Tafseer Surat al-Ikhlâs

Tafseer Surat al-Ikhlâs

(The Purity) (Absoluteness)

Interpretation of Surah (Al- Ikhlas): (Sincerity) (The Purity)

The 112th Chapter of the Glorious Qur’an

(1) INTRODUCTION:

It is a pure description of the Creator (Allah) and to acknowledge the total state of Iman (belief) in Him and His Uniqueness. The Surah is sometimes called (The Surah of Unity) and is said to encapsulate the essence of the whole Qur’an. Surat Al-Ikhlas is a very important Surah from the Holy Qur’an because it proclaims the Oneness (Tawhid) and Absolute nature of Divine Essence.

In the first verse, Allah commands the Holy Prophet to declare that Allah is One. The Islamic principle of Oneness is not limited to the declaration that there is but one God but extends to all realities. In other words, all realities merge into One Reality. This absolute reality is called Monoreality. Therefore, Allah is Monoreal.

The second verse declares that the Monoreal is Eternal. This means that the Monoreal is above time and space because, in human terms, time is related to the movement of stars and planets. This implies that the Monoreal is not affected by the past, present and future.

The third verse declares that the Monoreal does not give birth or take birth because it is Eternal and the only reality. The Monoreal is immortal and it does not need to give birth or take birth.

The last verse declares that there is none equal to the Monoreal because the Monoreal is unique. Human beings live in the world of duality where each object or concept has an opposite. Some examples of duality are good and evil, male and female, small and large, and so on. In contrast to this, the Monoreal is absolutely unique because it consists of all realities and there is nothing left except Itself. Therefore, the Monoreal is beyond comparison.

Surat al-Ikhlas is a short surah with a powerful message.

WHAT IS A SURAH?

For those new to Islam, and also for the non-Muslims, the word (Surah) means a separate and independent part of the Qur’an. An obvious English term which is commonly used for (Surah) is (Chapter).

The difference here is that the word (Chapter) really refers to a section with one topic, whereas a long (Surah) of the Quran can deal with several topics. The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) mentioned that Surat al Ikhlas is equal to one third of the Glorious Qur’an because it explains in a concise manner the principles of the Oneness of Allah (Taw’heed), which is the cornerstone of the Din of Islam.

The term is derived from the three consonants root (w-h-d), which serves as the vehicle for the basic concept of (oneness), or (unity), along with the closely related ideas of (singularity) and (uniqueness).. These root letters are clearly apparent in the numerical adjective (Wahid) = [one]. In the words of the Qur`an: Your God is surely One. = (inna Ilaaha-kum-la-Wahid)[1].

TRANSLITERATION AND TRANSLITION OF SURAT AL-IKHLAS:

No simple literal English translation can capture the magnificence of these Qur’anic Arabic verses. Every word has multiple levels of meaning. To begin to discover the deeper meanings of these verses, let’s look at the deeper meanings of the words[2]:

QUL HUW ALLAH AHAD:

qul = say, teach, tell ( root q-w-l … to speak, say, inspire, point out, tell, relate, teach, assert)… huwa = he (pronoun, 3rd person, masc, nominative)… Allahu = Allah (the u at the end indicates that Allah is the subject)… ahad = the one, the only one, one without any partner, one without a second.

ALLAH AS-SAMAD

s-samad = eternal, absolute, one whom all need, one who is the foundation of all, solid, independent

LAM YALID WA LAM YULAD

lam = (particle) did not, was not (yalid = give birth to, generate, produce, sire, beget)… ya is an imperfect prefix, the root is w-l-d … wa = and, and also .. lam = (particle) not, did not, was not.. yulad = birthed, born, generated, produced, sired, begotten ( yu is imperfect prefix, the root is w-l-d).

WA LAM YAKUN LAHU KUFUWAN AHAD

wa = and, and also lam = (particle) was not, did not.. yaku(n) = is, was (ya is an imperfect prefix, root k-w-n, ( note: the n is not pronounced in this phrase).. llahu = unto Him, with Him.. kufuwan = equal, like, comparable, matching, corresponding (root k-f- ‘ meaning to be comparable, like, similar to).. ahad = the One, the only One, the One without any partner, the One without a second.

