Tafsir of Surat al-Ikhlas

Surat al-Ikhlas is one of the most well-known chapters of the Qur’an which describes Allah ﷻ. It answers the question, “who is God?”


Surah Title

The title of the chapter is سورة الإخلاص, the chapter of “ikhlas.” It is often translated as “sincerity,” but let’s take a deeper look. It is a form 4 masdar (nounal form) of the root خ ل ص. Let’s take a look at Hans Wehr for both the form 4 verbal meanings and the masdar.

Form 4 verbal meanings

The first meaning is to dedicate something to someone, and also to be loyal, devoted, and faithful to someone. The last example it gives is quite revealing: أَخْلَصَ لِلَهِ دِيْنَهُ meaning literally “he dedicated his religion to Allah,” and as Hans Wehr translates it more liberally “to worship God faithfully and sincerely.”

Masdar or nounal form

The masdar or nounal form has meanings of sincere devotion, loyal attachment, and sincere affection. So your worship is sincerely devoted to Allah ﷻ and you are attached to Him loyally. It’s also quite interesting that love is also alluded to in its meanings and usage, perhaps also indicating that your love for Allah is also sincere.

Background and Reason for Revelation

There are various narrations in different tafasir for the sabab an-nuzul (reason for revelation). By combining them, we can see a more complete picture of the setting and different people this surah addresses–it is a description of God for every people of every background and religion.

The surah’s clarity, conciseness, and precision is unparalleled in all religions worldwide. You will find nothing like it in any other scripture today. What a great blessing the Qur’an is!


It is narrated that some of the polytheists came to the messenger of Allah ﷺ and said: “oh Muhammad, describe to us your Lord, is he from gold, or silver, or from green jewels, or from rubies?” Then the noble surah was revealed: “say He is Allah, One…” [Tafsir Sabuni]


Another narration in ibn Kathir states:

Ikrimah said, “When

  • the Jews said, `We worship Uzayr, the son of Allah,’ and
  • the Christians said, `We worship the Messiah (Isa), the son of Allah,’ and
  • the Zoroastrians said, `We worship the sun and the moon,’ and
  • the idolators said, `We worship idols,’

Allah revealed to His Messenger, “say He is Allah, One…”


Qatadah, al-Dahhak and Muqatil said: “A group of Jewish people went to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and said to him: ‘Describe to us your Lord, for He has revealed His description in the Torah. Tell us: what is He made of? And to which species does He belong? Is He made of gold, copper or silver? Does He eat and drink? Who did He inherit this world from? And to whom will He bequeath it?’ And so Allah, gloried and exalted is He, revealed this Surah.”


Ubayy ibn Ka’ab related that the polytheists said to the messenger of Allah ﷺ:

“What is the lineage of your Lord?” and so Allah, exalted is He, revealed (Say: He is Allah, the One! Allah, the eternally Besought of all). The eternally Besought of all (al-Samad) is Him Who (begetteth not nor was begotten) for anyone who is begotten will certainly die and whoever dies will be inherited. Allah does not die nor is He inherited. (And there is none comparable unto Him), He does not have anyone who resembles Him or is like Him (Naught is as His likeness…) [42:11].

Ahadith – 1/3 of the Qur’an and Loving this Surah

In Sahih Bukhari we have 3 hadith under the chapter heading “chapter on the virtue of “qul huwa Allahu ahad:”

A man heard another man reciting (Surat-Al-Ikhlas) ‘Say He is Allah, (the) One.’ (112. 1) repeatedly. The next morning he came to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) and informed him about it as if he thought that it was not enough to recite. On that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “By Him in Whose Hand my life is, this Surah is equal to one-third of the Qur’an!”

My brother, Qatada bin An-Nau’man said, “A man performed the night prayer late at night in the lifetime of the Prophet (ﷺ) and he read: ‘Say: He is Allah, (the) One,’ (112.1) and read nothing besides that. The next morning a man went to the Prophet (ﷺ) ,~ and told him about that . (The Prophet (ﷺ) replied the same as (in Hadith 532) above.)

