Is the Qur’an clear?

 

“It is He Who has sent down to thee the Book: in it are verses basic or fundamental; they are the foundation of the book: others are allegorical, Those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except God and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: “We believe in the book; the whole of it is from our Lord;” and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding‘ (Qur’an 3: 7).

The intent of this entry is so that those who among the Muslims who come into contact with adherents of the Quran Only Religion can have some introspection in regards to their own position.

It is hoped that people may be able to look beyond the oversimplification of issues.

I was once listening to a lecture by Sheikh Hamza Yusuf where he mentioned that as Muslims we believe that the Creator is One,  we believe the revelation is one; however, the revelation is being refracted through the prism of the human mind.

It reminded me of the famous cover of the Pink Floyd album “The Dark of the Moon

Spect-Prism-sm

I found it an interesting point.

I even found the common English definition of clarity to be quite interesting.

Noun

  1. The quality of being clear, in particular.
  2. The quality of coherence and intelligibility.

Here are some examples of things that are clear but are they intelligible?

You will understand the meaning of the universe once the ball sings to Jill about the biz. Mace Windu understood the peanut butter sandwich by his clear signals so that the computer would jazz out to Dan Excalibur swimming passed the switchboard flying kites. Very funny though the syntax as he whizzed passed the train who was busy cramming algebraic thoughts into his fish tank.

My horrible syntax aside, anyone familiar enough with the English language should be able to understand every word that I have typed above.

However, would anyone care to tell us what I was talking about above?

Let us look at the opening verse of the  Qur’an again.

“It is He Who has sent down to thee the Book: in it are verses basic or fundamental; they are the foundation of the book: others are allegorical, Those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except God and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: “We believe in the book; the whole of it is from our Lord;” and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding‘ (Qur’an 3: 7).

To me, the Qur’an makes it clear that is both clear and unclear. If it was not the case it would not be possible to ‘fitna‘ or discord with something that is clear.  I have already stated in other places one of the sure signs of a cult or sect among the Muslims is that they will try and appeal to a ‘controversial‘ verse, or a verse that is subject to many interpretations to base their case.   This has happened many times in especially in matters of theology.

This happens all too often with the Quraniyoon

Also notice the above text says: ‘and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding.’

If a text or a revelation is clear in and of itself it would not only be grasped by men of understanding but by anyone.

Often the Qur’an beings a chapter with something ambiguous and then affirms that it is clear.

Examples abound:

Alif, Lam, Ra. These are the verses of the Book and a clear Qur’an.” (Qur’an 15:1)

Alif, Lam, Ra. These are the verses of the clear Book. Indeed, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an that you might understand.”  (Qur’an 12:1-2)

Ta, Seen, Meem. These are the verses of the clear Book.”  (Qur’an 26:1-2)

Ta, Seen. These are the verses of the Qur’an and a clear Book” (Qur’an 27:1)

Ta, Seen, Meem. These are the verses of the clear Book.” (Qur’an 28:1-2)

Ha Meem, By the clear Book, (Qur’an 43:1-2)

Ha Meem, By the clear Book, (Qur’an 44:1-2)

There is also something interesting here.  Allah (swt) informs us throughout the  Qur’an that it is possible that his revelation may not be clear to people.

Examples:

They ask you about intoxicants and gambling: say, “In them, there is a gross sin and some benefits for the people. But their sinfulness far outweighs their benefit.” They also ask you what to give to charity: say, “The excess.” Allah  clarifies the revelations for you, that you may reflect,” (Qur’an 2:219)

Do not marry idolatresses unless they believe; a believing woman is better than an idolatress, even if you like her. Nor shall you give your daughters in marriage to idolatrous men, unless they believe. A believing man is better than an idolater, even if you like him. These invite to Hell, while Allah invites to Paradise and forgiveness, as He wills. He clarifies His revelations for the people, that they may take heed.” (Qur’an 2:221)

