Author Topic: 3:7: An often-misunderstood verse  (Read 582 times)

progressive1993

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3:7: An often-misunderstood verse
« on: October 10, 2017, 02:33:49 AM »
Peace,

3:7 is often misunderstood far beyond the punctuation. In fact, once we establish what the key words kitab and mustashabihat mean - as well as muhkamat and ta'wila which are misunderstood to a smaller extent - this verse becomes very easy to understand. Many people don't examine basic words and then try to overcomplicate things and write pages upon pages about a non-issue. After understanding some basic terms such as kitab from information that Sam Gerrans put forth, cross-referencing the key terms and also considering others' interpretation as well as Sam Gerrans' - the best one of the ones considered - I more or less come to the same conclusion as he does. I came the rendering that you will find at the end. I will go step-by-step to show how I conclude as I do. First, let me present a translation without translating the key terms:

3:7 He is the one who sent/transmitted/imparted unto you the kitab of which there are muhkamat signs, which are/form the principle/foundation/foundational guidelines/essence of the kitab (umm al-kitab) and others which are/,while others/the rest are mustashabihat. Then as for those in whose hearts is deviation/perversion/doubt, they pursue/follow those parts of the kitab that that are mustashabihat, seeking misguidance/means of denial/discord/deviation and seeking its ta'wila, but no one knows its ta'wila except God and those who are deeply rooted in knowledge. They say, “We trust in it. It is all from our lord/sustainer/developer.” But no one will bear this in mind/take heed except people/those with/who possess sincere understanding/deep insight/a penetrative mind.

I wanted to give as many renderings as possible to some translated terms. I will now clean it up a little for sake of comprehension and legibility.

3:7 He is the one who imparted unto you the kitab of which there are muhkamat signs, which form the principle/foundational guidelines/essence of the kitab (umm al-kitab) while others/the rest are mustashabihat. Then as for those in whose hearts is perversion/doubt, they follow those parts of the kitab that that are mustashabihat, seeking misguidance/means of denial/discord/deviation and seeking its ta'wila, but no one knows its ta'wila except Godand those who are deeply rooted in knowledge. They say, “We trust in it. It is all from our sustainer.” But no one will bear this in mind/take heed except people who possess sincere understanding.

The first thing to understand is that kitab does not mean "book," as it is usually translated. Rather it means "law" or "decree." Others such as Sam Gerrans have written about this so you can look it up, but I will give you some verses for reference. Insert "law" or "decree" or a verb form of those words into the respective place for kitab and it will make sense. Whereas "book" will not, and there isnt even a proper verb form.

See 6:114  - God sent the fully-detailed law and we shall not seek another judge other than Him - law and judge go hand in hand.

See 98:2-3 - You don't have books in scrolls, but you can have laws/decrees in scrolls.

See 4:24 - God gives us restrictions and then says to us to remember that His kitab (law/decree) is upon us. Some translators that usually translate kitab as "book" or "scripture" have compromised it here and put something similar.

See 9:36 - Are the count of twelve months is in the law/decree of God since he created the heavens and the earth.

There are of course more examples and explanations but I invite you to look this up further if you are not convinced.

Muhkamat is generally understood as "literal," "straight-forward," "explicit," etc. While I agree that explicit is a solid rendering, literal and straight-forward are not. First of all, The Quran is straight-foward and clear if we are sincere and use intelligence. Besides, the meanings of "wise" and "law" given for the root H-K-M, we also have "firm," "solid," sturdy," "stable," etc. This fits well. If we understand "muhkamat" as the opposite of "mustashabihat," then it cannot mean "wise" and in context it cannot mean "judicious" or synonyms thereof. This is clear when we understand kitab and what mustashabihat mean, of which the latter we will now take a look at. It also does not mean "literal" since rulings on law in The Quran are usually literal and a stronger reason is because mutashabihat is not to be understood as it is usually translated, namely allegorical" or "multiple-meaning."

