The Holy Qur'an

At-Tafsīr-ul-Kabīr: The Grand Exegesis

At tafsir Ul Kabir
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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. Where applicable, this
five-volume commentary has also been consulted.

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.

By Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra)
Second Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community

Translated by Murtaza Ahmad

Edited by The Review of Religions Translation Team

I deem it necessary to mention another point pertaining to this verse. Two of the names which the Holy Prophet (sa) has called Sūrah al-Fātiḥah by are ‘Ummul-Qur’ān’ [Mother of the Qur’an] and ‘Ummul-Kitāb’ [Mother of the Book][1]. In my view, these names are derived from the Holy Qur’an itself, and their source is this very verse. In this and the previous verse, it has been stated that the last stage of divine worship is that man should supplicate to Almighty Allah that he be guided to the  straight path of those on whom God has bestowed His favours. Now, if this prayer can be accepted, then it is evident that when people collectively offer prayers  pleading wholeheartedly to the Almighty that ‘we are on the verge of ruin, so guide us on the right path’, and in addition this is accompanied by the the prayers and deep longing of that perfect and pure heart, whom Allah has appointed as the champion of the time, that God’s mercy would be stirred as a result, and divine grace would descend in the form of revelation and guidance. This has been the case in every era, and will  continue to happen in the future.

The prayers of the oppressed people at the time of Prophet Noah (as), accompanied by his heart wrenching prayers and in fervour of his pure heart, brought down the divine revelation that had been disclosed to Prophet Noah (as). The pleading souls at the time of Prophet Abraham (as), combined with the yearning of his pure heart, were the cause of the revelation of those scriptures revealed to Abraham (as). This also happened at the time of Prophet Moses (as) and Prophet Jesus (as) and also during the time of the Holy Prophet (sa). 

It is established by the authentic ahadith [oral traditions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa)] that, before the revelation of the Holy Qur’an, the Holy Prophet (sa)  used to  seclude himself from the world and would pray and worship in the cave of Hira. This was the state of the purest heart who [truly] knew his deepest thoughts. Along with this, the innermost yearnings of the people of that era were also being raised to the heavens. All these were combined to attract the grace of God Almighty and, thus, the Holy Qur’an was revealed. Hence,

اهْدِنَا الصِّرَٰاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ

[Guide us to the straight path, the path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy favours],

in fact, depicts the condition that prevails in the world prior to the advent of divine revelation, particularly the condition of the pure souls of that time, and not only do their hearts have a deep longing but also their minds are in constant and frantic search for it. The divine words of that time are revealed as a result of this. Hence, since this prayer has been revealed in Sūrah al-Fātiḥah, and since this very prayer had been the cause of the revelation of the Divine Word, the Holy Prophet (sa) had named it ‘Mother of the Qur’an’ and ‘Mother of the Book’. That is to say that Sūrah al-Fātiḥah contains that subject-matter which relates to the cause for the revelation of the Qur’an. Just as the one that is responsible for the birth of something hold the status of a mother, so too has Sūrah al-Fātiḥah been called Ummul-Qur’an [Mother of the Qur’an].

It is also worthy of note that the Holy Prophet (sa) described Sūrah al-Fātiḥah as the ‘Great Qur’an’ [Al-Qur’ān-ul-Aẓīm]. This does not imply that Sūrah al-Fātiḥah alone is great, whilst the rest of the Qur’an is any less significant. This is clearly incorrect. In my opinion there is another reason for this and that is due to the other two names of this chapter i.e. the ‘Mother of the Qur’an’ and the ‘Mother of the Book’. When the Holy Prophet (sa) described Sūrah al-Fātiḥah as the ‘Mother of the Qur’an’ and the ‘Mother of the Book’, he thought that this may perhaps give rise to the misconception that this chapter may be considered separate from the Holy Qur’an. Therefore, he also named this chapter the ‘Great Qur’an’ so that it may remain unequivocal to the Muslims that this chapter is not separate from the Holy Qur’an, but rather forms a part of it. Since A part of something shares the name of its entirety, and so therefore the Holy Prophet (sa) named Sūrah al-Fātiḥah the ‘Great Qur’an’.  For instance, whenever we wish to listen to any portion of the Holy Qur’an, we say, ‘Hafiz Sahib[2], please recite the Holy Qur’an,’ or we may say, ‘so-and-so is reciting the Holy Qur’an,’ or concerning the subject-matter of a particular verse, we say ‘the Qur’an states the following…’ This does not mean that we believe that only that particular chapter or verse constitutes the entire Qur’an and the rest does not. Rather, we mean that whichever chapter or verse is recited, or quoted, is part of the Holy Qur’an.

