Ayah 1: The Meaning of Al-Kauthar and Its Significance
The Surah begins with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala consoling His Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam,
إِنَّآ أَعْطَيْنَـكَ الْكَوْثَرَ
“ Verily, We have granted you Al-Kauthar.”
Al-Bukhari recorded from Sa`eed bin Jubayr that Ibn `Abbas said about Al-Kauthar, “It is the good which Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala gave to him (the Prophet).” Abu Bishr said, “I said to Sa`eed bin Jubayr, `Verily, people are claiming that it is a river in Paradise.'” Sa`eed replied, ‘The river which is in Paradise is part of the goodness which Allah gave him.'” Al-Bukhari also recorded from Sa`eed bin Jubayr that Ibn `Abbas said, “Al-Kauthar is the abundant goodness.”
This explanation includes the river and other things as well. Because the word Al-Kauthar comes from the word kathrah (abundance) and it (Al-Kauthar) linguistically means an abundance of goodness, spiritual benefits, and blessings. So from this goodness is the river (in Paradise).
The enemies of Rasoolullah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam thought that Muhammad had been completely ruined; he had been cut off from his community, his trade was ruined, and his male children who could carry on his name were dead. The message that he was preaching was accepted by only a handful of the people. He was helpless and powerless and he was facing failure and disappointment. His enemies would rejoice thinking there would be no one to remember him after he has gone.
When Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said, “Verily, We have granted you Al-Kauthar,” it indicates that your foolish opponents think that you are ruined and deprived of the good things that you enjoyed before Prophethood. But the fact is that We have favored you with unbounded good and countless deeds. This included the matchless moral qualities of the Prophet, the Prophethood, the Quran and his knowledge and wisdom. His message spread throughout the world and alhumdulillah still continues to reach far and wide.
Prophet’s preaching became the standard-bearer of Truth in the world. His teachings raised a noble and virtuous society when people were surrounded by indecency and corruption. His name, long after he has gone, still remains alive despite Quraysh’s assumption that because he does not have any male children there would be no one to take his name in years to come.
These are the blessings that we witness today regarding how Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala blessed His Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in the world. He will bless him even more in the Hereafter, as we study in miscellaneous ahadeeth.
Imam Ahmad recorded from Ibn `Umar that the Messenger of Allah said, “Al-Kawthar is a river in Paradise whose banks are of gold and it runs over pearls. Its water is whiter than milk and sweeter than honey.” This hadeeth was recorded in this manner by At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Ibn Abi Hatim and Ibn Jarir.
Then Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in ayah 2,
فَصَلِّ لِرَبِّكَ وَانْحَرْ
“Therefore turn in prayer to your Lord and sacrifice.”
meaning, just as We have given you the abundant goodness in this life and the Hereafter then make your obligatory and optional prayer, and your sacrifice (of animals) solely and sincerely for your Lord. Worship Him alone and do not associate any partner with him. And sacrifice pronouncing His Name alone, without ascribing any partner to Him.
This command was given during the time when the pagans of Arabia worshiped their self-created gods and offered sacrifices at their shrine. Therefore, the intention of the Command is contrary to the polytheistic practice, you should remain steadfast to your creed: your prayer is only for Allah and your sacrifice also is for Him alone.
This is as Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in Surah Al-Anaam 162 – 163,
قُلْ إِنَّ صَلاَتِى وَنُسُكِى وَمَحْيَاىَ وَمَمَاتِى للَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَـلَمِينَ – لاَ شَرِيكَ لَهُ وَبِذَلِكَ أُمِرْتُ وَأَنَاْ أَوَّلُ الْمُسْلِمِينَ
“Say: ‘Verily, my Salah, my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allah, the Lord of all that exists. He has no partner. And of this I have been commanded, and I am the first of the Muslims.'” This is the opposite of the way of the idolators, prostrating to other than Allah and sacrificing in other than His Name. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in Surah Al-Anaam 121,
وَلاَ تَأْكُلُواْ مِمَّا لَمْ يُذْكَرِ اسْمُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ وَإِنَّهُ لَفِسْقٌ
“And do not eat from what Allah’s Name has not been pronounced over, indeed that is Fisq.”