Allah thus explains His revelations for you, that you may understand.” (Qur’an 2:242)

Does any of you wish to own a garden of palm trees and grapes, with flowing streams and generous crops, then, just as he grows old, and while his children are still dependent on him, a holocaust strikes and burns up his garden? Allah thus clarifies the revelations for you, that you may reflect.” (Qur’an 2:266)

You shall hold fast to the rope of Allah, all of you, and do not be divided. Recall Allah’s blessings upon you – you used to be enemies and He reconciled your hearts. By His grace, you became brethren. You were at the brink of a pit of fire, and He saved you therefrom. Allah thus explains His revelations for you, that you may be guided.” (Qur’an 3:301)

O you who believe, do not befriend outsiders who never cease to wish you harm; they even wish to see you suffer. Hatred flows out of their mouths and what they hide in their chests is far worse. We thus clarify the revelations for you, if you understand.” (Qur’an 3:108)

They consult you; say, “Allah advises you concerning the single person. If one dies and leaves no children, and he had a sister, she gets half the inheritance. If she dies first, he inherits from her, if she left no children. If there were two sisters, they get two-thirds of the inheritance. If the siblings are men and women, the male gets twice the share of the female.” Allah thus clarifies for you, lest you go astray. Allah is fully aware of all things.” (Qur’an 4:176)

Allah does not hold you responsible for the mere utterance of oaths; He holds you responsible for your actual intentions. If you violate an oath, you shall atone by feeding ten poor people from the same food you offer to your own family or clothing them, or by freeing a slave. If you cannot afford this, then you shall fast for three days. This is the atonement for violating the oaths that you swore to keep. You shall fulfill your oaths. Allah thus explains His revelations to you, that you may be appreciative.”  (Qur’an 5:89)

Allah thus explains the revelations for you. Allah is Omniscient, Wise.” (Qur’an 24:18)

O you who believe, permission must be requested by your servants and the children who have not attained puberty (before entering your rooms). This is to be done in three instances – before the Dawn Prayer, at noon when you change your clothes to rest, and after the Night Prayer. These are three private times for you. At other times, it is not wrong for you or them to mingle with one another. Allah thus clarifies the revelations for you. Allah is Omniscient, Most Wise.” (Qur’an 24:58)

Once the children reach puberty, they must ask permission (before entering) like those who became adults before they have asked permission (before entering). Allah thus clarifies His revelations for you. Allah is Omniscient, Most Wise.” (Qur’an 24:59)

The blind is not to be blamed, the crippled is not to be blamed, nor is handicapped to be blamed, just as you are not to be blamed for eating at your homes, or the homes of your fathers, or the homes of your mothers, or the homes of your brothers, or the homes of your sisters, or the homes of your fathers’ brothers, or the homes of your fathers’ sisters, or the homes of your mothers’ brothers, or the homes of your mothers’ sisters, or the homes that belong to you and you possess their keys or the homes of your friends. You commit nothing wrong by eating together or as individuals. When you enter any home, you shall greet each other a greeting from Allah that is blessed and good. Allah thus explains the revelations for you, that you may understand.” (Qur’an 24:61)

Know that Allah revives the land after it had died. We thus explain the revelations for you, that you may understand.” (Qur’an 57:17)

Comments:

All of these verses if you removed the phrases ‘Allah thus explains/clarifies the revelations for you‘ you could still get an understanding of the verses in question.  However,  Allah (swt) knows why He (swt) has decided to further elucidate on selected passages of the  Qur’an.

Even, when Allah (swt) says ‘We thus explain the revelations for you‘ in the above passage about Allah (swt) giving life to the land after it has died, it doesn’t explain or clarify the ‘how‘ of it.   It simply says, ‘Know‘.

The Proof Is In the Pudding.

The very fact that there is now a proliferation of Quraniyoon groups, each vying with each other each with disparate understandings of a revelation that they in their approach to revelation says ‘is clear as day‘.

