Commentary on Surah al-Kawthar – Part 2

This is a transcript of a commentary on Sūrah al-Kawthar given by Shaykh Haider Hobbollah over four lessons. Click for Part 1.

We will now offer our observations on the fourth and last exegesis which understands kawthar to mean progeny of the Prophet (p), or specifically Fāṭima (s). We will divide the discussion into three parts. In the first part, we will evaluate the four arguments of the proponents and see whether their argument are strong enough to restrict the meaning of kawthar to just progeny or Fāṭima (s). In the second part, we will present six major critiques against the fourth interpretation – offered by different scholars – and see whether they are valid or not. Thirdly, we will present the names of numerous Shī’ī scholars who did not accept this interpretation.

Before we begin, we want to reiterate that the understanding of kawthar in this chapter to mean progeny is an old opinion. However, its restriction to just Fāṭima (a) occurred around 200 years ago as per what I found during my research. Furthermore, even the opinion of it meaning progeny was not the most famous opinion in the past, rather, it was one of almost 20 different opinions. There was no consensus or even popularity regarding this specific interpretation, let alone on it being restricted to Fāṭima (s), even amongst the Shī’a.

Part One: Evaluating the Arguments of the Fourth Interpretation

We will now evaluate the four arguments presented by the proponents of this view for restricting the meaning of the word to progeny or Fāṭima (a) and negating its general meaning of abundant good. Let us look at the fourth argument first, which was the following tradition:

‘Amr b. al-Āṣ sent forth (someone to Imam ‘Alī) to denounce him on different matters. One of them was that he names Ḥasan and Ḥusayn as the sons of the Messenger of Allah (p). He (a) said to the messenger (of ‘Amr), say to the hater son of the hater, if they were not his sons, he (p) would be abtar just as his father had thought.1

This tradition does not exist in any source, no book of history, or biographies, or ḥadīth or tafsīr or anywhere. It only exists in the Sharḥ Nahj al-Balāgha of Ibn Abī al-Ḥadīḍ who died in 7th century hijrī and he did not mention any source for it, not even a chain of transmitters. To use this report as a strong contextual indicator is very difficult. Furthermore, even if we were to accept this tradition, all it proves is that the Prophet (p) will not be without a progeny since he is not abtar, but to make the claim that kawthar subsequently means progeny or Fāṭima (s) depends on a second presumption which is that there has to be a relationship between the words kawthar and abtar. We will later show that perhaps there can be an absence of a relationship between the two words.

The third argument they cited were the traditions on the reasons for the chapter’s revelation and ‘Allāmah used these as his main argument. The traditions that mention the meaning of abtar in this verse are far fewer than the numerous traditions that talk about the meaning of kawthar as a pond in heaven. In addition, most of them are all narrated by the tābi’īn, not even the companions, let alone the Prophet (p) or the Ahl al-Bayt (a). Even the very few that are narrated by the companions return back to Ibn ‘Abbās. Furthermore, most of them are all found in the books of Ahl al-Sunnah, not Shī’ī works – you will only find two or three traditions in Shī’ī works that speak about the meaning of abtar in this verse in the context of its revelation. Also, there are numerous contradicting reports from both the companions and the tābi’īn which interpret abtar to mean someone who is cut off from his nation or cut off from good. For those interested to further read these traditions they can refer to Jāmi’ al-Bayān of Ṭabarī.

Furthermore, not all traditions even explain what abtar means. There is one set of traditions that says ‘Ās b. Wā’il is abtar – this does not tell us the meaning of abtar. The traditions that suggest the meaning of abtar is someone deprived of a progeny, in context of this very chapter, are extremely few.

Likewise, we want to reiterate the argument we made in our critique of the tradition cited from Ibn Abī al-Ḥadīd, which is that all these traditions prove – if they do – is the meaning of abtar. They do not tell us the meaning of kawthar, and to imply kawthar means progeny is to presume that the two verses and words are related to one another.

