Surah Ikhlash focuses on the oneness and unity of God and that everything and everyone needs Him for their existence and their needs. Surah Ikhlas describes God as not having any partners, not in His essence, or in His attributes and nor in His actions.
The oneness or Tawhid mentioned in this chapter is specific and based in the Quran itself and all other Islamic teachings have been founded on this. 1
Arabic Text and Translation of Surah Ikhlas
بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيم
In the name of Allah, the most compassionate, most merciful
قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ ﴿1﴾
Say: He, Allah, is One,
اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ ﴿2﴾
Allah is He on Whom all depend,
لَمْ يَلِدْ وَ لَمْ يُولَدْ ﴿3﴾
He begets not, nor is He begotten,
وَ لَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدُ ﴿4﴾
Nor has He any equal.
Facts about Surah Ikhlas
|Names of the Surah||• Surah Ikhlas|
• Surah Tawhid
• Surah Qul Huwallahu Ahad
|No. of Verses||4|
|Themes and topics||• Unity or Oneness of God|
• God’s Principal Attributes
|Place of revelation||Makkah|
|Occasion of revelation||This chapter was revealed in response to the Quraysh who came to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his household) and asked him to describe his Lord.|
|Benefits||• Reciting it is equal to reciting one-third of the Quran|
• Constant recitation of this chapter in all states will make a person worthy of having the archangel Gabriel participate in his funeral prayer
• God will give the good of this World and the Hereafter to the one who recites it
• A person’s sins and that of his parents and children will be forgiven
• Reciting it increases sustenance and banishes poverty
- Arabic Text and Translation of Surah Ikhlas
- Facts about Surah Ikhlas
- Why was Surah Ikhlas Revealed?
- Why is Surah Ikhlas considered to be One-Third of the Quran?
- Benefits of Surah Ikhlas
- What is Tawhid in Islam?
- Why is Tawhid important for Muslims?
- An Overview of the Verses of Surah Ikhlas
- Types of Tawhid
- Hadith on Tawhid
- What is Ikhlas?
Why was Surah Ikhlas Revealed?
According to historic witnesses, the Quraysh (قریش) came to the Prophet (peace be upon him and his household) in Makka and asked him to describe his Lord so that they might know and worship Him. And that is when this chapter was revealed. 2
There are other accounts which state that Surah Ikhlas was revealed in Madinah; however it seems from narrations revealed in this regard, that it is more likely it was revealed in Makka. 3
Why is Surah Ikhlas considered to be One-Third of the Quran?
According to the Prophet (peace be upon him and his household):
قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ ثلث القرآن
Surah Qul Huwallahu Ahad (قل هو الله احد) (or Surah Ikhlas) is one-third of the Quran. 4
One of the virtues of this Surah is that it is considered to be one-third of the Quran. Commentators have mentioned many explanations for why it is so.
One of the explanations provided is that all Quranic teachings are based on three principles, Unity and Oneness of God, Prophet-hood and the Hereafter and this chapter deals with one of those principles; from the beginning to the end it describes this one principle which is that of the Unity and Oneness of God. 5
Benefits of Surah Ikhlas
Numerous hadith have been narrated that indicate the virtues of Surah Ikhlas and we will mention a few of them here:
One-Third of the Quran
The Holy Prophet once asked the believers: is there anyone of you who is unable to recite one-third of the Quran in a night? One of those who were present said: O Prophet of God! Who has the ability to do so? In reply the Prophet said: recite (the chapter of) Qul Huwallahu Ahad.
Gabriel’s Presence in One’s Funeral Prayer
In another hadith we read that when the Prophet was praying over the body of Sa‘d bin Ma‘az, he said: 70, 000 angels, among whom Gabriel or Jibraeel (جبرائیل) was also present, participated in the prayer! I asked Gabriel which action of his made him deserving of your prayer for him? Gabriel replied: because of his recitation of Qul Huwallahu Ahad while sitting, standing, getting on (his ride), walking and in his comings and goings.
Forgiveness of Sins
The Prophet has also said that one who believes in God and the Hereafter should not abandon reciting Surah Ikhlas after every prayer, because God will gather the good of this world and the next for the one who recites it and will forgive him, his parents and children. 6
Increase in Livelihood
A man came to the Prophet complaining of poverty and a scarce livelihood; the Prophet asked him to give greetings (Salam or سلام) when he entered the house if there was someone in the house, and if there wasn’t, to give Salam and recite Surah Ikhlas. The man did so and God graced him with sustenance, so much so that he bestowed it upon his neighbors. 7
There are also other narrations in this regard which can be found in the related references and texts.