So we end up with some groups saying the  Qur’an requires us to pray 2 times a day, or 3 times a day, and some saying that there is no ritual prayer at all!

However, some of the Quraniyoon will just keep throwing their selective verses of choice at you again and again.

I think the point is missed.  We as Muslims do not disagree with any verse of the Qur’an as being a revelation.  We agree with the Qur’an does it say it ‘explains itself‘  and that it is ‘clear‘.

Part of that explanation and elucidation comes through the example of the Blessed Messenger (saw) himself.

It is He Who raised up among the unlettered a Messenger from among them who recounts His signs to them and makes them pure and teaches them the Book and wisdom even though they had been before certainly, clearly going astray.”  (Quran 25:32)

teaches them– wayuʿallimuhumu -when you teach or instruct someone you are doing more than simply relaying information. A teacher does not simply pass a student a book and say, ‘here you go‘.

Quraniyoon will often claim that the Blessed Messenger is only a mailman. His only duty is to convey the message.

Yet this is contradicted not only by the text above but by the following:

Say, “Obey Allah and obey the Messenger. But if you turn away, then he is only responsible for his duty and you are responsible for yours. And if you obey him, you will be ˹rightly˺ guided. The Messenger’s duty is only to deliver ˹the message˺ clearly.”  (Qur’an 24:54)

Allah (swt) that are not clear to some.

“Allah disdains not to use the similitude of things, lowest as well as highest. Those who believe know that it is the truth from their Lord; but those who reject Faith say: “What means Allah by this parable?” By it, He causes many to stray, and many He leads into the right path; but He causes not to stray, except those who forsake (the path),-  (Qur’an 2:26)

However, given the following facts:

#1 That various Quranists have approached the same text and come to different conclusions.

#2 The verse in the Qur’an itself that mentions verses that are basic and those that can be the cause of discord.

#3 The fact that many times throughout the  Qur’an Allah (swt) himself has to come and introduce phrases such as, ‘Allah thus explains/clarifies the revelations for you‘  as if otherwise it wouldn’t be clear.

#4 The fact that many verses of the Qur’an start off stating it is clear, with the introduction of Arabic letters, that until this day continues to baffle the masses.

#5 The fact that Quraniyoon do not know what actually constitutes the Qur’an.

#6 The fact that Quraniyoon do not know how to recite the Qur’an.

Theological issues concerning the clarity of the Qur’an.

The Shafite Mutzalite ‘Abd al-Jabbar epitomized the Basra Mutazalite position on the principle of clarity. He declared that any form of delayed clarification was impossible not simply because Allah’s justice requires that he make his requirements known, but more importantly because his speech is his created act, and therefore must be good, from which it follows that his every utterance must fulfill its purpose of indicating his will.

This is a very important point that Shaykh Abd al-Jabbar (May the mercy of Allah be upon him) has made.  This is why we know many of the Quraniyoon are in a very difficult situation theologically speaking.

According to the theory of meaning introduced by Shaykh Abu Ali al-Jubbai’ who was a Mutazalite rival of Shaykh Abd al-Jabbar, the meaning of an utterance is not simply a function of its verbal form, but also of the speaker’s will or intent.

Bottom line. If Allah cannot leave the meaning of his speech unclear, then he cannot leave humans without the evidence needed for reconciling seemingly conflicting text. The fact that we lack evidence about which text came first must itself be evidence that the text should both be implemented, which is best accomplished by particularization. This is a strong logical proof for the Sunnah of the Blessed Messenger (saw).

In light of all of the above would not be fair to assert that this argument is oversimplified and the issue is a little more nuanced than that?

In fact, the clarity of the Qur’an is not internal to the Qur’an itself!  It is dependent upon thoughtful reflection!

“Thus do We explain the verses for a people who give thought.” (Qur’an 10:24)

I would really hope that my sisters and brothers would reflect upon this.  

