The name of this Sura is al-Lahab. It has one rukoo, five verses, twenty words and seventy seven letters.
This was revealed in Makkah Mukarramah. For the full information on the reason of revelation refer to point one. All that is being mentioned here is why Abu Lahab’s name was taken when he was highlighted by the Quran, despite the fact that that in Makkah, Madinah and amongst other tribes of Arabia there were ample enemies of the blessed Prophet peace be upon him and Islam. Their attempts to cause pain, heartbreak and failure to Islam were no less than those of Abu Lahab. Therefore what is his significance that he is named and rebuked?
Where love is expected from, if hatred and enmity springs forth or where support and help is anticipated from, if the storm of opposition starts brewing, undoubtedly this becomes very painful. Abu Lahab was the blessed Prophet’s real uncle; Hazrat Abdullah and Abu Lahab were real brothers. It was rightly expected from him that he would stand shoulder to shoulder with the orphan of his real brother and would not fail in helping him in the slightest manner. In addition to this, he was one of the leaders of the Banu Hashim. The culture in which the blessed Prophet peace be upon him was born gave the tribe a central role and it was the social and political duty of the tribal leader to offer every kind of support to every member of that tribe. If the member was an oppressor, rather than help the oppressed the tribe would deem it their responsibility to help their oppressive member. Abu Lahab was a leader of the Banu Hashim and the blessed Prophet peace be upon him was a Hashami, therefore it was his duty from the outset to accept the invitation of such an upstanding individual and to ensure at all costs that his invitation was made successful.
Despite the blood and family relationship between them, Abu Lahab was also the blessed Prophet’s peace be upon him neighbour and only a wall separated their homes. The rights of a neighbour are acknowledged all over the world, thus he was aware of the holy Prophet’s peace be upon him personal and family matters which other people would be ignorant of. He would be a witness to a pure lifestyle, a sublime life and an unblemished character, but despite this he still did not refrain from slinging mud on this image of grace and exquisiteness. Also the manner in which he showed enmity towards the blessed Prophet peace be upon him, with such ferocity and meanness, it would be difficult to find an equal.
When the blessed Prophet peace be upon him would be engrossed in his worship at home, he would throw fowl smelling tripe and the burnt entrails upon him. In addition his daily routine was to gather the rubbish and filth from his courtyard and throw it where the food would be cooked in the blessed Prophet’s house. The matter did not end with him, his wife, despite her riches and position would go into the jungle and gather barbed thorny branches, carry a bundle of them back home and at night would lay them out in the path of the blessed Prophet peace be upon him in the hope that when he would rise in the latter part of the night and go towards the Haram (Sanctuary), he would step on a thorn and damage his soft gentle blessed feet.
Prior to the proclamation of Prophethood the blessed Prophet peace be upon him had given his two daughters in marriage to his uncles’ sons Utbah and Utaibah. When the blessed Prophet peace be upon him began preaching, she called her sons and told them in an undignified manner that if they didn’t divorce their wives she would stop talking to them and completely sever her ties with them. Both brothers divorced their wives, but Utaibah showed his true awful self and said “I disbelieve in Muhammad’s God” and had the audacity to attempt to spit on the blessed Prophet peace be upon him. He was unable to and it fell back on his face. The blessed Prophet peace be upon him appealed to Allah and said “‘O’ Allah appoint one of your dogs for this wicked person.” Subsequently on one journey a lion attacked Utaibah and ripped him to bits, but amazingly neither did it drink his filthy blood nor did it consume his impure meat. The detail to this incidence can be found in the commentary to Surah al-Najm.
I would like to present another incident that reflects Abu Lahab’s disgusting character. In the seventh year of Prophethood the Kuffaar (disbelievers) of Makkah socially boycotted the blessed Prophet peace be upon him, his family, the Banu Hashim and Muttalib. Merely based upon tribal prejudice, they were imprisoned in the Valley of Abu Talib and Abu Lahab, despite being a Hashmi, opposed the blessed Prophet peace be upon him and supported the Kuffaar of Makkah. His enmity towards Islam and its Prophet peace be upon him was so extreme that he was always after him trying to falsify him. The blessed Prophet’s peace be upon him routine was that wherever there were commercial bazaars or gatherings he would attend and invite the people towards Tawheed. This imbecile would reach that place and would shout out loudly ‘O’ people this is my nephew and he has gone mad, don’t go near him, don’t listen to him otherwise he will lead you astray.
In conclusion whatever support could have been imagined from one so close, the opposite was shown in extreme enmity and opposition. He had a great role in enmity and opposition towards Islam and stood out amongst the others for this. For this reason his name has been mentioned in the Quran and he has been severely cursed. His title was Abu Lahab, which he was popularly known by, but his real name was Abd al-Uzza, and this impure name was not worthy of being mentioned in the Quran. For this reason his title was used so that the message of his being an occupant of Hell would reach everyone.
From the study of this Surah it becomes evident that the slightest disrespect towards the blessed Prophet peace be upon him will cause the almighty to become very angry. That misfortunate man only raised one finger and uttered such filth, to which the reaction of the blessed Prophet peace be upon him was one of forgiveness, as was worthy of his status, but Allah could not tolerate this against his beloved messenger peace be upon him and responded with “May Abu Lahab’s both hands perish. By saying this he sent out a clear warning to every disrespectful person that if any action or word came from their behalf through which any aspect of the holy Prophet’s peace be upon him respect was compromised the lightening of Allah’s anger will strike you and turn you to dust.
As a poet once said
“It is a place of reverence under the sky which is more fragile than the ‘Arsh’ (The Supreme Throne above Heaven): This is the place where (pious) persons like Junaid and Ba-Yazid used to come with holding their breath out of deep respect of the Holy Prophet (Allah’s grace and peace be upon him“
Exegesis of Surah al-Lahab
Allah’s name I begin with, the most compassionate, the most kind.
(1) Perdition overtake both hands of Abu Lahab, and he will perish.
(2) His wealth and what he earns will not avail him.
(3) He shall soon burn in fire that flames,
(4) And his wife, the bearer of fuel,
(5) Upon her neck a halter of strongly twisted rope.