Narrated Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri: The Prophet (ﷺ) said to his companions, “Is it difficult for any of you to recite one third of the Qur’an in one night?” This suggestion was difficult for them so they said, “Who among us has the power to do so, O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)?” Allah Apostle replied: ” Allah (the) One, the Self-Sufficient Master Whom all creatures need.’ (Surat Al-Ikhlas 112.1–to the End) is equal to one third of the Qur’an.”

It is commonly known that it is equivalent to 1/3 of the Qur’an, and he even approved of it being the only thing recited after al-fatiha in salah.

We have one more hadith in Bukhari in another chapter which he uses for fiqh purposes in his chapter title, which is beyond the scope of our purposes here, but the hadith itself is useful in showing the importance of loving this surah:

Anas said:
One of the Ansar used to lead the Ansar in Salat in the Quba’ mosque and it was his habit to recite Qul Huwal-lahu Ahad whenever he wanted to recite something in Salat. When he finished that Surah, he would recite another one with it. He followed the same procedure in each Rak’a. His companions discussed this with him and said, “You recite this Surah and do not consider it sufficient and then you recite another. So would you recite it alone or leave it and recite some other.” He said, “I will never leave it and if you want me to be your Imam on this condition then it is all right ; otherwise I will leave you.” They knew that he was the best amongst them and they did not like someone else to lead them in Salat. When the Prophet (ﷺ) went to them as usual, they informed him about it. The Prophet (ﷺ) addressed him and said, “O so-and-so, what forbids you from doing what your companions ask you to do ? Why do you read this Surah particularly in every Rak’a ?” He repiled, “I love this Surah.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Your love for this Surah will make you enter Paradise.”

In Sahih Muslim, Bukhari, and Nasa’i we have another hadith:

‘A’isha reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) sent a man in charge of an expedition and he would recite for his Companions during their prayer, ending (recitation) with:” Say, He is God, One.” When they returned mention was made of it to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). He (the Holy Prophet) told them to ask him why he had done like that. So they asked him and he said: Verily, it is an attribute of the Compassionate One, and (for this reason) I love to recite it. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) thereupon said: Inform him that Allah loves him.

http://sunnah.com/muslim/6/318

And may Allah ﷻ fill us with love of this surah, amin.

Four Verses on Oneness – Tawhid

Mustafa Khattab translation:

  1. Say, ˹O Prophet,˺ “He is Allah—One ˹and Indivisible˺;
  2. Allah—the Sustainer ˹needed by all˺.
  3. He has never had offspring, nor was He born.
  4. And there is none comparable to Him.

Khattab’s footnote concludes: As mentioned in the Introduction, the Quran has three main themes: 1. Stories. 2. Muslim teachings. 3. And belief in the unseen. Since Sûrah 112 covers the third theme, the Prophet (ﷺ) says in a ḥadîth collected by Bukhâri and Muslim that reading this sûrah equals reading one third of the Quran.

Below are selections from different exegesis on each ayah:

Verse 1

قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ – 112:1

Say, “He is Allah, [who is] One,

Tafsir Sabuni: Meaning say, oh Muhammad ﷺ, to these mocking polytheists: that my Lord is the One who I worship, and the One who I call you to worship. He is Wahid, Ahad, He has absolutely no partner, nothing similar, and nothing equal, not in His essence (ذات) nor in His attributes (صفات), and not in His actions, for He is Majestic and High, One God. Not like what the Christians claim and believe in the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), nor like what the polytheists believe in multiple deities. Ibn Juzayy said in at-Tashil: know that the description of Allah with al-Wahid has three meanings, all of them are sound in His reality Most High:

  1. That He is One with no second with Him. It negates plurality.
  2. That He is One with no equal and no partner, like you say: one so-and-so (فلان واحد) of his time, meaning no equal to him.
  3. That He is One with no division and no portioning.

