The name of this Sûrah has been taken from verse 16, “And O Prophet (Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), mention about Maryam in this Book (Al-Qur'ân), when she isolated from her people and had confined (herself) to a place in the eastern side”
Period of Revelation:
The period of its revelation is before the migration to Habash. We learn from authentic traditions that when the Islamic immigrants were called in the court of Nejashi at that time Hadrat Ja'afar recited the same Sûrah in his court.
We have already talked about the situation, in the introduction of Sûrah Al-Kahf, of that period in which this Sûrah has been revealed. However, that brief introduction is insufficient to understand this Sûrah and other Sûrahs of that period, therefore here we will discuss that period in detail.
When the chiefs of the Quraish failed to suppress the Islamic movement by ridicule, condemnation, holding back, threats, and propagating false accusations -- they started using the weapons of persecution, cruelty, beating, and economic pressure. The people from each tribe trapped the new Muslims of their own tribes and mistreated them, put them in prisons, kept them in starvation, even had been torturing them physically and forcing them to leave the Islam. Therefore, the most victimized people were those poor, slaves and deprived people who were living under the chiefs of the Quraish. For example Hadrat Bilal, Umair bin Muhera, Um Ubasee, Zenarah, Aamar-bin-Yaser, and their parents. Those people had been beaten black and blue, imprisoned, kept thirsty and hungry, and laid down on the burning sands for hours under the burden of heavy stones on their chests. The people would get work from the professionals without paying their wages. Therefore, in Al-Bukhari and Al-Muslim the following story about Hadrat Khâbob bin Arât has been quoted:
"I used to work as a blacksmith in Makkah, I did some work for Aas-bin-Wa’il and when I went to get my payment from him, he said, 'I will not give your sweat money until you renounce Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam."
In this way, they were destroying the businesses of the Muslims and trying their utmost to humiliate the honorable ones. Hadrat Khâbob narrates the condition of this period, saying, "One day the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was sitting under the shadow of the Ka’bah. I went to him and respectfully asked, 'O Messenger of Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala, now cruelty has reached to its limits; why do you not pray (for relief) to Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala?' At this the face of Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam blazed and he said, 'The believers before you have suffered more cruelty than you. Their bones were rubbed with iron combs, their heads were cut with saws; even then, they did not give up their Faith. Be certain that Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala will complete this Mission, so much so a time will come a person will travel from Sanna to Hadr Maut and he/she will fear none except Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala, but you people become impatient'." (Al-Bukhari)
When these circumstances became unbearable, in the month of Rajab 5 A. H. the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said to his Companions: "It will be better you migrate to Habash. There is a king, who does not allow injustice to anyone and that is a place of goodness. Until Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala consents to a solution for your affliction you people stay there".
Consequently, at first
eleven men and four women left for Habash.
The people of Quraish pursued them up to the coast, but fortunately they
immediately got a boat for Habash at the
After this migration,
there was a great outcry in Makkah, because there was no single family of the
Quraish whose member had not been in the immigrants. Someone has a son or a son-in-law, someone
has a daughter or a brother or a sister.
Among these immigrants from the family of Abu Jahl were, his brother
Salamah-bin-Hisham, his cousin brother Hisham-bin-Ibe-Husaafa,
Aayash-bin-Ibe-Rabia, and his coin sister Hadrat Ume-Salama. The daughter of
Abu Suffian Ume-Habiba, son of Uttba and Sahlah the daughter of
Sohail-bin-Umroo -- and in the same way the near relatives of other chiefs of
the Quraish, who were notorious for their persecution of the Muslims, left
Makkah for Islam. As a result, some of
them became severe in their animosity of Islam, and others hearts were so
affected that they embraced Islam.
Therefore, this incident had first strike on Hadrat Omar’s animosity of
Islam. One of his near relatives, Laila,
daughter of Hathmah, says, "I was packing for migration, and my husband,
Aamir-bin-Rabiy'ah had gone out for some work.
In the meantime, Omar came and kept watching my activities. After
sometime he said, 'O mother of Abdullah, are you leaving?' I answered, 'Yes, by Allâh subhaana wa
ta’aala, you people have made our lives miserable. The
After the migration, the chiefs of Quraish gathered for consultations, and decided to send Abdullah-bin- Abi-Rabiy'ah, half brother of Abu Jahl, and Umro-bin-Aas to Habash with precious gifts so by any means these people should convince Nejashi to send the migrants back to Makkah. The mother of Muslims Hadrat Umm-Salmah (who herself was among the migrants) has narrated this incident in very details. She says, "When these two clever statesmen of the Quraish reached Habash in our pursuit, first of all they distributed the gifts among the courtiers of the King and convinced them that they will strongly recommend to the King to send the migrants back. Then they met King Nejashi and presented precious gifts to him, after that they said, "Some unwise little monsters of our city have come to your land and our chiefs have sent us to you with the request that you may kindly send them back. These boys have renounced our faith and have not accepted your faith either, but have invented a novel faith". As soon as they finished their speech, all the courtiers started saying, “Such people must be sent back, their people understand them better. It is not good to keep them here". However, the King Nejashi was annoyed and said, “In this way I will not send them back. The people, who left their country and look for asylum in my country I will be untrue to such people. First, I will call them and conduct proper enquiry about the truth of the allegations these people have made against them”. Therefore, the King Nejashi called the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to his court.