1) The word ‘Tabb’ is used in the context of loss, failure and destruction (al-Qurtubi). When the verse “Warn your close relatives” (Q26:214) was revealed to the holy Prophet peace be upon him he climbed Mount Safa and called out loudly “Ya Sabahan”. It was the practise of the Arabs that whenever they were faced with an unexpected calamity and assistance was sought, they would appeal through the words of “Ya Sabahan”. When the people heard the call they came running to the base of the mountain and those who were unable to respond in person, they sent representatives to enquire about the reality of the situation. When all the tribes of the Quraysh were gathered the blessed Prophet peace be upon him addressed the people and said, “If I was to inform you that behind this mountain there was a large army coming to attack you, would you believe me? Everyone responded with one voice “Indeed we would believe you because until today we have heard nothing but the truth from your lips”. The blessed Prophet peace be upon him said, “I am forewarning you that if you don’t abandon Shirk Allah’s punishment will destroy you.” Abu Lahab, who was the blessed Prophet’s peace be upon him uncle, he raised his finger and indicated whilst saying “May you be ruined! Did you gather us for this?”
Allah found the insolence of this contemptuous person in relation to his beloved messenger peace be upon him intolerable, and in a show of extreme anger and intolerance, he said, “May Abu Lahab’s both hands perish.” The hands from which one finger was raised in disrespect, both those hands perish and may he never be successful in his purpose. This was a curse for him. By the pronunciation of “Wa Tabb” he was destroyed, he was broken into pieces; his body was ripped into shreds because what Allah had said about him did not take very long to transpire. Due to cowardice he avoided participating in the Battle of Badr, but only one week had passed since the terrible defeat of Badr that an infectious boil appeared on his body, which in a matter of few days spread all over his body. Malodorous pus began seeping from all over his body and his flesh started withering away. When his sons saw that he had been infected with a contagious disease, they kicked him out of his home and he died suffering horribly.
Even then no member of his family was prepared to come anywhere near him to fulfil the last rites. For three days his corpse lay there and when the people became sick of its decay and smell and started to curse and blame his sons, they reluctantly hired some Ethiopian slaves to get rid of his body. They dug a ditch and using long pieces of wood they pushed him into that and filled it with earth. The fate of the leader of such a large nation and one of the four main rulers of the Makkah can only have been the consequence of the wrath of Allah. Children would not leave their father in such a state and after death they would not allow the body to rot and decay in such a manner, but when Allah’s wrath is unleashed then the love in their hearts and that apparent affection disappears and that person shares the same fate as this person who disrespected the blessed Prophet peace be upon him. All of Makkah witnessed that prophecy of the blessed Prophet peace be upon him from his Lord was fulfilled word by word. May Allah protect us from his wrath and the wrath of his blessed Prophet peace be upon him.
Some scholars are of the view that “Tabbat” is an informative sentence and “Tabb” is also an informative sentence with the purpose of emphasising the first sentence, but Imam Qurtubi has narrated an opinion of Farra (grammarian) that the first is a curse (prayer) and the second is an informative sentence, whereby the meaning of the verse is that in the first sentence is that his destruction is desired, but in the second sentence it is confirmed (al-Qurtubi). Imam Pani Patti also says the same “informative sentence after an informative sentence, the first as a curse and the second for emphasis” (Mazhari). Abu Lahab’s name was Abd al-‘Uzza and because of his beauty and luminous face he called himself Abu Lahab. Allah only mentioned him by his filial appellation (kuniyyat) and not his real name for numerous reason from which two are; that he was more well known by his filial appellation (kuniyyat) and secondly the name Abd al-‘Uzza was a name not worthy of being mentioned in the Holy Quran.
2) He was from amongst the four wealthiest individuals in Makkah. He had a considerable amount of gold, land and property, other wealth and cattle and had many children. His sons were mature in his lifetime, but when Allah punished him and an infectious/poisonous boil appeared on his body all is slaves, servants, brothers, relatives, even his own sons left him to suffer alone. In this world he witnessed that the excessive wealth which he was proud of, the sons who he was conceited about, at the time of need/difficulty they abandoned him and were of no use to him at all. Some scholars have interpreted ‘Ma Kasaba’ as children.
3) Today he is insulting towards my blessed Prophet peace be upon him, disrespectfully pointing his finger at him and being loutish, very soon there will come a time when we will give him a taste of his disrespect and throw him in such a fire where the flames will be severe.
4) His wife was called ‘Ardah’ and her filial appellation was ‘Umm Jameel’. She was Abu Sufyan’s sister and was also squint-eyed. Her heart was consumed with loathing for the blessed Prophet peace be upon him and she was equal to her husband in her enmity towards Islam. He job was that during the day she would go out to the jungle and gather barbed thorny branches, carry a bundle of them back home and at night would lay them out on that path which the blessed Prophet peace be upon him would travel upon to prostrate to his lord in the Haram. When this surah was revealed she heard about it and became enraged and gather small stones in her hands so that wherever she met the blessed Prophet peace be upon him she would stone him. The blessed Prophet peace be upon him was sitting near the Kaba and Hazrat Abu Bakr al-Siddeeq was at his service. When Hazrat Abu Bakr al-Siddeeq saw her approaching he said “’O’ messenger of Allah Umm Jameel is coming and she will most certainly do something disrespectful.” The blessed Prophet replied “She cannot see me.” This was exactly what happened. She came close and was unable to see the blessed Prophet peace be upon him forcing her to go away muttering to herself. It was proclaimed that the fire in which her insolent husband would be burnt, she would also be thrown into that.
