The Holy Qur'an

At-Tafsīr-ul-Kabīr: The Grand Exegesis

At-Tafsīr-ul-Kabīr: The Grand Exegesis
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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

اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ

Guide us on the right path

(7) Key Word Analysis

 اِهْدِنا)ihdinā) [Guide us] is derived from هدَى [guidance]. It is said:

هَداهُ إِلى الطَّرِيقِ: بَيَّنَهُ لَهُ

He guided him to the path [he made it manifest to him];

هَدَى الْعُرُوسَ إِلَى بَعْلِها:زَفَّها إِلَيْهِ

He led the bride to her husband;

هَدَى فُلَانًا : تَقَدَّمَهُ

He led him.

It is also said:

جاءَتِ الْخَيْلُ يَهْدِيْها فَرَسٌ أَشْقَرُ أَيْ يَتَقَدَّمُها

the horses came, led by a red horse running in front.[1]

Thus, the word هدى (hudā) has three meanings: (1) to show the way; (2) to lead somebody to the way; (3) to accompany someone to their ultimate destination by leading the way.  

In the Holy Qur’an, the word هِدايَة (hidāyah) also has several meanings. One of the meanings is to instill the ability to do something and set that thing in motion. For instance, the Holy Qur’an says:

أَعْطَى كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلْقَهُ ثُمَّ هَدَى

That is to say, Allah the Exalted gave unto everything its proper form and then guided it to its proper function.[2]

The second meaning of the word hidāyah to be found in the Holy Qur’an is to invite towards guidance. For instance, Allah states:

وَجَعَلْنَا مِنْهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَهْدُونَ بِأَمْرِنَا

And We made from among them leaders, who guided the people to the Torah by Our command [3]

The third meaning of the word hidāyah is to lead someone to their destination as the Holy Qur’an states that those that will enter paradise will say:

الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي هَدَانَا لِهَذَا

All praise belongs to Allah Who guided us to heaven and enabled us to reach it.[4]

Similarly, it also means to create affinity with the straight path as it states in the Holy Qur’an:

وَمَنْ يُؤْمِنْ بِاللَّهِ يَهْدِ قَلْبَهُ  [5]

And whoever believes in Allah completely, Allah the Exalted creates in their heart an affinity for guidance and so they begin to have a liking for good deeds.

This verse cannot mean ‘showing the right path’ because the believer has already found their path. Another meaning of hidāyah in the Holy Qur’an is success. In Sūrah an-Nūr, Allah mentions the hypocrites and says that although they affirm that if they were called for jihad, they would certainly go out to wage it, yet their actions are contrary to this. Then Allah says to these hypocrites, ‘Do not swear on oath. Instead show your obedience through your actions for Allah is well-aware of your actions’. Then Allah says ‘O Messenger, tell them, “Submit to Allah and His Messenger. If you disobey, in spite of this injunction, then you are responsible for your actions, and the Messenger is responsible for his. And remember that وَإِن تُطِيعُوهُ تَهۡتَدُواْۚ if you would obey the Messenger in respect of this injunction, you would suffer no loss, and would succeed.”’[6] Thus, the Holy Qur’an mentions:

الَّذِينَ اهْتَدَوْا زَادَهُمْ هُدًى [7]

Those who benefit from the guidance which God Almighty has bestowed on them are granted ever more guidance from Allah the Almighty.

The Holy Qur’an also makes it clear that hidayāh  is not the name of any one particular thing, rather there are unlimited levels to it.  At every level, there is another higher stage. Those who become the recipients of the grace of Allah the Almighty, are introduced into one stage of it after the other.

(صِراط ṣirāṭ) refers to a path. This word is written with both ص and س i.e. صِراط ṣirāṭ or سِراط sirāṭ and refers to a clear path. Thus, there is an Arabic idiom سَرَطْتُ الطَّعامَ which means I swallowed the food with ease.  Moreover, a good and smooth path is called ṣirāṭ because a traveller, as it were, eats his way through the path.[8]

(مُسْتَقِيم mustaqīm) is derived from اِسْتِقامَة istiqāmah. In the Mufradāt [a dictionary of Qur’anic terms authored by the renowned 11th century scholar Imam Raghib] it states:

اَلْاِسْتِقامَةُ يُقالُ فِي الطَّرِيقِ الَّذِي يَكُونُ عَلى خَطٍّ مُسْتَوٍ، وَبِهِ شُبِّهَ طَرِيقُ المُحِقِّ نَحْوَ اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ

‘That is, the word istiqāmah refers to that path which is straight. For this reason, the path of the individual who is upright is also referred to as mustaqīm.’[9] Therefore, this is the same meaning of mustaqīm found in the verse اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ.


The prayer taught in this verse is so exalted and complete, the like of which is not found anywhere. This prayer is not limited to any specific matter; rather, it addresses all needs [of man],big and small. One can benefit from this prayer with respect to all secular and religious matters. Whether a task is religious or worldly, there is always one way or another of completing it. By adopting this way, one will attain success. Moreover, at times, there are seemingly numerous ways of executing a task, of which some are impermissible, and others are permissible. And from among those which are permissible, some ways will lead to the objective quickly, while others will take time.

The prayer اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ  [guide us on the right path] teaches us that we should continue praying to Allah the Almighty to guide us to that way which is good and virtuous, and by following this guidance we can achieve our objectives swiftly. How complete, simple and comprehensive this prayer is!  Which goal is there that we wish to achieve in our lives for which we cannot use this prayer?And the one  who makes it a habit to say this prayer: to what lengths will he not go, what effort will he not put in to be successful? This is because if one is continuously reminded that there are both good and bad ways of achieving any objective, and that one should always try to seek, and adopt the good way, and even from amongst these good ways, one should adopt the closest path that leads to their objective. This principle is in accordance with human nature.

It is evident that the mind of the person who prays to Allah the Almighty to be shown the right path will also be influenced by this thought; and his own efforts too will be exerted in seeking such a path in all his affairs. And a person who observes the following principles in respect of his affairs, namely,(1) all his affairs should be settled through permissible means; (2) when reaching a particular stage, he should not become content with that alone but, instead, his heart should always yearn for unlimited progress; (3) his time should not be wasted. Rather, he should work in such a way that he accomplishes all tasks in the shortest possible time. There can be no doubt about the loftiness of his aims, the rightness of his actions and the consistency of his efforts.

I believe that if Muslims consistently offered this prayer with sincerity, and impressed its meanings on their minds, they would unquestionably reap the rewards of this supplication. This prayer will also naturally have a great impact on the perspectives of the Muslims, which in itself is of great value.


[1] Aqrab-ul-Mawārid fī Fuṣaḥ al-‘Arabiyyah wa-al-Shawārid

[2] The Holy Qur’an, 20:51.

[3] The Holy Qur’an, 32:25.

[4] The Holy Qur’an, 7:44.

[5] The Holy Qur’an, 64:12.

[6] ‘And they swear by Allah their strongest oaths that, if thou command them, they will surely go forth. Say, ‘Swear not; what is required is actual obedience in what is right. Surely, Allah is well aware of what you do.’ Say, ‘Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger.’ But if you turn away, then upon him is his burden, and upon you is your burden. And if you obey him, you will be rightly guided. And the messenger is not responsible but for the plain delivery of the Message.’—The Holy Qur’an, 24:54-55.

[7] The Holy Qur’an, 47:18.

[8] Mufradāt

[9] Mufradāt