This sūrah was revealed in Mecca and consists of 44 verses. The theme of this sūrah is a description of the Day of Resurrection, including the grievous punishment that await the disbelievers on that day. The sūrah begins by narrating that someone demanded God’s punishment for the disbelievers. It says that this punishment, which is inevitable, is bound to occur in the near future, though the audience deem it to be far. The chapter then describes the characteristics of that day and the punishment in store therein, except for the believers who adhere to true beliefs and perform the good deeds that are made incumbent upon them.

The above theme of this sūrah resembles the Meccan sūrahs. However, some exegetes have claimed that the verse, and in whose wealth there is a known right (70:24), is Medinan. This makes sense because a known right apparently implies zakāt (poor-rate, prescribed religious tax), which was legislated in Medina, following the Prophet’s migration from Mecca. If this verse is Medinan, it entails that the other fourteen verses in the same set should also be Medinan. That would include verses 70:22-35 (except those who perform their daily prayers… They will be in gardens, held in honor). This is based on the contextual unity and the mutual implication between these verses.

Meanwhile, these verses are mentioned as an exception to a previous set of verses. Hence, if these verses are Medinan, then at least the three verses before them should also be Medinan: Indeed man, was created fickle, given to anxiety… niggardly when good comes his way. Furthermore, the verse Now what is the matter with those who disbelieve that keep staring at you? (70:36) is stated as a consequence of the previous verses, as indicated by the letter fāʾ (so, then, therefore) at the beginning of the verse. And the verses that appear after it until the end of the sūrah are contextually consistent. This entails that from verse 36 onwards should have been revealed in Medina as well.

From another angle, the final part of the chapter is thematically commensurate with the description of the hypocrites who were around the Prophet in Medina: from the left and the right in batches (70:37). The hypocrites were apparent Muslims who had not fully embraced the commands that God had revealed to His Prophet. There are two verses in particular that are most pertinent to the hypocrites, as we shall discuss below: Does each [man] among them hope to be admitted to the garden of bliss? (70:38); to replace [them] by [others] better than them (70:41). We know that the hypocrites emerged in Medina rather than in Mecca. There is no problem with referring to the hypocrites as: Those who disbelieve (70:36). The same description is found in Sūrah al-Tawbah and elsewhere in the Qur’an.

Another indication is that as the exegetes have narrated, this chapter was revealed in response to the claim: O Allah! If this be the truth in Your eyes, rain down upon us stones from the sky, or bring us a grievous punishment (8:32). The context of that verse is clearly Medinan, not Meccan, as we discussed under the verse.
Meanwhile, it is narrated from Imam al-Ṣādiq that a known right (70:24) means a fixed share that is allocated voluntarily by the person, not the obligatory zakāt. It is also said that the exegetes unanimously agree that this chapter was revealed in Mecca. However, their consensus is not valid when there is clear evidence against it. Similarly, we cannot rely on the narration from Ibn ʿAbbās saying that this sūrah was revealed after Sūrah al-Ḥāqqah (69, which is Meccan).


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