This chapter aims at exhorting the believers to remain united in religion and to defend its cause with patience, forbearance and determination. It makes them aware of the dangers surrounding them: Their enemies, the Jews, the Christians and the polytheists, have made their preparations, and are determined to extinguish the Light of God with their hands and mouths.
In all likelihood, the chapter was revealed all together; its verses—200 in all—seem to be well connected and adhere to a laid down scheme. From the beginning to the end, the verses are related to one another and have consistent aims.
It looks as if this chapter was revealed when Islam had begun to spread in Arabia but had not yet established a firm foothold outside Medina. It mentions the battle of Uḥud, describes the planned imprecation with the Christians of Najrān; speaks about the Jews and exhorts the believers against the polytheists; and in all these discourses, there is a constant refrain telling them to remain patient and united. It supports the view that this chapter was revealed at a time when the Muslims were engaged in defense of religion with all their might and when all their resources were devoted to this one task. On one side, they had to remain alert against internal sabotage planned by the Jews and the Christians; the believers had not only to refute their arguments, but also to neutralize their craftily-planned subterfuges to demoralize the Muslims. On the other, they had to fight the polytheists; they lived in a state of war, and peace seemed a forlorn hope. The call of Islam was reaching far and wide; this had prompted the enemies of truth—the Jews, the Christians and the Arabian polytheists—to attack the Muslims, in order to annihilate them before it was too late. Beyond the boundary of Arabia, the Byzantines and the Persians had the same design.
God in this chapter reminds the believers of the realities of religion that would make them happy and remove from their hearts the rust of doubts and satanic suggestions; and will keep them on guard against the deceptions of the People of the Book. He makes it clear that He has not relinquished the management of His kingdom for a single moment; nor have His creatures made Him weary. He has chosen the religion for them, and has guided a group of His servants to it—according to His established system: the system of cause and effect. Believer and unbeliever both walk on this very path. One day it is the unbeliever that looks victorious, the other day the believer vanquishes the unbeliever. The world is the place of tests and trials; the time is the time of action; and the result will be known tomorrow—not today.