What is Tawhid in Islam?
Lexically, tawhid comes from the root word ‘ahad’ (احد); this root word can have two uses:
It can be used in the noun form and in this case means one and one person; for example in the following verse:
إِذا حَضَرَ أَحَدَكُمُ الْمَوْت
… When death approaches one of you… [2:180] 8
And if it is used in a negative context, expresses generality.
It can be used as an adjective to mean unique and incomparable and in this use, it applies only to God. 9
The first meaning, however, is also never used in a positive context except for God. And according to a narration, when the quality of oneness is attributed to anything except God, it denotes scarcity and littleness; 10 in contrast to God whose oneness is not due to fewness and littleness.
In Islamic terminology and as an Islamic principle, tawhid means to believe God 11 to be one in every sense.
Explanation of Tawhid in Hadith
It has been narrated from Ali bin Abi Taleb (peace be upon him):
…To say that God is one (wahid) has four (possible) meanings, two of which are not permissible concerning God, the Mighty and Majestic, and two of which are established concerning Him. As for the two which are not permissible concerning Him, (the first is) the saying of him who says ‘one’ and has in mind the category of numbers. Now this is not permissible, for that which has no second does not enter into the category of numbers. Hast thou not seen that he who says that He is ‘the third of three’is of the unbelievers? And (the second is like) the saying of him who says (concerning a man), ‘He is one of mankind’, meaning that he is one kind within the species. This is not permissible because it is a comparison, and our Lord is greater than that and high above it.
As for the two meanings which are established concerning Him, (the first is) the saying of him who says, ‘He is one, there is no likeness unto Him among things.’ Such is our Lord. And (the second is) the saying of him who says, ‘Surely He, the Mighty and Majestic, is single in meaning, intending by that that He is not divided by existence, the power of reason, or imagination; Such is our Lord, the Mighty and Majestic. 12
Why is Tawhid important for Muslims?
Multiple reasons can be mentioned in relation to the importance of this principle for the Muslims; some of which will be discussed below.
One of the Principal Beliefs of Islam
Islam, like the other Abrahamic religions, is a monotheistic religion which believes God to be one and therefore this principle is their central and foundational belief.
There are three principles of belief in Islam: Unity or Oneness of God, Prophet-hood and belief in the Hereafter; God’s oneness is the first principle, without which the others would be moot.
The Shi‘a also believe in two more principles in addition to these and that is Imamate, i.e. Divine succession of the last Prophet and Divine Justice.
Answer to Man’s Inner Call
Man’s intrinsic need to worship and praise greatness, beauty, goodness has compelled him to honor magnificence and he also strives to achieve splendor, power and all that is a sign of majesty; this inner inclination, which rises from man’s tendency to perfection, beauty and absolute good is due to his Fitrah (فطرة) or innate nature that God has bestowed upon him. Monotheism and belief in the oneness of God is the only true answer to this inner and call which guides one to absolute perfection, beauty and goodness.
Spanning All Aspects of Life
The Divine Prophets and inviters towards monotheism have always strived to guide man’s inner and natural need in the right direction and therefore, by inviting humanity to belief in one God, considered the worship of everything and person apart from God to be an impediment in man’s growth, evolution and elevation.
Therefore, Tawhid is a central belief that plays a role in all aspects of one’s life, spiritual, practical, individual and social, etc. 13
An Overview of the Verses of Surah Ikhlas
As the chapter was revealed in answer to the question of who God is, it begins with introducing one of the attributes of God: Say: He, Allah, is One.
In the Arabic the pronoun ‘huwa’ (هو) has been used and in the context of this sentence, it is a narrative pronoun and denotes dignity and is used in this syntax form when the speaker intends a lot of importance and emphasis on the sentence that follows.
The word Allah (الله) is the name specific to God in the Arabic language. 14
The Difference between Ahad and Wahid
In the next verse of Surah Ikhlas, the Arabic word ‘ahad’ (أحد) has been used for God and as mentioned previously this Arabic word has two possible uses and meaning. Another similar word is ‘wahid’ (واحد) which also comes from the same root word.
