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Principles of Understanding the Qur’an
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)


Classical Arabic

The Qur'an has been revealed in the classical Arabic spoken in Makkah. It was spoken in the age of ignorance by the tribe of Quraysh. No doubt the Almighty has endowed it with inimitable eloquence and articulacy in the Qur'an, yet as far as its substance is concerned, it is no different from the one spoken by messenger of God and which in those times was the tongue of the people of Makkah:

فَإِنَّمَا يَسَّرْنَاهُ بِلِسَانِكَ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ (٥٨:٤٤)

Thus We have revealed this [Qur'an] to you in your own tongue so that they may take heed. (44:58)

فَإِنَّمَا يَسَّرْنَاهُ بِلِسَانِكَ لِتُبَشِّرَ بِهِ الْمُتَّقِينَ وَتُنذِرَ بِهِ قَوْمًا لُّدًّا (٩٧:١٩)

Thus We have revealed to you the Qur'an in your own tongue that you may thereby proclaim good tidings to the upright and give warning to a contentious nation. (19:97)

Consequently, a correct understanding of this book is dependent on the correct knowledge and true appreciation of this language. It is essential that a person who wants to reflect on the Qur'an and attempts to interpret and explain it should be a very competent scholar of this language. He should also be adept in appreciating its styles and linguistic features so that at least the language is not an impediment to him in understanding the Qur'an.

An important fact about the language of the Qur'an which every student of this divine book should be well aware of is that its Arabic is not the Arabic in which poets like Hariri and Mutanabbi composed their poetry nor is it the Arabic in which Zamakhshari and Razi wrote their commentaries on the Qur'an. It is also not the Arabic of the newspapers which are published in current times in Arab countries nor is it the Arabic prose and poetry written by their literati of today. No doubt, all this is Arabic too; however, it is very different from the Arabic of the Qur'an which can rightly be termed as classical Arabic. Thus the difference in the vocabulary, idiom, style and construction of classical Arabic and the one spoken and written today is the same as the difference, for example, between the Urdu and Persian of Ghalib and Mir, and Sa'di and Khayam and the Urdu and Persian of the newspapers and journals of the Indian sub-continent and Iran. Similarly, this difference can be gauged if one compares the wide difference in the English of Shakespeare and Milton and the one written and spoken today in Britain for example. It is thus an essential reality that not only does contemporary or medieval Arabic has no role in creating an appreciation of the language, this Arabic is in fact detrimental to this appreciation, and if one becomes totally involved in it he may end up losing his understanding of in the Qur'an.

Consequently, the very first thing which one a person must turn to in order to understand the language of the Qur'an is the Qur'an itself. No one can deny the fact that when it was revealed, the people of Makkah did dispute its divinity for a long time; however, no one was able to challenge its language. It said that it was not the work of a non-Arab because it was revealed in the most articulate Arabic. It declared itself to be a miracle of language and literature and that of lucidity and eloquence and dared them to produce a surah like it. So much so, it challenged them to bring to their aid their literati, poets, soothsayers, orators and even their jinn, devils and deities. It is however an irrefutable reality that none among the Arabs could refute the magnificence of its language nor was it possible for any person to respond to this challenge:

وَإِن كُنتُمْ فِي رَيْبٍ مِّمَّا نَزَّلْنَا عَلَى عَبْدِنَا فَأْتُواْ بِسُورَةٍ مِّن مِّثْلِهِ وَادْعُواْ شُهَدَاءكُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ (٢٣:٢

And if you doubt what We have revealed to Our servant, produce just one surah like it, and for this call upon all your supporters except God if you are truthful. (2:23)

قُل لَّئِنِ اجْتَمَعَتِ الإِنسُ وَالْجِنُّ عَلَى أَن يَأْتُواْ بِمِثْلِ هَـذَا الْقُرْآنِ لاَ يَأْتُونَ بِمِثْلِهِ وَلَوْ كَانَ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ ظَهِيرًا (٨٨:١٧)

Tell them: "If men and jinn combined to produce a book like this Qur'an, they would be unable to do so even if they become helpers of one another." (17:88)

Moreover, when Walid Ibn Mughirah, one of the finest critics of the language in Makkah at that time heard it, his response was:

والله ما فيكم رجل أعرف بالأشعار مني ولا أعلم برجزه ولا بقصيدة مني ولا بأشعار الجن والله ما يشبه الذي يقول شيئا من هذا والله إن لقوله الذي يقول حلاوة وإن عليه لطلاوة وإنه لمثمر أعلاه مغدق أسفله وأنه ليعلو ولا يعلى عليه وأنه ليحطم ما تحته

By God! None among you is more aware than me of poetry neither martial songs nor eulogies nor the incantation of the jinn. By God! the words spoken by this person resemble none of these. By God! it is very pleasant and lively. Its branches are laden with fruit. Its roots are well-watered. It will definitely dominate and nothing will be able to dominate it, and it will crush everything below it.1

From among the poets of the Sab'a Mu'allaqat (The Seven Hanging Odes), Labid was alive. He is the same person before whom a poet of the calibre of Farzdaq prostrated on one of his couplets 2; however, he too was dumbfounded before the Qur'an. When the caliph 'Umar (rta) wished to hear his poetry from him, he replied: "How can I recite my couplets after Baqarah and Al-i 'Imran."3

This was not merely the admission of a single person; it meant that the whole eloquence of the Arabs had surrendered before the sublimity of the Qur'an.

Moreover, this is also an established reality that this astounding miracle of language and literature has been transmitted to us without any change whatsoever. Thus, it is an acknowledged fact that the Qur'an is not only the final and ultimate authority in all matters of religion, it also represents the final criterion and standard for the language of its times.

After the Qur'an, we can find this language in the Ahadith of the Prophet (sws) and the Athar of the Companions (rta). No doubt, a very small portion of them has been transmitted verbatim and thus in a position to be presented as a criterion and as a representative of classical Arabic, yet whatever portion we have of it is a great treasure for students of this language. This is the language of the Prophet (sws) whose eloquence is matchless and that of the Companions (rta) who speak in the same diction. Its words and idioms and styles and construction are the best examples of the language in which the Qur'an was revealed. Since original words have been preserved in the supplications of the Prophet (sws), in his conversations with his Companions (rta) and in the various parables that he stated to explain some aspect of religion, the parallels of this language can be observed in these three types of narratives the most. Thus if students of the Qur'an consult these sources, they can gather invaluable samples of classical Arabic which can help them in understanding both difficult words as well as the background and occasions on which they are spoken of the Qur'an.

After these three, the greatest source for classical Arabic is the classical literature of the Arabs. Within the corpus of this literature are the works of celebrated poets like Imru al-Qays, Zuhayr, 'Amr Ibn Kulthum, Labid, Nabighah, Tarfah, 'Antarah, A'sha and Harith Ibn Halizzah and orators like Quss Ibn Sa'idah. Scholars of this field know that a greater part of this literature is found in the anthologies of the poets and in 'Asma'iyat 4, Mufaddaliyat5, Hamasah6, Sab' al-Mu'allaqat and in the works of literati like Jahiz and Mubarrad.7 Many collections of the poetical works of those times have now been published which were not available to date. Undoubtedly, a greater part of the Arabic language has been transmitted to us through consensus and tawatur and is preserved in primary works like: al-Tahdhib8, al-Muhkam9, al-Sihah10, al-Jamhurah11 and al-Nihayah12; however, this is also is a fact that the greatest source of the portion of the language which has not been transmitted through tawatur is also the classical Arabic literature of that age. Though it does have some portions which were concocted later and attributed to that age, however just as scholars of Hadith can distinguish between rightly and wrongly reported narratives, in the same manner, critics of the Arabic language can distinguish the original from the concocted on the basis of objective standards of textual criticism.13 Consequently, it is for this very reason that the scholars of language and literature are unanimous on the fact that after the Qur'an it is this classical literature which can be depended upon and which because of its integrity in transmission and verbatim nature of transmission occupies the ultimate standard in research on the language. Khatib writes:

الكلام الذى يستشهد به نوعان : شعر و غيره ، فقائل الاول ؛ قد قسمه العلماء على طبقات اربع. الطبقة الاولى : الشعراء الجاهليون ، وهم قبل الاسلام كامرئ القيس والاعشى ، والثانية : المخضرمون ، وهم الذين ادركوا الجاهلية و الاسلام كلبيد و حسّان ، والثالثة : المتقدمون ، ويقال لهم الاسلاميون ، وهم الذين كانوا فى صدر الاسلام كجرير والفرزدق ، والرابعة : المولدون ، ويقال لهم المحدثون ، وهم من بعدهم الى زماننا كبشار بن برد و ابى نواس : فالطبقتان الاوليان ، يستشهد بشعرهما اجماعا (١/٣)

A discourse from which parallels are presented to substantiate the meanings of words and phrases is of two types: poetry and prose. The first of these has been divided by scholars into four categories. The first category is of poets who belonged to the jahili period (age of ignorance) that prevailed in Arabia before Islam, such as Imru' al-Qays and A'sha. The second is of the mukhadramun who lived in both pre-Islamic and Islamic times such as Labid and Hassan. The third is the mutaqaddimun who are also called the islamiyyun. These are poets who belonged to the first period of Islam such as Jarir and Farzdaq. The fourth is the muwallidun who are also called the muhaddithun. Included in this category are all poets who belonged to the period after the three categories till our own times such as Bashshar Ibn Bard and Abu Nuwas. There is a consensus that parallels to substantiate the meanings of words and phrases shall be drawn from the poets of the first two categories.14

Quite similarly, 'Umar (rta) is reported to have said:

عليكم بديوانكم لا تضلوا قالوا وما ديواننا قال شعر الجاهلية فإن قيه تفسير كتابكم ومعاني كلامكم

If you protect your poetry, you will not go astray. People asked: "What are our poetic collections?" He said: "The poetry of the jahiliyyah period because it contains the tafsir of your Book and also the meaning of your language."15

Ibn 'Abbas (rta), a celebrated Companion of the Prophet (sws), said:

إذا سألتم عن غريب القرآن فالتمسوه في الشعر فإن الشعر ديوان العرب

If you want to understand the meaning of a Qur'anic word little known to you, search for it in poetry because it is this poetry which is the anthology of the Arabs.16

Another thing which needs to be appreciated is that this classical literature of the jahiliyyah period is not only a source of the language and its various styles, it also reflects the culture and civilization of the Arabs. If a person does not have the right knowledge about these, it becomes impossible for him to understand the various references, allusions and figures of speech which are the real constituents of this masterpiece of literature. What were the characteristics of the society of the Arabs? What were the things they regarded as ma'ruf and munkar? What were the standards of good and evil in their society? What was the nature of their religion and traditions? What were the foundations of their culture and what were the constituents of their social fabric? What were their political ideologies and daily involvements and hobbies? Were they really a bunch of uncivilized people whom Islam elevated to the status of the conquerors of the world or in spite of their savageness, they did possess certain features and characteristics which made them eligible to receive a book as lofty as the Qur'an, and they were bestowed with the status of witnesses to the truth by the Almighty? The correct answer to all these questions is only found in this Book, and it is this answer through which the various allusions, references, insinuations and implications of the Qur'an become evident to its student with their true literary splendour and meaningfulness.

Thus it is not merely for language but also all these things for which a student of the Qur'an must consult this classical literature.

Eloquence of Language

The Qur'an has not merely been revealed in Arabic: it has been revealed in eloquent Arabic. The language is clear and cogent, and there is no vagueness in it; every word is unambiguous and every style adopted is known to its addressees. The Qur'an says:

نَزَلَ بِهِ الرُّوحُ الْأَمِينُ عَلَى قَلْبِكَ لِتَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُنذِرِينَ بِلِسَانٍ عَرَبِيٍّ مُّبِينٍ (٢٦: ١٩٣-١٩٥)

The faithful Spirit has brought it down into your heart [O Prophet] that you may become a warner [for people] in eloquent Arabic. (26:193-195)

قُرآنًا عَرَبِيًّا غَيْرَ ذِي عِوَجٍ لَّعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ (٢٨:٣٩)

In the form of an Arabic Qur'an, free from any ambiguity that they may save themselves from punishment. (39:28)

This is an obvious reality about the Qur'an. If this premise is accepted, then it must be conceded that no word used or style adopted by the Qur'an is rare or unknown (shadh). Its words and styles are well known and conventionally understood by its addressees. No aspect of the language has any peculiarity or rarity in it. Consequently, while interpreting the Qur'an, the conventionally understood and known meanings of the words should be taken into consideration. Apart from them, no interpretation is acceptable. Thus in the verses: وَالنَّجْمُ وَالشَّجَرُ يَسْجُدَانِ (٦:٥٥) , the meaning of the word َالنَّجْمُ can only be "stars". In وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ مِن رَّسُولٍ وَلَا نَبِيٍّ إِلَّا إِذَا تَمَنَّى أَلْقَى الشَّيْطَانُ فِي أُمْنِيَّتِهِ (٥٢:٢٢), the word تَمَنَّى can only mean "desire". In أَفَلَا يَنظُرُونَ إِلَى الْإِبِلِ كَيْفَ خُلِقَتْ (١٧:٨٨) , the word الْإِبِلِ has only been used for "camel". The only meaning of the word بَيْضٌ in the verse كَأَنَّهُنَّ بَيْضٌ مَّكْنُونٌ (٤٩:٣٧) "is eggs". In the verse فَصَلِّ لِرَبِّكَ وَانْحَرْ (٢:١٠٨), the word نَحْر only means "sacrifice". They do not mean "plants", "recital", "clouds", "the hidden sheath of eggs" and "tying hands on the chest" respectively.

