By Shaykh Uwais Namazi Nadwi
This surah, like the previous surah is also Medini. It contains some of the last revelations. This is why Anas and A’aisha would say: Maida is the last surah to have been revealed. Therefore regard its Hall as the final Halal and Haram as the last Haram (i.e. there is no abrogation in this surah).
The Surah focuses on Mu’amalaat i.e. social life and affairs. The previous surah titled Nisa, ‘Women’ indicates that its’ focus is on the inner dimensions of social life and its foundations while Ma’ida focuses more on the outer domain, such as diplomatic relations and contracts and oaths, with special references and insights to the people of the book as the Islamic movement had settled in Medina and made its mark there. Both names signify and symbolize this; the woman is the backbone of society and ma’ida, feasts are a manifestation of social life.
The surah starts with an imperative; an imperative that is the very essence of healthy social life. Allah does not want man to live in seclusion but encourages integration and socialization. But socialization without trust cannot reap anything positive. Instead Islam not only encourages socialization by this imperative but sanctifies it and shrouds it with the clothes of sacredness through laying a social-code. Read the following Ayaat with this in mind:
O you who believe, fulfil the contracts. The animals from the cattle have been made lawful for you, except that which will be read over to you, provided that you do not treat hunting as lawful while you are in IHrām. Surely, Allah ordains what He wills.
O you who believe, do not violate (the sanctity) of the Marks of Allah, nor of the sacred month, nor of the sacrificial animal, nor of the garlands, nor of those proceeding to the Sacred House, seeking the grace of their Lord and (His) Pleasure. When you are out of IHrām, you may hunt. Malice against a people for their having prevented you from Al-Masjid-ul-Harām, should not cause you to cross the limits. Help each other in righteousness and piety, and do not help each other in sin and aggression. Fear Allah. Surely, Allah is severe at punishment.
Prohibited for you are: carrion, blood, the flesh of swine, and those upon which (a name) other than that of Allah has been invoked (at the time of slaughter), animal killed by strangling, or killed by a blow, or by a fall, or by goring, or that which is eaten by a beast unless you have properly slaughtered it; and that which has been slaughtered before the idols, and that you determine shares through the arrows. (All of) this is sin. Today those who disbelieve have lost all hope of (damaging) your faith. So, do not fear them, and fear Me. Today, I have perfected your religion for you, and have completed My blessing upon you, and chosen Islam as Dīn (religion and a way of life) for you. But whoever is compelled by extreme hunger, having no inclination towards sin, then Allah is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful.
The following rulings are derived from these verses:
1) It is incumbent to fulfill ones promise and oblige and comply with any contract or transaction he has signed.
2) Only slaughtered meat is Halal.
3) Hunting whilst in Ihraam is not allowed although fishing, which is known as ‘hunting in sea’ in the quranic language, is permissible as reads verse 96 of this surah:
Made lawful for you is the hunting of the sea and eating thereof, as a benefit for you and for travellers. But the hunting of the land has been made unlawful for you as long as you are in the state of IHrām. Fear Allah (the One) towards Whom you are to be brought together.
4) It is important to maintain the sanctity of the religious symbols and manifestations. Allah says: Having said that, if one observes the sanctity of the symbols of Allah, then such things emanate from the piety of the hearts.
5) Assisting in good and condemning and doing the opposite in matters of sin and aggression.
6) The types of meat and animals that are haram e.t.c.
7) Islam is the final religion which Allah has chosen for himself.
8 ) Compulsion conditioned it is without the inclination of sin is forgivable.
The next verses talk about what Allah has made Halal after mentioning Haram. This “comparison” or “contrast” is a common factor in the Quranic Narrative; the Jannah is compared with Hell; believers with disbelievers and here Halal with Haram. This bears a stronger influence on the reader and helps him analyze and survey the situation for himself; does he want to be amongst the people of Heaven or Hell.
The verses are as follows:
They ask you as to what has been made lawful for them. Say, “Made lawful for you are good things, and (hunting through) birds and beasts of prey that you train, teaching them out of what Allah has taught you. So, eat of what they hold for you, and recite the name of Allah upon it.” Fear Allah. Surely, Allah is swift at reckoning
This day, good things have been made lawful for you. The food of the people of the Book is lawful for you, and your food is lawful for them, and good women from among believers, and good women from among those who were given the Book before you, provided you give them their dowers, binding yourself in marriage, neither going for lust, nor having paramours. Whoever rejects Faith, his effort will go to waste and, in the Hereafter, he will be among the losers.
