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Surah Kauthar
Qur'anic Exegesis
Amin Ahsan Islahi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)

Central Theme

In the previous sūrah ---Maa`oon---it has been explained to the leaders of the Quraysh that they had totally disregarded the purpose of which Abraham had settled his children in the whereabouts of the Baitullaah and for which he had prayed to the Almighty to bless them with peace and sustenance. It was also pointed out that the Baitullaah had been built for the worship of the One and Alone Allah and to safeguard the rights of the poors and the orphans, but the people who were at that time at the helm of its affairs were showing utter disregarded to its objectives. Obviously, this mention is directed at the false chaim of the Quraysh, which they proudly cherished, that being the custodians of the Baitullaah they would be given special treatment by the Almighty and no one would depose them. However, in the previous sūrah they were only presented a charge sheet of all their misdeeds, the punishment which they deserved had not been stated. It is in this sūrah that their fate has been separately depicted. The Prophet (sws) has been addressed directly and given the glad tidings that the Baitullaah has been taken away from these unscrupulous people and consigned to his custody; he should therefore solely pray for the Almighty and offer sacrifice for Him only and light the candle of monotheism in the Baitullaah. A warning has also been sounded to the unbelievers that after being dislodged from the Baitullaah they shall also be deprived of all the favours they enjoyed on account of it and that finally they shall be uprooted from the land. The Almighty shall now shower these favours on those who will assume its responsibility and fulfill its rights. They will be the ones who after rising to political ascendancy in the land shall befittingly fulfill the objectives for which it was built.


This sūrah, as has been indicated above, gives glad tidings to the Prophet (sws). The particle of stress innaa and the use of the past tense in `atainaaka is to express the certainty of the promise. There are many such examples in the Qur’ān. Whatever has been decided by the Almighty is ultimate and no one can alter it. Therefore, even if these decisions pertain to the future, to express the certainty of their occurance they are mentioned in the past tense particularly when some good news about the future is to be conveyed.


At the end of the Meccan period when the oppressive attitude of the disbelievers was reaching its peak, many verses were revealed at various times in which the Prophet (sws) and the Muslims have been addressed and given the glad tidings of victory and domination. This sūrah being one example. However, precisely because of this prediction many commentators including my teacher Imam Hamid Uddin Farahi hold that it was revealed during the truce of Hudaibiya. But it is the humble opinion of this writer that the sūrah was revealed just before Hijrat (mijration to Medina). The glad tidings of a grand victory have been given in many sūrahs of the pre-Hijrat period to the Muslims to comfort and assure them, as can be seen in the last Meccan Sūrahs of each group; needless to cite any example.

The Quraysh, right from the beginning, very well knew that their real point of difference with the Prophet (sws) was the question that who among them was on the creed of Abraham. They maintained as a natural corollary of this difference, that only those who are the heirs to Abraham's true creed have the right to be the custodians of the Baitullaah. Their arrogance in this regard has reached such an extent that they could not even tolerate the Prophet (sws) and his Companions praying in the Baitullaah. On the other hand the Muslims through the Prophet's mission and the message he was propagating were well aware that the Quraysh's hold on the Baitullaah was against all principles and to liberate the Baitullaah from their hold was the real purpose of the Prophet's mission.

The two parties also knew that whoever would be dissociated from the Baitullaah would be left all by itself in Arabia and have no place to go. Therefore, to comfort and solace the Prophet (sws) and the Muslims at the time of Hijrat, it was necessary to convey to them that they would definitely displace the Quraysh from the Baitullaah and take over its guardianship; that the tussle which was going on with the Quraysh would culminate in their success and that the Prophet of Allah shall not be extirpated from the land as the Quraysh contended; rather the enemies of the Prophet (sws) will be the ones who shall be totally humbled. In fact, it was the glad tidings about his Divine Help in the future which made the girm and exacting task of Hirat an easy undertaking for the Muslims which otheriwse, every one knows, was an extremely difficult affair.

Meaning of the Sūrah

Upon thee have We bestowed Kauthar, so pray ye only for your Almighty and offer ye sacrifice only for Him. Indeed, it is your enemy who shall be exterminated.

Explanation of the Sūrah

Innaa `a'tainakal kauthar.

