Saturday, June 09, 2012

A Tafsir of Surat al-Ikhlas


Tafsir of Surat al-Ikhlas
Chapter 112 of the Noble Qur’an
***
Outlines:
Preliminaries.
  1. The fada’il of the chapter.
  2. The asami (names) of the chapter.
  3. The sabab al-nuzul of the chapter.
  4. The basic meanings of the chapter.
  5. Lessons to learn from the chapter.
Basic Commentary:[1]
Preliminaries:
  • 4 verses.
  • 15 words.
  • 47 letters.
  • A Meccan chapter and according to some commentators a Medinan chapter.[2]
  • It is situated after surat al-Masad and before surat al-Falaq.
  • One of the ‘qul-cluster’ chapters.
  • Theme: monotheism, negation of polytheism; character and nature of Allah.
  • Assonantal continuity (saj`), i.e. the rhyming regularity pattern follows the closing verse of surat al-Masad (= -d; -d; -d; -d).
[1] The Fada’il of the Sura:
  • Imam al-Razi lists a few of the virtues of surat al-Ikhlas from the narrations in Mafatih al-Ghayb:[3]
قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: ” من قرأ سورة قل هو الله أحد، فكأنما قرأ ثلث القرآن وأعطى من الأجر عشر حسنات بعدد من أشرك بالله وأمن بالله “ وقال عليه الصلاة والسلام: ” من قرأ قل هو الله أحد مرة واحدة أعطى من الأجر كمن آمن بالله وملائكته وكتبه ورسله وأعطى من الأجر مثل مائة شهيد “ وروى: ” أنه كان جبريل عليه السلام مع الرسول عليه الصلاة والسلام إذا أقبل أبو ذر الغفاري، فقال جبريل: هذا أبو ذر قد أقبل، فقال عليه الصلاة والسلام: أو تعرفونه؟ قال: هو أشهر عندنا منه عندكم، فقال عليه الصلاة والسلام: بماذا نال هذه الفضيلة؟ قال لصغره في نفسه وكثرة قراءته قل هو الله أحد “ وروى أنس قال: ” كنا في تبوك فطلعت الشمس مالها شعاع وضياء وما رأيناها على تلك الحالة قط قبل ذلك فعجب كلنا، فنزل جبريل وقال: إن الله أمر أن ينزل من الملائكة سبعون ألف ملك فيصلوا على معاوية بن معاوية، فهل لك أن تصلي عليه ثم ضرب بجناحه الأرض فأزال الجبال وصار الرسول عليه الصلاة والسلام كأنه مشرف عليه فصلى هو وأصحابه عليه، ثم قال: بم بلغ ما بلغ؟ فقال جبريل: كان يحب سورة الإخلاص “ وروى: ” أنه دخل المسجد فسمع رجلاً يدعو ويقول أسألك يا ألله يا أحد يا صمد يا من لم يلد ولم يولد ولم يكن له كفواً أحد، فقال: غفر لك غفر لك غفر لك ثلاث مرات “ وعن سهل بن سعد: ” جاء رجل إلى النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وشكا إليه الفقر فقال: إذا دخلت بيتك فسلم إن كان فيه أحد وإن لم يكن فيه أحد فسلم على نفسك، واقرأ قل هو الله أحد مرة واحدة ففعل الرجل فأدر الله عليه رزقاً حتى أفاض على جيرانه “ وعن أنس: ” أن رجلاً كان يقرأ في جميع صلاته: { قُلْ هُوَ ٱللَّهُ أَحَدٌ } فسأله الرسول عن ذلك فقال: يا رسول الله إني أحبها، فقال: حبك إياها يدخلك الجنة “ وقيل من قرأها في المنام: أعطي التوحيد وقلة العيال وكثرة الذكر لله، وكان مستجاب الدعوة
Points:
  1. Whoever recites surat al-Ikhlas, it is as though he has recited a third of the Qur’an (i.e. 10 chapters).
  2. Whoever recites surat al-Ikhlas, he will be granted 10 units of reward.
  3. Whoever recites surat al-Ikhlas, it is as though he has gained the reward of 100 martyrs.
  4. Whoever recites surat al-Ikhlas, it is as though he has gained the reward of one who professes the faith.
  5. Whoever recites surat al-Ikhlas, his sins will be forgiven.
  6. Whoever recites surat al-Ikhlas, it will be a means for attaining Paradise.
“[...] and it is said that whoever recites [surat al-Ikhlas] in his sleep, he will be granted tawhid, plenty of remembrance for Allah and his supplications will be accepted.”[4]
  • Thus, there is immense reward, merit, status and importance accorded to the sura.
