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-Ikhlā, 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-Fātiah is considered to be an outline of the entire Qur’an, Sūrah al-Ikhlā, together with the two succeeding chapters, Sūrah al-Falaq and Sūrah al-Nās, also contains the themes mentioned in Sūrah al-Fātiah. Indeed, in one tradition, the Holy Prophet (sa) stated that Sūrah al-Ikhlā 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

Continuation of the Exegesis of Verse 3

Then the question also arises: is it possible for that matter, which is deemed complete in itself – to adopt another form? Because tranformatiom comes about when one thing combines with another, and this characteristic is found only among imperfect things. Something that is perfect cannot accept any change, nor can it truly merge with anything else. Its combination can only be likened to the particles of sugar which, even when combined, stay sugar just the same. So even if such a [perfect] particle does exist, then this world cannot come from because this world has hosted innumerable changes. Thus, studying the universe it becomes manifestly clear that everything here undergoes change and depends on other matter for its own existence. Therefore, it is necessary to believe in a Being Who can bring these dependent beings into existence and Who can regulate them under a universal law. Some people say that all of this occurs because of a hidden power but the question is whether this hidden power is conscious or not. If it is not conscious then it must have been created from other things itself, because all faculties are formed as a result of motion or mutual processes. And if it is conscious then this proves our claim as we also want such a Power to be recognised. Thus, in the words Allāh al-Ṣamad an extremely marvellous proof has been given for the existence of God Almighty. 

Another meaning of al-Ṣamad is al-Rafī‘ i.e. one of high status. In light of this meaning Allāh al-Ṣamad means Allah is that Being Who possesses the grandeur of Aḥadiyyah [Oneness]. He is of Rafī‘al-Darajāt [sublime status] and is limitless. He transcends all conception. In other words, we have been told that when we fly towards the God Who is of Sublime Status, then no matter how high we fly it is not high enough, because our God is Rafī‘ [of a High Status] and unlimited. And the ways to progress towards Him are endless. No matter how much progress someone makes, their status will always be below His. And there is no point we can arrive at where we can claim that our journey has ended.

One of the meanings of al-Ṣamad found in the commentaries is also Ghaniyy [self-sufficient]. Ghaniyy connotes someone that is not dependent on anyone. However, it is clear that this meaning is incomplete [when referring to Allah]. In contrast, Ṣamad conveys two meanings: that being who does not itself depend on anything, but upon which everything else depends. Therefore, the word Ghaniyy does not convey all of the meaning of Ṣamad, but rather only half of it. In Urdu, there is no single word that can encompass the entire meaning of Ṣamad. If we keep in view the complete meaning of Ṣamad, then it translates as Raḥmān [the Merciful] because it indicates that God manifests His providence [Rubūbiyyah] regardless of one’s actions. When we claim that all things depend on God, it implies that even in the mother’s womb the child depends on Him, as God nurtures the baby there as well.

So when we claim that everything relies on God, this means, for instance, all goats, camels and horses depend on Allah Almighty, and it is He Who fulfils their needs. Moreover, this also means that God also manifests His mercy [Raḥmān] to sinful people. And this refutes [the doctrine of] atonement. It is by virtue of misunderstanding this point that the concept of transmigration arose. These verses also refute this concept. Moreover, when we say everything depends on God Almighty, even the moon, the sun, the stars and the most minute particles on earth depend on Him alone. 

So-called solitary objects (referred to as baṣīṭ in the science of logic) and compound things are all in need of God. He is also the Creator of matter, of man and of the soul. This proves that God’s Mercy [Raḥmāniyyah] is latent within His attribute of Ṣamadiyyah. In actuality, God’s Oneness [Tauḥīd] is the fountainhead of His mercy [Raḥmāniyyah] because if there is no Tauḥīd then Raḥmāniyyah cannot exist. Thus, a simple example is that those nations which reject Tauḥīd also reject [God’s] Raḥmāniyyah. Hindus do not accept Tauḥīd; as such, they do not accept [God’s] Raḥmāniyyah either. They believe that man will certainly be punished for the sins he commits. Similarly, Christians do not believe in Tauḥīd and believe atonement is necessary for their sins to be forgiven. So it is very clear that a nation that fails to believe in Tauḥīd does not believe in Raḥmāniyyah either. The belief of a nation in Raḥmāniyyah is always in proportion to its degree of belief in Tauḥīd. However much a nation is distant from Tauḥīd, it is [equally] as distant from Raḥmāniyyah. For example, currently Judaism accepts Raḥmāniyyah to an extent. The reason for this is that the Jews believe in Tauḥīd to a degree as well. However, the other religions accept neither Raḥmāniyyah nor Tauḥīd. At the beginning of Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ Allah states:

قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ ‘Say, Allah is One.’ And then following this with [ٱللَّهُ ٱلصَّمَدُ] Allāh al-Ṣamad, it declares that His beneficence is continuous and everything benefits from His mercy and depends on Him. That is, by having both these verses one after the other, it is indicated that Tauḥīd and Raḥmāniyyah are concomitant, and that Raḥmāniyyah is latent within God’s attribute of Ṣamad which testifies to the Oneness of God. 

Another meaning of Ṣamad is al-Dā’im i.e. the Everlasting. In other words, we have been told that Allah exists and He is One. He has forever existed and will exist for eternity. He was not preceded by any being nor will he be followed by any being. Rather, it is He Who is the First [Awwal] and also the Last [Ākhir].

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


The terms basīṭ [simple] and murakkab [composite] that have been employed particularly in the fields of Islamic philosophy and logic refer to two general categories: simple substances are fundamental i.e., an indivisible particle or atom, while composite substances are arrangements of two or more simple substances. [Publisher]