Useful Hints For Reading The Qur'an
RULE ONE THE STRAIGHTFORWARD MEANING
As presented in the section (Quran, fully detailed Scripture), we will be accountable on the Day of Judgement to abiding by the law of God which is given to us in the ‘law giving’ verses of the Quran. Because of that, and since God is the most Fair Judge, He has given us these verses in very clear and straightforward language. Nevertheless, and as a reader, you may have often come across the situation where you have just read one of these ‘law giving’ Quranic verses only to find that in the interpretation it has been given a completely different meaning by the interpreter! If you should inquire into the reason behind this discrepancy you will be told that the Quran is very difficult to understand on your own, and that these proficient interpreters have spent many years of their lives in mastering the science of Quranic interpretation and thus their interpretation in fact presents what the verse really is supposed to mean! You may also be told that this is the interpretation given by the prophet himself.
To 99% of all readers these answers will be sufficient and to them this will be the end of the matter, even though they may still harbor an uneasy suspicion deep inside. Sadly, not more than 1% of all readers will seek to find satisfactory answers to the following questions:
1- How can God say one thing yet the interpreters tell me that God really meant another? Is God giving us puzzles?
2- Is the interpreter more clever than God? How can the interpreter be able to put the correct meaning across while God could not?!!
3- How can God say one thing yet the interpreters tell me that the messenger of God said the contrary?!!
4- How can God assert that the Quran is clear and easy to understand (as per the following verses), and then the interpreters tell us that it is quite ambigious?
“A.L.R. these are the signs of the clear book” 12:1
“We have made it (the Quran) easy to understand and in your own tongue (language) may you take heed.” 44:58
Only the genuine searchers, who choose to believe God’s words rather than the words of any interpreter will accept the straightforward and often literal meaning of the Quranic verse. Because of his/her absolute trust and respect for God’s words, God in return has rendered the Quran easy for them to understand. As for the others who choose to believe other than God, God has placed shields over their eyes and hearts that stops them from understanding the Quran, they are not permitted access to the Quran even though they may be professors of the Arabic language and may have spent all their lives studying the Quran!
“Who is more sinful than those who are reminded of their Lord’s revelations, then disregard them, without realizing what they are doing. Consequently, We place shields on their hearts to prevent them from understanding it (the Quran), and deafness in their ears. Thus, no matter what you do to guide them, they can never be guided.” 18:57
With regards to the ‘Law giving’ type of verses, only the straightforward meaning of these verses should be accepted. We should accept without any reservation that God is the most competent and able to express any truth. he is not in need of the interpreter who will make the meaning more clear. God is the Omnipotent. His ability is unrestricted; He is sovereign over all things.
“To Him belongs the kingship of the heavens and the earth. He controls life and death. He is the Omnipotent.” 57:2
It is quite insulting to God to assume that the words of the Quran that ascertain His Law could mean anything but their literal meaning, for God is not in the process of providing us with puzzles. Truly, God is perfectly able of expressing any message. God’s words are chosen with optimum precision so as to best convey the meaning. If the meaning of such verses could be made more precise with the insertion of one word here or there by the interpreter, that could only be taken to mean that God’s phrasing is imperfect ! Needless to say, this is both erroneous and greatly insulting to God almighty. To interpret any ‘Law giving’ Quranic verse by adding or subtracting even one word to it is to commit a gross sin. We must quickly check such attempts and guard against them for they are undoubtedly the work of the devil.
The genuine believers, and upon discovering that they have not been following the literal meaning of the Quran, will always, and without any hesitation, change their our own ways rather than manipulate the meaning of the Quranic text.
We should be specially alert of Satan’s numerous tricks of deception. On this particular subject, he will fabricate the words of the prophet inevitably to lead us into believing that the prophet interpreted the Quranic verse in a manner that is contrary to the literal meaning of the verse, see (see 6:112).