5) ‘Hatab’ refers to fuel, wood used for burning. ‘Hammaltun’ refers to bearer/carrier (female). With this word her practise (of gathering thorny branches) is highlighted. ‘Hammalaat al-Hatab’ also has another meaning. It is said regarding that person who tells tales about people “So and so was tells tales about someone when he stirred up trouble for him. This is used for someone who tells tales and sows seeds of discord amongst people. Such a person has been condemned in the Hadith “No tale bearer will enter paradise”. It has been narrated from Ka’b al-Ahbar that the Jews suffered a drought and Musa peace be upon him along with the people prayed for rain for three days, but not a drop of rain fell. Eventually Musa peace be upon him implored “O” Lord these are your people, if you don’t have mercy upon them who will?”Allah responded by sending a revelation “I will not accept you prayer nor the prayers of your people because amongst them is a person who tells tales.” Musa peace be upon him asked “’O’ Lord who is that person so that we can remove him from amongst ourselves?” Allah replied “‘O’ Musa I am prohibiting you from backbiting so how can I do that to someone?” Thus everyone repented and then prayed for rain and their prayer was answered.
There is no doubt that backbiting is a major sin. Hazrat Fudhail ibn Ayyadh stated “Three things destroy the actions, break the fast and ablution, backbiting, tale bearing and lying. Regarding the textual analysis there are varying opinions, but the correct opinion is that its accusative state is due to contempt. She was known due to this attribute (hammalaat al-Hatab), therefore this attribute did not become her specification, but rather her contempt.
6) ‘Jeed’ refers to neck, ‘Habl’ refers rope and ‘Masad’ refers to twisted rope. The reason for mentioning Umm Jameel with these specific words is that she was the wife of the leader of Makkah. She constantly adorned her neck with valuable jewellery and would say “By Laat and Uzza I would sell this necklace to fund my enmity of Muhammad (peace be upon him). Allah replied by saying that the neck which was proudly wearing expensive jewellery today, we would put a rope of twisted fibre measuring 70 yards around her neck and drag her in Hell. According to some narrations she had been to the jungle to gather the barbed wood and had tied that with twisted palm fibre rope to help her carry the bundle. She sat down on a rock to rest and the bundle fell backwards resulting in the rope becoming entangled in her neck choking and killing her.
There is no power and might except that of Allah the most high, the most Majestic. ‘O’ Allah we seek protection with you from disrespect towards the blessed Prophet peace be upon him
27th Ramadhan 1399AH.
The name of this blessed surah is al-Qadr. It contains 1 Ruku, 5 verses, 30 words and 112 letters.
Era of revelation
Imam Alusi in addition to numerous other exegetes wrote that the scholars are of two opinions in relation to its revelation. Abu Hayyan al-Andalusi, in his exegesis ‘Bahr al-Muhit’, writes that this Surah is Madani. Imam Wahidi’s opinion is that its revelation was initially in Madinah, but the opinion of the majority of the exegetes is that it was in Makkah. The narrations presented in support of the first opinion are unreliable in terms of their chains of transmission. In addition, the topic of the Surah supports the second opinion. The preceding Surah mentioned the revelation of the Qur’ān, whilst this Surah discusses the prominence of that night on which its revelation took place.
Fate and destiny as well as honour and status are meanings for the word ‘Qadr’. Both meanings are acceptable here. He (Allah) informs us that this is not an ordinary night, in reality the advent of his miraculous speech occurred on this night, that alters the fate and destiny of not only one individual, tribe or nation, but the whole of humanity who acknowledge it and intend to embrace it. Furthermore, there is no time restriction here (regarding the night) just like there is no restriction upon the prophethood of his messenger. His revealed message is not subject to the limitation of time.
Alternatively, it could also refer to the honour, status of the night in whose silence revelation of the scripture of guidance took place, and the elevation to prophethood took place blessed of a pure being. We have been informed that the blessings of this night are better that the worship of a thousand months. All night the succession of the coming of angels and the revelation of blessings continues and the tidings of peace are given.
New Central Jail, Sargodha
Exegesis of Surah al-Qadr
- Indeed, We sent the Qur'an down during the Night of Decree. (1)
- And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree?
- The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. (2)
- The angels and the Spirit descend therein (3) by permission of their Lord (4) for every matter (5).
- Peace it is until the emergence of dawn (6).
1)Despite the fact that the word Qur’ān is not explicitly referred here, it is unanimously agreed upon that the pronoun of the object (Mafool) in the word ‘اَنْزَلْنَاهُ’ refers to the Qur’ān. He (Allah) states that the Qur’ān is not the speech of any angel or man, nor is it the composition of any individual or group. I am the one revealing it and it is my speech. There is not participation of another in this. I have revealed it on this night, which is unequal in terms of its great status and honour. Alternatively, I have revealed it on that night that is destiny defining, due to which not only the star of destiny rises for the people of Makkah or Hijaz, but also the misfortune of humanity is turned. Such a book is revealed on this night that grants man recognition of his self and his creator.
Imam Zuhri states “It is called that due to its greatness and honour and because the actions in this n his are of great status in the sight of Allah” (Tafsir Mazhari). Imam Qurtubi has mentioned the following in relation to why this night is called ‘Laylatul Qadr’ “It’s claimed that it is known as that because Allah revealed in it a book of great eminence, upon a messenger of great prominence upon a nation of great prestige.” The cause of revelation has been stated as the Prophet (peace be upon him) thinking to himself that his nation did not have long lives, thus resulting in them not being able to perform good deeds in abundance in comparison to the nations of the past who were long lived. Thus, Allah granted him al-Qadr that was better than a thousand months (Mazhari).
2) The greatness of the gift that Allah has bestowed upon his blessed prophet (peace be upon him) is mentioned here. He asks the question pertaining to it and personally answers. He says, “Do you know what Laylatul Qadr is?” Then he answers himself “This one night is far better than a thousand months” To what is this greatness and superiority attributed? Most exegetes state, “That deeds in this night are better than deeds of a thousand months in which there is no Laylatul Qadr.”
Imam Qurtubi expresses his opinion in the following words “The good that is distributed in this one night is greater than good distributed in a thousand months.” Another possible meaning is that the deeds of this one night (revelation of the Qur’ān) for the sake of humanity’s welfare and betterment far outweigh the efforts of a thousand months.
