It needs to be clarified that the Mutashābihāt of
the Qur’ān are verses in which things that are beyond human observation or
comprehension are mentioned in the form of comparison (Tashbīh) to things which
we know in our own language and through our own experience. The actual purport
conveyed by these verses is clear. However, human intellect is not equipped to
grasp the reality to which they refer. For example, it is said in Surah Haāqah
that the Almighty’s throne shall be lifted by eight angels on the Day of
Judgement. Now we cannot know what the throne will be like, though we may have a
slight idea since the word throne is also a common word in our language.
Similarly, Sūrah Muddaththir says that there will be 19 sentinels guarding Hell.
Again we cannot say why there will be 19 and what they will be like, though we
know that the word 19 mentions a definite number. Consequently, verses which
mention the blowing of spirit in Adam,
the birth of Jesus (sws) without a father,
nature of God’s actions like His sitting on a throne,
the blessings of Paradise like the nature of its milk and honey,
the torments of Hell like the tree of Zaqqūm growing in Fire
are examples of the Mutashābihāt. The real purpose of such verses is that they
become a trial and test for people since they must profess faith in them,
without going after their reality. The Qur’ān says:
He it is Who has sent down to you the Book; in it are
verses fundamental; they are the foundation of the book: others are Mutashābihāt.
But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the Mutashābihāt seeking discord,
and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows their true reality
except Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: ‘We believe in
the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord:’ and none will grasp the Message
except men of understanding. (3:7)
An important point worth noting in the above mentioned verses is that it has
not been said that the meaning of the Mutashābihāt is only known to Allah.
Rather it has been declared that their reality is only known to Him. The actual
word used is Ta’wīl which is used in same sense here as in the following verse:
He [Joseph] said: This is the reality [in the interpretation] of my dream
which I had seen before. (12:100)
Consequently, the meaning of the words in which the dream of Joseph has been
mentioned in the Qur’ān is clear to everyone who knows Arabic. However, the
reality denoted by the various elements of the dream like the sun, the moon and
the eleven stars (12:4) was only known once the dream was fulfilled.
It is evident from these details that the Mutashābihāt of the Qur’ān are
verses the true reality of which human intellect is not capable of knowing since
there can be no words in a language which can describe things yet to come in
human observation. Consequently, words which may be similar to the concepts
conveyed by these things of the unknown world are used to portray these details.
It is incorrect to regard them as verses whose meaning is unclear or doubtful.