Similar is the case with declensions and styles adopted. Scholars of grammar and rhetoric have regarded many such aspects of the Qur'an as rare and as exceptions; however, the truth of the matter is that this conclusion is based on incomprehensive research. In recent times, the works of the two pioneers of the Farahi school: Imam Hamid al-Din Farahi and Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi have fully proven that the declensions and styles adopted by the Qur'an are all in fact well-known and conventionally understood by the Arabs. Students of the Qur'an who have a flare for these aspects of the language of the Qur'an can obtain a lot of guidance from Imam Farahi's Mufridat al-Qur'an17, Asalib al-Qur'an18, Jamhurah al-Balaghah19 and Majmu'ah-i Tafasir20 and from Imam Islahi's Tadabbur-i Qur'an21.

Taking into consideration this principle is a requisite of the eloquence of the Qur'anic language, which as stated above, is mentioned in the Qur'an itself. No explanation of the Qur'an is acceptable while disregarding this principle.

Uniqueness of Style

The Qur'an has a unique style. It has the simplicity and continuity found in prose, yet it is not prose. It has the beat, rhythm and poise of poetry, yet it is not poetry. It is not the book we are usually acquainted with in which there are chapters and sections which deal with a specific topic or topics. The people of Arabia would sometimes call it as poetry and sometimes likened it to rhymed prose of the soothsayers, and it is this uncertainty of theirs which itself shows that they were not satisfied with what they said about it. In reality, the Qur'an is a unique book as per its style. It has the flow of tumultuous torrents and the vigour of pounding seas waves. Its sound reasoning has many variations that cannot be emulated; topics are connected to one another with subtle harmony; it cites stories and anecdotes; the discourse returns to its central theme every now and then; verses which portray threat, intimidation and punishment are found in various styles; other verses depict sorrow and longing; emphatic expressions are another hallmark of its style; similarly, we find verses which express intense emotions of disgust, indifference and unconcern. Instances which reflect warmth and affection are as warm and affectionate as dew drops and instances which reflect wrath and rage, are as fiery and compelling as thunder. The unique ways of address it contains simply enchants a reader to a state of trance. It is because of this unique and inimitable style that it has said about it:

لَوْ أَنزَلْنَا هَذَا الْقُرْآنَ عَلَى جَبَلٍ لَّرَأَيْتَهُ خَاشِعًا مُّتَصَدِّعًا مِّنْ خَشْيَةِ اللَّهِ وَتِلْكَ الْأَمْثَالُ نَضْرِبُهَا لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ (٢١:٥٩)

Had We brought down this Qur'an upon a mountain, [O Prophet!] you would have seen it humble itself and break asunder for fear of God. And we mention these parables to these people that they may deliberate. (59:21)

But what exactly is the genre of the Qur'an? What at best can be said as an answer to this question is that it resembles an oration. No doubt this is only a mere resemblance; it cannot be termed oratory in the strict sense of the word. However, it does come close to it, and on this basis the following things should remain in consideration before a student of the Qur'an:

Firstly, in order to understand the Qur'an, its ambience should be studied; this means that the background, situation and the requisites be determined in which a surah was revealed. Nothing is required for this beyond deliberation on the Qur'an itself, and the light of the Qur'an itself suffices for this. When a person deliberates on the Qur'an, concentrates on each and every word of it, tries to understand the rhythm and beat of the words and the construction of the sentences, the occasions on which a discourse is uttered become fully clear. Such is the extent of this clarity that they become an evidence on themselves and no external argument is required for any corroboration. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

The only correct way is to comprehend the background from indications and clues within the Qur'an. Once a person is able to ascertain the addressees of the discourse such that which among them are addressed directly and which indirectly; what is the phase whose circumstances the addressees are facing; what are the questions which have been raised by this phase whose answer is awaited by both friend and foe; what is the nature of the hostility by the enemies and what are the circumstances in which allies and friends find themselves in; what are various groups which have joined forces with the enemies while adopting various measures and tactics and what are the thoughts of the allies and associates, then the whole structure and sequence of the discourse shall become fully evident. All these aspects speak of themselves within the drift of the discourse. Thus if they are ascertained through hard work, the whole sequence and arrangement of the Qur'an becomes fully evident and the effect of reading a surah is the same as that of listening to an apt and timely oration of a great orator.22

Secondly, the direction of address of the Qur'an should be ascertained at each place. The direction of address shifts a number of times in the Qur'an at very short intervals and sometimes even in a single verse. At one instant, Muslims would be addressees and at the next the mushrikun would become the addressees; similarly, the People of the Book would be addressed in a verse and all of a sudden the address would shift to the Muslims. A similar shift is experienced in singular and plural entities. This change occurs both in the speaker and the spoken to. At one instant the speaker would be God and then suddenly Gabriel would assume the speaker's role. At another instant, the speaker would be Gabriel and the suddenly the discourse would emanate from the mouth of Muhammad (sws). In short, just as an orator shifts from one addressee to another by shift in his tone, facial expressions and words used, in a similar manner, the address in the Qur'an also changes rapidly. Thus it is essential that this aspect must be given full consideration while interpreting and explaining the Qur'an. It should be ascertained whether the speaker for example is God, Gabriel, the Prophet (sws) or the people. Similarly, it should be determined that the spoken to is God, the Prophet (sws) or the people. Among the people, it must be ascertained if they are Muslims or Hypocrites or the People of the Book or the Idolaters among the Ishmaelites or if they are two or three among these or if all of them are spoken to. Then there may be instances of ambiguity in address as well. Sometimes, a verse would apparently address the Prophet (sws); however, in reality the address would be directed at the Muslim ummah. Similarly, an apparent address to him would actually be directed at the leadership of the Quraysh or to the People of the Book. Examples of such addresses abound in the Qur'an. Thus it is essential that this differentiation be made with full caution, and it should be fully ascertained as to who is the actual addressee. Without this, the real purport of the Qur'an cannot be grasped.

Thirdly, general and specific verses should be differentiated. There are many places in the Qur'an where the words are general; however, the context testifies with full certainty that something specific is meant. The Qur'an uses the word النَّاس (people), but it does not refer to all the people of the world; and many a time they do not even refer to all the people of Arabia: the word refers to a group among them. It uses the expression عَلَى الدِّيْنِ كُلِّهِ (on all the religions), and it does not refer to all religions of the world; it refers to المُشْركُوْن (polytheists) but they do not refer to all those who are guilty of polytheism. Similarly, the words إِنْ مِنْ أهْلِ الْكِتَابِ (And from these People of the Book) do not refer to all the People of Book of the world. It mentions the word الإِنْسَان (man) but it does not refer to mankind. This then is a common style of the Qur'an, and if it is not taken into consideration while explaining and interpreting the Qur'an, then a person can end up misunderstanding the whole purport of the Qur'an. Thus it is of paramount importance that the interpretation of words of the Qur'an must always remain subservient to its context and usage.

The Final Authority

The Qur'an is a mizan (scale that tells good from evil) and a furqan (distinguisher between good and evil) on this earth and a muhaymin (guardian) over other divine scriptures:

اللَّهُ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ وَالْمِيزَانَ (١٧:٤٢)

It is God who has revealed with truth the Book which is this scale [of justice]. (42:17)

In this verse, the letter waw is for explication, and thus the word mizan is actually used to connote al-kitab. The verse means that the Almighty has revealed the Qur'an which is a scale of justice meant to distinguish good from evil. It is the only scale that weighs every thing else, and there is in no scale in which it can be weighed:

تَبَارَكَ الَّذِي نَزَّلَ الْفُرْقَانَ عَلَى عَبْدِهِ لِيَكُونَ لِلْعَالَمِينَ نَذِيرًا (١:٢٥)

Blessed be He who has revealed al-furqan to His servant that it may warn the whole world. (25:1)

The Qur'an is also a furqan in the same sense, ie a book which the final and absolute verdict to distinguish truth from falsehood. This word also connotes the fact that this Book is the standard on which everything needs to be judged and is a decisive word on matters which relate to religion. Every one must turn to it only to resolve differences of opinion. Nothing can be a judge on it; it shall reign supreme in the dominion of religion and every person is bound not make it subservient to any other thing:

وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَمُهَيْمِنًا عَلَيْهِ فَاحْكُم بَيْنَهُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللّهُ وَلاَ تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءهُمْ عَمَّا جَاءكَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ (٥: ٤٨)

And [O Prophet!] We have revealed to you the Book with the truth in confirmation of the Book before it, and standing as a guardian over it. Therefore, give judgement among men according to the guidance revealed by God and do not yield to their whims by swerving from the truth revealed to you. (5:48)

Here the word used to connote the above sense is muhaymin (guardian). It is an adjective formed from the words هَيْمَنَ فُلاَنٌ عَلَى كَذَا which means "a guardian" and "a protector". In this verse, the Qur'an has been regarded as a muhaymin on the previous scriptures. It means that the Qur'an is the real authentic and trustworthy version of the Book of God. Thus when the texts of other scriptures were lost to posterity and their translations were greatly tampered with, it was this Qur'an which was reposed with the status of judging between the right and wrong of those scriptures. Whatever it declares to be right is right and whatever it declares to be wrong is wrong and must necessarily be rejected.

This is the status of the Qur'an which it has asserted about itself. Thus on the basis of this status, the following principles need to be adhered to:

Firstly, no divine revelation extraneous to the Qur'an and not even the Prophet (sws) to whom this Qur'an was revealed, can specify a general directive of the Qur'an or alter any of its directives. Everything shall be accepted as religion or rejected that it is not on the basis of the Qur'an. Everything accepted in our religion shall be rigorously scrutinized under the light of this Divine Guidance. All basis of belief and faith shall be directly derived from it. Every revelation, inspiration, research and opinion shall be subservient to the Qur'an, and it shall be acknowledged that even the works of great jurists like Abu Hanifah and Shafi'i, scholars of Hadith like Bukhari and Muslim, theologians like Ash'ari and Maturidi, sufis like Junayd and Shibli must be weighed in the scales of this mizan, and nothing can be accepted from them which is not in consonance with it.

Secondly, the meaning conveyed by each word of the Qur'an is definitive. Whatever it intends to say, it says with full certainty and there is no ambiguity about it. In no issue is it unable to convey what it wants to. The meanings of its words perfectly match the words and the meanings do not in any way contradict what the words say. The only way to approach the Qur'an in order to understand it is through its words. With fully certainty these words convey what they stand for and there is no question of any doubt or ambiguity in this regard.

Both these things are a natural corollary of the fact that the Qur'an is mizan and furqan. There can be no two opinions about it. However, there are certain questions, which might create doubts in the minds of certain people in this regard:

Firstly, there exist at some places differences of reading the Qur'an. These differences are not only due to a difference in pronouncing words but at times are also of the sort which effect the meanings they convey. For example, if the word أَرْجُلَكُمْ in (5:5) can be read both in the accusative and in the genitive, then how can it be said that with certainty on the basis of the Qur'an whether in wudu feet need to be washed or just wiped.

Secondly, what we understand from the Qur'an is understood from its words and the way in which its sentences are constructed. The disciplines on which this understanding is dependent - syntax, morphology and lexicography etc - are not definitive (dhanni). How then can it be said that the meanings which words convey are absolutely certain? This question has been raised by Imam Razi in the following words:

دلالة الألفاظ على معانيها ظنية لأنها موقوفة على نقل اللغات ونقل الإعرابات والتصريفات مع أن أول أحوال تلك الناقلين أنهم كانوا آحادا ورواية الآحاد لا تفيد إلا الظن وأيضا فتلك الدلائل موقوفة على عدم الاشتراك وعدم المجاز وعدم النقل وعدم الإجمال وعدم التخصيص وعدم المعارض العقلي فإن بتقدير حصوله يجب صرف اللفظ إلى المجاز ولا شك أن اعتقاد هذه المقدمات ظن محض والموقوف على الظن أولى أن يكون ظنا

The intentionality of a text is speculative because it is dependent on the transmission of words with their meanings, declensions and inflections. Moreover, the transmitters were ahad (few) and it is acknowledged about such transmitters that what they have transmitted cannot be taken to be totally preserved in its original form. Moreover, determining this intentionality of the text is dependent on that fact that the same word may stand for more than one entity, a word may be used figuratively, a word may have changed its meanings, a word may have been used concisely, a word may be used without limiting its meaning or used in contradiction to some logical premise because if there is a such a contradiction, then it is essential that a word be understood to be used figuratively. Undoubtedly, all these premises are accepted because of their speculative natures and what is based on speculation, is all the more speculative.23

Thirdly, it has been mentioned in the Qur'an that its certain verses are muhkam and certain others are mutashabih, and the Qur'an itself has specified about the latter that only God knows their meaning. This strips the Qur'an of its status of the final judge. If we are not able to distinguish the muhkam from the mutashabih, and are also unable to understand what the mutashabih mean then how can we determine the purport of the Qur'an in these verses, and how can we regard it to be a final authority on the basis of this purport on other things?

