The reasons and methods for the Qur’an, lending itself to interpretation

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Considering about the contents and message of the Qur’an
The answer to this question is contained in the previous section where we discussed the eternal validity of the Qur’an: it speaks to, instructs and guides man now as it did in the past.

As we have seen, the whole text of the Qur’an is a challenge to mankind and particularly to the enemies of Islam in that the Qur’an itself proof of its own argument, it announces itself as a light, an illumination and explanation of all things.

Thus a document which states and demonstrates that it is self- illuminating, hardly needs others to illuminate it, As proof that it is not the speech of man, the Qur’an says that it is a harmonious speech, without the slightest inconsistency and any seeming inconsistency may be removed through reflection on the Qur’an itself. If it were not word of God, the Qur’an would not be as clear as it is.

Moreover, if such speed needed something or someone else to explain its meaning and purpose, it would neither be the proof nor the absolute authority that it is so obviously. This clarity is absolute, even if a seemingly contradictory passage becomes the object of dispute, it could be understood by cross-reference to the of the Qur’an.

For instance, at the time of the Prophet, such matters could be referred to him since his knowledge of the Qur’an was perfect and he did not need to refer to other verses for clarification. Those who insisted on disagreeing or disbelieving in the Prophet’s fallibility, were not satisfied.

Therefore, commentaries which solve problems of interpretation by quoting the commentaries of the Prophet without giving proofs from other Qur’anic verses, are useful only for those who believe in Prophet hood and Prophet’s in fallibility, These people do not go unmentioned in the Qur’an, we are familiar with the following verse: if it had been from other than God then they would have found many inconsistencies in it.

This is a clear argument against those who would seek for inconsistencies in the Qur’an and find with the Prophet.

The Qur’an itself declares that the commentary and explanation of the Prophet is valid while the Prophet himself has confirmed the validity of the Qur’anic commentary of the Imams. We may summarize this by saying that in the Qur’an some verse nay be explained by comparison with other verse and some by using the instructions and teachings of the Prophet and the Imams. The latter commentaries are not, of course, different from the explanation which is produced by comparing and analysing different verses.

Three method of commentary of the Qur’an
There are three roads open to us when making commentary upon the Qur’an. Firstly, but using knowledge that one already possesses.

Secondly, with the help of the saying of the Prophet or Imams.

Thirdly, by using a combination of methods: by reflection and analysis, or by allowing the verse to become clarified comparing it to other verses, or by use of the sayings of the Prophet and Imams, whenever possible.

The third way is the one which we have outlined in the last section and it is this way which the Prophet himself and the Imams of his family indicate in their teachings. As we have seen, the Prophet said that, “The verses were revealed to confirm each other”, and Imam Ali said that “One part of the Qur’an explains another one part witnesses to the other.

It is, moreover, clear that this method of commentary is other than that warmed against by the Prophet when he said, “ Whoever makes a commentary upon the Qur’an according to his own opinion prepares for himself a place in the Fire,” This method usesthe Qur’an to explain itself and in not based merely on explanation arising from whim or fancy.

Studying the three methods of commentary of the Qur’an
The first method is unacceptable and exemplifies commentary based on opinion, except in cases where it agrees with the third method. The second method is the one used by the early scholars and for many centuries afterwards, and is still in use amongst both Sunni and Shi’ite scholars of the traditions of the Prophet. This method is limited, considering the vast nature of the subject and the countless number of questions(both general and particular), arising from over six thousand verses.

Where, one asks, is the answer to such questions? Where is the solution to so many intricate and perplexing questions? Or, should we refer to the body of tradition concerning the verse?

Let us not forget that that total number of traditions of the Prophet accepted and transmitted by the Sunni scholars number no more than two hundred and fifty, we should also remember that many of them are weak and some even totally unacceptable, It is true that the tradition of the Prophet and the Imams transmitted by the Shi’ite scholars number a thousand and that amongst them are to be found a considerable number which are fully trustworthy.