Mustashabihat is generally understood as "allegorical" or "multiple-meaning." I have examined the instances of the root Sh-B-H in the other verses and have come up with the following summary notes:

4:157 appear to be a certain way even though it is not – crucifixion of Isa
2:70 look alike / resemble one another – heifer
2:118 hearts were alike/almost the same – used alongside “uttered mithla (similar/like) utterances” “hearts are tashabihat
13:6 seem alike, almost not being able to distinguish
2:25 similar, allegorical likeness, appear the same
6:99 mutashabihin wa ghayra mustashabihin – Similar yet not alike. Similar yet diverse/dissimilar
39:23 consistent/similar/repeating

Thus, the basic meaning is:
- seem the same even though it is not the same
- similar to the point it is hard to distinguish

Thus, they are those signs/verses of the law which seem to be part of the principle/foundation/ foundational guidelines/essence of the law (umm al-kitab) to someone who is not paying attention or has a disease in his heart, but in fact is not part of it - it is something different. Namely,
something that needs to be understood in light of the muhkamat signs.

Also, we can see that it is different from mithla which is used, alongside the other derivatives of the same root as "example" or "like" - used when citing examples.

Next, I want to look at the basic meaning of ta'wila. When we look at other instances as well as dictionary definitions, we can render this word literally as "fulfilment," "interpretation,"
"meaning" and "end result."

For those, who did not tie all the strings together, I want to give my inference regarding the meaning of this verse whereafter I will give my clean rendering giving it a less literal, more context-dependent (this is key) rendering.

This verse talks about aspects of the law that can be understood by themselves. They are firm, sturdy and anyone with a brain can understand them and they cannot be abused (except for the gullible.) These are decrees such as "2:190 Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress, God does not like the aggressors." This verse clearly give the foundation of the rules for war. All other verses need to be referred back to this and viewed in light of this. Some verses such as "kill them wherever you find them" are often abused by people in whose hearts is a disease and they want to somehow "prove" that The Quran is bad or something like that. Similarly, they could be used to justify wars for gullible people. Furthermore there are decrees such as "obey God and obey the messenger" or "whatever the messenger gives you, take it" - some of the favorite verses used by sectarians to somehow justify their sectarian literature and endless fatwas. When we look at these statements and verses in context, we can understand that they do not mean "follow Bukhari's hadith collection." I am sure you can think of other examples, but this is the essence of this verse as I understand it.

Before I translate it to the final version, I want to make some concluding remarks. Of coure, some things Muhammad could not have know during his time. We also do not know all of the prophecies, however, we can make some inferences. Furthermore, the miracle of 19 was not understood prior to 1974 - only after (this understanding is still valid even if you disagree with the mathematical miracle.) There are also other verses that are also prophetic that cannot be understood by audiences of all times/generations and also allegorical verses which we can understand as allegorical and about which we can get a general idea, but we will not know for sure how exactly they are going to look or how they looked (if we take them as allegorical) - such as descriptions of the hereafter, controllers/controlled forces making obeisance/acknowledgement to/for "Adam," etc. This is not a problem. We can still understand and infer the basic meaning. Other things such as prophecies will unfold with time. Not all generations will have witnessed scientific references. However, when it comes to the law and decrees these things do not apply and are not issues. The laws/decrees are straight-forward. Only those who are sick twist and take things out of context to cause trouble and they do this delibarately, as previously discussed.

Now I will first give a rendering with multiple translations for some words and then give the more reader-friendly, clean translation:

3:7 He is the one who imparted unto you the law of which there are explicit/firm signs//signs that stand by/for themselves, which form the principle/foundational guidelines/essence of the law/decree (umm al-kitab) while others/the rest are similar/alike/context-dependent/ not to be taken out of context/only distinguishable after firm understanding/incomprehensible to the ignorant/only appear that way while they are not. Then as for those in whose hearts is perversion/doubt, they pursue/follow those parts of the law that that are similar/alike/context-dependent/ not to be taken out of context/only distinguishable after firm understanding/incomprehensible to the ignorant/only appear that way while they are not, seeking misguidance/means of denial/discord/deviation and seeking its implication/literal fulfillment/end result/action/interpretation/meaning/application, but no one knows its implication/literal fulfillment/end result/action/interpretation/meaning/application except God and those who are deeply rooted in knowledge. They say, “We trust in it. It is all from our sustainer.” But no one will bear this in mind except people who possess sincere understanding.

