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Sura al-Ma'ida

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Sura al-Ma'ida
Sura al-Nisa'← →Sura Al-An'am
سوره مائده.jpg
Sura Number 5
Juz' 6 and 7
Revelation Number 113
Makki/Madani Madani
Verse Count 120
Word Count 2842
Letter Count 12207
This article is an introduction to the Sura al-Ma'ida; to read its text see text:Sura al-Ma'ida.

Sura al-Māʾida (Arabic: سورة المائدة) is the 5th sura of the Qur'an. It is a Madani sura located in juz's 6 and 7. "Ma'ida" means "food or table of food". Since this sura speaks about receiving food from heavens by the request of the Apostles of prophet Jesus (a), it was named "al-Ma'ida". Many rulings and issues are mentioned in Sura al-Ma'ida, including the issue of wilaya in Islam, Trinity in Christianity, Resurrection and the hereafter, observing one's pledge, social justice, just testimony, prohibition of killing people and rulings of halal foods, wudu and Tayammum. Two of the famous verses of this sura are verse of Ikmal and verse of Tabligh which according to Shi'a views are related with the event of Ghadir and the announcement of the succession of Imam Ali (a). Also according to Shi'a and Sunnis, verse of wilaya was revealed about Imam Ali (a). Some historical events mentioned in this sura are the destiny of Banu Israel, stories of Abel and Cain, mission of prophet Jesus (a) and his miracles. About the merits of the recitation of this sura, it is narrated from the Prophet (s) that whoever recites Sura al-Ma'ida, will be given ten rewards for every Jew or Christian who has breathed in this world and ten of his sins will be purged and ten degrees will be added to his degrees.



"Ma'ida" means "food or table of food". It is named "al-Ma'ida" because it tells the story of receiving food by the companions of prophet Jesus (a) (verse 114) and this word is mentioned twice in this sura. Other names of this sura are "'Uqud" meaning pledges and "Munqidha" meaning savior.

Order and Place of Revelation

Sura al-Ma'ida is a Madani sura and 113th sura revealed to the Prophet (s). In the current order of the Qur'an, it is the 5th sura located in juz's six and seven.

Number of Verses and Other Features

Sura al-Ma'ida has 120 verses, 2842 words and 12207 letters. Regarding size, this sura is among Sab'u Tiwal (the Seven Longest Ones) and one of the longest suras of the Qur'an.


In Sura al-Ma'ida, a series of Islamic teachings, beliefs and rulings and religious duties are mentioned. Some other issues mentioned in this sura are wilaya and leadership after the Prophet (s), Trinity of Christians, issues related with the Resurrection, observing pledges, social justice, ruling for murder and the story of Abel (Habil) and Cain (Qabil) in that regard, rulings of wudu, tayammum, qisas and robbery and rulings about a Muhrim person. According to Tafsir al-Mizan, the general goal of this sura is enjoining to observation of pledges and keeping them. According to this sura, it is the manner of God to be Merciful and Lenient to those who observe piety and are kind to people and He will be harsh on those who violate their covenants with their Imam (a).

