The Review of Religions is pleased to continue our serialisation of the first-ever full English Translation of At-Tafsīr-ul-Kabīr – The Grand Exegesis. This is the magnum opus of Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra), Second Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and whilst parts of it have previously been published in other works, such as the five-volume Holy Qur’an with English Translation and Commentary, it has never before been translated in its entirety.
This is one of the most insightful and in-depth commentaries of the Holy Qur’an ever written, and The Review of Religions has the honour to publish it for our English readers for the first time.
Translated by Murtaza Ahmad
Edited by The Review of Religions Translation Team
[Continuation of the Exegesis: Master of the Time of Judgement]
The other meaning of this verse is that Allah the Almighty is the Master of the time of the shariah [Islamic law] and religion. Here, a very subtle theme is mentioned with regards to the law of nature. Usually, Allah the Almighty treats the world in accordance with the general law of nature. However, at the time when the foundation of the religion or the shariah is to be laid down, Allah the Almighty manifests the attribute of mālikiyyah [ownership]. In other words, not only is God’s sovereignty, which is connected with the general law of nature, manifested, but His attribute of mālikiyyah is also particularly manifested at this time. That is to say, that Allah the Almighty acts with special and extraordinary power, and it would seem to those people who are ignorant of the subtleties of Allah’s divine quality that they are witnessing the laws of nature being broken. A poor and helpless person makes a claim in front of the world, and everyone opposes him.
And yet, despite having no worldly resources, that person is successful. Likewise, there are many more similar instances where, through prayers and miracles, events happen which are witnessed by the world and which leave it bewildered. In fact, the very wisdom behind these events is that at the time when Allah the Almighty sets in motion any spiritual system, or lays down the foundation of any shariah, He especially manifests, not His attribute of Kingship, but that of His being the Master. That is to say, instead of His natural law, He begins to manifest His special law, which operates exclusively for the benefit of those whom He loves. And thus such events take place during this time that seem to be miraculous. In the time of every prophet, Allah has steadily manifested this to be His practice. And this sūrah [chapter] declares that the same thing will happen during the time of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his followers. Through extraordinary events, which seem to violate the law of nature, Allah the Almighty will help the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be on him and his followers. And thus this will be proof that this is the age of the establishment of the shariah, and that the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his followers, is the true Messenger of Allah the Almighty.
Another meaning of this verse is that Allah the Almighty is the Master of the time when good actions are performed, and of the time when sin is committed. Here, it is indicated that the world goes through two phases, one period in which both goodness and sin are found equally in the world. During this period, God Almighty’s natural law applies to the world. However, a time comes when sin and only sin become prevalent. At that time, Allah the Almighty manifests Himself as the Master, and tends to His garden and raises a prophet through whom a nation comes into being which becomes so righteous that it can be said of them that it is as if all of them are virtuous. At that time too, Allah the Almighty continues to help this nation through His special decree, till the time comes when their standard [of virtue] lowers and they become equally inclined towards both virtue and sinfulness. At this stage, God Almighty withdraws His special decree and begins to treat them in accordance with His natural law, until the time comes when the nation becomes utterly depraved. Then, again, Allah the Almighty, in accordance with His Practice, manifests His attribute of being the Master. Again a prophet is raised; again, sin is uprooted; again, a virtuous nation is created. And during all this time, the special decree, i.e., the power pertaining to His being the Master and His special intervention continue to be manifested until the time when that nation too falls from the highest degree of morality and the first cycle begins again.
Another meaning of this verse is that Allah the Almighty is the Master of the time of obedience, i.e., that very special law, which has been mentioned above and which applies to nations, Allah the Almighty applies to specific individuals as well. That is, if a person continues to spend his life in complete obedience to Allah the Almighty, then for him, too, He manifests His special power, and that person is not like ordinary people. Rather, Allah the Almighty manifests His special Power for his sake.
Another meaning of this verse is that Allah the Almighty is the Master of the time of important situations. Here, it is indicated that every action in the world resembles a chain, in that it is not isolated but rather has several links [as in a chain]. When a person becomes sick, his or her illness is not the result of some mistake made on that [specific] day; likewise, if one is healthy, it is not because he exercised or ate well that [specific] day. Thus, man’s actions produce two kinds of results: one kind of result is temporary and transitory, and the other kind is final and permanent. A careless person misuses his eyes, and they become sore. However, they are cured through treatment. Yet again he is careless, his eyes again become sore, and again he is treated and cured. Finally, one day, he loses his eyesight and medical treatment turns out to be useless. [Another such example is of] a hardworking student who revises his lesson for the following day, which pleases his teacher. The next day he again reviews his lesson and thus his teacher is pleased once again. These results directly follow his actions. In addition, his hard work will have a positive effect on his mind and in addition to the knowledge he has acquired from books, he will have developed, through [the process of] memorising his lessons, an intelligence, and an ability to understand subtle distinctions in knowledge. This will, one day, make him someone that the world turns to and praises. These final effects come about in such a subtle way that even one’s acquaintances and friends do not notice it and cannot understand their cause.
Through this subject, Allah the Almighty has drawn our attention to the fact that ultimate and permanent success can only be gained through building a relationship with Allah the Almighty. Undoubtedly, man can acquire prestige and status by following the law of nature. However, the ultimate consequence, which results from the completion of the chain of actions, is the real valuable thing, especially that which, at the time of death, is manifested as belief since the life in the next world depends upon it.
Abdullah ibn Mas’ud relates that the Holy Prophet (sa) said: truth guides to virtue and virtue guides to paradise. A person persists in telling the truth till in the sight of Allah he is named truthful. Lying leads to vice and vice leads to the fire; and a person goes on lying till in the sight of Allah he is named a liar.
[Sahih Bukhari, Kitabul Adab, Hadith 6094]