COMMENTARY:

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

(1) (Muhammad,) teach them: He is Allah, Ahad (the only one, Absolute Oneness);
(2) Allah is asSamad (the Eternal One upon Whom all depend, Absolute, the Everlasting Sustainer of all);

(3) He has not given birth (Who creates without a partner), and was not born (Who was not created);

(4) And no one is comparable to Him.

THE FIRST VERSE OF SURST AL-IKHLAS

When the idolaters said to the Prophet; “O Muhammad, Tell us the lineage of your Lord.” the answer was directly given by (ALLAH): (Say that: ALLAH is AHAD, ALLAH is SAMED, LAMYALID and LAMYULAD, And LAMYAKUN LAHU QUFUWAN, AHAD.)

So, the “ONENESS” (Taw’heed) principal in Islam that is the BELIEF SYSTEM was notified in surat al-Ikhlas (the Chapter of ONENESS in the Qur’an).

Now let us understand the deep rich meaning of these phrases in that Surah (Chapter) that inform what (ALLAH) is.

Allah is One and there is only One True God (Allah).

This is the basic principle of Islam. Allah or God both names refer to the same Being. We Muslims prefer to say Allah because this is the name mentioned in the Qur’an. But Allah is not our special God. Allah is the God of all people. There is no Islam without the belief in the Oneness of Allah. To believe, to uphold and to declare the oneness of Allah is “Taw’heed”.

Taw’heed comes from the words, “Wahid” and “Ahad”. The Qur’an emphasizes again and again that Allah is Wahed (one) and Allah is Ahad (the unique). There is no equal to Allah in His being and no equal to Him in His attributes.

The opposite of Taw’heed is Shirk which means “to join, associate and to make partners.” It is to believe that beside Allah there are other beings who share the Divinity with Allah.

The Arabic term (Ahad) used here to refer to the unity of Allah is much more precise than the much more frequently used term (Wahid) which means (one)[3]. It means ALLAH is the infinite and limitless (eternal) ONE who is unbroken and undivided into fragments or particles.

Here, the first thing to be understood is:

The difference between the term (Ahad) and (Wahid):

(Wahid) is in the number sequence, but Ahad is not; Wahid, (one = 1) is followed by 2, 3, 4 … etc, and preceded by 0, -1, -2 etc. but Ahad is not.

(Wahid) accepts all mathematical equations, i.e.: addition, (1 + 2 = 3), subtraction, (1 – 2 = 0), multiplication, (e.g.: 1 x 4 = 4), division …. etc., but (Ahad) does not.

(Wahid) composed of parts, organs, particles, etc., but (Ahad) does not.

The unusual use of (ahad) in this sentence:

Usually this word is either used in:

· The possessive case as (yaum ul-ahad) = (first day of the week), or

· To indicate total negative as (Ma jaa a-ni ahad-un) = (No one has come to me), or

· In common questions like (Hal `indaka ahad-un) = (Is there anyone with you?), or

· In conditional clauses like (Inja’a-ka ahad-un) = (If someone comes to you),

· Or In counting as (ahad, ithnan, ahad ashar) = (one, two, eleven).

Apart from these uses, there is no precedent in the pre-Qur’anic Arabic that the mere word (ahad) might have been used as an adjective for a person or thing.

After the revelation of the Qur’an this word has been used only for the Being of Allah, and for no one else.

This extraordinary use by itself shows that being single, unique and matchless is a fundamental attribute of Allah; no one else in the world is qualified with this quality: He is One, He has no equal.

Then, keeping in view the questions that the polytheists and the followers of earlier scriptures asked the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) about his Lord, let us see how they were answered with (ahad-un) after (Huwa-Allah).

First, it means: “He alone is the Sustainer: no one else has any share or part in providence and since He alone can be the IIlah (Deity) Who is Master and Sustainer, therefore, no one else is His associate in Divinity either.”

Secondly, it also means “He alone is the Creator of the universe: no one else is His associate in this work of creation. He alone is the Master of the universe, the Disposer and Administrator of its system, the Sustainer , of His creatures, Helper and Rescuer in times of hardship; no one else has any share or plan whatever in the works of Godhead, which as you yourselves acknowledge, are works of Allah.

