Explanation of the Arabic Word (Ahad): Surat al-Ikhlas

Fourteen hundred years ago, the polytheists and Jews in Arabia asked Prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.w.) questions about God. Some of these questions were: Tell us of your Lord’s ancestery. O Muhammad, tell us attributes of your Lord, who has sent you as prophet. What is your Lord made of? Is He made of gold, silver, iron or what? Does He belong to a race of Gods? Does He have parents or children? Who will inherit the earth after Him? The answer came in the following verse of the Holy Quran:

قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ

Say: “He is Allah, the One and Only.” (The Holy Quran, Surah Al-Ikhlas, Ayah 1, 112:1). Let us first analyze the sentence, “Huwa-Allahu Ahad”, هُوَ ٱللَّهُ أَحَدٌ   lexically. This name is used in the Qur’ân. For example, see 112:1. The ancient roots of Ahad point toward to the essential qualities which describe Unity, while the ancient roots of Wâhid point toward the manifestations which arise from that Unity. That which is Ahad cannot be divided into parts, or any parts distinguished. That which is Wâhid has the appearance of being divisible into separate parts, or being comprised of separate parts. Ahad is used to refer to the One, the sole One, the One who was not begotten and who has ever been alone, the One who has no second, the Indivisible. Wâhid indicates the solitary Starting Point, the One Source, the First of the Many, from which all of creation has arisen as manifestations of Unity. From a human point of view, the manifestations may appear separate and diverse, but in reality they are One.

Allah: The polytheist arabs would use the word Allah for God, but what they associated with Him was not correct. So when Allah’s Messenger came with the correct teachings on who Allah was, the polytheists would be confused. ‘We believe in Allah, and you believe in Allah, so why do we dispute?’. “siflannaa Rabbak” – describe for us the Attributes (sifaat) of your Lord.’ They would say. A min dhahab, a min fiddah (is He made of gold, is he made of silver?) – they had these thoughts because they believed these metals were precious and expensive – so their gods were a source of competition of pride i.e. our god is made of gold. They boasted. Ansib hu? – what’s his lineage/family escendence? Hadith: A polytheist once came to Allah’s Messenger and said; Everything was created by Allah, fa man khalaqAllah? – then who created Allah?

Allah’s Messenger became extremely angry, so Angel Jibreel calmed him down and Allah revealed this surah.  The Sahabas’ Love for Surah al Ikhlas and it’s Virtues; Al-Bukhari reported from `Amrah bint `Abdur-Rahman, who used to stay in the apartment of `A’ishah, the wife of the Prophet , that `A’ishah said, “The Prophet sent a man as the commander of a war expedition and he used to lead his companions in prayer with recitation (of the Qur’an). And he would complete his recitation with the recitation of `Say: He is Allah, One.’ So when they returned they mentioned that to the Prophet and he said,

«سَلُوهُ لِأَيِّ شَيْءٍ يَصْنَعُ ذَلِكَ؟»

(Ask him why does he do that.) So they asked him and he said, `Because it is the description of Ar-Rahman and I love to recite it. So the Prophet said,

«أَخْبِرُوهُ أَنَّ اللهَ تَعَالَى يُحِبُّه»

(Inform him that Allah the Most High loves him.)” This is how Al-Bukhari recorded this Hadith in his Book of Tawhid. Muslim and An-Nasa’i also recorded it. In his Book of Salah, Al-Bukhari recorded that Anas said, “A man from the Ansar used to lead the people in prayer in the Masjid of Quba’. Whenever he began a Surah in the recitation of the prayer that he was leading them, he would start by reciting `Say: He is Allah, One’ until he completed the entire Surah. Then he would recite another Surah along with it (after it). And used to do this in every Rak`ah. So his companions spoke to him about this saying; `Verily, you begin the prayer with this Surah. Then you think that it is not sufficient for you unless you recite another Surah as well. So you should either recite it or leave it and recite another Surah instead.’ The man replied, `I will not leave it off. If you want me to continue leading you (in prayer), I will do this; and if you all do not like it, I will leave you (i.e., I will stop leading you).’ They used to consider him to be of the best of them to lead them in prayer and they did not want anyone else to lead them other than him. So, when the Prophet came they informed him of this information and he said,

«يَا فُلَانُ، مَا يَمْنَعُكَ أَنْ تَفْعَلَ مَا يَأْمُرُكَ بِهِ أَصْحَابُكَ، وَمَا حَمَلَكَ عَلَى لُزُوم هَذِهِ السُّورَةِ فِي كُلِّ رَكْعَةٍ؟»

(O so-and-so! What prevents you from doing what your companions are commanding you to do, and what makes you adhere to the recitation of this Surah in every Rak`ah) The man said, `Verily, I love it.’ The Prophet replied,

«حُبُّكَ إِيَّاهَا أَدْخَلَكَ الْجَنَّة»

(Your love of it will cause you to enter Paradise.) This was recorded by Al-Bukhari

A Hadith that mentions this Surah is equivalent to a Third of the Qur’an. Al-Bukhari recorded from Abu Sa`id that a man heard another man reciting

[قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ ]

(Say: “He is Allah, One.”) and he was repeating over and over. So when morning came, the man went to the Prophet and mentioned that to him, and it was as though he was belittling it. The Prophet said,

«وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ إِنَّهَا لَتَعْدِلُ ثُلُثَ الْقُرْآن»

(By He in Whose Hand is my soul, verily it is equivalent to a third of the Qur’an.) Abu Dawud and An-Nasa’i also recorded it. Another Hadith Al-Bukhari recorded from Abu Sa`id, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Messenger of Allah said to his Companions,

«أَيَعْجِزُ أَحَدُكُمْ أَنْ يَقْرَأَ ثُلُثَ الْقُرْآنِ فِي لَيْلَةٍ؟»

(Is one of you not able to recite a third of the Qur’an in a single night) This was something that was difficult for them and they said, “Which of us is able to do that, O Messenger of Allah” So he replied,

«اللهُ الْوَاحِدُ الصَّمَدُ ثُلُثُ الْقُرْآن»

(“Allah is the One, As-Samad” is a third of the Qur’an.) Al-Bukhari was alone in recording this Hadith. Another Hadith that its Recitation necessitates Admission into Paradise: Imam Malik bin Anas recorded from `Ubayd bin Hunayn that he heard Abu Hurayrah saying, “I went out with the Prophet and he heard a man reciting `Say: He is Allah, the One.’ So the Messenger of Allah said, «وَجَبَت» (It is obligatory.) I asked, `What is obligatory’ He replied, «الْجَنَّة» (Paradise.)” At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa’i also recorded it by way of Malik, and At-Tirmidhi said, “Hasan Sahih Gharib. We do not know of it except as a narration of Malik.” The Hadith in which the Prophet said,

«حُبُّكَ إِيَّاهَا أَدْخَلَكَ الْجَنَّة»

(Your love of it will cause you to enter Paradise.) has already been mentioned.

A Hadith about repeating this Surah: `Abdullah bin Imam Ahmad recorded from Mu`adh bin `Abdullah bin Khubayb, who reported that his father said, “We became thirsty and it had become dark while we were waiting for the Messenger of Allah to lead us in prayer. Then, when he came out he took me by my hand and said, «قُل» (Say.) Then he was silent. Then he said again, «قُل» (Say.) So I said, `What should I say’ He said,

(قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ ) وَالْمُعَوِّذَتَيْنِ حِينَ تُمْسِي وَحِينَ تُصْبِحُ ثَلَاثًا، تَكْفِكَ كُلَّ يَوْمٍ مَرَّتَيْن

(Say: “He is Allah, One,” and the two Surahs of Refuge (Al-Falaq and An-Nas) when you enter upon the evening and the morning three times (each). They will be sufficient for you two times every day.)” This Hadith was also recorded by Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa’i. At-Tirmidhi said, “Hasan Sahih Gharib.” An-Nasa’i also recorded through another chain of narrators with the wording,

«يَكْفِكَ كُلَّ شَيْء» (They will suffice you against everything.)

Tafsir ibn Katheer – Surah al Ikhlas; http://tafsir.com/default.asp?sid=112&tid=59492

Ayah 1:

قُلْ هُوَ اللَّـهُ أَحَدٌ

Qul huwwaAllahu Ahad: Say, “He is Allah , [who is] One,

Qul – Say. Command to the Messenger to;

1 – Learn for himself.

2 – Teach it to others.

Message of Tawheed, is connected to Da’wah (inviting to Islam). Huwwa – He. This was not required in the ayah because Allah could say; Qul Allahu ahad – say Allah is One. However, A pronoun is used when you know who is being spoken about (this is called Sha’n شأن ). Allah is so great, He is already known by the people (as the Originator, Creator, Designer etc.). So ‘He’ is an implication that you know this God already, it is not a new God.

2 – It is also a reply to the people who asked Allah’s Messenger who his god was? Man Huwwa, Maa huwwa – who is he, what is he? These are the questions the polytheists asked Allah’s Messenger about Allah. So Allah is answering that He is Allah, the One.

3 – Say, He is Allah, Say He is One. Two sentences have been fused into one ayah. Say, He is Allah, One. Ahad – One The difference between Wahid and Ahad:

1 – Ahad is used exclusively in the Negative sense only. Wahid is used in the Positive sense only. i.e. Laysa ahadmawjoodan fee al masjid – there is notOneperson in the Mosque [it is empty]. Laysa wahid mawjoodan fee al masjid – there is not One in the Mosque [but there are alot (more than one) people in the Mosque].

وَلَا يُشْرِكْ بِعِبَادَةِ رَبِّهِ أَحَدًا

..wa la yushriku bi ‘ibadatihee Ahada – and no-One should associate partners with Him in worship. [al Kahf 18:110]. However, We notice that Allah uses the word Ahad in ayah 1 of surah al Ikhlas, to describe Himself. This is strange, because Ahad is usually only used in the negative. This Ahad is used to show that there is a uniqueness of the useage of this word when describing Allah – now in the positive sense instead of the negative.

By Allah using Ahad, He is implying affirmation to His Oneness, and there being none similar to Him in that Oneness. Amazing: There is no Arabic literature which ever uses the word Ahad by itself in a positive way – except for surah al Ikhlas.

2 – The other form of ‘Ahad’ is used in Iddaafa form i.e. ‘One of..’ Ahad al Muslimeen (one of the Muslims) etc. So this Ahad can only be used in a positive way if another set of words are attached to it. Ahad comes from – Wahd/Wahada. Wahd دحو (waw, ha, daal) – one who is individual by himself, his tribe/lineage/origin is not known.

Allah did not use that word for Himself because He does not want to make Himself similar to humans in attributes. Raghib al Isfahani in Mufradaat al Qur’an: Ahad is a separate word which implies; That One cannot have any comparison, a sole unique entity who does not have an equal or competitor in any way. He does not have a 2nd or affiliate.

So Ahad is different to Wahid. The people of other religions believe in God as One (this is Wahid), but they always make the mistake of giving Him Attributes of the creation. It is only when you disassociate Allah’s attributes from similarity to the creation that you can believe Allah is Ahad (Unique in His Oneness).

A strong Theme in this surah is that Everything about Allah is Unique in His Oneness. This is why all the attributes of Allah in this surah are Unique for Allah Himself. (i.e. Allah, ahad, as-Samad, lam yaLid, lam yuWlad).

3 Allah has some attributes which humans might also call themselves. I.e. Raheem (especially merciful), Ra’oof (compassionate), Baseer [seeing] etc. If we use one of Allah’s attributes, i.e. Allah is ‘Aleem – the Knowing. The Difference between our knowledge and Allah’s knowledge is that;

1 – Allah’s knowledge is infinite, ours is not.

2 – Allah’s knowledge has no limit, ours is.

3 – Our knowledge and attributes are given to us, Allah’s attributes – He owns them, they are His. Use these 3 steps for any of Allah’s attributes, and we see how Allah is unique in His attributes of Perfection.

لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْئٌ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ

Laysa ka mithlihee shay’ wa huwwa as-samee’ul baseer – there is no similarity to Him, and He is the hearer, the Seer. [ash-Shura 42:11]

AhaduN ندحأ (taNween – letter Noon ن at the end) – this is used to put an exclamation mark, strong emphasis – He is Allah, One!! The tanween ن is also used in a Khabr/information – to answer a question. The question posed was – who/what do you worship? This news/khabr is informing and answering the people – that our Master is Ahad – the Unique One. This is what Bilal bin Rabbah got tortured for, and he would continuously say “Ahadun Ahad”. Dr. Rafee’uddeen from Pakistan – Allah created the human with knowledge of Himself. The greatest honor the human can have is to be the perfect slave of Him. But if you do not strive to achieve that goal, you will still be hungry. If you do not fulfill that hunger with obedience to Allah, you will fulfill that hunger through something else. Even if that food of disobedience is disgusting and harmful to your body. So you are either a slave to Allah, or a slave to the worthless creation. You might know He is One, but is He the One you dedicate your life to? Do you worry that He might not talk to you on Judgment Day out of displeasure? Do you do action so that He will be pleased with you? Allamah Iqbal poetry on Allah’s Oneness/Tawheed: What used to be something that burned inside the hearts of men, has now turned into something of abstract, philosophical debate. Tawheed has now become theological debates, whereas there were people before us who would have a strong, practical connection with Allah. Hoping that He will have Mercy on them. So they struggled for His pleasure. O Allah, make us the true people of Tawheed, and who implement it with their wealth, and lives, and die in a state that you are pleased with.

Ayah 2:

اللَّـهُ الصَّمَدُ

Allahu as-Samad: Allah is Heon Whom all depend. as-Samad – the one who is enough, whenever they turn to Him, He fulfills and answers all their needs and questions in times of need.

1. When you use the word Samad as a verb – it implies that you turn to them to ask them to fulfill a need. Masmood – the one to whom people turn to in times of need.

2 – When you make someone your goal, to attain them, to win them, the Ultimate Goal. This is one of the reasons this surah is called surah al Ikhlas – we are seeking the pleasure of Allah.

3 – The One who is not in need of anyone else, and he is always above them, none can overpower him or be above him in status or any attribute.

4 – The One who is free from blemishes or faults.

5 – From the People are those who cannot be overcome in battle, or eloquence, or business etc. They are called as-Samad.

6 – He is incredible and great in His glory. Everlasting. The One who people turn to in times of need.

7 – Samad is used as an adjective – something that is solid with no holes or emptiness inside. Something Absolute without any flaws. This shows that Allah’s Names are not lacking or empty, rather – He has perfect Names, and these Names and Attributes are fulfilled perfectly. I.e. Someone might be called Jameel/Beautiful, but they might not be beautiful. However, Allah is Perfect in His Names and fulfills them properly – without anything missing in their perfection. Allah is as-Samad, and He fulfills that role perfectly.

Allah the Absolute is the Only One. This ayah emphasises what has been mentioned in ayah 1. The reason why these words are mentioned is because the polytheists would describe Allah as the Creator, and the Merciful, but they would not say He is Ahad, or as-Samad. AL samad – The AL أل signifies  Absoluteness. as-Samad – the one who everyone needs and He needs none Himself. al Bica’i: Surah Lahab spoke about someone (Abu Lahab) who thought he did not need anyone, and that he had none equal in wealth and riches. So Allah is telling us now that Allah has destroyed him, then you should know that the only One who truly needs no-one else is Allah, and that He alone is rich and free of need (Ghaniy).

Ayah 3:

لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ

Lam yaLid wa Lam yuWlad: He did not give birth, nor was He fathered. Lam – past tense negation – forces a verb to become past tense. Lan – future tense Negation. Lam is used – Past tense removes all forms of birth associated to Allah in the past, and all these ideas of Allah having daughters who are angels (as the polytheists said), or that He has sons [Jesus, or Uzayr/Ezra] (as christians and some jewish sects in Medinah said) – removes their false claims. Removal of past tense doubts removes all doubts – because the present doubts we have today have been repeated throughout history, so even if someone claims Allah has a son today – this had already been said in the past. So Allah has refuted such a claim by saying thatit has never happened – He has never had a son. Having a son implies you will have an equal, and that is not possible for Allah. Allah says; [He is] Originator of the heavens and the earth. How could He have a son when He does not have a companion [sahibah] and He created all things? And He is, of all things, Knowing. [al An’am 6:101]. How can Allah have a son when He does not have a Sahiba (wife, Spouse, Associate)? One word for wife is Sahibah, and another word is Kufuw. And this word is mentioned in ayah 4 of this surah. Allah does not share attributes with His creation. If you are born – you had a beginning. Which mean’s you are not eternal, so you are not Divine/God. Reasons why people commit Shirk[association of Partners with Allah]. Argument: Even if a judgement did occur, we have intercessors (angels, saints etc) to hide behind between us and Allah. This is the psychology of Shirk (associating partners [with Allah]) because a person may do whatever he wants of disobedience to Allah, but then he wants to hide behind someone close to Allah to protect him from Allah’s anger. This person will even try to please and overpraise that intercessor, so that the intercessor will intercede in favour of his case in the court of Allah. Little do these people know that Allah will
forgive who He wills on that Day, and this is the sin that Allah does not forgive (of shirk). The One who everyone turns to, as-Samad. So you do not need to place a ‘son’ or idol between you and Allah. Turn to Him alone, because He is as-Samad- the absolute One to be turned to. This removes people’s need to turn to anyone else besides Him.

Ayah 4:

وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ

wa Lam yakun lahu kufuwwan ahad: And Nor was there to Him any equivalent.” Kufuw – your partner, it can also be your equal opposition in battle. Someone who is equal to you in rank, compatible with you, similar in your level. This is why it is used for marriage partners. So Allah is saying He had no Kufuw – equal in His Ahad (Uniqueness). In Normal Arabic Grammar Sentence; – wa lam ya kun ahadun kufuwwan lahu (and there is not any equivalent to Him). This is the grammatically normal sequence. ahad is at the end Lahu is in the beginning. Kufuw is in the middle. The normal grammatical sentence would have placed Allah in the end. But Allah switches the normal phrase, and instead mentions Himself first. Lahu – for Him [Allah], this is Taqdeem – placed earlier in the sentence, showing specificness. There is none La Hu (For Him) an equal competitor (kufuw) ahad – any One. Ahad is awwal – the One for whom there is no 2nd. And the One who is First. He has no counterpart, there is none higher than Him. Yet everything of the creation has an equal competitor or one better than him, but there is none competing with Allah in His Uniqueness.

Benefits of this Surah:

Fakhrud-deen ar-Razi:

The first part of the surah shows Allah’s Oneness. The second part of surah show’s Allah’s grace and Mercy upon us – because He turns to us to help us. The 3rd ayah shows that Allah is free from weakness. Because having children can be a sign of weakness because you want your name to live on. (Even if you don’t feel this now, you might at the age of 40 because you wonder what you have left behind in this world). The honoring of humans is them having children, because they will require them for strength in old age. The honoring of Allah is that He has no children, because He is always free of need. This surah in conclusion is probably the most important surah for our children to internalise. What does it mean that He is; Ahad, as-Samad? Lam yaLid, wa lam yuWlad, wa lam ya kun Lahu kufuwan Ahad. We learn that Allah helps us in all times because He has no competitor (kufuw) in preventing Him from helping us and answering our prayers. Surah an-Najaat – it Rescues you from; sadness and hardships, and hellfire, and this is why the companions of Allah’s Messenger loved it so much.


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