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Surat al-Kauthar (The Abundance)

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    Surat al-Kauthar (The Abundance)

    With the Name of Allah, The Merciful Benefactor, The Merciful Redeemer
    1. Verily, We have given you abundance (kauthar)
    2. Therefore, pray to your Lord and make sacrifice
    3. Surely your enemy is the one who is cut off
    "This is the shortest chapter in the Qur'an consisting of only three verses, like [Divine! Support 110; however in this case the message is expressed in fewer
    words. These 3 Meccan verses were revealed after The Chargers 100 and before Competition 102.
    The title is the name of a legendary river which flows through Paradise; its water is reserved exclusively for God-fearing Muslims. It is sweeter than honey, whiter than milk and smoother than cream. This lyric chapter gives added consolation to the Prophet during his early Persecution. (1)
    ------------------- Mauddudi comments:
    "Ibn Marduyah has cited Hadrat Abdullah bin Abbas, Hadrat Abdullah bin az-Zubair and Hadrat Aishah as saying that this Surah is Makki. Kalbi and Muqatil also regard it as Makki, and the same is the view held by the majority of commentators. But Hadrat Hasan Basri, Ikrimah, Mujahid and Qatadah regard it as Madani. Imam Suyuti in Al-Itqan has confirmed this same view, and Imam Nawawi in his commentary of the Sahih of Muslim has also preferred the same. The reason for this assumption is the tradition which traditionists of the rank of Imam Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Daud, Nasai, Ibn Abi Shaibah, Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Marduyah, Baihaqi and others have related from Hadrat Anas bin Malik, saying: "The Holy Prophet was among us. In the meantime he dozed; then he raised his head, smiling, according to some traditions, the people asked what for he was smiling, according to others, he himself told them that a Surah had just been revealed to him. Then, with Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim, he recited Surah Al-Kauthar; then he asked the people whether they knew what Kauthar was. When they said that Allah and his Messenger had the best knowledge, he said; It is a river which my Lord has granted me in Paradise." (The details follow under "Kauthar"). The basis of the reasoning from this tradition for this Surah's being Madani is that Hadrat Anas belonged to Madinah, and his saying that this Surah was revealed in his presence is a proof that it was Madani.
    But, in the first place, from this same Hadrat Anas, Imam Ahmad, Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Da'ud, Tirmidhi and Ibn Jarir have related the traditions which say that this river of Paradise (Al-Kauthar) had been shown to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) on the occasion of the mi`raj (ascension) and everyone knows that mi`raj had taken place at Makkah before the hijrah. Secondly, when during the mi`raj the Holy Prophet had not only been informed of this gift of Allah Almighty but also shown it, there was no reason why Surah Al-Kauthar should have be revealed at Madinah to give him the good news of it. Thirdly, if in an assembly of the Companions the Holy Prophet himself had given the news of the revelation of Surah Al-Kauthar which Hadrat Anas has mentioned in his tradition, and it meant that that Surah had been revealed for the first time then, it was not possible that well-informed Companions like Hadrat Aishah, Hadrat Abdullah bin Abbas and Hadrat Abdullah bin Zubair should have declared this Surah to be a Makki revelation and most of the commentators also should have regarded it as Makki. If the matter is considered carefully, there appears to be a flaw in the tradition from Hadrat Anas in that it does not say what was the subject under discussion in the assembly in which the Holy Prophet gave the news about Surah Al-Kauthar. It is possible that at that time the Holy Prophet was explaining something. In the meantime he was informed by revelation that that point was further explained by Surah Al-Kauthar, and he mentioned the same thing, saying that that Surah was revealed to him just then. Such incidents did take place on several occasions, on the basis of which the commentators have opined about certain verses that they were revealed twice. This second revelation, in fact, meant that the verse had been revealed earlier, but on some later occasion the Holy Prophet's attention was invited to it by revelation for the second time. In such traditions, the mention of the revelation of a certain verse is not enough to decide whether it was revealed at Makkah or Madinah, and when precisely it was revealed. (2)
    ------------------- Syed Qutb comments:
    "Similar to surahs 93 and 94, "The Forenoon" and "Solace", this surah exclusively concerns the Prophet, cheering him up and assuring him of happier prospects in his struggle. In it Allah threatens the enemies of the Prophet with destruction while directing the Prophet to the path of thanksgiving.