Needless to say, it is wiser and more respectful to God that we should follow the literal meaning of the Quran. For that matter, it is also justified to believe that the prophet would never preach anything that contradicts the Quran. The great significance of this issue will be discussed later.
RULE TWO RELATED VERSES
When studying any subject in the Quran we must thoroughly look into all the verses that deal with that specific subject. To deduce any conclusion or rule from one verse in isolation could often be misleading.
The Quran is unlike any other book in many ways. It is neither an academic book nor is it a book of poetry. Nevertheless, it contains a wealth of knowledge delivered with commanding poetic style. While as any academic book, when dealing with a specific subject, would normally adopt the accustomed pattern comprising an introduction, a presentation and a conclusion, the Quran differs in as much as it does away with all traditional structures.
In any book other than the Quran one would expect to find each chapter dealing with one major topic. This is not always the case with the Quran, for although many of the shorter Sura’s deal with one particular topic or incident, it is not uncommon to find other Sura’s that cover most of the main subjects of the Quran (e.g. Sura 2). Therefore, we often find the same Quranic subject addressed in more than one chapter. Moreover, often within the same chapter we often find the topic categorically changed from one verse to the other without any due preparation. Perhaps this is because the Quran is primarily a book of Divine Truth and not views. Divine Truth, unlike human views is not in need of elaborate presentation nor skillful justification. Thus a single verse is Divine Truth and is well capable of revealing an independent truth, wherever it is placed inside the book. Each independent truth forms part of the overall picture that emerges when studying a particular Quranic subject. Contrary to what the corrupters insinuate, no Quranic verse will violate or invalidate another, yet at the same time, no Quranic concept may be deduced from one verse in isolation.
RULE THREE UNIVERSAL ADDRESS
The Quran, being the final revelation from God, is addressed to all mankind and for all times. Unless the Quranic verse under study specifically stipulates that it is confined to a particular people or era, it addresses all people at all times. Furthermore, all the verses that start with 'say', and unless they contain reason to believe that they are addressed to a specific person or messenger, do address all people at all times (e.g. the last 3 Sura's in the Quran).
This rule has been violated and greatly abused by many interpreters in order to manipulate the meaning of God’s words. Many cases of this manipulation will be given later, for now this simple example should help illustrate the point:
Suppose we are given the following information about a particular school:
‘Half of the students in the school are male.’
If we wish to corrupt this simple statistic we could imply that half the students who are over twelve years old are male. Or we can state that only between certain years, say 1986 till 1988, half the students were male. Obviously both of these imposed restrictions on the original statistic are corruptions. The original text contained no restrictions on the age of the students nor as with regards to a specific time. To read this statistic correctly we must maintain that half the students, at all times and of all ages are male. Similarly we must maintain the same precision with the Quran. Perhaps a classic example of this type of corruption is related to the following verse:
“When GOD ALONE is mentioned the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter shrink with aversion, but when others are mentioned beside Him, they are satisfied.” 39:45
The corrupt interpreters when interpreting this verse inserted the words (other gods) to their interpretation so as to mean , ‘but when (other gods) are mentioned beside Him.....’
This is a blatant manipulation because the word used in the Quranic text is “Doonihee” which means ‘other than He’. However, to restrict the meaning to ‘other gods’ is indeed a corruption of the verse. When the verse says ‘other than He’, this could mean other gods, but could equally mean angels, prophets, saints, people......etc. Surely if God wanted the meaning to be restricted to 'other gods' He would have said, ‘but when other gods are mentioned …….’ God is not short of words!
The great importance of this particular verse will be dealt with later.
