Ahmad Kamal, Student, Jamia Ahmadiyya International Ghana
Tafsir-e-Kabir is a glowing gem among the hundreds of books, thousands of sermons, speeches, lectures and other intellectual delights given to the Muslim world by Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra – the Musleh-e-Maud.
This commentary of the Holy Quran is a masterpiece forged through years of literary and intellective labour.
Notwithstanding the fact that Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra had the duty of leading a global community for the better part of half a century, he still managed to dedicate his time, God-given insight and intellectual prowess to submitting such a detailed commentary of the Holy Quran, which would meet the demands of the age.
This commentary was written in a refreshing new style, as Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra would show the network of the Quranic chapters and verses as he connected them to discoveries of the 20th century. This show of relevancy tended to instantly impress the heart of the reader with the grandeur of the Holy Quran.
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, explaining some special characteristics of the commentary, said:
“In my opinion, the excellence of these notes [referring to Tafsir-e-Kabir] is that Allah the Almighty, by His grace upon me, has revealed a lot concerning the needs of the present time. As the needs of every age are different, the Holy Quran holds the knowledge concerning every age which are unlocked per the demands of the age.” (Swaneh Fazle Umar, Vol. 3, p. 155)
The name Tafsir-e-Kabir was selected by Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra based on a dream he saw:
“I saw in a dream today that I was given a robe from the unseen which had been crafted with gold on it. A thief ran away with the robe and then a man chased him and retrieved the robe. The robe then became a book called Tafsir-e-Kabir and it was found out that the thief had run away, intending to destroy this tafsir.” (Tarikh-e-Ahmadiyyat, Vol. 8, p. 132)
Interpreting the dream, Huzoorra said:
“The thief stands for satan. Satan wants our malfuzat [discourses] to disappear from the people’s eyes. But this will not happen and Tafsir-e-Kabir which was shown as a robe means that it will be a source of honour and adornment for us. God knows best.” (Ibid)
In this commentary of the Quran, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra frequently referred to the works of orientalists such as William Muir, William Montgomery Watt, Arnold, Reverend Vere, JM Rodwell, and Theodor Nöldeke and exposed the folly of claims against the Quran and the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa that they had made.
The content of Tafsir-e-Kabir
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra demonstrated deep wisdom and consonance in the order of all the verses and chapters. He highlighted the connection each chapter has with the one before it. Almost like a puzzle, Huzoorra connected various themes throughout the Quran which revealed a subtle design.
All this gave a new perspective in the field of commentary and even in comparative religion by drawing a comparison between the teaching of the Holy Quran and the teachings of divine books of other faiths and in every such instance, proving the superiority of the Holy Quran.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa – during his Friday Sermon on 21 February 2020 – while outlining the distinction of this commentary, stated:
“This commentary is of such a remarkable standard that if one were to even reflect on one aspect of that commentary, they will have no choice but to accept that if a righteous person was to simply present only that particular part of the Holy Quran with those explanatory notes, then in the eyes of the world, this achievement alone of his would be sufficient enough for him to be considered as one of the most pious and righteous individuals.” (Al Hakam, 20 March 2020, Issue 105, pp. 26-27)
Each verse is explained separately in two sections. The first section gives different translations of the words in the verse according to major Arabic lexicons such as Taj-ul-Uroos, al-Munjid, Abu al-Baqa, Aqrab al-mawārid fī fusah al-arabīyah wal-shawārid, al-Mufradat fi Gharib al-Quran, Lisan al-Arab, al-Qamoos, along with practical uses of the word in the Arab world. The second section then deals with the commentary.
The principle of the commentary was that one part of the Holy Quran interprets other parts. When one has to understand a verse, it is necessary to consider the other verses under the same topic. In this way, the true meaning would become clear.
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra also reflects on the instructions of the Holy Prophetsa to understand the meaning of the verses. Then, Huzoorra looks at the verses in the light of the instructions and commentary of the Promised Messiahas as well as the commentaries provided by other scholars, before summarising the true import of a verse.