Let us for argument’s sake accept everything for a moment – let us presume that there are traditions by which we can establish that kawthar means progeny, or even Fāṭima (s). We still face a dilemma which is that on the one hand we have these very few traditions that say kawthar means progeny, but a large number of traditions that say kawthar means a pond in heaven. For what reason did ‘Allāmah prefer the former set of traditions over the latter? If you say the latter are mostly Sunnī traditions and hence we prefer the former, well then, the former are also mostly Sunnī. If you say the latter are mostly weak traditions, then the former are also mostly weak traditions. There is no reason to prefer the former set of traditions – which only speak about abtar and you have to derive the meaning of kawthar indirectly through them – over the latter set of traditions which speak about the meaning of kawthar directly, describe it as a pond, and are much more in number.

This is a very strange position held by ‘Allāmah, especially when we know his general methodology when it comes to the traditions explaining the reasons for revelation is that he does not give them much value, to begin with. Why he gave these small number of traditions preference over traditions that describe kawthar as a pond is strange. The traditions on the pond are not only much more in number, but they include more Shī’ī traditions as well, and there are many more proponents of that view amongst the scholars.

It would have been much more appropriate and befitting if ‘Allāmah had stuck to the general meaning of kawthar and argued that progeny or Fāṭima (a) are simply one instance of kawthar – by applying the Principle of Movement and Application (al-Jarī wa al-Tāṭbīq),2 like he does in many other places of his exegesis.

Now we move on to the last two internal contextual indicators. The first argument was that if you do not understand the word kawthar to mean progeny then that would mean the chapter is talking about two different subject-matters. The second argument was regarding the words “inna” and “huwa”. Let us offer our observations on these two arguments:

a) There is no doubt that abtar in the Arabic language has been used to mean someone deprived of a progeny. However, just because the Qurān uses this word, it does not necessarily mean it has also been used in the same meaning. This is because abtar has been used to mean many other things as well. Essentially, the fallacious argument of the proponents is as follows:

One of the meanings of a word in the Arabic language is X

It is possible for the Qurān to have used this word in X meaning

Hence, the Qurān has used this word in X meaning

This fallacious argument exists in many works of exegesis. For example, consider the word thiyāb in Arabic, what does it mean? Clothes. However, in the Arabic language the word thiyāb is also used to mean heart (qalb). So certain exegetes, especially those with mystical affinities, claimed that the verse [74:4] وَثِيَابَكَ فَطَهِّرْ meant it was an order to the Prophet (p) to purify his heart. This is very evidently fallacious.

Likewise, the word abtar in the Arabic language has been used to mean someone who is deprived of good, from progeny, from remembrance and fame and so on. There is nothing within the chapter itself that allows us to prefer the meaning of abtar to be someone deprived of a progeny – the only contextual indicator for that are the traditions which are external evidence, and we have already discussed their condition.

b) Secondly, ‘Allāmah says that if kawthar does not mean progeny then that would mean the chapter is talking about two different subject-matters, and that is a problem. This is a very good attempt to justify the claim, however some scholars have responded to this as follows:

i. Shahīd Muḥammad al-Ṣadr al-Thānī says what is the problem if there are two subject-matters in one chapter? There are many chapters that speak about multiple subjects matters and that is not something strange, rather it is pretty common in the Qurān. The chapter could be saying: Indeed, We have given you abundant good, so pray to your Lord, and sacrifice due to what Allah (swt) has blessed you with. On a completely different note, indeed it is your enemy who is without a progeny.

This is what al-Ṣadr has said. It an argument, though I believe it is not the strongest of arguments since the chapter is so short and so it still seems a little far-fetched for it to be speaking about two different subject-matters.

ii. This second explanation is also given by Shahīd al-Ṣadr al-Thānī, and this is a much stronger argument. He says, we agree that the last verse of the chapter is in opposition to what is being discussed in the first verse, hence both verses should be speaking about one thing. However, why are we presuming abtar means someone deprived of a progeny and not someone deprived of abundant good?

