The name is derived from the word was saaffat with which the Surahbegins.
Period of Revelation
The subject matter and the style showthat this Surah probably was sent down in the middle of the Makkanperiod, or perhaps in the last stage of the middle Makkan period. Thestyle clearly indicates that antagonism is raging strong in thebackground and the Holy Prophet and his Companions are passing throughvery difficult and discouraging circumstances.
Subject Matter and Theme
The disbelievers of Makkah have been severely warned for theirattitude of mockery and derision with which they were responding tothe Holy Prophet's message of Tauhid and the Hereafter and for theirutter refusal to accept and acknowledge his claim to Prophethood. Inthe end, they have been plainly warned that the Prophet whom they aremocking and ridiculing will overwhelm them in spite of their power andself and they will find the army of Allah encamping in the verycourtyards of their houses (vv. 171-179. This notice was given at atime when there appeared no chance whatever of the Holy Prophet'ssuccess and triumph. The Muslims (who have been called Allah's army inthese verses) were being made the target of severe persecution. Three-fourth of their population had already emigrated and hardly 40 to 50of the Companions were left with the Holy Prophet in Makkah who wereexperiencing all sorts of the excesses with utter helplessness. Undersuch circumstances, in view of the apparent conditions, no one couldbelieve that the Holy Prophet and the handful of his ill equippedCompanions would ultimately attain dominance. The people ratherthought that the new movement would end and be buried in the ravinesof Makkah. But hardly 15 to 16 years had passed when on the conquestof Makkah precisely the same thing happened of which the disbelievershad been forewarned.
Along with administering warnings, Allah in thisSurah has done full justice also to the theme of inducement andinstruction in a balanced way. Brief but impressive arguments havebeen given about the validity of the doctrines of Tauhid and theHereafter. Criticism has been made of the creed of the mushrikin toshow the absurdity of their beliefs; they have been informed of theevil consequences of their deviations, which have been contrasted withthe splendid results of the faith and righteous acts. Then, incontinuation of the same, Precedents from past history have been citedto show how Allah had been treating His Prophets and their followers :how He has been favoring His faithful servants and punishing theirdeniers and rejectors.
The most instructive of the historicalnarratives presented in this Surah is the important event of the piouslife of the Prophet Abraham, who became ready to sacrifice his onlyson as soon as he received an inspiration from Allah. In this therewas a lesson not only for the disbelieving Quraish, who waxed proud oftheir blood relationship with him, but also for the Muslims who hadbelieved in Allah and His Messenger. By narrating this event they weretold what is the essence and the real spirit of Islam, and how a truebeliever should be ready to sacrifice his all for the pleasure andapproval of Allah after he has adopted it as his Faith and Creed.
Thelast verses of the Surah were not only a warning for the disbelieversbut also a good news for the believers who were passing through highlyunfavorable and discouraging conditions on account of theirsupporting and following the Holy Prophet. In these verses they weregiven the good news that they should not be disheartened at thehardships and difficulties they had to encounter in the beginning, forin the end they alone would attain dominance, and the standard bearersof falsehood, who appeared to be dominant at the time would beoverwhelmed and vanquished at their hands. A few years later the turnthe events took, proved that it was not an empty consolation but aninevitable reality of which they had been foretold in order tostrengthen their hearts.