Content of Sura al-Ma'ida[1]
The importance of observing divine covenants
First part: verses 1-11
Enjoining Muslims to observe divine rulings
Second part: verses 12-86
Enjoining the People of the Book to observe divine covenants
Third Part: verses 87-108
Enjoining Muslims to observe other religious rulings
Fourth part: verses 109-120
Answering about divine covenant on the Judgment Day
First ruling: verses 1-2
Observation of hajj rulings
First discussion: verses 12-14
Reminding the breaking of covenants by the People of the Book
First ruling: verses 87-88
Forbidding the prohibition of halal foods
First issue: verse 109
Asking the Prophet (s) about his people on the Judgment Day
Second ruling: verses 3-4
Observation of the rulings about foods
Second discussion: verses 15-19
Duty of the People of the Book for believing in the Prophet of Islam (s)
Second ruling: verse 89
Payment of the atonement for oath
Second issue: verse 110
Banu Israel's opposition to Jesus (a)
Third ruling: verse 5
Observation of God's rule in choosing spouse
Third discussion: verses 20-40
History of the People of the Book in objecting to divine rule
Third ruling: verses 90-93
Prohibition of consuming alcoholic drinks and gambling
Third issue: verses 111-115
Observation of divine covenants by the Apostles of Jesus (a)
Fourth ruling: verses 6-7
Observation of the rulings for purity
Fourth discussion: verses 41-50
Duties of the Prophet (s) against the disobedience of the People of the Book
Fourth ruling: verses 94-100
Prohibition of hunting while being in the state of Ihram
Fourth issue: verses 116-118
Deviation of the followers of Jesus Christ (a) from the Unity of God
Fifth ruling: verse 8
Observation of justice and piety in life
Fifth discussion: verses 51-58
Duty of believers toward the People of the Book
Fifth ruling: verses 101-105
Not adding a ruling to divine rulings
Fifth issue: verses 119-120
Reward in the hereafter for observing divine covenants
Note: verses 9-11
Results of observing divine covenants
Sixth discussion: verses 59-64
Duties of the People of the Book about showing no enmity toward Muslims
Sixth ruling: verses 106-108
Taking someone as witness upon making a will
Seventh discussion: verses 65-69
Duties of the People of the Book in observing divine books
Eighth discussion: verses 70-86
Duties of the People of the Book for not following the leaders of falsehood

Famous Verses

Verse Ikmal

Main article: Al-Ikmal Verse
الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الْإِسْلَامَ دِينًا

"Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My blessing upon you, and I have approved Islam as your religion." Qur'an 5:3 Shi'a believe that this verse is about the event of Ghadir Khum on Dhu l-Hijja 18th and wilaya of Imam Ali (a). Some Sunni sources considered the revelation of this verse on the day of 'Arafa. 'Allama Amini in al-Ghadir and Mir Hamid Husayn in 'Abaqat al-anwar searched Sunni books and collected many evidences from them in support and approval of the revelation of this verse about Imam Ali (a) and the event of Ghadir.

Verse of Prohibition of Murder

مَن قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا

"whoever kills a soul, without [its being guilty of] manslaughter or corruption on the earth, is as though he had killed all "mankind, and whoever saves a life is as though he had saved all mankind." Qur'an 5:32

About the rule why killing one person is considered like killing all humans and saving one person is considered as saving all humans, exegetes have given different opinions. 'Allama Tabataba'i wrote that, killing one person is in fact opposing and fighting with Lordship and creation of God, thus it is like killing all humans. Also, some opinions are mentioned in Majma' al-bayan including that it is as if a murderer decides to kill all humans, that here, murder is referring to the murder of a prophet or a just imam, that since the murderer spreads the practice of murder, so the responsibility for all murders is upon him. Also in Tafsir Nemuneh, it is mentioned that this verse implies that such a person who kills one person is ready to kill others as well or that it means that human society is like one body and its members are like its limbs and the damage to one of the limbs can affect in other limbs as well. It is mentioned in some hadiths that the death and life in this verse imply deviation and guidance.

Verse of Wasila

Main article: Al-Wasila Verse
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ وَابْتَغُوا إِلَيْهِ الْوَسِيلَةَ وَجَاهِدُوا فِي سَبِيلِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

"O you who have faith! Be wary of Allah, and seek the means of recourse to Him, and wage jihad in His way, so that you may be felicitous." Qur'an 5:35

According to Shi'a beliefs, this verse is a proof for making entreaty to friends of God and prophets; because this verse explicitly advises believers to practice Tawassul (using means). In the views of Shi'a, "wasila" (means, medium) has a broad meaning and can include obligations, recommended actions, supplications of the righteous, believers and the friends of God, themselves. In hadith sources, there are many hadiths from the Ahl al-Bayt (a) regarding tawassul and their meanings, examples and fruits are explained.

