19. Maryam

Syed Abu-Ala' Maududi's Chapter Introductions to the Quran


It takes its name from v. 16.

Period of Revelation

It was revealed before the Migration to Habash. We learn from authentic Traditions that Hadrat Ja'afar recited vv. 1-40 of this Sura in the court of Negus when he called the migrants to his court.

Historical Background

We have already briefly referred to the conditions of that period in the introduction to Sura Al-Kahf. Here we shall give rather fuller details of the same conditions which will be helpful in grasping the meaning of this Sura and the other Suras of the period. When the chiefs of the Quraishfelt that they had failed to suppress the Islamic movement by ridicule sarcasm and by holding out promises and threats and by making false accusations they resorted to persecution beating and economic pressure. They would catch hold of the new Muslims of their clans and persecute them starve them and would even inflict physical torture on them in order to coerce them to give up Islam. The most pitiful victims of their persecution were the poor people and the slaves and the proteges of the Quraish. They were beaten black and blue were imprisoned and kept thirsty and hungry and were dragged on the burning sands of Makkah. The people would get work from the professional labourers but would not pay them their wages. As an instance we give below the story of Hadrat KhabbabbinArat which is given in Bukhari and Muslim: "I used to work as a blacksmith in Makkah. Once I did some work for As bin Wa'il. When I went to ask for my wages he said 'I will not pay your wages unless you disown Muhammad'." In the same connection Hadrat Khabbabsays One day the Holy Prophet was sitting in the shadow of the Ka'abah. I went to him and said '0 Messenger of Allah now persecution has gone to its extreme; why do you not pray to Allah (for relief)?' At this the Holy Prophet was greatly moved. He said 'The believers before you were persecuted much more than you. Their bones were scraped with combs of iron and their heads were cut with saws but still they did not give up their Faith. I assure you that Allah will fulfil this Mission and there will come a period of such peace that one would travel from Sanna to Hadramaut and he will have no fear from anyone save Allah. But you people have already become impatient'. (Bukhari) When the conditions became unbearable the Holy Prophet in the month of Rajab of the fifth year of Prophethood gave advice to his Companions to this effect: "You may well migrate to Habash for there is a king who does not allow any kind of injustice to anyone and there is good in his land. You should remain there till the time that Allah provides a remedy for your affliction". Accordingly at first eleven men and four women left for Habash. The Quraishpursued them up to the coast but fortunately they got a timely boat for Habash at the sea-port of Shu'aibah and they escaped attest. Then after a few months other people migrated to Habash and their number rose to eighty-three men and eleven women of the Quraishand seven non-Quraish. After this only forty persons were left with the Holy Prophet at Makkah. There was a great hue and cry in Makkah after this Migration for every family of the Quraishwas adversely affected by this. There was hardly a family of the Quraishwhich did not lose a son a son-in-law a daughter a brother or a sister. For instance there were among the Migrants the near relatives of Abu Jahl Abu Sufyan and other chief of the Quraishwho were notorious for their persecution of the Muslims. As a result of this some of them became even more bitter in their enmity of Islam while there were others who were so moved by this that they embraced Islam. For instance this Migration left a deep mark on Hadrat Umar. One of his relatives Laila daughter of Hathmah says I was packing my luggage for Migration while my husband Amr bin Rabiy'ah had gone out. In the meantime Umar came there and began to watch me while I was engaged in preparation for the journey. Then he said 'Are you also going to migrate?' I answered 'Yes by God you people have persecuted us much. But the wide earth of Allah is open for us. Now we are going to a place where Allah will grant us peace'. At this I noticed such signs of emoti

Theme and Subject

Keeping in view this historical background it becomes quite obvious that this Sura was sent down to serve the migrants as a provision" for their journey to Habash as if to say Though you are leaving your country as persecuted emigrants to a Christian country you should not in the least hide anything from the teachings you have received. There- fore you should plainly say to the Christians that Prophet Jesus was not the son of God. After relating the story of Prophets John and Jesus in vv. 1-40 the story of Prophet Abraham has been related (vv. 41-50) also for the benefit of the Migrants for he also had been forced like them to leave his country by the persecution of his father his family and his country men. On the one hand this meant to console the Emigrants that they were following the footsteps of Prophet Abraham and would attain the same good end as that Prophet did. On the other hand it meant to warn the disbeliever of Makkah that they should note it well that they were in the position of the cruel people who had persecuted their forefather and leader Abraham while the Muslim Emigrants were in the position of Prophet Abraham himself. Then the mention of the other Prophets has been made in vv. 51-65 with a view to impress that Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him) had brought the same way of Life that had been brought by the former Prophets but their followers had become corrupt and adopted wrong ways. In the concluding passage (vv. 66-98) a strong criticism has been made of the evil ways of the disbelievers of Makkah while the Believers have been given the good news that they would come out successful and become the beloved of the people in spite of the worst efforts of the enemies of the Truth.

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