Explanation of Surat al-Quraysh


Its Name

During the early generations of Mulsim scholars this surah was known as the chapter, “For the constant security of the Quraysh.” ‘Amru the son of Maymun al-Awdawi said, “Umar the son of Khattab led us in the sunset prayer reciting “Have you not taken note of how your Lord dealt with the (soldiers who rode) owners of elephants” and “For the security of the Quraysh” in the second cycle of the prayer.”

In the copies of the Qur’an it is titled, “Quraysh.” This is also the title given by al-Bukhari in his collection of authentic hadith.

Imam al-Suyutti radiAllahu anhu (May Allah be please with him) has an important section in his masterpiece, Itqan fi ‘ulum al-Qur’an (Perfection in writing about the sciences of the Qur’an), which discusses the chapters of the Qur’an that have more than one name. This chapter is not found in that list.

Period of Revelation

Scholars agree that it was revealed in Mecca. Imam al-Suyutti (ra) does not mention this in his book under the chapter, “Chapters whose period of revelation is contentious.”

Order of Revelation

Imam Ibn ‘Ashur wrote that this was the 29th chapter revealed to the Prophet ﷺ after the chapter called “The Fig,” before the chapter called “al-Qar’ah.

Subject Matter

This chapter orders the Quraysh to turn to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (Glorified and Exalted is He), recognizing His control and Lordship since He protected them by blessing their business transactions, and provided for them physically, with food and spiritually, by protecting them from fear.

What does this chapter mean for us?

Just as Allah (swt) reminded them of His blessings, tangible and intangible, we as believers are encouraged to see His blessings in our lives. We live in a society that is blessed beyond its means.  We live in a society where one of the greatest killers is over consumption. We must use this to remind others of its danger and the fact that blessings require us to thank God.

Verse One

“For the Constant Security of the Quraysh”

This chapter begins with the article of preposition ل which carries with it the meaning of “for” or “because” and is usually connected to a verb or a noun that takes on a verb’s function (the active participle).

Scholars noted three possibilities here that touch the meaning of this verse:

  1. That it is connected to the first or last verse of the previous chapter, The Elephant. Thus, the meaning is, “Have you not considered how your Lord handled the companions of the elephant…” “for the constant security of the Quraysh” or “And We made them like eaten straw… for the constant security of the Quraysh.”
  2. That the ل is connected to the third verse of this chapter, “Then let them worship the Lord of this House,” meaning “Because of their constant security…Let them worship the Lord of this house.” This was noted by Khalil and Sibaway. It was further explained by al-Razi who said, “Let them worship Him, recognizing His favors, acknowledging His blessings upon them.” For that reason the letter ف is linked to worship – “Then, let them worship the Lord of this house,” implying, that His blessings are infinite, but you fail to see them. However, this blessing, the blessing of prosperity and security, is right in front of you. Thus, at least for that, “Worship the Lord of this House” since it is impossible for you to deny it.
  3. That the ل is not connected to any verb but is simply an article of exclamation and wonderment (t’ajub), meaning, “Its incredible that these people are so secure in their affairs?! Yet, they fail to worship the source of this security and continue to sink into the falsehood of idol worship!?”1

“Quraysh”

The word Quraysh is a shortened form of the word qirsh, which means “shark.” Ibn Abbas (ra) was asked about this by the Caliph Mu’awiya and responded, “It is a creature that resides in the sea. It eats and is not eaten. It is victorious and never loses.” Then he read the following verse of poetry:

وقريش هي التي تسكن البحر     بها سميت قريش قريشاً

“The shark is she who lives in the sea

because of it, the Quraysh were named Quraysh.”

The other opinion is that they were given this name because the word qirsh means “to earn” – they were given this name because of their businesses and caravans.

The Quraysh were given this name because in their early history they were scattered all over the Arabian Peninsula and Qusa bin Kilab encouraged them to settle in the area of the Haram. It is said “taqrrasha al-qawm,” which means, “The people gathered and lived together after being nomads.”

Their Lineage

Their lineage goes back to Fihr, the son of Malik, the son of al-Nadr, the son of Kinana.

A Lesson in Da`wah

The security of the Quraysh was a hot topic in the Arabian Peninsula. The Arabs around them had always wondered, “How on earth are these people secure and rich?” Thus, Allah (swt) begins this chapter by hitting a hot topic in the streets of the Arabian hood. This is repeated twice in the chapter to grab the attention of the listener. “For the constant security of the Quraysh.” The listener, “Yeah! I always wondered about that.” “Their constant security during the caravans of winter and summer.” If you understood this, then you will grasp why the next verse begins without a conjunction. Ponder!

