The central theme of this Medinan sura is the regulation of lawful and unlawful food, obedience to which is part of the pledge between God and the believers (verses 1–5, 87–108). Part of the sura concerns hunting for food during the pilgrimage and respect for the rites of pilgrimage. God had also taken pledges from the Jews and Christians and the section between verses 13 and 86 deals with what these two communities did to their pledges, and with their relationships with the Muslims. The passage from verse 109 to the end deals with the afterlife and the verdict of the messengers on the behavior of their respective communities. Jesus, in particular, is given prominence here: mention is made of the feast for which his disciples asked him to pray to God, which gives the sura its title, and of his renunciation of any claim to divinity.
In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy
1 You who believe, fulfil your obligations. [a] Livestock animals are lawful as food for you, with the exception of what is about to be announced to you. You are forbidden to kill game while you are on pilgrimage––God commands what He will, 2 so, you who believe, do not violate the sanctity of God’s rites, the Sacred Month, the offerings, their garlands, nor those going to the Sacred House to seek the bounty and pleasure of their Lord––but when you have completed the rites of pilgrimage you may hunt. Do not let your hatred for the people who barred you from the Sacred Mosque induce you to break the law: help one another to do what is right and good; do not help one another towards sin and hostility. Be mindful of God, for His punishment is severe.
3 You are forbidden to eat carrion; blood; pig’s meat; any animal over which any name other than God’s has been invoked; any animal strangled, or victim of a violent blow or a fall, or gored or savaged by a beast of prey, unless you still slaughter it [in the correct manner]; or anything sacrificed on idolatrous altars. You are also forbidden to allot shares [of meat] by drawing marked arrows [b] ––a heinous practice– today the disbelievers have lost all hope that you will give up your religion. Do not fear them: fear Me. Today I have perfected your religion for you, completed My blessing upon you, and chosen as your religion islam: [total devotion to God]; but if any of you is forced by hunger to eat forbidden food, with no intention of doing wrong, then God is most forgiving and merciful.
4 They ask you, Prophet, what is lawful for them. Say, ‘All good things are lawful for you.’ [This includes] what you have taught your birds and beasts of prey to catch, teaching them as God has taught you, so eat what they catch for you, but first pronounce God’s name over it. Be mindful of God: He is swift to take account. 5 Today all good things have been made lawful for you. The food of the People of the Book is lawful for you as your food is lawful for them. So are chaste, believing, women as well as chaste women of the people who were given the Scripture before you, as long as you have given them their bride-gifts and married them, not taking them as lovers or secret mistresses. The deeds of anyone who rejects faith will come to nothing, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.
6 You who believe, when you are about to pray, wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows, wipe your heads, wash your feet up to the ankles and, if required, [c] wash your whole body. If any of you is sick or on a journey, or has just relieved himself, or had intimate contact with a woman, and can find no water, then take some clean sand and wipe your face and hands with it. God does not wish to place any burden on you: He only wishes to cleanse you and perfect His blessing on you, so that you may be thankful. [d] 7 Remember God’s blessing on you and the pledge with which you were bound when you said, ‘We hear and we obey.’ Be mindful of God: God has full knowledge of the secrets of the heart.
a. Obligations consequent on accepting the faith, including its dietary prohibitions. See verse 7, ‘pledge’.
b. A pagan Arab custom. Arrows were also used to make other decisions, as in drawing lots, to determine the will of the idols (see verse 90).
c. e.g. after sexual intercourse or discharging semen.
d. ‘Perfecting the blessing’ is seen in instructing believers to avoid what is unclean in food and to wash before worship. This is also noted in 4: 43, where there is an instruction to wash before the prayer following an instruction to keep away from the pollution of the immoral acts mentioned in the preceding verses.
The Qur'an (Oxford World's Classics)
The Qur'an / a new translation by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, copyright © 2004 Oxford World's Classics (Oxford University Press). Used by permission. All rights reserved.