Fourthly, there are certain Ahadith which seemingly alter the meaning of the Qur'an. Our scholars at some instances call it naskh (abrogation) and at others call it as tahdid, takhsis or taqyid. If this is accepted then how can the Qur'an have the status of being the mizan and the furqan referred to above?

These are the questions which are generally posed in this regard. Following are the answers:

Variant Readings

The answer to the first question is that the Qur'an is only what is recorded in the mushaf, and which, except for some areas of North Africa, is recited by a vast majority of the Muslim ummah. None else except the reading on which this Qur'an is recited is the Qur'an or can be presented in the capacity and status of the Qur'an. Thus we think that this question does not even arise.

In the following paragraphs, we shall present the details of this view.

The Qur'an says:

سَنُقْرِئُكَ فَلَا تَنسَى إِلَّا مَا شَاءَ اللَّهُ إلاَّ مَا شَاءَ اللهُ إنَّهُ يَعْلَمُ الجَهْرَ وَ مَا يخْفَى (٨٧: ٦-٧)

Soon We shall [finally] recite it to you; then you will not forget except what Allah pleases. He indeed knows what is apparent before [you] at this time, and that also which is concealed [from you]. (87:1-18)

لَا تُحَرِّكْ بِهِ لِسَانَكَ لِتَعْجَلَ بِهِ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا جَمْعَهُ وَقُرْآنَهُ فَإِذَا قَرَأْنَاهُ فَاتَّبِعْ قُرْآنَهُ ثُمَّ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا بَيَانَهُ (٧٥: ١٦-)١٩

[To acquire] this [Qur'an] as soon as possible [O Prophet!] do not move your tongue swiftly over it. Verily, upon Us is its collection and recital. So when We have recited it, follow this recital [of Ours]. Then upon Us is to explain it [wherever need be]. (75:16-19)

The scheme of God regarding the revelation and collection of the Qur'an mentioned in these verses can be stated as follows:

Firstly, the Prophet (sws) has been told that the way the Qur'an is being revealed piecemeal to him keeping in view the circumstances is the correct way of revelation; however, he should not worry about its protection and collection and arrangement. A new recital would ensue after this chronological one. At that time, if the Almighty intends to revoke something on the basis of His wisdom, He will do so and then have the Prophet (sws) read it in a manner that he will not forget any part of it and the Qur'an will be consigned to him in its very final form which will remain protected.

Secondly, this second recital will take place once the Qur'an has been arranged in the form of a book, and simultaneously he will be bound to follow this recital in future. He would then not be allowed to read the Qur'an according to its previous recital.

Thirdly, it was told that if any directive needed further explanation, it will be done so at this second recital, and in this manner this book will stand completed in every way after collection and arrangement and explanation by the Almighty Himself.

It is this second and final recital of the Qur'an which is also termed as 'ardah akhirah (the final presentation). It is evident from various narratives that each year Gabriel would read out the Qur'an revealed in that year to the Prophet (sws) during the month of Ramadan. In the last year, in the 'ardah akhirah, he read out the Qur'an to him twice.

Abu Hurayrah (rta) narrates:

كان يعرض على النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم كل سنة مرة فعرض عليه مرتين في العام الذي قبض فيه (بخاري رقم ٤٧١٢)

Each year the Prophet Muammad (sws) would be read out the Qur'an once; however, the year he died it was read out to him twice.24

The Prophet (sws) used to read the Qur'an on this recital till he died. After him, the rightly guided caliphs, and all the Companions (rta) from among the muhajirun and the ansar would read the Qur'an on this recital. There was no difference in this regard between them. Later, it was this recital which was called the qira'at al-'ammah. Abu 'Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami reports:

كانت قراءة أبى بكر وَعمر و عثمان و زيد بن ثابت و المهاجرين وَالأنصار وَاحدة كانوا بقرءون القراءة العامة وَهى القراءة التى قرأها رسول الله صلي الله عليه وسلم على جبريل مرتين في العام الذى قبض فيه وكان زيد قد شهد العرْضَة الأخيرة وَكان يقرئ الناس بها حتى مات.

The reading of Abu Bakr, 'Umar, 'Uthman and Zayd Ibn Thabit and that of all the muhajirun and the ansar was the same. They would read the Qur'an according to the qira'at al-'ammah. This is the same reading which was read out twice by the Prophet (sws) to Gabriel in the year of his death Gabriel. Zayd Ibn Thabit was also present in this reading [called] the 'ardah-i akhirah. It was this very reading that he taught the Qur'an to people till his death.25

Consequently, it is only this recital which possesses oral tawatur from the time of the Companions (rta) to date. Our scholars generally call it the qira'at of Hafs whereas it is actually qira'at al-'ammah and classical scholars, as pointed out above, actually introduce it by this name. Ibn Sirn narrates:

القراءة التى عُرضت على النَّبىّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فى العام الذي قُبِص فيه' هى القراءة التي يقرؤُها النَّاس اليوم.

The reading on which the Qur'an was read out to the Prophet (sws) in the year of his death is the same according to which people are reading the Qur'an today.26

If the Qur'an is deliberated upon in the light of its coherence and arrangement, internal evidence from within the Qur'an also pronounces this very judgement. The work which has been done by the scholars of the Farahi school of thought on the Qur'an in current times speaks volumes that the text of the Qur'an does not accept the variant readings. A person can see examples of this at many instances in Islahi's Tadabbur-i Qur'an. He writes:

Differences in variant readings have also been resolved in this commentary. The conventional and mutawatir reading is only the one on which the Qur'an has been written, which we have in our hands. In this reading, the interpretation of each and every word and verse of the Qur'an is done in such a manner in the light of classical Arabic literature, coherence and parallels of the Qur'an that no doubt remains. Consequently, I have interpreted each verse on the basis of this reading and can say with full confidence that if this interpretation is done on the basis of some other readings then it can only be done at the expense of sacrificing the eloquence, wisdom and meaningfulness of the Qur'an.27

Here, it is possible that the narrative on the Seven Ahruf might cause some confusion to some people in this regard. The narrative reads:

حدثني يحيى عن مالك عن بن شهاب عن عروة بن الزبير عن عبد الرحمن بن عبد القارىء أنه قال سمعت عمر بن الخطاب يقول سمعت هشام بن حكيم بن حزام يقرأ سورة الفرقان على غير ما أقرؤها وكان رسول الله أقرأنيها فكدت أن أعجل عليه ثم أمهلته حتى انصرف ثم لببته بردائه فجئت به رسول الله e فقلت يا رسول الله إني سمعت هذا يقرأ سورة الفرقان على غير ما أقرأتنيها فقال رسول الله أرسله ثم قال اقرأ يا هشام فقرأ القراءة التي سمعته يقرأ فقال رسول الله e هكذا أنزلت ثم قال لي اقرأ فقرأتها فقال هكذا أنزلت إن هذا القرآن أنزل على سبعة أحرف فاقرؤوا ما تيسر منه

'Abd al-Rahman Ibn 'Abd al-Qari narrated: " 'Umar Ibn Khattab said before me: 'I heard Hisham Ibn Hakim Ibn Hizam reading Surah Furqan in a different way from the one I used to read it, and the Prophet (sws) himself had read out this surah to me. Consequently, as soon as I heard him, I wanted to get hold of him. However, I gave him respite until he had finished the prayer. Then I got hold of his cloak and dragged him to the Prophet (sws). I said to him: "I have heard this person [Hisham Ibn Hakim Ibn Hizam] reading Surah Furqan in a different way from the one you had read it out to me." The Prophet (sws) said: "Leave him alone [O 'Umar]." Then he said to Hisham: "Read [it]." ['Umar said:] "He read it out in the same way as he had done before me." [At this,] the Prophet (sws) said: "It was revealed thus." Then the Prophet (sws) asked me to read it out. So I read it out. [At this], he said: "It was revealed thus; this Qur'an has been revealed in Seven Ahruf. You can read it in any of them you find easy from among them." ' ".28

If the following points about this narrative are kept in contemplation, it becomes evident that it is an absolutely meaningless narrative which should not be considered of any worth in this regard:

Firstly, even though this narrative has been recorded in the basic books of Hadith literature, no one in history has ever been able to offer a convincing explanation of it rendering it totally ambiguous. Suyuti29 has recorded about forty interpretations of this narrative, and then while acknowledging the weakness of each of these has confessed that this narrative should be regarded among the mutashabihat, whose meaning is only known to God.

وأرجحها عندي قول من قال : إن هذا من المتشابه الذي لايدري تأويله

And to me the best opinion in this regard is that of the people who say that this Hadith is from among matters of mutashabihat, the meaning of which cannot be understood.30

Secondly, the only plausible of interpretation of the word ahruf is that it connotes pronunciation of words31 the Arabs were used to. However, in this case, the text of the Hadith itself negates this meaning. It is known that both 'Umar (rta) and Hisham (rta) belonged to the same tribe: the Quraysh. Obviously, people of the same tribe could not have had different pronunciations.

Thirdly, even if it is accepted that this difference was of pronunciation between various tribes and as a result they were allowed to read it variously, the verb unzila (was revealed) is very inappropriate. The Qur'an has specified that it was revealed in the language of the Prophet's tribe: the Quraysh (See for example: 19:97, 44:58). After this, it can be accepted that the various tribes were allowed to read it according to their own accents, but how can this be accepted that the Almighty Almighty Himself revealed the various dialects and pronunciations.

Fourthly, it is known that Hisham had accepted Islam on the day Makkah was conquered. If this Hadith is accepted, it would mean that even after the conquest of Makkah senior Companions and even a close associate like 'Umar (rta) was unaware of the fact that the Prophet (sws) secretly taught the Qur'an in some other form and reading from the one openly heard from the Prophet (sws) and preserved in writing and in memory. Every person can realize how grave this claim is and how far reaching are its effects.

Same is the case of the narratives which record the collection of the Qur'an in the time of the Caliphs Abu Bakr (rta) and 'Uthman (rta). The Qur'an specifies that it was arranged and collected in the time of the Prophet (sws) under the direct guidance of the Almighty, as has been referred to earlier. On the other hand, these narratives present an entirely different picture which is not only against the Qur'an but also against common sense. In the six canonical books, these narratives are primarily recorded on the authority of Ibn Shihab Zuhri. Authorities of rijal regard him to be guilty of tadlis and idraj. Besides these, if some other facets of his personality as referred to by Imam Layth Ibn Sa'd in his letter to Imam Malik are kept in consideration, none of the narratives reported by him especially the ones regarding such an important matter as this is acceptable. He writes:

وكان يكون من ابن شهاب اختلاف كثير إذا لقيناه ، و إذا كاتبه بعضنا فربما كتب إليه فى الشئ الواحد على فضل رأيه وعلمه بثلاثة إنواع ينقض بعضها بعضا، ولا يشعر بالذى مضى من رأيه فى ذلك، فهذا الذى يدعونى إلى ترك ما أنكرت تركى إياه.

And when we would meet Ibn Shihab, there would arise a difference of opinion in many issues. When any one of us would ask him in writing about some issue, he, in spite of being so learned, would give three very different answers, and he would not even be aware of what he had already said. It is because of this that I have left him - something which you did not like.32

This is the reality behind these narratives. Consequently, this is an absolute truth that the Qur'an has one reading only which is found in our codices. Besides this, the readings which are found in commentaries on the Qur'an or are read and taught in our schools of religious instruction or are even in currency in certain areas are the remnants of the malignant campaigns that originated from Persia once it was conquered by the Muslims - campaigns from which no discipline of our knowledge has unfortunately remained protected from.

