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Surah Al-Kauthar

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Maududi's Commentry (Tafseer) on Surah Al-Kauthar

Mecca Mecca (15)
3Total Ayat: 3
1Total Ruku: 1


The Surah has been so designated after the word al-kauthar occurring inthe first verse.

Period of Revelation

Ibn Marduyah has cited Hadrat Abdullah bin Abbas, Hadrat Abdullah binaz-Zubair and Hadrat Aishah as saying that this Surah is Makki. Kalbiand Muqatil also regard it as Makki, and the same is the view held bythe majority of commentators. But Hadrat Hasan Basri, Ikrimah, Mujahidand Qatadah regard it as Madani. Imam Suyuti in Al-Itqan has confirmedthis same view, and Imam Nawawi in his commentary of the Sahih ofMuslim has also preferred the same. The reason for this assumption isthe 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 heraised his head, smiling, according to some traditions, the peopleasked what for he was smiling, according to others, he himself toldthem that a Surah had just been revealed to him. Then, with Bismillahir-Rahman ir-Rahim, he recited Surah Al-Kauthar; then he asked thepeople whether they knew what Kauthar was. When they said that Allahand his Messenger had the best knowledge, he said; It is a river whichmy Lord has granted me in Paradise." (The details follow under"Kauthar"). The basis of the reasoning from this tradition for thisSurah's being Madani is that Hadrat Anas belonged to Madinah, and hissaying that this Surah was revealed in his presence is a proof that itwas Madani.

But, in the first place, from this same Hadrat Anas, ImamAhmad, Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Da'ud, Tirmidhi and Ibn Jarir have relatedthe traditions which say that this river of Paradise (Al-Kauthar) hadbeen shown to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) on the occasion ofthe mi`raj (ascension) and everyone knows that mi`raj had taken place atMakkah before the hijrah. Secondly, when during the mi`raj the HolyProphet had not only been informed of this gift of Allah Almighty butalso shown it, there was no reason why Surah Al-Kauthar should have berevealed at Madinah to give him the good news of it. Thirdly, if in anassembly of the Companions the Holy Prophet himself had given the newsof the revelation of Surah Al-Kauthar which Hadrat Anas has mentionedin his tradition, and it meant that that Surah had been revealed forthe first time then, it was not possible that well-informedCompanions like Hadrat Aishah, Hadrat Abdullah bin Abbas and HadratAbdullah bin Zubair should have declared this Surah to be a Makkirevelation and most of the commentators also should have regarded itas Makki. If the matter is considered carefully, there appears to be aflaw in the tradition from Hadrat Anas in that it does not say whatwas the subject under discussion in the assembly in which the HolyProphet gave the news about Surah Al-Kauthar. It is possible that atthat time the Holy Prophet was explaining something. In the meantimehe was informed by revelation that that point was further explained bySurah Al-Kauthar, and he mentioned the same thing, saying that thatSurah was revealed to him just then. Such incidents did take place onseveral occasions, on the basis of which the commentators have opinedabout certain verses that they were revealed twice. This secondrevelation, in fact, meant that the verse had been revealed earlier,but on some later occasion the Holy Prophet's attention was invited toit by revelation for the second time. In such traditions, the mentionof the revelation of a certain verse is not enough to decide whetherit was revealed at Makkah or Madinah, and when precisely it wasrevealed.

Had this tradition of Hadrat Anas not been there to causedoubt, the whole content of the Surah Al- Kauthar by itself bearsevidence that it was revealed at Makkah, and in the period when theHoly Prophet was passing through extremely discouraging conditions.

