Sûrah “Al-An'âm -Livestock”


In Rakuh 16, 17 - vv 136,138 and 139 of this Sûrah the superstitious beliefs of Al-Arab about the lawfulness of some cattle (An’âm) and unlawfulness of some others have been disproved.  In reference to that, its name has been chosen as Al-An'âm.


Period of Revelation:

Ibne Abbas has stated that this complete Sûrah was revealed simultaneously in Makkah.  A first cousin of Hadrat Mu'az-bin Jabil and a daughter of Yazid, Asma says, "Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was riding on a she-camel during the revelation of this Sûrah, I was holding her nose-string and because of the burden it seemed that the she-camel’s bones are going to break.”  It is also in traditions that the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, gave the dictation of it - the same night that it was revealed.


It is clear from the subject matter of this Sûrah that it would have been revealed during the last period of Makki life.  The tradition of Asma, daughter of Yazid, also confirms this – because she was from among Ansâr and embraced Islam after the migration of the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, to Yathrib.  If she would have visited the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, at Makkah before embracing Islam – it would surely have taken place during the last period of his Makki life.  Before this, his relations with the people of Yathrib were not so intimate that a woman from there might have come to visit him at Makkah.


Rationale of Revelation:

After determining the period of its revelation – we can easily visualize the circumstances in which this speech has been revealed.  Twelve years had passed since the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, had been inviting the people to Islam.  The hindrance and animosity of the Quraish had crossed all its limits.  The majority of the people who embraced Islam had left the country and migrated to Habash (Abyssinia).  Above all neither Abu Talib nor Hadrat Khadijah were there to help Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam-therefore deprived from all the worldly support he was fulfilling his duty to spread Islam in teeth of opposition.  Because of this, all the good people in Makkah as well as in its surrounding tribes were gradually embracing Islam – but nation as a whole was bent upon denial and rejection.  Wherever, anyone showed slight inclination towards Islam, he was subjected to taunts and ridicule, physical violence and social boycott.  In this darkness - a tiny ray of hope shined from Yathrib, from where a few influential tribes of Aus and Khazraj, had accepted Islam on the hand of Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam – and where Islam began to spread freely without any hindrance.  However, in this tiny start no naked eye could foresee the great hidden potential of the future.  It appeared to a casual observer that as if Islam was just a weak movement that had no materialistic backing -- the advocate of it has no power except the insignificant support of his own family and a few poor, helpless and scattered devotees who embraced it by denying their community’s belief system – who had been cast out from their own societies as scattered leafs fallen from the tree.



In these circumstances, this speech has been revealed and its topics can be divided under seven main headings:

  1. Denial of shirk (Associating partners with Allah) and invitation towards the Tauhid (Oneness of Allah).
  2. Advocacy of the doctrine of the "Life-after-death." and rejection of the wrong belief that there was nothing beyond this worldly life.
  3. Negation of those clumsy superstitions in which the people were involved.
  4. Directives of those main fundamental moral principles on which Islam wants to build the Society.
  5. Answers to the objections rose against the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and his mission.
  6. Comfort the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and his followers – in the situation of unrest and dishearten due to long and unproductive struggle.
  7. Advise, warning, and threats to the disbelievers and opponents - on their thoughtlessness, arrogance and unintentional suicide.  However, it is not the style of speech that a separate sermon at the same place has been delivered on the each topic.  The lecture goes uninterrupted and in it, these topics come under discussion repeatedly in new and different ways.

Phase of Makki Life:

As this is the first time a detailed Makki Sûrah is coming before the readers -- it is suitable at this point to explain the historical background of Makki Sûrahs in general, so that it become easy for the reader to understand all the Makki Sûrahs and its explanation with our commentary on them.


The period of revelation of all Madanni Sûrahs is known or can be determined with little effort -- even the occasion of revelation of many individual verses can be found in authentic traditions.  However, we do not have such detailed resources about the Makki Sûrahs.  There are only a few Sûrahs or verses which have authentic traditions concerning the time and occasion of their revelation.  This is because the history of the Makki period had not been compiled in such detail as that of the Madanni period.  Therefore, in reference to the Makki Sûrahs we have to depend on the internal evidence, instead of historical data, that is found in the topics of different Sûrahs, subject matter, the style of speech, and in open or hidden tips.  Thus, it is obvious that with the help of such evidence, it cannot be determine that such and such Sûrah or verse was revealed on such century and such an occasion.  The most we can do is to compare the internal evidence of an Sûrah with the events of the life of the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, at Makkah, and then form an opinion that what particular period a certain Sûrah belongs.


Keeping this method in view – when we review the Makki life of Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, we see the Islamic Movement is divided into four main periods.


The first period start from his appointment as a Messenger to the declaration of Prophethood, approximately three years.  During this period, the Message was given secretly to the selected people only and the common people of Makkah were not aware of it.


The second period, from the declaration of Prophethood to the beginning of cruelty and persecution – approximately lasted for two years, initially it started with opposition then it attained the shape of hostility, ridicule, disrespect, accusation, abuse, and phony propaganda then gangs were created and eventually started persecuting those Muslims who were comparatively poor, weak and helpless.


The third period, approximately lasted for six years, from the beginning of the persecution (5 A. H) to the death of Abu Talib and Hadrat Khadijah (10 A.H.).  During this period, the animosity reached to its highest point and many Muslims migrate to Habash because of the brutality of pagans of Makkah.  Social and economic boycott was applied against the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and the members of his family, and Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, with his followers and companions were forced to take refuge in the valley of Shi'b-i-A'bi Talib.


The fourth period, from 10 A.H. until 13 A. H. lasted for about 3 years.  This period was very hard and of severe pain for the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and his followers.  The life of Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, had become intolerable in Makkah -- went to Tâ’if, could not get any shelter there as well.  On the occasion of Hajj, Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, had been appealing to each and every Arab tribe to accept his invitation and support him -- but could not get any positive response at all.  On the other hand, the people of Makkah had been counseling to get rid of him either by killing, imprisoning, or deporting him from their city.  Finally with the Grace of Allah the hearts of the Ansâr of Yathrib were opened for Islam and on their invitation Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, migrated to Madinah.


The Sûrahs, which were revealed during each of these periods, are very different, in subject matter and style, from the Sûrahs of other periods.  Many such signs are found in these Sûrahs, which throw light on the circumstances and the events of their revelation.  The effect of the attribute of each period is quite evident from the speeches revealed in that period.  Based on these attributes we will point out in the preface of each succeeding Makki Sûrahs, the particular period in which that Sûrah was revealed.

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