However, ahad is used for someone or something that is not subject to multiplicity and plurality, be it actually or mentally and principally is not part of numbers at all. In contrast, wahid means a one from which follows a two, three, etc, either actually, or in the imagination or by intellectual supposition and with the addition of two, three, four, etc, becomes plural and multiple. 15
What does the word Samad (صمد) in Surah Ikhlas Mean?
Another one of the attributes of God is mentioned in the second verse of this chapter and that is Samad.
Samad refers to a master or person of distinction to whom all turn to get their needs fulfilled. And because the word has been used in an absolute sense in the verse, this is the meaning it gives, i.e. that God is a master to whom all the existents of the world turn in all their needs. 16
Samad in Narrations
It has been narrated that Samad is one who has no partners, it is not difficult for him to preserve anything and nothing is hidden from him.
In another narration it has been stated that God Himself has explained Samad in the two verses that follow this verse: He begets not, nor is He begotten; Nor has He any equal… 17
The Last Two Verses of Surah Ikhlas
The last two verses refute the following from God:
- That He gives birth, i.e., that His essence is divided into parts and a part of Him separates from Him
- That He is born or derived from something in any form or meaning
- That He has an equal in essence or actions, i.e., that someone like God creates and manages the universe.
These three negations offshoot from Him being Samad; and can be explained in relation to it as follows:
The Relation between Samad and the Last Two Verses of Surah Ikhlas
- Something that gives birth must have parts and cannot be imagined without composition. Anything that consists of parts, needs its parts; however, every needful eventuates to God in his needs and one cannot imagine needfulness in such a being.
- When something is derived or born from something else, it needs that which it came from. However, God is Samad and such a being cannot be needy.
- Whether an equal is supposed for God in essence or actions, in the very action that it is supposed to be equal to God, it must be independent of God and needless of Him. However, God is absolutely Samad, i.e. the one to who all turn to in their need, while He needs no one and therefore, even the supposed equal in action, needs God and is thus not an equal to Him. 18
God’s Positive Attributes in Surah Ikhlas
Sifat al-Thubutiyyah (الصفات الثبوتیة) or Positive Attrubutes are the attributes that point to God’s perfections and have an existential and have an affirmative aspect and their inexistence in God would be considered a deficiency for Him.
God’s Negative Attributes in Surah Ikhlas
Sifat al-Salbiyyah (الصفات السلبیة) or the Negated Attributes are the attributes that negate and refute all types of imperfections, deficiencies, needs or limitations from God and they are named such because deficiencies and imperfections are a type of negation and inexistence of perfection. 19
In Surah Ikhlas both these types of attributes have been indicated. The first two verses speak of His Positive Attributes; whereas the last two indicate the Negated Attributes.
Types of Tawhid
Tawhid can be divided into two types:
- Theoretical Tawhid
- Practical Tawhid
Theoretical Tawhid means that one believes in the oneness of God in thought and mind. This type of tawhid is related to cognition and thought, i.e. recognizing or understanding the oneness of God.
This tawhid is itself divided into 3 parts which will be discussed below. 20
Three Types of Theoretical Tawhid
Theoretical Tawhid based on the breakdown into Divine essence, attributes and actions, is divided into the following:
- Tawhid of Essence (توحید ذات): God is one and none is like or similar to Him and not only does He not have partners, He also has no parts. 21
- Tawhid of Attributes (توحید صفات): all of God’s attributes revert to a single reality and that is His essence. 22
- Tawhid of Actions (توحید افعال): in performing actions, like creation, sustenance, Lordship, rulership, etc., God has no partner and He is alone in performing them; apart from this, none except Him are independent in performing their actions and forever need God to do so.
The Three Levels of Tawhid in Verses of the Quran
These three levels of tawhid have been indicated in the following verse of the Quran:
اللَّهُ لا إِلهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ الْحَيُّ الْقَيُّومُ
Allah, there is no god but He, the Living, the Self-subsisting, Supporter of all… 23
In the commentary of this verse, one of the philosophers explains that ‘Allah’ refers to the Tawhid of Essence; ‘there is no God but He’ refers to the Tawhid of Attributes and ‘the Living, the Self-Subsisting, Supporter of all’ refers to Tawhid of Actions.
