I'm referring to the last ayah of Surah Ikhlas:

وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ - 112:4

What exactly does كُفُوً mean? Does it mean equal? Or does it mean equivalent?

In the English language the terms "equal" and "equivalent" are 2 separate things.

"Equal" means that two or more things are 100% same in every way. So when Allah says "There is none equal to Him", it implies that there is nothing that is 100% equal to him in any way. It opens up the possibility that there could be something that's "close to equal to Him". I'm guessing that it would be shirk to even believe that something is even "close to equal to Allah". Or worse, he might say that "Allah is the shape of man, but in a way that's not equal to human beings."

Now you might argue that كُفُوً doesn't mean "equal". You might say that it means "equivalent". Then you have another problem. The term "equivalent" means that two or more objects are 100% same in some specific way. Let me give you an example: Allah and humans are equivalent in terms of seeing, but not in terms of the nature of seeing. That is because even though both humans and Allah can see, Allah still sees things in a way that's beyond human perception - He sees everything, but in a way that can't be compared to the human's nature of seeing.

So if you argue that كُفُوً means "equivalent", then it opens up the possibility that Allah can have a shape that we can perceive. A person might say something like "Allah is the shape of man, but in a way that's beyond human perception. Hence, even if Allah is the shape of man, Allah's shape and human's shape can't be compared." Or, he might even say "Allah is in the form of two trees, but in a way that makes Him one. It is beyond human perception". (May Allah for give me. This is just an example.)

So if you're a native Arabic speaker who is very knowledgeable in the language of the Quran, please explain to me what كُفُوً really means. Because in my opinion, this term seems to be a bit ambiguous. It poses a problem whether it means "equal" or "equivalent". In both cases, one can interpret the Ayah such that Allah can have similar shapes or forms.

  • Consider the verse "لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ". "There is nothing like him. ".. Do not get to caught up by words, if you try to hard on analyzing every single word by itself without its context and ignoring the meaning you will end up very confused.. – Kilise Jun 1 '17 at 11:07

First it is only in the reading of hafs "كفوا" instead of "كفؤا" in all other qira'aat, with a missing hamzah "ء" on the waw "و".

The word "كفؤ" in Arabic means similar or equivalent. In the correct context it might also mean "able to do something" or "equal".

In Tafsir ibn Kathir it is said:

Imam Ahmad recorded from Ubayy bin Ka`b that the idolators said to the Prophet , "O Muhammad! Tell us the lineage of your Lord.'' So Allah revealed

(1. Say: "He is Allah" قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ)
(2. "One". اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ)
(3. "He begets not, nor was He begotten". لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ)
(4. "And there is non comparable to Him.'' وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَّهُ كُفُواً أَحَدٌ) Similar was recorded by At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Jarir and they added in their narration that he said,

(As-Samad الصَّمَدُ) is One Who does not give birth, nor was He born, because there is nothing that is born except that it will die, and there is nothing that dies except that it leaves behind inheritance, and indeed Allah does not die and He does not leave behind any inheritance.

(And there is none comparable to Him. وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَّهُ كُفُواً أَحَدٌ) This means that there is none similar to Him, none equal to Him and there is nothing at all like Him.'' Ibn Abi Hatim also recorded it and At-Tirmidhi mentioned it as a Mursal narration. Then At-Tirmidhi said, "And this is the most correct.''(qtafsir and Jami' at-Tirmdihi)

So the last verse of surat al ikhlass has similiarties to (42:11):

There's nothing like unto HIM

Note that Imam at-Tabari in his tafsir, quoted a second interpretation of كفؤ in the context of this verse, which is spouse, which seems to have been narrated on the authority of Mujahid.

  • 1
    Does this mean that no matter how I describe Allah (whether by words, or by visualization, etc), I'm always going to be wrong? If I say "Allah can be in the form of multiple objects and still be absolutely one in such a way that's beyond our perception", I'm still going to be wrong? – user16329 Jun 2 '17 at 14:18
  • Yes we should never even think of ALLAH's shape or physical attributes, as if they were somewhat like HIS creations. I think I've tried to explain this long ago in an answer here. (Just as an info I might add some linguistic explanations later, but I think the main issue should be clear now). – Medi1Saif Jun 2 '17 at 14:58
  • Thank you. I'm asking this because sometimes I go crazy and start asking myself "What if Allah is made of such and such but He is still one in a way that we won't understand until Qiyamah". How do you think I should tackle this problem? Should I just tell myself "Allah is one. There's none like Him. That's all I need to know"? I keep telling myself this but I feel like I'm committing shirk because "Allah is one" can be interpreted in many ways depending on religion. – user16329 Jun 3 '17 at 3:18
  • All I can tell you is that Allah can*t be measured the same way as any of HIS creations. All we know, of HIM is what we have learnt in the quran and in the sunnah, the best is to accept it as is, as any of our interpretations can lead us to mistakes or a wrong understanding and maybe to kufr (this doesn't mean that some attributes and statements of the quran or sunnah have been interpreted by some scholars of some of the schools of thought, but only Allah knows the truth). I think the quran quoted some good and logical explanations why HE is one and can't be more than one etc. – Medi1Saif Jun 3 '17 at 6:41
  • So all I have to do is accept Allah's attributes from the Quran and just say "Allah is one" without thinking too much about it or trying to interpret it in any way? This is what I'm doing. So far, it's making me feel a little better, Alhamdulillah. – user16329 Jun 3 '17 at 16:39

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