With historical analysis and rational arguments, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra proved the narrations in the Holy Quran were not mere stories but revelations, whose authenticity had been proven with the passage of time and advancement in science and research. Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra presented this living miracle of the Holy Quran to the world.
In this commentary, he also defended the character of the Holy Prophetsa and cleared up the many complications caused by some Muslim theologians who had inserted weaker narrations and traditions into their commentaries, such traditions which were from fabricated and questionable sources.
How the commentary was formulated
This commentary came into existence through the extreme hard work of Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra and his God-given insight into the Holy Quran. Hazrat Syeda Umm Matinra gives a brief glimpse of the life of Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra during those days:
“In the days when the commentary was being written, there was no thought of rest, nor sleep, nor of food; just a determination to finish the work. He would sit down to write after Isha prayers at night, and many times [he continued to write till] the morning azan was called.” (Tarikh-e-Ahmadiyyat, Vol. 8, p. 127)
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, with regard to his consistent hard work in preparation for the commentary, said:
“I have been seriously ill for some days, and the task of translating and commentating the Holy Quran has been a very heavy burden with few days left for Jalsa. However, still, the writing of around one hundred pages or a 400-column article is pending, and nowadays most of the days are spent working up to 3 to 4 and sometimes till 5 o’clock in [the early hours of the] night. That is why I feel such physical weakness and cannot bear such a load for long. Since there are only a few days left for Jalsa, I want the members [of the Jamaat] to pray that may Allah the Almighty help me complete this task.” (Sawaneh Fazle Umar, Vol. 3, p. 157)
Alongside Huzoorra was a very dedicated team working on the manuscript of Huzoor’s commentary. Their work also carried them late into the night, Maulvi Abdur Rahman Anwar Sahib recalls:
“When the first copy of the commentary of Surah Yunus was completed at around four o’clock at night, as per the instructions of Huzoor [Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra] that it be presented to him immediately when it was ready, his door was knocked on to show him the completed manuscript. Huzoorra immediately came out and was elated to see the prepared volume.” (Tarikh-e-Ahmadiyyat, Vol. 8, p. 137)
During the partition of the Indian subcontinent, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra took precautions concerning these manuscripts. At the time, the Jamaat had purchased a small plane and once, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra called the pilot, Syed Muhammad Ahmad Sahib, and asked, “How old are you, Muhammad Ahmad?” After hearing his reply, Huzoorra said:
“A person can understand things at such an age. The trunk containing the notes of Tafsir-e-Kabir is placed right there. This is the basis of the Holy Quran’s interpretation for the next 1,000 years. Take this trunk from Qadian to Lahore by plane and there, tell Sheikh Bashir Ahmad Sahib to deposit it in a bank.” (Al Hakam, 14 February 2020, Vol. 100, p. 9)
On another occasion, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra said the following about the significance of this commentary:
“It was the duty of every Ahmadi father to buy a copy of Tafsir-e-Kabir for his children. I, myself asked every daughter and son of mine whether they had bought the tafsir or not and was not satisfied until they had all bought it. I was the first to buy it myself and did not like to keep a [free] copy as the author because I didn’t think I had any right to it. Since the knowledge, time and ability were given to me by God, what right do I have over it? I thought it was right that I bought it just as other people would buy it.” (Swaneh Fazle Umar, Vol. 3, p. 161)
Even though Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra was unable to complete the commentary of the entire Quran, it still has enough content to keep one in constant awe of the Holy Quran.
In the end, I would like to quote a message of Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra to the readers of Tafsir-e-Kabir:
“O readers! I tell you, the Holy Quran is for reading, teaching and for acting upon. So if you find any merit in these notes, read and spread them, act on them, and encourage others to act on them. This is the only way to revive Islam.” (Tarikh-e-Ahmadiyyat, Vol. 8, p. 136)