MAGAZINE: EDITION APRIL 2021
The Holy Qur'an

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. 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 Bashirrudin Mahmud Ahmad (ra)
Second Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community

Translated by Murtaza Ahmad

Edited by The Review of Religions Translation Team

If one carefully studies the verses of this noble chapter and reflects deeply over their orderit becomes very clear that it contains guidance for man to gradually traverse spiritual ranks, and, stage by stage, to eventually attain the honour of divine proximity. One is obeyed or worshipped for only two reasons: either out of love or out of fear. And so in this chapter, Allah Almighty has drawn attention to both these types of attributes. Those people who are naturally more appreciative of kindness show obedience when favours are bestowed on them, while others do not care when they are treated with kindness but are compelled to obedience through fear. However, it behoves an intelligent person that they first try to instil love, and if that doesn’t work, then to instil fear. Therefore, in this chapter, Allah Almighty has also mentioned first those of His attributes, which, when reflected upon, fill man’s heart with divine love. God’s name is Allah, which means He is the paragon of all excellences and is free from all defects. He is the creator of all things and is their provider. He nurtures and provides [rubūbiyyah] for both believers and the disbelievers. He has created those provisions for our existence which we are not even aware of. And He rewards us most handsomely for whatever good deeds we do. When those who are accustomed to showing obedience upon seeing the beauty or beneficence of a being witness these attributes, they spontaneously cry out, إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ [Thee alone do we worship], and prostrate before Him. However, when those who are unmoved when shown love, and are accustomed to being treated harshly, ponder over the attribute مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ [Master of the Day of Judgement] and realise that Allah is the Master of the Day of Judgement, and that one day they will be presented before Him and will be brought to account for all the favours that were conferred upon them, they will, out of fear, spontaneously submit to their Creator and cry out إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ [Thee alone do we worship]. 

Thus, any person, whether they are of the type moved by love or the kind who are compelled by fear, will, on reading these initial verses of Sūrah al-Fātiḥah, spontaneously exclaim إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ [Thee alone do we worship]. However, at the same time, when, on the one hand, they see their own weakness and, on the other hand, they see the beauty and beneficence of that Great Benefactor, or contemplate His Greatness and Might, then along with إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ they also exclaim, وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ [and Thee alone do we implore for help]. That is, O Lord, I am your obedient servant and worship none but You. However, I am unable to discharge the right of Your worship, so I seek help from You alone to help me in this task and enable me to do justice to Your worship. When love reaches this extent and man is influenced by divine greatness to this degree, then, as per the dictates of human nature, one cannot help but cry out, اٌهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ. That is, ‘Guide me on the right path’, for the right path is always the closest to God. Thus, these words express the epitome of love. In other words, ‘O Allah! I cannot remain distant from You no longer. Show me the nearest path that is free from all extremes and by treading upon which I can reach You as quickly as possible. However, since the people who are in attendance at the King’s court are of various ranks; some are ordinary courtiers while others are the crème de la crème, therefore, in accordance with the requirements of man’s disposition, the prayer صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ has been taught. This means, ‘O Lord! Guide me on the straight path and also bestow on me the blessing of showing me  path of Your favoured ones.’ That is to say, ‘In the court of Your divine presence, do not admit me with the ordinary people; rather, include me among Your special beloved ones. And while I am a lover, let me become the object of Your love as well. O Lord! Love me in the same way that I love you (since the favoured ones are those beloved by Allah Almighty, and it is only those who are consistently worthy of receiving divine favours who are actually the people beloved by Him).’ 

In this manner, man pursues that station of love wherein no veil of estrangement remains between him and his Lord. At this point, man reaches perfection and the lover and beloved become one. However, since الإيْمَانُ بَيْنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالرَّجَاءِ [faith is between fear and hope], therefore, when man acquires this spiritual delight, he desires that he forever maintain this rank and that he is granted steadfastness upon it. It is for this reason that the Benevolent Lord taught man to supplicate before His Presence, ‘After having this communion with You, grant me this favour of never allowing me to be separated from You in any way.’ And since there are two ways of being separated – either the beloved becomes angry and ousts his lover, or the lover abandons his beloved  – in order to address both these situations, it is stated غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ.  That is to say, ‘Let it not be that You become displeased with me on account of any of my shortcomings, and  وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ , nor that, after reaching the intended destination, my heart begins to love something  other than You, and forsake You in pursuit of another direction.’ 

This is such a perfect and complete prayer that God Almighty, purely through His grace and mercy, to has taught people to submit before Him, that no other religion can can present the like of it. Consider, from the beginning to the end how human nature has been described and how the cure for people of all sorts of persuasions is explained in this short chapter. So those of understanding ought to ponder, and those who reflect ought to consider that no religion can save the world apart from Islam and, there is no cure for spiritual ailments aside from the Holy Qur’an. 

آمين Amīn

It is said in an authentic hadith that upon ending the recitation of Sūrah al-Fātiḥah at غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلا الضَّالِّينَ, the Holy Prophet (sa) would say آمين [Amen] which means اللَّهُمَّ اسْتَجِبْ لَنَا. That is, ‘O Allah! Accept our supplication.’ In keeping in line with this guidance of the Holy Prophet, the companions (ra) also followed this practice.