[2] The asami (names) of the Sura:
  • There are a number of recorded and attributed names to the sura such as the following:[5]
  1. Surat al-tafrid (‘Unique’) because the chapter makes Allah unique and incomparable.
  2. Surat al-tajrid (‘divester’) because it expunges Allah of possible all human qualities (i.e. negation of anthropomorphism).
  3. Surat al-tawhid (‘unity’) because it comprises one third of the Qur’an, i.e. monotheism and unifies Allah’s attributes.
  4. Surat al-ikhlas (‘purity of faith’), i.e the affirmation of true monotheism.
  5. Surat al-najat (‘salvation’) because it will save you from disbelief and polytheism in this world and the Hellfire in the next.
  6. Surat al-wilaya (‘proximity’) because whoever reads it, understands its reality and truly believes in it will be considered one of the awliya’ (‘friends’) of Allah.
  7. Surat al-nisba (‘lineage’) because the Jews of Mecca asked the lineage (origin) of Allah to the Prophet and thissura came down as a response to that.
  8. Surat al-ma`rifa (‘knowledge’) because one’s understanding of Allah is deficient and incomplete without it.
  9. Surat al-jamal (‘beautiful’) because Allah loves beauty and all things beautiful.
  10. Surat al-muqashqisha (‘healer’) because it heals the sick from ailment and disbelief.
  11. Surat al-mu`awwadha (‘the invoked’) because one seeks refuge from shaytan by reciting it.
  12. Surat al-samad (‘the eternal’) because it summarises Allah succinctly.
  13. Surat al-asas (‘foundation’) because monotheism is the foundation of correct faith and no other.
  14. Surat al-mani`a (‘protector’) because it prevents from the torment in the grave and Hellfire.
  15. Surat al-muhdir (‘attracter’) because it attracts the angels who desire to listen to it when it is recited.
  16. Surat al-munaffira (‘detractor’) because it repels shaytan away when it is recited.
  17. Surat al-bara’a (‘emancipator’) because whoever recited it is freed from shirk and Hellfire.
  18. Surat al-mudhakkira (‘reminder’) because it hearkens one to tawhid.
  19. Surat al-nur (‘light’) because it illuminates the heart and mind with the clarity of correct belief.
  20. Surat al-aman (‘safety’) because a believer is protected from the anger and warth of Allah.
  • Thus, even the names of this blessed sura indicate its immense stature, power, strength and merit.
[3] The sabab al-nuzul of the Sura:
  • There are different accounts for the occasion for which the verses on this chapter were revealed such as:
[A] Polytheists: The mushrikun of Mecca wanted to know the type (jins) of deity the Messenger of Allah (saw) worshipped. “[s: the Prophet replied] ‘I am neither poor nor mad and I do not desire women. I am the Messenger of Allah and I call you all to abandon idolatry and worship Him alone’. They asked him a second time: ‘Tell us the type of thing you worship. Is it made of gold or silver?’ So Allah revealed this sura as a clarification…”[6]
 لست بفقير، ولا مجنون، ولا هويت امرأة، أنا رسول الله أدعوكم من عبادة الأصنام إلى عبادته، فأرسلوه ثانية وقالوا: قل له بين لنا جنس معبودك، أمن ذهب أو فضة، فأنزل الله هذه السورة
[B] The Jews: The Jews headed by Ka`b b. al-Ashraf wanted to know about Who the Messenger of Allah worshipped, i.e. for him (saw) to describe Allah in detail.