(Upon thee have We bestowed kauthar) (1)

Kauthar is the intensive form of kuthr. Kuthr means `wealth and affluence'. Therefore, kauthar would mean alot of abundance or somebody having a lot abundance and affluence. It is a noun and is used as an objective also.

According to linguistic principles the word kauthar can be interpretted in the following three meanings:

1. As a word which, in the course of its usage, has been transformed into a noun specifying something named by the Almighty as kauthar.

2. It could be considered as an adjective of a qualified noun which has been ellipsed only because it specifies a particular noun so clearly that only its mention brings to mind the noun it qualifies, or there exists a definite indication of this noun from within the context. For example, it is said murdun 'alaa jurdin ie rijaalum murdun 'alaa khailin jurdin (young men on purely bred horses). Similarly, consider the first verse of Sūrah Zaariyaat: Waz zaariyaat ie War reeyaahuz zaariyaat (By the winds who scatter dust).

3. It can be regarded as a simple adjective having the general meaning it connotes. In such a case everything having immense good can be considered its implication. Although, because of certain clear indications it could imply definite objects.

Consider next, the meanings of the word attributed to it by our worthy commentators of the past. Ibni Jareer has mentioned three of them:

(i) Kauthar is a canal in heaven. This is the opinion of Hadhrat Ayesha, Hadhrat Ibni Abbaas, Hadhrat Ibni Umar Hadhrat Ans, Mujahid and Abul `aaliyah.

(ii) Kauthar means immense good. This is held by Hadhrat Ibni Abbaas, Hadhrat Saeed bin Jubair, Ikramah, Qattaadah and Mujahid.

(iii) Kauthar is a fountain in heaven. This is maintained by `Ataa.

There is not much difference between the first and third meanings cited above. The fountain may be of the water channel mentioned foremost. Only two possibilities now remain: either to regard it as a word which denotes a specific thing eg `a fountain of paradise' or a `a water channel in heaven' or to regard it as connoting everything which has unbounded good in it.

My teacher Imam Farahi has aptly related the two meanings with each other making them the same. By taking into consideration the context of the sūrah in the Qur’ān as well as certain intrinsic testimonies, he opines that kauthar means the Baitullaah which due to various reasons is a treasure of immense good and is a representative of the fountain of paradise in this world. This fountain shall be given to the Prophet (sws) in the next.

Maulana Farahi's arguments can be seen from the following extract from his exegesis:

"It has been stated in the previous sections that our worthy commentators of the past do not differ on the fact that it means the fountain of paradise. In fact, they have even gone on to include all possible things which can be regarded within the sphere of `immense good', keeping in view the general meaning of the word and the past tense of the verse in which it occurs. This would render a diversity in its meaning and make it stand for something which actually possess the attribute implict in its name. Precisely for this reason, the later commentators, consider research in its meaning perfectly allowable. If it were some sort of an innovation they would never have indulged in it nor would the early commentators differed in it. Therefore, if I interpret the word in a sense which unifies `the kauthar of the heaven' and `the kauthar of this world', I would not differ from these commentators just as they do not actually differ from each other in its interpretation. The only difference would be that they have generalized its meaning by including the water channel or the fountain of paradise as well as everything which can be termed as `immense good' like the Qur’ān, wisdom, Islam, and prophethood in its connotations, which actually have no similarity with the water channel or the pond of paradise. I would only include those things in `the kauthar of this world' which are similar in appearance with a water channel or a pond, whose reality and spiritual aspects were revealed to the Prophet (sws) during the holy accession." ("Majmu`ah-i-Tafaaseer-i-Farahi", Pg418, Ed 1973)

After this introduction Maulana Farahi elaborates on the points which support his deduction. He says:

"(1) It is an acknowledged fact that there is a natural desire and inclination for the Almighty present in our souls. Without these the human soul cannot receive comfort and assurance. It is this very aspect of human nature which is the cause of various religions. Consider then, what else can be a better symbol for this natural yearning and eagerness than thirst? In the Psalms of David this symbolic expression has been repeatedly used. If this is correct, then think about the devotes who gather round the Baitullaah during the days of Haj, overwhelmed with the feelings of foundness and desire. Don't they seem like people who have an intense craving for thirst and have assembled around a pond to satisfy this longing? If these similarity is evident, then, it would mean that the Baitullaah actually stands for them as the fountain of kauthar where they shall gather on the Day of Judgement.