Thirdly since they had also asked the questions: of what is your Lord made? What is His ancestry? What is his sex? From whom has He inherited the world and who will inherit it after Him? All these questions have been answered with one word (ahad) for Allah. It means:

(1) He alone has been, and will be, God for ever; neither was not there a God before Him, nor there be any after Him;

(2) There is no race of gods to which He may belong as a member: He is God, one and single, and none is homogeneous with Him;

(3) His being is not merely One (wahid) but (ahad), in which there is no tinge of plurality in any way: He is not a compound being, which may be analyzable or divisible, which may have a form and shape, which may be residing somewhere, or may contain or include something, which may have a colour, which may have some limbs, which may have a direction, and which may be variable or changeable in any way. Free from every kind of plurality He alone is a Being Who is (Ahad) in every aspect.

(Here, one should fully understand that the word (wahid) is used in Arabic just like the word “one” in English. A collection consisting of great pluralities is collectively called (wahid) or one, as one man, one nation, one country, one world, even one universe, and every separate part of a collection is also called one. But the word (Ahad) is not used for anyone except Allah. That is why wherever in the Qur’an the word (wahid) has been used for Allah, He has been called (Ilah wahid) = (one Deity), or (Allah-al-Wahid al-Qahhar) = (One Allah Who is Omnipotent), and nowhere just (wahid), for this word is also used for the things which contain pluralities of different kinds in their being. On the contrary, for Allah and only for Allah the word (Ahad) has been used absolutely, for He alone is the Being Who exists without any plurality in any way and Whose Oneness is perfect in every way. (Tafheem Al-Quran).

In this verse the word Ahad (One) is used because it expresses the Unity of Allah to the highest degree of perfection. In fact, there is not the slightest possibility of duality in Him. This means that:

Aspects of Allah’s Oneness:

1. Ahad in His Divine Being and His Permanent Existence:

· The only Real and Permanent Being is that of the Divine Being.

· There is no reality except His. And every other being acquires his reality from this Devine Reality.

· There is no true existence except His. And every being acquires his existence from this Devine Existence.

2. Ahad in His Actions and His Effective Power:

· The truly effective power is the Divine Will. There is no absolutely effective power but that of Allah.

· Every other being is a powerless being. He acquires his effective power only from this Devine Power.

3. Ahad in His names and His Attributes (Sifat):

· If the Creator is Eternal and Everlasting, then His attributes must also be eternal and everlasting. He should not lose any of His attributes nor acquire new ones. If this is so, then His attributes are absolute. Can there be more than one Creator with such absolute attributes? Can there be for example, two absolutely powerful Creators?

A moment’s thought shows that this is not feasible. The Quran summarizes this argument in the following verses: (God has not taken to Himself any son, nor is there any god with Him: For then each god would have taken of that which he created and some of them would have risen up over others.) (23:91). (And Why, were there gods in earth and heaven other than God, they (heaven and earth) would surely go to ruin.) (21:22)
A
llah is not just an idea, or a concept. Allah is a Being (Dhat) and this Being has many names (Asmaa’) and attributes (Sifat). When we say Allah has attributes we mean that these attributes are His in a unique way. When we say Allah knows or Allah has power. We do not mean that no one else knows or no one else has power. We mean that Allah knows in a unique way; Allah has power in a unique way. There is no one who knows as much as Allah knows and there is no one who has as much power as Allah has. Allah’s being and attributes both are infinite.

4. Ahad in His Ultimate Authority:

· Only Allah is to be worshipped. Worship is the exclusive right of Allah. Only Allah is the Absolute Lord and Master. He must be obeyed and His commands must be followed.

These important aspects of Tawhid are not only for belief; they should penetrate in the minds and souls of human beings, their total personality. They must change and transform the individuals and their societies. The effects of Tawhid are many. Tawhid affects every aspect of life: beliefs, rituals, morals, manners, society, culture and civilization.

These important aspects of Tawhid are not only for belief; they should penetrate in the minds and souls of human beings, their total personality. They must change and transform the individuals and their societies.

