Note: This is post #16 in our series on Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma.
Allah says, in Surah Al-Kauthar:
إِنَّا أَعْطَيْنَاكَ الْكَوْثَرَ
فَصَلِّ لِرَبِّكَ وَانْحَرْ
إِنَّ شَانِئَكَ هُوَ الْأَبْتَرُ
Translation: Indeed, We have granted you, [O Muhammad], al-Kawthar. So pray to your Lord and sacrifice [to Him alone]. Indeed, your enemy is the one cut off. [Surah Kawthar, verse 1-3]
Many of you know the hadith where the Messenger of Allah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) was napping under a tree, and he woke up, smiling; and he said, Allah revealed to me this surah.
Interestingly, the ‘ulama have discussed this–is it possible that Allah sends revelation in a dream? The answer is, surprisingly, no; of the 6-7 ways, the most common is through Jibreel (alayhi salaam). Even here, there’s no indication that the surah was revealed through a dream–perhaps Jibreel (alayhi salaam) came to the Prophet once he had woken, and revealed it to him. (For more information, check our posts on Route 114: Uloom Al-Qur’an)
In verse 1, Allah says: Inna ‘ataynaaka al-kawthar. These two words allude to an enormous giver, giving an enormous gift. Allah could’ve just said: ataytuka al-kawthar; but that would’ve been weak, human speech. Instead, he uses inna–emphasis, and refers to himself in the “royal we” (something we have in English, too).
And Allah mentions, al-kawthar … kawthar of what? The ‘ulama mention two opinions: that kawthar is a river in Paradise. There’s an authentic hadith, where the Messenger of Allah says:
دَخَلْتُ الْجَنَّةَ فَإِذَا أَنَا بِنَهْرٍ حَافَتَاهُ خِيَامُ اللُّؤْلُؤِ، فَضَرَبْتُ بِيَدِي إِلَى مَا يَجْرِي فِيهِ الْمَاءُ، فَإِذَا مِسْكٌ أَذْفَرُ، قُلْتُ: مَاهَذَا يَا جِبْرِيلُ؟ قَالَ: هَذَا الْكَوْثَرُ الَّذِي أَعْطَاكَهُ اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَل
Translation: The Messenger of Allah said: I entered Paradise and I came to a river whose banks had tents made of pearls. So I thrust my hand into its flowing water and found that it was the strongest (smell) of musk. So I asked, “O Jibreel! What is this?” He replied, “This is Al-Kawthar which Allah, the Mighty and Majestic has given you.” [Saheeh Bukhari and Saheeh Muslim]
And Kawthar, comes from the same word as katheerah (lots); so it means, a lot. Other ‘ulama said that kawthar means, a LOT. And when Allah says “we gave you kawther,” it’s … kawther of what? Kawther of everything. If you look at the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam), in almost every field, he was blessed with a LOT–although he chose to live a simple life. It’s like a blank cheque!
Then in verse two, Allah says: Pray to YOUR Lord, and sacrifice (to him). The “to him” (lahu), is dropped; and this is from the eloquence of the Qur’an. (If you don’t get it, don’t worry about it.)
One theme that runs through the Qur’an–anytime Allah ascribes something to Himself, that shows the great honour and nobility of that thing. So Allah here, is honouring His prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam).
Before we go on, in verse three, Allah mentions “the one who hates you.” From the depths of tafseer, we learn that this is Al-‘Aas, the father of the famous companion Amr ibn Al-Aas (radiallahu ‘anhu). Verse two is almost a slight at him–that “you worship rocks and sticks, and I worship rabbal ‘alameen, the Lord of the universe.”
And from the humiliation of this person, Al-‘Aas, is that he’s not even mentioned–Allah said, “the one who hates you,” inna shaaniaka, huwa al-abtaar. Al-‘Aas used to say: “Muhammad is cut off, and in a few years, nobody will know him or remember him.” (Because the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) didn’t have any sons.) But in fact, it’s Al-‘Aas who is the real one who is cut off–the only reason we know of him is because of his son.
Another benefit of the generality: anyone who follows the path of Al-‘Aas, will meet the same ending as him. Any orientalist, any person, regardless of who they are.
And notice the refutation comes in verse three–at the end of the Surah! What do we learn from this? Don’t get caught up in refutations. That’s not the right methodology of giving da’wah–and anyone who’s done so can affirm this. You might refute refute refute, and then the person walks away without Islam anyway.
One lesson we can see is that, when you give da’wah, you will be tested. It happened to the prophets, it happened to the righteous people of old; it will happen to you. Expect it, and prepare for it.
And finally … there are three types of people in the world: People who are remembered for their good (like the Prophets, the khulafa rashideen, the sahaba, the ‘ulama); people who are remembered for their evil (like Firawn, Rustum, Hitler); and those who–the majority of people–are forgotten. Don’t be from those who are remembered for their evil. Work the good work, and insha’Allah leave the rest to Allah.
Wallahu ta’ala ‘alam.
- Two Types of ‘Ibaadah: Verse 2 mentions two types of ‘ibaadah–badaniyyah (of the body–like salah), and maaliyyah (of the wealth–like sacrificing a sheep). Which ‘ibadaat combine BOTH of these two types of ‘ibaadah together? Share it in the comments!
- Hook it up: There are no other action items for this surah; if you have some, post them in the comments insha’Allah and share them with everybody.
- Touched by an Angel: Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma. By Muhammad Alshareef. 2009.
- Tafseer ibn Katheer online: Tafseer of Surah Al-Kauthar
- Yasir Qadhi. Lecture. AlMaghrib. Route 114: Qur’anic Sciences. University of Toronto, Scarborough Campus, March 2008.