Observations on the structure and organization of Sūrat al-Ikhlāṣ
Sūrat al-Ikhlāṣ (Sincerity) is one of the most oft-recited suwar in the Quran by Muslims around the world. Though it is one of the shortest suwar, its contents succinctly summarize the uncompromising monotheism of Islam. It was revealed while the Messenger ﷺ was still in Makkah.
Sūrat al-Ikhlāṣ appears to have two probable structures. From one angle, it may be organized into a ring structure as follows:
The sūrah begins with the central call of Islam; Allah ﷻ is “One”, unique in His singularity [A]. This is in contrast to the lowercase “one” being referenced at the end of the sūrah who is simply one of many lesser beings [A’].
Following the declaration of monotheism, Allah ﷻ informs us that He is needed by all, while at the same time, needing no one else [B]. Unlike Allah ﷻ, all of creation can never be equal to Him with our deficiencies and needs [B’].
Finally, the sūrah centers on an important theological point that Allah ﷻ never has, and never will, take part in any type of birthing process. This furthers the points made in the outer sections as this makes Him unique to all living creatures, without comparison. He requires no parent, nor does He require an heir to come after Him.
However, if we look at the sūrah another way, we find an alternative structure1.
The sūrah begins by declaring Allah’s complete oneness and uniqueness. One might ask, “Are there others like Him, equally unique in their own right?” to which Allah ﷻ responds in the negative with the last āyah.
The second āyah deals with Allah ﷻ being eternal in the future. One might ask, “What about the past? Our souls also live on forever from the point of our creation.” To which Allah ﷻ responds with the second half of the third āyah. He has no beginning, and thus is eternal in the past as well.
The center is a succinct summary of both outer sections. Unlike all His creation, Allah ﷻ does not need a creator nor something to succeed Him as we do. This makes Him unique from all that is created and emphasizes His eternal being.
And Allah ﷻ knows best.
One I find much more convincing. Thank you, Omer A for sharing your reflections with me!