Useful Hints for Reading the Quran
Rule One: The Straightforward Meaning
As presented in the section (Quran, fully detailed Scripture), the receivers of the Quran will be accountable on the Day of Judgement for abiding by the law of God contained in the Quran. The law of God is given in the 'law giving' verses of the Quran. Since God is the most Fair Judge, these 'law giving' verses are given in very clear and straightforward language. Nevertheless, and as a reader, one often comes across the situation where one has just read one of these 'law giving' Quranic verses only to find that in the interpretation it has been given a completely different meaning by the interpreter! If one should inquire into the reason behind this discrepancy one is told that the Quran is very difficult to understand, and that these proficient interpreters have spent many years of their lives in mastering the science of Quranic interpretation, and thus their interpretation in fact presents what the verse really is supposed to mean! You may also be told that this is the interpretation given by the Prophet himself.
To 99% of all readers these answers will be sufficient and to them this will be the end of the matter, even though they may still harbour an uneasy suspicion deep inside. Sadly, less than 1% of all readers will seek to find satisfactory answers to the following questions:
1- How can God say one thing yet the interpreters tell us that God really meant something totally different? Is God giving us puzzles?
2- How can the interpreter tell us that without his inspired interpretation we could not understand the Quran? Is God inefficient in putting across the meaning and relies on the interpreter to enlighten the reader?
3- How can God say one thing yet the interpreters tell us that the messenger of God said the contrary? This is often the case when there is a hadith that contradicts the Quran. Has the messenger of God preached a different meaning to what God's words mean?
4- How can God assert that the Quran is clear and easy to understand, yet the interpreters and scholars claim that the Quran is difficult to understand?
"A.L.R. These are the signs of the clear Book" 12:1
"We have made it easy to understand and in your own tongue so that they may take heed" 44:58
5- How can God tell us that the Quran is fully detailed yet the interpreters add a whole host of words in their interpretations, none of which are found in the text of the Quran, and claim that the meaning is incomplete without these added words?
6- God confirms that it is only He who can bless anyone with the true meaning of the Quran and the understanding of the Quranic message (55:1-2 and 75:19). Still, the scholars tell us that no one can understand the Quran without their interpretations!
"The Almight taught the Quran." 55:1-2
"Then it is for Us to explain it." 75:19
The genuine believers will always choose to believe God's words rather than the words of any interpreter. They will always accept the straightforward meaning of the Quranic verse rather than the vague far fetched meaning. In return, God has rendered the Quran easy for the genuine believers to understand. As for those who choose to believe other than God, God has placed shields over their eyes and hearts which prevents them from understanding the Quran. They are not permitted access to the Quranic truth even though they may be professors of the Arabic language and may have spent all their lives with their heads immersed in what they call "the science of Quranic interpretation"!
"Who is more transgressing than one who has been reminded of his Lord's signs, but he turned away from them and forgot what his hands had done. We have placed veils on their hearts so they do not understand it and deafness in their ears. If you invite them to the guidance, they will not be guided then, ever." 18:57
The following example demonstrates one such case where we have a very clearly worded 'law giving' Quranic verse. The words in this verse can only have one meaning, yet the majority of Muslims have been led to reject the straightforward meaning and instead accept a twisted meaning:
"The Hajj is during the known months, so whoever executes the Hajj in them (the known months) shall refrain from sexual intercourse, wickedness and arguing throughout Hajj. Whatever good you do, God is aware of it, and supply yourself with provisions and verily the best provision is reverence." 2:197
The above words state clearly that God has decreed Hajj is to be observed anytime during the specified months. These are the four months which God calls "hurum" in 9:36.
However, to comply with various hadith, the interpreters have restricted the hajj to the first 10 days of the month of Dhu Al-Hijjah (12th month of the Islamic calendar). When they are asked why they restrict Hajj to only 10 days when God has allowed Hajj to be observed any time during the 4 hurum months, they will come up with the following totally irrational explanation:
- In the old days, people used to travel by camel, and so it would take months to arrive at Mecca! So 2:197 does not really say that hajj can be observed any time during the 4 months, what 2:197 really means is that people can make the intention during the 4 months!
Besides the fact that this explanation defies the universality (time and place) of the Quranic law by making the law of Hajj in the Quran modelled purely on the camel travellers of the 7th century, still, let us assume that this explanation is legitimate, we would have to conclude that a camel traveller who makes the intention for Hajj on the first day of the 4 months, then getting on his camel and arriving one or two months later, would have actually missed the 10 day Hajj!
- Some others will tell us that this Quranic verse (2:197) has been abrogated or that a certain hadith has cancelled out this verse! Needless to say, the concept of Quranic Abrogation is a great lie and insult to God's words which we are told are unchangeable:
" .......... There is no changing the words of God." 10:64
For more details, please see: The Lie of Quranic Abrogation
Verily, only the straightforward meaning of the 'law giving' verses should be accepted. We should accept without any reservation that God is the most competent and able to express any meaning. God is not in need of the interpreter's additions to render the meaning clearer! God is the Omnipotent. His ability is unrestricted; He is Sovereign over all things.
