Surah al-Kafiroon FeaturedWritten by محبوب حسين الأزهرى
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
Allama Hafiz Mahboob Hussain al-Azhari BA (Hons), BSc (Hons), MA (RES) Secretary of WAAG (World Association of Al-Azhar Graduates) UK, a mureed of Hazrat Zia-Ul-Ummat Shaykh Pir Justice Pir Karam Shah Al-Azhari and a student of Shaykh Muhammad Imdad Hussain Pirzada. As such, Mahboob Hussain is the founder and resident scholar of PirKaramShah.com. He was born in Pakistan in 1976 Mahboob Hussain arrived in the UK in 1978 where he settled in Dewsbury. In 1980 he began his primary Islamic studies under Abul In’am Muhammad Abdul Bari Chishti and followed that by memorisation of the Qur'ân. After completing his GCSE’s in 1993 he rejoined his teacher in Jamia al-Karam, which at that time was at the former site in Milton Keynes, where under his tutelage and the auspicious guidance of Shaykh Muhammad Imdad Hussain Pirzada, he began his studies in Arabic and Islamic studies and A Levels. Here he was fortunate to meet with his Shaykh, the Ummah’s Luminary, Justice Shaykh Muhammad Karam Shah al-Azhari (ra) and pledged his allegiance to him.
After completing his A Levels and studies in Jamia al-Karam in 1997, he was fortunate to pursue his studies in Jamia al-Azhar, Cairo where he gained a BA honours from the Department of Theology, specialising in the science of Prophetic Traditions. After completing his studies in 2000, he returned to the UK and spent a year teaching Arabic and Islamic studies in his local town Dewsbury. In 2001 he began BSc in Computing and Information Studies in the University of Bradford, which he completed in 2005 and immediately rejoined Shaykh M I H Pirzada at Jamia al-Karam as a teacher. Mahboob Hussain has achieved his MA thesis by research at the University of Leeds titled ‘Jewish Anecdotes in Qur'ânic Exegesis’ and is currently looking forward to his upcoming PhD InshAllah. He is also involved in alot of other literary work, such as English translation of selected surahs of Tafsir Zia-Ul-Quran, soon to be exclusively released on pirkaramshah.com.