In this Meccan sûrah and the next, the disbelievers are criticized for wasting their lives doing things that do not matter in the Hereafter, most importantly hoarding wealth.
Details from Tafheem-ul-Qurʾān
NameThe Surah taken its name from the word at takathur in the first verse.
Period of RevelationAbu Hayyan and Shaukani say that this Surah, according to all commentators, is Makki, and this same is the well known view according to Iman Suyuti. However, there are some traditions, on the basis of which it is considered a Madani Surah, and they are as follows:
Ibn Hatim has cited Abu Buraidah as saying that this Surah was sent down concerning the two tribes, Bani Harithah and Bani al-Harth, of the Ansar. The two tribes had first recounted the glories and illustrious deeds of their living men; then they had gone to the graveyard and bragged of the glorious deeds of their dead. Thereupon the Divine Revelation Alhakum at takathur came down. But, if the practice of the Companions and their successors concerning the occasions of revelation, is kept in view, this tradition is no argument to prove that Surah At Takathur was sent down on that very occasion, but it shows that this Surah fully applied to the act of the two tribes.
Imam Bukhari and Ibn Jarir have cited this view of Hadrat Ubayy bin Ka'b: "We took the Holy Prophet" saying: `If the son of Adam had two valley full of wealth, he would long for a third valley; the son of Adam's belly cannot be filled but by earth, to be from the Qurʾān until Alhakum at takathur was sent down'." This Ḥadīth has been regarded as an argument for Surah At-Takathur to be a Madani Surah on the ground that Hadrat Ubayy had become a Muslim in Madinah. But Hadrat Ubayy's this statement does not indicate in what sense the Companions regarded this saying of the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) as belonging to the Qurʾān. If it means that they regarded it as a verse of the Qurʾān, it cannot be acceptable, for a great majority of the Companions consisted of the men who were well aware of each and every word of the Qurʾān; they could not have the misunderstanding that the Ḥadīth was a verse of the Qurʾān. And if its belonging to the Qurʾān is taken to mean its being derived from the Qurʾān, the tradition can also mean that when the Companions who entered Islam in Madinah, heard this Surah for the first time from the Holy Prophet, they thought that it had been revealed just then, and then about the Holy Prophet's above saying they formed the idea that it was derived from this very Surah.
Ibn Jarir Tirmidhi, Ibn al Mundhir and other traditionists have related this view of Hadrat Ali: "We were in doubt about the torment of the grave until Alhakum at takathur was sent down." This view has been regarded as an argument for Surah At-Takathur to be Madani on the ground that the torment of the grave was first mentioned at Madinah; no mention of it was ever made at Makkah. But this is wrong. In the Makki Surahs of the Qurʾān, the torment of the grave has heen mentioned at many places so clearly that there can he no room for any such doubt; for example, see Al- An'am: 93, An-Nahl: 28, Al-Muminun: 99-100, Al- Mu'min: 45-46, which are all Makki Surahs. Therefore, if anything is proved by Hadrat Ali's saying, it is that Surah At-Takathur had been revealed before the revelation of the above mentioned Makki Surahs and its revelation had removed the Companions' doubt about the torment of the grave.
That is why, in spite of these traditions, a great majority of the commentators are agreed that this Surah is Makki. In our opinion this is not only a Makki Surah but in view of its contents and style it is one of the earliest Surahs to be revealed at Makkah.