The effects of Tawhid are many. Tawhid affects every aspect of life: beliefs, rituals, morals, manners, society, culture and civilization. Here I would like to emphasize four important effects of Tawhid on human personality:

1. Dignity and Self-esteem: A believer in Tawhid knows that Allah alone is the possessor of all power and none beside Him can benefit or harm a person or provide for his/her needs or give or take away life or wield authority or influence. This makes a person independent and highly dignified. Such person would not disgrace his/herself by bowing in homage to any creature, or begging anyone else. Such person is not overawed by any person’s greatness.

A person of Tawhid has great determination, patience and perseverance. He/she is unshaken by any difficulty. He/she relies on Allah and places his/her trust on Allah. When such person makes up his/her mind and devotes to do God’s commands, he/she has full confidence in the support of the most powerful Lord.

2. Modesty and humbleness: A believer in Tawhid knows that Allah is the Ultimate power and only Allah controls everything. Whatever one has is given by Allah. Allah can take away just as He can give. He/she knows that whatever happens in this world, big or small, good or evil, advantage or disadvantage, success or loss, increase or decrease, life or death, richness or poverty, health or sickness, everything happens by the will of Allah.

A believer in Tawhid cannot be arrogant and self conceited because he/she believes that his/her merits or achievements are not due to his/her own worth, they are a gifts from Allah. Such person is always thankful to Allah and recognizes how much he/she depends upon Allah.

3. Morality, tolerance and open-mindedness: The believer in Tawhid is always morally upright. All his standards come from One and Same authority, the authority of Allah. He/she does not have double or multiple standards. There is only One Lord and the Lord treats all people equally. The rules of God are universal and they are applicable to all people in all places. A believer in Tawhid knows that Allah has created everything in this universe and everything and every being belongs to Allah. This makes a person very open minded, tolerant and caring. Sometimes people say that monotheism makes people intolerant, but we say that this is the most tolerant and compassionate belief system. Because we do not believe that this thing belongs to my God and that belong to some other God. It is polytheism and atheism that divide the people and create intolerance and dissentions, not Tawhid.

4. Ultimate Peace and contentment: The belief in Tawhid purges the mind of jealousy, envy, greed and keeps away the temptation of resorting to base and unfair means for achieving success. The believer has faith that everything is in the hand of Allah. The honor, power, reputation, authority and everything are under His control and He gives to whomsoever He wills. The duty of the human being is to struggle, to do good and to trust in Allah.

THE SECOND VERSE OF SURAT AL-IKHLAS

ALLAH is SAMED

(1) (Muhammad,) teach them: He is Allah, Ahad; (means that), (2) Allah is asSamad; (and that), (3) He has not given birth, and was not born; (and that), (4) And no one is comparable to Him. But the Qur’an states it all in detail for more emphasis and clarification.

(2) If we make a serious study, some of the deep meanings we find in the definition of the word “SAMED” are as follows:

· That which has no gap, which is in perfect condition, is whole without holes and is impermeable; that which admits nothing in, nothing out”. It means “solid,” same as in that when we say “solid gold”. In other words, mere, pure, the absolute!

· Samad means the One Who is Himself above all need and the One to Whom all turn for the fulfillment of their needs. In fact, He is the Maker and Creator of everything. All depend on Him for their birth, their living and all other kinds of needs. And He is above need of all things to such an extent that He is totally free of all those laws and means on which we, human beings, depend. Rather, all those laws and means depend on Him and owe their existence to Him. In fact, laws and means are another name for the Divine works under which the whole of creation operates and from which they cannot deviate even to the slightest degree. Thus one of the characteristics of Allah is that He is (Ghalibun ‘ala amrihi), that is, Allah has total command over His laws and means because He is the Master of the Kingdom and from Him emanate all laws and means to which the whole of creation is intricately bound. The meaning of all this is that Allah is perfect and unlimited in His person, attributes and deeds, and in Him there is no trace of polytheism.

· In short,

Allah is the One Lord. He is One in His Divinity and all the other beings are but His servants. To Him and Him alone are addressed all supplications. He and only He decide everything independently. No one decides with Him. And since He is the one and only God this quality is already His.