Rule three also means that God’s Law in the Quran is for all people and for all times, and that unless specifically stated otherwise, it is decreed for all. The same religion that was decreed to Noah and Abraham was decreed to Moses and Jesus, and is indeed that decreed to Muhammad and to us today. This is confirmed in the verse:
“He decreed for you the same religion decreed for Noah, and what was inspired to you, and what We decreed for Abraham, Moses and Jesus, you shall uphold this one religion, and do not divide it....” 42:13
When certain verses speak to/of a specific people or time, God makes this restriction very clear to us within the verse. An example of that can be found in the verses that detail some of the prohibitions that were imposed on the Jews as a punishment for their transgression :
“Due to their transgressions, We have prohibited for the Jews good foods that were previously made lawful to them also for consistently repelling from the path of God.” 4:160
Consequently, to claim that a certain verse only addresses a certain people or a certain period of time without the existence of clear evidence in the verse to indicate such a restriction is to deliberately twist and corrupt God’s words and is indeed a gross sin.
RULE FOUR TRUE SIGNIFICANCE OF HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
A special word has to be mentioned here about what is commonly referred to as ‘Asbaab Al Nozool’ which means the reasons and purpose behind the revelation of certain verses.
Many of the Quranic verses are connected to particular incidents that took place at the time of the revelation of the Quran. The following verses are examples:
1- “Recall that you said to the one who was blessed by God, and blessed by you, ‘Keep your wife and reverence God’, and you hid inside yourself what God wished to proclaim. Thus you feared the people when you where supposed to fear only God. When Zeid was through with his wife, We wed her to you in order to establish an example that it is not prohibited for a man to marry the divorced wife of his adopted son if he desires. God’s command shall prevail.” 33:37
2- “O prophet, why do you prohibit what God has made lawful for you, in order to please your wives? God is Forgiver, Merciful.” 66:1
It has been said in connection to the first of these two verses, that the historical background goes that Zeid and Zeinab’s marriage was blessed by the prophet. Since Zeid was a freed slave and Zeinab was among the upper class of Mecca, their marriage was a symbol of the brotherhood of Islam. However, their marriage was not a happy one. Zeinab looked down on Zeid because of his background. Zeid wished to divorce Zeinab and asked for the prophet’s approval. The prophet, having blessed the marriage for what it stood for, feared that a divorce would incur the ridicule of the people, and thus advised Zeid against the divorce. The prophet feared the people when he should have feared God alone.
The historical background of the second verse goes that the prophet went to visit one of his wives, Hafza, and remained with her for a while and she offered him some honey. When he returned to his other wives, Aisha and Sawda, they were jealous and accused him of spending more time with her than with them. They said that they too had honey to offer him. They caused him great distress that he said that he will never ever taste honey again (prohibited on himself).
The proper relevance of the historical background connected to these two verses is to shed light on the particular incidents spoken of in the verses. The historical background of any Quranic verse should never alter or invalidate the law inherent in the verse. These two verses proclaim the following laws:
Verse One (33:37)
1- All believers should never fear anyone but God alone.
2- It is not prohibited for a man to marry the divorced wife of his adopted son.
Verse Two (66:1)
1- The prophet, or indeed any human being, may not prohibit anything that God has made lawful.
To interpret the significance of the historical background of these two verses in a corrupt way is to claim for example:
1- That verse 1 of Sura 66 applies only to honey and that the prophet is allowed to prohibit other matters !
