Tafsir Zone - Surah 112: al-Ikhlas (Sincerity)

Tafsir Zone

Surah al-Ikhlas 112:0

A Complete Way of Life


On this basis a complete way of life is formulated, in which people perform all their activities and make sacrifices absolutely and only for God, hoping always to be nearer the truth. This way of life strengthens bonds of love, brotherhood, mutual sympathy and care between all beings and human hearts. For when we speak of liberation from complete submission to these feelings we are by no means suggesting that people should despise or hate them or escape from practising them. Instead they arise from the creative hand of God and they all owe their existence to Him. They are a gift to us from God who loves us and whom we love. Therefore, they deserve our love.


It is a sublime and lofty way of life that looks at this earth as small, life as short, its enjoyments and luxuries as worth little; and the breaking away from hindrances as humanity’s great aim. In Islam, however, this release does not mean seclusion, isolation and neglect, nor does it mean contempt for, or escape from life. Instead it simply means a continuous and sincere endeavour and an everlasting struggle to lead humanity towards submission of everything in human life to God alone. Consequently, it is the fulfilment of man’s role as God’s vicegerent on earth with all its obligations, as we have already explained.


Liberation of the soul through a life of isolation and extreme spiritualism is easy to achieve but Islam does not approve of it, because it wants its followers to fulfil man’s role assigned to him by God who placed him in charge of the earth and to provide the leadership humanity needs. This is the harder way that guarantees man’s elevation and achieves the victory of divine will within him. This is real liberation, for it urges the human soul to fly to its divine source and achieve its sublime status within the scope God, the wise Creator, has defined for it.


For the sake of all this, the first address the Islamic message made was devoted to the establishment of the reality of God’s oneness in people’s hearts and minds. In this form, the Islamic message is seen by the soul, heart and mind, as a full explanation of human existence, a way of life and not merely a spoken word or an inert belief. It is life in its entirety and religion in its totality. Whatever details are later put in place are no more than the natural fruits of its establishment in people’s hearts and minds.


All the deviations that afflicted the followers of earlier divine religions, and which corrupted their beliefs, ideas and lives arose, in the first place, from a deterioration of the concept of God’s absolute oneness in their minds. But what distinguishes this concept in the Islamic faith is the fact that it is deeply rooted throughout human life. Indeed, it forms the foundation of a realistic and practical system for human life, clearly reflected in both legislation and belief.


To say, “He is God, the One and only God,” (Verse 1) means that “He is the Eternal, the Absolute,” (Verse 2) and that “He begets none, nor is He begotten, and there is nothing that could be compared to Him.” (Verses 3-4) But the Qur’an states it all in detail for added emphasis and clarification.


“The Eternal, the Absolute” also means the Lord to whom all creation turns for help, and without whose permission nothing is decided. God is the One and only Lord. He is the One God and Master while all other beings are but His servants. To Him and Him alone are addressed all prayers and supplications. He and only He decides everything independently. No one shares His authority.


“He begets none, nor is He begotten,” means that the reality of God is deep-rooted, permanent and everlasting. No changeable circumstances ever affect it. Its quality is absolute perfection at all times. Birth is descent and multiplication and implies a developed being after incompleteness or nothingness. It requires espousal which is based on similarity of being and structure. All this is utterly impossible in God’s case. So the quality of ‘One’ includes the renouncement of a father and a son.


“There is nothing that could be compared to Him,” means that no one resembles Him in anything or is equivalent to Him in any respect, either in their reality of being, in the fact that He is the only effective power, or in any of His qualities or attributes. This is implied in the statement of his being ‘One’ made in the first verse, but it is repeated so as to confirm and elaborate upon that fact. It is a renunciation of the twogod belief which implies that God is the God of Good while Evil has its own lord who, as the belief goes — is in opposition to God, spoils His good deeds and propagates evil on earth. The most well-known two-god belief was that of the Persians, who believed in a god of light and a god of darkness. This belief was known to the people in the south of the Arabian Peninsula, where the Persians once had a state and exercised sovereignty.


This surah firmly establishes and confirms the Islamic belief in God’s oneness just as Surah 109, The Unbelievers, is a denunciation of any similarity or meeting point between the Islamic concept of God’s oneness and any belief that ascribes human form, attributes, or personality to God. Each surah deals with God’s oneness from a different angle. The Prophet used to start off his day reciting these two surahs in the sunnah, or voluntary prayer before the obligatory dawn or fajr prayer. This, surely, was immensely significant.