The Holy Qur'an

Al-Tafsīr Al-Kabīr: The Grand Exegesis – Commentary of Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ continued

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 Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra), Second Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community

Translated by Murtaza Ahmad

Edited by The Review of Religions Translation Team

Although Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ is very brief, it presents the notion of monotheism completely. And so it mentions three truths:

  1. That the Being of God Almighty ­does exist
  2. That God Almighty is solitary; meaning, He is One, and there are not two or three gods.
  3. God Almighty is unique in His attributes, meaning, that nobody can equal Him in His attributes.

Thus Allah says, [قُلۡ هُوَ ٱللَّهُ أَحَدٌ] Qul huwallāhu Aḥad. You say that you have various ideas about the the Being of God Almighty; you express different kinds of theories about God. You raise different kinds of philosophies and points, but the central point concerning the certainty of God Almighty’s existence is Allāhu Aḥad [Allah is One]. That is, in every way, shape or form Allah’s Being is One and Unique. He is neither the beginning link of anything, nor its ending link. He is unlike anything else and nothing else is like Him.

The word Aḥad contains in itself a distinctively special feature. And that is it can in no way express the notion of duality. All other numerals contain some sense of duality. In fact, even the words Wāḥid and Awwal [other words signifying one] carry the sense of more than one. Wāḥid means the first of many, that is, the first relative to others, and it necessitates that there should be something else because the relativity of a thing cannot be established until there is something else. For example, it cannot be said that there is a ‘left’ without a ‘right,’ nor can there be a ‘north’ without there being a ‘south’. Similarly, Wāḥid also entails that there are others.

However, Aḥad means ‘one’ in a way which negates the existence of anything other than it. But even the word ‘one’ cannot convey the sense of the Arabic word Aḥad. However, since there is no other word in Urdu [or English], we are compelled to use the word ‘one’. So Aḥad refers to that One Being with respect to Whom the thought of no other can arise. Thus, Aḥad is that attribute which transcends all creation. In reality, the true grandeur of Allah Almighty is this attribute of Aḥadiyyah, because as He descends [to the level of His creation] in order to establish a bond with them, His attributes start to appear more limited. For instance, the diameter of the sun is [approximately] 800,000 miles. However, by the time we see it, it appears small to our eyes because if it appeared to us in its true size, we would not be able to see it at all. So just as we cannot see the sun until it is smaller because of our eyes’ limitations, similarly, Allah Almighty Who possesses the grandeur of Aḥadiyyah [uniqueness] – which is His true greatness – manifests unto mankind in such a way that we can perceive Him. And this manifestation of God Almighty is not complete. Therefore, His Aḥadiyyah manifests His true glory which cannot be expressed by any other attribute.

In reality, God Almighty’s Lordship is of two types:

Rabb al- Aḥadiyyah i.e. Lord with respect to His Aḥadiyyah [Oneness].

Rabb al- Makhluq – i.e. Lord with respect to His Creation.

Nobody can determine the full extent the first type. However, the second is limited.

Similarly, God is also al-Raḥmān [The Gracious] in two ways. Nobody can determine His grace in relation to His Oneness. However, the grace of Allah concerning mankind can be perceived by every intelligent person. This is also the case with God Almighty’s Mālikiyyah [Sovereignty] and His Knowledge. That is, Allah’s attributes in relation to mankind are limited but those attributes concerning the manifestation of His Oneness are infinite. It is on account of not understanding the [difference between these] two states that people have been embroiled in very serious disputes concerning God Almighty. Some claim that God cannot be seen, while others have said the opposite, and they started to argue about this. And yet those who said that He cannot be seen were correct, and those who said that He cannot be seen were also right. Those who said He can be seen said so in view of God’s attributes through which He reveals Himself to mankind; and those who said He cannot be seen, said so in view of those attributes that relate to His Oneness. Therefore, Allah Almighty cannot be seen and undoubtedly cannot be seen until one understands those attributes of His which relate to mankind. If one says that they have seen God through those attributes of His which relate to His Oneness, then they are wrong. In the ḥadīth it states that Hazrat A’ishah (ra) enquired from the Holy Prophet (sa), ‘Have you seen Allah Almighty?’ He replied:

نُوْرٌ أَنَّى أَرَاهُ؟

‘He is Nūr [light], so how can I see Him?’

Then whosoever says that God cannot be perceived at all through any of His manifestations is also incorrect. In actuality, both groups of people speak from two different perspectives. Thus, the Oneness [Aḥadiyyah] of Allah Almighty is of two types. The first we can only understand through negation which is why, to help us understand this point, the Qur’an states, ٱللَّهُ ٱلصَّمَدُ [Allahuṣ-Ṣamad], meaning ‘I am that Being without Whose help, nothing can be done.’ Thus, this begins to explain the manner in which God Almighty manifests His first attribute of Oneness [in which He descends]. In other words, He says: ‘I am the God without Whose help nothing can happen. And since this is the case, then remember that there can be no benefit in turning away from My threshold. You can go anywhere, go to any saint or sage to fulfil your needs, but they all depend on Me. Why would someone who has found a fountain be satisfied with just a glassful? I alone am that fountain from which all people fill their vessels and pitchers. When you receive everything from Me, why then do you not create a bond with Me and ask of Me alone?’

The Commentary of this chapter will continue in the next edition.