An Introduction to Surat Al-A`raf (The Heights)
Names of the Surah:
It is called Al-A`raf (the Heights) due to the numerous verses that mention that name. For example,
“And the companions of the Elevations will call to men [within Hell] whom they recognize by their mark…” (Al-A`raf 7:48)
2- The Two Long Surahs
Marwan ibn Al-Hakam said: Zaid ibn Thabit (may Allah be pleased with them) asked me: Why do you recite short surahs in the sunset prayer? I saw the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) reciting two long surahs at the sunset prayers. I asked him: which are those two long surahs? He replied: Al-A`raf and Al-An`am. I (the narrator Ibn Juraij) asked Ibn Mulaikah (about these surahs): He said on his own accord: Al-Ma’idah and Al-A`raf.” (Abu Dawud)
3- The Appointment
It is named so due to the verse that mentions the appointment of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) with Almighty Allah,
“And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him…” (Al-A`raf 7:143)
Period of Revelation
A study of its contents clearly shows that the period of its revelation is about the same as that of Al-An`am, i. e., the last year of the Prophet’s life at Makkah, but it cannot be asserted with certainty which of these two was sent down earlier. Anyhow the manner of its admonition clearly indicates that it belongs to the same period. As both have the same historical background the reader should keep in view the preface to Al-An`am.
Is it Makki or Madani Surah?
Like the preceding surah, Al-An`am, or Cattle, this surah was revealed in Makkah. Hence, its main subject matter is faith, which runs throughout Makkan revelations. But the two domains in which these two surahs work are widely different.
Theme of the Surah
Invitation to the Divine Message
Subjects and topics of the Surah
1- The Surah lays special emphasis on reminders and warnings on the one hand, and on the starting and finishing lines in the human journey on the other.
2- The Surah gives accounts of the peoples of Noah, Hud, Salih, Lut and Shu`aYb, and treats the history of Moses at much greater length and with stronger emphasis.
3- The story of Adam has been related with a view to warning his descendants against the evil devices of Satan who is ever ready to mislead them as he did in the case of Adam and Eve.
4- It contains some Divine instructions, and contrasts these with Satan’s instructions, and depicts a graphic picture of the results and the consequences of the two.
5- The surah talks of how mankind has been given power on earth. It is God who has established rules and balances in the universe allowing human life to continue and flourish on earth.
6- In the concluding part of the surah, some deviations of those who do not use their faculties properly to understand the message have been dealt with and they have been admonished, reproved and warned of the serious consequences of their antagonistic attitude towards the message of the Prophet.
Sayyed Abu A`la Maududi’s Tafhim Al-Qur’an.
Sayyid Qutb’s Fi Zhilal Al-Qur’an.