They give the following rulings:
1. All good things are Halaal.
2. Guard Dogs and Birds that are used for hunting are allowed as long as they have sufficient training. Refer to the books of Fiqh for details. Allah gives us three conditions which are the foundation of this institution:
- The animal/bird to be trained.
- It should not eat the animal it hunts down.
- The dua of slaughtering an animal should be recited when the animal is sent to reach the target.
3. Food of the people of the Book is lawful.
4. So are their chaste women conditioned one pays the dowry and is serious about “binding himself in marriage, neither going for lust, nor having paramours.”
The Quran then warns of the logical negative: Whoever rejects Faith, his effort will go to waste and, in the Hereafter, he will be among the losers.
The next ruku’ begins with the code of purity. It describes the method of ablution and then gives guidance to 1) purify ourselves if impure [by sexual relations e.t.c] 2) using soil in case water in unavailable which is known as “tayaamum”. It also gives us the method of Tayammum which is to wipe both the face and hands.
The verse is as follows:
O you who believe, when you rise for Salāh, (prayer) wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows, and make MasH (wiping by hands) of your heads and (wash) your feet up to the ankles. If you are in a state of major impurity, cleanse yourselves well (by taking bath). If you are sick, or on a journey, or if one of you has come after relieving himself, or you have had sexual contact with women, and you find no water, then, go for some clean dust and wipe your faces and hands with it. Allah does not like to impose a problem on you; He, rather likes to cleanse you and to complete His favour upon you, so that you may be grateful.
Then the surah goes into describing the fallacies People of the Book and debating with them. This takes up most of the remaining Surah. However since a full-detailed commentary of all the verses is beyond my ability at this moment, a brief summary of the themes in the verses are given in bullet points below. Some detail has been given where it has been felt.
7: A reminder is given to reflect over the covenant which believers have given to Allah. By this two covenants are implied; a general one and a specific one. The specific one is the baya’ the sahabas gave to the Prophet. And the general one is the one where all Mankind testified to Allah that he is the Lord all-Mighty. Lings recalls that covenant with the following words:
“According to an ancient and still recognized legal principal, an accused cannot plead, in his defence, ignorance of the law. And since in the older civilisations, the temporal and the spiritual were organically connected, this principal may well have originated as a prolongation from the dogma that on the day of Judgement it may not be possible for man to plead ignorance of the basic truths of religion.”
8: testify and always support the truth even if it goes against you. Worship justice. It is quite interesting to see one of the ninety-nine names of Allah is Just[ice].
9-14: Allah took a covenant from the Jews and the Christians but they broke it and the consequences for the Jews were, in the words of the Quran: We cursed them and made their hearts hardened. As for the Christians: “We had them stuck with enmity and malice among them right through the Day of Doom” for breaking their covenant.
The Jews are also recalled for their betrayal and distorting of holy texts.
15-16: The Jews are invited to join the Prophet which settles your arguments, exposes your fallacies and guarantees your saviour if one chooses to follow him.
16-19: Some of the Christian fallacies are refuted:
- God is Christ
- The Jews and Christians are Gods chosen people. (Allah forbid)
And thus are invited again to believe in the truth once again.
20-26: The Jews show their love for the world and disobedience to Allah and his messenger, Moses. They show cowardice. Allah simply asked them to enter the holy lands and victory was theirs. In fact they were so scared and negligent that they told Moses: “O Mūsā, we shall never enter it, in any case, so long as they are there. So go, you and your Lord, and fight. As for us, we are sitting right here.”
27-34: The Story of Habil and Qabil and its morals and lessons.
35-37: The path to success and the outcome of negligence in the narrative of the Kuffar.
38-40: The ruling for a stealer and thief.
41-82: The Prophet is introduced to the Christians and Jews. The Quran deals with their attitudes towards him. The causes for their deprivation of Allah’s mercy should hold much relevance to us all, therefore, in the light of these verses a list of their characteristics are produced so that all of us can be fully aware of them:
- Listeners of False
- Hearty consumers of prohibited things (Suht)
- Distorting sacred texts
- Fearing their enemies more than Allah.
- Failing to apply the teachings of the Torah properly
- Preferring their desires over the teachings of the Bible
- Seeking for judgements and law elsewhere than the divine source
- Taking religion lightly and making into a game.
- Rushing towards sin, evil and transgression.
- Their Scholars would not prevent the public from sin, especially if they were engaged in the very sin themselves.
- Accusing and disparaging God.
