Circumstance of Revelation
A person whose male offspring died in infancy used to be referred to by the Arabs as “abtar”. When the son of Nabi , passed away the non-Muslims of Makkah began passing nasty remarks. A person by the name of Aas ibn Waail was the foremost from amongst such people. Whenever the name of Nabi was mentioned to him he would remark: “Leave him aside! He is not to be taken seriously because he is “abtar”. When he dies he will leave nobody behind to take his name.” In answer to this, Surah Kawthar was revealed.
It has also been narrated that Ka’b ibn Ashraf once came to Makkah. The non-Muslims of Makkah came to him and said: “Do you not see this man who claims to be better than us (spiritually) whereas we are the ones who serve the pilgrims and we are the custodians of the Ka’bah.” Ka’b replied: “No, you are better than him.” In refutation of this, Surah Kawthar was revealed.
Verse 1: Surely We have granted you Kawthar.
In order to honour Nabi , Allah granted him “Kawthar”. “Kawthar” literally means goodness in abundance. In the commentary, Al-Bahrul Muheet, twenty six different meanings of “Kawthar” have been mentioned in the context of this Surah. Some of these are prophethood, Islam, the Quran, wisdom, etc. Many scholars feel that all the bounties of this world and the Hereafter are included in “Kawthar”. According to some scholars “Kawthar” refers to a pond in the plains of Qiyaamah, called the Howdh Kawthar, which will be exclusively reserved for the Muslims to drink water therefrom. Its drinking utensils will equal the number of stars in the sky. The pond will be filled from the river of Kawthar which originates in Jannah. So many narrations of this river in paradise have been mentioned that we are convinced of its truth. According to a narration, its banks are of gold and its water is whiter than milk and sweeter than honey. (Bukhari) This gift of Kawthar far surpasses every other gift that a person may receive in this world. It is a gift which is eternal and unique to Nabi .
Verse 2: So, perform Salaah for your Lord and sacrifice.
Gratitude for such a great bounty (Kawthar) should be just as great. For this reason, two great forms of worship are commanded in this verse – Salaah and sacrifice. These two types of worship have been mentioned together at another place in the Quran also: ‘’Say: ‘Verily my Salaah, my sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah the Lord of the worlds.’ “ (Surah An’aam, 162)
Here a question may be posed. If Allah wanted gratitude why did He command Salaah and sacrifice instead? The answer is simple. Gratitude is expressed in three ways: acknowledgement with the heart, praise with the tongue and by engaging in physical actions. All of these three are combined in Salaah.
Another important point emerges from this verse. Nabi is commanded to perform Salaah and make sacrifice exclusively for Allah . In the days of ignorance the pagan Arabs used to worship and offer
sacrifices in the name of their idols. This verse makes it clear that Islam abhors worship of and sacrifice for deities other than Allah .
Verse 3: Certainly it is your enemy who will be cut off.
“Shaani” (enemy) refers to a person who bears enmity and criticises others. Here it refers to those non-Muslims like Aas ibn Wail, Ka’b ibn Ashraf and others who called Nabi “abtar” (cut off). It also refers to all those who abuse and vilify him until the day of Qiyaamah. In a single sentence Allah defended the honour of His beloved Nabi and informed his enemies that their insults apply better to themselves than to Nabi .
Those who assumed that Nabi’s message would come to an end were wrong. History proved this. Even though Nabi’s male offspring did not live to carry his name and lineage, he had many followers (spiritual children) who carried his message to all parts of the world. In fact, Nabi will have more followers than any Messenger before him.
Let alone Nabi’s name being forgotten, it is publicly announced five times a day from every masjid in the world. Millions of people send durood (salutations) upon him taking his blessed name hundreds of times daily. His words are taught from the mimbars and madrasahs. Every Muslim who is named Muhammad is actually expressing his gratitude to Nabi . How can he ever be cut off when the scholars draw from his knowledge, the martyrs are inspired by his bravery, the pious communicate with their Creator through his teachings, and when his message has illuminated every part of the world?
- Salaah is a foundational pillar of Islam. It is the distinguishing factor between Islam and disbelief.
- All worship should be done solely for Allah.
- The enemies of Islam and their propaganda will be forgotten with the passing of time, but the name and message of Nabi will remain forever.
An explanation of the short Surahs of the Quran
By Moulana Afzal Ismail