Abû Sa`îd al-Khudrî relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) asked his Companions: “Would any of you be unable to recite a third of the Qur’an in the course of a single night?”
They were troubled by this question and asked: “Who would be able to do that, O Messenger of Allah?” He said: “(The chapter of) ‘Allah is the One… (Surah Ikhlas) the Needless…’ is a third of the Qur’ân.”
[Sahîh al-Bukhârî (5015)]
This hadîth indicates the virtue of reading the chapter of the Qur’ân entitled Sûrah al-Ikhlâs.
Some people of knowledge have explained that it is third of the Qur’ân in consideration of what it conveys of the total meaning of the Qur’ân. We need to consider that the Qur’ân comprises legal rulings, narrations, and discussions of the principle of monotheism. This verse comprises monotheism, which is the best and noblest of all knowledge. It is a third of Qur’ân on this basis.
This is understanding is supported by another hadîth. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Allah has divided the Qur’ân into three parts. ‘Say: he is Allah, the one and only’ is one of these parts.” [Fath al-Bârî: (9/61)]
Someone asked Abû al-`Abbâs b. Surayj about the meaning of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) saying that this chapter of the Qu’rân equals a third of the Qur’ân. Abû al-`Abbâs replied: “The meaning of this is that Allah sent the Qur’ân in three parts: a third of it is comprised of legal rulings, a third is comprised of exhortations of promises and warnings, and a third is comprised of discussing Allah’s names and attributes. This chapter brings together within it those names and attributes.” [Majmû` al-Fatâwâ (17/103)]
Imam al-Qurtubî writes [Al-Mufhim (2/441-442)]:
This verse mentions two names of Allah which together indicate all the attrbutes of perfection. They are not mentioned in any other verse: “al-Ahad” and “al-Samad”. These two names indicate the oneness of the Sacred Being who possesses all the attributes of perfection.
“Al-Ahad” indicates the singularity of existence that cannot be shared by another entity.
“Al-Samad” implies all attributes of perfection. It means: “the One whose dignity and sovereignty reaches the extent where all other things in existence depend on for all their needs.” In other words, all needs are brought before Him. This attribute cannot be for other than the One who truly possesses complete perfection in al qualities. This cannot apply to anyone other than Allah. He is al-Ahad and al-Samad. And He “begets not, nor is He begotten. And none is like unto Him.”
This explanation makes clear that these two names possess a comprehensiveness in their indication of Allah and His attributes that are not found in any other names. And these names are not mentioned in any other chapter of the Qur’ân. This shows the special value of this chapter, and why it is regarded as a third of the Qur’ân.”
The virtues of this chapter also mentioned in other hadîth.
For instance, the Prophet sent an expedition under the command of a man who used to lead his companions in the prayers and would always finish his recitation with Sûrah al-Ikhlâs. When they returned, they mentioned this to the Prophet. He said to them: “Ask him why he does so.”
They went and asked him and he replied:” “I do so because it mentions the qualities of the Beneficent, and I love to recite it (in my prayer).”
The Prophet; said to them: “Tell him that Allah loves him.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (7375) and Sahîh Muslim (813)]
By reading this blessed chapter, the Muslim will receive blessings equal to that of reading a third of the Qur’ân. However, no one should read it in lieu of reading the rest of the Qur’ân. No one should assume that reading it thrice is equal to reading the whole Qur’ân. This is because the because the rewards and blessings of reading different verses of the Qur’ân are unique and varied.
Moreover, the Muslim needs to read about the other rulings and accounts related by the Qur’ân in order to get benefit thereof. A Muslim needs to read and follow the commands, refrain from sins, and heed the instructions so that he can worship Allah truly and correctly. In this way, the Muslim will be guided to correctness.
Imam Ibn Taymiyah writes [Majmû` al-Fatâwâ (17/138)]:
If a Muslim reads Surah al-Ikhlâs, he will be rewarded to the same degree as if he had read a third of the Qur’ân. However, that does not mean the reward is the same as that of actually reading a third of the Qur’ân.
He may needs the particular rewards and blessings attained by reading the commands, prohibitions, and stories. Therefore, Sûrah al-Ikhlâs will not bring those particular blessings and, consequently, it cannot not stand in lieu of the rest of the Qur’ân…
The Muslim will still be in need of what completes his faith, by knowing the commands, the prohibition, the promises and warnings, even if he already complies with what is obligatory on him. This is because the knowledge that it achieved by reading the rest of the Qur’ân cannot be obtained by reading this chapter only. Thus, the one who reads the full Qur’ân will be better than the one who reads this chapter three times, because the blessings are varied
Even if the one who reads this chapter three times receives an equivalent degree of blessings and rewards, it is only of one type only while the other types of blessings which he also needs, are not being received.
It is the same as a person who has three thousand gold coins and someone else who has food, clothing, real property and currency equal to the value of three thousand gold coins.
This latter person will have what he needs for all of his various purposes, while the former person is still in need of what the other one has, though he possesses the same amount of value.
For another example, consider a person has food of the highest quality to the value of three thousand gold coins. He will still be in need for clothes, real property, and something to ward off harm like weapons, medicine and the like. Food will not be everything.
And Allah knows best.