Here, another subtle point worth bearing in mind is that the Holy Prophet (sa) referred to Sūrah al-Fātiḥah as the ‘Mother of the Qur’an’, the ‘Mother of the Book’ and the ‘Great Qur’an’. It is, as if, on the one hand this chapter has been declared as one that gave birth (i.e. the Mother of the Qur’an) and at the same time, it has also been declared as the one given birth to (i.e. the Great Qur’an).This gives rise to a wonderful spiritual truth. In the spiritual realm, the initial [spiritual] state begets a subsequent state. For this reason, from one perspective, the initial state is referred to as ‘the mother,’ and the subsequent state as ‘the offspring’. In relation to this, Sūrah al-Fātiḥah is referred to as the ‘Mother of the Book’, and as this chapter is part of the Qur’an itself, it has also been referred to as the Qur’an. These types of metaphorical terms are also used with reference to the changes that occur among mankind. Thus, in Sūrah al-Taḥrīm, Allah Almighty states that the similitude of the believers is like that of ‘the wife of Pharaoh’ and ‘Mary, the daughter of Imran.’ Regarding those believers who have been compared to Mary (as), the daughter of Imran, Allah Almighty states towards the end of the verse:

فَنَفَخْنَا فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِنَا وَصَدَّقَتْ بِكَلِمَٰاتِ رَبِّهَا وَكُتُبِهِ وَكَانَتْ مِنَ الْقَٰنِتِينَ

So We breathed therein of Our Words  –  and she believed in the words of her Lord and His Books and she eventually became like an obedient man [3] i.e. when those who possess the attributes of Mary (as) continue to make progress, they become the recipients of divine discourse and become messianic in spirit.

In short, Sūrah al-Fātiḥah being named as the ‘Mother of the Qur’an’, the ‘Mother of the Book’ and the ‘Great Qur’an’ sheds a fine light on Islamic terminologies, and is a guide for those unable to understand how someone from among the followers of Muhammad (sa) has been named both Mary (as) and Jesus (as). Since the Holy Prophet (sa) refers to Sūrah al-Fātiḥah as both the ‘Mother of the Holy Qur’an’ and ‘the Qur’an’, it should not be difficult for a true Muslim to understand why Allah Almighty has referred to an individual as ‘Mary’ and ‘Jesus’. Such a person’s soul cried before God for the advent of the Messiah in this age and therefore was referred to as the state of Mary (as). Thus, such a person has been called Mary (as) in the same way that Sūrah al-Fātiḥah – which was yearning for a book of guidance – is called the’ Mother of the Qur’an’ and the ‘Mother of the Book’ because it contains the supplication

اهْدِنَا الصِّرَٰاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ

[Guide us to the straight path]

Therefore, when the prayer of that perfect man was heard and Allah Almighty, granting him a messianic spirit, commissioned him to the world, he was called Jesus (as). As the supplication  اهْدِنَا الصِّرَٰاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ EDIT [guide us to the straight path] was cried aloud, it drew the Holy Qur’an towards the world, and this prayer became a part of it. Thus, this chapter has been named the ‘Great Quran’ despite being declared the ‘Mother of the Qur’an’ and the ‘Mother of the Book’.


[1] Sunan Abi Dawud, Kitab al-Salah.

[2] Hafiz refers to those individuals that have memorised the entire Holy Qur’an. [Publisher]

[3] The Holy Qur’an, 66:13.