This is a valid argument. ‘Āllāmah – apparently – seems to be influenced by the traditions and then goes to the end of the chapter to define what abtar means, and then concludes that kawthar means progeny. However, why should we begin like that, and not from the beginning of the chapter where we take the meaning of kawthar as abundant good, subsequently concluding that abtar means someone deprived of this abundant good.

c) As for the last argument regarding the words “inna” and “huwa” then even in this case if we take the meaning of kawthar to mean abundant good and abtar to mean someone who is deprived of it, there would be no problem with the meaning of the chapter. It would simply mean: Indeed, We have given you abundant good, and as a matter of fact, it is your enemy who is deprived of this abundant good.

Overall, the fourth interpretation is standing on two fundamental arguments. One of them is the traditions which we showed were not only weak but very few in number and contradict a large number of traditions that speak of kawthar as a pond. The second argument was the presumption that abtar necessarily means someone who is deprived of a progeny in this specific verse.

Part Two: Critiques on the Fourth Interpretation

The aforementioned discourse was all related to the first part of our discussion. The second part of our discussion expounds on the independent critiques offered against the fourth interpretation. Most of these critiques are focused on the claim that the word kawthar is restricted to Fāṭima (s). There are six major critiques:

1) If kawthar was specifically Fāṭima (s), then how is it possible for there to not even have been one single narration in the ḥadīth corpus of the Muslims. This is extremely strange. Not one single tradition, not even a weak one or a later one. Someone did not even bother to fabricate such a tradition. This is while we have so many traditions in our books – and even in Sunnī books – that interpret verses upon verses of the Qurān in light and praise of the Ahl al-Bayt (a). If this verse was indeed an explicit reference to Fāṭima (s), this would have been one of the greatest merits of Fāṭima (a) so how could it have been possible for there to not even be one single tradition on the matter? For me personally, this is extremely strange. I am not saying this critique invalidates the fourth interpretation completely, but it significantly weakens its probability.

On the contrary, we find many traditions that say kawthar is a pond or a lake and one Shī’ī tradition from Imām al-Ṣādiq (a) even says it means intercession on the Day of Judgement.

2) If abtar means someone who is deprived of a progeny, there is a problem which Ibn ‘Āshūr points out in his exegesis. He says, if the verse is saying ‘Ās b. Wa’il al-Sahmī is abtar, this contradicts the fact that he was not abtar. He had a son ‘Amr b. al-Ās who is famous and well known, and even ‘Amr had a son named ‘Abdullah b. ‘Amr who is a famous narrator amongst the Ahl al-Sunnah. This is established and recorded in the works of history. This also weakens the traditions themselves.

Ibn ‘Āshūr says that if we were to accept these traditions, then it would be necessary to understand the last verse in what is termed as Uslūb al-Ḥakīm (the construct of speech by the wise) in the science of rhetoric. Meaning, the verse is saying, indeed we have given you a lot of good and guidance, and it is your enemy who is deprived – but not deprived of what he believes to be a deprivation in the sense of progeny, rather he will be afflicted with true deprivation. He will not be remembered, his mention will be erased from all good and righteous places, he will not enter heaven, he will be a forgotten person and so on. This is true deprivation – not the lack of progeny.

As I mentioned at the beginning of our lessons, there is a discrepancy in the traditions on who this individual was. I checked the names of all others to see whether there was anyone who did not have a progeny. Some traditions say it was Abū Lahab – he was not abtar, since he had three children. Some traditions say it was Walīd b. Mughīrah – he was not abtar since his son was Khālid b. Walīd who himself had children. Some traditions say it was ‘Amr b. al-Ās and as we mentioned he had a son. Some traditions say it was Abū Jahl – he was not abtar since he had sons, some of them very well known. Some traditions say it was ‘Uqba – he was not abtar since he had children, such as Walīd b. ‘Uqba and according to some traditions the verse of al-Naba’ (49:6) was revealed for him. All of these individuals were not abtar in the sense that they did not have a progeny. Hence, the critique of Ibn ‘Āshūr is strengthened.

