With over a hundred chapters of the Qur’an, three of them only have three verses. They are Al-Asr, Al-Kauthar and Al-Nasr. However, it’s Al-Kauthar which uses the least number of words to compose each verse. Thus, making this particular chapter, the shortest in the Qur’an.
The name of the chapter, Al-Kauthar, can be translated as “The Chapter of Sacrifice” and at times, “A River in Paradise”. The reason for such a variation in title is because of the essence and purpose that Al-Kauthar has. In order to get a sense of the general meaning of this short, yet very powerful chapter, let’s look at a general translation of the verses:
Verily, We have granted you (O Muhammad) Al-Kauthar.
Therefore turn in prayer to your Lord and sacrifice (to Him only).
Indeed your enemy is the one who is cut off.
Looking at the verses now, there are some things that, at first glance, might not be fully comprehensible. Despite the fact that it’s such a short chapter, it’s also still quite an enigma to extensively analyse it. But let’s try a brief analysis anyway:
Analysis of the verses
“Verily, We have granted you (O Muhammad) Al-Kauthar.”
What we can see so far is that Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) is being addressed by Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) in the first verse. This is not the first time this has happened. In similar situations, the Prophet is being consoled when he was facing hardship and enduring various kinds of verbal abuse from his enemies.
The Prophet has been granted an abundance of Al-Kauthar. This term, Al-Kauthar, can be understood in many different ways. However, let’s look at the root of the word kauthar, which is a descriptive derivation from the Arabic word kathrat, which means ‘a lot of blessings’.
We can’t really pinpoint what this multitude of blessings is, but scholars have suggested that it could very well mean: the river of paradise, or a fountain on the Day of Judgement which the Prophet will quench the thirst of his people. Or it could mean his multitude of companions. Or maybe it’s just as it proposes: a multitude of blessings, a multitude of goodness.
Thus, the exact reasons why the translated name of the chapter differs from one translation to the next.
“Therefore to your Lord turn in prayer and sacrifice.”
This verse is quite general and also can be quite inclusive. It’s a central theme in the Qur’an which is duly and constantly reminded in every chapter. That is, a person shows the effects of God’s mercy in their life by worshipping Him.
“Your enemy is the one who is cut off.”
The word enemy comes from the word “shani” from the verse, which means one who hates. This term can also be found in other parts of the Qur’an. But it is being used here as a possessive with the Prophet, to show that anyone who hates the Prophet, will be cut off from all the blessings and good in this life and the next. The enemies, in return, have acquired a great loss for just by hating.
Other points of interest
Allah and the Plural Pronoun
It should be noted that, in this particular chapter, as well as many other verses in the Holy Qur’an, Allah introduces Himself by the first person plural pronoun “We”. This royal We signifies both honour and power. Much like how nobility talk about themselves, they not only announce themselves but also their subordinates as well as to the presence of those in obedience.
Rhyme and Rhythm
There is an obvious rhyme in the chapter, ending with Kawthar, wanhar, abtar. Thus, resonating the sound of the first word of the first verse ‘al-Kawthar’. The Qur’an, evidently, selects the most apt words and phrases, achieving a one-of-a-kind sound within a matchless literary form.
There is also a repetition of the second person ‘ka’ (you), being mentioned in all three verses, paralleling in each verse. The reference of ‘you’ is focusing on the Prophet as the target of the speaker, as well as a stylistic technique to strengthen the Prophet. As we hear the consistency of ‘ka’ in each of the verse, it establishes not only continuity, but creates rhythm.
Thus, Al-Kauthar is a short, rhyming, inimitable chapter. With only three verses, the extraordinary chapter, in contrast, holds a colossal meaning and purpose. It reminds us of the importance of our Prophet Muhammad that he is the recipient of good. It also commands the Prophet to be thankful to God, for which automatically becomes a direct message to us that we should do the same, to be grateful to God for any positivity that comes our way.