2- That the prohibition to marry the divorced wife of an adopted son only applied to the time of the prophet and not to all times !Perhaps God, being aware of the pettiness of people, has deliberately avoided any mention of the article which the prophet had prohibited on himself as in 66:1, so as to indicate to the true believers that the nature of the article in itself is of no significance. It could have been honey, milk or peanuts ! What matters is that the prophet may not prohibit anything made lawful by God. This is well in line with the verse: “The sole duty of the messenger is to deliver the message.” 24:54
Or in other words to deliver God’s law and nothing else. This is the sole duty of any messenger and not just the prophet Muhammad:
“ .......for is it not the sole duty of all messengers to deliver the message?” 16:35
The Quran states that no prophet brings a law of his own. The only law and Sunna is that of God:
“You will find no substitute to God’s Sunna .” 33:62
The proper use therefore of the historical background, or as is known as ‘Asbaab Al Nozool”, is to better understand the circumstances that surrounded the revelation of the verse. It is a blatant corruption to use “Asbaab Al Nozool” to impose restrictions of any kind on the law contained in such verses. Furthermore it is a total misunderstanding to imply that any isolated incident related to a particular moment in time (e.g. the divorce of Zeid and Zeinab) could have been the reason for legislation from God. It is more realistic to maintain that God’s Law is set well before the occurrence of any historical incident and that God ordained such historical incidents to occur, and merit a mention in the Quran, so as to set an example. With this in mind, the term ‘Asbaab Al Nozool’ (Reason for revelation) becomes erroneous and that is because the term implies that before such incidents occurred these laws were not necessary ! A Quranic verse, containing God’s Divine Law, is never revealed to accommodate a historical incident, instead God ordains historical incidents to happen so as to stand as examples in affirming God’s Law. Using verse 1 of Sura 66 as an example we should not assume that God revealed this verse as a result of the prophet prohibiting that which was made lawful, instead it is wiser to conclude that God decreed that such incident should occur so that believers reading the Quran hundreds of years later would be assured that the only Law Giver is God. Prohibition belongs to God alone. The importance of this matter is further emphasized by the fact that the Sura itself is named ‘Prohibition”.
RULE FIVE WHAT DOES THE PHRASE "THE QURAN CONTAINS EVERYTHING" REALLY MEAN?
Believe it or not, some skeptics are asking questions like:
"If the Quran contains everything as you say, then why can't I find in it the recipe for cooking a curry?"
The answer to this question is quite straightforward. The reason why the Quran does not contain information about how to cook a curry or how to drive our cars … etc, is given in the Quran. The function of the Quran is defined very clearly. The purpose of the Quran, or any scripture, is to provide us with the means for salvation. And therefore, since the way we cook a curry or the way we drive our cars does not affect our fate on judgement day, then their details are not included in the scripture. Note that we are told by God’s messenger that the Quran is all we need FOR SALVATION.....
The Quran, like any other Scripture is a manual of how to get to heaven and how to correct our initial mistake ... the Quran contains all the details we need for this specific purpose ....
To understand the meaning of 6:38 (the Quran contains everything) we must read a number of other verses as well
We are told in 2:38 that God's offer to redeem mankind involved sending us ‘Hoda’ (guidance) , and that the ones who will accept this guidance, which in verse 2:39 is connected to ‘Ayat Allah’ (God’s revelations) will be redeemed while those who reject it will end up in hell ......
We are told that God sent us the ‘Hoda’ (guidance) through the Quran (27:2 , 31:3). We are also told that the guidance was given to the previous people in the previous Scripture (3:4) ......
After God has given us the exact duty of the Quran (and all the other scripture) , that being to give us the means for salvation, God tells us that the Quran contains everything ....... it is only logical to understand the completeness of the Quran in relationship to its function, which is to give us the guidance and means for salvation.
Let us compare with the following situation:
If you are studying in school for a physics exam, and your teacher gives you a book and tells you it contains everything you need to pass the exam ..... you cannot one day tell him I did not find in the book how to cook a pizza !!!
The teacher never claimed that the book contains how to cook a pizza, he only said it contains everything to pass the exam .......
Moreover, you cannot go and borrow a book from the class of the year before you and follow it, since the questions you will get in your exam will be based on the book the teacher gave you and not the book given to them ........ you have your MINHAJ (rules) and they have theirs (see minhaj in 5:48) .......
Similarly, since God defined for us the function of the Quran (or any Scripture) as being the complete rules to attain salvation (2:38-39) (and to pass the test) then we must understand the completeness of the Quran according to the function ascribed to it and not in an absolute sense.
Once again, what all this confirms is the fact that to attain salvation and redeem our souls in God's heaven (In Sha Allah) we only need the (menhaj) (rules and laws) that are set for us , and NOT the menhaj that was given to those before us ........ in 5:48, we are told that our menhaj is the Quran and not the rituals or Scripture given to Abraham or the others.
By A. Muhammed (e-mail: A361M@aol.com)