This verse alone is sufficient to dispel their simplistic position on the matter.  So we are either left with a self-refuting text that contradicts itself, or we allow the entirety of the Qur’an to speak. 

Ultimately the problem with the adherents of the Quran only religion is due to not only their rejection of the lone narrator reports in total but their rejection of the mass transmitted Sunnah agreed upon by all Muslims prior to the civil war. 

Let us go back to the image that I posted above.

 Spect-Prism-sm

“Certainly did Allah confer a favour upon the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from themselves, reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom, although they had been before in manifest error.”  (Qur’an 3:164)

It stands to reason that the Blessed Messenger (saw) could not ‘purify’ the believers if he himself was not purified!

“O People of the Scripture, there has come to you Our Messenger making clear to you much of what you used to conceal of the Scripture and overlooking much. There has come to you from Allah a light and a clear Book.” (Qur’an 5:15)

The following verse that I am going to quote caused me to drift off in thought. It was challenging to type this as my eyes welled up with tears, and my heart was overflowing in love for the Beloved Vessel (saw) that Allah (swt) gave such a monumental task to carry!

“If We had sent down this Qur’an upon a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and coming apart from fear of Allah. And these examples We present to the people that perhaps they will give thought. (Qur’an 59:21)

My point is that the Blessed Messenger (saw) did not have the medium of his mind like we do when approaching the Qur’an with our limited human reasoning and capacity.  The total and complete understanding of the Qur’an was poured into his heart.  His heart and conscience were light.  There is no prism, no spectrum when it comes to the Blessed Messenger. (saw)

Let us be honest for a second and ask ourselves. How many of us can say we have reached the state of total and complete submission in the way that Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammed (May Allah’s choicest blessings and peace be upon them all) did?

“Then do they not reflect upon the Qur’an, or are there locks upon their hearts?”  ( Qur’an 47:24)

There was no prism, no veil, and no lock upon the heart of the Blessed Messenger (saw)!

The language of the  Qur’an is not redundant.

 I cannot be said to have ‘delivered a message‘ if I went to people whom the message was intended for and just began to mumble. The Blessed Messenger (saw) was not a mailman!

The Qur’an itself refutes this.

And obey Allah and obey the Messenger. But if you turn away, then Our Messenger is responsible only for conveying the message clearly.”(Qur’an 64:12)

The Blessed Messenger (saw)  explained the message. That is the purpose of bayan.   This is reflected in the words, deeds, and actions -what we know as the sunnah of the Blessed Messenger (saw).

To believe that the Blessed Messenger (saw) was not an expositor as someone who lived and imbibed the teachings of the Qur’an is difficult to fathom.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Is the Qur’an clear?

  1. Pingback: Why I am not a Qur’an ‘only’ Muslim | primaquran

  2. razorrahmon

    Very enlightening and well presented arguments here Brother. There was a time that I fell out of love with Islam seeing all the ugliness and horrible things happening in the world and also by listening to “hate speech” imams and people in the Muslim Community. I have also read Haidth books and was shocked to realize the horrid types of stories that were presented there and thats when I realized that Hadith was the primary cause of the mess in Islam. I came across the Quranist movement online and was at first attracted to their ideals of sticking to the Quran only. But I started to feel something wrong. Even they too, ended up sounding like the Hadith people, insisting that their interpretations were correct.

    I guess the approach you are taking is a careful and calculated one. On 1 hand, we have the Divine Revelation. And on the other, there are vast amounts of scholastic work and literature that we can learn from. And I also feel that there are many wise works of other Muslim scholars that are not accepted just because they don’t tally with the madhabs, the Sunni schools etc. Everyone is banging their own fists on the tables and saying that they are right.

