The sixth juz’ of the Qur’an spans the last part of Surah An-Nisaa from ayah 148, and the first part of Surah Al-Ma’idah up to ayah 81.
The verses of this section were largely revealed in the early years after the migration to Madinah, when the Prophet Muhammad strived to create unity and peace among a diverse collection of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian city-dwellers and nomadic tribes of various ethnicities. The Muslims made alliances and signed treaties with various groups, establishing everyone’s political and religious rights, freedoms, and obligations to the state.
While these treaties were largely successful, conflict did sometimes erupt, not for religious reasons, but due to the breach of certain agreements leading to aggression or injustice.
From the Virtues of Surah Al-Ma’idah
Al-Hakim narrated that Jubayr bin Nufayr said, “I performed Hajj once and visited Aishah and she said to me, ‘O Jubayr! Do you read (or memorise) Al-Ma’idah?’ I answered ‘Yes’. She said, ‘It was the last Surah to be revealed. Therefore whatever permissible matters you find in it, then consider them permissible. And what whatever impermissible matter you find in it, then consider them impermissible.” (Recorded in Al Hakim 2:311)
“Oh you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah, as just witnesses to fair dealing, and let not enmity and hatred of others towards you make you avoid justice. Be just, that is nearer to Taqwa; and Taqwa Allah. Verily, Allah is well-acquainted with what you do.” (Surah Al-Ma’idah 5:8)
“Surely, those who believe, and those who are the Jews and the Sabians and the Christians, whosoever believed in Allah and the Last Day, and worked righteousness, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Surah Al-Ma’idah 5:69)
The final section of Surah An-Nisaa returns to the theme of the relationship between Muslims and the “People of the Book” the Christians and Jews. The Quran warns Muslims not to follow in the footsteps of those who divided their faith, added things to it, and went astray from the teachings of their Prophets.
Much of Surah An-Nisaa was revealed shortly after the Muslims’ defeat at the Battle of Uhud. The very last verse of this chapter outlines the rules for inheritance, which was immediately relevant to the widows and orphans from that battle.
The next chapter, Surah Al-Ma’idah, opens with a discussion of dietary laws, pilgrimage, marriage and criminal punishment for certain crimes. These provide a spiritual framework for laws and practices that were enacted during the early years of the Islamic community in Madinah.
The chapter then continues to discuss the lessons to be learned from previous Prophets, and invites the People of the Book to evaluate the message of Islam. Allah warns believers about mistakes that others made in the past, such as discarding part of a book of revelation, or making religious claims without knowledge. Detail is given about the life and teachings of the Prophet Musa (Moses) as an example.
Support and advice is offered for the Muslims who faced ridicule from neighboring Jewish and Christian tribes. This section further warns us not to follow in the footsteps of those who have gone astray. Muslims are expected to approach agreements in good faith, and uphold their end. It is not for us to pre-judge people’s hearts or intentions.