Verse of Wilaya

Main article: Al-Wilaya Verse
إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمُ اللَّـهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ رَاكِعُونَ

"Your guardian is only Allah, His Apostle, and the faithful who maintain the prayer and give the zakat while bowing down." Qur'an 5:55

According to all authentic Shi'a and Sunni sources, this verse was revealed about Imam Ali (a) and praised him. It is mentioned in hadiths that a beggar went to the mosque and asked for help, but no one helped him. At that time, Imam Ali (a) was in ruku' of prayer and pointed to his ring and that beggar took out the ring from Imam's (a) finger. Shi'a refer to this verse to prove wilaya of Imam Ali (a).

Verse of Tabligh

Main article: Al-Tabligh Verse
يَا أَيُّهَا الرَّسُولُ بَلِّغْ مَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِن رَّبِّكَ ۖ وَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلْ فَمَا بَلَّغْتَ رِسَالَتَهُ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ يَعْصِمُكَ مِنَ النَّاسِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِينَ

"O Apostle! Communicate that which has been sent down to you from your Lord, and if you do not, you will not have communicated His message, and Allah shall protect you from the people. Indeed Allah does not guide the faithless lot." Qur'an 5:67

Shi'a exegetes mentioned that verse of Tabligh was revealed on Dhu l-Hijja 18 in Ghadir Khum when the Prophet (s) was returning from Hajjat al-wida' (farewell Hajj). Also, in Sunni sources, there are hadiths which mention Ghadir Khum as the time and place of revelation of this verse. Based on hadiths from Imams (a) and some companions of the Prophet (s), Shi'a scholars consider the revelation of verse Tabligh definitely about the event of Ghadir Khum and the announcement of the succession of Imam Ali (a).

Verse Wudu

Main article: Al-Wudu Verse
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا قُمْتُمْ إِلَى الصَّلَاةِ فَاغْسِلُوا وُجُوهَكُمْ وَأَيْدِيَكُمْ إِلَى الْمَرَافِقِ وَامْسَحُوا بِرُءُوسِكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ إِلَى الْكَعْبَيْنِ

"O you who have faith! When you stand up for prayer, wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows, and wipe a part of your heads and your feet, up to the ankles." Qur'an 5:6

This is the only verse in the Qur'an which explains the manner of performing wudu. Shi'a and Sunni interpretations of this verse are different. Shi'a say that feet should be wiped the same as the head, but Sunnis say that the head and feet should be washed the same as the hands and the face. It is to note that in addition to the verse of wudu, Shi'a refer to more than 560 other hadiths about wudu and its description.

Stories and Historical Events

Verses of Ruling

About 30 verses of Sura al-Ma'ida are considered among verses of rulings. Some of the famous rulings mentioned in this sura are:

  • Rulings about a person in the state of Ihram and prohibition of hunting in hajj while being in the state of ihram (verses 1 – 2 and 95 – 97).
  • Prohibition of eating dead corpses, blood and meat of pig (verse 3)
  • Ruling of wudu and the manner of performing it for prayer (verse 6)
  • Ruling of Qisas (verses 32 and 45)
  • Ruling of cutting the hand of a thief (verse 48 and 49)
  • Atonement for breaking oath (verse 89)
  • Prohibition of consuming alcoholic drinks and gambling (verse 90).

Merits and Benefits

It is narrated from the Prophet (s) that whoever recites Sura al-Ma'ida, will be given ten rewards for every Jew or Christian who has breathed in this world and ten of his sins will be purged and ten degrees will be added to his degrees. Abu Hamza al-Thumali narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (a) that Sura al-Ma'ida was revealed to the Prophet (s) all at once and seventy thousand angels accompanied it upon revelation. For recitation of this sura, benefits are mentioned in hadith sources such as increasing faith (if recited on Thursdays) and guarding against robbery and wastage of property (if it is placed in the one’s box of properties).


  1. Khamagar, Muhammad, Sakhtar-i suraha-yi Qur'an-i karim, Mu'assisa-yi Farhangi-yi Qur'an wa 'Itrat-i Nur al-Thaqalayn, Qom: Nashra, ed.1, 1392 Sh.