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The Quran => Q&As with Joseph Islam - Information Only => : Reader Questions July 29, 2012, 12:31:09 AM

: Bayn - Prophet's Responsibility to Explain the Quran
: Reader Questions July 29, 2012, 12:31:09 AM
Sallam Joseph
We know from Quran, that it is' GOD who teaches Quran 'and it is for 'GOD to explain Quran' .
There is a verse in the Quran, which often translates as 'and the prophet was sent to explain the Quran'.
Is it correct, that the word'  Bayn,'does have two meanings,
1) To explain an unambiguous message
(assuming the 2 examples are correct) would the correct translation not be Proclaim, as
1) this is what the Prophets main duty was
2) If it was 'explain' would this then not be a contradiction against verses where GOD states 'he is teacher of the Quran etc.
Sallam and thank you,
: Re: Bayn - Prophet's Responsibility to Explain the Quran
: Joseph Islam July 29, 2012, 12:34:15 AM
Walaikum salam.

I am assuming that you are referring to a verse such as the one below which typically renders the Arabic 'litubayyina' as 'explain'.

YUSUFALI: (We sent them) with Clear Signs and Books of dark prophecies; and We have sent down unto thee (also) the Message; that thou mayest explain (litubayyina) clearly to men what is sent for them, and that they may give thought.

The Arabic ‘litubayyina' is better translated as 'that you make clear' and not 'explain'. It is formed from the verb 'bayyana' (verb form II) which means to show, to declare, to make manifest or to make clear. The verse asks the Prophet to state clearly what has been revealed to him. It carries meanings of to inform clearly of a matter or to apprise someone clearly of a matter and not necessarily 'elucidate' or 'explain'. There is a difference.

The meaning of the word 'yubayyinu' is best seen in another verse where it is offered as a contrast to something being 'hidden', i.e. being made clear / manifested

003:187 (part)
"And when God took a covenant from those who were given the Book, you certainly make it clear (Arabic: latubayyinunnahu) to mankind and do not to hide / conceal it (taktumunahu) ..."

The verb ‘abana’ (verb form IV) of which the verbal noun ‘bayan’ is derived ‘can’ carry the meaning of ‘explanation’ such as in verse 75:19. However, in this case, it is God that makes the explanation.

“Then indeed, upon Us is its explanation (Arabic: bayanahu)

However, this is not the form of the verb used in verse 16.44.

I hope this helps, God willing.
: Re: Bayn - Prophet's Responsibility to Explain the Quran
: Reader Questions July 29, 2012, 07:07:02 PM
Sallam and many thanks, helps hugely! :)

This imam makes uses of verse 62.2/2.129/3.164 (mainly) to stress his argument below.
What would be the best way 'counter this'?

The Status of the Holy Prophet (Sallallaho Alaihe Wassallam)

So, the first pertinent question in the subject is: What status does a prophet occupy when he is sent to the people? Has he no higher a status than that or a message-carrier or a postman who, after delivering the letter, has no concern with it whatsoever? The answer is certainly in the negative. The prophets are not sent merely to deliver the word of Allâh. They are also required to explain the divine Book, to interpret it, to expound it, to demonstrate the ways of its application and to present a practical example of its contents. Their duty is not restricted to reciting the words of the Book, rather they are supposed to teach it and to train people to run their lives in accordance with its requirements. The Holy Qur’ân leaves no doubt concerning this point by saying:

Allâh has surely blessed the believers with His favor when He raised in their midst a Messenger from among themselves, who recites to them His verses and makes them pure and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom, while they were, earlier in open error. (3:164)

He (Allâh) is the One who raised up, among the unlettered, a Messenger from among themselves who recites the verses of Allâh, and makes them pure, and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom. (62:2)

The same functions were attributed to the Holy Prophet (Sallallaho Alaihe Wassallam) in the prayer of Sayyidna Ibrahim (Sallallaho Alaihe Wassallam) when, according to the Holy Qur’ân, he prayed:

Our Lord, raise in their midst a messenger from among themselves who recites to them Your verses and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom and purifies them… (2:129)

These are the terms of reference given to the Holy Prophet (Sallallaho Alaihe Wassallam) which include four distinct functions and the Holy Prophet (Sallallaho Alaihe Wassallam) has been entrusted with all of them:

(1) Recitation of the Verses of Allâh.