    "The surah represents a glimpse of the life of the Prophet and the course of his mission in the early period at Makka. It deals with the plots and insults directed against the Prophet and the Divine message he conveys. The surah is an instance of Allah's actual protection of His servant and the few who followed the Prophet and believed in Allah. It is an instance of Allah's direct support to the believers in their struggle, supplying them with fortitude, restraint and promise, while threatening a terrible fate to their antagonists.
    "In this way, the surah symbolises the reality of guidance, goodness and faith on the one hand and that of error, evil and disbelief on the other; the former category is one of abundance, profusion and expansive goodness, the latter one of scantiness, shrinking resources and annihilation.
    "Among the people of the Quraish (the Arab tribe which was dominant in Makka) there were some impudent folk who viewed the Prophet and his mission with no small degree of antagonism. They would resort to machinations and taunts against him to deter the people from listening to the Truth, which he conveyed to them in the form of a Divine message. Among them were people like Al-Aas ibn Wa'il, 'Uqba ibn Abi Mu'yat, Abu Lahab, Abu Jahl and others.
    "They used to say about the Prophet that he was a man with no posterity, referring to the early death of his sons. One of them once remarked, "Do not be bothered with him; he will die without descendants and that will be the end of his mission ."
    Such a trivial and cunning taunt had a wide impact in the Arab society of the time, which set great store by sons. This sharp taunt delighted the enemies of the Prophet and undoubtedly this was a source of depression and irritation to his noble heart. This surah was therefore revealed, comforting the Prophet and assuring him of the abiding and profuse goodness which Allah had chosen for him and of the deprivation and loss awaiting his persecutors.
    "Indeed We have given you abundance." The word used in the surah and rendered here as "abundance" is "kawthar", derived from the stem word "kathrah" which signifies "abundance" or "a multitude". This "kawthar" is unrestricted and unlimited. It indicates the opposite meaning to the one the impudent folk of Quraish tried to attach to the Prophet. " We have given you" that which is plentiful, overflowing and rich, unstinting and unending.
    If anyone wishes to pursue and observe this abundance which Allah has given to His Prophet, he would find it wherever he looks and reflects. He would find it in Muhammad's prophethood itself this link with the great Reality and the great Being, Who has no parallel and no partner. What indeed can the one who has found Allah be said to have lost?
    He would find it in this Qur'an which was revealed to Muhammad every chapter of which is a fountain of richness which flows incessantly.
    He would also find this kawthar or abundance manifest in the of the Prophet's Sunnah (way of life) throughout the centuries, in the far flung corners of the earth, in the millions upon millions who follow in his footsteps, in the millions upon millions who pronounce his name with respectful affection and the millions upon millions of hearts that cherish, and would cherish his example and memory even to the Day of Resurrection.
    He would also find this Kawthar or abundance manifest in the goodness and prosperity which have accrued to the human race as a result of his message, and which reach those who know and believe in him and those who do not. He would also discern this abundance in various and manifold phenomena, attempting to enumerate which would at best give only a passing feeling of a great reality.
    This indeed is abundance in its absolute unlimited sense. The surah therefore does not give it a specific definition. Several accounts relate that "al-Kawthar" is a river in Paradise granted to the Prophet but Ibn Abbas, a learned companion of the Prophet, contends that the river is but one part of the abundance which Allah has furnished for His Prophet. Keeping the circumstances and the whole context in mind, Ibn Abbas's view is the more valid. (3)
    -------------------Light of the Qur'an Commentary:
    Occasion of Revelation:
    The following is a story told about the occasion of the revelation of Sura Kauthar: `As-ibn-Wa'il, who was one of the chiefs of the pagans, met the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) coming out of the Sacred Mosque. He spoke with him (p.b.u.h.) for awhile. In the meantime, a group of authoritative men of the Quraish were sitting in the Mosque watching him from a distance. When `As-ibn-Wa'il entered the Mosque they asked him: "To whom were you speaking?" He answered: "With this abtar one".

