Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(rh)
Al-Nahl, Spring 1997
Following is an English rendering of the portion of the dars (commentary on the Holy Quran) which dealt with Surah Ikhlas, delivered by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IV, in the London Mosque on February 28, 1997, the last day of the month of Ramadhan. The dars was delivered in Urdu. The Urdu text was transcribed by Mrs. Saleema Ahmad, New York, NY. Al-Nahl is publishing this translation on its own responsibility.
This Surah (chapter), which is the one of the last three Surahs of the Quran, is called Surah Ikhlas, as the pure Tauheed (unity of God) which has been stated in this Surah, is not seen proclaimed anywhere else as proclaimed here. Unity of God has been proclaimed in the Quran but it is scattered in different chapters. The way the Tauheed is proclaimed in a perfect and continuous manner in this short chapter is not found in any other chapter.
As for other religions, even a fraction of such narration is not seen there. Other religions have mentioned the unity of God but the detail, the eloquence and the compilation used here in refuting everything contrary to unity is not seen anywhere else. The Promised Messiah, alaihissalaam, too, time and again, challenged the adversaries that they cannot bring out a narration of the perfect unity of God similar to the one in this Surah. The manner the unity of God is mentioned here, no equivalent of that is found anywhere else…
The (previous) commentaries circle around the explanation of the word ahad, explanation of Al-Samad and the wisdom of lam yalid and wa lam yulad and the explanation of kufuwan.
As for as the circumstance of revelation is concerned, I have again and again dismissed it during this discourse. Especially with respect to this Surah, if we discuss the circumstance of revelation, it will greatly damage its greatness and its universality. No damage can reach it (the Surah), but it will necessarily be a fruitless effort… Therefore, essentially there is no need to search for the circumstance of revelation.
This (Tauheed) is the fundamental issue of the Quran. Unity of God is the life of all faiths. God’s attributes cannot be imagined unless attached to Unity. Therefore, to narrate this issue by saying that this idolater came or that Jew came and he asked this question and this Surah was revealed in reply is a useless indulgence. It cannot be accepted in any condition. Therefore, I present a few brief comments with reference to the Surah.
First, there is the word ahad. “Proclaim God is One.” Two kind of meanings are found in the word one. One is helplessness and the other is carrying limitless power and being matchless.
A thing becomes one in two situations. If someone asks another, “How are you doing?” He says, “I am a helpless one, none is mine in this world.” This is to declare helplessness. And, another one is in the meaning of one in greatness. He does not need anyone. He is without a match. There is nothing like Him. We cannot imagine another being in the presence of His existence. If He is then everything is. No need exists for anything apart from Him. All these aspects concern being One.
And, the second verse after qul howallaaho ahad, which is allahossamad, it has narrated the whole aspect compositely in the word of samad, as assamd is called a rock which is so high and strong that even when there is the greatest of floods which would drown everything yet that rock will be visible standing out of it, and that is the only refuge and there is no other refuge during such storms.
So, the oneness of God is in the meaning of being without a parallel, and in the meaning of having the ability to be beneficial to all. He is One not in the meaning that there is no other creation apart from Him. If there is (other creation), it is created by Him. If there is (other creation), then He is its support; the guarantee of its existence is provided by Him, and when all its support is disconnected then there is only one support and that is the support of Allah. People do turn to Him again and again – and this is a natural testimony – and this testimony is engraved on every heart of every man. When all secondary support is cut off then even an unbeliever and a an atheist calls on God involuntarily.
Allahossamad, He is one but He is Samad also. You will always need Him. But He does not need you.