Now the final, reader-friendly version:

3:7 He is the one who imparted unto you the law of which there are signs that stand for themselves, which form the foundational guidelines of the law, while others are context-dependent. Then as for those in whose hearts is perversion, they pursue those parts of the law that that are context-dependent, seeking means of denial and seeking its application, but no one knows its application except God and those who are deeply rooted in knowledge. They say, “We trust in it. It is all from our sustainer.” But no one will bear this in mind except people who possess sincere understanding.

They are context-dependent since they appear to be just like the foundational guidelines that can stand for themselves without proper manipulation possible - but they are in fact not. They are context-dependent within the law as a whole, which will often also mean the context of the surrounding verses. All verses or parts of verses that may seem dubious to some need to be assessed in light of the whole Quran/Reading - not every verse/part of a verse can give us the true literal application without proper context and without using deep knowledge and sincere understanding.

Also, another implication and slightly different understanding that I have thought about is that the verses refer to, for example, verses that deal with dietary prohibitions as in 5:3 where "carrion" is defined, while those with a disease in their heart want to say that it is a contradiction to other verses that simply use the word "carrion" without having the list of meat that counts as such just because the list is longer. Thus, the verse seems to be a deviation from the others even though it is the same. When read in context and in a consistent manner (such as in 39:23.)
10:41 If they deny you, say: "My works are for me, and your works are for you. You are innocent of what I do, and I am innocent of what you do."

Makaveli

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Re: 3:7: An often-misunderstood verse
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2017, 03:55:52 AM »
Fight those who fight you is also a highly misinterpreted verse, which people believe justifies the so called "defensive war". I already wrote a bit about it here before, I will repeat there is no way a community will remain unbiased when it comes to a war. What is a defensive war? They have applied some economic sanctions on us so let us nuke them? Secondly, you cannot build an army based on Qur'an only, you need side literature and other socio-political instruments in order to do that. Either Qur'an or various legal acts that describe penalties for all sort of criminal, economic, administration and other forms of violations. Thirdly, no peaceful community will stand against an army which is trained and has access to weapons. Qur'an is not about any form of socio-political regulation be it the state or a hippy-like community, it is a book for personal wisdom no matter what culture or the state or the community or whatever you belong to. So any verses that hint to any form of social regulation are severely mistranslated.

There is nothing to protect and no one to fight against. People are merely dust, and dying in the cause of Allah means sacrificing one's own life to prevent evil, not to fight in a war. If you read verses 47:4-5 very carefully and unbiased you will understand what I am talking about, unless of course you are too biased with traditional interpretations of anything. I could not care less if my country was destoryed since it never was there, there are no borders, they were created artificially.

Next I would also like to bring in the verse of the Qur'an which states, take the best from the law. I can't recall the verse number now, but just like with most controversial things in the Qur'an the reader is required to apply his morals and mind in order to understand. In the eye for an eye it clear says it is better for you to abstain from your "right" to revenge, and many other verses have similar pattern of first, making you think you are allowed to something, but then telling you what is better. While I believe it is a translational bias, I also think the Qur'an is based in the code-like structure, so even a highly perverted translation will allow a righteous person understand the meaning, not matter how perverted the translation is (and it is).

There are no four wives as the limit to marriage (4:129). You can have as many wives as you want, but that would also mean that you disobey the kitab, since having many wives automatically means having slaves/workers to exploit since that sort of a project would require tremendous amount of resources and no man can raise that much by working for his own sake. And having slaves or being a lord for someone is violation of other verses. If there is a limit of four wives, please tell me how many wings do angels have (35:1)?

Also, many people critisize tradition of abrogation, but that's what Gerrans does. Look at his 2:189 - he translates it as pilgrimage, but at the same time he outlines that it is forbidden to apporach al masjid al haram. That is inconsistency. So the verse is there, but it is forbidden? That is abrogation.

That being said, you did not convince me nor did you understand the verse in the subject due to personal bias and unclear "bigger picture", such as the problem of "abrogation" and the naive belief in the defensive wars. I am not saying you have mentioned hajj or abrogation, but if you believe Sam Gerrans on some topics you know his stance on the al masjid al haram, and I know many Qur'an alone followers also follow this opinion. So Qur'an is not preserved and can be abrogated?

And I never do that, but I will do it now, in conclusion I will quote something some of you might be pissed off at. I will just leave it here for you to contemplate on:

Thou have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.
براتىشكا و فايحوشى

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