Muhammad was Sent as a Warner and a Giver of Glad Tidings
In this ayah Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is addressing the People of the Book, saying that He has sent His Messenger Muhammad sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam to them, the Final Prophet, after whom there will be no Prophet or Messenger.
يَـأَهْلَ الْكِتَـبِ قَدْ جَآءَكُمْ رَسُولُنَا يُبَيِّنُ لَكُمْ عَلَى فَتْرَةٍ مَّنَ الرُّسُلِ
“O People of the Scripture! Now has come to you Our Messenger making (things) clear unto you, after a break in (the series of) Messengers….”
The word fatrah literally means to slacken, to become dormant or to suspend or to terminate an activity. It signifies the suspension of the coming of prophets for a certain interval of time which is the period of time in between Eesa aalyhi salaam and the Last Prophet Muhammad sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam.
There was a time when one messenger after another was coming. Bani Israel sometimes had more than one messenger at a time. And then a long gap came. During this gap, people slowed down in their worship.
He is the Final Messenger who came after a long time passed between him and Eesa, son of Maryam peace be upon them. There is a difference of opinion about the length of time between Eesa and Muhammad. Abu Uthman An-Nahdi and Qatadah were reported to have said that this period was six hundred years. Al-Bukhari also recorded this opinion from Salman Al-Farisi. Qatadah said that this period was five hundred and sixty years, while Ma`mar said that it is five hundred and forty years. Some said that this period is six hundred and twenty years.
In the saheeh collected by Bukhari, Abu Hurayrah radhiAlahu anhu said that the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said,
إِنَّ أَوْلَى النَّاسِ بِابْنِ مَرْيَمَ لَأَنَا، لَيْسَ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَهُ نَبِي
“I, among all people, have the most right to the son of Maryam, for there was no Prophet between Him and I.”
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala sent Muhammad sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam after a period of time during which there was no Prophet, clear path, or unchanged religions. Idol worshipping, fire worshipping and cross worshipping flourished during this time. Therefore, the bounty of sending Muhammad sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam was the perfect bounty at a time when he was needed the most.
Evil had filled the earth by then, and tyranny and ignorance had touched all the servants, except a few of those who remained loyal to the true teachings of previous Prophets, such as some Jewish rabbis, Christian priests and Sabian monks.
Imam Ahmad recorded that Iyad bin Himar Al-Mujash`i said that the Prophet gave a speech one day and said,
وَإِنَّ رَبِّي أَمَرَنِي أَنْ أُعَلِّمَكُمْ مَا جَهِلْتُمْ مِمَّا عَلَّمَنِي فِي يَوْمِي هَذَا، كُلُّ مَالٍ نَحَلْتُهُ عِبَادِي حَلَالٌ، وَإِنِّي خَلَقْتُ عِبَادِي حُنَفَاءَ كُلَّهُمْ، وَإِنَّ الشَّيَاطِينَ أَتَتْهُمْ فَأَضَلَّتْهُمْ عَنْ دِينِهِمْ، وَحَرَّمَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ مَا أَحْلَلْتُ لَهُمْ، وَأَمَرَتْهُمْ أَنْ يُشْرِكُوا بِي مَا لَمْ أُنَزِّلْ بِهِ سُلْطَانًا، ثُمَّ إِنَّ اللهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ نَظَرَ إِلى أَهْلِ الْأَرْضِ فَمقَتَهُمْ عَرَبَهُمْ وعَجَمَهُمْ، إِلَّا بَقَايَا مِنْ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ، وقَالَ: إِنَّمَا بَعَثْتُكَ لِأَبْتَلِيَكَ وَأَبْتَلِيَ بِكَ، وَأَنْزَلْتُ عَلَيْكَ كِتَابًا لَا يَغْسِلُهُ الْمَاءُ،تَقْرَأُهُ نَائِمًا وَيَقْظَانَ، ثُمَّ إِنَّ اللهَ أَمَرَنِي أَنْ أُحَرِّقَ قُرَيْشًا فَقُلْتُ: يَارَبِّ إِذَنْ يَثْلَغُوا رَأْسِي، فَيَدَعُوهُ خُبْزَةً، فَقَالَ: اسْتَخْرِجْهُمْ كَمَا اسْتَخْرَجُوكَ، واغْزُهُمْ نُغْزِكَ، وَأَنْفِقْ عَلَيْهِمْ فَسَنُنْفِقَ عَلَيْكَ، وَابْعَثْ جَيْشًا نَبْعَثْ خَمْسًا أَمْثَالَهُ، وَقَاتِلْ بِمَنْ أَطَاعَكَ مَنْ عَصَاكَ، وَأَهْلُ الْجَنَّةِ ثَلَاثَةٌ: ذوُ سُلْطانٍ مُقْسِطٌ مُوَفَّقٌ مُتَصَدِّقٌ، وَرَجُلٌ رَحِيمٌ رَقِيقُ الْقَلْبِ بِكُلِّ ذِي قُرْبَى وَمُسْلِمٍ، وَرَجُلٌ عَفِيفٌ فَقِيرٌ ذُو عِيَالٍ (مُتَصَدِّقٌ). وَأَهْلُ النَّارِ خَمْسَةٌ: الضَّعِيفُ الَّذي لَا دِينَ لَهُ، وَالَّذِين هُمْ فِيكُمْ تَبَعٌ أَوْ تَبَعًا شَكَّ يَحْيى لَا يَبْتَغُون أَهْلًا وَلَا مَالًا، وَالْخَائِنُ الَّذِي لَا يَخْفَى لَهُ طَمَعٌ وَإِنْ دَقَّ إِلَّا خَانَهُ، وَرَجُلٌ لَا يُصْبِحُ وَلَا يُمْسِي إِلَّا وَهُوَ يُخَادِعُكَ عَنْ أَهْلِكَ وَمَالِكَ وَذَكَرَ الْبَخِيلَ أَوِ الْكَذَّابَ وَالشِّنْظِيرَ: الفَاحِش