They might have arisen from the insistence of some on the reading on which the Qur'an was revealed before the arda-i akhirah and from the forgetfulness of the narrators but later owing to the same motives which led to the fabrication of Hadith, they became so rampant that at the end of the Umayyid dynasty that several of them had come to prominence. It is said that Abu 'Ubayd Qasim Ibn Sallam (d. 224 AH) selected twenty five of them in his book. The seven readings which are famous in current times were selected by Abu Bakr Ibn Mujahid (d. 324 AH) at the end of the third century hijrah. Thus it is generally accepted that their number cannot be ascertained but every reading is Qur'an which has been reported through a correct chain of narration, are found in any way in the masahif prepared by 'Uthman (rta) and are correct from any aspect as far as the Arabic language is concerned. Some of these readings are regarded as mutawatir; however, a look at their chains of narration which are found in books leaves no doubt that they are ahad (isolate), most narrators of which are suspect in the eyes of the rijal authorities. Consequently, no scholar can even accept them as Hadith, what to speak of the Qur'an.

Intentionality of the Text

The answer to the second question is that whole argument on the intentionality of the text is dubious. In all living languages, the meanings denoted by words and expressions are all based on perpetuation (mutawatirat), and are certain in all respects. Morphology and linguistics and other similar disciplines speak of this tawatur. The genuineness of the narrators and their number has no significance. Words and expressions which are called gharib and shaz (little known) are called so not because their meaning is little known but because they are used sparingly and because those they are little known to those who hear or write them. A word is never isolated from its meaning. As long as a word remains in usage it does so with its meaning. We can be unaware of the meaning of a word and also err in ascertaining it but this cannot be imagined that it is used without being absolutely certain of the meaning it conveys in all or some periods of time. The understanding when a word is used metaphorically and figuratively or when the same word stands for two different entities or when it is used as veiled reference or when there exists a general connotation and when a specific one - all are mutawatir. This is a common heritage of man in every language of the world. A person may falter in determining whether the word lion has been used literally or figuratively in the sentences "Lion is the king of the forest" and "He is a lion" however, the collective comprehension of mankind can never err in this regard and in the light of its understanding we can correct a person who makes a mistake in this regard. It is because of this reality of a language that whatever we read and write, we do so with the confidence that people will understand the very thing that we wanted to intended to convey. If for a single instant one comes to know that in documents which are written every day, judgements which are pronounced, rulings that are enacted, announcements and notices delivered and knowledge and disciplines which are communicated, the meanings conveyed by a word are uncertain then everything will become meaningless. Thus this view is nothing less than skepticism which has no place in the world of knowledge. Shah Isma'il Shahid while commenting upon it in his 'Abaqat writes:

A person who has even the slightest skill of appreciating language style blatantly knows that this view point is based on gross and multiple ignorance because the meaning for which a word stands for is based on perpetuation. Thus the question does not even arise for any discussion on the issue of the authenticity of the narratots.33

Muhkam and Mutashabih

The answer to the third question is that it is not correct that we cannot with certaintly distinguish the muhkam verses of the Qur'an from the mutashabih or that we are unable to determine the meaning of the mutashabihat. All verses of the Qur'an on which the guidance it delivers is based are muhkam and mutashabih are only those verses which mention certain blessings and torments a person may encounter in the Hereafter, and these are stated through parables or similes. Similarly, such verses state the attributes and actions of God or mention something which is beyond the grasp of our knowledge and observation like God blowing His spirit into Adam, birth of Jesus (sws) without a father or the various places and circumstances one may encounter of Paradise and Hell. All things for which words have not yet been invented can only be stated through parables and similes. The facts of an unknown world are stated through these very means in the literature of all languages of the world. For example, two hundred years ago, if a person had foreknowledge of electricity bulbs but at that time they had not been invented, he would perhaps have said: Lanterns which would neither require oil nor fire will one day light up the world. The nature of mutashabih verses is no different. Neither are they unascertainable nor is there any ambiguity in their meaning. They are set in eloquent Arabic, and we are able to understand their meaning without any difficulty. The only thing is that we are not able to understand what they imply in reality. However, since this lack of understanding has nothing to do with understanding the Qur'an, a believer should not get after determining what they imply. While explaining this, Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

The reality to which these [mutashbihat point] is itself very clear and obvious. Human intellect can understand that part of it which is essential for it to understand. However, since it belongs to an unseen world, the Qur'an mentions it through parables and similes so that students of the Qur'an can understand it as per their capabilities and consider that only God knows what their real form and shape is. These [mutashbihat] relate to attributes and works of God or to the reward and punishment of the Hereafter. We are able to understand them to the extent we need to understand them, and this increases our knowledge and faith but if we go beyond this and start to seek what is their real form and shape, then this will only lead us astray. The result of this is that while wanting to clear one doubt from the mind, a person ends up gathering many more; so much so, in this quest to know more he loses what he had gained and refutes very clear facts just because he is not able to ascertain their form and shape.34

In the verse of the Qur'an from which people have deduced the fact that no one can understand the meaning of the mutashabihat verses, the Almighty does not say that no one except Him knows the meaning of the mutashabihat verses; on the contrary, He says that no one knows the form and manifestation of what is conveyed in these verses. The Qur'anic word used in ta'wil and it is used in the same meaning here as it is the following verses: وَقَالَ يَا أَبَتِ هَـذَا تَأْوِيلُ رُؤْيَايَ مِن قَبْلُ قَدْ جَعَلَهَا رَبِّي حَقًّا (١٠٠:١٢) (And Joseph said: "Father, this is the meaning of my dream I saw earlier; my Lord has made a reality." (12:100))

Everyone knows the meanings in which this dream is stated in the Qur'an. Even an ordinary student of this Book understands without any difficulty the meaning of the verse (12:4) in which this dream is mentioned. However the true manifestation of the sun, the moon and the eleven stars bowing before Joseph (sws) could only have been ascertained by a person once these words manifested themselves in reality. These are the things which the Qur'an calls mutashabih, and as people contend, they do not mean something which is ambiguous and vague. Thus the mutashabihat in no way undermine the status of the Qur'an as the Furqan and the Mizan.

The verse under discussion is:

هُوَ الَّذِيَ أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُّحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ في قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَابَهَ مِنْهُ ابْتِغَاء الْفِتْنَةِ وَابْتِغَاء تَأْوِيلِهِ وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلاَّ اللّهُ وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ يَقُولُونَ آمَنَّا بِهِ كُلٌّ مِّنْ عِندِ رَبِّنَا وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلاَّ أُوْلُواْ الألْبَابِ (٧:٣)

It is He who has revealed to you the Book. Some of its verses are muhkam - they are the foundation of the Book - and others mutashabih.35 Then those in whose hearts is a twist go after the mutashabih among them in order to create dissension and in order to know their reality even though no one except God knows their reality. And those who are well-grounded in knowledge say: "We believe in them: all this has come from our Lord." And only men of understanding take heed from them. (3:7)

Hadith and the Qur'an

The answer to the fourth question is that the issue of abrogation or limiting of the Qur'an by the Hadith has arisen out of a lack of proper understanding and deliberation. In reality, no Hadith has abrogated a Qur'anic verse or limited its scope of application and thus there arises no doubt from this angle on the status of the Qur'an as the Furqan and the Mizan. When people were not able to understand certain stylistic features of the Qur'an and the background and perspective of certain verses, they were also not able to understand the words of the Prophet (sws) regarding these areas. All examples which are presented in this regard are of this type. In the following pages, we shall take up each of these examples and present our view on them.

1. Of the animals which God has created on this earth some are meant to be eaten and others are not. Since these latter type of animals if eaten effect the tazkiyah (purification) of a person, an aversion to them is found in his nature. Generally, human nature provides a person with ample guidance in this matter and, without any hesitation, he is able to decide the right course. He very well knows that lions, tigers, elephants, eagles, crows, vultures, kites, scorpions and human flesh itself are not meant to be eaten. He is also well aware of the fact that horses and mules are a means of transportation and have no role in satisfying one's hunger. That faeces and urine of animals are impure things are known to him very well also. No doubt, at times, human nature becomes perverted but a study of human behavior shows that a great majority of people does not generally falter in this matter. It is for this reason that the shari'ah has not given any original guidance on this matter. In this regard, the shari'ah has provided guidance on animals and on things related to these animals where human beings were liable to falter. The pig is a quadruped beast of the same genre as the goat, sheep, cow and cattle; however, it consumes meat like other carnivores. Should it then be considered forbidden or not? Should animals which are slaughtered in a way that all their blood is not drained out be eaten or not? Is the blood of animals impure as indeed are their faeces and urine? If animals are slaughtered by taking the name of someone other than the Almighty, can they still be eaten? Since man is unable to come up with a decisive answer in these issues, therefore the Almighty guided mankind in this affair through His prophets and informed them that the flesh of the pig, blood, the dead and animals which are slaughtered in the name of someone other than Allah36 are also impure and unclean and therefore people should abstain from them. In this regard, these aforementioned four things have been primarily discussed by the shari'ah. The Qur'an at some places by using the linguistic expressions قُلْ لَا أَجِدُ فِي مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيَّ (say: I do not find anything [forbidden] in what [God] has revealed to me), and at some places the word اِنَّمَا (only and only), has unequivocally stated that only and only these four things are prohibited by the Almighty.

It is stated in Surah Baqarah:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُلُواْ مِن طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ وَاشْكُرُواْ لِلّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةَ وَالدَّمَ وَلَحْمَ الْخِنزِيرِ وَمَا أُهِلَّ بِهِ لِغَيْرِ اللّهِ (٢: ١٧٢-١٧٣)

Believers! eat of the wholesome things with which We have provided you and be grateful to God alone if it is Him you worship. He has forbidden you only carrion, blood, and the flesh of swine, also any flesh that is slaughtered in the name of someone other than God. (2:172-173)

It is stated in Surah An'am:

قُلْ لَا أَجِدُ فِي مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيَّ مُحَرَّمًا عَلَى طَاعِمٍ يَطْعَمُهُ إِلَّا أَنْ يَكُونَ مَيْتَةً أَوْ دَمًا مَسْفُوحًا أَوْ لَحْمَ خِنزِيرٍ فَإِنَّهُ رِجْسٌ أَوْ فِسْقًا أُهِلَّ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ بِهِ (١٤٥:٦)

Say: "I find not in what has been revealed time through inspiration forbidden to a person who eats things which are edible, unless it be dead meat, or blood poured forth or the flesh of swine because all these are unclean or in, disobedience to Allah, animals slaughtered in someone else's name." (6:145)

It is reported in certain narratives that the Prophet (sws) has prohibited the meat of beasts having sharp canine teeth, birds having claws and tentacles in their feet, and tamed donkeys37. It is evident from the above discussion that this is merely a delineation of the innate guidance found within human nature. If we want, we can add many other things to this list in the light of this innate guidance. People have erroneously regarded this delineation of divine guidance as shari'ah, even though it has no link with the prohibition of the shari'ah stated in the Qur'an. Thus the issue of Hadith abrogating the Qur'an does not even arise here.

2. One salient feature of the language of the Qur'an is that the meanings which are understood of their own accord because of the presence of other words and indicators or because of some logical obviousness are not expressed in words. Compliments of Oaths, answer to conditional statements, parallel expressions and the copulative sentence of a conditional sentence are often ellipsed. In 4:11, for example, there is an ellipses of the word اِثْنَتَيْن before فَوْقِ اِثْنَتَيْن and that of وَلِأَبِيْهِ الثُلُثَان after فَلِاُمِهِ الثُلُث and وَلِأَبِيْهِ after فَلِأُمِهِ السُدُس or words of similar meaning. Similarly, an ellipses of the copulative sentence of وَ أَنْ تَقُوْمُوْا لِلْيَتَامَى بِالقِسْط has occured in 4:127. As another example, consider the following verse:

وَمَا مِن دَآبَّةٍ فِي الأَرْضِ وَلاَ طَائِرٍ يَطِيرُ بِجَنَاحَيْهِ إِلاَّ أُمَمٌ أَمْثَالُكُم (٣٨:٦)

And all the beasts that roam in the earth on their feet and all the birds that fly on their wings in the sky with both their wings are but communities like your own. (6:38)

A little deliberation shows that in the above verse an ellipses of parallel phrases has occurred. Because of the presence of the expression فِي الأَرْضِ [in the earth] in the first part of the sentence, there is an ellipses of its parallel expression فِي الّسَمَاءِ [in the sky] in the second part. Similarly, because of the presence of the expression يَطِيرُ بِجَنَاحَيْهِ [fly on their wings] in the second part of the sentence, there is an ellipses of its parallel expression تَدُبُّ عَلَى رِجْلِهَا [roam on their legs] in the first part of the sentence. Though this style is not present in the English language, it exists abundantly in classical Arabic. In Surah Nisa, where the Qur'an has mentioned women with whom marriage is prohibited, two instances of this style can be seen. The Qur'an says:

يُوصِيكُمُ اللّهُ فِي أَوْلاَدِكُمْ لِلذَّكَرِ مِثْلُ حَظِّ الأُنثَيَيْنِ فَإِن كُنَّ نِسَاء فَوْقَ اثْنَتَيْنِ فَلَهُنَّ ثُلُثَا مَا تَرَكَ وَإِن كَانَتْ وَاحِدَةً فَلَهَا النِّصْفُ وَلأَبَوَيْهِ لِكُلِّ وَاحِدٍ مِّنْهُمَا السُّدُسُ مِمَّا تَرَكَ إِن كَانَ لَهُ وَلَدٌ فَإِن لَّمْ يَكُن لَّهُ وَلَدٌ وَوَرِثَهُ أَبَوَاهُ فَلأُمِّهِ الثُّلُثُ فَإِن كَانَ لَهُ إِخْوَةٌ فَلأُمِّهِ السُّدُسُ مِن بَعْدِ وَصِيَّةٍ يُوصِي بِهَا أَوْ دَيْنٍ آبَآؤُكُمْ وَأَبناؤُكُمْ لاَ تَدْرُونَ أَيُّهُمْ أَقْرَبُ لَكُمْ نَفْعاً فَرِيضَةً مِّنَ اللّهِ إِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ عَلِيما حَكِيمًا (١١:٤)

God has thus enjoined you concerning your children: A male shall inherit twice as much as a female. If there be more than two girls, they shall have two-thirds of the inheritance; but if there be one only, she shall inherit the half. Parents shall inherit a sixth each, if the deceased has a child; but if he leave no child and his parents be his heirs, his mother shall have a third. If he has brothers, his mother shall have a sixth after payment of any legacy he may have bequeathed or any debt he may have owned. You may wonder whether you parents or your children are more beneficial to you. But this is the law of God; surely God is all-knowing and wise. (4:11)

.وَأُمَّهَاتُكُمْ اللَّاتِي أَرْضَعْنَكُمْ وَأَخَوَاتُكُمْ مِنْ الرَّضَاعَةِ (٤: ٢٣)

And [marry not] your mothers who have suckled you and your sisters through fosterage. (4:23)

وَأَنْ تَجْمَعُوا بَيْنَ الْأُخْتَيْنِ إِلَّا مَا قَدْ سَلَفَ (٤: ٢٣)

And also two sisters in wedlock at the same time, except for what has already happened. (4:23)

In the first directive, together with foster mothers, foster sisters are also regarded as relations prohibited for marriage. Had the directive ended with foster mothers, nothing further could have been understood from it; however, if the relationship of fosterage with a mother makes her daughter a foster sister, then it is but logical to regard other relations of the foster mother to be also included in this directive. If being suckled through the same mother can make someone a foster sister, why can't the sister of the foster mother be regarded as the maternal aunt, her husband as the father, the sister of her husband as the paternal aunt, her daughter's daughter and her son's daughter as nieces. Hence, it is obvious that all these relations are also prohibited in marriage. This indeed is the purport of the Book of God and the words وَأَخَوَاتُكُمْ مِنْ الرَّضَاعَةِ testify to it. It is evident to any person of knowledge who deliberates on these words.

Same is the case with the second directive. If combining two sisters in wedlock is a lewd thing as far as the relationship of marriage is concerned, then combing a lady with her brother's daughter in wedlock or with her sister's daughter in wedlock is like combining a mother and a daughter in wedlock. Hence, though the words used are: وَأَنْ تَجْمَعُوا بَيْنَ الْأُخْتَيْنِ , the purport of the Qur'an no doubt is: اْلمَرْاةِ بَيْنَ اْلمَرْاةِ وَ عَمَّتِهَا وَ بَيْنَ وَ وَأَنْ تَجْمَعُوا بَيْنَ الْأُخْتَيْنِ وَ خَالَتِهَا (and two sisters in wedlock at the same time and a lady with her brother's daughter at the same time and a lady with her sister's daughter at the same time). However, all these words are suppressed after بَيْنَ الْأُخْتَيْنِ because what is mentioned points towards this suppression as obviously understood. So obvious are the words of this suppression that no student of the Qur'an can err in understanding them.

The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:

يحرم من الرضاعة ما يحرم من الولادة (مُؤَطّا رقم ١٢٦٧ )

Every relationship which is prohibited [for marriage] owing to lineage is also prohibited owing to fosterage. (Mu'atta, No: 1268)

لا يجمع بين المرأة وعمتها ولا بين المرأة وخالتها (مُؤَطّا رقم ١١٠٧)

Neither can a lady and her paternal aunt nor can a lady and her maternal aunt be combined in wedlock. (Mua'tta, No: 1108)

These narratives of the Prophet (sws) only explain the Qur'anic verses referred to above and in no way alter or add to them.

3. Verses eleven and twelve of Surah Nisa mention the distribution of inheritance of a deceased. While mentioning the shares of various heirs, the Almighty has subtly alluded to the fact that the basis on which a person has the right to inherit from a deceased is his own benefit to him:

آبَاؤُكُمْ وَأَبْنَاؤُكُمْ لَا تَدْرُونَ أَيُّهُمْ أَقْرَبُ لَكُمْ نَفْعًا فَرِيضَةً مِنْ اللَّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا (١١:٤)

You know not who among your children and parents are nearest to you in benefit. This is the law of God. Indeed, God is Wise and All-Knowing. (4:11)

This benefit is by nature present in parents, children, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and other close relations. Hence, in normal circumstances, they will be considered the heirs to the legacy of a deceased. However, in certain unusual circumstances, if an absence of benefit in any of these relationships is diagnosed by sense and reason, then the style and pattern of the verse demands that such a relative should not become an heir to the legacy. This exception, a little deliberation would show has not been created from some external source; on the contrary, it was present in the directive at its very inception. Hence, if a scholar of the Qur'an refers to it, he would not be changing or altering the meaning of the Divine book; it would be perfectly in accordance with the purport of the verse, to which its words so clearly testify. In view of this, the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said about the Idolaters and the People of the Book of Arabia:

لَا يَرِثُ الْمُسْلِمُ الْكَافِرَ وَلَا الْكَافِرُ الْمُسْلِمَ (بخاري، رقم: ٦٣٨٣)

A Muslim cannot be an heir of a kafir nor can a kafir be a Muslim's. (Bukhari, No: 6383)

In other words, after the Quraysh and the People of the Book were left with no excuse to deny the truth which had been unveiled to them in its ultimate form, their enmity and hostility became very clear. Consequently, the benefit of kinship between them and the Muslims stood completely severed. Hence, they could not inherit from one another.

4. In Surah Ma'idah (5:33-34), the four punishments prescribed for criminals who spread nuisance and anarchy in the society are taqtil (killing someone in an exemplary manner), taslib (crucifixion), amputating limbs from opposite sides and exile. Consequently, the Prophet (sws) in his times included certain habitual criminals of fornication in the application of this directive and is reported to have said:

خُذُوا عَنِّي خُذُوا عَنِّي قَدْ جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لَهُنَّ سَبِيلًا الْبِكْرُ بِالْبِكْرِ جَلْدُ مِائَةٍ وَنَفْيُ سَنَةٍ وَالثَّيِّبُ بِالثَّيِّبِ جَلْدُ مِائَةٍ وَالرَّجْمُ (مسلم: رقم ١٦٩٠)

Acquire it from me, acquire it from me. The Almighty has revealed a way for these women. If such criminals are unmarried or are the unsophisticated youth, then their punishment is a hundred stripes and exile and if they are widowers or are married, then their punishment is a hundred stripes and death by stoning. (Muslim, No: 1690)

His view was that since such criminals were not merely guilty of fornication but were also guilty of spreading anarchy and nuisance in the society as they had adopted profligacy as a way of life, those among them who deserved any mitigation should be administered the punishments of a hundred stripes according to verse 2 of Surah Nur because of committing fornication and exiled according to verse 33 of Surah Ma'idah to protect the society from their dissolute practices, and those among them who did not deserve any leniency, should be stoned to death according to the directive of taqtil38 of the same verse of Surah Ma'idah.

This directive of the Prophet (sws), it is evident, does not in any way change the purport of the Qur'an.

5. Maytah (meat of dead animals) is one of the things which the Almighty has regarded as forbidden. A person who is conversant with the linguistic features of Arabic knows that this word has a literal meaning and it also has a meaning which emanates from its linguistic usage. In the first case, it means every thing which is dead; however, in the second case, one who is aware of the intricacies of the Arabic language will, for example, never include dead fish or dead locust in its connotation. The Prophet (sws), on these very grounds, is reported to have said:

أُحِلَّتْ لَكُمْ مَيْتَتَانِ وَدَمَانِ فَأَمَّا الْمَيْتَتَانِ فَالْحُوتُ وَالْجَرَادُ وَأَمَّا الدَّمَانِ فَالْكَبِدُ وَالطِّحَالُ.(ابنِ ماجه: رقم ٣٣١٤)

Two [type of] dead and two [forms of] blood are not forbidden for you: The former being fish and locust and the latter being liver and spleen.39 (Ibn Majah, No: 3314)

Imam Zamakhshari writes:

قصد ما يتفاهمه الناس و يتعارفونه في العادة ' ألا تري أن القائل إذا قال : أكل فلان ميتة ' لم يسبق الوهم إلى السمك والجراد كما لو قال : أكل دماً ' لم يسبق إلى الكبد والطحال ' ولاعتبار العادة والتعارف قالوا : من حلف لا يأكل لحماً فأكل سمكا لم يحنث وان أكل لحماً في الحقيقة

The word مَيْتَه (maytah) mentioned in the Qur'an must be understood according to its linguistic usage. Is not the case that when someone says that he has eaten maytah, we never include a fish or a locust in its connotation. This is similar to the fact that if a person says that he has drunk blood we never include liver or spleen in its connotation. Precisely because of such usage, jurists say that if a person swears that he will never eat meat and then he consumes fish, this will not break his oath although in reality he has eaten meat.40

6. The punishment for theft is mentioned in the Qur'an in the following words:

وَالسَّارِقُ وَالسَّارِقَةُ فَاقْطَعُوا أَيْدِيَهُمَا جَزَاءً بِمَا كَسَبَا نَكَالًا مِنْ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ (٥ :٣٨)

As to the thief, male or female, cut off their hands as a reward of their own deeds, and as an exemplary punishment from God. For God is Mighty and Wise. (5:38)

It is evident from this verse that the punishment of amputating the hands is prescribed for a thief, both male (sariq) or female (sariqah). According to linguistic principles, the words sariq and sariqah are adjectives and denote thoroughness and completeness in the characteristics of the verb they qualify. Consequently, they can only be used for the type of sarqah which can be called a theft and the one who commits it is called a thief. In other words, if a child steals a few rupees from his father's pocket, or a wife pinches some money from her husband, or if a person steals something very ordinary, or plucks some fruit from his neighbour's orchard, or carries away something valuable which has been left unprotected, or drives away an unattended grazing animal, or commits this ignoble offence owing to some need or compulsion, then, no doubt all these are unworthy acts and should be punished, but, certainly, they cannot be classified as acts of theft which the above given verse qualifies. Consequently, the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:

لَا قَطْعَ فِي ثَمَرٍ مُعَلَّقٍ وَلَا فِي حَرِيسَةِ جَبَلٍ فَإِذَا آوَاهُ الْمُرَاحُ أَوْ الْجَرِينُ فَالْقَطْعُ فِيمَا يَبْلُغُ ثَمَنَ الْمِجَنِّ (مؤطا ، رقم : ١٥٧٣)

If a fruit is hanging from a tree or a goat is grazing on a mountain side and someone steals them, then hands should not be amputated for this. But if the goat comes in a pen fold and the fruit is stacked in a field, then hands should be amputated on the condition that the fruit or the goat are at least the price of a shield. (Mu'atta, No: 1573)

One can see that this explanation of the Prophet (sws) does not in any way abrogate or limit the directive of the Qur'an.