However, the question of when did this night occur remains. Which month and which date? The Qur’ān personally resolves the issue of the month stating that it took place in Ramadhan, proving that it was definitely a night of Ramadhan. Regarding the specific date of this night there is a difference of opinion amongst the scholars. There are approximately forty opinions, but the following words are from a Sahih Hadith “Search for Laylatul Qadr in the final ten nights of Ramadhan.” In another narration, it states in the odd nights of the last ten days. The majority of the scholars believe that it is the 27th night, something that Ubay ibn K’ab swore by.
Amongst the great wisdom in not specifying the night, the following are a few. Muslims spend at least these 5 nights in the worship and remembrance of Allah. If this night was specified, people would only engage in the remembrance and worship of Allah on this night alone. Likewise, if there was specification, those who spent it in the worship of Allah would be entitled to great reward but those who sinned would be liable for great punishment. This is because despite being aware of this night they still wasted it disobeying Allah.
Subsequently mercy demands that the night remain unspecified so that if an unfortunate soul commits sin unaware of this night his punishment would be according to that of a normal night and those who remain awake will do so on more nights. In reality any night spent awake in remembrance of the lord is Laylatul Qadr for people of love. This couplet of the great Sufi Umar ibn Farid beautifully captures this
Every night is Laylatul Qadr if spent with the beloved
Just like every day is Juma if spent with him
3) Sayyiduna Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the messenger of Allah said “On the night of al-Qadr Jibreel descends with a large party of angles, who pray for forgiveness and blessing for all those standing or sitting in the remembrance of Allah.” In another narration, it states that they shake hands with those people. How fortunate and privileged is that person who spends this night in worship of his lord, Jibreel and the angels descend from the heavens for the honour of shaking hands with him and pray for his forgiveness and mercy.
The messenger of Allah would make special preparations for the last ten days of Ramadhan. Sayyidah Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) states “It was the practise of the Messenger of Allah when the last ten days of Ramadhan would enter that he would put on his dhoti, spend the nights in the worship of Allah and would wake his family up to participate in the worship.”
She also states that the amount of effort he would exert in these last ten days was more than any other time. He would perform I’tikaf (retreat) in the last ten days, a practise that he continued until he passed away and would encourage servants to engage in this. After he passed away the Mothers of the Believers continued this practise of his.
The word ‘al-Ruh’ in the verse refers to Jibreel. In view of his prominence, he is mentioned here. According to some scholars, ‘Ruh’ refers to an especially elegant group of angels who are greater than the normal angels. Just as we cannot see normal angels, normal angels cannot see them due to their great elegance. Some scholars that ‘al-Ruh’ refers to mercy. Thus the group of angles that descend under Jibreel’s leadership on that night bring with them Allah’s limitless store of mercy.
4) This means that the angels do not descend on their own accord, but Allah instructs them to roam the earth from east to west, wherever a servant of mine engaged in my worship go to him and give him tidings of my mercy. Shake his hand and pray for his forgiveness. How great is the status of the beloved of Allah and through him the status of his servants.
Shah Abd al-Aziz writes on this occasion “Angels descend from the heavens and souls from ‘Iliyyeen’ to meet with exceptional humans taking blessing from their deeds and to enrich themselves with the love filling the hearts of these people have for the beloved servant of Allah.
5) Imam Qurtubi writes that ‘every matter’ refers to all those matters that Allah has decreed for the coming year.
6) This is a night of peace and tranquillity. The whisperings of the ego and satan will not will not distract those worshipping. With great peace of mind they remain connected to their lord taking pleasure from his remembrance and this exhilarating and faith rejuvenating sensation remains with them throughout the night until sunrise.
Some scholars have said, “After mentioning the angels descent to the earth, their method of greeting is mentioned here that on this night they convey salutations on the believers and meet the people of excellence (Tafsir Azizi).
Another merit of this night is that any prayer uttered will be accepted. It is necessary for every person to fervently search for this night, without being lazy and languid. He should remain awake passionately in the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadhan, spending them in the remembrance of Allah. When he implores Allah he should ask in such abundance that he has no regrets about it later. Sayyidah Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) asked “O messenger of Allah! What prayer should I offer on Laylatul Qadr? The messenger of Allah replied “Offer the following prayer
اَلَّلهُمَّ اِنَّكَ عَفُوٌّ تُحِبُّ الْعَفْوَ فَاعْفُ عَنىْ
"O Allah, you are the One who grants pardon for sins. You love to pardon so pardon me".
Another tradition of the messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) is presented here
“مَنْ قَامَ لَيْلَةَ الْقَدْرِ إِيمَانًا وَاحْتِسَابًا غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ ذَنْبِهِ"
“Whoever stands in prayer on the Night of Power, his previous sins will be forgiven.”
واعف عنا واغفر لنا وارحمنا انت مولنا فانصرنا على القوم الكافرين. اللهم صل و سلم وبارك على خاتم الأنبياء و سيد المرسلين شفيع المذنبين رحمة للعالمين و على اله و أصحابه ومن تبعه بإحسان الى يوم الدين.
This Surah is known as al-Kafiroon. It consists of 6 verses and one ruku, 26 words and 94 letters.
This surah was revealed in Makkah and the blessed Prophet peace be upon him recited it in public. Falsehood is very devious and to test the truth it constantly changes its appearance in order to try and deceive it. It does not hesitate in employing any means necessary to achieve its goal. Sometimes it creates a very flexible attitude in its point of view and its sole intention is to ensure that the truth does not remain as it is. Undoubtedly falsehood is falsehood no matter what. By adding another entity to it, its nature does not change and it still remains falsehood. Even if you mix something pure to it, the pure entity becomes contaminated, but the falsehood still remains as it was. It is aware that the truth is only the truth as long as it does not mix with falsehood.
When the Mercy for the entire universe began preaching the message of Tawheed (monotheism), the disbelievers did not deem it worthy of attention, but when more fortunate souls began to become Muslim and there was a social change, they took notice. They thought to themselves that they had unlimited resources and that they could afford to pay whatever price they needed to buy out this preacher of the Truth. Thus they began the bidding through Hazrat Abu Talib. A group from the Quraish visited Hazrat Abu Talib and said to him “The views that your nephew is expressing about our gods are completely unacceptable to us. You are the leader of our people and we have utmost respect for you in our hearts. For this reason we have listened to his views until now and have remained silent, but we have reached the limit of our patience. Ask your nephew if he desires wealth we are prepared to pile gold and silver at his feet. If he desires to become our leader we are prepared to unanimously accept him as our supreme leader. If he desires marriage to a particular woman he only needs to indicate and we will happily arrange that for him.”
