The Surah takes its name from ayah 112 in which the word “maidah” occurs. Similar to other Surah, the name has got nothing to do with the subject of this Surah. It has been merely used as a symbol to distinguish it from other Surahs.
Period of Revelation: Madinisn
The Virtues of Surah al-Ma’idah
Al-Hakim narrated that Jubayr bin Nufayr said, “I performed Hajj once and visited A’ishah (radhiAllahu ‘anha) and she said to me, ‘O Jubayr! Do you read (or memorize) Al-Ma’idah?’ I answered ‘Yes.’
‘It was the last Surah to be revealed. Therefore, whatever permissible matters you find in it, then consider (treat) them permissible. And whatever impermissible matters you find in it, then consider (treat) them impermissible.'”
Since this was the last Surah to be revealed, whatever we find in it is “muhkum” meaning it is still valid and has not been “munsoukh”. While Surah an-Nisa was called the Surah of ‘adl and rahmah, Surah al-Mai’dah is called the Surah of halal and haram, as it discusses the permissible and impermissible matters.
Occasion of Revelation
This Surah was revealed to suit the requirements of the changed conditions which were now different from those prevailing at the time of the revelation of Ale-Imran and An- Nisa. Then the shock of the set-back at Uhud had made the very surroundings of Madina dangerous for the Muslims, but now Islam had become an invulnerable power and the Islamic State had extended to Najd on the east, to the Red Sea on the west, to Syria on the north and to Makkah on the south. This set-back which the Muslims had suffered at Uhud had not broken their determination. It had rather spurred them to action.
As a result of their continuous struggle and unparalleled sacrifices, the power of the surrounding clans, within a radius of 200 miles or so, had been broken. The Jewish menace which was always threatening Madina had been totally removed and the Jews in the other parts of Hijaz had-become tributaries of the State of Madina. The last effort of the Quraysh to suppress Islam had been thwarted in the Battle of the Ditch. After this, it had become quite obvious to the Arabs that no power could suppress the Islamic movement. Now Islam was not merely a creed which ruled over the minds and hearts of the people but had also become a State which dominated over every aspect of the life of the people who lived within its boundaries. This had enabled the Muslims to live their lives without hindrance, in accordance with their beliefs.
Another development had also taken place during this period. The Muslim civilization had developed in accordance with the principles of Islam and the Islamic viewpoint. This civilization was quite distinct from all other civilizations in all its’ details, and distinguished the Muslims clearly from the non Muslims in their moral, social and cultural behavior.
Mosques had been built in all territories, prayer had been established and Imam [leader] for every habitation and clan had been appointed. The Islamic civil and criminal laws had been formulated in detail and were being enforced through the Islamic courts. New and reformed ways of trade and commerce had taken the place of the old ones. The Islamic laws of marriage and divorce, of the segregation of the genders, of the punishment for adultery and calumny and the like had cast the social life of the Muslims in a special mold. Their social behavior, their conversation, their dress, their very mode of living, their culture etc., had taken a definite shape of its own. As a result of all these changes, the non-Muslims could not expect that the Muslims would ever return to their former fold.
Before the treaty of Hudaibiyah, the Muslims were so engaged in their struggle with the non-Muslim Quraysh that they got no time to propagate their message. This hindrance was removed by what was apparently a defeat but in reality a victory at Hudaibiyah. This gave the Muslims not only peace in their own territory but also respite to spread their message in the surrounding territories.
Accordingly the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam addressed letters to the rulers of Iran, Egypt and the Roman Empire and the chiefs of Arabia, inviting them to Islam. At the same time the missionaries of Islam spread among the clans and tribes and invited them to accept the Divine Way of Allah. These were the circumstances at the time when Ma’idah was revealed.
[SOURCE: Compiled from Maulana Maudoodi’s Tafheem-ul-Qur’an]