However, our observation on Ibn ‘Āshūr’s argument is that it is not necessary that when Allah (swt) calls someone abtar that they will not have any immediate progeny. It could be a general statement saying that their progeny will eventually cease to exist. Maybe someone could investigate the genealogy of these figures and conclude that their progeny was indeed cut off after 100 years or so – who knows – time does not allow us to get into such extensive research.

3) Ibn ‘Āshūr has a second critique and that is based on his opinion that the chapter was revealed in Medina. He says that the verse commanding the Prophet (p) to sacrifice, and this is in reference to what happened during Ḥudaybīyyah.

We have alluded to this already in the beginning of our lessons and we believe this is a very weak claim. As a matter of fact, we will explain what the word sacrifice (naḥr) in this verse means shortly.

4) If the word kawthar in this chapter means Fāṭima (s) – which is what is popularly understood today, in fact, people even name their daughters Kawthar because they believe they are giving them one of the names of Fāṭima (s) – then that would mean kawthar is from one of her titles, epithets or from one of her names. When we look at the traditions and historical reports regarding Fāṭima (s) – whether they are authentic or not – there is not one single report which mentions this as one of her titles or names.

What we find instead are the following names: Fāṭima, Ṣiddīqa, Mubārakah, Shahīdah, Ṭāhirah, Zakīyyah, Rāḍīyyah, Raḍīyyah, Marḍīyyah, Muḥaddatha, Zahrā’, Baṭūl, Baḍa’, Sayyidah al-Nisā’, Sayyidah Nisā’ al-‘Ālamīn, Ḥaṣān, Sayyidah, Umm al-A’imma, Umm Abīhā, Ḥurrah, ‘Adharā’, Ḥawrā’, al-Ḥawrā’ al-Insīyyah, Maryam al-Kubra, al-Siddīqah al-Kubrah, Nūrīyyah, Manṣūrah and others.

All of these titles are mentioned – some of them in traditions, some in the traditions of the Ahl al-Bayt (a), while others are mentioned in the words of scholars of the past or works of history and so on. Not one of these traditions or scholars refers to her as Kawthar and this shows that such a name was not attributed to her at all in the past.

5) This fifth argument is against those who took the meaning of kawthar to mean progeny – it is not applicable to those who restrict the meaning to just Fāṭima (s). It argues: is it really a Qurānic theme to prefer someone over another due to the number of children they have and how large their progeny is? If the verse is saying, indeed We will give you a great progeny, and your enemy will be deprived of it, what merit does this have? Does the Qurān not say [102:1] Rivalry [and vainglory] distracted you? Preference of one over the other due to the number of children and progeny was an Arab culture, the very culture the Qurān was trying to get rid of.

In addition, have there not been hundreds, if not thousands, of Prophets (p) whose progenies have ceased to exist, and we do not remember those Prophets (p) except through their histories, their stories, the struggles they went through and so on? Furthermore, does simply having a progeny really a good thing, or is it only a good thing if the progeny is righteous? Allah (swt) says to Nūḥ [11:46] O Noah, indeed he is not of your family; indeed, he is [one whose] work was other than righteous.

Or [42:50] Or He makes them [both] males and females, and He renders whom He wills barren. Indeed, He is Knowing and Competent.

Having a large progeny and lineage is simply in the hands of Allah (swt) and is it not something to be proud of or to feel conceited about.

6) The traditions say that the chapter was revealed when one of the sons of the Prophet (p) passed away, and ‘Ās called him (p) abtar. The verse was revealed saying: Indeed, We have given you al-kawthar. The verse uses the past tense “given you”; this is while Khadīja (s) had not even given birth to Fāṭima (s) yet. Therefore, it has to be something that the Prophet (p) had already been given, such as knowledge, or wisdom, or faith, or even at that moment he (p) could have been given the pond in heaven. However, if you understand the word kawthar to mean progeny, then you would have to understand this as a promise, rather than an informative statement. Understanding this past-tense as a promise is against the prima-facie of the verse.

