The Holy Qur'an

At-Tafsir-ul-Kabir: The Grand Exegesis

At tafsir Ul Kabir
VFXArabia | Shutterstock

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

{إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ}

Thee alone do we worship and Thee alone do we implore for help.  (6)

(6) Key Word Analysis

 إياك (Iyyāka

According to the general rules of Arabic grammar, instead of  إياك (iyyāka)  the phrase نعبدك na‘buduka [we worship You] ought to have been used; however, here the ك (thee) [object pronoun that denotes the second person]  in na‘budu [we worship]نَعْبُدُ has been brought forward in order to signify the exclusivity of the one being addressed.  And since the pronoun ك cannot appear on its own, إِيَّا (iyyā), the accusative pronoun, has been attached before it. Thus, iyyāka na‘budu means ‘We worship Thee exclusively.’    

نَعْبُدُ (Na‘Budu)

Na‘Budu means ‘we worship’. The past tense of it is: عبَد (‘abada) and it has the following meanings:

Abadallaha – عبَد اللهَ means he obeyed Allah (أطاعَه); submitted before His command with humility (خضَع؛ ذلّ); he served Him (خدَمه); he consistently acted upon His commandments (التزمَ شرائعَ دينِه) and he declared His unity (وحَّده). [1]

عبَد also means to bear the imprint of another.  Thus, there is an expression طريق معبَّد (Tariqun Mu‘bbadun) i.e. مذلَّل Mudhallalun when referring to a path which has become so well-worn from constant traffic that it easily displays the imprints of the travellers’ footsteps.[2]

Therefore, He alone Who is perfect in His entity and unique in His excellences is worthy of worship; the one without any partner, and the one to whom it is possible for man to show obedience and submission, as it would be meaningless to worship a being who could not be obeyed.

It is evident that this [perfect] being can only be Allah the Exalted because besides Him, there is no other being Who can be obeyed in the true sense of the word. By man realising that Allah is the only Being worthy of worship, he can become solely and entirely His. If a man obeys anyone aside from Him, his obedience will be limited and in addition there would also be other persons and laws he would be bound to obey.

نستعين  (Nasta’īnu)

Nasta’īnu is derived from الاستعانة (Al-Isti’ānatu) which means to acquire or to seek help. Therefore, إِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ (iyyāka Nasta’īnu) means: We seek help exclusively from Thee. In other words, we do not consider any other Being that is worthy of seeking help from besides Allah.  


From the verses الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ al-Hamdu lillahi [verse number 2] to مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ Maliki Yawmid-Din [verse number 4], it appears that God Almighty is hidden from the servant’s sight and he is praising God. However, all of a sudden, in the present verse إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ, God Almighty is addressed directly. Some ignorant people have raised the objection that this is contrary to the dictates of eloquent speech even though this is not the case. On the contrary, this is a sublime example of eloquence; for the Being of Allah Almighty is a hidden treasure which is transcendent and not visible to the servant. The servant recognises Him through His attributes, and by remembering Him, he becomes so close to Him that he sees Him with the eyes of his heart. This subtle point of man’s spiritual journey is mentioned in those verses and it explains that when man ponders over the four divine attributes of:

 رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (Lord of all the Worlds)

 الرَّحْمَنِ (The Gracious)

 الرَّحِيمِ (The Ever-Merciful)

  مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ (Master of the Time of Judgement)

his eyes are opened and an intense love for Allah the Almighty is sparked in his heart. It is then that, having been honoured with spiritually beholding Him and being overwhelmed with His love, he spontaneously cries out, ‘O Lord! You alone do I worship and You alone do I implore for help.’ Therefore, changing the pronouns [from third person to second person], indicates that when man reflects on Allah the Almighty’s attributes in the Qur’an, he secures a meeting with Him and His Being emerges before him.

In the hadith [oral traditions of the Holy Prophet(sa), it is reported by Hazrat Abu Hurairah (ra) that that he heard the Holy Prophet (sa) say, ‘Allah Almighty says: “I have divided Sūrah al-Fātiḥah between me and my servant. Thus, one half of it is for me and the other half is for my servant. And I shall grant whatever my servant asks of me (by means of it).” When a servant says:

 الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

[All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the Worlds]

Allah the Exalted replies: “My servant has praised Me”.

And when His servant says,

الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ

[The Gracious, the Ever-Merciful]

Allah Almighty replies, “My servant has glorified me.”

And when His servant supplicates مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ [Master of the Time of Judgment], Allah Almighty states, “My servant has declared my nobility.”’

Moreover, at times, the Holy Prophet (sa) would say that Allah states that His servant has entrusted all his affairs to Him. And when His servant recites إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ [Thee alone do we worship and Thee alone do we beseech for help] Allah Almighty states ‘this verse is divided equally between me and my servant and I shall give him whatever he asks.’ And when His servant recites from اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ [Guide us on the right path] to the end of the chapter, Allah Almighty states, ‘this supplication is for my servant, and my servant shall get all that he asks for.’

From this narration we can conclude the following: firstly, it draws a distinction between, ḥamd [praise in general], thanā’ [to praise repeatedly] and tamjīd [glorification of God]. Secondly, the verse مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ signifies complete trust [in Allah], i.e. it suggests that when man believes that it is Almighty Allah that determines the final outcome and says الْحَمْدُ لِلَّه he expresses his contentment and acceptance of Allah’s decree. If man places his trust in God in this way, why then would Allah not show him benevolence and grant him forgiveness? Thirdly, the prayer that one offers to attain the bounties mentioned within this chapter, most surely will be granted to the Muslim nation because it is stated – in regards to this prayer – in a Hadith ولعبدي ما سأل wa li‘bdi ma sa’ala [my servant shall be given whatever he asks for].

In this verse, نعبد [we worship] has come before نستعین [we implore for help]. Here, some people have objected that one is only able to worship God Almighty through His help, so why has نعبد been mentioned before نستعین, since the latter should have come first. The reply is that while there is no doubt that one can worship only if he is helped by Allah the Almighty, the word used here is not إعانة [helping someone], rather, it is  استعانة, that is, to seek help. There is no doubt that only when the thought of submission (عبودیة) and worship (عبادة) pass through the servant’s mind would he then worship Allah the Almighty. Why would the one who has no desire to pray seek help? Hence, without the grace and help of Almighty Allah, one cannot have the ability to worship Him, yet the thought of استعانة [seeking help] i.e. the servant prostrating at the threshold of Almighty Allah only comes after his intention to worship Him. It is for this reason that نعبد proceeds نستعین. 

The second reply to this is that intention comes from man and the ability to act is granted by Almighty Allah. If intention also came from Almighty Allah, man’s actions would be by compulsion. Hence, in this verse, it has been stated that when the thought of worship comes to the mind of a servant, then he should pray to Almighty Allah to carry out this intention, saying: ‘O my Lord I am determined to worship You. However, I cannot accomplish this commitment without Your help. So, help me and grant me the ability to worship none besides You.’

[1] Aqrab-ul-mawārid fi Fusah al-‘Arabiyyah wa-al-shawārid.

[2] Mufradāt, Imam Raghib.