Introduction to Surah Al-Ala
The Surah takes its name from the word al-A’la in the very first verse.
Period of Revelation
The subject matter shows that this too is one of the earliest Surahs to be revealed, and the words: “We shall enable you to recite, then you shall never forget” of verse 6 also indicate that it was sent down in the period when the Holy Messenger (upon whom he Allah’s peace) was not yet fully accustomed to receive Revelation and at the time Revelation came down he feared lest he should forget its words. If this verse is read along with verse 114 of Surah Ta Ha and verses 16-19 of Al-Qiyamah and the three verses are also considered with regard to their styles and contexts, the sequence of events seems to be that first in this Surah the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) was reassured to the effect: “Do not at all worry: We shall enable you to recite this Word, then you shall not forget it.” Then after a lapse of time, on another occasion, when the Surah Al-Qiyamah was being revealed, the Holy Prophet involuntarily began to rehearse the words of the Revelation. Thereupon it was said: “O Prophet do not move your tongue to remember this Revelation hastily. It is for Us to have it remembered and read. Therefore when We are reciting it, listen to its recital carefully. Again, it is for Us to explain its meaning.” Last of all, on the occasion of the revelation of Surah Ta Ha, the Holy Prophet on account of human weakness, again became afraid lest his memory should fail to preserve some portion of the 113 verses which were continuously revealed at that time, and therefore, he began to memorise them. Thereupon, it was said: “And see that you do not hasten to recite the Quran before its revelation is completed to you.” After this, it never so happened that he felt any such danger, for apart form these three places, there is no other place in the Quran where there might be a reference to this matter.
Theme and Subject Matter
This short surah contains three themes.Tauhid, instructions to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) and the Hereafter.
In the first verse, the doctrine of Tauhid has been compressed into a single sentence, saying that Allah’s name should be glorified and exalted, i.e. He should not be remembered by any name which mighty reflect a deficiency, fault, weakness, or an aspect of likeness, with created beings, for the root of all false creeds in the world are wrong concepts about Allah, which assumed the form of an erroneous name for His glorious and exalted Being. Therefore, for the correction of the creed, the primary thing is that Allah Almighty should be remembered only by the beautiful names which suit and befit Him.
In the next three verses, it has been said: “Your Lord, glorification of Whose name is being enjoined, is He Who created everything in the Universe, proportioned it, set it a destiny, taught it to perform the function for which it is created, and you witness this manifestation of His power day and night that He creates vegetation on the earth as well as reduces it to mere rubbish. No other being has the power to bring about spring nor the power to prevent autumn.”
Then, in the following two verses, the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) his been consoled, as if to say: “Do not worry as to how you will remember word for word the Quran that is being revealed to you. It is for Us to preserve it in your memory, and its preservation is not in any way the result of any excellence in you but the result of Our bounty and favour, otherwise if We so will, We can cause you to forget it.”
Then, the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) has been told: “You have not been made responsible to bring everyone on to the right path; your only duty is to convey the truth, and the simplest way of conveying the truth is that admonition be given to him who is inclined to listen to the admonition and accept it, and the one who is not inclined to it, should not be pursued. The one who fears the evil consequences of deviation and falsehood, will listen to the truth and accept it, and the wretched one who avoids listening to and accepting it, will himself see his evil end.”
The discourse has been summed up, saying: “Success is only for those who adopt purity of belief, morals and deed, and remember the name of their Lord and perform the Prayer. But, on the contrary, the people are wholly lost in seeking the ease, benefits and pleasures of the world, whereas they should actually endeavour for their well being in the Hereafter, for the world is transitory and the Hereafter everlasting and the blessings of the Hereafter are far better than the blessings of the world. This truth has not been expressed only in the Quran but in the books of the Prophets Abraham and Moses too, it had been brought to the notice of man.