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Surah Al-Ikhlaas

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Maududi's Commentry (Tafseer) on Surah Al-Ikhlaas

Mecca Mecca (22)
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1Total Ruku: 1


Al-Ikhlas is not merely the name of this Surah but also the title ofits contents, for it deals exclusively with Tauhid. The other Surahs ofthe Quran generally have been designated after a word occurring inthem, but in this Surah the word Ikhlas has occurred nowhere. It hasbeen given this name in view of its meaning and subject matter.Whoever understands it and believes in its teaching, will get rid ofshirk(polytheism) completely.

Period of Revelation

Whether it is a Makki or a Madani Surah is disputed, and the differenceof opinion has been caused by the traditions which have been relatedconcerning the occasion of its revelation. We give them below adseriatim:

  1. Hadrat Abdullah bin Masud has reported that theQuraish said to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be be peace): "Tell us ofthe ancestry of your Lord."Thereupon this Surah was sent down.(Tabarani).

  2. Abul Aliyah has related on the authority of HadratUbayy bin Kab that the polytheists said to the Holy Prophet (upon whombe peace): Tell us of your Lord's ancestry."Thereupon Allah sent downthis Surah. (Musnad Ahmad, Ibn Abi Harim, Ibn Jarir, Tirmidhi, Bukhariin At-Tarikh, Ibn al-Mundhir, Hakim, Baihaqi). Tirmidhi has related atradition on the same theme from Abul Aliyah, which does not containany reference to Hadrat Ubayy bin Kab, and has declared it to be moreauthentic.

  3. Hadrat Jabir bin Abdullah has stated that a bedouin(according to other traditions, some people) said to the Holy Prophet(upon whom be peace): "Tell us of your Lord's ancestry."ThereuponAllah sent down this Surah.(Abu Yala, Ibn Jarir, Ibn al-Mundhir,Tabarani in Al-Ausat, Baihaqi, Abu Nuaim in Al-Hilyah).

  4. Ikrimahhas related a tradition form Ibn Abbas, saying that a group of theJews, including Kab bin Ashraf, Huyayy bin Akhtab and other, camebefore the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) and said: "O Muhammad(upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings), tell us of the attributesof your Lord, Who has sent you as a Prophet."Thereupon Allah sent downthis Surah. (Ibn Abi Hatim, Ibn Adi, Baihaqi in Al-Asma was-Sifat).

    Inaddition to these, some other traditions also have been cited by IbnTaimiyyali in his commentary of Surah Al-Ikhlas, which are as follows;

  5. Hadrat Anas has stated that some Jews of Khaiber came before theHoly Prophet (upon whom be peace) and they said:"O Abul Qasim, Allahcreated the angels from light, Adam from rotten clay, Iblis from theflame of fire, the sky from smoke, and the earth from the foam ofwater. Now tell us about your Lord (of what He is made)."The HolyProphet (upon whom be peace) did not give any reply to this question.Then Gabriel came and he said: "O Muhammad, say to them: Huwa Allahuahad."

  6. Amir bin at-Tufail said to the Holy Prophet: "O Muhammad,what do you call us to?"The Holy Prophet replied: "To Allah."Amirsaid: "Then, tell us of what He is made, whether of gold, silver, oriron?" Thereupon this surah was sent down.

  7. Dahhak, Qatadah andMuqatil have stated that some Jewish rabbis came before the HolyProphet, and they said: "O Muhammad, tell us what is your Lord like,so that we may believe in you. Allah in the Torah has sent down Hisdescription. Kindly tell us of what He is made, what is His sex,whether He is made of gold, copper, brass, iron, or silver, andwhether He eats and drinks. Also tell us from whom He, has inheritedthe world, and who will inherit it after Him." Thereupon Allah sentdown this Surah.

  8. Ibn Abbas has reported that a deputation of theChristians of Najran along with seven priests visited the Holy Prophetupon whom be peace), and they said: "O Muhammad, tell us what is yourLord like and of what substance He is made."The Holy Prophet replied:"My Lord is not made from any substance: He is unique and exaltedabove everything."Thereupon Allah sent down this Surah.

Thesetraditions show that different people on different occasions hadquestioned the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) about the essence andnature of the God to Whose service and worship he invited the people,and on every occasion he recited by Allah's command this very Surah inresponse. First of all, the pagans. of Quraish asked him this questionin Makkah, and in reply this Surah was sent down. Then, at Madinah,sometimes the Christians, and sometimes the other people of Arabia,asked him questions of this nature, and every time Allah inspired himto recite this very Surah in answer to them. In each of thesetraditions, it has been said that this Surah was revealed on this orthat occasion. From this one should not form the impression that allthese traditions are mutually contradictory. The fact is that wheneverthere existed with the Holy Prophet a verse or a Surah previouslyrevealed in respect of a particular question or matter, and later thesame question was presented before him, Allah inspired him to recitethe same verse or Surah to the people as it contained the answer totheir question. The reporters of Hadith describe the same thing,saying: When such and such a question or matter was presented beforethe Holy Prophet, such and such a verse or Surah was revealed. This hasalso been described as repetition of revelation, i. e. the revelationof a verse or Surah several times.

