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

Surah Introduction

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This is the 5th Surah according to the arrangement of the Qur'an and 112th according to the order of revelation (Ibn Abbas).  It was revealed in Madina soon after the Treaty of Hudaibiyah either towards the end of the 6th year of Hijrah or at the beginning of the 7th year of Hijrah. According to some reports, Ayah (5:3) is believed to be amongst the last Ayaat revealed to the Prophet (saw), الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الْإِسْلَامَ دِينًا   "....This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.." (5:3).

There are six main points discussed in this Surah:

  1. All obligations whether they are divine or human should be fulfilled. When we have a pledge or promise or sign a treaty we must abide by it. Also Allah gave some rules for life to keep us clean and sober. Cleanliness of the body, living with justice, being upright and moral, avoiding sin, corruption and superstition, and doing the deeds of piety and righteousness are important rules and principles and must be observed.
  2. Message to the People of the Book i.e. Christians and Jews to recognize the truth. Allah's punishment comes on those who reject Allah's rules and knowingly violate them.
  3. The story of the two children of Adam is told. This story has many lessons. Sometime even your brothers become envious of you and they harm you. Just and righteous persons sometimes suffer at the hands of their own family members, but God's judgment also comes. The righteous under no situation give up right attitude and behavior.
  4. Muslims must deal with justice with all people. Justice should be impartial, even to their enemies they must be just. However, relations among Muslims themselves should be deeper. There should not be only justice but also love, brotherhood, care and concern for each other.
  5. Enjoy the good things that Allah has given, but guard against excesses. Do not indulge in swearing, gambling, intoxicants, superstitions, violation of the sanctities of the Sanctuary of Allah (the Ka'bah).
  6. Jesus - peace be upon him - was a great prophet of Allah and he performed many miracles. His teachings were corrupted by some after his departure.


  1. General Rules of Discipline
  2. Cleanliness for prayers, Command to abide by justice.
  3. Allah's covenant with the Children of Israel.
  4. Children of Israel broke the covenant of God.
  5. Musa -peace be upon him- warned the Children of Israel.
  6. Story of the two children of Adam, Punishment for the offenders.
  7. Allah's rules must be established.
  8. The relations of Muslims with their opponents.
  9. Those who make the mockery of the truth.
  10. How Christians deviated from the truth.
  11. Some Christians came closer to Islam and recognized the truth.
  12. Prohibition against intoxicants, gambling and shirk.
  13. Respect of the Ka'bah.
  14. Rules against idolatry and about testimony.
  15. Some miracles of Jesus - peace be upon him.
  16. How the teachings of Jesus were corrupted after his departure.

The name of the Surah is taken from the incident of the disciples of Jesus asking him to pray for a Table spread with food [5:112].

Other name used for this Surah include:

  • al-Uqood [The Covenants]

There are 120 Ayat in Surah al-Maidah


Total Ayat120
Total Words *2804
Root Words *431
Unique Root Words *0
Makki / MadaniMadani
Chronological Order* 112th (according to Ibn Abbas)
Year of Revelation* 19th year of Prophethood (6th Year Hijri)
Events during/before this Surah*
Treaty of Hudaiybiyah - Letters to Kings and Rulers, Battle of Ahzab - Expedition of Banu Quraydhah, , Battle of Uhud, Change of Qiblah from Jerusalem to Makkah - Battle of Badr, Migration from Makkah to Madinah - Building of Masjid Nabi in Madinah - Treaty with Jews of Madinah - Marriage of Prophet to Aishah, , 2nd Pledge of Aqabah, 1st Pledge of Aqabah, Death of Abu Talib - Death of Khadijah - Stoning at Ta'if - al-Isra wal Mi'raj - Night Journey, Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 3, Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 2, Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 1, 2nd Migration to Abyssinia, Physical beating and torture of some Muslims - 1st Migration of Muslims to Abyssinia, Public Invitation to Islam - Persecution of Muslims; antagonism - ridicule - derision - accusation - abuse and false propaganda., Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam , Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam , Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam
Events during/after still to occur*
,Conquest of Makkah - Battle of Hunain,Hajj led by Abu Bakr - Expedition of Tabuk,Farewell Hajj by Prophet - Death of Prophet - End of Divine Revelation
Names of Prophets Mentioned
Adam, Musa, Dawud, Isa
Surah Index
Adam, God (hard strivers rewarded better) , God (made no laws regarding that of which He didn’t speak) , Alliances (Christians and Jews) , Apes, Apostasy, Apostasy (repentance) , Behaviour (each group given a law and way of life) , Behaviour (each group given a law and way of life) (God could have made them one community), Bible, Bible (distortion of) , Burial (indirect reference to) , Cain and Abel, Canaan, Charity, Children (of Israel) , Children (of Israel) (commandment concerning killing by), Christians, Christians (come closest to feeling affection to Muslims) , Christians (most have forgotten what they have been told to bear in mind) , Christians (now comes to you a messenger) , Christians (righteous will be rewarded) , Commandments (general religious) , Contract Law (witnesses told to be truthful) , Corruption, Covenants, Customs, David, Death, Disbelievers, Disbelievers (God’s promise to) , Disbelievers (relationship to belivers) , Fasting, Fighting (aggression) (sin of), Fighting, Fighting (repentence of recent belligerents) , Food, Food (forbidden) , Food (lawful) , Friends (avoid active disbelievers) , Future (learning of it through divination forbidden) , Gabriel, Games of Chance (forbidden) , Gospel, Hajj (hunting forbidden) , Hajj (hunting forbidden) (aquatic game approved during), Hajj (hunting forbidden) (violate it once? Don’t do it twice!), Hajj (hunting forbidden) (reparations for doing it once), Hajj (rules) , Health rules (food) , Health rules (food) (caught by your hunting animals), Hell, Hunting (about animals trained to hunt) , Hypocrites, Iblis, Idolatry (forbidden) , Inheritance, Intoxicants (forbidden except in dire circumstances) , Jesus, Jesus (healing of blind and lepers--- raising the dead) , Jesus (his holy inspiration) , Jesus (not God) , Jesus (only a messenger) , Jews, Jews (and Christians) , Jews (and Christians) (messenger comes to them), Jews (and Christians) (enmity and hatred among them), Jews (and Christians) (say they are God’s Children), Jews (hurting themselves by their misinterpretations) , Jews (most have forgotten what they’ve been told to bear in mind) , Jews (most hostile to Muslims) , Jews (religious commandments) , Jews (retribution given in the Torah) , Jews (righteous will be rewarded) , Jews (slaying prophets) , Jews (some distort meanings of all revelations) , Jews (some distort meanings of all revelations) (forgive them), Jihad (striving hard in God’s cause) , Judgement, Judgement (be just) , Judgement (be just) (don’t let hate lead judgement astray), Judgement (Day) , Ka’bah, Killing (only during hostilities in progress) , Killing (punishment for murder and spreading corruption on Earth) , Knowledge, Kufr, Life (good things made lawful) , Marriage (dowry) , Marriage (forbidden) (to non-believers), Marriage (fornication forbidden) , Mary, Mary (not a deity) , Moses (commands to his people) , Necessity (dire circumstances may repeal ordinances forbidding something) , Oaths (atonement for broken ones) , Oaths (atonement for broken ones) (feeding or clothing 10 freeing a slave fasting for 3 days), Qur’an, Qur’an (completion of) , Qur’an (conveyed clearly) , Qur’an (distortion of) , Ramadhan, Religion, Resurrection (Day) , Resurrection (of soul) , Sabians (righteous will be rewarded) , Sea, Sin, Slaves (freeing) (as penance for a broken oath), Stealing (cutting off hands as punishment) , Stealing (cutting off hands as punishment) (forgiveness for (before discovery)), Swine, Torah, Torah (retribution in (also adopted by Muslims)) , Torah (retribution in (also adopted by Muslims)) (forgoing it will be better), Trinity (God is not a) , Wills (two witnesses when you declare it) , Wills (two witnesses when you declare it) (if those two should falter)

