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Lessons on Interpretation of the Hamd Surah

First Session

(part 3)


Notice, too, that the Qur’an says, “Whatever is in the heavens and earth glorifies Him, whoever is in the heavens and earth…”? whatever exists on earth and in the heavens glorifies God by means of the name that is His manifestation. All beings share in this manifestation; all motion that takes place derives from it, and all that occurs in the world proceeds from it. Since all things proceed from Him and return to Him and return to Him, and no being has anything in and of itself, there can be no question of the independent possession of anything. Is there anyone who can say, “I have something in and of myself,”? that is, “Independently of the light that is the origin of my being, I have something?”? What you have is not yours; even the eye you have is not yours. It came into being through His manifestation. The praise and laudation we offer in concert with all other beings is with the name of God and by the name of God; it is for this reason that God has said, “In the Name of God.”

The name God (Allah) 1 is a comprehensive manifestation; it is a manifestation of God Almighty that embraces all other manifestations, including those of Compassionate and Merciful. To put is differently, the name of God (Allah) is a manifestation of God, and the names Compassionate and Merciful are, in turn, manifestations of that manifestation. God, the Compassionate One, created all beings with mercy and compassion, and existence itself is mercy. Even the existence bestowed on creatures known to be evil is mercy, universal mercy that embraces all beings; all beings are mercy.

The name God (Allah), then, is the fullest and most complete manifestation; it is a comprehensive name and manifestation. The Essence of God Almighty does not Itself have a name: “He has neither name nor trace.”‌1 As for the names Compassionate and Merciful, they too are manifestations; they are means whereby the name God (Allah), which combines all perfections in itself, becomes apparent.

God has mentioned these two names here because mercy, which has the two aspects they express, pertains to His Essence, whereas the attributes of anger and revenge are secondary.

“In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, praise belongs to God.”? All praiseworthy qualities and perfections, all instances of praise and laudation that exist in the world, pertain to Him and are for Him. When a person eats a meal and praises it, saying, “What delicious food that was,”? he is praising God even without knowing it. Similarly, if we say of someone, “What a good man he is, what a philosopher, what a scholar!”? this expression of praise also belongs to God, even if we are unaware of it. Why is this? Because the philosopher and scholar in question has nothing in and of himself; all that he has is a manifestation of God. If someone has come to perceive something, it is a perception that is a manifestation of God.

Likewise, the thing perceived is a manifestation of God; everything is from God. People may imagine that they praise a carpet, for example, or a certain individual, but there is no praise that is uttered that is not for God. For when you praise someone, you do so on account of something he has, not on account of something non-existent, and whatever that person may have is from God. So whatever praise you utter belongs to God. The meaning of al-hamd, which we translate as “praise,”? is generic; it includes all forms and instances of praise, the essence of praise. All belongs to God. We think we praise Zayd or ‘Amr, we think we praise the light of the sun or the moon, but that is because we are veiled from ful perception of the truth. We imagine we praise a particular person or thing, but when the veil is removed, we see that all praise belongs to Him and the manifestation we are praising is a manifestation of Him. “God is the light of the heavens and the earth.”? Whatever good exists has come from Him; whatever perfection exists has come from Him. Everything and everyone that we praise is a manifestation of God and they were all created by means of a manifestation. We imagine that we act independently, but God said to the Most Noble Messenger, “When you cast the dust, you did not cast it; rather God cast it”?; (8:17) that is, you casting the dust was a manifestation of God. Similarly: “When they swore allegiance to you, they swore allegiance to God”?; (48:10)1 the hand of God’s Messenger is a manifestation of God, but since we are veiled from full perception of reality, we do not recognize it as such. The only persons who have such a perception are those who received direct instruction from God. I do not have the certainty such instruction bestows, but I can say that one may assume that the expression “In the Name of God”? is syntactically connected with al-Hamd (“praise”?), meaning, “With the Name of God, all praise, all laudation, belongs to God and is His manifestation, because He draws it all to Himself in such a way that nothing remains for other-than-Him.”? Even if you wish to, you cannot praise other-than-God; your praise will revert to Him. If you imagine that you are praising something other than God that is only because you do not know its true nature. However much you try to speak of other-than-God, you cannot; there is nothing to be said in praise of other-than-God, for other-than-God is anything but deficiency.

By this I mean that all things that exist have two aspects: an aspect of existence and an aspect of deficiency.

The aspect of existence is light; it is free from all deficiency and pertains to God. The other aspect, the negative aspect or that of deficiency, pertains to us. Now no one can praise the negative; it is only the affirmative” existence and perfection” that can be praised. There is only one perfection in the world and that is God, and there is only one beauty and that is God. We must understand this, and understand it with our heart. If we understand it, not with words or speech, but with our heart, it will suffice us. It is easy to state this truth, but to convey it to the heart and understand it there is difficult. One may say freely, in words, that hellfire exists, and even be convinced of it. But believing is different from being intellectually convinced. Proofs can be adduced, but the reality of belief has nothing to do with proofs. The quality of ‘ismah that exists in the prophets is the result of belief. Once one truly believes, it is not possible for one to sin.

If you believe that someone is waiting with drawn sword to behead you if you utter a word against him, you will also become sinless after a fashion, for loving your life, you will never defy the swordsman’s.

 If someone believes that if he backbites with so much as a single word, he will be punished in the Hereafter by having his tongue grow as long as the distance is between him and the subject of his backbiting; if he further believes that the backbiter is fed to the dogs of hell, that fiery dogs will devour him, not with a devouring that has a beginning and end, but one that continues indefinitely in hellfire””if he believes this, he will never engage in backbiting. If (God forbid) we decide to engage in backbiting, it is because we have not believed in the existence of hellfire. A person who believes that all his deeds will assume an appropriate form in the next world, good if the deed is good, evil if it is evil, and that he will be called to account, will necessarily abstain from sin.


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 18

A Commentary on the Hamd Surah: part 19 

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