Sending Down the Ma’idah
In ayaat 112 – 115, we learn about the story of the Ma’idah, the name of which this Surah bears, Surat Al-Ma’idah. This is also among the favors that Allah granted His servant and Messenger, Eesa, accepting his request to send the Ma’idah down, and doing so as clear proof and unequivocal evidence.
إِذْ قَالَ الْحَوَارِيُّونَ يعِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ هَلْ يَسْتَطِيعُ رَبُّكَ أَن يُنَزِّلَ عَلَيْنَا مَآئِدَةً مِّنَ السَّمَآءِ قَالَ اتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ
“(Remember) when Al-Hawariyoon said: ‘O Eesa, son of Maryam! Can your Lord send down to us a Ma’idah from heaven?’ Eesa said: ‘Have Taqwa of Allah, if you are indeed believers.’”
The word yastati-u is from the root letters tay-wau-ayn and it has several meanings. One meaning is to have the capability to do something. One meaning is to obey. And another meaning is to do an act with effort. For example, can he do this [capability], would he do this [obedience], and does he plan to do this [effort]?
The word ma’idah is from the root letters meem-ya-dal. It is a table, tray or plate on which multiple food items are served.
The disciples requested Eesa aalyhi salaam if His Lord could send a table spread from the heavens. Some scholars say the reason they made this request was because they were poor and deprived. They wanted to eat from ma’idah every day and thus be able to perform the acts of worship.
Another view is that this request was made because they wanted to witness a miracle. Therefore, Eesa aalyhi salaam rebuked them. He asked them if the miracles that they had already witnessed insufficient for them to believe in Allah? Why were they demanding miracles? Only such a person demands miracles who has weak emaan.
The Bani Israel had a demanding attitude. When they were given man-o-salwa they said we want crops that grow from the earth. Now they were demanding a table spread from the heavens. On the contrary, the companions of Rasoolullah, radhiAllahu anhum, did not make such demands. They would go hungry for several days. They would survive only on dates and water and never complain or put special requests to the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam.