The very name of this sūrah reveals its central theme. It
is called Ikhlaas which is precisely what the sūrah is all about. Ikhlaas means
to profess faith in God's being or 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. We are all aware that Satan has always
remained an eternal enemy of Tawhīd (oneness of God). He has persisted to
deceive man in this matter so that true belief in God should become a nominal
affair. To illuminate the essentials of Tawhīd God sent forth a long series of
prophets. Unfortunately, man continued to squander this initiative with
remarkable consistency. It was for the sake of Tawhīd that the prophet Abraham
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 idolatorous environment. Quite ironically, his own
progeny gradually converted the centre of Tawhīd (Bait-ullah) built by himself
into a temple of idols, as has been mentioned in the Quran. The prejudice of
their self-carved idols became so intense that they began to vehemently argue
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 our Prophet (sws) proclaimed his
acquittal from them. This acquittal meant that he had fulfilled the
responsibility of delivering the truth to them, after which they had to accept
faith or face death.
Period of Revelation
The proclamation of acquittal was solely meant for the
Quraysh and the idolators of Mecca. 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 Medina and its whereabouts, and the Arabs had always openly
acclaimed their superiority in religious affairs.
As long as the Prophet(pbuh) was in Mecca, his opposition
remained clandestine but it turned into open hostility after he had migrated to
Medina. The people of the Book vainly reckoned that since they were the
recipients of Holy Books the Quran would definitely regard their beliefs and
deeds as superior to those of the idolators. But the Quran 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 Quran on their forms of polytheism. A
united opposition front was thereby created as the Jews, the Christians and the
idolators became allies against the Islamic forces. The situation called for a
comprehensive explication of the meaning of Ikhlaas that should completely
eliminate any shred of polytheism, and as a result of which the people of the
Book and the idolators should have no doubt about the actual truth. It was in
these circumstances that this sūrah was revealed in Medina. Although a group of
scholars believes that its revelation took place in Mecca, but the comprehensive
nature of the sūrah, as will be explained later, testifies that it was revealed
in Medina, when the enmity of the people of the Book, especially, the Christians
had become very evident.
This sūrah is preceded by Sūrah Lahab in which the
destruction of the biggest foe of Islam has been depicted; an indication that
time is ripe for the proclamation of the essence of Tawhīd once again in this
land, for which Abraham had built the House of God. Hence, in this sūrah, the
basic Islamic teaching of Tawhīd has been forcefully asserted. Prior to Sūrah
Lahab the glad tidings of the victory of the Islamic forces have been given in
Our Prophet's struggle, as we all very well know, against
his enemies had nothing to do with wordly gains, rather it had the purpose
behind it of establishing the Kingdom of God in the pagan Arab society, and in
banishing all forms of polytheism. Consequently, every aspect of Tawhīd has
been highlighted in this sūrah. The Quran actually ends with it because the last
pair of sūrahs which succeed it are in fact more like two sentinels guarding
this treasure of Tawhīd.
Relation to the Overall Arrangement
The overall arrangement of the Quran is such that the
beginning and the end are correlated. The end of the Quran converges to the
topic by which it commences---Tawhīd and Ikhlaas. Sūrah Faatiha and Sūrah
Ikhlaas, the beginning and the end of the Quran distinctly bring out the reality
that the concept of Tawhīd encompasses all our beliefs. It has been mentioned
in Sūrah Faatiha that God is the sole Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds and
the master of the Day of Judgement, and as such all our thanksgivings must
return to him. This is the essence of Tawhīd. Now again in this final sūrah
this essence has been affirmed in another manner. Here, the attributes that wipe
out any trace of polythsism are explained positively as well as negatively,
which actually forms the basis of the study of Tawhīd. Moreover, it should also
be kept in mind that the sūrahs which constitute this last group are fundamental
to the study of Islam.
Meaning of the Sūrah
Say, that God, is one and alone. He is along with everyone.
He neither begets nor has He been begotten; and there is none like Him.
Explanation of the Sūrah
Qul hu wallaahu ahad.
(Say, that God, is one and alone.) (1)
The word qul is a command that means to proclaim, declare,
and 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 need for such a declaration only arises when after a
long period of dialogue and debate it has become clear that the truth has been
fully disclosed, and the 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 implied people become aware that
everything about the subject has been said; no more time would be wasted upon
the issue and it is equally unlikely that any change in stance shall occur.
The word huwa in my opinion is the pronoun of the fact (dhameer-ushaan),
which is used when the implied meaning is so clearly understood between the
speaker and to whom it is addressed that the mind instinctively jumps to its
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 Tawhīd was the most important.
The Quraish 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 nor
of their forefathers' who had worshiped them. The Quran in many places has cited
instances that whenever the concept of Tawhīd was brought up infront of them
they would fume with rage and would get ready to pounce upon the preachers of
this concept. On one hand was this vanity and ego of the Quraish and on the
other was the resoluteness of the Quran and the Prophet(pbuh) that there shall
be no compromise whatsoever between monotheism and polytheism.
As long as this debate continued with the Quraish no
confusion arose about God's being or his attributes. They had adopted idolatory
hecause it was their ancestoral 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 Medina, however, as soon as the
people of the Book became ivolved in this debate, a new dimension was added to
the affair. Inspite 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 whole system of philosophy 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 Quran challenged all of them and exposed their heresies upon them.
Some among them accepted faith while others who did not do so were
intellectually defeated by the Quran to the extent that the Arabs were no longer
awed by their religious superiority.
The new situation called for the revelation of a sūrah that
would root out all traces of polytheism of both the mushrikeen and the people of
the Book, and would also put a complete halt to Satan's incursions in the
concept of Tawhīd. Needless to say that it must be both concise and
comprehensive to enable everyone to learn and cherish its contents. As a result,
this sūrah comprising four very short verses was revealed. The profound meanings
it encompasses prompted many scholars to regard it as being a third of the
Quran. A little contemplation shows that there is no exaggeration in this fact.
The message of the Quran can be divided into three distinct topics: Tawhīd
(monotheism), Risaalat (prophethood) and Ma'aad (life in the Hereafter)---which
means that Tawhīd occupies one third of the Quranic content that is scattered
in various sūrahs. Its core has been epitomized in this comprehensive sūrah. In
other words, the gist of the Quranic arguments by which it refutes polytheism
has been concisely stated here.
One thing that should be kept in mind is that this sūrah
was not necessarily revealed because someone had inquired from the Prophet(pbuh)
about the attributes of God; but as indeed we have indicated before, the very
circumstances in which the question of Tawhīd had become a burning topic were
enough to cause its revelation. Hu wallaah means `the God about whom you are
debating and arguing has these attributes; hear them from me.....', after which
these attributes are stated. Suffice to say that to reform heretical beliefs
only a correct knowledge of these attributes is all that is required after which
the path to appreciate other attributes of God is opened.
The word Allah is a noun used for the personal name of God
and the mushrikeen of Arab always regarded it so. The Quran ascribes all
virtuous and gracious attributes of God to this noun. The verse says that God is
Ahad. The linguists clearly differentiate between Ahad and Waahid. Ahad means
someone in whose being none can be associated, and Waahid 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 has no kins and relations, and at the same time warrants
His sovreignity. 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
aboveness from all needs as well as from His creation, and to deny both of these
would be against sense and reason.
(He is along 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
designate the meanings of Ahad, just as the attribute Hameed (worthy of all
praise) is always mentioned immediately after the attribute, Ghanee (free of all
needs) in the Quran. The attribute, Ghanee might create a misconception that
since God is free of all needs and is above His creation no relationship can be
secured with Him. This can cause the people to worship other deities as a means
to obtain His nearness. The attribute Hameed is stated immediately afterwards
for the reason that this misconception should not even originate. It clarifies
that although He 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.
Due to exactly the same reasons the attribute Samad has
been 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 aboveness from all, and regard Him as an aloof and an unconcerned Creator.
This might subsequently lead him to worship other beings as a means to procure
the nearness of the Almighty. 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
sancturay for all.
It would be appropriate to mention here the cause which has
so often led a nation astray as regards its religious beliefs and opened for it
the way to polytheism. This has been invariably due to the fact that they did
not strike a balance between certain complementary pairs of attributes of God.
An acute bias towards one of them often made them to completely overlook the
moderations and stipulations warranted by its pair. The Jews and the Christians,
in particular, can be cited as examples in this regard.
Lam yalid wa lam yoo lad.
(He neither begets nor has He been begotten.) (3)
The word Ahad also implies this meaning as pointed out
before. Matters which may cause gross misconceptions are stressed more than once
in the Quran in various styles so that the true concept becomes so evident that
no one can have an excuse to deny it. So, the whole issue has been 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 mushrikeen regarded the angels to be the daughters of God. The
Jews although were the recipients of Torah yet they regarded Uzair as the son of
God. The Christians had established the Trinity of the Father, the Son and 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 to
curse the God whose attributes have been spelled out in this sūrah. Indeed the
anger and the venom they had for this sūrah was because the concept of Tawhīd
expressed in it had made a direct hit upon their beliefs. Considering it,
neither could God be regarded as a father or a son nor anyone His mother.
Historically, the Quran was the first to kindle the light
of Tawhīd 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 have
been mentioned in this sūrah, have now people among them who openly acclaim that
the Quran was the foremost in enlightening the world with the true concept of
Tawhīd in such a profound manner.
Wa lam yakunlahu qufuwan ahad.
(And there is none like Him.) (4)
kufuwun means `equal, like, peer, match, similar'. This
verse means that He 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.
Summary of the Sūrah
Summing up, the message of the sūrah lies in the concept of
Tawhīd it brings out by mention of certain complementary pairs of attributes of
God. The essence of which is that God has always existed and will always exist;
He was when there was nothing and will 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 Islahi's "Taddabur-i-Quran")