    He used this word for the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) to taunt him, because he (p.b.u.h.) had two sons born of Lady Khadijah; Chasem and Taher (also called `Abdullah) who died in Mecca and so, there was no live male issue from the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.). Henceafter, the Qur'an applied this name to the enemies of the Prophet. [the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) had another son by the name of Abraham, born of Mariyah Qibtiyyah 8 A.H. He, too, died before he was 2 years old.]

    The Arabs used to call the one who had no son /abtar/, and `abtar' means `the animal whose tail is cut off'. So, then, it means the one whose succession in his seed has ceased, i.e., the one who has none to inherit him. To console the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.),this Sura was revealed with the glad tidings of the greatest amount or the highest degree of the grace of Allah, bestowed on him.

    Those people traditionally considered the male child extraordinarily valuable and thought of him as a substitute for the father. They happily imagined that with the demise of the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) his program would cease because he had no son to substitute him to continue it.

    The revelation of this Sura was, in fact, an answer to the enemies of the Apostle to inform them that Islam and the Qur'an would remain and ceaslessly continue, forever.
    "Surely (O Mohammad) We have given you abundance of good (Kauthar)."

    The term /kauthar/ is a descriptive case derived from /kathrat/ with the meaning of `a tot of goodness, or blessing'; while gracious persons are also called `Kauthar'.

    What is the purpose of using the term `Kauthar', here? A narration says that when the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) sat on the pulpit and recited this Sura, some of the companions asked him what it was that Allah had given him and he answered: "It is a stream in Heaven, whiter than milk, more clear than a goblet (of crystal) with dome-shaped ornaments from pearls and rubies..." 1

    Another tradition from Imam Sadiq (p.b.u.h.) says: "Kauthar is a stream in Heaven that Allah granted His Apostle for his son (who died in his lifetime)".

    Some have also said the purpose of using the word `Kauthar' is for the Pool of Abundance ( haud-i-kauthar ) that belongs to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) wherefrom the believers quench their thirst when arriving in Paradise." 2

    Some have commented on it as being 'prophecy' and some others as `the Qur'an',' still others as `abundance of the Prophet's companions and followers', or the `abundance of the descendants' all of whom came from his daughter, Fatimah Zahra (p.b.u.h.), and they multiplied to such an extent that it is impossible to count them. They are not only, now, but, until the advent of the Hereafter, the reminders of the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.). Some have also commented on it as being
    `intercession', narrating a tradition from Imam Sadiq (p.b.u.h.) in this connection, as a reference.

    Even, Fakhr-i-Razi has narrated fifteen different narrations on the meaning of `Kauthar'. But, it seems that most of them are the statements of the clear examples of this broad concept, because, as was mentioned before, `Kauthar' means `goodness and blessing in abundance'. and we know that Allah, the Graceful, granted the holy Prophet (p.h.u.h.) so many blessings so that each of those mentioned in the above is one clear example of them. There are also many other examples that may be cited as example commentaries for the verse.
    However, all the divine gifts granted to the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) in all aspects, even the victories in his expeditions against his enemies, and the scholars of his followers in the Muslim community, who guard the burning torch of Islam and Qur'an, in every period and age, and carry it throughout the world, all in all are involved in this `abundance of good'.

    It should not be forgotten that Allah revealed these verses to His Prophet's holy heart at the time when the manifestations of this `abundance of good' had not yet appeared. It was a miraculous piece of news which informed about the near future and the remote future regarding the legitimacy of the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.).
    This great blessing and the'abundance of good' needs a lofty thankfulness, although creatures can never thank the Creator for His blessings, fully, because even the success of being thankful is another blessing from Him which needs thankfulness. When it is so;
    "Therefore to your Lord turn in Prayer and Sacrifice".
    Yes, He is the One Who grants these blessings, therefore, prayer, worship and sacrifice, which is also a kind of worship, itself, have no meaning save for Allah particularly in regard to the meaning of the term Lord which indicates the constancy of grace, providence and Lordship of Providence.

    Briefly, `worship', in the form of prayer or making a sacrifice, is only the Lord's and Benefactor's privilege, and it is exclusively for the Pure Supreme Being.

    This refers to the behaviour of the pagans who used to prostrate and sacrifice to the idols while they knew their affluence belonged to Allah. And, in any case, the phrase `your Lord', used in the verse, is a clear evidence for the necessity of `intention with divine motive' in worship.

    Many commentators believe that the purpose, involved here, refers to the prayer on the Feast of Sacrifice, and making sacrifice on the same day. But, the meaning of the verse is apparently general and inclusive, even though prayer and sacrifice of the Feast on the day are of its clear examples.

    Perhaps, using the term /wanhar/ based on /natir/ , which is specific to butchering a camel, is for the reason that sacrificing a camel, amongst other offerings, enjoyed a higher importance for the Muslims of that time who liked it very much, and thus, its butchering was not possible without the showing of generosity.
    Here are two more commentaries on the above verse:
    1. The implied meaning of the phrase /wanhar/ is 'facing Qiblan (the direction of the Ka'ba) when saying a prayer', because the word /nahr/ originally means `throat' then, it has been used with the meaning of `standing in front of anything'.

    2. The purpose involved, here, is the `raising of the hands up to the throat and face'. A tradition says that when this Sura was revealed, the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) asked Gabriel: "What is this /nuhayrah/ that my Lord has commissioned me to do"?

