This Surah was revealed during the very early stage at Makkah.
Major Issue, Divine Law and Guidance:
• An Admonition to believe in Allah, Who is the provider of your Sustenance.
To understand this Surah, it is necessary to know the historical background of the tribe of Quraish. It was scattered throughout Hijaz until the time of Qusayy bin Kilab, the ancestor of the Prophet (peace be upon him). First of all, Qusayy gathered his tribe in Makkah and the tribe was able to gain authority over the Ka'bah. On that basis, Qusayy was called Mujammi ( uniter, assembler) by his people. This man, by his sagacity and wisdom, founded a city state of Makkah and made excellent arrangements for the welfare of the pilgrims coming from all over Arabia, as a result, the Quraish were able to gain great influence among the Arabian tribes. After Qusayy's death, the state of Makkah was divided between his sons, Abdi Manaf and Abd ad-Dar. Of the two, Abdi Manaf gained greater fame, and was held in high esteem throughout Arabia.
Abdi Manaf had four sons; Hashim, Abdi Shams, Al-Muttalib, and Naufal. Of these, Hashim, father of Abdul Muttalib and grandfather of the Prophet, got the idea to take part in the trade passing between the eastern countries, Syria and Egypt, through Arabia. He also purchased the necessities of life for the Arabs so that the tribes living by the trade route could buy these items from them and the merchants living in the interior of the country were attracted to the market of Makkah. This was the time when the Sasanian kingdom of Iran had gained control over the international trade that was carried out between the northern lands, the eastern countries and the Byzantine empire through the Persian Gulf. This boosted the trade activity on the trade route leading from southern Arabia to Syria and Egypt, along the Red Sea coast. The Quraish took advantage of the fact that the tribes on this route held them in high esteem because of their status of being Keepers of the Ka'bah. They stood indebted to them for the great generosity with which the Quraish treat them during the Hajj season. That is why the Quraish felt no fear that their caravans would be robbed or harmed any where along the way. The tribes along the way did not even charge them the heavy transit taxes that they demanded from the other caravans. Hashim, taking advantage of this, prepared the trade scheme and made his three brothers partners in it. Thus, Hashim obtained trade privileges from the Ghassanide king of Syria, Abdi Shams from the Negus, Al-Muttalib from the Yemenite nobles and Naufal from the governments of Iraq and Irân, and their trade began to flourish. That is how the four brothers became famous as traders and were called Ashab Al-Eelaf (generators of love and affection), on account of their friendly relations with the tribes and states in the surrounding areas.
Because of their business relations with Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Abyssinia, the Quraish became the most affluent tribe in Arabia and Makkah, and Makkah became the most important commercial center of the Arabian peninsula. Another great advantage that accrued from these international relations, was, that the caravans brought tile script from Iraq, which was used for writing down the Qur'an. No other Arabian tribe could boast of so many literate people as Quraish. For these very reasons, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "The Quraish are the leaders of men." (Musnad Ahmed: Marwiyat Amr bin al-As).
The Quraish were thus prospering and flourishing when the event of Abraha's invasion of Makkah took place. Had Abraha succeeded in capturing Makkah and destroying the Ka'bah, the glory and renown of not only the Quraish, but of the Ka'bah itself, would have suffered a great setback. The belief of pre-Islamic Arabia that the House indeed was Allah's House, would have been shattered, and the high esteem in which the Quraish were held, for being keepers of the House, throughout the country would have been tarnished. Then, after the Abyssinian advance to Makkah, the Byzantium also would have taken the initiative to gain control over the trade route between Syria and Makkah. The Quraish would have been reduced to a plight worse than that in which they were involved before Qusayy bin Kiláb. But when Allah showed the manifestation of His power and swarms of birds destroyed 60,000 Abyssinian troops brought by Abraha by pelting them with stones, they continued falling and dying by the wayside from Makkah to Yemen. The faith of the Arabs that the Ka'bah indeed was Allah's House, increased manifold, and the glory and renown of Quraish was also enhanced considerably throughout the country. Now the Arabs were convinced that they were under Allah's special favor. They, therefore, visited every part of Arabia fearlessly and passed through every land with their trade caravans unharmed. No one would dare touch them with an evil intention. Not to speak of touching them, even if they had a non-Quraishite under their protection, he too was allowed to pass unharmed. That is why in this Surah, the Quraish are simply asked to consider; "When you yourselves acknowledge this House (i. e., the Ka'bah) to be Allah's House, and not of the idols, and when you fully know that it is Allah Alone Who has granted you peace by virtue of this House, made your trade and commerce flourish, and favored you with prosperity, you should then worship none but Him Alone!"
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Some commentators view this surah as complementary to, or a continuation of, Surah al-FÏl which precedes it.
Being strategically situated astride Europe and Asia, the Arabian peninsula has, since early times, been a vital trade route between these two continents. As renowned traders, sixth-century Arabs formed an important link between the Romans to their north and the Indians to their east and south. Regular trade caravans would cross the peninsula in both directions, carrying all manner of goods and merchandise.
The Quraysh people of Makkah, and its surrounding towns, were to beneﬁt greatly from this most fortuitous situation.
For the good and protection of the Quraysh in their winter and summer journeys, they should worship the Lord of this House [the Ka¢bah] who has provided them with food to satisfy their hunger, and security from all danger. (1–4)
Peace and security are a prerequisite for prosperity and political and economic freedom. With their strong and tenacious character, the Arabs truly epitomized free spirit which, in turn, made them most suitable candidates for shouldering the message of Islam and passing it on to the rest of humanity.
إِيلَافِهِمْ رِحْلَةَ الشِّتَاءِ وَالصَّيْفِ
فَلْيَعْبُدُوا رَبَّ هَٰذَا الْبَيْتِ
الَّذِي أَطْعَمَهُم مِّن جُوعٍ وَآمَنَهُم مِّنْ خَوْفٍ