Surah al-Ma'idah (The Table) 5 : 94

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ لَيَبْلُوَنَّكُمُ ٱللَّهُ بِشَىْءٍ مِّنَ ٱلصَّيْدِ تَنَالُهُۥٓ أَيْدِيكُمْ وَرِمَاحُكُمْ لِيَعْلَمَ ٱللَّهُ مَن يَخَافُهُۥ بِٱلْغَيْبِ ۚ فَمَنِ ٱعْتَدَىٰ بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ فَلَهُۥ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
O you who have believed, Allāh will surely test you through something of the game that your hands and spears [can] reach, that Allāh may make evident those who fear Him unseen. And whoever transgresses after that - for him is a painful punishment.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

The verse continues to elaborate on further prohibitions, speaking about game when one is in the state of consecration, or iĥrām, and what compensates for its killing. It further speaks of the purpose of the sanctity of the House of Worship in Makkah, the sacred months, dedicated and garlanded cattle which must not be touched as the sūrah makes clear in its opening verses. This part concludes with the establishment of a clear standard of values for Muslim individuals and Muslim society. According to this standard, a small amount of good is far more valuable than evil, plentiful as it may be.

Like all the other sections of this long passage, this part opens with an address to the believers. They are then told that they are about to be set a test concerning game that has been prohibited to them while they are in the state of consecration, or iĥrām: “Believers, God will certainly try you by means of game which may come within the reach of your hands or your spears, so that God may mark out those who truly fear Him in their hearts. Whoever transgresses after all this will have grievous suffering.” It is a very easy game that is brought within their vicinity. They could easily grab it with their hands, or with their spears. Some reports suggest that such game would come as close as the doors of their tents or homes. This, then, was a trial of temptation.

The trial of providing easy game at the time when it was prohibited to kill during the period of consecration, or iĥrām, was one of the numerous tests that the Muslim community successfully passed. The care God took of this Muslim community and its education is reflected in such tests. In this particular incident, God tells the believers of the purpose beyond His test: “So that God may mark out those who truly fear Him in their hearts.” Being truly God-fearing, or fearing Him in one’s heart, is the solid basis on which faith is established in a person’s conscience. It mould’s one’s behaviour and it is the essence of putting man’s vicegerency on earth into practice.

Human beings do not see God, but they feel His presence in their hearts when they truly believe in Him. To them, He is beyond the reach of all their faculties of perception, but their hearts know and fear Him. The certainty of this great truth in a firm, unshakeable belief in God, and achieving, without seeing Him or feeling His presence with our senses, a strength of belief equal, if not superior, to that based on one’s senses is something great indeed. A believer declares that “there is no deity other than God” without having seen Him. To have such belief is indicative of a huge step forward towards a superior level of humanity that taps man’s natural faculties and makes the best use of all his natural abilities. This represents a great departure away from the realm of animal existence that cannot look up to anything beyond its immediate perception. On the other hand, when man bars his soul from looking up to what lies beyond the reach of his faculties of perception and confines his feelings to the material world surrounding him, he shuts down his superior faculties and lingers permanently in his material and sensual world.

Hence, God makes this quality of fearing Him in our hearts the crucial point of this test, making it clear to the believers so that they are able to use all their powers to achieve it. God certainly knows, initially, who fears Him in his heart, but He does not hold people to account on the basis of His initial knowledge. They are accountable only for what they actually do, which God also knows on the basis of its taking place. “Whoever transgresses after all this will have grievous suffering.” Man is thus told of the trial to which he is being put. He is informed of its purpose and warned against yielding to temptation. All means of success have been given to him. Hence, should he transgress after all this, it is only fair that he should be made to endure grievous suffering. This is his own choice.

 

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.

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11. Tafsir Zone

 

Overview (Verse 94)

Consecration and Game Killing
 

The sūrah continues to elaborate on further prohibitions, speaking about game when one is in the state of consecration, or iĥrām, and what compensates for its killing. It further speaks of the purpose of the sanctity of the House of Worship in Makkah, the sacred months, dedicated and garlanded cattle which must not be touched as the sūrah makes clear in its opening verses. This part concludes with the establishment of a clear standard of values for Muslim individuals and Muslim society. According to this standard, a small amount of good is far more valuable than evil, plentiful as it may be.
 