Consideration of these tradition is not enough, however, giver the countless questions which arise and the many Qur’anic verses that are not even mentioned in this body of tradition. Should one refer in such matters to the appropriate verses?

As we have explained, this is not acceptable according to the method under consideration here, Should onesimply abstain from investigation and imagine that the need for knowledge is non- existent? In this case, what is one, to understand by the verse: " And we reveal the Book to you as an exposition of all things, [ XVI:89]" which is clear proof that the Qur’an itself is not a mystery but rather explains, among other thing, itself, by itself own light.

Chapter IV:82 contains the injunction “Will they not ponder on the Qur’an”. Similarly, in chapters XLVII:24 and XXXVIII:29 “This book) is a Book that we have revealed to you full of blessing, that you may ponder its revelation and the men of understanding may reflect,” Like wise in Chapter XXII:68, “Have they not pondered the word, or has something come to them which did not come to their forefathers”.

what are we intended to understand by these verses? How are we to act in the light of the totally trustworthy traditions of the Prophet and the Imams in which they advise us to refer to the Qur’an itself in case of problems of interpretation and discordance of opinion? According to many well known traditions of the Prophet, transmitted in unbroken chains of transmission, one is obliged to refer the tradition to the Book of God, if the tradition is in accordance with the Book, then it is accepted and used in commentary and, if in disagreement, it is rejected.

It is clear that the meaning of the traditions is applicable when one discovers through the Science of Commentary that the inner meaning of one verse is contrary to what is contained in another verse. In this case, one must reject what one has discovered through the study of commentaries.

These tradition are the beat proof that the Qur’an, like speech or writing in general, has meaning and will always have meaning, even when studies independently of the traditions.Thus it is the duty of the commentators to take into account and reflect upon the traditions of the Prophet and Imams concerning Qur’anic verses but only use those traditions which are in accordance with the verse under scrutiny.

Some examples of commenTary an the Qur’an with the aid the Qur’an
on four occasions in the Qur’an God says “Allah is the creator all beings”, [ XXXIX:62]. The meaning is clear on each occasion, God is stating that every thing man many possibly imagine in the world has been created by him and is sustained by Him. However, one should not ignore the fact that in hundreds of verses the Qur’an affirms the existence of cause and effect and attributes the action of every doer to the immediate cause.

Thus the effect of the burning of fire is a direct result of the fire itself, the growing of plants, the action of the plants the falling rain caused by the state of the sky, the actions which man chooses to undertake are, according to the Qur’an, the result( and consequent responsibility) of man. We may also say that the doer of any action is the responsible for that action, but God is the giver of existence, the Creator of deeds and the owner of deeds.

Keeping in mind this general relationship between the Creator and His creation, we may read in chapter XXXII:7 “Who made all things beautiful and good which We creates”. When we join this verse to the previous one we see that beauty and goodness necessarily accompany His creation and so anything which has existence in the cosmos is also good and beautiful.

We should not forget, however ,that in many verses, the Qur’an affirms the existence of goodand its opposite, evil, useful things and harmful things, beauty and ugliness, and it enumerates many bad action, wrong doers bad events.

There are all, however, negative aspects of the human character and are mentioned as a measure of man, they are relative and not intended as proof that the creation of man is basically bad, For example, the snake or the serpent is harmful but only to man and animals who suffer the effects of its sting, to stones and earth it is harmless, Bitter taste and foul smell are unpleasant, but only to the human sense of taste and smell, not to all animals. Certain behaviour may at times appear wrong but this is often the result of observing human behaviour in relation to society of men,in another society or circumstance it may not be considered wrong.

Indeed, if we dispense for a moment with those negative aspects of men’s character which are secondary or relative to the miracle and perfection of His creation, we witness only the beautiful symmetry and proportion of the cosmos in its entirety and the amazing beneficence of the Creator. Words are not able to describe this beauty since they themselves are part of this world of beauty.

