Will you give information about the reason why the chapter of al-Ikhlas was sent down and its interpretation?

The Details of the Question

Will you give information about the reason why the chapter of al-Ikhlas was sent down and its interpretation?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,


The reason why it was sent down:

It is the one hundred and twelfth chapter in the Quran but the twenty-second chapter according to the order of being sent down. It was sent down in Makkah after the chapter of an-Nas and before the chapter of an-Najm. There are also narrations that it was sent down in Madinah. Those who say it was sent down in Makkah show the narrations stating that Makkan polytheists went to the Prophet (pbuh) and said to him, "Tell us about the lineage of your Lord" and thereupon this chapter was sent down as evidence. (Musnad, V, 133-134) Those who say it was sent down in Madinah show the narrations stating that Jews and Christians asked the Prophet (pbuh) questions about Allah and Jibril came to the Prophet and read the chapter  "Qul huwallahu ahad" as evidence. (Tabari, XXX, 221-222; Razi, XXXII, 175) However, the style and content of the chapter give the impression that it was sent down in Makkah.

Its name:

There are more than twenty names of the chapter in resources. However, it is commonly known as "al-Ikhlas" as a concise expression of the belief of oneness, which the basic principle of the religion of Islam. Another widely used name is "Qul huwallahu ahad". It is also known by the names "Samad, Tawhid, Asas, Tajrid, Najat, Walayah, Muqashqisha, Muawwiza". (For the other names, see Razi, XXXII, 175-176; Ibn Ashur, XXX, 609-611; Emin Işık, "İhlâs Sûresi", DİA, XXI, 537-538)

Its topic:

Allah’s main attributes are introduced in the chapter.  

Its virtue:

Hz. Prophet (pbuh) states the following about the virtue of this chapter: "By Him in whose hand my life is, it is equal to one-third of the Quran." (Bukhari, "Tawhid", 1)

The Prophet said the following to a Companion who read this chapter in every prayer because he loved it: "Your love of it will lead you to Paradise." (Tirmidhi, "Fadailul-Quran", 11; "Tafsir", 93; for other hadiths, see Ibn Kathir, VIII, 539-546)

Its meaning:

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

1. Say: He is Allah, the One and Only;

2. Allah, the Eternal, Absolute;

3. He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;

4. And there is none like unto Him.

Its interpretation:

1. It is stated by the Prophet that the chapter of al-Ikhlas is equal to one-third of the Quran because it expresses tawhid (oneness of Allah), which is the essence of Islam and it introduces Allah. When the context and the fact that it was an answer given to those who asked about the lineage of Allah are taken into consideration, it is clearly understood that the pronoun "Huwa" translated as "He" refers to Allah. Allah is the most common name of the sublime Lord, whose existence is pre-eternal, post-eternal, obligatory and intrinsic, who created everything, who is the owner of everything, who is dominant over everything, who knows everything and who has power over everything. (see al-Baqara 2/255)

Tafsir scholars generally dwell on the term "ahad", which expresses the oneness of Allah, and the term "samad", which, which states that Allah does not need anybody in terms of existence. The word "ahad", which is translated as "one" is a word derived from the root wahd or wahdah, which means "oneness / unity". (Abu Hayyan, VIII, 528) When it is used as an attribute of Allah, it expresses His oneness, singleness and uniqueness; it is attributed to Allah directly in this chapter and indirectly in the chapter of al-Balad (90/ 5, 7); in this sense, it also includes negative (stating what Allah is not) attributes. As a matter of fact, the verses after it emphasize the oneness in this sense. Therefore, it is generally thought that the attribute "ahad" cannot be attributed to anyone but Allah with some exceptions. 

The word "wahid" derived from the same root is an attribute of Allah in the sense of "one, single and unique being that cannot be divided and that cannot increase" but it is also used for other beings to express the oneness of a being in terms of amount. There is a difference between wahid (one) and ahad (single). "Wahid" is generally used in the sense of "one of the many beings of the same sort". "Ahad" is used in the sense of "the only being that has no being of the same sort, that is, unique in terms of its being and attributes".