We believe this is not a very strong argument and it is possible to respond to it. This is because in the Arabic language such use is not uncommon and hence it is not that difficult to understand the past tense verb as a promise in this verse.

Nevertheless, our conclusion after all these discussions is that the first interpretation is the most reasonable one. Kawthar means abundant good and it has many instances, such as belief, Prophethood, Qurān, wisdom, Fāṭima (s), righteous progeny, pond or lake in heaven and so on; whereas abtar is someone who is deprived of all of these.

Part Three: View of Shī’ī Scholars

In the third part of our discussion we will mention the names of Shī’ī scholars who – like myself – accepted the first interpretation:

  1. Shaykh Ṭabrasī in Majma’ al-Bayān
  2. Shaykh Ṣādiqī Tehrānī in al-Furqān fī Tafsīr al-Qurān
  3. Sayyid Ja’far Murtaḍa ‘Āmilī in his Tafsīr Sūrah al-Kawthar
  4. Sayyid Muḥammad Ḥusayn Faḍlullah in his Tafsīr
  5. Gonābādī in his Bayān al-Sa’ādah
  6. Shaykh Muḥammad Jawād Maghnīyyah in Tafsīr al-Kāshif
  7. Sayyid Muḥammad Taqī al-Modarresī in Tafsīr min Huda al-Qurān
  8. Sayyid Muḥammad Ḥusayn Shīrāzī in Taqrīb al-Qurān ila al-Adhhān
  9. Sayyid ‘Alī al-Ḥa’irī al-Tehrānī in his Muqtanayāt al-Durar wa Multaqaṭāt al-Thamar
  10. Sayyid ‘Abd al-Ḥusayn al-Ṭayyاb in his Aṭyab al-Bayān fī Tafsīr al-Qurān
  11. Sayyid ‘Alī Akbar al-Qurashī in his Tafsīr Aḥsan al-Ḥadīth
  12. Ḥusaynī Shāh ‘Abd al-Aẓīmī in his Tafsīr Ithnā’ ‘Asharī
  13. Sayyid ‘Abdullah Shubbar in his Tafsīr al-Qurān al-Karīm
  14. Sayyid Maḥmūd Tāliqānī in his Partoyī Az Qurān
  15. ‘Alī b. al-Ḥusayn al-‘Āmilī in his al-Wajīz fī Tafsīr al-Qurān al-‘Azīz
  16. Sayyid Abū al-Qāsim al-Khū’ī in his work al-Bayān under the discussion of the miraculousness of the Qurān
  17. Mullā Fatḥullah al-Kāshānī in his Zubdah al-Tafāsīr

We have also previously mentioned the name of Shahīd al-Ṣadr al-Thānī who also holds this opinion. All of them are Imāmīyyah Shī’a scholars and they accept that kawthar means abundant good. They believe all things that are mentioned otherwise are simply instances of kawthar and that the verse is not restricted to any one single instance.

Verse 2 – Fa Ṣalli Li Rabbika Wanḥar

Due to the fa we know that that this verse is linked to the first verse. It signifies an exchange, that is, since We have given you a lot of good, you should return the favour by praying and sacrificing. The verse is teaching the Prophet (p), other Muslims and rest of humanity, that whatever Allah (swt) gives to you deserves gratefulness and thanks (shukr). This is something all humans acknowledge; when someone does something good for you, you feel you must thank them for their favour, even if the value of what you return the favour with is less in terms of quantity and quality than the original favour.

Shukr is of different types, one time you can thank someone verbally by simply saying, “thank you”, but there are practical ways to be thankful as well such as what is being mentioned in this verse. In this era mankind has forgotten the favours of Allah (swt) and has forgotten to thank Him for all His blessings. Instead, we have considered ourselves the criterion and we believe we are the ones who deserve thanks from others. Though such human rights do exist and thanks should be offered where relevant, but not at the cost of us forgetting the rights of Allah (swt).