Insincere/ambitious people who use religion and faith as a ladder in their personal gains usually have one of these motives on their agendas. When the blessed Prophet peace be upon him heard their requests he replied that they had not recognised him. “If they were to place the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left I would still not let this affect the propagation of the oneness of my Lord the slightest.”
When they were unsuccessful in this deal, they decided to employ a different tactic/approach. Walid ibn Mughira, ‘As ibn Wail, Aswad ibn Abd al-Muttalib and Umayyah ibn Khalaf, the leaders of Makkah gathered together one day and approached the blessed Prophet peace be upon him and said to him, “Your propagation of your religion is causing conflict and division in our community, and this is not good for the future. If this divide between you and us continues to grow then there will come a day when the strength of our unity will die and our enemies will overwhelm and defeat us. We are very concerned about this. Come let us agree upon such a solution that will allow you to remain upon your cause and keep the unity of our people intact.”
For this they presented the solution: “For one year we will unite and worship your God and the next year you will join with us and worship our deities.” Upon hearing this the blessed Prophet peace be upon him replied “May Allah protect me from associating anyone with Him.”
At that moment was this surah revealed which completely put to an end all their hopes and disheartened them from ever attempting to deceive and alter the truth in any way. Subsequently the blessed Prophet peace be upon him went to the Haram Shareef, where the pillars of Kufr and Shirk were assembled. He openly recited this surah to them so that in future they would not attempt such brazen acts.
Exegesis of Surah al-Kafiroon
Allah’s name I begin with the Most Compassionate, the Most Kind.
(1) Say: O disbelievers!
(2) I worship not that which you all worship;
(3) Nor do you all worship that which I worship.
(4) And I shall not worship that which you all worship.
(5) Nor will you all worship That which I worship.
(6) Unto you is your religion, and unto me is my religion.
(1) Despite the fact that the people were deeply involved with Kufr and Shirk, they didn’t consider themselves as kafir and disliked being referred to as kafir. The blessed Prophet peace be upon him is being ordered to address them as kafir, as if he is proclaiming: “I have no fear of you. I have no respect for you in my heart and neither will I use any word out of hypocrisy that will indicate such a thing. According to me you are kafir and I will address you with this word. By using the word ‘kafiroon’ I have also made it clear that there is no personal argument between you and me. The enmity between you and me is not even based upon any worldly interest. The only reason I have distanced myself from you is because you have embraced Kufr. If you abandon Kufr and accept Iman, our enmity will transform into brotherhood and love. I will embrace you and we will gather and unite under the flag of Tawheed.”
(2) The translation of these verses is clear; apparently it looks like there is repetition, but this is not the case. The first two verses deal with the future and the last two verses deal with past. It has been openly and explicitly announced that: “In the past I have never worshipped your false gods and neither should you hold your hopes high that I ever will do that in the future. You desire that I worship your gods for one year and in return you will worship my God, but listen carefully! A year is a very long time; I am not prepared to worship your false gods for even the briefest moment. If my head bows it will only be to my Creator who is alone and has no partners. If my forehead is in prostration it will only be for my Creator who is the creator and Master of everything in this universe; He has created me and has bestowed upon me the rank of Prophethood. I cannot contemplate for a moment that I will accept anyone else as my God. Zamakhshari states “‘I will not worship’ refers to worship in the future because the word ‘La’ only appears upon a verb of the future tense in order to negate it.”
In addition to this explanation, several others exist which offer explanation for verse four, in that it is used in emphasis because the second verse is a verbal sentence which indicates renewal and finiteness whereas the fourth is a nominal sentence and indicates stability and strength. Thus the second verse is supported by the first. The third verse is emphasised by the fifth verse because the words are identical, and in the Arabic language this type of emphasis is commonly used in Nazm and Nathr. This has been presented in the couplet
“The crow of separation, whilst giving the news of the night’s departure at dawn spoke, how long, how long, how long will he keep protesting at the separation of the night?”
The aim of this emphasis and repetition is so that the kuffaar are always in despair over the fact that the Muslims will never accept kufr for even the briefest moment. In addition it has been said about them that they will never become Muslims.
(3) Al-Kafiroon refers to a handful of those wretched individuals who were never going to accept Islam, for this reason they were addressed and it was said:“the Hayy and Qayyoom that I worship, you will never worship Him.You are so deeply engrossed in Kufr that you have extinguished the flames of reason and rationality. You have incapacitated the power of comprehension and understanding.”
(4) Zamakhshari claims that this is connected to the past in the sense that “Until today I have not worshipped any false deity, in front of whom you scrape your foreheads and rub your noses. Before proclamation of Prophethood I was free from the stains of Kufr and Shirk, and now that I have made the proclamation and my Lord has filled my heart with the light of Prophethood and enlightened me so that no sign of doubt remains. If you are yet optimistic of my Kufr then the world has not seen greater fools than you.”
(5) “In the past you have never worshipped this true God of whose worship I have had the honour.” It can be claimed that the word ‘Ma’ is used for non-intellectual and lifeless things and thus instead of ‘ma a’bodo’ it ought to have been ‘man a’bodo’. In response, a number of explanations can be given. For instance, in the first two verses the word ‘ma’ comes in the meaning of ‘allazi’ and in the second two verses it comes in the infinitive meaning, i.e. the manner in which you worship, I do not worship in that manner, and similarly the manner in which I worship, you do not worship. Another answer given is that the word ‘ma’ does not indicate a being but an attribute as if one was saying “I will not worship falsehood and you will not worship the truth.”