[C] The Christians: The Christian delegation from Najran inquired about the nature of Muhammad’s Lord so Allah revealed the sura. “They asked: describe to us your Lord; is He made from emeralds and pearls or gold and silver? [The Prophet] replied: ‘My Lord is not made from any type of thing because He created every type of thing’ and so {Say: Allah is One} was revealed. They then asked: But He is one and you too are one. [The Prophet replied]:‘Indeed, but there is nothing comparable to Him whatsoever.’ They asked again: Tell us more about His attributes. [The Prophet] said: ‘{Allah is al-Samad}.’ They asked: And what does ‘al-Samad’ mean? He replied: ‘He to Whom all of creation turns and depends for its needs’. They asked further: Tell us more. Then it was revealed: {He does not give birth} like Maryam [as] did; {nor was he begotten by anything} like `Isa [as] and {there is nothing like him whatsoever} that anyone can find in His creation…”[7]
فقالوا: صف لنا ربك أمن زبرجد أو ياقوت، أو ذهب، أو فضة؟ فقال:  إن ربي ليس من شيء لأنه خالق الأشياء فنزلت: { قُلْ هُوَ ٱللَّهُ أَحَدٌ } قالوا: هو واحد، وأنت واحد، فقال: ليس كمثله شيء، قالوا: زدنا من الصفة، فقال: { ٱللَّهُ ٱلصَّمَدُ } فقالوا: وما الصمد؟ فقال: الذي يصمد إليه الخلق في الحوائج، فقالوا: زدنا فنزل: { لَمْ يَلِدْ } كما ولدت مريم: { وَلَمْ يُولَدْ } كما ولد عيسى: { وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَّهُ كُفُواً أَحَدٌ } يريد نظيراً من خلقه
Points:
  • Allah discloses His own self-descriptions and hence it is not for the human mind to rationalise and conjecture about it.
  • The Messenger of Allah reasoned in an intellectual way with his audience about the unitary existence and Nature of Allah, i.e. that Allah is The One, Eternal, Incomparable and self-subsisting Creator.
[4] The basic tafsir of the Sura:
v.1: {qul}: ‘say’, ‘proclaim’, ‘declare’, ‘to openly announce’ and ‘tell them’. Grammatically it is in the imperative form (i.e. a command/‘do X!’). Allah is informing His beloved – which extends to the believers as well – to openly announce what follows in the sura. The rhetorical function or need for ‘qul’ is when a discussion, debate or dialogue has become so protracted and exhausted without the opponent accepting the truth that a stern conclusion and cut-off is required otherwise time will be wasted unnecessarily.
points:
  • qul‘ indicates a command to listen and then divulge and proclaim. Thus, the Nature of Allah as well as clarifying His proper and accurate Attributes (subsumed under tawhid) is linked to da`wa.
{Ahad}: ‘The Only One’; ‘The Unique One’ – in every aspect; it has the connotation of the one who has no partner, resemblance or association in His Being and Essence and so the ascription in a positive sense cannot be singularly given to anyone except Allah. Hence it is more emphatic than the term ‘wahid’. The Qur’an uses it once in this way as a description of Allah and to no-one else.
v.2: {Samad}: It only occurs once in the Qur’an describing Allah and has no consonantal derivatives. The meaning as listed by Imam al-Tabari in al-Jami` al-Bayan includes:[8]
واختلف أهل التأويل في معنى الصمد، فقال بعضهم: هو الذي ليس بأجوف، ولا يأكل ولا يشرب   وقال آخرون: هو الذي لا يخرج منه شيء. ذكر من قال ذلكحدثني يعقوب، قال: ثنا ابن عُلَية، عن أبي رجاء، قال: سمعت عِكْرِمة، قال في قوله: { الصَّمَدُ }: الذي لم يخرج منه شيء، ولم يَلِد، ولم يُولَد وقال آخرون: هو السيد الذي قد انتهى سُؤدَدُه وقال آخرون: بل هو الباقي الذي لا يفنَى
[1] that which does not have a belly (alladhi la jawfa lahu);
[2] that which is sought or intended (al-maqsud);
[3] that which is the highest master (al-sayyid) or leader to whom people go for different needs;
[4] the self-subsisting Being (al-da’im al-baqi);
[5] that which neither eats nor drinks;
[6] that out of which nothing comes and neither gives birth nor was it born and
[7] A leader who has complete mastery. Imam al-Razi states:
{ ٱللَّهُ ٱلصَّمَدُ } يقتضي أن لا يكون في الوجود صمد سوى الله، وإذا كان الصمد مفسراً بالمصمود إليه في الحوائج، أو بما لا يقبل التغير في ذاته لذم أن لا يكون في الوجود موجود هكذا سوى الله تعالى، فهذه الآية تدل على أنه لا إله سوى الواحد، فقوله: { ٱللَّهُ أَحَدٌ } إشارة إلى كونه واحداً، بمعنى أنه ليس في ذاته تركيب ولا تأليف بوجه من الوجوه، وقوله: { ٱللَّهُ ٱلصَّمَدُ } إشارة إلى كونه واحداً، بمعنى نفي الشركاء والأنداد والأضداد.