Verse 2

“Their constant security during the caravans of winter and summer…”

The security of the Quraysh is mentioned twice; first in a general way, and second in regards to the caravans that traveled south in the winter and north in the summer. There is no conjunction here because both are considered blessings, but the latter is singled out as a great source of blessing for them because they live in a barren land.

As was noted earlier, security is mentioned again, but restricted to their business – reminding them of this blessing. This is a device used in Arabic to grab the attention of the listener. It was used by Pharaoh in the Qur’an when he said, “O Haman, construct for me a tower that I might reach the ways. The ways into the heavens.” (40:36-37) It was used by the pre-prophetic poets such as Imru al-Qayis who said, “The Day I entered the private apartment…the apartment of ‘Unayza!”

“Their constant security during caravans of winter and summer.”

Think about this for a moment. Not only is their security mentioned twice, but the greatest blessing, as far as they were concerned, was mentioned, “during the caravans of winter and summer,” because there is no way they could truly understand that and be ungrateful to Allah!

This is about two caravans they used to send: one during the summer, and the other during the winter. It does not mean that each one occurred only once, but it is possible that they used these months to conduct different caravans for business.

The practice of caravans was started by Hashim bin Abd Manaf because of the hardships and poverty that afflicted them (and a certain tribe in particular). Hashim organized them into different groups and started this practice. This had great benefits on the society until the rich and poor were on equal footing. A poet wrote about them, “The rich and poor mixed together…until the poor became like the rich!” These caravans continued during the time of the Prophet ﷺ.

Verse 3

“So, let them worship the Lord of this House.”

“Worship your Lord” here implies with no partners. Ibn ‘Ashur notes that they would only worship Allah on Hajj (pilgrimage). Even then they would say, “We are at Your service. You have no partners except for those who share in your power.” May Allah protect us from that and ground us in tawheed (monotheism)!

“The Lord of this House”

“Lord” is used here instead of Allah because “Lord” brings to mind the source of favors and blessings. Its usage here supports the general theme of the chapter, think about your blessings and where they came from. The word “Lord” has a number of meanings:

Al-Saja’i wrote:

“The near, Who encompasses all things, King, Planner…Nurturer of abundant good, Master of blessings.” Our creator, the Worshiped, the Corrector of our affairs, the Companion, the Constant, the Everlasting, the One who will bring us in front of Him on the last day, the Master. Memorize these meanings for the word rab and pray for its poet.”

“Lord of this House.”

“House” is mentioned instead of saying, “worship Allah” or “worship your Lord” as it reminds them of their source of blessings and protection is their relation to tawheed and obedience to Allah.

Verse 4

“Who provided them food instead of hunger and secured them from fear.”

The word “Who” implies that Allah is the only true source of provisions.

The usage of the word “food” instead of “hunger” and the word “security” instead of “fear” paints a picture of where the Quraysh resided—it is not a hospitable place, nor is it a place for earning ones basic provisions. Thus, it is a great blessing that in such situations, Allah (swt) is taking care of them; providing for them and protecting them from harm!

May God’s peace and blessings be upon our Prophet ﷺ, his family, companions and his community.


  1. All of this is mentioned by al-Razi in his tafsir vol. 32 pg. 234-235.
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5 Comments

  1. Suleman says:

    Thanks for the lesson

    particularly liked the etymology

    Please keep up as unfortunately even in practising circles Quran Tafsir is the most neglected in discussions let alone in non-practising circles

  2. Seth says:

    Explanations on the Qur’an are greatly appreciated. It means a lot to me because there is no mosque in my region. I’m sure there are others in the same boat.
    Thanks

  3. Muhammed-Ali says:

    Salam alaykum Br. Suhaib

    Could you please give us the arabic meaning of the poem of the word rab??

    ===>>>Al-Saja’i wrote:

    “The near, Who encompasses all things, King, Planner…Nurturer of abundant good, Master of blessings.” Our creator, the Worshiped, the Corrector of our affairs, the Companion, the Constant, the Everlasting, the One who will bring us in front of Him on the last day, the Master. Memorize these meanings for the word rab and pray for its poet.”

  4. Salam Sheikh,
    Syed Adam Alhabshi from YMP here.
    Great explanation. :)
    Just wanted to share, this verse are also used by Islamic economist to support the idea of marking up the value of an item for trading purposes as the owner had to endure hardship in transporting, security of their own life and the safety of the items and many other reasons. Some call it the “caravan trade” principle.
    Thanks again. :)
    Wassalam,
    Alif Dal Mim

  5. tasneem says:

    Thank you! These verses came to mind and I could understand why. I read the translation but didn’t grasp much until I read the ‘What does this chapter mean for us?’ Section. Brkalahufq, I now have a better understanding.

    Allah knows best

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