    Gabriel said: "This is not /nuhayrah/. Allah has, however, commanded you to raise your hands at the beginning of prayer when you say /allahu akbar/ and when you are going to perform bowing or prostration and after that, because our prayer and that of the angels, in the seven heavens, are like this. Everything has an adornment and the adornment of prayer is raising the hands at the time of saying /allahu akbar/". (Majma'-al-Rayan, vol. 10, p. 550.)

    There is another tradition from Imam Sadiq (p.b.u.h.) who, on the commentary of this verse, indicating with his holy hands, said: "The purpose is that you raise your hands so that your palms be towards Qiblah (the direction of the Ka'ba) "(Majma'-al-Bayan, vol. 10, p. 550.)

    There is no problem in combining all these meanings, in particular, there are many Islamic narrations about raising the hands at the time of saying /allahu akbar/. Thus, the verse has such a vast meaning that it covers all of them. However, the first commentary is the most appropriate.
    In the last verse of this short Sura, regarding the taunts made by the chiefs of the pagans to that holy being, it says: "Surely your enemy is the one who will be without offspring".

    The term /sani'/ is derived from /sana'an/ with the meaning of 'enmity, spitefulness, and peevishness` ; and /sani'/ is the one who possesses these characteristics.

    It is worthy to note that /abtar/ originally means `the animal whose tail is cut off' and the enemies of Islam taunted the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) by saying this with the hope that after his departure from this world and having no son to inherit his position, the dissolution of Islam's sovereignty would happen. But, Qur'an, consoling the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) tells him that it is not him who will be without offspring, but surely his enemy is.
    Here, we encounter a very interesting discussion from Fakhr-i-Razi who, along with other commentaries on `Kauthor', says: "The third statement is that this Sura has been revealed to reject those who criticized the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) for his lack of progeny, therefore, the meaning of the Sura is that Allah shall give him a generation which will remain stable through all ages. And consider this, that although a number of Ahlul-Bait have been martyred, the world is replete with them, where as from the Ummayads (who were the enemies of Islam) there remains no mentionable figure in the world. Then, behold and see how many of the great men of leadership such as Baqir, sadiq, Rida, and Nafs-i-Zakiyyah...are found among them, (the household)."
    The Miracle of this Sura:
    This Sura virtually contains three important miraculous predictions. On the one hand, it informs the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) of the glad tidings of the `abundance of good', (although the verb /a'tayna/ is in the past tense form, but it may be as the indisputable tense common to the present and future which has been stated in the form of the past tense) and this `abundance of good' encompasses all victories and successes that were obtained, later, by the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.); were not predictable in Mecca at the time of the revelation of this Sura.

    On the other hand, the Sura foretells that the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) shall not be without posterity, and his generations and descendants shall exist abundantly in the world.

    The third prediction of the Sura is that the enemies of the Prophet (p.b.u.h) will be `abtar', i.e., without posterity. This, too, actually happened and those enemies were so rooted out that no trace of their generations can be seen today. Tribes such as the Ummayads and Abbasids, who opposed the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and his prophecy and who enjoyed such a population that their family and children could not be counted, today, of which there is not one of them to be introduced.

    Allah and the Plural Pronoun:
    It is noteworthy that, here, and in many other verses of the Holy Qur'an, Allah introduces Himself by the first person plural pronoun, thus: "Surely We have given you abundance of good (Kauthar)".

    This sense, and the likes of it, is for the expression of Glory and Power. because when the nobility talk about themselves, they announce not only themselves, but, also their commissionairs, and this refers to the power and nobility as well as to the presence of those in obedience along with the commands.

    In the verse under discussion the term /an/ is also another emphasis on this meaning and the phrase /a'taynaka/ `We have given you', rather than /ataynaka/, is an evidence to the fact that He has awarded him /kauthar/, which, itself, is a great glad tiding to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) in order to keep his holy heart aloof from annoyance resulting from the nonsensical remarks of the enemies, and, consequently, languor does not affect his firm determination, and for him to know that
    Allah is his support Who is the source of all welfare and grace in abundance.
    The virtue of Studying the Sura:
    On the virtue of the recitation of this Sura, a tradition from the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) says: "He who recites it (Sura Kauthar) Allah will quench his thirst from the streams of Heaven and will recompense him good rewards as many as the number of every sacrifice which the servants of Allah make on the day of the Feast of Sacrifice, together with those sacrifices which are of the People of the Book and the pagans." (Majma'-al-Bayan, vol. 10, p. 548.)