And the surah intends to negate partners, responding to the polytheists. And Allah ﷻ established decisive (qati’) proofs of His oneness, Most High. And those are very numerous. And I will explain four proofs:

  1. His Speech Most High: (أَفَمَن يَخْلُقُ كَمَن لاَّ يَخْلُقُ) “Then is He who creates like one who does not create?” And this is evidence of the creation. For when He confirms that Allah ﷻ Most High is the Creator of everything in existence, it is not correct that anyone from it is a partner to Him.
  2. His Speech Most High: (لَوْ كَانَ فِيهِمَآ آلِهَةٌ إِلاَّ ٱللَّهُ لَفَسَدَتَا) “Had there been within the heavens and earth gods besides Allah, they both would have been ruined.” And it is proof of perfection/accuracy/precision and creative ability (إحكام وإبداع).
  3. His Speech Most High: (قُلْ لَّوْ كَانَ مَعَهُ آلِهَةٌ كَمَا يَقُولُونَ إِذاً لاَّبْتَغَوْاْ إِلَىٰ ذِي ٱلْعَرْشِ سَبِيلاً) “Say, ‘If there were other gods along with Him, as they say there are, then they would have tried to find a way to the Lord of the Throne.’” And it is proof of subjugation and control/dominance/supremacy (القهر والغلبة).
  4. His Speech Most High: (وَمَا كَانَ مَعَهُ مِنْ إِلَـهٍ إِذاً لَّذَهَبَ كُلُّ إِلَـٰهٍ بِمَا خَلَقَ وَلَعَلاَ بَعْضُهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ) “Allah has not taken any son, nor has there ever been with Him any deity. [If there had been], then each deity would have taken what it created, and some of them would have sought to overcome others.” And it is proof of conflict and superiority (تنازع وإستعلاء), then He Most High affirms His Oneness and His being in no need of the creation.

Ibn Kathir:

قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ

Say:”He is Allah, One.”

meaning,

– He is the One, the Singular,

– Who has no peer,

– no assistant, no rival,

– no equal and none comparable to Him.

This word (Al-Ahad) cannot be used for anyone in affirmation except Allah the Mighty and Majestic, because He is perfect in all of His attributes and actions.

Verse 2

اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ – 112:2

Allah is As-Samad

Tafsir Sabuni: (WIP)


Ibn Kathir:

Allah As-Samad,

Ikrimah reported that Ibn Abbas said,

“This means the One Who all of the creation depends upon for their needs and their requests.”

Ali bin Abi Talhah reported from Ibn Abbas,

– “He is the Master Who is perfect in His sovereignty,

– the Most Noble Who is perfect in His nobility,

– the Most Magnificent Who is perfect in His magnificence,

– the Most Forbearing Who is perfect in His forbearance,

– the All-Knowing Who is perfect in His knowledge, and

– the Most Wise Who is perfect in His wisdom.

– He is the One Who is perfect in all aspects of nobility and authority.

He is Allah, glory be unto Him. These attributes are not befitting anyone other than Him. He has no coequal and nothing is like Him. Glory be to Allah, the One, the Irresistible.”

Al-A`mash reported from Shaqiq, who said that Abu Wa’il said,

“As-Samad is the Master Whose control is complete.”


Tafheem al-Qur’an (lexical part omitted):

Ali, Ikrimah and Kab Ahbar: Samad is he who has no superior.

Abdullah bin Masud, Abdullah bin Abbas and Abu Wail Shaqiq bin Salamah: The chieftain whose chieftaincy is perfect and of the most extraordinary kind.

Another view of Ibn Abbas: Samad is he to whom the people turn when afflicted with a calamity. Still another view of his: The chieftain who in his chieftaincy, in his nobility and glory, in his clemency and forbearance, in his knowledge and wisdom is perfect.

Abu Hurairah: He who is independent of all and all others are dependent upon him.

Other views of Ikrimah: He from whom nothing ever has come out, nor normally comes out, who neither eats nor drinks. Views containing the same meaning have been related from Shabi and Muhammad bin Kab al-Kurazi also.

Suddi: The one to whom the people turn for obtaining the things they need and for help in hardships.

Saeed bin Jubair: He who is perfect in all his attributes and works.

