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  • 1/21/2013

Lessons on Interpretation of the Hamd Surah

The First Session

part 1



I take refuge in God from Satan the accursed. In the Name of God, the Lord of Compassionate, the Merciful.

I have been asked to give one or few interpretation of the Qur’an. The interpretation of the Qur’an is not an easy task for some one like myself to be fulfilled. Rather, the eminent theologians throughout history, both Sunni and Shi‘ah have written numerous books on this subject” and their efforts have, of course been most valuable. But each of them wrote from the stand point of his own specialization and skill and could interpret only a certain aspect of the Qur’an, and do that much only imperfectly.

For example, commentaries have been written over the centuries, by such mystics as Muhy al-Din ibn ‘Arabi, ‘Abd al-Razzaq Kashani (author of Ta’wilat), and Mulla Sultan ‘Ali.

Some of these commentators wrote well from the standpoint of their  specialization  and  skill.  But  what  they  wrote  is  not commensurate to the Qur’an; it represents only a few pages or aspects of the Qur’an. Tantawi, Sayyid Qutb,4 and others like them interpreted the Qur’an in a different way, but their work too does not represent a complete interpretation of the Qur’an with respect to all of its meanings; again, it is concerned only with a single aspect of the Qur’an. There are other commentaries still that do not belong to either of these groups; for example, the Majma‘ al-Bayan, which we Shi‘is use, is  a good commentary that includes the views of both Sunni and Shi’a exegetes, but it, too, is not exhaustive.

The Qur’an is not a book that someone can interpret comprehensively and exhaustively, for its sciences are unique and ultimately beyond our understanding. We can understand only a given aspect or dimension of the Qur’an; interpretation of the rest depends upon the Ahl-al-Ismah who received instruction from the Messenger of God. Recently, people have appeared who, without the slightest qualification for interpreting the Qur’an, try to impose their own objectives and ideas upon both the Qur’an and the Sunni; even a group of leftist and communists now claims to be basing themselves and their aims on the Qur’an.2 Their real interest is not the Qur’an or its interpretation, but trying to convince our young people to accept their objectives under the pretext that they are Islamic. I emphasize, therefore, that those who have not pursued religious studies, young people who are not well grounded in Islamic matters, and all who are uninformed concerning Islam should not attempt to interpret the Qur’an. If they do so nevertheless for the sake of their own goals, no one should pay any attention to their interpretations. One of the things that is forbidden in Islam is interpretation of the Qur’an according to personal opinion, or attempting to make the Qur’an conform to one’s own opinions.

Let us suppose that one man is a materialist and tries to make every verse in the Qur’an conform notions, while another is concerned exclusively with spiritual matters, so that every part of the Qur’an he encounters will be interpreted in the light of his preoccupation. They both extremes and attitudes that are to be avoided.

In interpreting the Qur’an, then, we are subject to certain restrictions. The field is not open for anyone to try to impose on the Qur’an any idea that enters his head and then tell people. “This is the Qur’an.”‌ Now if I say a few words concerning certain verses of the Qur’an, I do not in any way claim to be expounding their ultimate meaning. What I say represents a possibility, not a certainty; I do not say, “This, and nothing else, is the true meaning.”‌

Because I have been asked, then, to say a few words on these subjects, I will speak briefly every few days or once a week, for a limited period, concerning the opening chapter of the Qur’an or one of the last chapters, for neither people have time for a detailed interpretation of the Qur’an. I will briefly set forth some of the noble verses of the Qur’an, and I repeat that what I have to say is based on possibility, not certainty.


I take refuge in God from Satan the accursed. In the Name of God, the All-compassionate, the All-merciful, praise belongs to the Lord of the Worlds.

It is probable that this phrase, “In the Name of God,”‌ at the beginning of all surahs of the Qur’an is syntactically connected to the verses that fallow it. It is sometimes said that the phrase is connected to an implied statement that follows upon it, but it seems more likely that it is connected to the Surah itself. So we understand the Surah of Praise in this sense: “In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, praise belongs to God.”‌

A name is a sign, Names are given to people and assigned to things in order to provide them with a sign by which they may be recognized and to distinguish one from another. The names of God are also signs of His Sacred Essence; and it is only His names that are knowledge to man. The Essence Itself is something that lies totally beyond the reach of man, and even the Seal of the Prophets, 1 the most knowledge and noble of men, was unable to attain knowledge of the Essence. The Sacred Essence is unknown to all but itself. It is the names of God that are accessible to man. There are, however, different levels for understanding those names. We can understand them at certain levels, but comprehension at other levels is reserved for the awliya’, for the Most Noble Messenger and those whom he has instructed.

The whole world is a name of God, for a name is a sign, and all the creatures that exist in the world are signs of the Sacred Essence of God Almighty. Here some people may reach a profound understanding of what is meant by “signs”? while others may grasp only the general meaning that no creature comes into existence by itself.

It is a rationally self-evident proposition, intuitively understood every human being, that no being can come into existence by itself” no being for which it is possible both to exist and not to exist. For such a being to come into existence, there must be a being that exists by virtue of its essence, that is, a being from whom existence cannot be withdrawn, unlike other beings for whom it is possible both to exist and not to exist. There require that something external to them into existence.


A Commentary on the Chapter of ‘Praise’ 

Witten by: Imam Khomeini(R.A)

Translator: Bahram Afrasiabi 

Other Links:

A Commentary on the Hamd Surah: part 16

A Commentary on the Hamd Surah: part 17

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