(6) “I am not a believer in the unification of truth and falsehood. In addition I do not believe in the mixture of truth and falsehood. I do not require such a unity that is based upon reconciliation with falsehood. You may by all means remain steadfast upon your kufr and not patch this kufr with Tawheed as there is no connection between the two. Similarly I will not be drawn into your deception and disturb Tawheed otherwise Tawheed will not remain Tawheed anymore. I was sent to spread the light of truth, therefore if I accept your request the truth will become falsehood. You may remain in your state and I will remain steadfast upon the truth. The battle between truth and falsehood will end with natural consequences. You will see that apart from a few unfortunate individuals the entire Arabian Peninsula will accept Islam.
لااله الا انت سبحانك انى كنت من الظالمين
وصلى الله تعالى على حبيبه و صفيه محمد
وعلى آله واصحابه و بارك و سلم
Introduction to Surah al-Ikhlas
This Surah has many names that signify its great status. The following are some examples.
· Surah Tawheed; this is because the belief of Tawheed (monotheism) has been covered in this Surah in a very concise and comprehensive manner.
· Surah Nijaat (salvation); this is because a person achieves salvation from the impurity of polytheism and disbelief. Thus it is a means of freedom from the fire of hell.
· Surah Muqashqasha; Qashqasha refers to recovering from an illness. Due to the fact that a person becomes healthy and free from polytheism and disbelief, this Surah is known as Qashqasha.
· Surah al-Asaas (foundation); this is because the fortress of faith and deeds stands high on the foundations of tawheed. Without this foundation even the greatest of actions are rendered invaluable.
· Surah al-Mani’ah; this is because it protects the one who recites it from the punishment of Hell.
· Surah al-Nur; this is because the rays of light emitted from it enlighten both worlds of the believer. Both his heart and mind become clear.
· Surah al-Amaan; this is because the believer of this Surah is protected from the anger and wrath of Allah.
· Surah al-Ikhlas; from the abundant names that it has been given, the most popular name is al-Ikhlas because the issue of tawheed is mentioned very comprehensively in it, as if the name is not merely used as a title for the Surah, but as a comprehensive title for the issues and topics contained in it.
It contains 4 verses, but according to some 5. It comprises of 15 words and 47 letters.
Era of revelation
There is a difference of opinion in relation to the place of its revelation. According to some scholars it was revealed in Makkah, whereas others claim that it was revealed in Madinah. The books of hadith contain evidence to support both claims.
First I will present those hadith that support the Makkan claim.
1) Abu al-Aliya narrates from Ubay ibn Kab that the polytheists came to the blessed Prophet peace be upon him and said to him, “O Muhammad! Inform us of the lineage of your lord, so that we can identify him. At that moment Allah revealed Surah Ikhlas in response to their demand.
2) Al-Sh’abi narrates from Jabir that a Bedouin came to the blessed Prophet peace be upon him and asked him to state the lineage of his lord. At that moment Allah revealed Surah Ikhlas.
3) Abu Wa’il narrates from Ibn Masood who said that the Quraish once asked the blessed Prophet peace be upon him to inform them of Allah’s lineage to which Allah revealed Surah al-Ikhlas.
From these three narrations it is becomes evident that it was revealed in Makkah, and it was the residents of Makkah who questioned the blessed Prophet peace be upon him.
On the other hand the following narrations show that the revelation took place in Madinah.
1) Ibn Abbas narrates that a group of Jews, lead by Kab ibn Ashraf, came to the blessed Prophet peace be upon him and asked him that if Allah had created everything who had created Allah? The blessed Prophet peace be upon him became very angry and Jibreel appeared to him to console him at which time this Surah was revealed.
2) ‘Ata narrates from Ibn Abbas that when the deputation of Christians from Najran presented itself to the blessed Prophet peace be upon him they asked him “What is your lord made of? aquamarine, ruby, or is he made of gold and silver?” The blessed Prophet peace be upon him replied “My lord is not made from any of these things, he is their creator.” This Surah was revealed at that time.
In this instance the Jews had presented themselves at Madinah as did the Christians, thus the two hadith confirm that the Surah was revealed in Madinah. Scholars have reconciled this issue with a simple answer by stating that this Surah was revealed twice, once in Makkah and once in Madinah. Another explanation presented is that the Surah was initially revealed in Makkah, but when similar questions were presented in Madinah by the Jews of Madinah and the Christians of Najran, then attention was directed towards this Surah to answer their questions. This was interpreted by some as revelation.
This Surah deals with and answers all sorats of misconceptions and misunderstandings displayed by many groups regarding Allah’s being and his perfect attributes. Some believe that the universe is eternal and it has no creator or originator, it simply came into existence on its own accord. Regardless of whether the proponents of this belief are the ancient Greek philosophers or modern atheist intellects, or the founders of civilisations such as the Egyptian or Babylonian or the heads of simple tribes, they are all wrong. Everyone has been informed that there is a creator of this universe and he is alone in his majesty. “Say he is Allah the one.”
On the other hand some nations acknowledged the existence of Allah, but unfortunately did not possess the necessary understanding and knowledge of his attributes, resulting in them following their assumptions and desires for eons. The other verses remove any remaining doubts and misconceptions and help them to move from the darkness of disbelief and polytheism to the light of Allah’s recognition. This issue is the basis for the concept of tawheed, which all of the Prophets and messengers peace be upon them came to make the people understand. This is also the main reason for the sending of the seal of Prophets’ peace be upon him and the mercy for all creation. In these few verses, ancient and modern misconceptions are dealt with.
Excellence and importance
The importance and excellence of this Surah is evident from its subject matter, but for the sake of blessing the words uttered from the tongue of the blessed Prophet peace be upon him will me also be mentioned regarding it.