Central Theme

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In continuation of the instructions about the consolidation of the Islamic Community given in Surat An-Nisa’, the Muslims have been directed to observe and fulfill all their obligations: further regulations have been prescribed to train the Muslims for that purpose.

They have also been particularly warned as rulers to guard against the corruption of power and directed to observe the Covenant of the Qur’an. They have also been exhorted to learn lessons from the failings of their predecessors, the Jews and the Christians, who in their turn have been admonished to give up their wrong attitudes towards the right way and accept the guidance taught by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Topics of the Surah

1- This Surah starts with the command to fulfill the covenants which not only encompass covenants between people, but also covenants between Allah and His servants.

2- The Surah then draws many analogies from the history of the People of the Book who did not honor their covenants with Allah.

3- Believers are requested to study the consequences of such deviations and avoid falling into the same mistakes as previous nations. It is for the central theme of this chapter that it is also given the name Surah Al-‘Uqud (Covenants).

4- The Surah emphasizes that making Allah’s revelation the basis of all judgments is the true meaning of Islam, and that what Allah has pronounced as lawful or unlawful is the true meaning of religion.

5- The surah emphasizes Allah’s oneness and repudiating all forms of polytheism, trinity and association of partners with Allah or equals to Him.

6- The surah includes a host of legislative rulings on a wide variety of subjects, such as which animals are lawful to eat when slaughtered or hunted; what is permissible or restricted during the period of consecration, or ihram, in pilgrimage and in the Sacred Mosque at the Ka’bah.

7- The Surah also discusses what is permissible or forbidden in marriage; purification for worship and prayer; judgment and the administration of justice; mandatory punishment for theft and rebellion against a lawful Islamic government; wines and intoxicants, gambling, idols and divining arrows; atonement for breached oaths and hunting.

Connection of the name of the Surah and its Ayaat

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  • The name of the Surah is taken from the incident of the disciples of Jesus asking him to pray for a Table spread with food [5:112].

Connection between the beginning and the ending of the Surah

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Manuscripts / Inscriptions

Connection of the Surah to the Surah before/after it

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The Virtues of the Surah

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Special Features of the Surah

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Important key and unique words of the Surah

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  • "O you who Believe" - يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا   -  The opening words of the Surah appear more times in Surah al-Maidah compared to all other Surahs, occuring 16 times.  
  • The word 'Food' [طعم] has been mentioned more times in this Surah than any other Surah of the Qur'an. It has been mentioned 6 times.

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]

Background 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.

Relevant Hadith

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  • Lawful (Halal) and unlawful (Haram) in the matters of food.
  • Permission to eat the food of Ahl-al-Kitab (Jews and Christians).
  • Permission to marry women of Ahl-al-Kitab (Jews and Christians).
  • Regulations about bath, wudhu and Tayammum.
  • The fact that Salah and Zakah were also obligatory for Jews and Christians.
  • Invitation to Jews and Christians to become Muslims.
  • Those who do not judge by the Laws of Allah are declared to be unbelievers, wrong doers and transgressors.
  • Warning to guard against corruption of power.
  • Punishment for rebellion, disturbing the peace and theft.
  • Absolute prohibition of drinking and gambling.
  • Additional rules for the laws of evidence.
  • Miracles of Jesus - and the fact that he did not claim divinity.
  • Testimony of Jesus which he shall give on the Day of Judgement.

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Miscellaneous Issues

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