Singling Out Allah SWT Alone For Worship
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala begins this Surah by saying,
“For the familiarity of the Quraysh”
The word ‘ilaf’, as used in the original is from ‘alf’ which means to be habituated and accustomed to be reunited after breaking up, and to adopt something as a habit. Ibn Jarir said, “The correct opinion is that the letter Lam is a prefix that shows amazement. It is as though He (Allah) is saying, `You should be amazed at the uniting (or taming) of the Quraysh and My favor upon them in that.”’
Thus, Li-ilaf-i Quraysh means: “How surprising is the conduct of Quraysh! It is only by virtue of Allah’s bounty that they are reunited after their dispersion and have become accustomed to the trade journeys which have brought them their prosperity, and yet from Allah’s worship and service they are turning away.” This is the opinion of Akhfash, Kisa’i and Farra.
To further explain ‘ilaf’ Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala mentions it again in Ayah 2,
إِيلَـفِهِمْ رِحْلَةَ الشِّتَآءِ وَالصَّيْفِ
“Their familiarity (with the) journey of winter and summer.”
This verse is talking about the trade journeys. In summer the Quraysh traveled northward to Syria and Palestine, for they are cool lands, and in winter southward to Yemen, etc. for they are warm. In the next Ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala directs them to be grateful for this magnificent favor in His saying,
فَلْيَعْبُدُواْ رَبَّ هَـذَا الْبَيْتِ
“So, let them worship the Lord of this House.”
This House here indicates the Ka’abah. The sentence means that the Quraysh have attained this blessing only by virtue of the House of Allah. They themselves acknowledge that the 360 idols, which they worship, are not its lord, but Allah alone is its Lord. He alone saved them from the invasion of the army of elephants. Him alone they had invoked for help against Abrahah’s army.
It was His House the keeping of which enhanced their rank and position in Arabia, for before that they were dispersed and commanded no position whatever. Like the common Arab tribes they too were scattered factions of a race. But when they rallied round this House in Makkah and began to serve it, they became, honorable throughout Arabia, and their trade caravans began to visit every part of the country fearlessly. Therefore, whatever they have achieved, it has been possible only by the help of the Lord of this House; therefore, they should worship Him alone.
This is as Allah says in An-Naml ayah 91, “I have been commanded only to worship the Lord of this city, Who has sanctified it and to Whom belongs everything. And I am commanded to be from among the Muslims.”
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then says in Ayah 4,
الَّذِى أَطْعَمَهُم مِّن جُوعٍ
“The One Who feeds them against hunger…”
meaning, He is the Lord of the House and He is the One Who feeds them against hunger. The reference implies that before the Quraysh came to Makkah, they were a scattered people in Arabia and living miserable lives. After their gathering together in Makkah they began to prosper, and the Prophet Ibraheem’s prayer for them was literally fulfilled when he had prayed: “Our Lord, I have settled some of my descendants in an uncultivated valley near Your sacred House, our Lord, that they may establish prayer. So make hearts among the people incline toward them and provide for them from the fruits that they might be grateful.” (Surah Ibraheem: 37)
وَءَامَنَهُم مِّنْ خوْفٍ
“…and gives them security from fear.”
meaning, He favors them with safety and gentleness, so they should single Him out for worship alone, without any partner. They should not worship any idol, rival or statue besides Him. Therefore, whoever accepts this command; Allah will give him safety in both this life and the Hereafter. However, whoever disobeys Him; He will remove both of them from him.
This is as Allah says in Surah An-Nahl ayah 112 – 113, “And Allah presents an example: a city which was safe and secure, its provision coming to it in abundance from every location, but it denied the favors of Allah. So Allah made it taste the garb of hunger and fear for what they had been doing. And verily, there had come unto them a Messenger from among themselves, but they denied him, so the torment overtook them while they were wrongdoers.”