Rabi bin Jubair: He who is immune from every calamity.

Muqatil bin Hayyan: He who is faultless.

Ibn Kaysan: He who is exclusive in his attributes.

Hasan Basri and Qatadah: He who is ever-living and immortal. Similar views have been related from Mujahid, Mamar and Murrat alHamadani also.

Murrat al-Hamadani’s another view is: He who decides whatever he wills and does whatever he wills, without there being anyone to revise his judgment and decision.

Ibrahim Nakhai: He to whom the people turn for fulfillment of their desires.

Abu Bakr al-Anbari: There is no difference of opinion among the lexicographers that samad is the chief who has no superior and to whom the people turn for fulfillment of their desires and needs and in connection with other affairs. Similar to this is the view of Az-Zajjaj, who says Samad is he in whom leadership has been perfected, and to whom one turns for fulfillment of his needs and desires.

Now, let us consider why Allahu-Ahad has been said in the first sentence and why Allah-us-Samad in this sentence. About the word ahad we have explained above that it is exclusively used for Allah, and for none else. That is why it has been used as ahad, in the indefinite sense. But since the word samad is used for creatures also, Allall-us-Samad has been said instead of Allah Samad, which signifies that real and true Samad is Allah alone. If a creature is samad in one sense, it may not be samad in some other sense, for it is mortal, not immortal; it is analyzable and divisible, is compound, its parts can scatter away any time; some creatures are dependent upon it, and upon others it is dependent; its chieftaincy is relative and not absolute; it is superior to certain things and certain other things are superior to it; it can fulfill some desires of some creatures but it is not in the power of any creature to fulfill all the desires of all the creatures, On the contrary, Allah is perfect in His attributes of Samad in every respect; the whole world is dependent upon Him in its needs, but He is not dependent upon anyone; everything in the world turns to Him, consciously or unconsciously, for its survival and for fulfillment of the needs of everyone; He is Immortal and Ever-living; He sustains others and is not sustained by anyone; He is Single and Unique, not compound so as to be analyzable and divisible; His sovereignty prevails over entire universe and He is Supreme in every sense. Therefore, He is not only Samad but As-Samad, i.e. the Only and One Being Who is wholly and perfectly qualified with the attribute of samad in the true sense.

Then, since He is As-Samad, it is necessary that He should be Unique, One and Only, for such a being can only be One, which is not dependent upon anyone and upon whom everyone else may be dependent; two or more beings cannot be self-sufficient and fulfillers of the needs of all. Furthermore, His being As-samad also requires that He alone should be the Deity, none else, for no sensible person would worship and serve the one who had no power and authority to fulfill the needs of others.

Verse 3

لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ – 112:3

He neither begets nor is begotten,

Tafsir Sabuni: (WIP)


Ibn kathir:

He begets not, nor was He begotten.

meaning, He does not have any child, parent or spouse.

Verse 4

وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ – 112:4

Nor is there to Him any equivalent.”

Tafsir Sabuni: (WIP)


Ibn kathir:

And there is none comparable to Him.

Mujahid said,
وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَّهُ كُفُواً أَحَدٌ
(And there is none comparable to Him),

“This means He does not have a spouse.”

This is as Allah says,

بَدِيعُ السَّمَـوَتِ وَالاٌّرْضِ أَنَّى يَكُونُ لَهُ وَلَدٌ وَلَمْ تَكُنْ لَّهُ صَـحِبَةٌ وَخَلَقَ كُلَّ شَىْءٍ

He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth. How can He have children when He has no wife He created all things. (6:101)

meaning, He owns everything and He created everything. So how can He have a peer among His creatures who can be equal to Him, or a relative who can resemble Him. Glorified, Exalted and far removed is Allah from such a thing.

