chain is weak but the meaning is Saheeh – scholars comment that in this current form it is more likely the statement of Ali and not from the Prophet]

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