- Causing fights and corruption on earth
- Shirk and trinity
- Extremism in religion
- Assisting and advocating Kufr
Although the list above may leave the impression that the Quran is aggressive and negative in all its aspects, especially when it comes to religious discrimination. But that is not true. The Quran through the above verses stresses the fact that not all of them are the same and manages to make distinctions and exceptions. Read the following for example:
If the People of the Book had believed and feared Allah, We would have written off their evil deeds and would have surely admitted them to the Gardens of Bliss. (65)
If they had upheld the Torah and the Injīl and what had been sent down to them from their Lord, they would surely have had plenty to eat from above them and from beneath them. Among them are moderate people. As for most of them, evil is what they do. (66)
Surely, those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians – whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, and acts righteously, shall have no fear, nor shall such people grieve. (69)
And you will certainly find that the people most hostile against the believers are the Jews and the ones who ascribe partners to Allah. You will certainly find that the closest of them in friendship with the believers are those who say, “We are Christians.” That is because among them there are priests and monks, and because they are not arrogant. (82)
Lastly, the surah ends with the story of the Feast, the title of this Surah. This insha Allah shall be dealt with separately in a fresh post.
Allah knows best.
By Kareem Elsayed
Juz’ 6: Surat an-Nisaa’ & Surat al-Ma’idah (The Women & The Table Spread, Chapter 4 & 5)
End of Surat an-Nisaa’
- This juzz is a juzz of interfaith and dealing with ahl al kitab (people of the book). Let’s look at the end of this Madani surah:
Stories of al-Yahood (The Jews)
- Allah (SWT) describes the numerous transgressions of Bani Isra’eel (The Children of Isra’eel). Among them – asking Musa (AS) to see Allah (SWT) outright, worshipping the calf, the transgression of the Sabbath, disbelief in the signs of Allah (SWT), killing the prophets (AS) without a justifiable reason, slandering Maryam (AS), claiming that they killed `Isa (AS), taking usury, etc.
- Here Allah (SWT) confirms that they did not kill nor crucify `Isa (AS), rather it was made to appear that way:
“And [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah .” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain. Rather, Allah raised him to Himself. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise. (4:157-158)
Connecting the Line of Divine
- Next Allah (SWT) connects the prophethood of Muhammad (SAAWS) to the lineage of the other prophets (AS):
“O Mankind, the Messenger has come to you with the truth from your Lord, so believe; it is better for you. But if you disbelieve – then indeed, to Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and earth. And ever is Allah Knowing and Wise. (4:170)”
“O mankind, there has come to you a conclusive proof from your Lord, and We have sent down to you a clear light. (4:174)”
- Finally, Allah (SWT) concludes the surah by confirming the humanity of `Isa (AS):
“O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, “Three”; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs. (4:171)”
- This Madani surah contains some of the last revelations of the Qur’an. This is why Anas and `A’isha would say: “Ma’idah is the last surah to have been revealed. Therefore regard its Halal (permissible) as the final Halal and Haram (forbidden) as the last Haram (i.e. there is no abrogation in this surah).
- The surah focuses on Mu`amalaat (social life and affairs). The previous surah, an-Nisaa’, ‘The Women’ indicates that its focus is on the inner dimensions of Muslim society and its foundations. Al-Ma’idah focuses more on the outer domain of society–diplomatic relations, contracts, and oaths; with special references and insights to the people of the book, as the Islamic state had been established in Madinah.
- This surah was revealed after the treaty of Hudaibiyah at the end of the 6th year of Hijrah (after the migration) to Madinah. By this time, Islam had become a considerable power extending in all directions. The Islamic civil and criminal laws had been formulated in detail. New and reformed ways of trade and commerce had replaced old ones.
Beginning of the Surah
- Allah (SWT) begins by outlining several commandments regarding the Muslim dietary laws:
“…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)”
Allahu akbar! One of the latest ayaat (verses) to be revealed in the Qur’an is full of glad tidings to the believers. Even the yahood of Madinah acknowledged the gravity of this verse.
