In the Shade of the Quran (part 30)
Surah 108 Abundance - al Kawthar
In the name of Allah, the Beneficient, the Merciful!
Indeed We have given you abundance. So pray to your Lord and sacrifice to Him. Surely, he who hates you is the one cut off.
Similar to surahs 93 and 94, "The Forenoon" and "Solace", this surah exclusively concerns the Prophet, cheering him up and assuring him of happier prospects in his struggle. In it Allah threatens the enemies of the Prophet with destruction while directing the Prophet to the path of thanksgiving.
The surah represents a glimpse of the life of the Prophet and the course of his mission in the early period at Makka. It deals with the plots and insults directed against the Prophet and the Divine message he conveys. The surah is an instance of Allah's actual protection of His servant and the few who followed the Prophet and believed in Allah. It is an instance of Allah's direct support to the believers in their struggle, supplying them with fortitude, restraint and promise, while threatening a terrible fate to their antagonists.
In this way, the surah symbolises the reality of guidance, goodness and faith on the one hand and that of error, evil and disbelief on the other; the former category is one of abundance, profusion and expansive goodness, the latter one of scantiness, shrinking resources and annihilation.
Among the people of the Quraish (the Arab tribe which was dominant in Makka) there were some impudent folk who viewed the Prophet and his mission with no small degree of antagonism. They would resort to machinations and taunts against him to deter the people from listening to the Truth, which he conveyed to them in the form of a Divine message. Among them were people like Al-Aas ibn Wa'il, 'Uqba ibn Abi Mu'yat, Abu Lahab, Abu Jahl and others.
They used to say about the Prophet that he was a man with no posterity, referring to the early death of his sons. One of them once remarked, "Do not be bothered with him; he will die without descendants and that will be the end of his mission ."
Such a trivial and cunning taunt had a wide impact in the Arab society of the time, which set great store by sons. This sharp taunt delighted the enemies of the Prophet and undoubtedly this was a source of depression and irritation to his noble heart. This surah was therefore revealed, comforting the Prophet and assuring him of the abiding and profuse goodness which Allah had chosen for him and of the deprivation and loss awaiting his persecutors.
"Indeed We have given you abundance." The word used in the surah and rendered here as "abundance" is "kawthar", derived from the stem word "kathrah" which signifies "abundance" or "a multitude". This "kawthar" is unrestricted and unlimited. It indicates the opposite meaning to the one the impudent folk of Quraish tried to attach to the Prophet. " We have given you" that which is plentiful, overflowing and rich, unstinting and unending.
If anyone wishes to pursue and observe this abundance which Allah has given to His Prophet, he would find it wherever he looks and reflects. He would find it in Muhammad's prophethood itself this link with the great Reality and the great Being, Who has no parallel and no partner. What indeed can the one who has found Allah be said to have lost?
He would find it in this Qur'an which was revealed to Muhammad every chapter of which is a fountain of richness which flows incessantly.
He would also find this kawthar or abundance manifest in the of the Prophet's Sunnah (way of life) throughout the centuries, in the far flung corners of the earth, in the millions upon millions who follow in his footsteps, in the millions upon millions who pronounce his name with respectful affection and the millions upon millions of hearts that cherish, and would cherish his example and memory even to the Day of Resurrection.
He would also find this Kawthar or abundance manifest in the goodness and prosperity which have accrued to the human race as a result of his message, and which reach those who know and believe in him and those who do not. He would also discern this abundance in various and manifold phenomena, attempting to enumerate which would at best give only a passing feeling of a great reality.
This indeed is abundance in its absolute unlimited sense. The surah therefore does not give it a specific definition. Several accounts relate that "al-Kawthar" is a river in Paradise granted to the Prophet but Ibn Abbas, a learned companion of the Prophet, contends that the river is but one part of the abundance which Allah has furnished for His Prophet. Keeping the circumstances and the whole context in mind, Ibn Abbas's view is the more valid.
"So pray to your Lord and sacrifice to Him." Having assured the Prophet of this munificent gift, which disproves what the calumniators and conspirators say, Allah directs the Prophet to be completely and sincerely thankful to Him for His bounty; to devote himself to Him alone in worship and ritual slaughter, taking no heed whatsoever of all forms of polytheism and refusing to participate in the worship of the poly theists, especially when they pronounce any name other than that of Allah in their offerings.
Islam frequently lays emphasis on the pronouncing of Allah's name when slaughtering animals. It prohibits anything that is consecrated to any other being, which indicates the importance Islam attaches to the purification of human life from all forms of polytheism and all that leads to it. Islam does not aim merely at purifying the imagination and conscience, for it is the religion based on the unity of Allah in every sense. It pursues polytheism in all its manifestations, striving to eliminate its marks in the conscience of man, in his worship and rituals, and in his behaviour generally. Life, Islam says, is one indivisible entity and must be treated as such. It must be cleansed inside out and completely oriented towards Allah, in all its aspects and spheres - worship, tradition and social behaviour.
"Surely he who hates you is the one cut off". In the first verse, Allah specified that Muhammad was not the one who had no posterity but, on the contrary, was the one endowed with abundance. In this verse, Allah throws back the taunt on those who hated and reviled the Prophet. Indeed, the promise of Allah has come true. For, the influence and the legacy of Muhammad's enemies was short-lived, while his impact on human history and human life has grown and deepened. Today we are witnessing the truth of this Divine pronouncement as clearly as no one among those addressed by the Qur'an for the first time ever did or imagined.
Faith and goodness cannot be barren: they leave deep-rooted influence but falsehood, error and evil- no matter how fast they grow and spread, do ultimately come to nothing.
Allah's criteria are different from the criteria laid down by man. Men are often deceived when they vainly believe their sense of judgement to be the criterion. Before us is the eloquent and enduring example of the Prophet. Of what value or interest to humanity have those slanderers and foes of Muhammad been to anyone?
On the other hand, calling others to the religion of Allah, to truth and goodness, can never be called futile. Neither can the righteous and the true be called deprived or cut off. How can it be, when this message itself comes from and is supported by Allah, the Immortal, the Eternal? But deprived and sterile indeed are disbelief, error and evil as are their votaries, however strong and widespread they may appear to be at a particular moment.
Allah affirms the truth; the wily opponents are but liars!