The name, An-Nahl, of this Surah has been taken from v. 68. This is merely to
distinguish it from other Surahs.
Period of Revelation
The following internal evidence shows that this Surah was revealed during the last
Makkan stage of Prophethood:
- V. 41 clearly shows that persecution had forced some Muslims to emigrate to Habash
before the revelation of this Surah.
- It is evident from v. 106 that at that time the persecution of the Muslims was at its
height. Therefore a problem had arisen in regard to the utterance of a blasphemous word,
without actual disbelief, under unbearable conditions. The problem was that if one did so
how he should be treated.
- VV. 112-114 clearly refer to the end of seven year famine that had struck Makkah some
years after the appointment of the Holy Prophet as Allah's Messenger.
- There is a reference to V 116 of this Surah in VI: 145, and v. 118 of this Surah
contains a reference to VI: 146. This is a proof that both these Surahs (VI and XVI) were
sent down in the same period.
The general style of the Surah also supports the view that this was revealed during the
last stage at Makkah.
All the topics of the Surah revolve round different aspects of the Message, ie.,
refutation of shirk, proof of Tauhid, and warning of the consequences of
the rejection of and opposition and antagonism to the Message.
Topics of Discussion
The very first verse gives direct and strict warning to those who were rejecting the
Message outright, as if to say, "Allah's decision has already been made concerning
your rejection of the Message. Why are you then clamoring for hastening it? Why don't you
make use of the respite that is being given to you!" And this was exactly what the
disbelievers of Makkah needed at the time of the revelation of this Surah. For they
challenged the Holy Prophet over and over again: "Why don't you bring that scourge
with which you have been threatening us! For we have not only rejected your Message but
have been openly opposing it for a long time." Such a challenge had become a by-word
with them, which they frequently repeated as a clear proof that Muhammad (Allah's peace be
upon him) was not a true Prophet.
Immediately after this warning they have been admonished to give up shirk, for
this false creed was the main obstacle in the way of the Message. Then the following
topics come over and over again, one after the other:
- Very convincing proofs of Tauhid and refutation of shirk have been
based on the plain signs in the universe and in man's own self.
- The objections of the disbelievers have been answered, their arguments refuted, their
doubts removed and their false pretexts exposed.
- Warnings have given of the consequences of persistence in false ways and antagonism to
- The moral changes which the Message of the Holy Prophet aims to bring practically in
human life have been presented briefly in an appealing manner. The mushriks have
been told that belief in Allah, which they also professed, demanded that it should not be
confined merely to lip service, but this creed should take a definite shape in moral and
- The Holy Prophet and his companions have been comforted and told about the attitude they
should adopt in the face of antagonism and persecution by the disbelievers.
[Next] [Top] [Previous]
Courtesy : USC Muslim Students Association