Thus, the fact is that this Surah isMakki, rather in view of its subject matter a Surah revealed in theearliest period at Makkah, when detailed verses of the Quran dealingwith the essence and attributes of Allah Almighty had not yet beenrevealed, and the people hearing, the Holy Prophet's invitation toAllah, wanted to know what was his Lord like to whose worship andservice he was calling them. Another proof of this Surah's being one ofthe earliest Surahs to be revealed is that when in Makkah Umayyah binKhalaf, the master of Hadrat Bilal, made him lie down on burning sandand placed a heavy stone on his chest, Bilal used to cry "Ahad,Ahad!"This word was derived from this very Surah.

Theme and Subject Matter

A little consideration of the traditions regarding the occasion of therevelation of this Surah, shows what were the religious concepts of theworld at the time the Holy Prophet began to preach the message ofTauhid. The idolatrous polytheists were worshiping gods made of wood,stone, gold, silver and other substances. These gods had a form, shapeand body. The gods and goddesses were descended from each other. Nogoddess was without a husband and no god without a wife. They stood inneed of food and drink and their devotees arranged these for them. Alarge number of the polytheists believed that God assumed human formand there were some people who descended from Him. Although theChristians claimed to believe in One God, yet their God also had atleast a son, and besides the Father and Son, the Holy Ghost also hadthe honor of being an associate in Godhead: so much so that God had amother and a mother-in-law too. The Jews also claimed to believe inOne God, but their God too was not without physical, material andother human qualities and characteristics. He went for a stroll,appeared in human form, wrestled with a servant of His, and was fatherof a son, Ezra. Besides these religious communities, the zoroastrianswere fire worshipers, and the Sabeans star worshipers. Under suchconditions when the people were invited to believe in Allah, the One;Who has no associate, it was inevitable that questions arose in theminds as to what kind of a God it was, Who was one and Only Lord andinvitation to believe in Whom was being given at the expense of allother gods and deities. It is a miracle of the Quran that in a fewwords briefly it answered all the questions and presented such a clearconcept of the Being of Allah as destroyed all polytheistic concepts,without leaving any room for the ascription of any of the humanqualities to His Being.

Merit and Importance

That is why the Holy Messenger of Allah (upon whom be peace) held thisSurah in great esteem, and he made the Muslims realize its importancein different ways so that they recited it frequently and disseminatedit among the people. For it states the foremost and fundamentaldoctrine of Islam (viz. Tauhid) in four such brief sentences as areimmediately impressed on human memory and can be read and recitedeasily. There are a great number of the traditions of Hadith, whichshow that the Holy Prophet on different occasions and in differentways told the people that this Surah is equivalent to one third theQuran. Several ahadith on this subject have been related in Bukhari,Muslim, Abu Daud; Nasai, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Musnad Ahmad, Tabaraniand other books, on the authority of Abu Said Khudri, Abu Hurairah,Abu Ayyub Ansari, Abu ad-Darda, Muadh bin Jabal, Jabir bin Abdullah,Ubayy bin Kab, Umm Kulthum bint Uqbah bin Abi Muait, Ibn Umar, IbnMasud, Qatadah bin an-Numan, Anas bin Malik, and Abu Masud (may Allahbe pleased with all of them). The commentators have given manyexplanations of the Holy Prophet's this, saying. But in our opinion itsimply means that the religion presented by the Quran is based onthree doctrines: Tauhid, Apostleship and the Hereafter. This Surahteaches Tauhid, pure and undefiled. Therefore, the Holy Prophet (uponwhom he Peace) regarded it as, equal to one-third of the Quran.

Atradition on the authority of Hadrat Aishah has been related inBukhari, Muslim and other collections of the Ahadith, saying that theHoly Prophet sent a man as leader of an expedition. During the journeyhe concluded his recitation of the Quran in every Prayer with QulHuwa-Allahu ahad. On their return him companions mentioned this beforethe Holy Prophet. He said: "Ask him why he did so."When the man wasasked, he replied: "In this Surah the attributes of the Merciful Godhave been stated; therefore, I love to recite it again and again."When the Holy Prophet heard this reply, he said to the people: "Informhim that Allah holds him in great love and esteem."

A similar incidenthas been related in Bukhari, on the authority of Hadrat Anas. He says:"A man from among the Ansar led the Prayers in the Quba Mosque. Hispractice was that in every rak`ah he first recited this Surah and thenwould join another Surah to it. The people objected to it and said tohim:"Don't you think that Surah Ikhlas is by itself enough? Why do youjoin another Surah to it? You should either recite only this surah, orshould leave it and recite some other Surah. He said: "I cannot leaveit, I would rather give up leadership in the Prayer, if you sodesired."The people did not approve that another man be appointedleader instead of him. At last, the matter was brought before the HolyProphet. He asked the man, "What prevents you from conceding what yourcompanions desire? What makes you recite this particular Surah in everyrak`ah?"The man replied: "I have great love for it."The Holy Prophetremarked: "Your this love for this Surah has earned you entry intoParadise."

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