Allah (swt) in the Qurān says, [14:7] If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor] – which establishes a further relationship between gratefulness and increase in our blessings and favour.

In the verse of Sūrah al-Kawthar, Allah (swt) commands the Prophet (p) to pray and to sacrifice. In other words, he (p) is being asked to thank Allah (swt) by engaging in an act of worship and by spending and giving to others through sacrifice (as we will discuss in detail shortly).

The relevance of the word li-rabbika should also be very clear, indicating that the prayers are only for your Lord, unlike what the polytheists of Makkah believed. Also note that the verse switches from first-person to third-person – it says “We gave you abundant good”, so “pray to your Lord” instead of “pray to Us”. This switch magnifies the reason for why the Prophet (p) is being asked to thank Allah (swt) and that is due to His (swt) Lordship (rubūbīyyah). It is your Lord (swt) who cares about you, showers His (swt) grace upon you, assists you and grants you favours and blessings.

An important question to discuss now is what do the words Ṣalāt and Naḥr mean in this verse. The difference of opinion is due to the traditions on the revelation of this verse, or due to certain analysis some exegetes have put forth, or simply due to other traditions that speak about these words independently. Let us look at these opinions:

1) Fa-Ṣallī is simply a command to pray. Wanḥar is a command to raise your hands during takbīr during prayers up until your throat. Some Shī’ī and Sunnī traditions indicating these do exist and some jurists even concluded that this is not something you do just for the first takbīr, but rather every takbir or anytime you raise your hands – which includes raising your hands for the recitation of the qunūt.

2) Fa-Ṣallī is a command to pray – just like the first interpretation above. Wanḥar means that when you stand up from rukū’ in prayers, stand up with a straight back, and do not slouch over. They argue that when we look at the word Naḥr linguistically, we see that it is used for multiple meanings. One of its meaning is throat, but it also means to stand face to face. Proponents of this interpretation say that the verse is saying you should stand up straight looking directly towards the Qiblah.

3) Fa-Ṣallī is a command to pray. Wanḥar means that when you raise your hands for takbir, your palms should be facing the Qiblah.

Our observation on all three interpretations is that if there are reliable reports – as per one’s view on the probative force of solitary reports – explaining and defining the word Naḥr as above, then there is no issue and they have to abide by this understanding. However, if one rejects these traditions for whatever reason – and there is a lengthy discussion amongst the jurists over these traditions and one can refer to them to see the different arguments –then one must wonder if any of the three explanations above are strong. Here are a number of observations:

i. Some may say there is no relationship between being given kawthar and being commanded to pray to offer thanks, with such a detailed act within that prayer – i.e. this is how you should raise your hands for takbir, or this is how you should stand up after rukū’. The relationship of this very detailed matter in respects to thanking Allah (swt) is not very clear.

To further elaborate: we can understand if one says, Allah (swt) has given you a lot of favours, so thank Him (swt) by praying and giving charity, for example. But if someone says, Allah (swt) has given you a lot of favours, so thank him by praying, and make sure when you raise your hands in takbīr your palms are facing towards the Qiblah (or raise them till your throar, or that when you stand up from rukū’ make sure you stand up straight facing the Qibla). This is a little strange and its connection to being thankful and grateful to Allah (swt) alongside the general concept of praying is not very clear.

This is on top of the fact that most jurists have not given a verdict on it being obligatory to raise your hands for takbīr in Ṣalāt (except the first one), let alone a verdict on raising it till the throat or ensuring that the palms face the Qibla.

ii. Some exegetes have said the gap between Fa-Ṣallī and Wanḥar with the word li-rabbika further weakens these three explanations. This is because it appears that the concept of Ṣalāt ends with the word “for your Lord”, and the word wa after it is essentially indicating the mentioning of something different, rather than a small detail within the same prayers that was previously mentioned before the phrase “for your Lord”.

