By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam
2 Jan 2015
Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem
Inna a 'taina ka-l-Kawthar
Fa salli li-Rabbi-ka wa-nhar
Inna shani' a-ka huwa-l-abtar
In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.
Lo! We have granted you Al-Kauthar (abundance, a river in Paradise);; So pray unto thy Lord, and sacrifice. Lo! It is thy insulter (and not thou) who is without posterity.
Reason for revelation (Shan-e-Nuzul)
One of the chief pagans in Mecca, Aas Bin Wail met the Prophet (pbuh) on his return from the Ka’aba. After he had a brief conversation with the Prophet (pbuh), he went straight to the chieftains of Quraish tribe who were present around the Ka’aba. When Aas bin Wail met them, they posed a question to him: To whom you were talking? He replied: “to the man who is abtar”. Arabs would call the person who had no son “abtar”. It actually refers to the person who leaves no heir behind him. The pagans began to use this word for the prophet (pbuh) after the demise of his son. Influenced by the pre-Islamic Jahiliyah (ignorance), the Arabs were accustomed to give greater preference to a son than a daughter. It was believed that only a son could carry on with the mission of the father after his death. Therefore, after the demise of the Prophet’s son, the Quraish thought that the cause of the Prophet (pbuh) would come to an end. It is noteworthy that the Prophet (pbuh) had two sons by the names: Qasim and Tahir. They were born to his first wife Hazrat Khadija (r.a), but both of them died at an early age while the Prophet was still in Mecca.
On this occasion, Surah Kauthar was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to console his soul giving him a glad tiding. He is told in the first verse of this Surah that an abundance of infinite bounty, unconditional love, unlimited bliss, wisdom, spiritual intellect and all goodness have been bestowed upon the Prophet (pbuh). The name of this Surah (Al-Kauthar) has been taken from the first verse of it, which reads: “(O Muhammad pbuh) Verily, We have granted you Al-Kauthar” (108:1).
An Important Point to be Taken
Before one proceeds to fathom the different meanings of this verse, one thing is crystal clear. Besides abundance and growth in all degrees of goodness, one of the glad tidings in this verse is related to the progeny that has been bestowed upon the Prophet (pbuh) with his daughter Hazrat Fatima (r.a). Surprisingly enough, it was first time in the history of Arabia that the descendants of a leader were attributed to his daughter rather than his son. This was indeed a revolution in the patriarchal and misogynist Arab society where only the sons could deserve to be legitimate heirs of their father. Daughters were wholly deprived of this basic human right.
Discussing the divergent commentaries on the Surah Kauthar, the authoritative Sunni exegete and theologian Imam Fakhruddin al-Razi, also known as Shaikh al-Mushakkikin (the guide of the skeptics) writes: “this Surah was revealed to cast away those who were criticising the Prophet (pbuh) for not having a male child. According to the meaning of this Surah, the Merciful God is consoling the Prophet (pbuh) that his progeny will remain till the period of history. In the light of this verse, Muslims have to take cognizance of the fact that the family members of the holy Prophet (pbuh) have been killed or martyred throughout the history. But still, as the verse announces, the blessed family of the Prophet (pbuh) is flourishing the world over” (al-Tafseer al-Kabeer lil Imam al-Razi).
Thus, there is a deep rationale behind this “abundance” (Kauthar) that can be understood in its proper historical and social context. But it was no wonder that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) revolutionized the male-chauvinist society with his female progeny, because God had already announced to his Prophet (pbuh): “And soon your Lord will give you, and you will be satisfied” (93:5).
An Array of Commentaries on al-Kauthar
Surah al-Kauthar has been discussed and explained in both the mainstream Sunni and Shia tafsir and more especially in Sufi mystical exegesis of the Qur’an. The Qur’an exegetes of all the different schools of thought in Islam have produced myriad commentaries regarding the true essence of the term ‘Kauthar’ mentioned in this verse. However, they unanimously agree that the abstract connotation of the word ‘Kauthar’ is abundance in progeny and posterity. Although there is a wide array of opinions on the real implication of the term, all exegesis of this Qur’anic verse conclude that it essentially refers to the “endless abundance of goodness” (108:1).
