As has already been stated in the Preface to this Surah, this discourse (vv. 1-37) was revealed in A.H. 9, when Hadrat Abu Bakr had left for Makkah as leader of the pilgrims to the Ka`abah. Therefore the Companions said to the Holy Prophet, "Sir, send it to Abu Bakr so that he may proclaim it on the occasion of Haj. " He replied, "The importance and nature of the Declaration demands that this should be proclaimed on my behalf by some one from my own family." Accordingly, he entrusted this duty to Hadrat 'Ali and instructed him to proclaim it openly before the pilgrims, and also make these four announcements: (1) "No one who rejects Islam shall enter Paradise. (2) No mushrik should perform Haj after this. (3) It is forbidden to move round the Ka`abah in a naked state. (4) The terms of the treaties which are still in force (i.e. with those who have not broken their treaties with the Messenger of Allah up to that time) would be faithfully observed till the expiry of the term of the treaties".
In this connection, it will be worthwhile to know that the first Haj of the Islamic period after the conquest of Makkah was performed in A.H. 8, according to the old customs. Then in A.H. 9 the second Haj was performed by the Muslims in the Islamic way, and by the mushriks in their own way. But the third Haj, known as "Hajja-tul-Wida a", was performed in A.H. 10 in the purely Islamic way under the guidance of the Holy Prophet himself. He did not perform Haj during the two previous years because up to that time the mushriks had not been forbidden from it, and so there were still some traces of shirk associated with it.
This declaration of the abrogation of the treaties with the mushriks was made in accordance with the law enjoined in VIII: 58 regarding the treacherous people, for it is treachery from the Islamic point of view to wage war against any people with whom a treaty of peace had been made, without openly declaring that the treaty had been terminated. That is why a proclamation of the abrogation of the treaties was necessitated against those clans who were always hatching plots against Islam in spice of the treaties of peace they had made. They would break the treaties and turn hostile on the first opportunity for treachery, and the same was true of all the mushrik clans with the exception of Bani Kananah, Bani Damrah and one or two other clans.
This proclamation practically reduced the mushriks of Arabia to the position of outlaws and no place of shelter was left for them, for the major part of the country had come under the sway of Islam. As this released the Muslims from the obligations of the treaties made with them and forestalled them, they were driven into a tight comer. For this smashed all their evil designs of creating trouble by inciting civil war at the time of a threat from the Roman and the Iranian Empires or after the death of the Holy Prophet. But Allah and His Messenger turned the tables on them before the opportune moment for which they were waiting. Now the only alternatives left with them were either to accept Islam that had become the state religion of Arabia, or to fight against it and be exterminated, or to emigrate from the country.
The wisdom of this grand plan became apparent when the mischief of apostasy broke out in different parts of Arabia a year and a half after this at the death of the Holy Prophet. This disturbance was so sudden and violent that it shook to its foundations, the newly created Islamic State, and would have done a far greater harm if the organized power of shirk had not been broken beforehand by this abrogation. It may be asserted that but for this timely action the mischief of apostasy, that rose at the very beginning of the Caliphate of Hadrat Abu Bakr, would have done ten-fold harm by rebellion and civil war, and might have changed the whole history of Islam.
The respite of four months from the tenth of Zil-Haj (the date of the proclamation) to the tenth of Rabi'-uth-thani; was granted to give time to the mushriks so that they should consider their position carefully and decide whether to make preparation for war or to emigrate from the country or to accept Islam.