“{Allah is al-Samad} which necessitates that there is nothing else in existence that is a ‘samad’ except Allah Most High. If the word ‘samad’ is explained as meaning the one to whom all things seek to fulfill all their needs or that which undergoes no change in its essence, then it follows that there is nothing that exists fulfilling this description except Allah Most High. This verse therefore indicates that there is no true deity except al-Wahid. The verse {Allah isAhad} indicates that He is One, i.e. no division or composition in His Essence and {Allah is al-Samad} indicates that Allah is One with the meaning of negating any associate, partner or rival…”
Linguistically, the word ‘samad’ also has derivatives like ‘samda’ which means ‘a firm rock’ with suggestions or connotations that Allah is the only irresistible refuge and place of safety and sanctuary.[9] From this, it clearly elucidates the attribute of Allah being Eternal, Subsisting, without beginning and Perfect.
v.3: {lam yalid wa lam yulad}: Meaning [1] He is not a father to anyone; [2] He does not beget; [3] Nothing is produced from Him. “And His statement {He does not give birth} means he does not cease because there is nothing that gives birth except that it also perishes and {He was not given birth to} meaning He cannot be something temporal which was non-existent and then existent because everything that is born exists from a state of non-existence, i.e. is temporal after being non-existent. However, Allah – Exalted is His remembrance! – is eternal and does not cease and subsists forever without end and does not extinguish or perish…”[10]
وقوله: { لَمْ يَلِدْ } يقول: ليس بفان، لأنه لا شيء يلد إلا هو فان بائد { ولَمْ يُولَدْ } يقول: وليس بمحدث لم يكن فكان، لأن كلّ مولود فإنما وُجد بعد أن لم يكن، وحدث بعد أن كان غير موجود، ولكنه تعالى ذكره قديم لم يزل، ودائم لم يَبِد، ولا يزول ولا يفني.
v.4: {lam yakun la-hu kufuan ahad}: meaning: [1] Allah has no likeness or equal; [2] Allah has no partner; [3] Allah has no rival or peer. “And His statement {And nothing is comparable to Him whatsoever} has differences of interpretations according to the exegetes. Some held that it means ‘there is no likeness or equal to Allah’ [...] others have said that it means ‘He does not have a partner’ [...] and the word ‘al-kufu’u’, ‘al-kafi’’ and ‘al-kifa’’ according to the Arabs means ‘wahid’ (one) which means ‘likeness and resemblance’…”[11]
وقوله: { وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ كُفُوًا أحَدٌ } اختلف أهل التأويل في معنى ذلك، فقال بعضهم: معنى ذلك: ولم يكن له شبيه ولا مِثْل وقال آخرون: معنى ذلك، أنه لم يكن له صاحبة والكُفُؤْ والكفىء والكِفاء في كلام العرب واحد، وهو المِثْل والشِّبْه
  • Thus, from the sura, Allah succinctly negates the following for Himself:
  1. Limitedness.
  2. Dependence.
  3. Finiteness.
  4. Composition.
  5. Likeness.
  6. Form.
  7. Transition.
  8. Temporality.
  9. Imperfections.
  • Thus, any deity worthy of total religious devotion must be a Being that is perfect, unmatched, unique, incomparable and without any likeness.