· Dependence on means, which is the root of all polytheism, has been eradicated and thus the Unity of Allah has been perfected in all respects.

3. As seen, all these statements essentially contribute and illuminate the content of the name AHAD.

THE THIRD VERSE OF SURAT AL-IKHLAS

Now, let us examine if there is any family relationship regarding Allah. Family relationship is a kind of dependence and it is the opposite of the attribute Samad which means self sufficient and on whom others depend.

Family relationship necessitates a person being a father of someone or a son of someone, that is, he gives birth to someone or is born of someone. This is how kinship is perpetuated. But when there is a chain of descendants, the concept of the Unity of Allah is destroyed, for then there will have to be a dynasty of gods. That is why Allah says Lam yalid wa lam yulad (He has not given birth, and was not born). And in this simple statement, all false doctrines of the polytheists have been refuted. Many Arab polytheists had ascribed daughters to Allah and used to worship them as goddesses, whilst sun-worshippers and polytheists believed in deities born of virgin mothers and considered them as sons of God.

The Holy Quran eradicated all these wrong beliefs in these two statements: (Lam yalid) wa (lam yulad) (He has not given birth, and was not born). In other words, there is no chain of procreation with Allah. In fact, He is Self-subsisting and has neither beginning nor end.

(Lam yalid) simply meaning, (He has not given birth).

Here is what should be understood at the first sight: “ALLAH” has never given birth to a second being from His own being! In other way of saying, there is not an existence of a second separate being broken off ALLAH‘s existence! Because, Allah is AHAD, the inseparable whole ONE undivided, unbroken and un-fragmented into parts, elements or particles!

(1) He is limitless and infinite! Thus, it cannot be mentioned for Him to bring out a second being inside or outside His self.

(2) Since it is an impossibility to consider Allah in parts or atoms because Allah is AHAD, then there is not a second part which could be divided from Him!

Therefore, the presence of a second one broken off “ALLAH,” which is meant to be begotten by Him, sharing His qualities even, can never be considered!

Let us now understand (lam yulad,) simply meaning, (Allah was not born).

At this point we are to understand that “ALLAH did not come into existence out of another being!”

How can one consider the One informed through the name “ALLAH” to be brought into being by another existence? “ALLAH” is AHAD, the ONE Alone who is infinite, limitless and un-fragmented into parts!

To be able to think of an existence to beget “ALLAH”, “ALLAH” needs once to be known by some directional or DIMENSIONAL limits, so that beyond such limits there would be mentioned a second existence to beget Him! And only then that such a second existence could beget “ALLAH” from itself!

ALLAHis AHAD!

Being AHAD means being limitless and infinite, Whole undivided and un-fragmented into parts.

Therefore, neither a vanishing point for Him nor an initiation of another existence beyond such a point can be considered.

Hence, a second being to make up, to BEGET “ALLAH” cannot be mentioned. Such a consideration is impossibility!

This is what is meant by “LAM YULAD” as far as we could understand.

In conclusion, neither has “ALLAH” been begotten by another being, nor has He beget another being such as a second separate being that came out of Him.

(Lam yalid) wa (lam yulad) (He has not given birth, and was not born) means that the reality of Allah is deep-rooted, permanent and everlasting. No changeable circumstances ever affect it. Its quality is absolute perfection at all times. Birth is descent and multiplication and implies a developed being after incompleteness or nothingness. It requires espousal which is based on similarity of being and structure. All this is utterly impossible in the case of Allah. So the quality of “One” includes the renouncement of a father and a son.

THE FORTH VERSE OF SURAT AL-IKHLAS

LAMYAKUL-LA-HUU QUFUWAN ‘AHAD

· LAMYAKUL-LA-HUU QUFUWAN ‘AHAD”: means that no one resembles Him in anything or is equivalent to Him in any respect, either in the reality of being, or in the fact that He is the only effective power, or in any of His qualities or attribute.

This is implied in the statement of his being “One” made in the first verse, but it is repeated thus to confirm and elaborate on that fact. It is a renunciation of the two god belief which implies that Allah is the God of Good while Evil has its god who, as the belief goes is in opposition to Allah, spoils His good deeds and propagates evil on earth. The most well-known two-god belief was that of the Persians, who believed in a god of light and a god of darkness. This belief was known to the people in the south of the Arabian Peninsula, where the Persians once had a state and exercised sovereignty.

· There is not an existence of another being after Him macro or micro likeness; He is matchless, peerless and is AHAD.”

· By the way, we should note a sign hereby: “LAYSA KAMISLIHII SHAY’A”[4] meaning, “neither in macro nor in micro plan, there is nothing to be compared with Him.”

· In other words, when there is no likeness to Him in attributes and in works, how can there be a partner to Him?

Likeness can be of two kinds:

The first kind is that God is dependent on means, in which case He will be in need of someone else, and there will exist the possibility of someone else like Him or an equal to Him. But since He is not in need of anything but instead everything is dependent on Him, how can there be a likeness to Him?

The second kind of likeness is through procreation. That is, if he is one of a family, then there will be a likeness to Him. But since that is not the case, then the likelihood of one similar to Him does not come about and there is no possibility of duality in Him.

In this way, those who believe that God has a wife have been refuted as well as those sun-worshippers who believe in the existence of two gods one, the creator of goodness called Yazdan, and the other, the creator of evil called Ahraman.

· The Holy Quran has told us that all these beliefs are erroneous; for when God is perfect in beauty and goodness, and He is the possessor of all beautiful and perfect attributes, and He is predominant in His attributes and actions and also limitless, and all depend on Him while He is above everything, and He exists from eternity and will remain forever and is far removed from the law of procreation, then how can there be an equal to Him, or one like Him?

· In short,

In this chapter, the Unity of Allah has been explained in a perfect manner and any possibility of partnership with Him in His being, in His attributes, and in His actions has been ruled out and all possible arguments in favour of partnership with Him have been negated by irrefutable reasons and arguments.

Furthermore, the all-encompassing knowledge and the Unity of Allah have been portrayed in a pure, perfect and unparalleled manner.

That is why the teaching of the Quran has been brought to an end in this Surah, for after this there are two more Surahs called (al-mu’awwazatain) that is, prayers seeking refuge in Allah. In this petition, protection is sought against hidden and manifest evils.

· The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that this Surah (Al-Ikhlas) is one third of the Holy Quran for there is no doubt that one third of the Holy Quran deals with the Unity of Allah, the essence of which has been distilled in this Surah:

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

1. (Muhammad,) teach them: He is Allah, Ahad (the only one, Absolute Oneness); This is an injunction upon us to say it, whether we know the truth of it or not. Whatever the degree of knowledge we may possess, He, Allah, is One.

2. Allah is asSamad (the Eternal One upon Whom all depend, Absolute, the Everlasting Sustainer of all); The Divine Name al-Samad means ‘eternal, forever’, although it implies more than that. Samada means ‘to be high or elevated’. The name al-Samad also means ‘self-supporting, self-sustaining, self-containing’.

3. He has not given birth (Who creates without a partner), and was not born (Who was not created); Allah is above involvement. He is above coming from something or having something come from Him, and nothing can be associated with Him. He is at a distance from all that we can discern as having an attribute. He is the immediate and sustaining Cause of all that we discern, yet He is not involved in the creation in any way as a ‘creature’

4. And no one is comparable to Him: Kufuwan, meaning ‘equal, like’, is derived from kafā, ‘to be enough, sufficient’. Allah is sufficient unto Himself. There is no mithāl (likeness) of Allah. Allah is the Name to which all Attributes and Names point.

Nothing more can be said about this chapter.

We must read and re-read it, and the more we do so the deeper will our understanding grow.

End of the Surah


[1] Qur’an, 37:4.

[2] (Pronunciation guide: i as in sit, a as in bat, u as in put, â as the a in father, î as the ee in reel, û as the oo in moot).

[3] In the Holy Quran, two words are used for one: wahid and ahad. Wahid means one or the first of a series, whereas ahad means one, after which nothing is to follow.

[4] Qur’an, 42:11

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