Date and Context
This sura is really a sura of pleading. It has a clear structure in which is parallels the lives of previous prophets to that of Muhammad. It is a late Meccan sura. This is yet another sura dealing with the fact that Muhammad brought no sign from Allah. This must have really been and issue for Muhammad to have it addressed in so many suras.
vv. 1-4, Muhammad’s concern for the Meccans.
vv. 5-24, The sins of the Meccans and why they need to repent. They have invented lies against Allah and denied his revelations.
vv. 25-48, Noah preaches and pleads with his people but they reject him. They live with injustice and sin. The judgement comes and Noah is saved.
vv. 50-60, Hud preaches and people reject him. They live with injustice and sin. Hud brings no sign from God but the judgement comes and Hud is saved.
vv. 61-68, Salih preaches and the people reject him. They live with injustice and sin, but the judgement comes and Salih is saved.
vv. 69-83, Abraham, Lot and Sodom. Lots speaks to him people but they will not listen. They live with injustice and sin. The judgement comes but Lot is saved.
Vv. 84-95 Shu'eyb, pleads with his people to repent and worship Allah alone. His righteous life is the sign. They do not listen and are destroyed.
Vv. 96-99 Moses spoke to Pharaoh but Pharaoh did not listen but was destroyed.
vv. 100-102 summary of vv. 25-99 as a warning to the Meccans.
Vv. 103-108 What is going to happening on judgement day
vv. 109-123 Live in repentance and wait
What I found interesting.
1. The voice of Muhammad is strong in this sura. Maybe because it is a pleading sura. I have not seen this before. Normally it is “We” speaking, but here it is Muhammad.
Alif. Lam. Ra. (This is) a Scripture the revelations whereof are perfected and then expounded. (It cometh) from One Wise, Informed, (Saying): Serve none but Allah. Lo! I am unto you from Him a warner and a bringer of good tidings. And (bidding you): Ask pardon of your Lord and turn to Him repentant. He will cause you to enjoy a fair estate until a time appointed. He giveth His bounty unto every bountiful one. But if ye turn away, lo! (then) I fear for you the retribution of an awful Day. Unto Allah is your return, and He is Able to do all things. 11:1-4
And, O my people! Let not the schism with me cause you to sin so that there befall you that which befell the folk of Noah and the folk of Hud, and the folk of Salih; and the folk of Lot are not far off from you. Ask pardon of your Lord and then turn unto Him (repentant). Lo! my Lord is Merciful, Loving. 11:89-90
2. No sign again and the Qur’an offered as the sign.
A likely thing, that thou wouldst forsake aught of that which hath been revealed unto thee, and that thy breast should be straitened for it, because they say: Why hath not a treasure been sent down for him, or an angel come with him? Thou art but a warner, and Allah is in charge of all things. Or they say: He hath invented it. Say: Then bring ten surahs, the like thereof, invented, and call on everyone ye can beside Allah, if ye are truthful! 11:12-13
This claim of uniqueness is not limited to the Qur'an alone but equally applies to all of God's books.
Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Then bring a scripture from the presence of Allah that giveth clearer guidance than these two (Qur'an and Torah)(that) I may follow it, if ye are truthful. 28:49
Therefore the "sura like it" challenge can be used to prove that all of God's books are from him and not just the Qur'an.
3. Again we see that the story of the prophets are retold to fit into Muhammad’s life.
The chieftains of his folk, who disbelieved, said: We see thee but a mortal like us, and we see not that any follow thee save the most abject among us, without reflection. We behold in you no merit above us - nay, we deem you liars. (11:27 also 10:88)
They said: O Shu'eyb! We understand not much of that thou tellest, and lo! we do behold thee weak among us. But for thy family, we should have stoned thee, for thou art not strong against us. 11:91
4. The act of pray wipes away sin.
Establish worship at the two ends of the day and in some watches of the night. Lo! good deeds annul ill-deeds. This is reminder for the mindful. 11:114
It is interesting that this is not saying pray five times a day.
5. Again there is a strong sovereignty theme. In this case predestination to hell.
Save him on whom thy Lord hath mercy; and for that He did create them. And the Word of thy Lord hath been fulfilled: Verily I shall fill hell with the jinn and mankind together. 11:119