The Three Levels of Oneness in Surah Tawhid
These three levels of oneness of God has also, of course, been indicated in Surah Ikhlas, where the first verse: He, Allah, is One, refers to the first level, the second verse indicates the second level and the rest of the verses refer to the third level of tawhid. 24
There is also another type of tawhid one can mention which is Tawhid in Worship. This means that only He is deserving of worship. 25
This tawhid is defined as such: to make oneself one, turn in one direction and turn to the One Essence in action. In other words, practical tawhid means to unify oneself. 26
Hadith on Tawhid
أَوَّلُ عِبَادَةِ اللَّهِ تَعَالَى مَعْرِفَتُهُ وَ أَصْلُ مَعْرِفَةِ اللَّهِ تَوْحِيدُهُ وَ نِظَامُ تَوْحِيدِ اللَّهِ تَعَالَى نَفْيُ الصِّفَاتِ عَنْهُ لِشَهَادَةِ الْعُقُولِ أَنَّ كُلَّ صِفَةٍ وَ مَوْصُوفٍ مَخْلُوقٌ وَ شَهَادَةِ كُلِّ مَوْصُوفٍ أَنَّ لَهُ خَالِقاً لَيْسَ بِصِفَةٍ وَ لَا مَوْصُوفٍ وَ شَهَادَةِ كُلِّ صِفَةٍ وَ مَوْصُوفٍ بِالاقْتِرَانِ وَ شَهَادَةِ الِاقْتِرَانِ بِالْحُدُوث… 27
The best of service is to acknowledge the existence of Allah. The foundation of acknowledgement of Allah is to profess His Unity. Allah’s Unity is established through the denial of descriptions, since all intellects bear witness that descriptions are created, and whatever is created requires a Creator who is neither identifier or identified. Every identifier and identified is connected, and connection is evidence of occurrence… 28
فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ تَبَارَكَ وَ تَعَالَى بَعَثَ مُحَمَّداً ص بِالْحَقِّ لِيُخْرِجَ عِبَادَهُ مِنْ عِبَادَةِ عِبَادِهِ إِلَى عِبَادَتِه… 29
God sent forth Muhammad in truth so that he could bring out His servants from the worship of servants and into His worship. 30
What is Ikhlas?
This term will be discussed below from two aspects: lexicological and terminological.
In lexical terms, Khalis (خالص), i.e. pure, is comparable to Saf (صاف), i.e. clear, with the difference that Khalis is something which has been purified of all things excess, in contrast to clear which might not have any excess things in it at all.
Terminologically, it means to remove everyone else except God from one’s worship and to serve only Him.
It is a state of the heart which emerges as a result of the heart being purified of all non-Godly attachments and polytheistic intentions and becomes more intense by persevering in obedience and persisting in reflection and remembrance of God. 31
In other words, Ikhlas means sincerity towards God in all aspect of life, including one’s actions.
What is the Connection between Sincerity and Tawhid?
و أشهد أن لا اله الا الله، کلمة جعل الإخلاص تأویلها
And I bear witness that there is no God but Allah; He has made sincerity the interpretation of this witness. 32
This witness has an apparent aspect and an esoteric one. The apparent aspect is to say the words testifying to the oneness of God. However, it has a reality that must be understood and acted upon.
According to the sentence narrated from Lady Zahra (peace be upon her) above, the result and interpretation of this witness is sincerity.
Esoteric Reality of Tawhid
When we say that God is one, this has an inner and esoteric reality also. We must be careful that not only should our belief in the oneness of God be profound on the intellectual and theoretical level, but we should also not allow our actions to be performed for anyone else but God. However, according to the Quran, most of us believers do not have a pure belief in God:
وَ ما يُؤْمِنُ أَكْثَرُهُمْ بِاللَّهِ إِلاَّ وَ هُمْ مُشْرِكُون
And most of them believe not in Allah except that they attribute partners (unto Him). 33
This mixing of our belief in God with other things has grades; however, a sincere person is one who has no ‘other’ mixed in his belief of God. If something pure is mixed even slightly with anything else, it loses its purity. Therefore, pure and sincere monotheism is one which is not mixed with any polytheism, whether apparent or hidden, nor in beliefs, nor in actions. 34
Why is Surah Qol Huwallahu Ahad named Surah Ikhlas?
