The Surah has been so designated after the word ‘Al-Kauthar’ occurring in the first ayah.
Period of Revelation:
Ibn Marduyah has cited Abdullah bin Abbas, Abdullah bin az-Zubair and Aishah radhiAllahu ‘anhum as saying that is a Makki Surah. Kalbi and Muqatil also regard it as Makki, and the same is the view held by the majority of commentators. Hasan Basri, Ikrimah, Mujahid and Qatadah regard it as Madani. Imam Nawawi in his commentary of the Saheeh Muslim has also preferred the same.
The reason for this assumption is the tradition which traditionists of the rank of Imam Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Dawood, Nasai, Ibn Abi Shaibah, Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Marduyah, Baqihaqi and others have related from Anas bin Maalik, saying, “The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was among us. In the meantime dozed; then he raised his head, smiling, according to some traditions, the people asked what for he was smiling, according to others, he himself told them that a Surah had just been revealed to him. Then, with Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem, he recited Surah Al-Kauthar; then he asked the people whether they knew what Kauthar was. When they said that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and His Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had the best knowledge, he said, It is a river which my Lord has granted me in Paradise.”
The basis of the reasoning from this Surah being Madani is that Anas bin Maalik radhiAllahu ‘anhu belonged to Madina and his saying that this Surah was revealed in his presence is a proof that it was Madani. However, if we accept Anas bin Maalik’s views, then one wonders why would well-informed Companions likes Aishah, Abdullah bin Abbas and Abdullah bin Zubair declare it to be Makki. So, there is a disagreement between the commentators regarding its being a Makki Surah or a Madani and there is no need for us to get into it as the content of Surah matters more to us.
In the earliest phase of Prophethood, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had to experience quite tough situations. The whole nation had turned against him and hostile in their behavior. There was resistance and opposition everywhere; signs of being successful in the mission assigned to him were bleak.
The Quraysh used to mock at the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and say bad things about him. Some of those are being mentioned below:
– The Quraysh used to say Muhammad is cut off from his community and reduced to a powerless and helpless individual.
– According to Ikrimah when the Prophet was given Prophethood, and he began to call people to Islam, the Quraysh said, “Muhammad is cut off from his people as a tree is cut off from its root, which might fall to the ground any moment.” (Ibn Jarir)
– As bin Wa’il as-Sehmi, the chief of Makkah used to say, “Let him alone for he is only a childless man with no male offspring. When he dies there will be no one to remember him.” (Muhammad bin Ishaq)
– Once Ka’b bin Ashraf, the Jewish chief of Madina came to Makkah and the Quraysh chiefs said to him, “Just see this boy who is cut off from his people. He thinks he is superior to us whereas we manage the Hajj, look after the Ka’abah and water the pilgrims.” (Ibn Abbas)
When Prophet’s sons died, the Quraysh hastened to give each other ‘the good news’. This was the kind of meanness shown towards the Prophet. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was in bereavement and his Companions were being persecuted and tyrannized. They were few in number, powerless and poor. His relatives were cutting ties with him and rejoicing at his condition. Such an attitude was quite disheartening for a nobleman who treated even his enemies with kindness.
Hence, this become the basis for the revelation of this beautiful Surah. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in order to console and encourage His Beloved Messenger sent down several ayaat (which are part of Ad-Duha, An-Najam and also Al-Kauthar). In just a few words, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala gave the good news of river Kauthar and that his opponents will be cut off from their root not him.