Parallel Verses and Constructions

The Qur'an presents its message in various ways and in a variety of styles. As a result, it has become unparalleled among other works in explaining its own verses which are set in a very concise diction and which are inimitable. Thus it introduces itself as كِتَابًا مُّتَشَابِهًا:

اللَّهُ نَزَّلَ أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ كِتَابًا مُّتَشَابِهًا مَّثَانِيَ (٢٣:٣٩)

God has now revealed the best of discourses whose verses resemble one another and whose surahs occur in pairs. (39:23)

Verses such as وَلَقَدْ صَرَّفْنَا فِي هَـذَا الْقُرْآنِ لِيَذَّكَّرُواْ (٤١:١٧) 41 bring to light this very characteristic of the Qur'an by the word tasrif. This word literally means "to circulate and pass around" ie presenting the same thing in various ways and in diverse styles:

كِتَابٌ أُحْكِمَتْ آيَاتُهُ ثُمَّ فُصِّلَتْ مِن لَّدُنْ حَكِيمٍ خَبِيرٍ (١:١١)

This is a Book, whose verses were first concise and then they were explained from Him who is wise and all-knowing. (11:1)

Thus, initially, the style adopted was concise, brief and succint, and later explained these succinct verses which carried a world of meaning. While explaining this characteristic of the Qur'an, Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

If you read the Qur'an, you realize that the same topic appears in various surahs. A novice may regard this as mere repetition; however, those who deliberate on the Qur'an know that it does not contain any repetition. A topic which appears at other places also, does not appear with the same background and context. These are different at different places. The variations depend on the place and placement of the topic under discussion. At one place, an aspect would be hidden, while at another it would be revealed. Similarly, at one place, the real direction of address may be unspecified, and at another context, it becomes specified. In fact, my years of personal experience is that at one place a word appears to be unclear and at another place, its meaning becomes very clear. Similarly, at one place, the argument of some premise may not be understood; however, at another place, it become as clear as the sun. This style adopted by the Qur'an is to imprint its message on the reader. Consequently, it is to express gratitude to the Almighty I mention the fact that in order to overcome the difficulties of the Qur'an the extent of help I have received from the Qur'an itself is emulated by no other source. The beauty of the Qur'anic message itself entails that it should be read in various styles. If a person has a keen mind, the exquisite variations in presenting the same fact help him in absorbing it in some way or the other.42

These are the words and first hand experience of the greatest scholar of the Qur'an in contemporary times after the great Hamid al-Din Farahi. Any student of the Qur'an who deliberates on the Qur'an will find this reality stamped on every page of it. Thus, it must be accepted as a principle that the Qur'an explains itself (اَلْقُرآنُ يُفَسِّر بَعضَهُ بَعْضاً). This principle holds good not only for the directives of the Qur'an, the historical references it cites and other allusions it makes but also this is a miracle of the Qur'an that it is an invaluable treasure for the parallels of its own words and styles so that difficulties encountered in solving them can be solved by recourse to this treasure. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

It is not possible to present the details here otherwise I could have shown how the Qur'an takes a word from the common spoken Arabic language and incorporates it in higher meanings in it than its conventionally understood one. Not only this, the variation in which it would use this word and aura it would create for it that all this would be enough to fully guide and satisfy a student of the Qur'an about its usage and other minute details without making him to resort to elaborate Arabic lexicons like the Lisan and the Sihah. This characteristic of the Qur'an can be observed not only in words, but also with the styles it adopts and the grammatical constructions it contains. The constructions which have become very difficult for the grammarians of the Qur'an to comprehend have been explained and corroborated by the Qur'an at other places by variation in usage to the extent that one becomes fully certain of their implications.43

The Final Book on Religion

The Qur'an is last and final and not the first book of the religion it presents. The history of this religion is that when God created man on this earth, the basic realities of religion were ingrained in his nature. He was then told through his earliest ancestor Adam:

Firstly, he has a creator who created him; He alone is his Lord, and as a natural corollary to this, He alone should be worshipped by him.

Secondly, he has been sent in this world to be tried and tested, and, for this, he has been given a clear awareness of good and evil; he has not only been given the freedom to exercise his will, he has also been given sovereignty on this earth. This trial of his will continue till his death. If he is successful in this trial, he will be given the Kingdom of Heaven where he will be free from the regrets of the past and the fears of the future.

Thirdly, the Almighty, at various times, will keep sending His guidance according to man's needs. If he obeys this guidance, he will not go astray, and if he evades it, he will be eternally doomed in the Hereafter.

Consequently, the Almighty fulfilled His promise and provided guidance to mankind by selecting people from among them and through them delivered His guidance to mankind. This guidance contained both al-hikmah and al-shari'ah. The former obviously did not require any change, while the latter was revealed as per the needs of a people until the time of Abraham (sws) when its directives crystallized in the form of a sunnah for all mankind. In the time of Moses (sws), when a formal state of the Israelites had been established, the Torah was revealed and directives of the shari'ah regarding the collectivity were also revealed. During this time, when certain aspects of hikmah did not remain before the eyes of people, they were made evident to them through the Psalms and Gospels. When the original texts of these scriptures became extinct, the Almighty sent the last of His messengers and gave him the Qur'an:

وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَمُهَيْمِنًا عَلَيْهِ فَاحْكُم بَيْنَهُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللّهُ وَلاَ تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءهُمْ عَمَّا جَاءكَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ لِكُلٍّ جَعَلْنَا مِنكُمْ شِرْعَةً وَمِنْهَاجًا وَلَوْ شَاء اللّهُ لَجَعَلَكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَلَـكِن لِّيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَآ آتَاكُم فَاسْتَبِقُوا الخَيْرَاتِ إِلَى الله مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ (٥: ٤٨)

And [O Prophet!] We have revealed to you the Book with the truth in confirmation of the shari'ah before it, and standing as a guardian over it. Therefore give judgement among these [People of the Book] according to the guidance revealed by God and do not yield to their whims by swerving from the truth revealed to you. For each of you, we have ordained a shari'ah and assigned a path, and had God pleased, He could have made of you one community: but it is His wish to try you by that which He has bestowed upon you. So, compete with each other in good deeds. To God shall you all return. Then He shall disclose upon you all your differences.

This is the history of religion. Consequently, keeping it in consideration, the following precede the Qur'an:

i. Innate Guidance

ii. The Sunan of Abraham (sws)

iii. The Scriptures of the Prophets

The first of the above mentioned things relate to the basics of faith and morality. In the terminology of the Qur'an, a major portion of this is called ma'ruf and munkar. The former refers to things which are regarded to be good by human nature and the latter refers to things which are regarded to be evil by it and which it evades. The Qur'an does not give a comprehensive list of these things; on other hand, it says that a person is innately aware of these and is able to fully distinguish the two on this basis. It thus demands that a person accept ma'ruf and shun munkar:

وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتُ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاء بَعْضٍ يَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ نهَِي عَنِ المُنْكَر (٧١:٩)

And true believers, both men and women, are friends to one another. They urge one another to what is good and forbid what is evil. (9:71)

If there arises a difference of opinion in determining the ma'ruf or the munkar, then the inclination of the progeny of Abraham (sws) shall be regarded as decisive in that particular matter. The reason for this is that for the past many centuries, prophets were sent to them and it is as if their inclination of the ma'ruf and the munkar has been ratified by the prophets.

The second of the above mentioned things is called by the Qur'an as millat-i ibrahimi. The prayer, the fast, the hajj and the zakah are all directives of this millat-i ibrahimi. The addressees of the Qur'an were fully aware of them and to a great extent practiced them the way they were. In the narrative which depicts Abu Dharr's (rta) acceptance of faith, he explicitly says that he would diligently offer the prayer even before Muhammad (sws) had declared his Prophethood.44 It is known that the Friday prayer was not unknown to the addressees of the Qur'an.45 They would offer the funeral prayer46 and would fast in the very manner we would fast today.47 Zakah too was known to them as a specific share in their wealth the way it is now.48 Regarding the worship rituals of hajj and 'umrah, every knowledgeable person knows that though the Quraysh had added some religious innovations to them, the rites of these worship rituals which they offered were virtually the same as they are today. In fact, it is evident from certain narratives that people were even aware of these innovations. Consequently, there is a narrative in Bukhari that the hajj offered by Muhammad (sws) before his prophethood was offered without these innovations of the Quraysh in the very manner it was offered ever since the time of Abraham (sws).49

Same is the case with animal sacrifice, i'tikaf, circumcision besides some other customs and etiquette of Islam. All these things were already known and specified and the Arabs were aware of them as age old traditions transferred by one generation to another. Thus there was no need for the Qur'an to give their details. They fully knew what the Arabic words which referred to them meant. If the Qur'an asked them to pray and to fast and to offer the hajj and to pay zakah, they fully knew what these terms meant. The Qur'an never gave them the first directive about these. It only reformed and revived them and explained some aspect - and that too to the extent of what was essential. All this tradition of the religion of Abraham (sws), which in religious parlance is called Sunnah, is regarded by the Qur'an as the religion of God, and it asks of its followers to fully adopt it:

ثُمَّ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ أَنِ اتَّبِعْ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ (١٢٣:١٦)

Then We revealed to you to follow the ways of Abraham, who was true in faith and was not among the polytheists. (16:123)

The third of these are the divine scriptures which are present in the Bible in the form of the Torah, the Gospels and the Psalms. Their recipients have lost parts of them to posterity and have also been guilty of interpolations in them. However, still a rich treasure of the shari'ah and hikmah revealed by the Almighty is present in them in its vintage divine style. Students of the Qur'an know that it has referred to them at various places, has made concise allusions to the prophetic tales mentioned in them and has negated the interpolations of the Jews and the Christians and criticized the history presented in them. The Qur'an has based its itmam al-hujjah (unveiling of the truth to the extent that nobody denies it) on these very scriptures and it unequivocally declares that its fountainhead and origin is the same as these scriptures:

نَزَّلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقاً لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ وَأَنزَلَ التَّوْرَاةَ وَالإِنجِيلَ مِن قَبْلُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَأَنزَلَ الْفُرْقَانَ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ بِآيَاتِ اللّهِ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ وَاللّهُ عَزِيزٌ ذُو انتِقَامٍ (٣: ٣-٤)

[O Prophet!], He has revealed to you the Book with the truth, in confirmation of the scriptures which preceded it; and before this He has already revealed the Torah and the Gospel for the guidance of mankind, and [after them] revealed this furqan. Indeed, those that deny God's revelations shall be sternly punished; God is mighty and capable of retribution. (3:3-4)

إِنَّا أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ كَمَا أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى نُوحٍ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ مِن بَعْدِهِ وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإْسْحَقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ وَالأَسْبَاطِ وَعِيسَى وَأَيُّوبَ وَيُونُسَ وَهَارُونَ وَسُلَيْمَانَ وَآتَيْنَا دَاوُودَ زَبُورًا (١٦٣:٤)

O Prophet (sws)! We have sent revelations to you as We sent revelations to Noah and to the prophets who came after him, and as We sent revelations to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and his progeny and to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, Solomon, and We gave the Psalms to David. (4:163)

It is because of this background of the Qur'an because of which certain things should be accepted as a principle in interpreting the Qur'an.

Firstly, this religion stands completed with the awareness of good and evil which is found in human nature and which the Qur'an calls ma'ruf (good) and munkar (evil). This ma'ruf and munkar precede the directives and prohibitions of the shari'ah which are prescribed in the Qur'an, and are the foundations on which the latter stand. Any concept of the shari'ah which is devoid of the good and evil found in human nature will definitely be defective and against the purport of the Qur'an.

Secondly, the Sunnah is not after the Qur'an; it precedes it historically. Hence it shall be derived from the consensus and perpetual adherence of the ummah to it. They shall not be derived from the Qur'an the way some scholars of contemporary times have done so, and in this manner grossly misinterpreted the Qur'an.

Thirdly, in order to understand styles peculiar to divine literature, the history of the Jews and the Christians and accounts of the Israelite prophets and the allusions of the Qur'an to other similar topics as well as the details of facts it briefly refers to, the real source are the previous scriptures. They shall be regarded as the basis of debate and discussion. In this regard, the narratives which have been recorded in various exegeses of the Qur'an and which are mostly based on hearsay shall be disregarded. These narratives cannot be a substitute to the light which ancient scriptures caste on these subjects and the way the words of the Qur'an accept these details or bring to surface the real facts about certain aspects mentioned in them. Such narratives neither satisfy the intellect of the students of the Qur'an nor prove of any worth as an argument for the People of the Book.  

Theme of the Qur'an

The theme of the Qur'an is Muhammad's indhar. Every page of the Qur'an speaks of this reality. The reason for this is that the Qur'an has not merely been revealed as an amalgam of shari'ah and hikmah, it has also been revealed to become the real means of the Prophet's indhar to his people:

وَأُوحِيَ إِلَيَّ هَذَا الْقُرْآنُ لأُنذِرَكُم بِهِ وَمَن بَلَغَ (١٩:٦)

And this Qur'an has been revealed to me that I may warn you through it and all whom it may reach. (6:19)

It is known that Muhammad (sws) was not merely a nabi (prophet), he was also a rasul (messenger). Prophets are personalities whom the Almighty reveals divine guidance so that they can guide people. However, not every prophet is a messenger. Messengerhood is a position bestowed to only some prophets. According to its details furnished by the Qur'an, a rasul implements the judgement of God on his addressees in this very world. The Qur'an informs us that this final phase in the preaching endeavour of a rasul comes after it passes through the phases of indhar50, indhar-i 'am51, itmam al-hujjah52 and hijrah wa bara'ah53. It is in this phase that the divine court of justice descends and is set up on this earth. Punishment is meted out to the rejecters of the truth and those who have accepted it are rewarded, and in this way a miniature Day of Judgement is witnessed on the face of the earth. The history of the preaching endeavours of the rusul related in the Qur'an shows that at this stage generally either of the two situations arise.

Firstly, a rasul only has a few companions and there is no place available to him for migration.

Secondly, his companions are in substantial numbers and the Almighty also furnishes a place to them where they can migrate and be bestowed with political authority.

