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Lessons on Interpretation of the Hamd Surah

Second Session

(part 2)


We said previously that nothing can be praised except God. You imagine that you praise someone’s handwriting, but in reality you are praising God. You imagine that you praise a scholar, but in reality you are praising God. Whatever praise is uttered, no matter who utters it, reverts to God, because there is no perfection in the world that is not His and no beauty in the world that is not His. Created things are nothing: if the divine manifestation is taken away from them, nothing of them, nothing of them remains; it is by means of that manifestation that they exist. All things are the manifestation of God, and are light. Since there is no perfection other than God’s for it is a manifestation of God, and since it is this manifestation that is being praised, other-than-God cannot, in the very nature of things, be praised. There is no perfection other than His, the perfection of His Essence and His attributes. All the perfections that exist in the world are His perfections made manifest; praise of those perfections, therefore, is praise of Him.

According to the second possibility (which is no more than that), “praise”? (al-hamd) does not mean all instances of praise, but absolute praise, praise without any condition or limitation. The praise in which we engage is individuated; it is limited, among other things, by the intention with which we utter it. We have no access to God in His absoluteneness in order to praise Him correspondingly.

When you say, “Praise belongs to God (alhamdulillah),”‌ you have not fully perceived reality in order to praise Him. Any praise that you utter relates not to Him, but to His manifestations. Here again, the second possibility contradicts the first.

According to the first possibility, all instances of praise necessarily are praise of Him. According to the second, however, no instance of praise can be praise of Him except His own praise of Himself. If it be the case, the meaning of “name”? in “In the Name of God, praise belongs to God”? cannot be what we suggested” that you are a name, and everyone else is a name. Instead, the name of God comes to be unlimited manifestation of the Absolute, a sign of the unseen, and it is by means of this name alone that God is praised; that is, He praises Himself. The manifestation praises the One Who makes manifest.

All of this, then, represents another possibility. On the one hand, “praise”‌ (al-hamd) may mean all instances of praise; on the other, it may mean absolute and undifferentiated praise. The first possibility is that all instances of pride cannot relate to other-than-God, and the second is that no praise, being limited, can relate to God, Who is absolute. This second possibility means further that absolute and undifferentiated praise is His by means of the name that is appropriate to Him.

A third possibility mentioned by some people is that the expression “In the Name of God”‌ is not connected to the Surah at all, but relates only to the manifestation of being. That is, whatever comes into existence does so by means of the name of God; the name is the origin from which the manifestation of all beings derives.

It may be possible to connect this interpretation with the tradition that says, “God created will by means of itself, and He created other things by means of His will.”? Here, will represents the first manifestation of God, created “by means of itself”? (that is, without any intermediary), and everything else came into being by means of the will. Similarly, according to our third possibility” which rejects any syntactic connection between “In the Name of God’s”? and the surah, but connects it instead to something outside the surah” In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful”? is the means whereby things attain existence.

Those who have examined the Qur’an using the method of the grammarians have suggested that the sense of “In the Name of God”? is: “I seek God’s aid,”? or something similar. Now even if that is the meaning, still the concept of name must be present, whatever or not they are aware of it, for whoever seeks God’s said does by the invocation of His name; he cannot do so without it. This does not mean that “In the Name of God”? is a simple verbal formula of invocation; for the “Name of God”? means His manifestation in all things, and the one, who seek God’s help, invoking His name, is in fact seeking His aid by means of His manifestation. All things are by means of His manifestation, so that this interpretation, too, refers matters back to God.

So much for the syntactic relationship of “In the Name of God.”‌ As for the sense of “name,”‌ I have already said that it is the sign of the thing that it names. Whatever you may imagine to exist, its name is a manifestation or gign of it.

Not all names are equal in this respect. There are names that are signs in the fullest sense of the word, and others that function at a lower degree. All things are signs and manifestations, manifestation of the name, but to different degrees.

There is a tradition that states: “We are the Most Beautiful Names”‌, that is, the Supreme Name manifests itself as the Most Noble Messenger and the Immaculate Imams, those who have attained   the   degree   of   advancement   from   deficiency   to perfection, who have liberated themselves from nature and all things. They are not like us, who are still in the pit and have not even begun to walk on the path. They have left the pit and are advancing on the path; they have migrated.

“When anyone leaves his home, migrating to God and His Messenger, and is then overtaken by death, it is incumbent on God to reward him.”? One possible meaning this tradition is that the migration referred to is a migration from the self toward God, and the home mentioned is man man’s selfhood. There is a class of men who have left their dark home of egohood and migrated from it, “migrating to God and His Messenger,”? and they are then “overtaken by death” that is, they reach a point where there is no longer anything of themselves; i.e. absolute death.

Their reward is incumbent upon God; there is no question of any other reward, neither paradise with its bounties nor anything else, save God Himself. If a person departs from the home of egohood and migrates to God and His Messenger (migrating to the Messenger being a form migrating to God), and then reaches a state where he is “overtaken by death,”‌ where nothing remains of his self and he sees all things as coming from God””if he engages in such a migration, then it is incumbent upon God to reward him.


A Commentary on the Chapter of ‘Praise’ 

Witten by: Imam Khomeini(R.A)

Translator: Bahram Afrasiabi

Other Links:

Lessons on Interpretation of the Hamd Surah: First Session (part 1)  

Lessons on Interpretation of the Hamd Surah: First Session (part 2)  

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