Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:12-14)
Sura 112 Al-Ikhlas (Sincerity)
The word Al-Ikhlas (or sincerity) does not appear anywhere in this Sura. This passage deals exclusively with Tauhid (the oneness of God) and, according to Islamic beliefs, anyone who understands and believes in its teaching, will be free of shirk (or polytheism).
Muhammad held this Sura in very high esteem and he and his followers recited it frequently and disseminated it among the people. The Sura states the fundamental doctrine of Islam (Tauhid) in four short sentences that are easy to memorize and recite. On several occasions, Muhammad told the people that this Sura is equivalent to one third the Quran.
Some traditions say that this Sura is Meccan while others claim it is Medinan. In every case, this Sura appears to have been given as a real, or imagined, attack on the beliefs of those who did not follow the teachings of Muhammad. Therefore, I have arranged the traditions from Syed Maududi's Commentary according to those whom Muhammad was addressing.
Abdullah bin Masud reported that the Quraish asked Muhammad:
Thereupon this Sura was sent down. (Tabarani).
Abul Aliyah related, on the authority of Ubayy bin Kab, that the polytheists said to Muhammad:
Thereupon Allah sent down this Sura. (Musnad Ahmad, Ibn Abi Harim, Ibn Jarir, Tirmidhi, Bukhari in At-Tarikh, Ibn al-Mundhir, Hakim, Baihaqi).
Jabir bin Abdullah has stated that a bedouin (according to other traditions, some people) asked Muhammad:
Thereupon Allah sent down this Sura. (Abu Yala, Ibn Jarir, Ibn al-Mundhir, Tabarani in Al-Ausat, Baihaqi, Abu Nuaim in Al-Hilyah).
Amir bin at-Tufail said to Muhammad:
After this, the Sura was given.
These traditions suggest Meccan origins since these incidents occurred early in Muhammad's "ministry" while he lived in Mecca.
Ikrimah related a tradition from Ibn Abbas, saying that a group of the Jews, including Kab bin Ashraf, Huyayy bin Akhtab and other, to Muhammad and said:
Anas said that some Jews of Khaiber came to Muhammad and said:
Dahhak, Qatadah and Muqatil have stated that some Jewish rabbis came to Muhammad and said:
Ibn Abbas has reported that a deputation of the Christians of Najran along with seven priests visited Muhammad and said:
These response to the Jews and Christians suggest a latter date for this "revelation" since Muhammad was in Medina during this time period.
Muhammad used this Sura (and its statement of Tauhid) against the Pagans, Jews, and Christians.
The polytheists of Arabia worshipped gods made of wood, stone, gold, and silver. These gods had bodies and the gods and goddesses were descendants of other gods and goddesses. The goddesses had husbands and were given food and water by their devotees. Some polytheists believed that God, at one point in time, assumed human form and there were some people who descended from Him.
The Christians believed in One God, however, Muhammad objected to the idea that God had a son and this sentiment is reflected in the third ayah. He also objected to the idea of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), which he completely misunderstood. Muhammad incorrectly believed and taught that Christians believed in three gods and even implied that Mary was a member of the Trinity.
The Jews also believed in One God. Like Muhammad's concept of God, the Jews believed that God was without physical or human qualities and characteristics. However, Muhammad, as well as today's Muslims object to the fact that the Old Testament says that He went for a stroll, appeared in human form, wrestled with Jacob. Muhammad also incorrectly claimed that the Jews believed that God was father of a son, Ezra.
Muhammad made many serious theological errors in the Qur'an, clear evidence that his revelations were not from God since God could never make these mistakes! For example, God would know the Christian definition of the Trinity and would know that Mary was never considered a member of the Trinity by any group of orthodox Christians. An all-knowing God would also know that nowhere in Jewish history is Ezra considered God's Son. There are other serious theological and historical errors in the Qur'an which are beyond the scope of this discussion.
Another problem is raised by the many different stories told by the traditions as the occasion for its revelation. This is clearly one of the most important suras of the Qur'an, yet we have no clear and consistent account of whether this Sura was "revealed" for Muhammad to preach to the Christians, Jews, or Pagans. The fact that the various traditions are so different and historically contradictory, creates some suspicion whether any of them are correct and in consequence the issue of the reliability of Muslim traditions in general. Obviously this Sura could only have been "revealed" once as something not yet known to Muhammad and his companions. In the other situations one would expect that Muhammad was reminded of the already known sura and asked to re-recite it as the suitable answer for his different audience and their questions. However, this is not what the traditions tell us. How would it be possible that this or any sura were "revealed" (the first time) in such different settings?
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