Introduction to Surat Al-Ma’idah (The Table Spread)
The Names of the Surah
1- The Table Spread
It is named after the story of the Feast (Ma’idah) connected with the Disciples of Jesus that appears at the end of the Surah. .
2- The Covenants
The Surah is also called the Surah of the Covenants (Al-`Uqud) as mentioned in the first verse of the Surah.
Is it Makki or Madani?
It is a Madani surah that discusses regulation of lawful and unlawful food, obedience to which is part of the pledge between God and the believers.
Period of Revelation
The theme of this Surah indicates, and traditions support it, that it was revealed after the treaty of Al-Hudaibiyah at the end of 6 A. H. or in the beginning of 7 A. H. That is why it deals with those problems that arose from this treaty.
Subject: Consolidation of the Islamic Community
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 and purposes 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.
Sayyed Abu A`la Maududi’s Tafhim Al-Qur’an.
Sayyid Qutb’s Fi Zhilal Al-Qur’an.