Additionally, another aspect has also been narrated, which is a pronouncement of regret for man. If we read samad in the meaning of samd, as rock, the aspect which is a part of this subject literally and lexically, that rock is generally abandoned. Until the world can find other supports, it does not care about the cliff, does not pay any attention to it. When they drown then they remember the rock. By chance, a high flying bird who is used to alighting on the (highest) cliffs, even when seen above there, the world will stay unaware of it. It is very unfortunate that God’s creature shows similar behavior towards its Creator. Only those high flying souls which soar to heights and have no delight in staying down, they develop a relationship with this summit, and through this relationship of theirs, they become visible to the rest of the world. Thus, all prophets have shined because of their relationship with God, the Almighty. Their fame, their eminence, and the spreading of their name in the whole world is just because of their relationship to Allah. No one would have known Ibrahim, alaihissalaam, if he did not have relations with the Samd. Who would have known Musa, alaihissalaam, if he did not have relation with the Samad. The Holy Prophet, sallallaho alaihi wasallam, attained fame in all times, and for ever, because he could not do without attaching himself to those high peaks. So, He is One, but invites everyone that whoever may desire can make use of His Eminence, but staying with him and not by staying away from him. As much farther away he is, so much is the chance that he may not reach the summit in time of despair.
Quran negates this danger relating to the summit that though the subject of the rock is similar but does not match the situation exactly. Rock is a lifeless item. A thing can benefit from it only by reaching it. But if the desire appears and God Himself reaches there then this simile separates itself from that of the rock, that is, that He is independent yet He is not indifferent. It (the word samad) also is translated as independent. He is independent in the meaning that if you turn your back and go away from Him, there will not be any effect on His exaltation or on His eminence. He does not need you. He will still be eternal and will yet stay eternal. He does not need you, but when you will need Him, He is not independent in the meaning that He will forget you and will not fulfill your need.
Wa idha sa-alalka ‘ebaadee ‘annee fa innee qaereeb (Al-Quran, 2 [Al-Baqarah] :187), O Mohammad when my servants ask you tell them that I am near. There is an exaltation in this for a person in need, if the simile of rock is used, that it does not stay away from any one. When need arrives, he calls and extends his hand while drowning, the rescuing hand, which is God’s hand, will descend from above. Thus, in these meanings, everyone is needy whether he is far or near, but a longing should appear in his bosom, a desire should develop in his heart, that may I meet Him. It is the perpetual relationship which bestows real eminence. Otherwise, even in the side of the rock, insects and such creatures reside, rather millions of their generations die rotting, but the nearness to the rock does not benefit them at all. For this reason, Quran has shown great regret in concern with sin among the janbillah (those at the side of Allah), that beware that it may not happen that you regret that you were in the nearness of God but yet you stayed unaware of Him and not only that but also committed improprieties concerning Him.
Nearness to God and distance from Him can exist simultaneously with regard to Allah ta’ala. Despite His nearness, He distances Himself when the world distances it from Him. Despite His distance, He draws near from far off: If the world calls on Him from distance, He reaches there.
This is the glory of these verses which manifests itself when these two verses are recited together.
Ahad includes the notion that none else exists. I have already explained the existence of creatures in view of this meaning.
If God is not God, an improbable assumption, there would be nothing. If and when God desires to destroy whatever portion of His creation, it would not affect His being at all. Thus, the concept of multiplicity while being ahad (one) is in this context. Consequently, the Quran has elaborated this aspect with reference to Hazrat Isa, alaihissalaam, and with reference to the Holy Prophet, sallallaho alaihe wasallam, himself that no one can restrain Him if He annihilates: it cannot alter His being and His eminence. These meanings propound a very elevated position of God’s true oneness in this respect.
It is a fact that the glory and the attributes with which the oneness of God was manifested to the human beings by the Holy Prophet, sallallaho alaihi wasallam, without that every other concept of the oneness of God was imperfect and incomplete and vacuums were evident in those concepts in every respect. The detail with which the attributes of the Exalted Creator manifested on the Holy Prophet, sallallaho alaihi wasallam, have not been manifested on any other prophet in the same way. No one else attained to the discernment of these attributes as did the Holy Prophet, sallallaho alaihi wasallam.
With respect to His creation, He is the only one with that glory and exaltation who can exhibit this elevated aspect that He can destroy the one from His creation which is most elevated in the eyes of His creation, without affecting His elevated being.
If we see the Almighty with the eyes of the world and not with the eyes of the Holy Prophet, sallallaho alaihi wasallam, God will look much smaller. The unlimited vastness of His greatness and eminence will disappear from our view.