This refers to the interpretation of Imam Raazi etc which Maulana Farahi has cited in his exegesis.

(2) The Prophet (sws) has compared our mosques with water channels. According to the "Saheeh" of Bukhari:

"Consider if someone among you has a water canal at his door in which he has a bath five times a day everyday; will he remain dirty?" (Kitaab-ul-Muwaaqeet)

The basic constituent of this allegory also, is water. It not only quenches our thirst but also cleanses us spiritually as well as physically. It is well known that the Baitullaah is the fountainhead of all our prayers. On this basis, our mosques are indeed like the water canals of this fountain, through which we cleanse ourselves spiritually.

(3) Just as the congregation of Haj represents the large number of people in the Muslim Ummah as against people of other religions, likewise, their assembly at the pond of kauthar also shall stand for their multitude, as is evident from certain traditions. The best possible way in which this plentitude could have been depicted was to hold their congregation at a specific place. By this gathering other nations of the world estimate that what is present at the Baitullaah is the only a meagre yet vibrant drop of the boundless expanse of water spread all over the earth. Hence the abundance of the Muslims at Haj symbolize their abundance at the pond of kauthar in relation to the people of other prophets. Consider how aptly the word kauther relates the two congregations.

(4) The Prophet (sws) is said to have said that he would recognize his people at the pond of kauthar through the traces of water by which they performed ablutions. Similarly, it is an acknowledged fact that only those who pay visit to the Baitullaah with a pure and sincere heart and recognized as the Muslims. They shall be present in the next world around his pond which is actually the reality of this House.

(5) The Almighty made the conquest of Mecca the cause for the increase in magnitude of the Muslim Ummah; therefore, after Hajj-i-Akbar people accepted faith in large numbers. It has been indicated above that at the fountain of kauthar also the assembly of the Muslim Ummah shall show their abundance.

(6) Like, the fountain of kauthar, the Almighty has also called the Baitullaah a blessed place:

"Indeed, the first house ever built for men in which they could worship was that a Becca, a blessed place, a beacon for the nations." (3:96) ("Majmu`ah", Pgs 419-20, Ed 1973).

We have just made a passing reference to Maulana Farahi's views. For details a study of his exegesis in necessary. Maulana Farahi goes on to explain that the canal of kauthar is the true essence and spiritual reality of the Baitullaah and

"If anyone reflects on the features and characteristics of the canal of kauther which was shown to the Prophet (sws) during the holy accession, he shall become aware of the fact the canal kauther is the spiritual representation of Baitullaah and its surrounding atmosphere. The common element in the various traditions which describe kauther is that it is a water channel on whose sides are built palaces of hollow pearls. Its floor is of topazes, corals and rubies. The untensils in it are like stars of the heavens, its water is whiter than milk, sweeter than honey and cooler than ice. Its mud is more fragrant than musk. Birds whose necks are like those of the animals of sacrifice descend on it." (Majmuah-i-Tafaseer-i-Farahi", Pgs 421-22, Ed 1973)

Maulana Farahi, as we move further in his exegesis, invites us to contemplate on these observations and explains the similarity between the two `ponds of kauther.' He says:

"Stop for a moment and think of the fact when from all over the world caravans of devotees and zealots gather around this blessed House to quench their foundness for the Almighty? Elated spiritually, do not the pebbles of this holy valley seem more magnificent than rubies and emaralds, its mud more fragrant than musk and the tents of the pilgrims around it more beautiful than domes of pearls? Then just take a look at the pilgrims and at the lines of the camels which are to be sacrificed. It is not the swarms of the long necked birds near the fountain." ("Majmu`ah", Pg422, Ed 1973)

It is evident from these details that the Baitullaah is a figurative manifestation of the fountain of kauther. The Baitullaah shall be granted to be believers in heaven in the form of the pond of kauther---believers who performed its pilgramage in the desire to reach this blessed pond. Since, at the time of relevation of the sūrah the situation was not clear, only a reference has been made. The real purpose was to give glad tidings to the Prophet (sws) that though his enemies are trying to dislodge him from the Baitullaah, the Almighty has decided to grant this House to him, which will be a source of immense good not only in this world but also be a surety for the pond of kauther in the next.

Fassali li rabbika wanhar.