1) The Mother of the Believers, Aisha may Allah be pleased with her, states that the blessed Prophet peace be upon him selected a man as the leader of a military expedition and sent him on a mission. This man made it a practise in his prayer to finish the recitation of each unit of prayer with Surah al-Ikhlas. On the groups return his companions asked the blessed Prophet peace be upon him about this and he in turn asked them to question him about it. When they asked him about his practise he replied that this Surah contained the attributes of Allah, therefore it was very beloved to him. Upon hearing the answer the blessed Prophet peace be upon him told the companions to inform him that Allah held him as his beloved. (Bukhari and Muslim)
2) Hazrat Anas reports that a man from the Ansar (Helpers) used to lead the Ansar in prayer in the mosque of Quba. His practise was that he would recite Surah al-Ikhlas before he recited any other Surah. His congregation told him to either recite Surah al-Ikhlas or an alternative Surah. He refused to do this and informed them that if they were dissatisfied with him they should appoint another imam as he was not going to abandon his practise. The people were reluctant to appoint another imam due to his piety and brought the issue to the blessed Prophet peace be upon him. He asked him why he wasn’t acceding to the request of his congregation to which he replied that he loved Surah al-Ikhlas very much. The blessed Prophet peace be upon him informed him that his love for the Surah had gained him a place in paradise. (Muslim)
Despite the fact that this Surah only comprises of four verses, its excellence dictates that anyone who recites it once receives the reward of the recitation of 10 parts.
1) Abu Hurairah narrates that one day the blessed Prophet peace be upon him asked the companions to gather together because he was going to recite a third of the Quran to them and the people gathered. The blessed Prophet peace be upon him came to them and recited Surah al-Ikhlas and returned to his rooms. The people started to say that he told them he would recite a third of the Quran, but he had only recited one Surah. The blessed Prophet peace be upon him returned to them and informed them that Surah al-Ikhlas was equivalent to a third of the Quran.
2) Abu Saeed narrates that the blessed Prophet peace be upon him once asked the companions whether they were able to recite a third of the Quran during the night. When they expressed their inability to do so he replied that Surah al-Ikhlas was equivalent to a third of the Quran.
The scholars have presented many reasons for the Surah being equivalent to a third of the Quran. The best answer amongst them is that the Quran mainly focuses on three issues; belief in the oneness of Allah, belief in Prophethood and belief in the day of judgement. This Surah focuses on the oneness of Allah, thus it covers a third of the Quran’s issues. Due to the blessings of this Surah whenever a person asks his lord for anything he is never sent away empty handed.
Abu Hurairah narrates that “I entered the mosque in the company of the blessed Prophet peace be upon him and saw a man who had finished performing prayer and was making the following dua.
اللهم إنّى أسئلك بأنّى أشهد أن لا إله إلاّ أنت الأحد ألصمدالذى لم يلد و لم يولد ولم يكن له
The blessed Prophet peace be upon him claimed “by his honour in whose hands my life is that person has beseeched his lord through his great name. Whenever a person asks him through his great name he always grants him and whenever he offers a prayer through his great name he accepts it.”
In another narration he entered the mosque and heard a man offering the prayer
أسئلك يا ألله يا أحد يا صمد يا من لم يلد و لم يولد و لم يكن له كفوا أحد
The blessed Prophet peace be upon him said three times that he had been forgiven.
It has also been narrated that once Jibreel was in the presence of the blessed Prophet peace be upon him when Abu Dhar al-Ghaffari came. Jibreel remarked that “This is Abu Dhar who has come. The blessed Prophet peace be upon him asked if the angels knew of Abu Dhar and Jibreel replied that he was more famous amongst them than amongst the companions. The blessed Prophet peace be upon him asked what had earned him such status and Jibreel replied that firstly he though very little of himself in his heart (he was very humble) and secondly he used to recite Surah al-Ikhlas abundantly. (Tafseer Kabeer)
Imam Abu Abdullah al-Ansari al-Qurtubi, in his tafseer, presents a narration at this point which we should ponder over and then act upon. Sahl ibn Sa’d al-Sa’idi narrates that a man complained to the blessed Prophet peace be upon him about his poverty and misfortune. The blessed Prophet peace be upon him told him “Whenever you enter your home, if there is someone present offer them salaam and if no one is present then send salaam upon me and recite Surah al-Ikhlas once.” The man followed the advice and Allah blessed him with so much wealth that he was able to benefit his neighbours.
Qadhi Ayyadh, whilst discussing these narrations in ‘al-Shifa’, when he mentions sending salutations upon the blessed Prophet peace be upon him he states “Amr ibn Dinar (an imam of the Muhaddithoon and someone from whom the authors of the Six Authentic books narrated) in relation to the verse said “But when you enter homes, salute one another with a greeting from Allah” (Q24:61), if you don’t find anyone at home then say
السلام على النبى و رحمة الله و بركاته.
Mulla Ali Qari, in his commentary on al-Shifa, states the reason behind this by saying
اى لأنّ روحه عليه السلام حاضر فى بيوت اهل الأسلام
i.e. the soul of the blessed Prophet peace be upon him is present in the homes of believers. (Commentary on al-Shifa, Qadhi Ayyadh, Volume 2, page 117).
Exegesis of Surah al-Ikhlas
Allah’s name I begin with, the most compassionate, the most kind.
(1) (Oh beloved) Say that he Allah is one.
(2) Allah the eternal, the absolute
(3) He did not beget anyone, nor is he begotten
(4) And no one is comparable to him.
(1) If you were to study the religious beliefs of the different nations in the world you would be astounded. Your mind would reel in confusion at the numerous opinions expressed about Allah and your heart would sink in despair. Some nations have even gone to the extent of disbelieving in any deity. According to them this universe of colour and smell came into existence merely as a result of an accident. No part of any beings wisdom, knowledge or power had any stake in its creation. The great celestial heavens, the terrestrial globe, the sky bound mountains, the bubbling springs, the flowing rivers with colourful blooming flowers in their bosoms and their prickly thorns, the droplets of dew and the boundless depths of the oceans, all these things came into existence on their own accord. The countless lights of the stars in the dark blue sky willed themselves into existence to shine and the splendour of the sun and the moon were not the miracle of a creator’s ability to build.
Other nations were believers in one deity, but one who was free from knowledge, wisdom and the power to facilitate. Some accepted two deities and others numerous deities, and their folklore relating to them are very entertaining ranging from the deities committing slavery to kidnapping one another’s wives and being indecent to them. They had blood lust between them resulting in wars and they also sired offspring. Overall, the level of indecency was so great that we implore to Allah protect us from this.