Allah says,

وَقَالُواْ اتَّخَذَ الرَّحْمَـنُ وَلَداً

لَقَدْ جِيْتُمْ شَيْياً إِدّاً

تَكَادُ السَّمَـوَتُ يَتَفَطَّرْنَ مِنْهُ وَتَنشَقُّ الاٌّرْضُ وَتَخِرُّ الْجِبَالُ هَدّاً

أَن دَعَوْا لِلرَّحْمَـنِ وَلَداً

وَمَا يَنبَغِى لِلرَّحْمَـنِ أَن يَتَّخِذَ وَلَداً

إِن كُلُّ مَن فِى السَّمَـوَتِ وَالاٌّرْضِ إِلاَّ اتِى الرَّحْمَـنِ عَبْداً

لَّقَدْ أَحْصَـهُمْ وَعَدَّهُمْ عَدّاً

وَكُلُّهُمْ ءَاتِيهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَـمَةِ فَرْداً

And they say:Ar-Rahman has begotten a son. Indeed you have brought forth (said) a terrible evil thing. Whereby the heavens are almost torn, and the earth is split asunder, and the mountains fall in ruins, that they ascribe a son to Ar-Rahman. But it is not suitable for Ar-Rahman that He should beget a son.

There is none in the heavens and the earth but comes unto Ar-Rahman as a slave. Verily, He knows each one of them, and has counted them a full counting. And all of them will come to Him alone on the Day of Resurrection. (19:88-95)

And Allah says,

وَقَالُواْ اتَّخَذَ الرَّحْمَـنُ وَلَداً سُبْحَانَهُ بَلْ عِبَادٌ مُّكْرَمُونَ

لَا يَسْبِقُونَهُ بِالْقَوْلِ وَهُمْ بِأَمْرِهِ يَعْمَلُونَ

And they say:

Ar-Rahman has begotten a son. Glory to Him! They are but honored servants. They speak not until He has spoken, and they act on His command. (21:26-27)

Allah also says,

وَجَعَلُواْ بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَ الْجِنَّةِ نَسَباً وَلَقَدْ عَلِمَتِ الجِنَّةُ إِنَّهُمْ لَمُحْضَرُونَ

سُبْحَـنَ اللَّهِ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ

And they have invented a kinship between Him and the Jinn, but the Jinn know well that they have indeed to appear before Him.

Glorified is Allah! (He is free) from what they attribute unto Him! (37:158-159)

In Sahih Al-Bukhari, it is recorded that that the Prophet said,

لَاا أَحَدَ أَصْبَرُ عَلَى أَذًى سَمِعَهُ مِنَ اللهِ يَجْعَلُونَ لَهُ وَلَدًا وَهُوَ يَرْزُقُهُمْ وَيُعَافِيهِم

There is no one more patient with something harmful that he hears than Allah. They attribute a son to Him, while it is He Who gives them sustenance and cures them.

Al-Bukhari also recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet said,

قَالَ اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ

كَذَّبَنِي ابْنُ ادَمَ وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ ذَلِكَ

وَشَتَمَنِي وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ ذَلِكَ

فَأَمَّا تَكْذِيبُهُ إِيَّايَ فَقَوْلُهُ

لَنْ يُعِيدَنِي كَمَا بَدَأَنِي وَلَيْسَ أَوَّلُ الْخَلْقِ بِأَهْوَنَ عَلَيَّ مِنْ إِعَادَتِهِ

وَأَمَّا شَتْمُهُ إِيَّايَ فَقَوْلُهُ اتَّخَذَ اللهُ وَلَدًا

وَأَنَا الاْأَحَدُ الصَّمَدُ
لَمْ أَلِدْ وَلَمْ أُولَدْ

وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لِي كُفُوًا أَحَد

Allah the Mighty and Majestic says,

“The Son of Adam denies Me and he has no right to do so,

and he curses Me and he has no right to do so.

In reference to his denial of Me, it is his saying:`He (Allah) will never re-create me like He created me before.’ But the re-creation of him is easier than his original creation.

As for his cursing Me, it is his saying:`Allah has taken a son.’

But I am the One, the Self-Sufficient Master. I do not give birth, nor was I born, and there is none comparable to Me.”


Sources:

  • Hans Wehr Arabic-English dictionary
  • Tafsir Sabuni
  • Tafsir ibn Kathir

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