(so pray ye only for your Almighty.) (2)

The verse states this grant of the Almighty is subject to an obligation. Every night imposes an obligation and it only remains in force if this obligation is fulfilled. We have indicated before that the Almighty had consigned the Baitullaah to the Quraysh imposing a lot of responsibilities on them. Among them prayers and infaaq which is a specific form of sacrifice occupy special importance. But the Quraysh distorted and disfigured both of them. They had preverted sacrifice by associating other deities with Allah, and offering sacrifice for them as well. So here, where the Prophet (sws) has been declared as the new guardian of the Baitullaah, a reference has also been made to the two responsibilities which his predecessors had grossly failed to carry out and because of which they were actually ousted from its guardianship.

Here the word nahr has been used which is used for camel sacrifice. However, its general connotation includes the sacrifice of other animals as well. Here the word has been specifically used to point out that camel sacrifice was regarded very highly among the followers of Abraham's creed, which the jews, due to their innovations had pronounced as forbidden. Some people regard nahr to imply the holding of hands at ones chest during prayers. However, the context, which is a major factor in deciding the meaning of a word having various connotations, does not at all support this view. Prayers and sacrifice have been aptly mentioned here because the word kauther has been figuratively used for the Baitullaah.

In most instances zakat or infaaq have been mentioned with salaat (prayers), but here sacrifice has been grouped with salaat. The reason obviously is that just like salaat, the Baitullaah is also the centre of sacrifice. A special aspect of this sacrifice is that not only the poor and needy but the pilgrims as well are provided with food. In other words, besides fulfilling other spiritual objectives, this sacrifice is also a form of infaaq.

Inna Sha`niaka hu wal abtar.

(Indeed, your enemy shall be exterminated.) (3)

This verse is answer to the jeering predictions of the Quraysh chiefs about the Prophet's future. After giving the glad tidings of being blessed with the kauther of the two worlds and stating the responsibilities these privileges impose, the Almighty has reassured the Prophet (sws) about the bright future of the Islamic movement as well as his success in the hereafter. The Qur’ān says that the Prophet's enemies themselves shall be uprooted from the land----something they intended to do with the Prophet (sws) and his companions. Shaaniyun means `enemy' while abtar implies a person who is lost to posterity after death and leaves behind no one to even take his name.


The Quraysh were opposing and obstructing the Prophet's mission with all their might in Mecca, but in its whereabouts, particularly, Medina this mission was gaining momentum and spreading rapidly. The Quraysh chiefs, quite naturally, felt that their masses would be influenced by this swift penetration and might seriously believe in the severe warnings sounded by the Qur’ān to the leaders of the Quraysh particularly the Baitullaah's custodians. They feared that this might shatter their public's confidence in their leadership; their sympathies might tilt in the Prophet's favour and not only strengthen his mission but also accept him as their new leader. Just to avert this situation they started predicting a disappointing and bleak future for the Prophet (sws) so that their people would not awed by the fact that the Islamic movement was gaining force day by day. They made up different stories in his regard. Seeing the inclinations of the Ansaar towards him, they propogated in the masses the view from his person due to his new religion, has been detached from his nation and the centre of his old religion (the Baitullaah) and if he now takes refuge in Medina with the Ansaar, cutting off himself from the Quraysh, then he would be like a severed branch of a tree which is bound to wither away. In the time before Hijrat, it was generally held by the people that if the Prophet (sws) would leave Mecca and his people, he would go to the Ansaar, because only they were in a position to help and support him. On this very pretext, the Quraysh had even warned certain tribes of the Ansaar, who had come to Mecca to pledge their allegiance, that their oath would definitely entail war with the whole world. But these threats had no effect on the Ansaar and their devotion and respect for Islam and the Prophet (sws) only augmented day by day. Seeing this state of affairs, the Quraysh were left with no hope of success in the propagands they had started--- but then what else could they do except sowing seeds of dissension. Both, before and after the migration they tried to dupe their public that it would prove disastrous for the Prophet (sws) and his mission would fade away. However, it was the prediction of the Qur’ān which ultimately came true and the enemies of the Prophet (sws) were totally routed. He reaped the blessings of the Kauther of this world and will certainly be the foremost to reach the Kauther of heaven to behold the abundance of his Ummah.

 (Translated from Islahi's "Tadabbur-e-Qur’ān")

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