The above observation is not very clear to me itself and I do not find it very strong, but this is what they have said.

iii. The most important critique is that the word Naḥr in Arabic is more popularly and famously used for the slaughtering of a camel. The Arabs did not know about such details about the prayers, particularly at the time of Makkah during the beginning stages of Islam. For the Qurān to speak about such a detailed jurisprudential matter regarding Ṣalāt in the Makkan period, while the word Naḥr was already popularly used to mean slaughtering a camel, is very far-fetched and weakens the possibility of the three interpretations.

All of these observations are under the presumption that there are no reliable traditions on the matter, but as we have already said, if there is a reliable and probative tradition explaining Naḥr to mean one of these detailed matters, then one must stick to the traditions.

4) Fa-Ṣallī is a command to pray, but Wanḥar is a command to face the Qibla when sacrificing a camel.

This is simply wrong since the proponent has used two different meanings of Naḥr – sacrificing a camel and facing the Qibla – to come up with this interpretation. Even if one were to say that it is possible for a word to be used in multiple meanings at one time, it would still be against the prima-facie of the word Naḥr. In fact, the previous three interpretations are much more reasonable than this one.

5) Though Naḥr means slaughtering a camel, but this slaughtering was closely related to the Ḥajj in the Arab culture. Hence, the Prophet (p) is being commanded to sacrifice a camel during Ḥajj on ‘Īd al-Aḍḥa. This also then becomes a contextual indicator that the command to pray (Fa-Ṣallī) is a command to pray Ṣalāt al-‘Īd. This is what Ibn ‘Āshūr has mentioned and some traditions actually assist this interpretation – but those interested can look at the books of jurisprudence and see what the jurists have concluded there since some have used the verse to prove the obligation of Ṣalāt al-‘Īd.

Ibn ‘Āshūr showed a lot of attention to detail in this interpretation, but in any case, there are a number of problems with it. Firstly, we agree that Naḥr was associated with the slaughtering of camels, however, the claim that this slaughtering was most popular and known to have occurred during Ḥajj is unknown – this needs evidence. On the contrary, there is evidence to suggest that the Arabs would sacrifice and slaughter a camel when they wanted to distribute a lot of food to people out of hospitality or out of charity. This is what was well-known in the Arab culture.

This is on top of the fact that there is no evidence to argue that this chapter had anything to do with Ḥudaybīyyah, or Ḥajj or that it was even revealed in Medina.

6) Fa-Ṣallī is a general command to pray and Wanḥar is a general command to sacrifice and slaughter a camel. Of course, the mere sacrifice is not what is intended, rather it is being used as a metonymy (kināyah) to distribute the food, feed people out of charity and hospitality. It is like when someone says, “slaughter a sheep for them”. This does not mean you slaughter a sheep for a group of people and then just throw the sheep away, rather it means you slaughter it and then serve it to them as food.

In our view, the last explanation is the most reasonable understanding of the verse.

Verse 3 – Inna Shāni’aka Huwa al-Abtar

Shāni’ is someone who possesses hate, but a type of hate that is worse than mere enmity. They possess the worse type of enmity and hate possible. Hence the verse is saying, your hater and enemy will be the deprived one, they will be the ones at loss.

Though this chapter is addressing the Prophet (p), it can be generalized to all. Those upon whom Allah (swt) bestows His favours and blessings, then they must thank Him for His Lordship by showing servitude to Him alone and as well as being charitable and hospitable to people around them. As for those who trouble you out of their severe hate for you, they will be the ones deprived of Allah’s (swt) favours and they will be the ones at loss.

A Final Word of Advice

We will conclude this exegesis by mentioning a few words of advice in regards to what was said about this chapter not being specifically restricted to Lady Fāṭima (s) – as it appeared some students were a little shocked to learn about this matter. Perhaps the laymen and general laity have an excuse for associating this chapter or other matters of religion to things that are not necessarily valid or reliable. A speaker comes to them to their city or village, sits on the pulpit and says certain things – they have no reason not to believe him. They will accept his words as he is their source of knowledge and they learn from these speakers all the time.