In both these situations, the established practice of the Almighty manifests itself - the practice which the Qur'an refers to in the following words:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُحَادُّونَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ أُوْلَئِكَ فِي الأَذَلِّينَ كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَأَغْلِبَنَّ أَنَا وَرُسُلِي إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَوِيٌّ عَزِيزٌ (٥٨: ٢٠-٢١)

Indeed those who are opposing Allah and His Messenger are bound to be humiliated. The Almighty has ordained: "I and My Messengers shall always prevail." Indeed Allah is Mighty and Powerful. (58:20-21)

In the first situation, divine punishment descends upon those who have rejected the rusul in the form of raging storms, cyclones and other calamities, which completely destroy them. It is evident from the Qur'an that the people of Noah (sws), Lot (sws), Salih (sws) and Shu'ayb (sws) besides others met with this dreadful fate. The only exception in this case were the Israelites. Since they primarily adhered to monotheism, instead of annihilation, the punishment of subjugation was meted out to them once the Prophet Jesus (sws) left them.

In the second situation, a rasul and his companions subdue their nation by force. In this case, the addressees of the rasul are given some more respite for he delivers the truth to the people of the place he has migrated to till the extent that they too are left with no excuse to deny it. Also, during this time he instructs and purifies his followers and isolates them from his rejecters and organizes them to fight the enemy. He also consolidates his political authority in the place he has migrated to the extent that with its help he is able to destroy his rejecters and achieve victory for his followers.

In the case of the Prophet Muhammad (sws), this second situation arose. Consequently, the theme of the Qur'an is the account of his indhar which passed through various phases referred to above and culminated in the worldly reward and retribution of his addressees. Each of its surahs has been revealed in this background, and each of its groups have been arranged keeping it in view.

While taking into consideration this theme of the Qur'an, the following three things should thus always remain in consideration before a student of the Qur'an viz a viz its exegesis and interpretation:

Firstly, after deliberation on the contents of a surah, the exact phase in which it was revealed should be determined. So deep and accurate is a person required to go in this endeavour that he is able to very satisfactorily say that for example a surah has been revealed in the phase of indhar or in the phase of migration and acquittal or in the phase of reward and punishment. Each verse of a surah also should be interpreted keeping in view this distinction.

Secondly, the addressees of each surah must be determined from among people present at the time of revelation of the Qur'an. They could be the Idolaters, the People of the Book, the Hypocrites, the Prophet (sws) and his followers or some specific group from among these denominations. It must also be determined if parts of a surah address a secondary addressee besides the primary one. Consequently, the antecedent of every pronoun, the referred to entity of every defining article alif lam and the connotation of every term and expression should be determined in the light of the addressees of the surah.

Thirdly, it must be determined specially in case of directives which relate to jihad, supremacy of the truth and political authority as a result of this supremacy whether they are a permanent directive of shari'ah or if they specifically relate to the addressees of the prophetic times and the directive cannot be extended beyond these addressees.

Coherence in the Discourse

Each surah is a coherent collection of verses. These verses are not disjoined and haphazardly placed in a surah. In fact, each surah has a theme and all the verses are aptly placed with regard to this theme. When a surah is studied while keeping in consideration its theme and when its coherence becomes evident as a result of this study, it comes out as a well-knit unit. What is the values of this coherence? While answering this question, Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

It is absolutely incorrect to think that nazm (coherence) is merely a subtle thing which has no importance as regards the real objective of Islam. In my consideration, its real worth stems from the fact that it is the door through which the real knowledge and wisdom of the Qur'an can be reached. A person who reads the Qur'an without the guidance of nazm will at best obtain some independent and solitary directives.

Although independent and solitary directives are also valuable, however there is a world of difference in having knowledge of the effects of certain plants and herbs from a dictionary of medical terms and in the fact that an adept doctor prepares a prescription from all these ingredients which totally cures the patient. The brick and fabric of the Taj Mahal would have been used in many different buildings of the world; however, in spite of this, there is only one Taj Mahal. Without any real comparison, I would say that the words and sentences of the Qur'an all belong to the Arabic language; however, the unparalleled arrangement of the Qur'an have bestowed on them the ambience and beauty which nothing on this earth can rival.

Just as families have genealogies, pious and evil deeds too have genealogies. Sometimes we regard a pious deed to be an ordinary one, whereas it actually belongs to the family of pious deeds from which the branches of great pious deeds originate. Similarly, sometimes we regard an evil deed to be ordinary, whereas it belongs to that family of evil deeds from which originate the deadliest of diseases. A person who wants to understand the wisdom of religion should be aware of all these steps and stages of pious and evil deeds otherwise there is a strong chance that he would end up considering a disease which is a harbinger to tuberculosis as the one which fortells of influenza and vice versa. This wisdom of the Qur'an is not evident from isolated parts of its discourse but from the coherence and arrangement of the discourse. If a person is aware of the individual verses of a surah, but is not aware of the meaningful coherence that exists between these verses, then he will never be able to have access to this wisdom.

Similarly, the Qur'an has furnished historical arguments as well as the ones found in human nature and in the external world in order to substantiate some principle premise. When a person who is aware of this arrangement deliberates on a surah, he will feel that he has read a very comprehensive, well-argumented and satisfying discourse on the topic under discussion. On the other hand a person who is not aware of this arrangement may have an idea of the contents of the discourse but will be deprived of the wisdom found in the surah.54

After that he has explained the importance of Qur'anic coherence with reference to the collective and political unity of the Muslims:

Every person knows that it is the strong rope of the Qur'an that holds together the fabric of this ummah, and all Muslims have been directed to hold steadfast to this rope and not divide themselves into factions. An obvious requirement of this directive is that we must turn to the Qur'an to resolve all differences which arise among us; however, it is very unfortunate that all of us have different opinions regarding the Qur'an. There are so many views in the interpretation of every verse, and most of these views are contradictory to one another and we do not have any reference point to decide which view is the correct one. If a difference of opinion arises in the interpretation of a discourse, the most satisfactory thing which can resolve this is the context and coherence of the discourse. Unfortunately, most people do not regard the Qur'an to be a coherent book having a definite context. The result is that differences of opinions have become permanent. A lot of differences of opinion which have arisen in fiqh are because of disregarding the context of a verse. If this context is kept in consideration, one will find that at most occasions only one interpretation is possible.

More critical than the issue of juristic differences is the case of misguided sects. Most of these sects have lent credence to their beliefs through various verses of the Qur'an. They normally sever a verse from its context and then interpret it the way they want to. Obviously, once a sentence is severed from its context, one can attribute multiple meanings to it if one wants to. Some of these meanings could never have even been imagined by the speaker. But for the fear of consuming a lot of space, I could have given several examples of verses which have been misinterpreted owing to this approach and wrecking havoc with the actual meaning they imply. However, no one seems to be bothered to just look up the context and placement of the verse. He does not give any importance to these aspects if the Qur'an is being deliberated upon.55

It is evident from the foregoing discussion that what makes the Qur'an a document having one definite meaning and which resolves all differences of interpretation and thus verifies Imam Farahi's words الْقُرْآنُ لاَ يَحْتَمِلُ إِلاَّ تَاْوِيْلاً وَاحِداً 56 about it is the coherence it possesses. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

In my exegesis, I have tried to determine a single interpretation of each Qur'anic verse because I have given full importance to the context and coherence in the verses. In fact, the truth of the matter is that I have been forced into this because the context and coherence in the verses have not allowed me to swerve from this. The right interpretation becomes so clear and obvious, and if a person is not deeply prejudiced, he can give his life but he cannot bear to deviate from it.57

It is because of this coherence in the Qur'an that when it called upon its addressees to emulate it, it did not ask them to produce independent verses but to produce one or more surah like it:

وَإِنْ كُنتُمْ فِي رَيْبٍ مِمَّا نَزَّلْنَا عَلَى عَبْدِنَا فَأْتُوا بِسُورَةٍ مِنْ مِثْلِهِ وَادْعُوا شُهَدَاءَكُمْ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ إِنْ كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ (٢: ٢٣ )

And if you are in doubt about what We have revealed to Our servant, then [go and] produce a single surah like it. And [for this purpose] also call your leaders besides Allah, if your are truthful [in your claim]. (2:23)

أَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ قُلْ فَأْتُواْ بِعَشْرِ سُوَرٍ مِّثْلِهِ مُفْتَرَيَاتٍ وَادْعُواْ مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ (١٣:١١)

Do they say: "He has invented it himself"; Tell them: "Produce ten invented surahs like it and call on whom you can except God if you are truthful." (11:13)

The way the exponents of the Farahi school of thought have revealed the coherence in the Qur'an does not require any further discussion to prove that it does exist; however, what is the nature of this coherence? The following points will help in understanding it:

1. Each surah has a theme round which its contents revolve and make it into a unified whole. It is the most comprehensive statement of its contents and what the soul is to a body, the theme is to a surah.

2. Together with the main text of a surah, there is an introduction and a conclusion. Surahs have distinct sections to mark thematic shifts, and every section is paragraphed to mark smaller shifts. Some surahs may be without sections. The verses of the introduction and of the conclusion also may at times be divided into paragraphs.

3. These paragraphs and these sections relate to each other not through a verse to verse linear connection but through various literary devices like similes, comments, conditional statements, parenthetical statements, principle statements, warning statements, parallelism, conclusion of a theme, questions and their answers, and statements or passages which return to what is said in the beginning. This of course is not an exhaustive list.

4. The text of a surah progresses through these paragraphs and section and gradually reaches its culmination. As a result, the surah assumes a distinct and unique form and shape, and becomes a complete and independent whole.

Arrangement of the Qur'an

The surahs of the Qur'an are not haphazardly compiled as is generally thought. They have been arranged in a specific order by the Almighty, and like the arrangement of the verses within a surah, the arrangement of the surahs within the Qur'an is very apt and meaningful with relation to the topic they discuss. In a nutshell, as per this arrangement, the Qur'an is divided in seven distinct groups and the surahs within each group occur in pairs. This pairing of the surahs is on the basis of the topics discussed, and each member of a pair has a complimentary relation with one another. Some surahs are an exception to this scheme like Surah Fatihah, which is like an introduction to the whole Qur'an. Some other surahs have come as an appendix or as a conclusion of a group. This scheme, with its seven surah-groups and pairing of the surahs, is stated by the Qur'an in the following words:

وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَاكَ سَبْعًا مِنْ الْمَثَانِي وَالْقُرْآنَ الْعَظِيمَ (١٥ : ٨٧)

And We have bestowed upon you seven mathani58 which is this great Qur'an.59 (15:87)

Each group of the Qur'an begins with one or more Makkan surah and ends with one or more Madinan surah.

Following is a brief description of the seven Qur'anic groups:


Group I {Surah Fatihah (1) - Surah Mai'dah (5)}

Makkan: 1

Madinan: 2-5


Group II {Surah An'am (6) - Surah Tawbah (9)}

Makkan: 6,7

Madinan: 8.9


Group III {Surah Yunus (10) - Surah Nur (24)}

Makkan: 10-23

Madinan: 24


Group IV {Surah Furqan (25) - Surah Ahzab (33)}

Makkan: 25-32

Madinan: 33


Group V {Surah Saba (34) - Surah Hujrat (49)}

Makkan: 34-46

Madinan: 47-49


Group VI {Surah Qaf (50) - Surah Tihrim (66)}

Makkan: 50-56

Madinan: 57-66


Group VII {Surah Mulk (67) - Surah Nas (114)}

Makkan: 67-112

Madinan : 113-14


Each group has a theme, and the surahs within it are arranged according to this theme.

The theme of the first group is to communicate the truth to the Jews and Christians to the extent that they are left with no excuse to deny it, to institute a new ummah from among the ishmaelites, its purification and isolation from the disbelievers and a description of the final worldly Judgment of God.

The theme of the second group is to communicate the truth to the polytheists of Arabia to the extent that they are left with no excuse to deny it, purification of the believers and their isolation from the disbelievers and a description of the final worldly Judgment of God.

The third, fourth, fifth and sixth groups have the same theme: delivering warning and glad tidings and purification of the believers and their isolation from the disbelievers.

The theme of the seventh group is to warn the leadership of the Quraysh of the consequences of the Hereafter, to communicate the truth to them to the extent that they are left with no excuse to deny it, and, as a result, to warn them of a severe punishment, and to give glad tidings to Muhammad (sws) of the dominance of his religion in the Arabian peninsula. Briefly, this can be stated as delivering warning and glad tidings.

If the first group is not taken into consideration, the sequence of the groups is from the end to the beginning (the seventh to the second group). Consequently, the seventh group ends on delivering warning and glad tidings. After that, in the sixth, fifth, fourth and third groups besides the theme of delivering warning and glad tidings, the theme of purification of the believers and their isolation from the disbelievers is also added. The second group is the culmination of the groups. It is here that the indhar of Muhammad (sws) reaches its culmination too. Thus besides the themes of delivering warning and glad tidings, and the purification of the believers and their isolation from the disbelievers, the worldly Judgement of God is also depicted which is actually a miniature Day of Judgement that will take place before the actual Day of Judgement.