Believers, God will certainly try you by means of game which may come within the reach of your hands or your spears, so that God may mark out those who truly fear Him in their hearts. Whoever transgresses after all this will have grievous suffering. Believers, kill no game while you are on pilgrimage. Whoever of you kills game by design shall make amends in cattle equivalent to what he has killed, adjudged by two persons of probity among you, to be brought as an offering to the Ka’ bah; or else he may atone for his sin by feeding needy persons, or by its equivalent in fasting, so that he may taste the evil consequences of his deeds. God has forgiven what is past; but whoever repeats his offence, God will inflict His retribution on him. God is Almighty, Lord of retribution. Lawful to you is all water game, and whatever food the sea brings forth, as a provision for you and for travellers. However, you are forbidden land game as long as you are in the state of consecration [or iĥrām]. Be conscious of God, to whom you shall all be gathered. God has made the Ka`bah, the Inviolable House of Worship, a symbol for all mankind; and so too the sacred month and the garlanded sacrificial offerings. This, so that you may know that God is aware of all that is in the heavens and the earth, and that God has full knowledge of everything. Know that God is severe in retribution and that God is Much- Forgiving, Merciful. The Messenger’s duty is but to deliver the message [entrusted to him]. God knows all that you reveal, and all that you conceal. (Verses 94-99)
 
At the beginning of this sūrah, God says: “Believers, do not offend against the symbols set up by God, or against the sacred month, or the offerings or the garlands, or against those who repair to the Sacred House, seeking God’s grace and pleasure. Only when you are released from the state of consecration may you hunt.” (Verse 2) However, this early prohibition of killing game during consecration, or the violation of God’s rites, the sacred months, garlanded sacrificial animals, or intercepting those who are on their way to the Sacred House did not specify any punishment to be inflicted on perpetrators in this life. They only incurred a sin. Now a punishment is outlined in the form of an atonement which is sufficient to make the offender taste the evil of what he has perpetrated. The verses declare that past offences have been forgiven, but anyone who commits fresh violations is threatened with God’s vengeance.
 
Like all the other sections of this long passage, this part opens with an address to the believers. They are then told that they are about to be set a test concerning game that has been prohibited to them while they are in the state of consecration, or iĥrām: “Believers, God will certainly try you by means of game which may come within the reach of your hands or your spears, so that God may mark out those who truly fear Him in their hearts. Whoever transgresses after all this will have grievous suffering.” (Verse 94)
 
It is a very easy game that is brought within their vicinity. They could easily grab it with their hands, or with their spears. Some reports suggest that such game would come as close as the doors of their tents or homes. This, then, was a trial of temptation. Similar in nature to that which the Children of Israel were asked to endure in former times, but in which they failed. They had pleaded with their Prophet, Moses (peace be upon him), to appoint a day when they would not have to attend to any aspect of their daily affairs. Rather, they would rest and spend the whole day in worship. Thus, the Sabbath was established for them. They were then tempted with water game, whereby fish of all types came right to the sea shore on the day of the Sabbath. On other days, it went far into the water in the normal behaviour of fish. The Children of Israel, however, could not resist the temptation, could not keep their covenant with God. In the end, they resorted to playing tricks holding the fish in enclosures without actually taking them out of the water. They only captured the fish from those enclosures on the following morning, when the Sabbath was over. Indeed, God instructs the Prophet Muĥammad to question them about this, confronting them with their trickery: “Ask them about the town which stood facing the sea: how its people broke the Sabbath. Each Sabbath their fish appeared before them, breaking the water’s surface, but they would not come near them on other than Sabbath days. Thus did We try them because of their disobedience.” (7: 163)
 
It is this same trial which the Muslim community came through successfully, while the Jews did not. This is the proof of God’s description of the Muslim community: “You are the best community that has ever been raised for mankind; you enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid what is wrong, and you believe in God. Had the people of earlier revelations believed, it would have been for their own good. Few of them are believers, while most of them are evildoers.” (3: 110)
 

In fact the Muslim community has passed the test on numerous occasions whereas the Jews did not pass any similar tests. Hence, God deprived them of their leadership role and assigned it to the Muslim community, giving it more power to establish its entity on earth than He has given to any other community. The fact remains that the code of living laid down by God was never implemented in a practical system regulating the whole of human life until it was put into practice by the Muslim community. But that was when that community was truly Islamic, when it knew and accepted that Islam means that the Divine religion and its laws must be implemented in human life. It also realised that it was placed in a position of trust, undertaking the fulfilment of that great task and providing leadership for mankind in implementing the Divine law.
 


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