When the migrants received the message of the King, they gathered and had consultation as what to say before the King. They mutually agreed, "We will present the teachings of Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam without any addition or subtraction whether Nejashi let us stay or exile us from his country". When they reached into the court, the King Nejashi immediately asked the question, “What have you people done – you renounced the religion of your nation and have not also accepted my religion, neither have you adopted other religions of the world? – After all what is your new Faith?” At this on behalf of immigrants, Jafar-bin-Abe-Talib delivered a spontaneous speech, first pointed out the religious ignorance, immoral and social corruption of the Arabs, then mentioned about the Prophethood of Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and his teachings, then mentioned the cruelties the people of Quraish were doing on the followers of Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and ended his speech saying that we came to your country, instead of going to any other country, with a hope that there will be no injustice to us. After listening to his speech Nejashi said, "Recite to me that Revelation which you claim has been revealed to your Prophet by Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala". In response, Hadrat Jafar recited the beginning part of the Sûrah Maryam which is about Prophets Yahya (John) and Prophet Iesa (Jesus) (Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala 's peace be upon them). Nejashi kept listening and kept crying so much so that his beard became wet with tears. When Hadrat Jafar finished the recital, he said, "Certainly this Revelation and the Message that Iesa brought are from the same source, I swear by Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala I will not hand you over to these people".
The next day Umro-bin-Aas said to the Nejashi, "Please call and ask these people, what is their Faith about Iesa the son of Maryam. These people say a nasty thing about him". The Nejashi again called in the immigrants. They had already learnt about Umro’s plan. They again gathered and had consultation that if Nejashi asked a question about Prophet Iesa – what should be our answer? It was very critical situation and all were worried. But the followers of Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam again agreed that no matter what happen we will tell whatever Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala has Revealed and Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam has taught us. Therefore, when these people arrived in the court and the King repeated the question suggested by Umro-bin-Aas, Jafar-bin-Abe-Talib stood up and without any hesitation said, "He is a Servant and Prophet of Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala and he is a Spirit and a Word from Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala which Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala sent to virgin Maryam”. At this Nejashi picked up a tiny stick from the ground and said, “By Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala, whatever you have said Iesa was not more than this tiny stick". After this Nejashi returned the gifts sent by the Quraish, saying, I do not take bribe and said to the migrants, you stay here in complete peace."
Theme and Subject Matter:
Keeping in view this historical background, when we see this Sûrah – the first thing that becomes quite obvious to us is that even though the Muslims were migrating from their country to an other country as oppressed refugees, however in such circumstances Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala did not teach them to adopt any deviation in the matter of Deen but has given this Sûrah to serve the migrants as a "provision" for their journey to Habash, so in country of Christians they should present Prophet Iesa in the right way and clearly deny that he was the son of Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala.
After narrating the story of Prophets Yahya and Iesa in first 2 Rakuh (vv. 1-40), in according to the circumstances the story of Prophet Ibrâhim has been narrated in 3rd Rakuh (vv. 41-50), since in same circumstances he also had migrated because of the persecution of his father, his family and his fellow citizens. On the one hand, a lesson has been taught to the Kâfûr/disbelievers of Makkah that you are in a position of those oppressors who exiled your father and ancestor Prophet Ibrâhim and these migrants are in a position of the Prophet Ibrâhim who had been exiled. On the other hand, the migrants were given glad news that as Prophet Ibrâhim attained all the good in the same way blessings are waiting for you.
After this in 4th Rakuh (vv. 51-65) the other Prophets has been mentioned with a view to emphasize on the point that Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had brought the same Way of Life (Deen) that had been brought by the former Prophets, but after the Prophets their nations had become corrupt and adopted wrong ways, and today it is the result of the same.
In the last 2 Rakuh (vv. 66-98), the wrong doing of unbelievers of Makkah have been strongly criticized, and at the end of the speech the Believers have been given the good news that, in spite of all the hostility of the enemies of the Truth, finally they will be successful and beloved of the people.