Ikhlas or sincerity means that a person’s belief in God’s oneness is pure and because Surah al-Tawhid talks about God’s attributes, therefore, this attestation and witness by a person means purifying his belief in one God or tawhid. 35
- Tabatabai, M.H. (1374 AP). Tafsir al-Mizan. (Trans. by Muhammad Baqir Musawi Hamedani). Qom: Jamiatul Modarresin Publications. Vol. 20, p. 669.
- Qommi, A. (1367 AP). Tafsir al-Qommi. Qom: Dar al-Kitab. Vol. 2, pp. 448-449.
- Tabatabai, M.H. Ibid. P. 670.
- Suyuti, J. D. (1404 AP). Al-Durr al-Manthur fi Tafsir al-Ma’thur. Translated by Mohsen Armin. Qom: Ayatollah Mar‘ashi Najafi Library Publications. Vol. 6, p. 412; Tabatabai. Ibid. Vol. 20, p 675.
- Tabatabai, M. H. Ibid. Vol. 20, p. 676.
- Makarem Shirazi, N. and a group of writers. (1371 AP). Tafsir-i Namuneh. Tehran: Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyyah. Vol. 27, pp. 428-429; Tabarsi, F. (1372 AP). Majma‘ al-Bayan fi Tafsir al-Quran. Tehran: Naser Khosro Publications. Vol. 10, pp. 854 & 855.
- Ibid, p. 855.
- Shakir translation
- Qarashi, A. A. (1371 AP). Qamoos-i Quran. Tehran: Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyyah. Vol. 1, p. 33.
- Tabatabai, M.H. Ibid. Vol. 20, pp. 670-671.
- Mesbah Yazdi, M. T. (1368 AP). Ma’aref-i Quran. Qom: Dar Rahi Haqq Institute. Vol. 1, p. 48.
- Tabatabai, M. H. A Shi‘ite Anthology. (Trans. by William C. Chittick). Published by Muhammadi Trust of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Chapter: Ali, the First Imam, sub-chapter: Oneness.
- Samadi, Q. A. (1391 AP). Sajjade-i Nur. Qom: Zaer Publications. Pp. 86 & 87.
- Tabatabai. Tafsir al-Mizan. Ibid. p. 670.
- Ibid. p. 671.
- Makarem Shirazi, N. Ibid. vol. 7, pp. 438 & 439.
- Tabatabai, M.H. Tafsir al-Mizan. Ibid. vol. 20, pp. 673-674.
- Torkashvand, E. (1383 AP). Sifat-i Khodavand. In Baqerol Ulum Research Center’s online articles archive.
- Musawi, K. (1393 AP). Maratib-i Tawhid-i Ilahi dar Hekmat-i Muta‘aliyah va Atharpaziri az Quran va Sunnat. Qom: al-Mustafa Publications. P. 23.
- Ibid., p. 25.
- Makarem Shirazi, N. (n.d.). Nafahat al-Quran. Qom: Madrasat al-Imam Ali bin Abi Taleb. Vol. 3, p. 201.
- Yusufali translation. [2:255]
- Musawi, K. Ibid. pp. 23, 24 & 26
- Makarem Shirazi, N. Ibid.
- Musawi, K. Ibid. p. 31.
- Ibn Babwayh, M. (1378 AP). ‘Uyun Akhbar al-Reda. Tehran: Jahan Publications. Vol. 1, p. 150.
- Vahid Khorasani, H. Principles of Faith. (Trans. by Ali Raza Rizvi). Chapter: Divine Unity, sub-chapter: the effect of Divine Unity on man and society.
- Kulayni, M. (1407 AH). Al-Kafi. Research and compiled by: Ali Akbar Ghaffari and Muhammad Akhondi. Tehran: Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyyah. Vol. 8, p. 386.
- Sayyidan, J. ‘Tawhid dar Bayan-i Imam Ali bin Abi Taleb’. In Qabasat. No. 19.
- Homai, G. A. (1383 AP). Vazhe Shenasi-i Quran-i Majid. Qom: Markaz-i Jahani-i Ulum-i Islami. Pp. 136 & 137.
- Muqarram, A. R. (1389 AP). Al-Zahra. (Trans. by Parvis Lolavar). Tehran: Aram-i Dil. P. 175.
- Pickthall translation. [12:106]
- Misbah Yazdi, M. T. (1390n AP). Rabite-i Tawhid va Ikhlas. Keyhan Newspaper.
- Homai, G. A. Ibid, p. 137.