But, the beauty of the matter is that the proponents of such illogical beliefs who propagate them with great zeal are not average people, but they include philosophers, logicians, influential scientists, mathematicians, literary giants, great poets, intellects, religious and political leaders, great conquerors and a whole host of other people. They hail from various places such as India, China, Rome, Greece, Egypt, and wherever the light of civilisation and development burned.
Allah’s beloved, the standard bearer of tawheed, the greatest preacher of the true message, our master Muhammad peace be upon him also arrived in a land where deities of gold, copper, steel, stone, wood and numerous other materials were revered and exalted. When this messenger of truth stood on the peak Mount Safa and said to the people of Makkah “Worship only one god”, people’s minds became enflamed with questions and requests upon requests were delivered. Someone would ask “Tell us the lineage of your lord?”, whereas another would ask “What is your lord made from? Metal? Clay? Stone? Copper? Gold? Everything has an origin (made of a substance) so what is the origin of your lord (what is he made from)?”
Someone else would eagerly ask “What is the sustenance of your lord? He who has individually shouldered the responsibility for the creation and welfare of the universe, what does he survive on?” Their pettiness and narrow mindedness was evident in their unusual and awkward questions. Allah revealed this Surah upon his beloved Prophet peace be upon him and in a few verses he completely destroyed their numerous manifestations of deviance. The command is “Say” oh my perfect servant, announce the greatest truth with your own tongue so that no one has the audacity to deny.
Sometimes perfection can become a veil. When perfections are numerous, the veils also multiply. Beauty, strength, knowledge, wealth, leadership and government and military victories manage to veil the graceful/beautiful face of truth. The only one who can uncover these veils is that person who possesses all perfections and does not have an equal. ‘O’ beloved we have made you the bearer of all perfect qualities, so arise and with your call destroy the idols of pride and arrogance. Pharaoh lost his rationality when he became ruler of Egypt and claimed divinity, but I have given you such sovereignty that when you raise your finger, the moon splits into two. Despite such sovereignty if you were to proclaim that there is no deity other than Allah, no ruler would be able to claim divinity. We have given you such an elevated status that all prophets and messengers have witnessed this and acknowledged it. When you proclaim that there is no deity other than Allah, and that despite my perfect attributes I am not a deity, rather his servant, then no one will have the audacity to believe that any prophet or messenger is a god. Your knowledge is like the an endless ocean that encompasses what was and what will be, your vision reaches into the depths of the hidden secrets, but despite this vast knowledge if you were to say that I am not god, rather his servant, when the declaration of there is no deity other than Allah leaves your lips, no great scholar nor academic will have the courage to claim divinity.
Your ancestor, my friend broke the decorated statues in the temple with a mace, ‘O’ descendent of my friend arise and break the idols of views and ideologies with the strike of “Say Allah is one”, so that no reasonable rational person could say to you that there is any other deity apart from your deity, there is not any other creator other than your creator, there is no other god other than your lord, a being of such respect, magnitude and power. When the call of truth escapes from your lips the spacious earth and skies, the great heights of the heavens and divine throne will reverberate with it.
Whatever Allah desired it happened. This sweet voice arose out of the silent valley of Makkah and overcame the misconceptions. The sun of Islam arose in such a manner that the lights of false religions were put out. Allah’s creation, Adam’s progeny was given the true recognition of it lord and creator.
The order was given “Say Allah is one” i.e. inform these inquisitive people that the deity which I am inviting you towards, whose sanctuary I am taking you to, he is not like your deaf and blind gods made from copper and wood etc. He is Allah who is one and alone. The term ‘Ahad’ refers to the one who has no other in any way, neither in being, attributes or perfection.
With this proclamation deities made of gold, silver, iron, copper, stone and wood, who for eons had occupied the place of gods, fell flat on their faces.
(2) The scholars have interpreted ‘al-Samad’ according to their own personal understanding and assessment, thus in the books of exegeses there are numerous opinions. Despite the interpretation beings different, the meanings are identical. Allama Pani Patti, after listing the numerous opinions says, “In my opinion its real meaning is ‘intended’. In the Qamoos it states ‘al-Samad’ means ‘intent’, because something that is ‘unreservedly intended’, every other thing is dependent upon it and it is never dependent upon anything at any time for any reason. For this reason according to the sufi’s ‘there is no deity other than Allah’ means ‘no one is intended other than Allah’. (Tafseer Mazhari) Sa’eed ibn Jubayr states “Al-Samad i.e. everyone’s leader, one who is targeted when reward is desired, and whose help is required when faced with problems.
(3) Not only were uncivilized and ignorant nations guilty of believing in the children of god, but those nations who had professed faith in prophets and messengers and had heavenly books were also severely guilty of this heinous crime. If the ignorant Arab polytheists believe the angels to be the daughters of Allah, then the followers of Moses who were the bearers of the Torah were also guilty of accepting Uzair as the son of god and the Christians make great show of Jesus Christ son of Mary being the son of god. This verse invalidates their false beliefs by stating clearly that he does not have any sons nor is he the son of anyone. These are the qualities of finite and temporary things, whereas my lord is eternal and ever living, he is beyond being temporary and finite. Unlike humans he is he does not require sons, all the creation, big or small, great or insignificant wears the shackles of slavery for him and stands respectfully before him, why would he want to make anyone his sons?
(4) ‘Kufuwan’ refers to equal, someone who is an equal in power, knowledge, wisdom and every other aspect. There is nothing in this universe that can in any manner or capacity claim to compare to Allah, all are his people, his creation and in prostration in front of him. In front of his commands they stand in acceptance, willingly or unwillingly. Hazrat Shah Abdul Aziz, the Muhaddith of Delhi, states “The scholars write that polytheism sometimes occurs due to numbers, so they refute this by calling him ‘the one’, sometimes it occurs due to rank and position, by saying ‘al-Samad’ this is refuted, sometimes it is due to lineage, the statement ‘lam yalid wa lam yulad’ refutes this and sometimes it is performing some action or influencing something, ‘wa lam yakun lahu kufuwan ahad’ refutes this. Due to this concise topic of tawheed this Surah has appropriately been named ‘al-Ikhlas. (Tafseer Azeezi).