Historical Background

Before this in Surahs Ad-Duha and Alam Nashrah we have seen that when inthe earliest phase of Prophethood the Holy Prophet (upon whom bepeace) was passing through the most trying conditions when the wholenation had turned hostile, there was resistance and opposition onevery side, and the Holy Prophet and a handful of his Companions didnot see any remote chance of success. Allah in order to console andencourage him at that time had sent down several verses. In Surah Ad-Duha it was said: "And surely the later period (i. e. every laterperiod) is better for you than the former period, and soon your Lordshall give you so much that you shall be well pleased". In SurahAlam Nashrah: "And We exalted your renown for you."That is, "Though theenemies are trying to defame you throughout the country, We, on thecontrary, have arranged to exalt your name and fame."And: "The fact isthat along with every hardship there is also ease."That is, "Youshould not be disheartened by the severity of conditions at this time;this period of hardships will soon pass, and the period of success andvictory will follow."

Such were the conditions in which Allah bysending down Surah Al-Kauthar consoled the Holy Prophet as well asforetold the destruction of his opponents. The disbelievingQuraish said: "Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace) is cut off fromhis community and reduced to a powerless and helpless individual.According to Ikrimah when the Holy Prophet was appointed a Prophet,and he began to call the people to Islam, the Quraish said: "Muhammad(upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) is cut off from his peopleas a tree is cut off from its root, which might fall to the ground anymoment." (Ibn Jarir). Muhammad bin Ishaq says: "Whenever the Prophet(upon whom be peace) was mentioned before As bin Wa'il as-Sehmi, thechief of Makkah, he used to say: Let him alone for he is only achildless man (abtar) with no male offspring. When he dies, there willbe no one to remember him." Shamir bin Atiyyah says that Uqbah bin AbiMu'ait, also used to say similar things about the Holy Prophet, (IbnJarir). According to Ibn Abbas, once Ka'b bin Ashraf (the Jewish chiefof Madinah) came to Makkah and the Quraish chiefs said to him: "Justsee this boy, who is cut off from his people; he thinks he is superiorto us, whereas we manage the Hajj, look after the Ka'bah and water thepilgrims." (Bazzar). Concerning this very incident Ikrimah reportsthat the Quraish had used the words as-sunbur al-munbatir min qaumi-hi(a weak, helpless and childless man who is cut off from his people)for the Holy Prophet. (Ibn Jarir) Ibn Sa'd and lbn Asakir have relatedthat Hadrat Abdullah bin Abbas said; "The eldest son of the HolyProphet (upon whom be peace) was Qasim; next to him was Zainab, nextto her Hadrat Abdullah and next to him three daughters, viz. UmmKulthum, Fatimah and Ruqayyah. Of them first Hadrat Qasim died andthen Hadrat Abdullah. Thereupon As bin Wail said: "His line has cometo an end: now he is abtar (i. e. cut of from root)."Some traditionsadd that As said "Muhammad is abtar: he has no son to succeed him.When he dies, his memory will perish and you will be rid of him."Thetradition from Ibn Abbas, which Abd bin Humaid has related, shows thatAbu Jahl also had said similar words on the death of the HolyProphet's son, Abdullah. Ibn Abi Hatim has related on the authority ofShmir bin Atiyyah that the same kind of meanness was shown by Uqbahbin Abi Mu'ait by rejoicing at this bereavement of the Holy Prophet.Ata says that when the second son of the Holy Prophet died, his ownuncle, Abu Lahab (whose house was next to his) hastened to the pagansand gave them the "good news": Batira Muhammadun al-lail:"Muhammad hasbecome childless this night, or he is cut off from root."

Such werethe disturbing conditions under which Surah Al-Kauthar was sent down.The Quraish were angry with him because he worshiped and served onlyAllah and repudiated their idolatry publicly. For this very reason hewas deprived of the rank, esteem and honor that he enjoyed among hispeople before Prophethood and was now as cut off from his community.The handful of his Companions also were helpless, poor people who werebeing persecuted and tyrannized. Furthermore, he was bereaved by thedeath of two sons, one after the other, whereat the near relatives andthe people of his clan, brotherhood and neighborhood were rejoicingand uttering such words as were disheartening and disturbing for anoble person who had treated even his enemies most kindly. At thisAllah just in one sentence of this brief Surah gave him the good news,better news than which has never been given to any man in the world,besides the decision that it will be his opponents who will be cut offfrom their root and not he.

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