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General Discussions / 3:7 - Question to Bro.Joseph Islam
« on: March 14, 2013, 06:21:06 PM »
Assalamu alai'kum
I came across the following question and answer and I have couple of questions.
Salam alaykum Joseph,

I had a couple questions on 3:7

Verse 7. He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: In it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except 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.

1.  Some believe that the verse says...."but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge.  They say: "We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord:" and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding.

So some say the sentence ends at the end of "and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge."

I personally feel that the Qur'an left some ambiguity because those grounded in knowledge will grasp much of the allegorical verses (wheras many of those not with knowlede will not) but they may not grasp all the verses with the allegorical meaning and they may not grasp the full profundities of meanings and multiplicities of meanings as of course God can.

2.  "But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its..."

I understand why it is perverse to seek discord but is not searching for hidden meanings good so we can ponder on the Qur'an as other verse tell us to do so?

Maybe the criticism is only on "seeking discord" part but "searching for hidden meanings" is still attached to it as a do you interpret it?

Reply From Bro. Joseph Islam:
Salamun Alaikum.

I have shared my humble perspective in parts.

The Recitation:

The Quran is a 'mutawwatir' (with majority consensus) reading and secondly a text. Both have worked in tandem to protect the authenticity of the Quran. (recitation + codex). Any codex text of the Quran must always be understood in light of the Quran's mutawwatir recitation.

The main drive of verse 3:7 is to cement a believer's approach to the Quran which is to focus on the fundamental over the allegorical, clear over the unclear, substance over the symbolic, explicit over the implicit, and greater over the lesser.  Similarly, no lesser reading can ever supersede a majority reading.

The majority reading of 3:7 without doubt, accepts the pause separating it from 'wa-rasikuhuna fi-l'ilmi' (And those firm in knowledge)

Grasping Profundities:

I think there is a crucial difference in the 'tadabbur' (reflecting, studying, analysing) of clear verses of the Quran, reconciling them with other passages to 'grasp the full profundities' of its meaning, extracting 'hikmah' (wisdom) and applying them to our daily lives with that of 'searching the Quran for hidden meanings' and pursuing 'mutashibihaat'.

There is a difference.

The Quran calls itself 'clear bayyin', so the idea of pondering to extract hidden meanings does not even arise. Furthermore, the Quran clearly rebukes the approach without a proviso. I read the 'ib'tigha 'lfitna' (seeking discord) as a confirmation of a condition along with 'ibtighaa tawilihi' (seeking its interpretation) not a proviso. As with 74:31, there is a disease in the heart (fi qulubihim maradun) which makes them take this approach.

In my humble opinion, such an approach to seek hidden meanings and to justify it from the Quran is usually concocted by those that largely have a theological axe to grind to support esoteric knowledge and twist clear verses of the Quran to support a particular theological bias.

I hope that helps, God willing.


Dear Bro.Joseph Islam,

With full respect to your comments, I have some questions.  It seems to me there are some points needed to be verified and the truth is somewhere in the middle, not very clear cut.  The reasons;

1. You have mentioned “Quran is a 'mutawwatir' (with majority consensus) reading”.  I am unsure if it is appropriate to say majority understanding must be accepted as final – unless it is proved linguistically and grammatically that it is incorrect to say "no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge".  Even you have rejected traditional majority view when you interpreted - with very convincing proof - the word "seven" mentioned in “seven oft repeated verses”, is not actually “seven” but “several”.   So this point needs a further clarification and confirmation from you.

2. I understand your comments regarding 'grasping the full profundities' and also your comment Quran calls itself 'clear bayyin'.   However, I prefer to get a clarification for the verse using an example.   Let me state an example of a 'mutashibihaat' verse and I look forward to your analysis based on your explanation of the verse.  It is clear that the words like “hands of Allah” and “face of Allah” are 'mutashibihaat' verses.  I hope you do not have a different opinion on this point.  Here, we can safely assume that those who have firm knowledge (rasikuhuna fi-l'ilmi') will desist from giving literal interpretation for such verses, however, people who do not follow a correct approach (like those who follow secondary sources to explain the Quran and people who have lost focus on Quran, etc) likely to take these 'mutashibihaat’ verses and interpret them in the literal sense.  It is a big fitna to give literal meaning for these verses.   Don’t you think this is what is strongly condemned in the verse?  One important point to note in this verse is the term 'wa-rasikuhuna fi-l'ilmi'.  Is it supposed that only 'wa-rasikuhuna fi-l'ilmi' to say “We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord”?  Allah could have given a clear instruction for all the believers to say “We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord” without searching the hidden meaning of the  'mutashibihaat’ verses! 

Can you explain your understanding through the example of  'mutashibihaat' verses “hands of Allah” and “face of Allah” in Quran?   The choices of words in verse 3:7 seem very mysterious to me.  I feel like it can be interpreted in both ways with a stronger possibility of what I have stated (Allahu ahlam). 


General Discussions / 15:87
« on: March 04, 2013, 04:57:26 PM »
The term 'saba' (7) in the Arabic language can also denote a multiplicity. In verse 15:87 where the term 'saba'an minal-mathani' is encountered, a possible more consistent rendering 'several of the oft-repeated' was argued for. If viewed in this context, the verse could then arguably be considered as a reference to its core teachings which are repeated throughout the Quran in various ways. This would also be consistent with verse 39:23

Bro. Joseph Islam, I happened to read your above two posts.   Wonderful explanations!!   What is normally translated as "seven oft repeated" was always a mystery for me.  Earlier I had verified almost all the Quran translations and all translators were linking it with sura fathiha, except Parwez who “translated”  15:87 as “We have given to you directives in the magnificent Quran, and annals of history which repeats itself, in support thereof (39:23)”.  I cross check with Parwez since he is the only translator I know who does not rely on secondary sources to translate Quran, even though he does not go for word by word translation due to his own reasoning that meaning will be lost (many of the verses can not be understood) if  word by word translation is given.   I had at that time actually ignored his comment "annals of history which repeats itself" since I thought Parwez is going beyond the meaning of the verse and I had no clue why he is making such an interpretation.  You have done good effort to bring the correct meaning.  The usage of "seven" is in line with what we normally say “across seven seas” to mean several seas, not exact number 7.  I am curious to know whether you have translated/ or if you have any plan to translate the Quran since almost all available translations are based on secondary sources.   According to me, it is a serious case that all translators have failed to get the intended meaning of verse 15:87.

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