MAGAZINE: EDITION SEPTEMBER 2021
The Holy Qur'an

Al-Tafsīr Al-Kabīr: The Grand Exegesis

The Review of Religions is delighted to present the complete English translation of the commentary of Sūrah al- Ikhlāṣ – Chapter 112 of the Holy Qur’an – by Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra), translated into English for the first time.

Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ, one of the shortest chapters in the Qur’an, discusses the unity of God, and so contains the essence of the entire Islamic teaching. Just as Sūrah al-Fātiḥah is considered to be an outline of the entire Qur’an, Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ, together with the two succeeding chapters, Sūrah al-Falaq and Sūrah al-Nās, also contains the themes mentioned in Sūrah al-Fātiḥah. Indeed, in one tradition, the Holy Prophet (sa) stated that Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ is equal to one-third of the Holy Qur’an.

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 of publishing 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

Bukhari, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nisai, and Ibn Majah have all narrated that Hazrat Aishah (ra) stated that when the Holy Prophet (sa) lay in his bed at night, he would put his hands together and recite [the last three chapters of the Qur’an] Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ, Sūrah al-Falaq and Sūrah al-Nās and then blow into his palms and pass them over his entire body. He would do this three times. By reciting these three chapters together and using them as prayers, the Holy Prophet (sa) has indicated that these three chapters, which have come at the end of the Holy Qur’an, are closely related.

God’s Perfect Unity is shown in Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ, whilst the other two chapters contain prayers. It is evident that if man does not know that there is one God, Who fulfils all needs and is capable of bestowing all good and safeguarding one from every evil, he will never pay attention to prayer. For instance, if a dog runs to bite us, until we know who the owner of the dog is, how can we call someone to stop the dog? Of course, if we were to find out who the dog’s owner is, we could immediately call its owner and say, ‘Look, your dog is biting me. Call it off!’ Similarly, when we realise that there exists a Being on whom all our needs depend, and Who is so powerful that He can fulfil all of them, then our hearts will be inclined towards prayer automatically. Thus, there is a natural sequence in the order of Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ, Sūrah al-Falaq and Sūrah al-Nās.

Surah al-Ikhlas informs us of the Omnipotence of God Almighty, and after this, we are instructed in Sūrah al-Falaq that we should pray, ‘O God! All creation is in Your Mighty Hand alone! Therefore, we seek refuge in You alone.’  People cannot possibly list each and every thing from which they seek to be protected. For instance, there are thousands of ailments – such as headaches, of which there are many types  that even doctors don’t understand yet. For if doctors knew about every type of headache, then why can’t they cure them? Similarly, there are many types of fevers. If the doctors knew about all the different types, why hasn’t every feverish patient been cured? Medical doctors say ‘this is malaria’ but due to the advancement of medicine, we now know that there are several types of malaria and the mosquitoes that produce malaria are also of different types. So, since the doctors cannot cure all fevers, clearly, there are also many kinds of malaria which are still unknown.

The homeopaths say that every individual’s fever is different, meaning Zaid’s fever is different from Bakr’s fever. And Zaid’s malaria might be of a particular kind at one point in time then be of a different kind at another time. For example, when he eats spinach he would have one type of malaria, and when he eats a kebab it might be of another type.

Therefore, the truth is that nobody can comprehend every ailment, nor can they have complete knowledge of everything. Therefore, we are directed to pray, ‘O my Lord! We do not have knowledge concerning everything. So You alone protect us from every evil.’

Then Sūrah al-Nās has been placed after Sūrah al-Falaq. Sūrah al-Nās does not specify, ‘protect me from Zaid’s evil’ or ‘protect me from Bakr’s evil’, but rather, ‘protect me from all kinds of evil – irrespective of whether it is from a tyrant, a state, or anyone in authority.’ This prayer cannot truly emanate from a person’s heart until they are convinced of Allah being the One [Ahad]. Therefore, it is evident that there is a mutual connection between the final three chapters of the Holy Qur’an, which explain that first, one should understand the Oneness of God [tauhīd], and [only] after that will they be able to offer the perfect prayer, and when that perfect prayer is offered, then evil will be eliminated.

One should also keep in mind that these three chapters, (that is, Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ, Sūrah al-Falaq and Sūrah al-Nās), are based on the subject matter of Sūrah al-Fātiḥah۔ Just as Allah Almighty has begun the Holy Qur’an with Sūrah al-Fātiḥah, so too has He ended it with Sūrah al-Fātiḥah. That is to say, the entire subject matter of Sūrah al-Fātiḥah has been repeated at the end,  in the same way that a teacher repeats their lesson at the end. Before starting the lesson, the teacher says, ‘Today we will be commencing this subject.’ Then, at the end, the teacher summarises the lesson and states, ‘Now we have finished this subject’. So after resolving the matters which Sūrah al-Fātiḥah has directed our attention to, in the end the Holy Qur’an has summarized them and said, ‘We have explained this so bear it in mind.’

Serialisation of Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ will continue in the next edition.