Qur’anic verses as a proof of absolute grandeur of God the world
In reality the above –mentioned verses awake man to an awareness of the relative nature of beauty and ugliness, they invite him to a comprehension of absolute beauty and prepare him for an understanding of creation as a whole. In fact, there are Qur’anic verses which explain or comment upon the different aspects of creation in the universe, either as isolated individual examples or as groupings and classes. Each creation, whether a single manifestation or joined to a larger structure and patterning, is a sign and indication of God, Whichever way we regard creation, it all points to the existence of God.

This way of understanding or seeing the universe and its signs, leads to an appreciation of the stupendous beauty which encircles the whole world and allows us to realize that it is His beauty, emanating from the domain of His power, and made visible in the signs of the skies and the earth. Each aspect of the cosmos lends beauty and dimensions to everything surrounding it yet at the same time it is insignificant in relation to the whole.

The Qur’an affirms in other verses that perfection and beauty manifest themselves from the domain of the power, thus He says in chapter XL:65 “He is the Living One. There is no god Him,” and in II:165 “ ….power belongs completely God,” and in IV :139 “Truly all power belongs to God,” and “He is the known, the All –Powerful.” On another occasion we read “And He is the Hearer, the Sear,” and in XX:8, “Allah! There is no god save him, His are the most beautiful names.”

We realize from these verses that the beauty which manifests itself in the visible world has its reality in the domain of His power and grandeur. All other beauty, all other power, is illusory or metaphorical of His power.

In affirmation of this explanation, the Qur’an states that the beauty and perfection created by main is limited and temporal but that of God boundless and eternal. God emphasizes that all creation is from Him and under His power. In chapter LIV:49 “Truly we have creation everything by measure” and in the chapterXV:21, “ And there is not a thing with us but there are stores of it. And we do not send it down except in appointed measure.”

Human Traveling from Divine perfection to the Divine love
Careful observation reveals that the Book itself declares its own perfection and beauty, that it encompasses all aspects of creation and Creator, and that there is no fault or shortcoming in it. Such is perfection of the Qur’an, which itself one of the signs of God, that it makes the reader forget himself in rapturous appreciation of its beauty.

This we read in II:165 “Those who believe are stauncher in their love of God”. Love, of its very nature, demands the self and the giving over of the self to God. It demands the handing over of one’s affairs completely to Him and allowing Him to be one’s Lord: “ And Allah is the protecting Friend of the believers, “ [III:68].

This idea also contained in II:257 which declares, “God is the Protecting Friend of the those who believe. He brings them out of darkness into light,” and also in VI:122, “Is he who was dead and We have raised him to life and set for him a light in which he walks among men …..” Likewise, we read in LVIII:22, “As for such, He has written faith upon their hearth and has strengthened them with a spirit from Him.”

This spirit, this new life and light, is given by God to the man who perceives reality and truth and who understands the path of happinesss and well- being in society. In another verse in LVII:28, He explains the effect of such light: “O you who believe! Be mindful of your duty to God and put faith in His messenger. He will give you twofold of His mercy and will appoint for you a light in which you shall walk.”

Again, in another verses, He makes a commentary on “faith in the Prophet” by explaining it as submission and obedience to Him, chapter III:31, “Say ( O Muhammad, to, mankind ): If you love God follow me, will love you”.

The nature of this path is explained in chapter VII:157: "Those who follow the messenger the Prophet, who can neither read nor write, whom they will find described in the Torah and the Gospels ( which are) with them. He will rejoin in them that which is right and forbid them that which is wrong. He will make lawful for them all good things and prohibit for them only the foul, and He will relieve them of their burden and the fetters they used to wear".

Guiding man towards innate religion
Still more vividly, the path is explained in another verse which is also a commentary on the pervious verse [XXX:30]: "So let you purpose (O Muhammad ) for the din ( of Islam ) as a man by nature upright – the nature of God on which he has creation man. There is no altering God’s creation. That is the right way of life, but most men to not know….”

The right way of life, or din refers to the correct path for society to follow for its well-being and happiness. According to this verse, the way of Islam is also the way desired by the Creator for man.