However, there is no excuse for a student of the Ḥawzah, one who has entered into the seminary, has opened the door to research and further investigation, to remain an imitator (muqallid). I do not mean an imitator in jurisprudence – do not confuse it with that. For a student of the seminary, it is necessary to look, research and investigate the different opinions, contemplate over them. They must enter into this realm, and not remain like the local vegetable sellers – and I do not mean any offence to them – who do not have any idea about the detailed discussions of religion.

The laymen are excused as their sources of knowledge for these matters are whoever comes to them and recites from the pulpit, or what they hear from the radio or television and so on. Most do not have time to research into these matters, nor do they care – this is fine and that is their right. But for someone who enters the seminary, and has spent year after year, it is simply not appropriate for them to remain like a layman. This is extremely dangerous, particularly for the religion itself. You must get out of the robes of the laity and become a real student, even if you do not become a jurist in jurisprudence – I am not talking about jurisprudence.

Of course, all of this needs to happen gradually, not that on the first day someone enters the seminary they think they are now the jurist of the century or the greatest scholar of their time – no. However, it needs to happen, and a student is not excused, especially because they carry a great responsibility on their shoulders. Personally, I can offer a simple piece of advice to students, so that when they are on this journey of learning they do not fall into shock and confusion when they come across opinions they are not familiar with:

Study the history of the various sciences and issues. When you study the history of these issues, you will become immune to hearing differing opinions and the shock factor will slowly diminish. When you keep believing there is only one opinion on the matter, then even after spending 10 years in the seminary, you will fall into a state of shock and fear as soon as come across a second opinion. This is because you were ignorant of the history of the discussion and the differences of opinions that existed on it from the very beginning. This shock is a result of ignorance and the only way to cure it is to get out of that ignorance. Study the heritage, read the works of the scholars, continuously skim through their works, do not begin any discussion from scratch – rather know that for most matters there generally exists a 1000-years of discussion. This will allow you to become a scholar and you will no longer remain a layman.

If you are a student, yet you still behave and think like a layman, then whenever you hear a new opinion you will react in one of two ways. One way is that you will either block off the opinion and discard it without giving it any thought and attention. This is while, more often than not, the opinion that you are discarding is not even a new opinion, rather only due to your ignorance of the history of the matter you believe it is new.

The second way you could possibly react is that the moment you hear a different opinion – especially if it comes from a relatively important scholar – it will feel as if lightning has struck you and you will lose all trust and certainty in your previously held beliefs and ideas. This is also very dangerous and incorrect.

Both of these approaches are wrong and we must take the middle ground. This is something that needs to become part of our pedagogy – one must not fall into immediate doubt and skepticism, nor put a barrier between themselves and a different opinion. We must train ourselves to remain calm and collected when we hear a new opinion. We must allow ourselves to investigate it and contemplate over it, not dogmatically reject it and nor become skeptical about all of our previously held beliefs.

There is this story reported, that once Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī was found weeping by some of his students and they asked him about it. He said he is weeping because for three decades he believed in a certain matter in one of the issues of logic, but he realized he had been incorrect this whole time. The students said to him that this should be a matter of joy since you have realized your error, hence there is no reason to cry. He replied, “I am not weeping because I have realized I was wrong on this specific matter, rather, I am weeping because it is possible I could have been wrong on all other issues as well.”

We do not want to react dogmatically, but at the same time we do not want to react like Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī either, who eventually became known as Shaykh al-Mushakkikīn (the Leader of the Skeptics).


  1. Sharḥ Nahj al-Balāgha of Ibn Abī al-Ḥadīd, v. 20, pg. 334
  2. TN: This principle states that while a verse may have been revealed in a specific time for a specific person or situation, its intended message or aim is not limited to that case but can be applied out in further cases that are similar. The principle translates to movement and application; the message of the verse moves beyond its case and is applicable in other cases.

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