This surah is among those surahs of
the Qur’an the very name of
which reveals its central theme. It is called Ikhlas which is precisely what the surah
is all about. Ikhlas means to have faith in God's being and His attributes or in the essential
requisites of His attributes in a way that eliminates any trace of associating
others with Him. As far as accepting God is concerned, the world has always
acknowledged the existence of a superior being. In fact, this acceptance
must be regarded as a self-evident requirement of human nature. An equally
stark reality is that Satan has always remained an eternal enemy of Tawhid
(oneness of God). He has persisted in trying to deceive man in this matter
by contaminating this concept such that believing Allah at times became
tantamount to not believing Him. To illuminate the essentials of Tawhid,
God sent forth a long series of Prophets. Unfortunately, time and again,
man continued to squander this reality every time he acquired it. It was
for the sake of Tawhid
that the Prophet Abraham (sws) migrated from his people and established
the abode of his children in a barren stretch of land -- where they could
truly worship God and also remain shielded from the onslaughts of an idolatrous
environment. Quite ironically, his own progeny gradually converted the
centre of Tawhid
(Ka‘bah) built by himself into a temple of idols, as is mentioned
in the Qur’an. The prejudice
of their self-carved idols became so intense that they vehemently argued
with God and His last Prophet (sws) that until and unless the status of
their idols is accepted, they would not acknowledge the rights of God.
It was as a result of this outrageous attitude that the Prophet (sws) proclaimed
his acquittal from them as is mentioned in Surah
Period of Revelation
The proclamation of acquittal was
solely meant for the Quraysh and the idolaters of Makkah.
Various tribes of the People of the Book also existed in Arab. Although
they were the recipients of holy books, Satan had inveigled them too into
horrible forms of polytheism. They had considerable influence in Madinah
and its whereabouts, and the Arabs had always openly acclaimed their
superiority in religious affairs.
As long as the Prophet (sws) was in
Makkah, their opposition remained clandestine, but it turned into
open hostility after he migrated to Madinah.
The People of the Book vainly reckoned that since they were the recipients
of Holy Books, the Qur’an would
definitely regard their beliefs and deeds as superior to those of the idolaters.
But the Qur’an made it very
clear to them that as far as their beliefs and deeds were concerned, they
were a disgrace to mankind. The Christians, particularly, were impelled
into open antagonism like the Jews by the criticism of the Qur’an on their forms of polytheism. A united opposition front was thereby
created as the Jews, the Christians and the idolaters became allies against
the Islamic forces. The situation called for a comprehensive explication
of the meaning of Ikhlas
that should completely eliminate any shred of polytheism, and as a result
of which the People of the Book and the idolaters should have no doubt
about the actual truth. It was in these circumstances that this surah was
revealed in Madinah. Although a group
of scholars believes that its revelation took place in Makkah, the
comprehensive nature of the surah,
as will be explained later, testifies that it was revealed in Madinah,
when the enmity of the people of the Book, especially, the Christians had
Placement in the Qur’an
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 (sws) had built the House
of God. 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.
The Prophet's struggle against his
enemies, as we all very well know, had nothing to do with worldly gains;
rather it had the purpose before it of establishing the Kingdom of God
in the pagan Arabian society, and in banishing all forms of polytheism
from there . Consequently, every aspect of Tawhid
is highlighted in this surah.
The Qur’an actually ends with
it because the last pair of surahs which succeed it are in fact more like two sentinels guarding this
treasure of Tawhid
from Satan’s tampering.
Relation to the Overall Arrangement
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
Surah Fatihah and Surah
the beginning and the end of the Qur’an distinctly bring out the reality that the concept of
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.
Say: That God, is alone. He
is with every one. He is neither anyone’s father nor anyone’s son; and
there is none like Him.
Say: That God is alone. (1)
The word 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.
The need for such a declaration only
arises when after a long period of dialogue and debate, it becomes clear
that the truth has been fully disclosed, and people are now indulging in
debate only to prolong and complicate matters. In such cases, it is better
to say whatever one has to in a stern and decisive manner so that the addressees
become aware that everything about the subject has been said; no more time
will now be wasted upon the issue and it is equally unlikely that any change
in stance shall occur.
The word huwa in the opinion
of this writer is the pronoun of the fact (Damir
al-Sh`an), which is used when
the implied meaning or situation is so clearly understood between the speaker
and to whom it is addressed that the mind instinctively jumps to it.
After the advent of Islam, the concepts
of God's being and His attributes were hot subjects of debate. Such was
the dominance of these issues that the other Islamic beliefs of Prophethood
and Life in the Hereafter were only partially discussed. The question of Tawhid
was the most important. The Quraysh had made it their own as well
as their forefathers' point of prestige and were in no way willing to bear
the defamation of their deities or of their forefathers' who had worshiped
them. The Qur’an in many places
has cited instances when they would fume with rage and would get ready
to pounce upon the preachers of this concept whenever the concept of Tawhid
was brought up in front of them. On the one hand, was this vanity and
ego of the Quraysh and on the other was the resoluteness of the
Qur’an and the Prophet (sws)
that there shall be no compromise whatsoever between monotheism and polytheism.
As long as this debate continued with
the Quraysh, no confusion arose about God's being or His attributes.
They had adopted idolatry because it was their ancestral religion. They
did not indulge in the `holy' art of fabricating excessively needless distinctions
in reasoning to support their beliefs, simply because they were illiterate.
