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Tafseer-e-Kabeer (Urdu: تفسير کبير, tafsīr-e-kabīr, "The Extensive Commentary") is a 10 volume Urdu exegesis of the Quran written by Mirza Mahmood Ahmad, the second Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, written over a period of 20 years. It is often seen as his masterpiece.
Background and Purpose
Mirza Mahmood Ahmad was the second caliph and leader of the modern Islamic revivalist movement known as the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. The first of the 10 volumes were published in 1940 by Zia ul Islam Press, Qadian. The commentary was considered to be the next step ahead in Quranic studies. In the preface to the first volume, stating the need for a modern commentary, Mahmood Ahmad explained that the emergence of new sciences – which expose any book that professes to give a teaching to new criticism – merited a commentary of the Quran in light of new knowledge.
Secondly, he acknowledged the importance of the classical commentators like Ibn Kathir, Zamakhshari, Abu Hayyan etc. and the great service they rendered for the Quran, but stated that they made two fundamental mistakes. Namely, they included unreliable narrations from unsound sources in their comments and they relied heavily on Jewish literature. As a result some subjects had become a source of ridicule for Islam and the person of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. Moreover, according to Mahmood Ahmad (and as also stated in the introduction to the five Volume English commentary which is heavily based upon the present commentary), when the earliest commentaries of the Quran were written the Bible had not been translated into Arabic, therefore when discussing parts of the Quran containing references to Biblical narratives, the commentators often relied on what they had heard from Jewish and Christian scholars, or on their own speculations, with later European writers on Islam attributing their mistakes to the Quran. Now when knowledge of the Bible had become common and with Arabic, Latin and Greek works being accessible to Muslim scholars, new avenues for understanding the parts of the Quran which contain references to the Bible or the Mosaic tradition had been made available.
Thirdly, it was argued that inter-religious controversies had hitherto largely revolved around matters of belief and ritual rather than those of moral and socio-political ideas or economic relations and that the contemporary world thought more in terms of these practical matters. A commentary dealing with such practical teachings of the Quran was therefore necessary.
Fourthly, according to the author, the Quran contained prophecies and those prophecies which had been fulfilled up until the time of this commentary, constituted an important part of the evidence that the Quran was the revealed word of God.
Fifthly, according to the author, the Quran dealt with beliefs and teachings found in all other religions and ideologies, incorporating their best parts and pointing to their weaknesses and deficiencies. Earlier commentators were unaware of the teachings of these religions and ideologies and therefore unable to fully appreciate Quranic teachings regarding them. Now that all the most obscure teachings have become easily accessible and better known, a more comparative approach to the Quran vis-a-vis other religions and ideologies is possible which also demanded a new commentary.
Features and Themes
A peculiar feature of this work is that the author claimed to have been divinely taught the meanings and purport of Quranic verses and chapters. Throughout the commentary he suggests the vital importance of the order in which chapters were arranged in the present form. The commentary stresses the importance of a number of aspects in Quranic commentary which were thought a novel approach at the time of its publication such as the inter-relationship of the text of the entire Quran and of each Surah to the preceding, the themes of the Qur'an are connected and all chapters, verses and words are perfectly and purposefully arranged according to a coherent and logical system. It also presents a distinctive eschatological reading of the Qur'an, applying many of its prophecies to the present times, as per Ahmadiyya beliefs, such as with reference to Surah 18 (al-Kahf) and especially the latter chapters of the Quran.
the explanatory notes place a particular importance on refuting the principal objections raised against Islam by Christian writers. It is claimed that such objections were based either upon ignorance or deliberate misrepresentation of the teachings of Islam. Such objections have been refuted with the intent to remove the bias and prejudice against Islam, and make a better understanding of its teachings possible.The commentary is thus written in the style of an argument for Islam. Repeated references and comments are made on the works of famous orientalists like Theodor Nöldeke, William Muir and William Montgomery Watt as well as numerous Muslim theologians and commentators. The author has frequently dismissed the views of these writers in favour of a more linguistic approach towards understanding the meanings of the Quran. As compared to other classical texts, this commentary seems to rely less on "Asbab al-nuzul" or reasons of revelation of verses. This approach greatly reduces the impact and validity of negative remarks and objections made on the Quran by non-Muslim critics.
Each verse is explained separately in two sections. The first section gives different translations of the words in the verse according to major classical Arabic lexicons along with their different uses derived from classical Arabic prose and poetry. The second section contains detailed commentary.
A detailed bibliography of references and indices are provided at the end of each volume.
Contents of the Commentary
In 10 volumes:
- Volume 1: Surah 1 and portion of Surah 2.
- Volume 2: Surah 2 (remaining portion)
- Volume 3: Surahs 10-14
- Volume 4: Surahs 15-18
- Volume 5: Surahs 19-21
- Volume 6: Surahs 22-25
- Volume 7: Surahs 26-29
- Volume 8: Surahs 78-90
- Volume 9: Surahs 91-104
- Volume 10: Surahs 92-114
- cited in: Abdul Basit Shahid.Swaneh Fazl-i-Umar vol III Fazl-i-Umar Foundation, p.155-6. "Previous commentators had, according to the needs of their times, rendered a great service for the Quran. This is undeniable. Had they not committed two mistakes, their commentaries would have contained eternal excellences: (1) ideas of the hypocrites, which they had circulated among the Muslims, having joined them, have been included within these commentaries and for this reason, some subjects have become a source of insult for Islam and the person of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. (2) They have put too much trust in Jewish scriptures, and that too, not upon the canonical Bible, but upon the narrations of the Jews and have thereby given the enemies an opportunity for objection. Had they kept in mind what the Noble Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, had said: do not believe them to be true nor reject them as false, then this difficulty would not have been faced. Nevertheless, leaving aside these two mistakes, only Allah the Most High can be the reward for the effort and service these people have rendered."
- "General Introduction, English, 5 volume commentary". Retrieved 6 May 2016.
- Abdul Basit Shahid. Swaneh Fazl-i-Umar vol III, Fazl-i-Umar Foundation, 2006, p.156
- Abdul Basit Shahid. Swaneh Fazl-i-Umar vol III, Fazl-i-Umar Foundation, 2006, p.138-9, 155-6
- Abdul Basit Shahid. Swaneh Fazl-i-Umar vol III, Fazl-i-Umar Foundation, 2006, p.155-6