Allah is one, single in that sense. The other differences between ahad and wahid are explained as follows: Ahad shows that Allah is one in terms of His being and wahid shows that Allah is one in terms of His attributes. Both ahad and wahid include the meanings of "pre-eternity and post-eternity" but some scholars say ahad indicates "pre-eternity" and wahid indicates "post-eternity". They are both mentioned in hadiths as attributes of Allah.

2. The word "samad" means "the being to whom everybody presents their needs but who is not in need of anybody". (Raghib al-Isfahani, Mufradatul-Quran, "smd" item)

In terms of the concept of the chapter, samad means "wajib al-wujud, who does not need anybody in terms of existence and whom everybody and everything need for existence and survival". Accordingly, the word samad is the explanation of the name ahad directly; the following verse, which means, "He begetteth not, nor is He begotten", also explains the word samad. Tabari defines "samad" as "the unique deity who deserves to be worshipped alone". (XXX, 222)  The word "samad", which is mentioned only in this chapter in the Quran, is included in the hadith of "asma al- husna" (see Tirmidhi, "Da'awat", 83) and some other hadiths. (for instance, see Bukhari, "Tafsir", 112; Tirmidhi, "Da'awat", 64)

3. This verse, which expresses that Allah is free from incomplete attributes, is the explanation of the name "samad"; it rejects all of those who attribute children to Allah and everything related to the concept of lineage, for instance, the claim of the Christians who say "Christ is the son of Allah" (at-Tawba 9/30) and the claim of the polytheists who say angels are the daughters of Allah (al-An'am 6/100). For, having children necessitates a spouse; both spouses and children are beings that are demanded to meet needs; Allah is free of all needs; He is pre-eternal and post-eternal. He created spouses and children; it is impossible for Him to need the things that He created. (see al-An'am 6/101)

The second sentence of the verse meaning, "nor is He begotten" expresses that Allah did not come from a mother or a father through birth or occurrence. For, everything that is born happens afterwards but Allah is pre-eternal; there is no beginning of His existence.

4. This verse is both the explanation of the first verse and the summary of the whole chapter; it expresses that Allah has nobody equal and similar to Him in terms of His being, attributes and deeds. He created everything that exists except Himself. Therefore, it is not possible for the beings that He created to be equal to Him. As a matter of fact, this state is mentioned in various verses. (for instance, see an-Nahl 16/17-22; ash-Shura 42/11)

Some of the scholars who interpret the hadith above about the chapter of al-Ikhlas being equal to one-third of the Quran regarded this equality in terms of reading this chapter while others regarded it in terms of its topic and meaning. According to the second view, a person who understands very well the meaning of this chapter, which is related to oneness, which is the first of the three basic issues of the Quran, and who forms his creed based on the doctrine of this chapter, understands and adopts the oneness and creed part of the Quran. Ghazzali states the following in summary regarding the issue in his book called Jawahirul-Quran (p. 4748):

The knowledge in the Quran is generally divided into three as knowledge about Allah (marifatullah), knowledge about the hereafter, and knowledge about the true path. The chapter of al-Ikhlas includes the first one of those three issues, that is, marifatullah and oneness (tawhid). The other decrees of the Quran are based on oneness in this chapter; therefore, this chapter is regarded to be equal to one-third of the Quran. Due to this importance of the chapter of al-Ikhlas, it has been dealt with in tafsir books in terms of various aspects; separate tafsir works and other studies have been prepared about it by famous scholars in different branches from philosophy to sufism (tasawwuf); besides, theses have been written on the chapter too. (for information and examples, see Emin Işık, "İhlâs Sûresi", DİA, XXI, 538)

(see Diyanet Tefsiri, Kur’an Yolu: V/689-692.)

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