- Then Allah (SWT) gives the commandment for the performance of wudu’ prior to salah:
“O you who have believed, when you rise to [perform] prayer, wash your faces and your forearms to the elbows and wipe over your heads and wash your feet to the ankles. And if you are in a state of janabah, then purify yourselves. But if you are ill or on a journey or one of you comes from the place of relieving himself or you have contacted women and do not find water, then seek clean earth and wipe over your faces and hands with it. Allah does not intend to make difficulty for you, but He intends to purify you and complete His favor upon you that you may be grateful. (5:6)”
Dialogue with Ahl al-Kitab
- Allah (SWT) mentions when Bani Isra’eel broke their covenant and how they transformed from the chosen people to those who were cursed by Allah (SWT). The same transpired for those who say that they are Christians. Allah then addresses the people of the book in a beautiful way:
“O People of the Scripture, there has come to you Our Messenger making clear to you much of what you used to conceal of the Scripture and overlooking much. There has come to you from Allah a light and a clear Book. By which Allah guides those who pursue His pleasure to the ways of peace and brings them out from darknesses into the light, by His permission, and guides them to a straight path. (5:15-16)”
- Allah (SWT) then confirms the kufr (disbelief) of those who claim `Isa (AS) to be the son of Allah (SWT), and then challenges their belief saying “Then who could prevent Allah at all if He had intended to destroy Christ, the son of Mary, or his mother or everyone on the earth? (5:17)”
- Here Allah (SWT) also addresses many of the misconceptions of the people of the book that could have potentially influenced (and perchance does now) the ideology of the believers:
“But the Jews and the Christians say, “We are the children of Allah and His beloved.” Say, “Then why does He punish you for your sins?” Rather, you are human beings from among those He has created. He forgives whom He wills, and He punishes whom He wills. And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them, and to Him is the [final] destination. (5:18)”
Stories of the Earlier Nations
- Next Allah (SWT) describes the story of the Exodus of Bani Isra’eel into the Holy Land, and their reluctance to enter it. For their disobedience, Allah (SWT) prohibited their inhabitance therein for forty years until a new generation of courageous true believers could be developed by Musa (AS).
- Then Allah (SWT) relates the story of the two sons of Adam. This was the first act of murder committed in history because one brother was rejected as a suitor while the other was accepted. Allah (SWT) says regarding this event:
“Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely… (5:32)”
- Allah (SWT) then interjects a stern reminder to the believers:
“Indeed, those who disbelieve – if they should have all that is in the earth and the like of it with it by which to ransom themselves from the punishment of the Day of Resurrection, it will not be accepted from them, and for them is a painful punishment. They will wish to get out of the Fire, but never are they to emerge therefrom, and for them is an enduring punishment. (5:36-37)”
More Dialogue to Ahl al-Kitab
- Next, Allah (SWT) admonishes thrice those who do not judge or rule by what Allah (SWT) has revealed, calling them kafiroon (disbelievers), thalimoon (transgressors), and fasiqoon (defiantly disobedient). When the people of the book would come to the Prophet (SAAWS) for guidance or a ruling, Allah (SWT) would counsel him in these verses which conclude by saying:
“Then is it the judgment of [the time of] ignorance they desire? But who is better than Allah in judgment for a people who are certain [in faith]. (5:50)”
- In one of the most motivational ayat in the Qur’an, Allah (SWT) interjects a beautiful reminder for the believers and gives them a stern warning:
“O you who have believed, whoever of you should revert from his religion – Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him [who are] humble toward the believers, powerful against the disbelievers; they strive in the cause of Allah and do not fear the blame of a critic. That is the favor of Allah; He bestows it upon whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing. (5:54)”
- Then Allah (SWT) outlines many of the transgressions and acts of disbelief performed by the people of the book telling them:
“And if only they upheld [the law of] the Torah, the Gospel, and what has been revealed to them from their Lord, they would have consumed [provision] from above them and from beneath their feet. Among them are a moderate community, but many of them – evil is that which they do. (5:66)”
This should serve as a reminder to the believers to uphold the Shari`ah, lest they miss out on the tremendous reward prepared for them by Allah (SWT).
- Allah (SWT) also confirms the disbelief of those claiming the concept of trinity saying:
“They have certainly disbelieved who say, “Allah is the third of three.” And there is no god except one God. And if they do not desist from what they are saying, there will surely afflict the disbelievers among them a painful punishment. (5:73)”
- Finally Allah (SWT) makes an appeal to their intellects, and leaves this argument in the Qur’an to be recited to all those who would ascribe divinity to our beloved prophet `Isa (AS):
“The Messiah, son of Mary, was not but a messenger; [other] messengers have passed on before him. And his mother was a supporter of truth. They both used to eat food. Look how We make clear to them the signs; then look how they are deluded. (5:75)”
- Allah (SWT) concludes the juz’ by emphasizing that the prophets whom the people of the book claim to be their leaders and examples have cursed them saying:
“Cursed were those who disbelieved among the Children of Israel by the tongue of David and of Jesus, the son of Mary. That was because they disobeyed and [habitually] transgressed. (5:78)”