Period of Revelation:
The subject matter of this Sūrah specifies and traditions support that it has been revealed after the treaty of Hudaibiyah at the end of 6 A. H. or in the beginning of 7 A. H. In Zil-Qaadah 6 A. H. Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, went to Makkah with 1400 Muslims to perform Umrah pilgrimage -- but the pagans of Quraish inflamed with enmity, against all the historic religious traditions of Al-Arab, disallowed him from its performance, after long and harsh negotiations they accepted that next year you can come for visit. At this occasion on one hand, it was needed to teach the Muslims manner of journey for the visitation of Kabah so that next year the journey of Umrah should be done with complete Islamic dignity-- and on the other hand, they should be enjoined not to retaliate against the misconduct of disbelievers. It was possible for Muslims to stop them from the visitation of Kabah as they did -- because many disbeliever tribes have to pass through the Islamic territory to perform pilgrimage. This is the reason of that introductory speech with which this Sūrah has started. The same topic has resumed in vv. 101-104, Rakuh 13. It proves that it is a same speech from Rakuh 1- 14. Beside this, all other topics that we find in this Sūrah looks like of the same period. The continuity of the speech shows that most probably the complete Sūrah comprises on a single lecture that would have been revealed at once. It is also possible that some of its verses have been revealed at a later period and because of the suitability of the subject matter have been inserted in this Surah at different places -- but there is no gap in the continuity of speech, which could have given impression that it might have comprised two or more lectures.
Rationale of Revelation:
The situation had been changed tremendously from the time of revelation of Sūrah Al-Imrān and Sūrah An-Nisā until the revelation of this Sūrah. Then that was a time when the aftermath of battle of Uhud had made the surroundings of Al-Madinah very dangerous for the Muslims -- now the time had come that Islam become an undefeatable power and the Islamic State had widespread to Najd on the east, Syria on the north, the Red Sea on the west, and to Makkah on the south. The setback Muslims had suffered at Uhud instead of breaking their determination it proves to be inspiring for their courage. They arouse like an injured loin and changed the whole situation within three years period. It was a result of their continuous struggle and unparalleled sacrifices that the power of surrounding tribes, within a radius of 150-200 miles, had been broken. The Jewish threat, which had always been hanging over Al-Madinah, was completely eradicated -- and the Jews in the other parts of Hijaaz had become subordinates of the State of Al-Madinah. The last fruitless effort of the Quraish to suppress Islam had been in the Battle of the Ditch. After this, it had become obvious to the Arab world that now no power can crush the Islamic movement. Now Islam was not merely an article of faith, which ruled only over the hearts and minds of the people, but had become a State that was practically ruling over the lives of all those people who lived within its boundaries. Now Muslims had acquired the power so they can live their lives according to their beliefs without any hindrance, and except this do not let any other law or cult to interfere in their lives.
Then in these few years, a permanent civilization of Muslims had been established on the bases of Islamic viewpoint and Islamic Laws that had completely unique details of life from all other civilizations. Muslims were clearly distinguished from the non-Muslims in their moral, social and cultural behavior. The system of Masajids (Mosques) and Salāt (prayers) was established in all Muslims territories Imams (religious leaders) were appointed in each village and town. The Islamic civil and criminal laws had been formulated in detail and were being enforced through the Islamic courts. The old ways of trade and commerce were banned and new reformed ways were established. The Law of inheritance was completely implemented. The Laws of marriage and divorce, the separation of the sexes, the punishment for adultery and defamation had directed the social life of the Muslims in a special mould. Their social behavior, conversation, dresses; mode of living, and culture had taken a definite shape of its own. As a result, the non-Muslims were totally disappointed from this side that those who had established their own complete social system would ever return and join them.
Before the treaty of Hudaibiyah struggle with the non-Muslim Quraish was a big obstacle in front of Muslims and they were not getting an opportunity to widen the circle of their Islamic preaching. This hindrance was removed by treaty of Hudaibiyah -- seemingly a defeat but in reality a victory. This gave the Muslims not only peace in their own territory but also break to spread the message of Islam in the surrounding territories. Therefore, Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, started it by writing letters to the rulers of Iran, Egypt, the Roman Empire, and the chiefs of Arabia, and at the same time, the followers of Islam spread among the tribes and nations to invite them towards the Path of Allah.
These were the circumstances when Sūrah Al-Māidah was revealed. This Sūrah comprises on the following three main topics: