Friday, July 13, 2018

Surah Al Ikhlas - Oneness of Allah: Summary of 112th Chapter of The Holy Quran

Surah Al Ikhlas, the 112th chapter of the Holy Qur'an comprise of four verses and is part of the 30th Juz.  Al-Ikhlas is not merely the name of this Surah but also the title of its contents, for it deals exclusively with Tawhid. The other Surahs of the Quran generally have been designated after a word occurring in them, but in this Surah the word Ikhlas has occurred nowhere. It has been given this name in view of its meaning and subject matter. Whoever understands it and believes in its teaching, will get rid of shirk (polytheism) completely. It is a short declaration of Tawhid, Allah's absolute oneness. Al-Ikhlas means "the purity" or "the refining".

The basic theme of Islam revolves around the Oneness of Allah and this has been highlighted at many a places in the Holy Qur'an. However, if there is one single chapter or surah which sums up the oneness of Allah is Sūra al-Ikhlāṣ. Although one of the very short surahs / chapters of the Holy Qur'an, it embodies in itself the clear message of monotheism for there being none equal or comparable to Allah.

This short but meaningful surah was revealed unto Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the early days of Islam when a group of infidels of Makkah came to him and asked about the "genealogy of Allah." And to answer the query raised by the non believers, Allah revealed Sūra al-Ikhlāṣ as an answer to the question of the people of Makkah.

This surah is placed after Surah Lahab. This is an indication of the fact that after the destruction of the biggest foe of Islam (as depicted in Surah Lahab), time is ripe for the proclamation of the essence of Tawhid once again in this land, for which Abraham (peace be upon hims) had built the House of Allah. Hence, in this surah, the basic Islamic teaching of Tawhid is forcefully asserted. Prior to Surah Lahab, the glad tidings of the victory of the Islamic forces are already given in Surah Nasr.

It may be added for interest and information fo the readers that the overall arrangement of the Qur'an is such that the beginning and the end are very similar. The end of the Qur'an converges to the topic with which it commences -- Tawhid and Ikhlas. Surah Fatihah and Surah Ikhlas, the beginning and the end of the Qur'an distinctly bring out the reality that the concept of Tawhid encompasses all our beliefs. It is mentioned in Surah Fatihah that God is the sole Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds and Master of the Day of Judgement, and as such we all must always express our gratitude to Him. Here, in this surah, the attributes that wipe out any trace of polytheism are explained positively as well as negatively, which actually forms the basis of the study of Tawhid. Moreover, it should also be kept in mind that the surahs which constitute this last group are fundamental to the study of Islam.

Herein under is the English translation / exegesis of Sūrat al-Ikhlāṣ:

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ 
"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful"

قُلۡ هُوَ اللّٰهُ اَحَدٌ​ ۚ‏ 
1. Say (O'Muhammad), “He is Allah, (the) One (Ahad - In Arabic Ahad means One).   
The first addressee of this command is the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself for it was he who was asked by the disbelievers and pagans of Makkah: Who is your Lord and what is He like. Thus the Prophet of Allah was commanded to answer the question in the following words. But after him every believer is its addressee. He too should say what the Prophet (peace be upon him) had been commanded to say. Thus the opening word "  قُلۡ - qul" is a command that means "to proclaim", "to declare", "to openly announce something" so that every person becomes fully aware of it and there remains no ambiguity about it, leaving no room for further arguments. The word is used in this very sense in the opening verse of Surah Kafirun as well.

So the first verse clearly states My Lord to Whom you want to be introduced is none but Allah. This is the first answer to the questions, and it means: I have not introduced a new lord who I want you to worship beside all other gods, but it is the same Being you know by the name of Allah. Allah was not an unfamiliar word for the Arabs. They had been using this very word for the Creator of the universe since the earliest times, and they did not apply this word to any of their other gods. For the other gods they used the word ilah. Then their beliefs about Allah had become fully manifest at the time Abraha invaded Makkah. At that time there existed 360 idols of gods (ilahs) in and around the Kabah, but the polytheists forsaking all of them had invoked only Allah for protection. In other words, they knew in their hearts that no ilah could help them on that critical occasion except Allah. The Kabah was also called Bait-Allah by them and not Baitilahs after their self-made gods.

At many places in the Quran the polytheistic Arabian belief about Allah has been expressed, and the answer to questions of the disbeliever many verse reply back as to Who Allah is:
  • In Surah Az-Zukhruf it has been said: If you ask them who created them, they will surely say, Allah. (verse 87).
  • In Surah Al-Ankabuut: If you ask them, who has created the earth and the heavens and who has subjected the moon and the sun. They will surely say: Allah. And if you ask them, who sent down rainwater from the sky and thereby raised the dead earth back to life. They will surely say: Allah. (verses 61-63).
  • In Surah Al-Muminun: Say to them, tell me, if you know, whose is the earth and all who dwell in it. They will say, Allah’s. Say to them: To whom do the seven heavens and the Glorious Throne belong. They will say: To Allah. Say to them: Tell me, if you know, whose is the sovereignty over everything. And who is that Being who gives protection while none else can give protection against Him. They will surely reply: This power belongs to Allah. (verses 84-89).
  • In Surah Younus: Ask them: Who provides for you from the heavens and the earth. Who has power over the faculties of hearing and sight. Who brings forth the living from the dead and the dead from the living. Who directs the system of the universe. They will surely reply: Allah. (verse 31).
  • Again in Surah Younus at another place: When you set sails in ships, rejoicing over a fair breeze, then all of a sudden a strong wind begins to rage against the passengers and waves begin to surge upon them from every side and they realize that they have been encircled by the tempest. At that time they pray to Allah with sincere faith, saying: If you deliver us from this peril, we will become Your grateful servants. But when He delivers them, the same people begin to rebel on the earth against the truth. (verses 22-23).
  • The same thing has been reiterated in Surah Bani Israeel, thus: When a misfortune befalls you on the sea, all of those whom you invoke for help fail you but He (is there to help you), yet when He brings you safe to land, you turn away from Him. (verse 67).
This verse thus clearly sends down the concept of absolute monotheism and dispels any notion of there being any equal or comparable to Allah and amply clarifies there is only Allah, like the God of Jews. But not like the God of Christians which also shares the title with two other. This, however, does not mean that the three leading religions of Jews, Christians and Muslims worship a different God , because all religions believe in One True God, though with passage of time the term has assumed different meanings due to distortions and man made beliefs and interpretations. We Muslims thus believe that there is no plurality of gods, as the polytheist society of Makkah believed.

اَللّٰهُ الصَّمَدُ​ ۚ‏ 
2. Allah, the Absolute.   
The verse means: Allah, Who is in need of none and of Whom all are in need. The word used in the original is samad of which the root is smd. A look at the derivatives in Arabic from this root will show how comprehensive and vast this word is in meaning.On the basis of these lexical meanings the explanations of the word as-Samad in the verse Allah-us-Samad, which have been reported from the companions, their immediate successors and the later scholars are given below:
  • Abu Hurairah: He who is independent of all and all others are dependent upon him.
  • Ali, Ikrimah and Kab Ahbar: Samad is he who has no superior.
  • Abu Bakr al-Anbari: There is no difference of opinion among the lexicographers that samad is the chief who has no superior and to whom the people turn for fulfillment of their desires and needs and in connection with other affairs. Similar to this is the view of Az-Zajjaj, who says Samad is he in whom leadership has been perfected, and to whom one turns for fulfillment of his needs and desires.
Here it will be worthwhile to compare the verse 1 and 2, as why Allahu-Ahad has been said in the first sentence and why Allah-us-Samad in this sentence. About the word ahad there is no dispute that it is exclusively used for Allah, and for none else. That is why it has been used as ahad, in the indefinite sense. But since the word samad is used for creatures also, Allall-us-Samad has been said instead of Allah Samad, which signifies that real and true Samad is Allah alone. If a creature is samad in one sense, it may not be samad in some other sense, for it is mortal, not immortal; it is analyzable and divisible, is compound, its parts can scatter away any time; some creatures are dependent upon it, and upon others it is dependent; its chieftaincy is relative and not absolute; it is superior to certain things and certain other things are superior to it; it can fulfill some desires of some creatures but it is not in the power of any creature to fulfill all the desires of all the creatures, On the contrary, Allah is perfect in His attributes of Samad in every respect; the whole world is dependent upon Him in its needs, but He is not dependent upon anyone; everything in the world turns to Him, consciously or unconsciously, for its survival and for fulfillment of the needs of everyone; He is Immortal and Ever-living; He sustains others and is not sustained by anyone; He is Single and Unique, not compound so as to be analyzable and divisible; His sovereignty prevails over entire universe and He is Supreme in every sense. Therefore, He is not only Samad but As-Samad, i.e. the Only and One Being Who is wholly and perfectly qualified with the attribute of samad in the true sense.

Then, since He is As-Samad, it is necessary that He should be Unique, One and Only, for such a being can only be One, which is not dependent upon anyone and upon whom everyone else may be dependent; two or more beings cannot be self-sufficient and fulfiller of the needs of all. Furthermore, His being As-samad also requires that He alone should be the Deity, none else, for no sensible person would worship and serve the one who had no power and authority to fulfill the needs of others.

لَمۡ يَلِدۡ   ۙ وَلَمۡ يُوۡلَدۡ ۙ‏ 
3. He begets not, nor was He begotten;
This verse is very important and must be understood clearly for in it lies a stern and absolute answer to the poking questions of the disbelievers to the Prophet of Allah. The Arabs had a mythology of their own which was very similar in detail to the Greek and Hindu mythologies. The idolaters regarded the angels to be the daughters of God. Although the Jews were the recipients of Torah, yet they regarded 'Uzayr as the son of God. The Christians had established the Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Their prejudice for Trinity took them so far that at one time their priests, at whose hands people accepted Christianity, made their converts curse the God whose attributes are spelled out in this surah. Indeed, the anger and the venom they had for this surah was because the concept of Tawhid expressed in it had made a direct hit upon their beliefs. Considering it, Allah could be regarded neither as a father nor a son, nor could anyone be regarded as His mother.

It also negates the claims of the pagans of Makkah that angels are the off springs of Allah. The surah clearly states that Allah is far above being the progeny of anybody or having any offspring. Thus He has no son or father. He is eternal ,without beginning or endHe is such a unique being that there is nobody like Him or equal to Him in any manner whatsoever.

This verse clearly send a message right from Allah Himself telling the disbelievers that Neither has He an offspring nor is He the offspring of another. After this there remains no room for any ambiguity in this regard. Then, since these concepts are the most potent factors of polytheism with regard to Divine Being, Allah has refuted them clearly and absolutely not only in Surah Al-Ikhlas but has also reiterated this theme at different places in different ways so that the people may understand the truth fully. 
  • Allah is only One Deity: He is far too exalted that He should have a son: whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth belongs to Him. (Surah An-Nisa, Ayat 171).
  • Note it well: they, in fact, invent a falsehood when they say, Allah has children. They are utter liars. (Surah As-Saaffat, Ayats 151-152).
  • They have invented a blood-relationship between Allah and the angels, whereas the angels know well that these people will be brought up (as culprits). (Surah As-Saaffat, Ayat 158).
  • These people have made some of His servants to be part of Him. The fact is that man is manifestly ungrateful. (Surah Az-Zukhruf, Ayat l5).
  • Yet the people have set up the Jinn as partners with Allah, whereas He is their Creator; they have also invented for Him sons and daughters without having any knowledge, whereas He is absolutely free from and exalted far above the things they say. He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth: how should He have a son, when He has no consort? He has created each and every thing. (Surah AlAnaam, Ayats 100-101).
  • They say: the Merciful has offspring. Glory be to Allah! They (whom they describe as His offspring) are His mere servants who have been honored. (Surah Al-Anbiya, Ayat 26).
  • They remarked: Allah has taken a son to himself. Allah is All-pure: He is Self Sufficient. He is the Owner of everything that is in the heavens and the earth. Have you any authority for what you say? What, do you ascribe to Allah that of which you have no knowledge. (Surah Younus, Ayat 68). 
  • And (O Prophet) say: Praise is for Allah who has begotten no son nor has any partner in His Kingdom nor is helpless to need any supporter. (Surah Bani Israil, Ayat 111). 
  • Allah has no offspring, and there is no other deity as a partner with Him. (Surah Al-Muminun, Ayat 91).
In these verses the belief of the people who ascribe real as adopted children to Allah, has been refuted from every aspect, and its being a false belief has also been proved by argument. These and many other Quranic verses of the same theme further explain Surah Al-Ikhlas.

وَلَمۡ يَكُنۡ لَّهٗ كُفُوًا اَحَدٌ
4. And there is none co-equal or comparable unto Him.”
In the last verse, "Kufuwun"means `equal, like, peer, match, similar'. This verse means that Allah has no parallel or equal. He is the Creator and all other things are His creation. Everyone has needs while He has none. All need Him while He needs none. Everyone is mortal while He is the only immortal.

It is Allah alone to whom we turn to, depend upon and will return to on the Day of Judgment. He has the absolute power and doe not need anyone else to be dependent upon. Even when the entire universe comes to an end on the Day of Judgment and all living things will cease to exist, Allah will still remain forever. This verse clarifies the question "Who created the creator?" The answer is simple: one of the characteristics of the creator itself is that he is not created. If the creator was created it automatically means it’s not the creator. Allah is therefore eternal, without beginning or end.

Therefore associating any humanly creation with limited attributes to be like Allah who created the fathomless and endless universe, which is yet to be scaled or measured even with the most advanced means like the Hubble Telescope and other scientific discoveries. This fact has also been emphasized in the Āyat al-Kursī, the summary of which has already been posted earlier in this blog. Allah is not confined by space and time and He alone without assistance of anyone controls all what He has created and sustains it through His absolute and unmatchable powers.

Summarizing this surah, one must acknowledge the message of the surah which lies in the concept of Tawhid and which brings out by mention of certain complementary pairs of attributes of Allah. The essence of which is that Allah has always existed and shall always exist; He was when there was nothing and shall remain when everything ceases to be; He is complete and entire in His being and is above all needs; everyone needs Him while He needs none; He is a refuge for all and on Him everyone depends; He brings everything into existence, and by His orders everything is destroyed; He is father to none nor has He a father; He is the Creator and the Cherisher of all and fashions and sustains everything; nothing is from His substance and being; He has no peer or equal and indeed all are His servants and slaves.

Now you may like to listen to the recitation of Sūra al-Ikhlāṣ along with its Englsih translation:

Photo | References: | 1 |  2 | 3 |  4 | 5 |
An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic souses and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. However, the exegesis of the chapters of the Holy Quran are basically based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites. 

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