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ends this Surah by saying,
إِنَّ شَانِئَكَ هُوَ الاٌّبْتَرُ
“For he who hates you, he will be cut off.”
meaning, indeed he who hates you, O Muhammad, and he hates what you have come with of guidance, truth, clear proof and manifest light, he is the most cut off, meanest, lowliest person who will not be remembered.
Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Sa`eed bin Jubayr and Qatadah all said, “This Ayah was revealed about Al-`As bin Wa’il. Whenever the Messenger of Allah would be mentioned (in his presence) he would say, `Leave him, for indeed he is a man who is cut off having no descendants. So when he dies he will not be remembered.’ Therefore, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala revealed this Surah.” Shamir bin `Atiyyah said, “This Surah was revealed concerning `Uqbah bin Abi Mu`ayt.” Ibn `Abbas and `Ikrimah have both said, “This Surah was revealed about Ka`b bin Al-Ashraf and a group of the disbelievers of the Quraysh.”
Al-Bazzar recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, “Ka`b bin Al-Ashraf came to Makkah and the Quraysh said to him, `You are the leader of them (the people). What do you think about this worthless man who is cut off from his people? He claims that he is better than us while we are the people of the place of pilgrimage, the people of custodianship (of the Ka`abah), and the people who supply water to the pilgrims.’ He replied, `You all are better than him.’ So Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala revealed,
إِنَّ شَانِئَكَ هُوَ الاٌّبْتَرُ
“For he who hates you, he will be cut off.” This is how Al-Bazzar recorded this incident and its chain of narration is authentic. It has been reported that `Ata’ said, “This Surah was revealed about Abu Lahab when a son of the Messenger of Allah died. Abu Lahab went to the idolators and said, `Muhammad has been cut off (i.e., from progeny) tonight.’ So concerning this Allah revealed this Surah.
As-Suddi said, “When the male sons of a man died the people used to say, ‘He has been cut off.’ So, when the sons of the Messenger of Allah died they said, ‘Muhammad has been cut off.’ Thus, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala revealed this Surah.
They thought in their ignorance that if his sons died, his remembrance would be cut off. Allah forbid! To the contrary, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala preserved his remembrance for all the world to see, and He obligated all the servants to follow his Law. This will continue for all of time until the Day of Gathering and the coming of the Hereafter. May the blessings of Allah and His peace be upon him forever until the Day of Assembling, aameen.
This Surah was not a reprisal, but one of the prophecies of the Qur’an which have been proven true in dunya.
The Quraysh would call the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam ‘abtar’ (the one cut off) and no one could imagine how a big Quraysh chief could be abtar as they were famous not only in Makkah but throughout Arabia. They were successful in life, rich in worldly wealth and children, had associates and helpers everywhere in the country, enjoyed good relations with all Arab tribes, monopolists in trade and managers of Hajj.
But soon the conditions began to change. Muslims miraculously attained victory in the Battle of Badr which became the key turning point in Prophet’s struggle against the Quraysh. Soon after this the entire Arabia came under Prophet’s control. Deputations of tribes from all over the country began to visit him to take the oaths of allegiance and his enemies were left utterly resourceless.
Today, no one knows the descendants of Abu Jahl, Abu Lahab, As bin Wail, `Uqbah bin Abi Mu`ait, or other enemies of Islam. On the contrary, blessings are being invoked on the children of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam throughout the world; millions and millions of Muslims take pride in bearing relationship to him; hundreds of thousands of people regard it as a mark of honor and prestige to have descended not only from him but from his family and even the families of his Companions. History has proven that the Prophet’s enemies were and are ‘abtar’.