[5] Some lessons from the Sura:
  1. Transcendence: Allah is Unique and utterly Transcendent and Absolute. He is Tremendous and Omnipotent with control over all things. He relies on nothing but everything in creation relies on Him (swt). This should humble the believer and cause him to fully surrender to Allah’s will. It should build awe in him of Allah’s immense nature and sheer Being and inspire confidence that in the tasks ordered by Allah such as proclaiming the Message and working to establish His shari`ah in life, He will ensure it is realised if the believer is sincere. Nothing can thwart that.
  2. Balance in our conception of Allah: Allah being transcendent does not mean He is disinterested or aloof. He intervenes and is involved in His creation on the side of the believer and the oppressed. The attribute of ‘al-samad’ is a counterbalance to ‘ahad’ in that a person may be so overwhelmed by the Majesty and Transcendence of Allah that he thinks Allah is distant and removed of his concerns and so in order to procure nearness to Him, he takes intermediaries or other means than Allah directly.
  3. Criterion: The sura delineates the parameter for the True deity, true object of worship and true Being to utterly surrender to. If a being completely fits that description, then it is Allah – if it does not then it is a finite, dependent and limited object of creation.
  4. Liberator: When the reality of tawhid and the contents of the sura become clear for the believer, it becomes a liberator from all sorts of ‘shackles’ whether ritual, intellectual, psychological, dispositional, conceptual or other, i.e. whether it be fanciful philosophies, social norms, whims, desires and caprices. The believer makes Allah alone and His commands the only standard for his life and nothing else. His outlook, judgments, thoughts, social, economic, judicial, political, ethical, spiritual and personal codes are based on Divine commands alone and no other command.
  5. Loving the sura: The sura properly describes Allah and should build love in the reader and listener. This was the response of the Companions who would continuously recite it and delight in its recitation. The various names given to it should make the believer love it and cause him to recite it abundantly.

[End].
Peace and Blessings upon our Beloved Master Muhammad,
His Family, his noble Companions and all who follow them.
Amin.
s.z.c.
Sintra, 2011.

[1] See also: S. A. `A. Mawdudi, Tafhim al-Qur’an, “Surah Ikhlas (The Purity)” [online], searchtruth.com athttp://www.searchtruth.com/tafsir/Quran/112/index.html; A. A. Islahi, “Surah Ikhlas (112)” [online], amin-ahsan-islahi.com at http://www.amin-ahsan-islahi.com/?=83; Sh. al-Sa`di, “Tafsir of Surah al-Ikhlas – Purity of Faith (Chapter 112)” [online], islaam.net at http://www.islaam.net/main/display.php?id=1471&category=176;  Pir Karam Shah, “Surah al-Ikhlas” [online], pirkaramshah.com at http://www.pirkaramshah.com/component/k2/item/80-surah-al-ikhlas; Ibn Taymiyya, “Tafsir of Surah Ikhlas” [online], islamicweb.com athttp://www.islamicweb.com/quran/ikhlas.htm; “Surah al-Ikhlas” [online], linguistic miracle.com athttp://www.linguisticmiracle.com/tafsir/ikhlas; and Abu Ibrahim, “Mysteries of the Qur’an – Surah Al-Ikhlas” [online],islamiclearningmaterials.com at http://islamiclearningmaterials.com/tafsir-surah-ikhlaas/
[2] The reconciliation of both interpretations due to there being ahadith for both views is that the sura was [1] revealed twice – once in Mecca and once in Medina [2] it was once revealed in Mecca and then referred to again when questions about Allah’s nature was raised in Medina.
[3] al-Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb, vol.17, p.160.
[4] al-Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb, vol.17, p.161.
[5] al-Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb, vol.17, pp.162-163 for a detailed discussion.
[6] al-Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb, vol.17, p.162.
[7] al-Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb, vol.17, p.162.
[8] al-Tabari, al-Jami` al-Bayan, vol.24, pp.689-690.
[9] E. W. Lane, s.v. Arabic-English Lexicon, Bk.1, p.1727.
[10] al-Tabari, al-Jami` al-Bayan, vol.24, pp.690-691.
[11] al-Tabari, al-Jami` al-Bayan, vol.24, p.691.

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