Surah Al-Kawthar is the 108th and shortest chapter of the Holy Quran containing only 3 ayahs. Muslims are very familiar with this surah as it is likely the most recited surahs from the Quran when performing salah due to its short length. However, Surah Al-Kawthar’s shortness doesn’t imply that it lacks significance in the Seerah of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) or it doesn’t pack a punch. The background of its revelation will soften our hearts and enhance our appreciation for this short Surah as it relates to our Nabi (SAW).
Allah (SWT) revealed Surah Al-Kawthar in the middle of the Meccan era after one of the most tragic incidents in the life of the Prophet (SAW). As we know, our Nabi (SAW) had six children by our Mother Hazrat Khadija (RA) with one being a son named Qasim who was born before the revelation of Iqra and died before the revelation at six or seven years of age. The Prophet (SAW) had 2-3 daughters at the time of revelation and so the Quraish mocked that since Muhammad (SAW) had no sons, Islam would die with him. We must remember that Quraish society was patriarchal with preference given to sons over daughters. Due to their ignorance, the Quraish believed that the legacy of our Nabi (SAW) wouldn’t continue after his death since he (SAW) had no sons.
The Prophet (SAW) had a second son with Khadija (RA) named Abdullah (RA) born after revelation. The Quraish were in anguish when they heard of the birth of Abdullah (RA) which illustrates how much spite they had in their hearts for our Nabi (SAW) and Islam. Sadly, Abdullah (RA) died within the first 18 months of his birth, and naturally, the Prophet (SAW) was in grief while the Quraish celebrated this tragedy. Again, in their ignorance, the Quraish thought that our Nabi (SAW) was ‘cut-off and amputated’ with the death of Abdullah (RA). In this moment of sorrow, Allah (SWT) revealed Surah Al-Kawthar.
The revelation of Surah Al-Kawthar was Allah’s (SWT) consolation for the death of Abdullah (RA). After the revelation of the Surah, our Nabi (SAW) said, “A Surah has just been revealed to me. It is more precious to me than this whole Duniya and all that is in it.” And then he (SAW) recited Surah Al-Kawthar, “Indeed, We have granted you, [O Muhammad], al-Kawthar. So pray to your Lord and offer sacrifice [to Him alone]. Indeed, your enemy is the one cut off.”
Allah (SWT) is telling us through this Surah that when we lose something, He (SWT) replaces it with something else. In the context of the Prophet (SAW), Allah (SWT) consoled him (SAW) on the death of Abdullah (RA) by giving our Nabi (SAW) Al-Kawthar. What is Al-Kawthar? The Prophet (SAW) describes to us, “Al-Kawthar is a river in Paradise whose banks are of gold and it runs over pearls. Its water is whiter than milk and sweeter than honey. “(At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Ibn Abi Hatim, and Ibn Jarir). All the people of Jannah In Sha Allah will be drinking the water of Al-Kawthar, the fountain of our Nabi (SAW). This is the Prophet’s (SAW) gift to all those in Jannah who drink from this river. In Arabic, Kawthar means ‘abundance’ or ‘a lot’ and thus, Al-Kawthar will never run dry.
The second Ayat of Surah Al-Kawthar, “So pray to your Lord and offer sacrifice (to Him alone)” is Allah (SWT) directing our Nabi (SAW) to devote his obligatory and optional prayers to Allah (SWT) alone in the form of appreciation for the gift and blessings of receiving abundant blessings in this world and the Hereafter, including Al-Kawthar. Also, Allah (SWT) commands the Prophet (SAW) to perform a sacrifice of a camel. At the time of the revelation of Surah Al-Kawthar, our Nabi (SAW) couldn’t afford a camel and didn’t own one but Allah (SWT) is commanding him (SAW) to sacrifice more than one camel. Therefore, this Ayat is a prediction that one day, the Prophet of Allah (SWT) will have plenty of wealth and when that happens, make certain that you (SAW) are generous with this wealth. Ten years later when performing the Hajj ul-wida, our Nabi (SAW) sacrificed one hundred camels of which 63 were by his (SAW) own hands and the remainder done by Syedina Ali (AS). This Surah teaches us that our ibadah is not just to express our appreciation to Allah (SWT) for all the blessings He (SWT) has bestowed upon us but an opportunity to earn more from Allah (SWT).
The third and final Ayat of this Surah, “Indeed, your enemy is the one cut off” means that the enemies of the Prophet (SAW) are ‘cut off’. Today, no one remembers the offspring of people like Abu Jahl and Abu Lahab but it is our Nabi (SAW) who enjoys the greatest legacy with over a billion followers around the globe invoking blessings and Salawat upon him. Allah (SWT) and history have proven that the Prophet’s (SAW) enemies were the ones cut off or after.