Period of Revelation: Makkan
Order of Revelation: 27
Theme and Subject Matter:
This short Surah was revealed at a time when the persecution of the Muslims was at its peak. Its theme is to warn the disbelievers of the evil consequences of the persecution and tyranny that they were perpetrating on the converts to Islam, and to console the believers, so as to say: If you remain firm and steadfast against tyranny and coercion, you will be rewarded richly for it, and Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala will certainly avenge Himself on your persecutors on your behalf.
The background is the pit incident, when a community of believers who lived before the advent of Islam, said to be Unitarian Christians, were faced by ruthless and tyrannical enemies who sought to force them away from their faith. The believers refused. The tyrants then lit a great fire in a pit they had dug, and threw them into it. The believers were thus burnt to death in front of large crowds that had gathered to witness this ghastly act of extermination. The tyrants sat by, amused by the believers’ sufferings.
By means of this story the believers and the disbelievers have been taught a few lessons. First, that just as the people of the ditch (ashab-ul-ukhdud) became worthy of Allah’s curse and punishment, so are the chiefs of Makkah also becoming worthy of it. Second, that just as the believers at that time had willingly accepted to sacrifice their lives by being burnt to death in the pits of fire instead of turning away from the faith, so also the believers now should endure every persecution but should never give up the faith. Third, that Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala is watching what the two groups are striving for. Therefore, it is certain that the disbelievers will not only be punished in Hell for their disbelief but, more than that, they too will suffer punishment by fire as a fit recompense for their tyranny and cruelties. Likewise, this also is certain that those, who believe and follow up their belief with good deeds, should go to Paradise and this indeed is the supreme success.
Then the disbelievers have been warned, so as to say: Allah’s grip is severe. If you are proud of the strength of your hosts, you should know that the hosts of Pharaoh and Thamoud were even stronger and more in number. Therefore, you should learn a lesson from the fate they met. Allah’s power has so encompassed you that you cannot escape His encirclement, and the Qur’an that you are bent upon belying, is unchangeable: it is inscribed in the Preserved Tablet, which cannot be corrupted in any way.
The Virtue of Surah al-Buruj
Jabir ibn Samara radhiAllahu ‘anhu narrates that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam used to recite Surah al-Buruj and Surah at-Tariq in Duhr [afternoon] and ‘Asr [evening] prayer [Sunan Abu Daw’oud]. It tells us two things: one that we too should recite these Surahs in these Salah, second, that this should be the length of the Qur’an recitation in Duhr and ‘Asr Salah should we choose to recite some other ayaat.