Speaking from the mystical interpretation of the Qur’an, the most notable Sufi interpreters of this verse were the 18th-century Moroccan saint of Sufi Sunni Islamic lineage, Ahmad ibn 'Ajiba (1747–1809), well-known Persian Islamic scholar and author of Tafseer al-Baidawi Allama Abdallah ibn Umar (1226-1260) and the authoritative medieval Shiite exegete of the Qur’an Mahmud ibn Umar Al-Zamakhshari(1074-1144), who subscribed to the Muʿtazilite theological doctrine. They came up with certain spiritual allusions to the ‘abundant goodness’ (Kauthar ) of the Prophet (pbuh) and expanded the verse using Sufi doctrines and precepts, uniting the scriptural words seamlessly with mystical language and experience.
A number of Sufism-inspired and spiritually inclined commentators of this Qur’anic verse maintain that the above verse has endless meanings and connotations. One of them is that Allah bestowed upon the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) generosity of spirit, richness of soul and goodness at heart. Therefore, in his lofty prophetic vision, gold was worthless like a small potsherd. Whosoever is blessed with the special attention of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), he/she becomes wealthy and genersous at heart. It is also mentioned in the Ahadith (prophet’s sayings) that Allah made him wealthy for a special reason: “When we found you a family man, we gave you wealth so that you would be able to take care of your family”. It is stated in a Hadith reported by Imam Bukhari that Allah said to the Prophet (peace be upon him): “Take care of your family”. The Arabic word “Ayaal” in this hadith means ‘family’. It is derived from the root word in Arabic ‘Aaul’ and not from ‘Eilah’. Thus, it implies that the entire creation is the family of the Prophet (peace be upon him). He was sent to take care of the entire creation, not just his own family, relatives and friends.
In this context, it is worth mentioning that nearly all the prophets were born poor except the four of them namely, Hazrat Ibrahim (Abraham), Hazrat Sulayman (Solomon), Hazrat Dawood (David) and Hazrat Yusuf (Joseph) (peace be upon them all). But, remarkably, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was both poor as well as wealthy. He was sent as an epitome of the collective qualities and traits of all the earlier prophets. For his mission was the reaffirmation and reinvigoration of the earlier prophets’ messages. Since the Prophet (pbuh) was himself an orphan, he was virtually aware of the inflictions and hardships experienced by the orphans. In the era of ignorance, the pagans of Arabia would oppress the orphans by depriving them of their wealth and property. The Prophet (pbuh) not only stopped the unlawful devouring of the orphans’ wealth, but also strongly forbade every act of scolding or chiding to them. Earlier, the Arabs would beat them up in a brutal manner for their nefarious gains. Much in the same way, today in Indian Muslim community, the minor children are deprived of their lawful inheritance from their ancestral property. However, the Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) commands that if the deceased leaves behind minor children, it is haram (completely forbidden) to spend from their wealth on even the Kafan (shroud of the deceased), let alone other things.
It is noteworthy that Allah the Almighty did not send the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in an aristocratic or financially sound family. Rather, he was born at a time when his family was in a state of poverty. It was so because no one could falsify that the advent and spread of Islam were funded by his wealth or supported by the government at that time. In fact, Allah helped and made him generous through the wealth of his beloved wife, Ummul Mu’mineen Khadija, his closest friend Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddique and the third Caliph Hazrat Usman Ghani (May Allah be pleased with them) who were impressed by his noble character and hence became the first ambassadors of Islam. From this, we get to learn that Hazrat Khadija (r.a) and Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddique (r.a) were fortunate enough to have been chosen by Allah for the moral and financial support of the Prophet (pbuh). These people were truly fortunate and greatly blessed in rendering paramount services to Islam.
In addition, the verse also means that Allah the Almighty made the Prophet (pbuh) abundantly rich and affluent by assigning to him all the keys of the treasures both in the earth and heaven. In fact, Allah made His prophet the spiritual master of His earth and heaven, as He says: “O Beloved! Verily, We have bestowed upon you an abundance of good” (Surah al-Kauthar 108: 01). In this regard, the holy Qur’an further says: “Allah and His Messenger enriched them out of His Grace (Surah 9: Verse 74). Similarly, the Prophet pbuh says: “I have been given the keys of the treasures of the earth”. On another occasion, he is reported to have said: “If I so desire, the mountains of Gold will walk with me”.
In fact, there has not been and will never be any person wealthier than the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the true sense of the word. In a nutshell, there is no limit to his God-gifted wealth. On the other hand, Allah says to all other kings of the world: “You are poor and needy” (Surah 47: Verse 38).
Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a classical Islamic scholar, English-Arabic-Urdu writer, and a Doctoral Research Scholar, Centre for Culture, Media & Governance (JMI Central University). After graduation in Arabic (Hons.), he has done his M. A. in Comparative Religions & Civilizations and a double M.A. in Islamic Studies from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org