Therefore, though from one angle, definitely God is not dependent on any one, yet the creation which is dependent on Him is also in need of those who have been made a waseelah (means) to reach Him. Thus. their intercession is not in the meaning of a partner. Setting up of partners disappeared due to their mediation. They became such means that they cleared themselves out of the way, and attributed all greatness only to Allah. When the greatnesses attached to these means were uttered, they were refuted. At an occasion, when there was a danger that someone was afraid of the Holy Prophet, sallallaho alaihe wasallam, and was trembling, thinking of him as greater than a human being, he made him understand affectionately that he was an ordinary human being and was born of a mother like that person was born of a mother.
Thus, these are the meanings which the Holy Quran presents with regard to the Holy Prophet, sallallaho alaihi wasallam, that guiding towards the oneness of God, he himself disappeared from in between so that none of his self was visible, Qul inna salaati wa nosoki wa mahyaaya wa mamaati lillah rabbil-aalameen (Al-Quran, 6 [Al-An’am]: 163) (Say, ‘My Prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.’), and again, wamaa ramaita idh ramaita walakinnallaaha ramaa (Al-Quran, 8 [Al-Anfal]: 18) (And thou threwest not when thou didst throw, but it was Allah Who threw). He directed fingers towards tauheed and pointed them in such a way that tauheed became visible through a transparent body and that transparent personage disappeared from in between.
The perfect tauheed stays perfect in these meanings too, and prophets despite being a means do not interfere. If they interfere then they will not be prophets.
Thus the subject of tauheed which has arisen with reference to the Holy Prophet, sallallaaho alaihe wasallam, cannot arise with any other reference.
The way Holy Quran has safeguarded tauheed, no other book has safeguarded tauheed the same way: they have neither mentioned tauheed in such multiplicity nor have they pointed out to our responsibilities in this respect.
Lam yalid wa lam yulad: Lam ya lid means that He was not borne. Previously it has been mentioned that He is one. If He has not borne then where from all these bodies have appeared? What this means is that He has not borne a being similar to himself, i.e., tauheed is to remain perfect, because this is the difference between creation and offspring. Whatever color the creation carries of the creator is like a stamp but not in the meaning of equality. It is not necessary for a creation that all attributes of the creator appear in them or be visible – presence of their sign is enough. A creator does not create one similar to him in his creation. The great artists of the world have left great works of art. They are visible in those arts but not with the shape and form which they themselves had. Their art does not have their mind, neither does it have the ability of the same vision or hearing, nor do they carry that elevated creativity from which that art was born. This is the difference in creation and birth.
A similar form appears in birth. If the one who gave birth has vision then so does the one who is borne. If the one who bears can hear then so does the one who is borne. If the one who bears carries intellect then the one who is borne also carries intellect. The similarity does not exist in the same meaning in the case of creation. If a creator is a creator of such perfection that he can produce one with eyes, vision, and intellect then he will yet not be like it and there will be a clear difference between them. It is apparent from the design and scheme of the life created by the Exalted God that it does not necessitate that His creation be like Him. Man has reached this present stage after passing through an extended period of birth. At every previous step, he was yalid and also was yulad, he gave birth and was given birth. When Allah ta’ala introduced Himself, He said, lam yalid wa lam yulad, that My creation which apparently thinks, sees, and also hears, is in no shape or form like Me: every one of them is born and one who is born also bears and is borne, and when he does not bear, he becomes imperfect. On the other hand, My perfection is in not giving birth, while the creation becomes imperfect if does not bear.
This is a pointed difference between the creator and the creation even when the creation carries intellect. Coming of the similar one again is part of birth though there can be differences in details. Alwalado sirrun alaa abeehi, son is the secret of his father – of his mother and father together. He carries thoughts similar to those of his parents, and behavior, and capabilities. He is given birth so also gives birth in turn. If he cannot (bear) then he is imperfect because mother and father could bear but he lost this ability.