    My only wonder is, seeing that how there are so many Hadith that sound terrible (Brother Jospeh Islam highlights a few where supposedly, the Wives of the Prophets were disclosing about their sex lives with other men through Haidth on what the Prophet used to do in bed (Astaghfirullah)), how come none of these have been re-analyzed and removed but instead have been considered “sahih”? And if even “sahih” Hadith are corrupted, how are we ever going to educate an entire Muslime community which at the moment is relying on mainly Hadith?

    I feel sad for Islam.

    • Bismillah,
      Dear respected brother, razorrahmon thank you for your comment.

      I will tell you this. Out of all the comments I have received to date on this web site there is no one who understands my heart and mind on what I am trying to achieve here better than what you respected beloved brother.

      “I guess the approach you are taking is a careful and calculated one. On 1 hand, we have the Divine Revelation. And on the other, there are vast amounts of scholastic work and literature that we can learn from. And I also feel that there are many wise works of other Muslim scholars that are not accepted just because they don’t tally with the madhabs, the Sunni schools etc. Everyone is banging their own fists on the tables and saying that they are right.”

      Exactly! This is why I think that for example the Sunni community would greatly benefit from the Shi’a fiqh on the issue of divorce. I believe that Shi’a fiqh on divorce is as close to the teachings of the Holy Qur’an as one is going to get. How many countless marriages would be saved?

      In fact on that note the late Shaykh Bin Baaz (May Allah have mercy on him) also had some interesting perspectives on divorce that did not jive well with the over all Sunni paradigm. Nonetheless I felt his fatwah and ijtihad on the matter were more in line with the spirit of the Holy Qur’an and in keeping with the preservation of the family.

      The position on adultery is straight from the Holy Qur’an chapter 24 as opposed to ar-rajm (stoning).

      All of the various factions and groups of Muslims have something very profound and beautiful. Allah (swt) gives his wisdom to whom he will. They all have gems and radiant pearls of wisdom; but none of them contain the entire collection of gems and pearls.

      The only thing that we all have as a common denominator is the Holy Qur’an.

      The rest requires humility and respect for divergent opinions.

      After all…what ever happened to ‘Wallahu Alim’ and Allah knows best.

      • razorrahmon

        Bismillah…

        Indeed, your last sentence is the ultimatum..Allah alone is the Knower of All Things. Hadith supporters always challenge that if the Qur’an is so clear, why doesn’t it state everything and anything so that we can clearly follow. Of course, the Qur’an does seem ambiguous to some extent but that is indeed where the search for truth arises. Every relationship involves a 2 way journey, one revealing him/herself and the other finding him/herself. I feel in that way Allah reveals Himself through his Qur’an and directs us from there to observe his Signs and also left gaps for us to discover him through Arts, Humanities, Sciences and Religion. If we had everything handed down to us to just follow, then it will just be route-learning. The seeking is as much of the journey as the finding. After all, that is one thing that distinguishes us from all other animals. We are the only ones that seem to seek an external entity and this also brings me to another topic that you will rarely find any agreeing muslim on: Evolution of species. I was simply astounded to find that the Qur’an actually is compatible with this process as I have been brought up with the typical “Adam and Eve” story.

        Although the theory of evolution and some fossil discoveries are still bound with errors here and there, it does seem to fit in with the “gradual and active process” of Creation that Allah speaks to us in the Qu’ran about. It is like little magical secrets of the Universe are planted within those Aayahs that were revealed to a desert arab population and that keeps making sense to every other generation. Astounding! I am pretty sure we won;t have all the answers and our next generations will continue to uncover more of these gems.

        The truly amazing thing is you read a verse and understand it one way, with our limited intrepretation. Then many years later you read the same verse and understand it in a totally different way. I believe our intrepretations and scholastic attempts to understand are the “walking seeking” journey towards Allah.

        and May Allah guide you and all others towards the Straight Path and Lead us to His Favour.

        Assalaam Alaikum Wr Wrb.

  3. Pingback: Questions for Qur’an Only Muslims That Can’t Be Swept Under A Rug. | primaquran

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