In other words, the legislative framework give to man by God is the very framework which is appropriate for the creation man. This divine law is in complete harmony with the nature of man, living a life of piety and obedience.

God says in another verse [XCL:7-8], “And a soul and Him who perfected it. And inspired it ( with conscience of) what is wrong for it and ( what is) right” The Qur’an is the only revealed book which equates the happiness and well- being of man with a pure and sincere way of life.

Moreover, unlike other religions, Islam does not separate worship of God from the actual programme of living, it establishes the word din to mean not only religion but also life in general as well, the actual day to day routine of man, both on a personal and social level.

The Qur’an establishes a programme of living which is in accord which the functioning and the reality of the cosmos, and the Qur’an mentions many of the benefits and virtues to be expected by the man of God and the loves of Truth, including certainty of faith and tranquility of the heart.

The Qur’an as a self –contained proof
The Qur’an, being composed of words and meanings like any other book, explains itself. It does not remain silent when the situation of the text demands proof. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that Qur’an terms mean anything other than the actual words being used. This means that every man, possessing a certain knowledge of the of the Arabic language, may clearly understand the meaning of the Qur’an just as he understand any other words in Arabic.

There are many verses which are directed towards specific group, such as the Tribe of Israel, or the Believers, or the non – believers and, sometimes, man in general, (they are addressed in phrases such as “ O you who disbelieve” or “O people of the Book” or “O tribe of Israel” or “O Mankind”). The Qur’an discourses with them, offering them proof of its validity or challenging them to produce a book similar to it if they doubt it to the Word of God.

Obviously it makes no sense to address people in terms which they do not understand or to demand that they produce something similar to that which has no meaning for them. In chapter XLVII:24 we read, “why do they not reflect upon the Qur’an,” implying that if it was from other than God, people would have found in it many inconsistencies.

It is clearly indicated in the Qur’an that verses which have a subtlety or particularity of meaning demand that the reader reflect upon them to remove any seeming differences of interpretation or incongruities that may appear at first inspection.

It also follows that if the verses themselves contained no apparent meaning, there would be no pint in reflecting upon them in order to clarify the apparent problem of their interpretation. There are no indications from other sources, (such as the tradition s of the Prophet), that demand a rejection of outwardly manifest meaning of the Qur’an.

The Validity of the Prophet’s commentary in the Qur’an
Some have argued that one should only refer to the commentaries of the Prophet in elucidating the meaning of the Qur’an. This argument is unacceptable, however, since the basis of the Prophet ‘s commentary and of the Imams of his family must be sought for in the Qur’an.

It is difficlt to imagine that the validity of the Qur’an is dependent on the commentaries of the Prophet or the Imams of his family. Rather, affirmation of prophecy and imamate must be contained in the Qur’an It, which itself is authentic proof and document of prophecy. This does not, however, contradict the fact the Prophet and Imams of his family were responsible for clarifying those details of the shari’ah law (Divinely revealed law) which were apparent from the actual text of the Qur’an.

They were, likewise, entrusted with teaching the knowledge contained in the Book, as seen in the following verse: "And We have revealed Remembrance so that you may explain to mankind that which has been revealed for them [XVI:44]".

A similar reflection occurs in chapter LIX:7 where, in reference to the code of practice and brought by
the Prophet to mankind, it states, “And take whatever the messenger gives you And abstain from whatever he forbids”.

In chapter IV: 64 it says, “We sent no messenger save that he should be obeyed by God’s leave” and again, in chapter LXII: 2 “He it is who has sent among the unlettered ones a messenger of their own, to recite to them His revelations and to make them grow and to teach them the Book and Wisdom ,” According to these verses, the Prophet is the appointed explainer of the details of the shari’ah law as well as the teacher of the Qur’an.

Moreover, according to the tradition known as thaqalayan, which was authenticated by an uninterrupted chain of narrators, the Prophet has appointed the Imams his own family as his successors. This is not to deny that others also, by correctly applying the learning of sincere teachers, may understand the meaning of the Qur’an.


The quran in islam- pages: 51to53 and 27to29


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