The following is from a work-in-progress called The Qur'an: a Book Report, in which I read each surah of the Qur'an and write about what I learn.
This Meccan surah is an impassioned argument for monotheism, against polytheism. In the context of 7th century Mecca, this was a controversial message. Though there were Christians and Jews living in the Arabian peninsula at the time, the majority of Arab Meccans, in Muhamad’s early years, were polytheistic. This included the powerful Quraysh tribe, who controlled the economic and religious life of the community. One can imagine Muhammad standing by the Ka’aba, the site of polytheistic worship in Mecca, and delivering his radical message, which was as follows:
There is only one God who created and sustains everything. He is all-powerful and all-knowing. All other gods are powerless, and actually non-existent. Muhammad’s message of monotheistic devotion is merely the latest message in a series of messages given to people throughout history (like the Jews and the Christians). Prophets like Muhammad are “warners” who urge people to turn back to the one God, so as to avoid destruction in this life and the next.
Not surprisingly, Muhammad’s message brought him into direct conflict with the Quraysh tribe and ultimately led to the exodus (or hijra) of the fledgling Muslim community from Mecca to Yathrib (later called Medina, the City of the Prophet). It was in Medina that Muhammad’s message and community would grow in numbers. This would ultimately lead the prophet and his followers to re-take Mecca and institute profound religious and social reforms.
|Muhammad at the Ka'aba (16th century Turkish painting)|