In Madinah, however, as soon as the
people of the Book became involved in this debate, a new dimension was
added to the affair. In spite of being the recipients of Holy Books, they
had become incriminated with outrageous forms of polytheism. The only difference
was that they had invented a set system to support their beliefs. In this
regard, the weird Christian mythology, in particular, was a fantastic production,
unrivalled as far as the complications and confusions it had created. The
Qur’an challenged all of them
and exposed their heresies upon them. Some among them accepted faith while
others who did not were intellectually defeated by the Qur’an to the extent that the Arabs were no longer overawed by their religious
The new situation called for the revelation
of a surah that would root out all traces of polytheism of both the idolaters
and the People of the Book, and would also put a complete halt to Satan's
incursions in the concept of Tawhid.
Needless to say that it had to be both concise and comprehensive to enable
everyone to learn and memorize its contents. As a result, this surah comprising
four very short verses was revealed. The profound meanings it encompasses
prompted many scholars to regard it as being a third of the Qur’an.
A little contemplation shows that there is no exaggeration in this fact.
The message of the Qur’an can
be divided into three distinct topics: Tawhid
(Monotheism), Risalat (Prophethood)
and Ma‘ad (The Hereafter) --
which means that Tawhid occupies one third of the Qur’anic content that is scattered in various surahs. Its core is epitomized
in this comprehensive surah. In other words, the gist of the Qur’anic arguments by which it refutes polytheism is concisely stated here.
One thing that should be kept in mind
is that this surah was not necessarily revealed because someone had inquired
from the Prophet (sws) about the attributes of God; but as is indicated
earlier, the very circumstances in which the question of Tawhid
had become a burning topic were enough to cause its revelation. Huwallah means `the God about whom you are debating and arguing has these attributes;
hear them from me …', after which these attributes are stated. Suffice
it to say that to reform heretical beliefs, only a correct knowledge of
these attributes is all that is required after which the path to the appreciation
of other attributes of God is opened.
The word Allah is a noun used
for the personal name of God, and the idolaters of Arabia always regarded
it so. The Qur’an ascribes
all virtuous and gracious attributes of God to this noun. The verse says
that God is Ahad. Linguists clearly differentiate between Ahad
and Wahid. Ahad means someone in whose being
none can be associated, and Wahid means someone in whose attributes none can be associated. Probably
this is the reason why the word Ahad has
never been used as an attribute other than that of God. This attribute
also necessitates that He have no kin or relations, and at the same time
it warrants that He be unique and peerless in every sense. It also follows
from this that God is uncreated and has always existed, and that everything
else has been created and brought into existence. Naturally, someone who
is foremost out of His own accord should always exist because if at one
time He never was, then it cannot be said of Him that He always existed.
Summing up the discussion, two things must necessarily be accepted: Firstly,
God has always existed, and secondly, everything except Him is His creation.
These are the two necessary outcomes of His uniqueness and to deny both
of these would be against sense and reason.
He is with everyone. (2)
By the word Samad
is actually meant a large rock behind which refuge is sought from an
enemy attack. It is because of this root meaning that it is also used for
the leader of a nation, who is a resort and a refuge for his people. In
many holy scriptures, particularly in the Psalms of David, God has been
called a rock, and has also been addressed as the rock of help*.
The attribute Samad
is mentioned after Ahad to explain
and qualify the meanings of Ahad,
just as the attribute Hamid
(worthy of all praise) is always mentioned immediately after the attribute, Ghani (free of all needs) in the Qur’an.
The attribute, Ghani might create
a misconception that since God is free of all needs and is above His creation,
no relationship can be established with Him. This may cause people to worship
other deities as a means to obtain His nearness. The attribute Hamid is stated immediately afterwards for the reason that this misconception
should not even originate. It clarifies that though He does not need any
one and is above and beyond His creation, yet He is the fountainhead of
all praises and thanksgivings. As such everyone should turn to Him and
directly seek Him, and never turn to others in despair.
Owing to exactly the same reasons,
the attribute Samad here is mentioned immediately after the attribute Ahad.
It serves to caution and prod someone who might become overwhelmed with
the concept of God's uniqueness and aloofness from all, and regard Him
as a detached and an unconcerned Creator. This might subsequently lead
him to worship other beings as a means to procure His nearness. This can
never happen if the implications of Samad
are properly understood. There is no doubt that God is free of all
needs and above and beyond His creation, yet at the same time He provides
and sustains them, hears and answers their calls of distress and fulfils
their physical and spiritual needs. He is a rock behind which refuge can
be sought -- a haven and sanctuary for all.
It would be appropriate to mention
here the cause which has so often led a people astray as regards its religious
beliefs and opened for them the way to polytheism. This has been invariably
due to the fact that they did not maintain a balance between certain complementary
pairs of attributes of God. An acute bias towards one of them often made
them to completely overlook the qualifications and stipulations warranted
by its counterpart. The Jews and the Christians, in particular, can be
cited as examples in this regard.
He is neither anyone’s father nor anyone’s son.
The word Ahad
also implies this meaning as pointed out before. Matters which may
cause gross misconceptions are stressed more than once in the Qur’an in various styles so that the true concept becomes so evident that
no one may have an excuse to deny it. So, the whole issue is restated here
in this verse in another way. We must bear in mind that the Arabs also
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, God could be regarded
neither as a father nor a son, nor could anyone be regarded as His mother.
Historically, the Qur’an was the first to kindle the light of
in this world in such a profound manner. This fact is now being acknowledged
even by people who at one time were confined in the shackles of national
and religious prejudices, and were in no way willing to come out and face
the reality. The Christians, who once cursed the God whose attributes are
mentioned in this surah, have now people among them who openly acclaim
that the Qur’an was the foremost
in enlightening the world with the true concept of Tawhid
in such a profound manner.
And there is none like Him. (4)
"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.
Summing up, the message of the surah lies in the concept of
it brings out by mention of certain complementary pairs of attributes
of God. The essence of which is that God 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.
(Translated from "Tadabbur-i-Qur’an"
by Shehzad Saleem)