(2) Teaching the Book of Allâh.

(3) Teaching the Wisdom.

(4) Making the people pure.

Thus, the Holy Qur’ân leaves no ambiguities in the fact that the Holy Prophet (Sallallaho Alaihe Wassallam) is not supposed to merely recite the verses and then leave it to the people to interpret and apply them in whatever manner they like. Instead, he is sent to “teach” the Book. Then, since teaching the Book is not enough, he is also required to teach “Wisdom” which is something additional to the “Book.” Still, this is not enough, therefore the Holy Prophet () has also to “make the people pure,” meaning thereby that the theoretical teaching of the Book and the “Wisdom” must be followed by a practical training to enable the people to apply the Book and the Wisdom in the way Allâh requires them to apply.

These verses of the Holy Qur’ân describe the following functions of the Holy Prophet (Sallallaho Alaihe Wassallam):

(a) He is the authority in the way the Holy Book [the Qur’ân] has to be recited.

(b) He has the final word in the interpretation of the Book.

(c) He is the only source at which the wisdom based on divine guidance can be learned.

(d) He is entrusted with the practical training of the people to bring his teachings into practice.
: Re: Bayn - Prophet's Responsibility to Explain the Quran
: Joseph Islam July 29, 2012, 07:14:16 PM
Walaikum salaam.

Indeed and of course the Prophet had a duty beyond just to recite the words that came to him. He was not just a ‘postman’ as has been intimated. He was a Prophet of God in which he had wide ranging responsibilities least alone as a spiritual guide.

The fact that this is even debated by the traditionalists or the reformists is quite fantastic.

With respect, the point that I feel is being missed by the imam and is also often missed by some Quran reformists, is that the Prophet best applied the Quran he received to his specific circumstances given his cultural and societal needs. This is the ‘ilm’ he gave to his people in the capacity as a Prophet of God with ‘wisdom’ (hikmat).

“…He raised among them a messenger from themselves reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them (‘yu’allimu‘ -  ilm) the Book and the wisdom (hikmat)…”

The Quran's wisdom remains timeless but the Prophet's circumstances were time specific. For the Prophet's practice to be applicable today, the Prophet's circumstances would also need to exist today. They simply do not.

If the Prophet was alive today, he arguably would have applied the Quran's wisdom to today's circumstances to teach his people (yu’allimu) which may have yielded different outcomes. What is often not appreciated by the clergy is that even the Prophet was often told to consult with his contemporaries before he made a decision. Therefore, specific conditions and a people were a prerequisite for the Prophetic teachings to have any substantial meaning. This could have been a reason why it was not deemed necessary to canonise his teachings in the earliest generations when his closest companions were alive.

"It was by the mercy of God that you (Muhammad) were lenient with them, for if you had been rude and harsh of heart they would have dispersed from round about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult (Arabic: watamiru) among yourselves. And when you have decided, then put thy trust in God. Indeed! God loves those who put their trust (in Him)"

So indeed, the Prophet would have best applied the Quranic principles to his circumstances and taught them with wisdom.

However to conclude from this that this is binding 1400 years later when those circumstances simply don't exist is unwarranted. Those circumstances simply don't exist and the Quran gives absolutely no warrant for this assertion. The Quran only makes binding its own text and any wisdom that can be extracted from it to apply to one’s circumstances.

A sunnah of a people cannot simply exist separately from its specific circumstances [1]

Furthermore, God made no guarantee to protect the Prophet's teachings in any form as he did with the Quran (15:9). To suggest that the Prophetic teachings have been protected in the Ahadith corpus which were not canonised until centuries after the death of the Prophet is also academically unwarranted.

I hope this helps, God willing.

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