“My Lord has commanded me to teach you what you have no knowledge of and of which He taught me this day, ‘All the wealth that I gave to My servants is permissible. I created all My servants Hunafa [monotheists]. But, the devils came to them and deviated them from their religion, prohibited for them what I allowed and commanded them to associate others with Me [in worship], which I gave no permission for.’
Then Allah looked at the people of the earth and disliked them all, the Arabs and non-Arabs among them, except a few from among the Children of Israel. Allah said (to me), ‘I only sent you to test you and to test with you. I sent to you a Book that cannot be washed by water [it is eternal], and you will read it while asleep and while awake.’
Allah has also Commanded me to burn [destroy] Quraysh. So I said, ‘O Lord! They will smash my head and leave it like a piece of bread.’ He said, ‘I will drive them out as they drove you out, and when you invade them We will help you. Spend on them [your companions] and We will spend on you, send an army and We will send five armies like it [in its support]. Fight with those who obey you, against those who disobey you.
And the inhabitants of Paradise are three: a just, prosperous, and charitable ruler; A merciful man who has a kind heart toward every relative and every Muslim; a forgiving, poor man with dependants [who is charitable].
And the inhabitants of the Fire are five: the weak one with no religion; those who follow after you not for family reasons nor wealth; and the treacherous who does not hide his treachery, acting treacherous in even the most insignificant matters; and a person who comes every morning and every evening, is cheating your family or your wealth.’ And he mentioned the stingy, or the liar, and the foulmouthed person.”
Therefore, the hadeeth states that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala looked at the people of the earth and disliked them all, both the Arabs and non-Arabs among them, except a few among the Children of Israel, or a few among the People of the Book as Muslim recorded.
The religion was distorted and changed for the people of the earth until Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala sent Muhammad sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam, and Allah, thus, guided the creatures and took them away from the darkness to the light and placed them on a clear path and a glorious Law.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then says,
أَن تَقُولُواْ مَا جَآءَنَا مِن بَشِيرٍ وَلاَ نَذِيرٍ فَقَدْ جَاءَكُمْ بَشِيرٌ وَنَذِيرٌ
“….lest you say: ‘There came to us no bringer of glad tidings and no warner.’ But now has come unto you a bringer of glad tidings and a warner.”
The Prophet Muhammad sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam was sent so that on the Day of Judgment no one can come and make the excuse, “No Messenger came to us bringing glad tidings and warning against evil.” There has come to you a bringer of good news and a warner, Muhammad sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam.
وَاللَّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
“And Allah is able to do all things.”
Ibn Jareer said this part of the Ayah means, “I am able to punish those who disobey Me and to reward those who obey Me.”
– The Messenger that you had been waiting for 500 – 600 years has now come to accept him as the warner and the giver of glad tidings.