The first group addresses the People of the Book of Arabia and in this respect differs from the rest. However, it too relates to the worldly judgement pronounced in the second group in Surah Tawbah in the very manner the rest of the groups relate to it. Thus the second group is the culmination of all the groups. The topic of indhar after passing through various phases reaches its peak of worldly judgement in this group from both sides. The only difference are the addressees.

It is evident from this that from the seventh to the second group an ascending order arrangement is present in order relate it with the first group in this manner.

The first group has been placed the foremost because the recipients of the Qur'an are its addresses the foremost.

Except for the first group, the Makkan surahs of each group discuss delivering of warning and glad tidings and of communicating the truth to the addresses to the extent that they do not have any excuse to deny it, while the Madinan surahs discuss the purification and isolation of the believers. However, both the Makkan and Madinan surahs are in harmony and consonance with one another in each group and relate to one another in a manner a root and stem are related to the branches.

This then is the arrangement of the Qur'an. If it is deliberated upon at length the extent of guidance it provides to a student of the Qur'an in understanding the background of the surahs and their time of revelation and the addressees of the Qur'an as well in determining the topic of a surah and its purport cannot be obtained whatsoever from any thing external to the Qur'an.

Historical Background

The Qur'an must be understood in the background in which it was revealed. According to established history, it was revealed to Muhammad (sws) in the sixth century in Arabia. It is evident from this history that Muhammad (sws) explained the Qur'an wherever and whenever a need arose, and so did the scholars among his Companions and the scholars and researchers after them. This history of the Qur'an is an established fact and demands the following from its students:

Firstly, he must be well aware of the history of the period and place in which the Qur'an was revealed. Every student of the Qur'an knows that it mentions the destruction of previous Arab nations like the 'Ad, the Thamud and the people of Madyan. The views held by these peoples are alluded to by the Qur'an. It also mentions the preaching of their respective prophets and the way these people reacted to it. Also depicted in the Qur'an is the arrival of Abraham (sws) into Arabia, the sacrifice of his son Ishmael (sws) and the construction of the Baytullah. The Qur'an also refers to the influence of Abraham (sws) and Ishmael (sws) on the cultural, moral, social and economic conditions of Arabia. Also portrayed in the Qur'an are the alterations done by the Quraysh in the religion constituted by Abraham (sws) and Ishmael (sws) and the way they transformed the Baytullah, the centre of monotheism into a centre of idol worship and the religious innovations and rituals which as a result of this made way into their religion. Similarly, discussed in the Qur'an are the circumstances in which the Qur'an was revealed, the incidents which took place at that time, as well as the political and religious views which were in vogue at that time. In order to understand all this, it is essential that the available history of that period be fully benefited from while keeping it subservient to the words of the Qur'an and its coherence. Through this, many aspects to which the Qur'an refers to can be understood better, and it is also helpful in unfolding many complexities of the Qur'an.

Secondly, full importance should be given to whatever is mentioned in Ahadith and Athar literature with reference to the Prophet (sws) and his Companions (rta). No doubt they contain many spurious things, and since the original words have not always been preserved and a narrator has relied on his own intellect to transmit these words, a lot of changes have come about in the original words, yet this literature still contains many valuable gems. While pointing out the correct attitude in this regard, Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, writes:

Among the dhanni [speculative; non-definite] sources of tafsir, Ahadith and Athar occupy the highest status. If their authenticity could have been full relied upon, they would have had the same importance in tafsir as the Sunnat-i Mutawatirah. However, since Ahadith and Athar do not possess this degree of authenticity, they can only be benefited from as far as they are found to be in conformity with the absolute principles of interpreting the Qur'an delineated above. Those who give such importance to the Hadith that they make the Qur'an subservient to it are neither aware of the status of the Qur'an nor that of the Hadith. On other hand, people who don't even refer to the Hadith in interpreting the Qur'an deprive themselves of a great treasure second only to the Qur'an. I consider the Hadith to be totally derived from the Qur'an; thus I have not confined myself to Hadith which are mentioned in relation to a verse of the Qur'an; as far as I could, I have tried to benefit from the whole corpus of the Hadith. They have helped me the most in understanding the wisdom of the Qur'an. If I have found a Hadith which is not in harmony with the Qur'an, I have deliberated upon it for a long period, and I have only rejected it when it became abundantly clear to me that it is against the Qur'an or it is in conflict with some principle of religion. As far as correct Hadith are concerned, seldom has there arisen a case in which they contradict the Qur'an; however, when this was the case, I have preferred the Qur'an to them, and have written my reasons of this preference in detail.60

Thirdly, whatever scholars and exegetes have written must be given due consideration. It is only by benefiting from the works of previous scholars that new dimensions are added in such disciplines; this cannot be done by ignoring them. True knowledge does not come through arrogance and haughtiness; it comes with humility and a sincere love for the truth. Thus it is essential that students of the Qur'an must always study the primary exegetical works on the Qur'an when they are forming an opinion or deliberating on and teaching a verse. Prior to the leading scholars of the Farahi school who have worked on Qur'anic exegesis, three primary works on the exegesis of the Qur'an can be identified: al-Jami' al-Bayan of Ibn Jarir, Tafsir al-Kabir of Razi and al-Kashshaff of Zamakhshari. The first of these is a compendium of the opinions of authorities of the past; the second mostly deals with theological issues and third with declensions and syntax. From among these primary works, though a student of the Qur'an should only take what is in harmony with the words of the Qur'an and its coherence and arrangement; however, he should never ignore these works.



1. Hakim, Mustadrak, 1st ed., vol. 2 (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyyah, 1990), 550.
2. The couplet is:

وجلا السيول عن الطلول كانـها
زبـر تـجد متونـها اقلامها

(The flowing floods have made these ruins so bare [from the dust that had covered them] as if they are books whose texts have been re-written by pens)

3. ما كنت لأ قول شعراً بعد أن علمنـي الله البقرة و آل عمران
4. The author is Abu Sa'id 'Abd al-Malik Ibn Qarib al-Asma'i.
5. The author is al-Mufaddal Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ya'la Ibn 'Amir Ibn Salim al-Dabbi.
6. The author is Abu Tammam Habib Ibn Aws al-Ta'i
7. For example Jahiz's al-Bayan wa al-Tabyin and Mubarrad's al-kamil fi al-Lughah wa al-Adab. Similiary, Abu Zayd's Jamhura Ash'ar al-'Arab; Ibn al-Shajari's Mukhtarat Shu'ara al-'Arab; Abu Tammam's al-Fuhul and Hamasah by Buhtari, Khalidiyan, Ibn al-Shajari, Abu Hilal al-'Askari; and Shantamri, and Abu Hilal's, Diwan al-Ma'ani, are also similar collections.
8. al-Tahdhib fi al-Lughah by Abu Mansur Muhammad Ibn Ahmad al-Azhari.
9. al-Muhkam wa al-Muhit al-'A'zam by 'Ali Ibn Sayyidah.
10. Taj al-Lughah wa Sihah al-'Arabiyyah by Abu Nasr Isma'il al-Jawhari.
11. al-Jamhurah Fi al-Lughah by Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn Durayd Al-Azdi.
12. al-Nihayah fi gharib al-Hadith wa al-Athar by Abu al-Sa'dat al-Mubarak Ibn Muhammad Al-Jurazi, Ibn al-Athir.
13. The propaganda stirred by D S Margolith in recent times through his article Usul al-Shi'r al-'Arabi to discredit the whole corpus of the jahiliyyah literature and which reached its peak in Taha Husayn's Fi Adab al-Jahili and some Muslim scholars too were influenced by it has been so effectively refuted by Orientalists as Charles James Lyall and Brocklemann that now it finds no place in the world of academics.
14. Khatib Baghdadi, Khazanah al-Adab, 1st ed., vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar Sadir, n.d.), 3.
15. Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1996), 401.
16. Suyuti, al-Itqan fi 'Ulum al-Qur'an, 1st ed., vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1996), 347.
17. Hamid al-Din Farahi, Mufridat al-Qur'an, 1st ed. Azamgarh: Da'irah Hamidiyyah, 1358 AH.
18. Hamid al-Din Farahi, Rasa'il fi 'Ulum al-Qur'an, 2nd ed. Azamgarh: Da'irah Hamidiyyah, 1991.
19. Hamid al-Din Farahi, Jamhurah al-Balaghah, 1st ed. Azamgarh: Da'irah Hamidiyyah, 1360 AH.
20. Hamid al-Din, Majmu'ah Tafasir, 2nd ed. Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986.
21. Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur'an, 2nd ed., 8 vols. Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986.
22. Amin Ahsan Islahi, Mabadi Tadabbur-i Qur'an, 1st ed. (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1988), 210.
23. Razi, al-Tafsir al-Kabir, 1st ed., vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyyah, 1421 AH), 34.
24. Bukhari, No: 4712.
25. Zarkashi, al-Burhan fi Ulum al-Qur'an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1980), 237.
26. Suyuti, al-Itqan fi Ulum al-Qur'an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Baydar: Manshurat al-Radi, 1343 AH), 177.
27. Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur'an, 2nd ed., vol. 8 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), 8.
28. Malik Ibn Anas, Mu'atta, vol. 1 (Egypt: Dar Ahya al-Turath, n.d.), 201, (no. 473).
29. Suyuti, Jalal al-Din, al-Itqan fi 'Ulum al-Qur'an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Baydar: Manshurat al-Radi, 1343 AH), 165-172.
30. Suyuti, Tanwir al-Hawalik, 2nd ed. (Beirut: Dar al-Jayl, 1993), 199.
31. The actual words are: lughat and lahjat. There is a difference between the two. In the former the pronunciation of the word changes because of a variation in harakat (eg. بُخْل and بَخَل), while in the latter the pronunciation of a word changes because of a variation in accent. (Translator's Note)
32. Ibn Qayyim, I'lam al-Muwaqqi'in, vol. 3 (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, n.d.), 96.
33. Shah Isma'il Shahid, 'Abaqat, 5.
34. Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur'an, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), 25-26.
35. The words muhkam and mutashabih are used as terms in this verse having the meaning we have alluded to above. At certain places in the Qur'an, these words have been used in a different meaning too. For example, the word muhkam has been used in 11:1 to connote concise and comprehensive verses, and in 39:23, the word mutashabih means verses which are similar to and in harmony with one another.
36. In the terminology of the Qur'an, since the reason for prohibition of animals which are slaughtered in the name of someone other than Allah is not the رِجْس (impurity) of the animal itself but the فِسْق (defiance) of the person who slaughters the animal, then if this very فِسْق (defiance) is found in some other form, then it is but logical to regard that form under this category as well. Consequently, the Qur'an has informed us that slaughtering an animal without invoking the name of Allah and meat won in gambling come under it.
37. Muslim, No: 1407; Bukhari, No: 3980.
38. A hundred stripes are mentioned in Ahadith with rajm (stoning to death) merely to explain the law. If a person who has been awarded the death penalty is also guilty on other counts, then these punishments are though mentioned in the verdict, they are never meted out to him.
39. Although this narrative is not reported with this text in any of the three primary works of Hadith: Bukhari, Muslim and Mu'atta, however its content is basically found in these books.
40. Zamakhashari, Kashshaff, vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-'Arabi, n.d.), 215.
41. "We have explained in various ways Our revelations in this Qur'an so that the unbelievers may take heed." (17:41)
42. Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur'an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), 28.
43. Amin Ahsan Islahi, Mabadi Tadabbur-i Qur'an, 1st ed. (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1988) 60.
44. Muslim, No: 2473.
45. Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-'Arab, vol. 2, 359.
46. Jawad 'Ali, al-Mufassal fi Tarikh al-'Arab qabl al-Islam, 2nd ed., vol. 6, (Beirut: Dar al-'Ilm Li al-Malayin, 1986) 338.
47. Ibid., 344.
48. The Qur'an, 70:24.
49. Bukhari, No: 1581.
50. warning.
51. augmented and pronounced warning.
52. communicating the truth to the extent that no one is left with an excuse to deny it.
53. migration and acquittal.
54. Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur'an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), 20-21.
55. Ibid.
56. "There is no possibility of more than one interpretation in the Qur'an." (Farahi, Rasa'il fi 'Ulum al-Qur'an, 2nd ed. (Azamgarh: Da'irah Hamidiyyah, 1991), 230).
57. Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur'an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), 22.
58. Mathani (مثاني) is the plural of mathna (مثنى) and it means something which occurs in pairs.
59. For an explanation of this verse see: Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur'an, 2nd ed., vol. 4 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), 377-378.
60. Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur'an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), 30.

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