Surat Al-Ma’idah: The Table Spread

“You who believe, be steadfast in your devotion to God and bear witness impartially: do not let hatred of others lead you away from justice, but adhere to justice, for that is closer to awareness of God. Be mindful of God: God is well aware of all that you do. God has promised forgiveness and a rich reward to those who have faith and do good works; those who reject faith and deny Our revelations will inhabit the blazing Fire” (Surat Al-Ma’idah, verse 8–10, translation by Abdul Haleem).

Commentary:

There are three Divine orders:

1. Be steadfast in obeying the Lord, avoid the forbidden, carry out the works expected of you, and be faithful.

2. To be just under all circumstances – never be unfair, never discriminate against others. Always be just and fair, “…even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or your close relatives. Whether the person is rich or poor, God can best take care of both. Refrain from following your own desire, so that you can act justly- if you distort or neglect justice, God is fully aware of what you do” (Surat An-Nisa, verse 135, translation by Abdul Haleem). All these relations and feelings can be real obstacles in carrying out justice – so the Quran warns us to be vigilant and ensure justice is done even if it is against yourself or your beloved parents – what a high level of moral test!

3. The order to be “mindful of God” is a constant theme of the Quran. God-consciousness and awareness is a most powerful deterrent against injustice. Hence it’s emphasised once more here.

 

The Circumstances of Revelation:

The Muslims were at this point being prepared for a great victory: the conquering of Makkah. So, they are given a clear lesson in being just and fair. They will be victorious and their long-standing enemies (the Makkans) will be standing before them as prisoners – the people who had tortured them in Makkah for eleven years, and pursued them relentlessly for the nine years they were in exile. In the sixth year of Hijrah when 1400 Muslims gathered to do the Umrah, the Makkans turned them back. Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى tells the Muslims that despite this enmity, you must be fair and just.

Justice is one of the most important moral virtues; without this individuals, families communities and countries cannot survive. There can be no economic prosperity, security and safety for the citizens without justice. Muslims are told to be just, and so they can be a source of peace and prosperity for all.