The Holy Qur'an

Al-Tafsīr Al-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 Al-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

سُورَةُ الاِخْلَاصِ مَكِّيَّةٌ وَهِيَ خَمْسُ آيَاتٍ مَعَ البَسْمَلَةِ

Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ is Makkan and including Bismillah, it has 5 verses. (1)

(1) According to Ibn Mas‘ud (ra), Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ is Makkan that is, it was revealed before the Hijrah. Hasan, ‘Ata, ‘Ikrimah and Jabir also hold this view. Ibn ‘Abbas (ra), Qatadah, Dahhak and Al-Suddi believe that this chapter is Madinite. [1] However, Ibn ‘Abbas (ra) is also recorded as stating that it is Makkan. [2]

According to Al-Itqān, some commentators, having read both kinds of  narrations, reached the conclusion that Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ was revealed on two occasions, once in Makkah and once in Madinah. The author of Al-Itqān, ‘Allamah Jalaluddin Al-Suyuti (rh), leans towards the view that this chapter is Madinite. In our opinion, the correct view is that this chapter was revealed twice, once in Makkah and once in Madinah. Hazrat Ibn Mas‘ud (ra) was one of the earliest companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) and is considered to be an authority on the commentary of the Holy Qur’an. One cannot simply discard his testimony without any evidence. On the other hand, there is Ibn ‘Abbas (ra) who, even though he reached the age of maturity in Madinah and his knowledge about the earlier chapters was based on the oral testimonies of others, also has a high status [in the understanding of the Qur’an]. His views can also not be rejected without justification. Hence, instead of disregarding the statement of any one companion without firm evidence, we concur with the Qur’anic commentators who opine that this chapter was revealed on two occasions.

In his book, A Comprehensive Commentary on the Qur’an, Rev. Wherry writes that according to Sir William Muir, this chapter is from the very early Makkan chapters, and according to Nöldeke, it was revealed in the fourth year of the Call. [3] Wherry concurs with Muir’s opinion on account of the fact that the style of this chapter is similar to the earliest revealed chapters. [4]

In declaring a chapter as either being revealed in Makkah or Madinah, the difference between the [Muslim] Qur’anic commentators and the European orientalists is that the former base their views on historical accounts, whereas the latter draw conclusions from the chapter’s subject-matter, composition and style. However, in actuality, these orientalists do not have a proper grasp of the subject matter of the Holy Qur’an, nor is their knowledge of Arabic adequate enough to draw the correct conclusions from its text. In fact, their knowledge of the Arabic language is so inadequate that for them to claim that by simply reading a Qur’anic passage they can determine if it is Makkan or Madinite is purely a deception.


[1] With regards to where chapters of the Qur’an were revealed it should be noted that there may be certain chapters that were revealed in Makkah, but are classified as Madinite because of the period of their revelation. A good example of this is the Sūrah Al-Naṣr (Chapter No. 110) which was revealed in Mina (on the outskirts of Makkah) yet it is classified as a Madinite chapter because it was revealed just a few months before the Holy Prophet (sa) passed away, at a time when he was living in Madinah. [Publisher]

[2] Siddique Hasan Khan al-Qanuji, Fath al-Bayan.

[3] Reverend E.M. Wherry was a 19th-century missionary who authored a Qur’anic commentary, while Sir William Muir and Theodor Nöldeke were 19th-century orientalists who wrote extensively on the Qur’an. [The Review of Religions]

[4] Rev. E. M. Wherry, A Comprehensive Commentary on the Qur’an, Volume 4 (London, England: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. Ltd, 1884), 294.