Allah the Almighty has shown clearly the difference of creation and birth splendidly and in detail. Lam yalid wa lam yulad, He does not bear and therein is His splendor. He is not borne and therein is His splendor. There is no tauheed beyond this concept because whoever bears, his progeny will carry his colors. Pure tauheed cannot be apprehended if someone leaves his child behind. The children can be inferior or superior as the basic attributes are common. There is possibility that they may advance ahead of the father while passing through stages of evolutionary progress as their basic attributes are similar. The humans carry imperfection as they carry half the attributes and not all … If God does not bear it is not because He is not able to due to an imperfection but rather if He had borne, it would have given way to an imperfection. He did not have a father, and a fatherless bears one who has a father, that thing will be imperfect and will for sure fall one step behind the one who bore it. If the father were not borne, and he bears a son or a daughter, his unity will immediately deteriorate.
If you ponder on these verses deeply in this respect, nothing is left of Christianity. In the presence of this verse, no son or daughter or father or relative can be thought of (for the Almighty). This is the eminence and this is the subject of tauheed.
If we consider the philosophical approach, all prominent philosophers have rejected (Christian notion) as giving birth points to limited lifetime and that any one with limited lifetime will see a beginning and cannot be eternal… This is a fact and there in no doubt in it.
Thus, the subject of eternity and being for ever is related to lam yalid wa lam yulad and there cannot be no eternal being without this (condition).
If there is no eternal being then even we are not as we are mortal. A thing which is mortal came into existence at some time. It is in need of an eternal being for bringing it into existence. Thus, the Quran addresses the atheists and it is an argument which breaks their back, that were you not born of a thing which was nothing. You are born, and you are not eternal, therefore, if there in no God then there was nothing. How did you come into existence from nothing. So how did you come into being from nothing. From what did you come into existence? Either you are your own creators. If you are your own creator, then you are eternal, then being eternal how did you create yourselves? This argument is absolutely conclusive and utterly shatters atheism, and is related in this revered verse.
Wa lam ya kullahoo kofowan ahad: It is quite possible that the matters which I have presented before you in brief are based on conclusive and comprehensive arguments which are irrefutable, yet a doubt can arise that if there does exist an eternal being then is it not possible that there be two of such eternal beings. Intellectually there in no answer to it. There is no reason that why there could not be two or three such eternal beings. It is possible that all of them be eternal. Allah ta’ala replies by saying lam yakullahoo kofowan ahad. Observe the universe. You will not find any being carrying the attributes of God. Whatever matter exists, and whatever shapes it exists in, you can search everything which can be termed as an existence, you will not see any Godly attributes in them. In particular, will be missing in them the eternity and being for ever.
There is no kufw (of Him). We use kufw in matrimonial matters. Relationship should be sought in kufw. Some kufw of a person does exist somewhere. If the relationship is established in kufw, both will be delighted despite their deficiencies and imperfections. Marriage outside kufw becomes troublesome. One suffers due to superiority and the other suffers due to inferiority. Absence of His kufw also concerns His not having a female companion. (God) says, when there in no kufw then He could not bear children without a parallel kufw and what ever will be born because a relationship with a non-parallel kufw will be defective. (Additional) argument is hidden in the argument. A series of argument has been narrated in these short verses. Kofowan ahad is an argument without a rejoinder. Show if there is anything in the whole universe, the sun or the moon, bearing the attributes of God. This is the argument used by Hazrat Ibrahim, alaihissalaam. Said to the opponent, well, this one is shining, this could be my God. When it set, (he said,) this is imperfect, is no more, one who sets cannot be God because there no decline for God. With reference to the universe, everything about which anyone imagines divinity, can be definitely proved not to be God in this fashion, because of the absence of the attributes which are the attributes of God.
This is the surah which is called Surah Ikhlas. Another meaning of Ikhlas is narrated by saying that a description of tauheed better than this has not been related anywhere else. Additionally, in my view, the wisdom in giving it the name of Al-Ikhlas is that if you want to be mukhlis for His faith, then you cannot be purely dedicated to His faith without this surah. The negation of everything unrealted to God is carried out so completely in this surah, that without delving into its contents, and without implementing them on your hearts and bodies, none of your worships can be purely for His faith or purely for Him, because, where ever there will be a flaw in understanding of this subject, right there someone from outside of the Divine will become a partner in your worship. Giving it the name of Ikhlas alerts us that if you initiate your worships pondering on this surah, then your worship will continue becoming purer, step by step, until all the subjects narrated in this surah start circulating in every vein and fiber (of your body) and become a part of your existence.