Period of Revelation: Makkan
Order of Revelation: 8
Virtue of this Surah:
Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal relates on the authority of ‘Ali radhiAllahu ‘anhu that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam loved this Surah. Imam Ahmad also recorded from An-Nu’man bin Bashir that the Messenger of Allah recited this Surah along with Surah al-Ghashiyah in the two ‘eid prayers. If the ‘eid fell on Friday, he would recite them in both prayers, that is, ‘eid prayer as well as Salat-ul-Jum’uah. In another hadeeth it has been recorded on the authority of Ubayy bin Ka’ab, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas, ‘Abdur Rahman ibn Abza and the mother of the believers, ‘Aishah, radhiAllahu ‘anhum that the Prophet used to recite Surah al-‘Ala, Surah al-Kafiroon and Surah al-Ikhlas in witr prayers.
Theme and Subject Matter:
This short Surah contains three themes: Tauheed, instructions to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and the life of this world.
In the first ayah, the doctrine of Tauheed has been compressed into a single sentence. It first begins with the command that Allah’s name should be glorified and exalted. This means that His name should not be pronounced thoughtlessly and at an unclean place such as the washroom. He should not be remembered by any name which might reflect a deficiency, fault, weakness, or an aspect of likeness, with created beings, for the root of all false creeds in the world are wrong concepts about Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala. Therefore, for the correction of the creed, the primary thing is that Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala should be remembered only by the beautiful names which suit and befit Him.
In the next three ayaat, it has been said: Your Lord, glorification of Whose name is being enjoined, is He Who created everything in the Universe, proportioned it, set it a destiny, taught it to perform the function for which it is created, and you witness this manifestation of His power day and night that He creates vegetation on the earth as well as reduces it to mere rubbish. No other being has the power to bring about spring or the power to prevent autumn.
The ayaat that follow console the Prophet as he was given the double task of delivering Allah’s message as well as warning people of the consequences in case they don’t pay any heed. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala promises him not to worry as He will make the Prophet remember the Qur’an word for word as it was being revealed to him. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala will teach him how to preserve it in memory and this preservation is by no means a result of the Prophet’s own excellence but rather it’s one of the favors of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala upon him. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala then promises the Prophet that his path will be smoothed in all his affairs, whether they are personal or concerned with his message. This is certainly a great favor. This teaches us an important aspect of learning and preserving Allah’s Book that we should ask Him to help us in this cause and of course, also be sincere in our efforts.
Then, the Prophet is told that he is not responsible for bringing everyone on to the right path. His only duty is to convey the truth, and the simplest way of conveying the truth is that admonition be given to him who is inclined to listen to the admonition and accept it, and the one who is not inclined to it, should not be pursued. The one who fears the evil consequences of deviation and falsehood, will listen to the truth and accept it, and the wretched one who avoids listening to and accepting it, will himself see his evil end.
The discourse has been summed up, saying success is only for those who adopt purity of belief, morals and deed, and remember the name of their Lord and perform the prayer. But, on the contrary, the people are lost in seeking the ease, benefits and pleasures of the world, whereas they should actually endeavor for their well-being in the Hereafter. The world is transitory and the Hereafter everlasting and the blessings of the Hereafter are far better than the blessings of the world. Towards the end, the Surah affirms that this truth has not been expressed only in the Qur’an but in the early Scriptures of Prophet Ibraheem and Musa ‘alayhi salaam too.