Tafseer Surah Al-Ikhlas (Part 4)

by Amalia

Tafseer of Surah Al Ikhlas: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Say, “He is Allah, [who is] One, Allah, the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, nor is there to Him any equivalent.”

Surah Al-Ikhlas (1-4)

The Explanation of Ayat 1

Qul huwa Allahu ahad
Say, “He is Allah , [who is] One,

Definition of “Qul” (Say)

This word is the command for the Prophet SAW. It is both the lesson for him and the thing that he must preach to others.

The surah begins with the message of tawheed (the Oneness of Allah) and is connected to the message of da’wah (inviting others to Islam).

Definition of “Huwa” (He)

This word implies that you know who the God that is being talked about. He is not a new God.

It is also an answer to the question asked by the disbelievers to the Prophet SAW about Allah SWT. Man huwa? Ma huwa? (Who is he? What is he?). Hence, Allah SWT answered with Huwa Allahu ahad (He is Allah, the One).

Two sentences are fused into one: “Say, He is Allah. Say, He is One.” which becomes “Say, He is Allah , One.”

Note that the word huwa is not needed in this ayat, because the sentence is complete even without it, i.e. Qul Allahu ahad.

Definition of “Ahad” (One)


Differences between “Wahid” and “Ahad”

Both Wahid and Ahad mean “One”. So what’s the difference? Let’s take a look at these examples:

  • Laysa wahid mawjudan fil masjid — literally: there is not one in the mosque (meaning: there are more than one person in the mosque).
  • Laysa ahad mawjudan fil masjid — literally: there is not one person in the mosque (meaning: there is absolutely no one in the mosque; i.e. the mosque is totally empty).

Ahad is used in the negative sense (negation), while wahid  is used in the positive sense.

But in this surah, the word ahad is not used in the negative sense, but in the positive sense. This shows the uniqueness of this word being used to describe Allah SWT, as it does not normally appear in the Arabic language. The only place in Arabic literature where the word ahad is used in the positive without any further attributions is only in Surah Al-Ikhlas. In other words, it is never used for anyone except for Allah SWT.

The word ahad comes from the word wahd or wahad, which means one who is individual by himself and whose tribe, lineage, or origin is not known. But the word wahad is used as a person. Allah SWT did not use this word to describe Himself because it would make Him similar to other persons. Instead, He used the word ahad which is a unique word for Himself that is not used for any other person.

According to Imam Raghib al Isfahani, ahad is a separate root word from wahad. He argued that ahad is a unique sole entity which has no comparisons, competitors, and affiliations. This makes it ahad different than wahad.

The Concept of “Ahad”

One thing that makes our religion different than others is the unique concept of ahad — the fact that God is One and no attributes of Him can be associated with His creation (including human). He cannot be compared or affiliated with anything else. God does not have a son (as in Christianity), nor can He be found in a tree, rock, or stone (as in Hinduism).

But what about Al-Aleem (The Knowledgable), Al-Hakeem (The Wise), or Ar-Rahim (The Merciful)? These are some of the names or attributes that Allah SWT used to refer Himself. But these names or attributes can be referred to humans as well. A human can be knowledgeable, wise, or merciful. So how do we make sure we do not end up in shirk? How do we make sure we see the difference between these attributes used for Allah SWT and the attributes used for the human beings?

There are three things that we should notice in order to avoid ourselves from committing shirk (Let’s take the word Al-Aleem (The Knowledgeable) as an example):

  • Allah’s knowledge has no beginning or no end. It is infinite and timeless, while our knowledge is not.
  • Allah knowledge has no limit — there is nothing that He doesn’t know. As for our knowledge, it has limits.
  • The knowledge that we have is not something that we own, but rather it is something that is given to us by Allah SWT. But for Allah Himself, the knowledge is not given to Him, but it is something that He owns.

The only attributes that are not used for anyone except Allah SWT are the attributes used in Surah Al-Ikhlas: ahad, As-Shamad, lam yalid, and lam yulad (the last three will be explained later). This affirms the fact that this surah is about Allah SWT that is Unique and One.

Why not “Al-Ahad”?

Why does the second ayat of Surah Al-Ikhlas use Al-Shamad to describe Allah SWT, but the first ayat use the word Ahad (without the Al)?


This grammatical difference has some rhetorical benefits:

  • It puts the exclamation mark or emphasis in ahad. “He is Allah, ONE!!”
  • Putting a tanween  at the end (as can be seen in the above image) is used when someone asks a question and ahad was the response to a question “Who is Allah?”. In order to properly answer the question, we have to put a tanween instead of the Al.

Additional remarks from Brother Nouman

When we study world religions, it seems that most religions believe in one God. They all seem the same. We all seem to share the same faith. But when it comes to studying ahad carefully, we realize that those religions do not share the same thing. Our religion is different than theirs, because the concept of ahad is not agreed by them. It is a unique concept that can only be found in Islam.

As a Muslim, our main and only mission of our life is to do what God asks us to do. Everything from sholat, fasting, sacrifices, life, to death is for Allah SWT. Put it simply, our goal is be a perfect slave for Him. But for people who does not have such a specific goal, they would have to find another goal — they would become the slave to something that is worthless. This can be in the form of obsessing with their body, obsessing with their money, being famous or “worthwhile” in the eyes of others, and so on. What happen when those people fail to meet their goals? They often become suicidal or do something that can harm others, be it corruption or violence.

It is easy to say that Allah is One. But is He the One we dedicate our life to? Is there other thing that we put before ourselves? Does our action in life based on what makes Him pleased and happy? Does it worry us that He might not talk to us on the Day of Judgement? *cries*

What used to be something that burned inside the hearts of men, has now turned into something of abstract, philosophical debate.

Muhammad Iqbal

Today, tawheed has become debates and abstract discussions in theology. It is no longer something that burns inside our heart. We no longer have the strong connection with Allah SWT in which the people long time ago used to have.

Continue to Part 5.

Source: Nouman Ali Khan — can be found on YouTube or on Bayyinah.com.