"To Him belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. He brings to life and puts to death. He is capable of all things." 57:2
It is quite insulting to God to assume that the words of the Quran that stipulate His Law could mean anything but their literal meaning. God's words are chosen with optimum precision so as to best convey the meaning. To interpret any 'Law giving' Quranic verse by adding or subtracting even one word to it is to commit a gross sin. We must check any such attempts and guard against them.
The genuine believers, upon discovering that they have not been following the literal meaning of the Quran, will always, and without any hesitation, change their old ways rather than continue to follow twisted meanings of the Quranic text.
We should be especially alert to Satan's numerous tricks of deception. On this particular subject, he will fabricate fancy words and attribute them to various prophets:
"We have made enemies for every Prophet, human and jinn devils, inspiring to one another fancy sayings in order to deceive. Had your Lord willed, they would not have done it. You shall disregard them and what they fabricate." 6:112
In the verse to follow (6:113) we are told that God allows this to happen to expose the hypocrites who would rather uphold the dubious fabrications rather than the certainty of the Quranic words.
Not surprisingly, the very next verse (6:114) confirms that God is the only Law Maker and that the Quran is 'fully detailed'.
Rule Two : Related Verses
When studying any subject in the Quran we must thoroughly look into all the verses that deal with that specific subject. To deduce any conclusion or rule from one verse in isolation can often be misleading.
In many ways, the Quran is unlike any other book (see: Introduction to the Quran). It is neither an academic book nor is it a book of poetry as such. Nevertheless, it contains a wealth of knowledge delivered with commanding poetic style. While as any academic book, when dealing with a specific subject, would normally adopt the accustomed pattern comprising an introduction, a presentation and a conclusion, the Quran differs in as much as it does away with all traditional literally formats.
In any book other than the Quran one would expect to find each chapter dealing with one major topic. This is not always the case with the Quran, for although many of the shorter Suras deal with one particular topic or incident, it is not uncommon to find other Suras that cover most of the main subjects of the Quran (e.g. Sura 2). Therefore, we often find the same Quranic subject addressed in more than one chapter. Moreover, often within the same chapter we often find the topic categorically changed from one verse to the other without any due preparation. This is because the Quran is primarily a book of Divine Truth and not views. Divine Truth, unlike human views, is not in need of elaborate presentation or skillful justification. Every single Quranic verse is Divine Truth, and is well capable of revealing an independent truth, wherever it is placed inside the book. Each independent truth forms part of the overall picture that emerges when studying a particular Quranic subject. Contrary to what the abrogation scholars claim, no Quranic verse will violate or invalidate another, yet at the same time, no overall Quranic concept may be deduced from one verse in isolation.
Rule Three: Universal Address
The Quran, being the final revelation from God, is addressed to all mankind and for all times. Unless the Quranic verse under study specifically stipulates that it is confined to a particular people or era, it addresses all people at all times. Furthermore, all the verses that start with 'say', and unless they contain reason to believe that they are addressed to a specific person or messenger, they address all believers at all times (e.g. the last 3 Suras in the Quran).
This rule has been violated and greatly abused by many interpreters in order to manipulate the meaning of God's words. To demonstrate this issue, consider the following example:
Suppose we are given the following information about a particular school:
'Half of the students in the school are male.'
If we wish to corrupt this simple statistic we could imply that half the students who are over twelve years old are male. Or we can state that only between certain years, say 1986 till 1988, half the students were male. Obviously both of these imposed restrictions on the original statistic are corruptions. The original text contained no restrictions on the age of the students nor did it specify a time. To read this statistic correctly we must maintain that half the students, at all times and of all ages are male. Similarly we must maintain the same precision with the Quran. Perhaps a classic example of this type of corruption is related to the following verse:
"When God alone is mentioned, the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter are filled with aversion, but when others are mentioned besides Him, they rejoice." 39:45
Various interpreters when interpreting this verse inserted the words (other gods) to their interpretation so as to mean, 'but when (other gods) are mentioned beside Him.....'
This is a clear manipulation because the Arabic word used in the Quranic text is 'dunihee' which means 'others besides Him'. Therefore, to restrict the meaning to 'other gods' when the word 'others' includes all other than God, and not just 'other gods', is indeed a corruption of the verse. The unrestricted Quranic word 'others' would include other gods, angels, prophets, saints and so on. Surely if God wanted the meaning to be restricted to 'other gods' God would have said: 'but when other gods are mentioned'. God is not short of words!
The great importance of this particular verse will be dealt with later.
Rule three means that God's Law in the Quran is for all people and for all times, and that unless specifically stated otherwise, it is decreed for all.
When certain verses speak to/of a specific people or time, God makes this restriction very clear to us within the verse. An example of this can be found in the verses that detail some of the prohibitions that were imposed on the Jews as a punishment for their transgression:
"Due to the transgressions of the Jews We have prohibited for them good things which used to be lawful for them; also for repelling many from the path of God." 4:160
Consequently, to claim that a certain verse only addresses a certain people or a certain period of time, without the existence of clear evidence in the verse to indicate such a restriction, is to deliberately twist and corrupt God's words and is indeed a gross sin.
Rule Four: The Significance of historical background
A special word has to be mentioned here about what is commonly referred to as 'Asbaab al-nuzool' which means the historical reasons behind the revelation of various Quranic verses.
Many of the Quranic verses are connected to particular incidents that took place at the time of the revelation of the Quran. The following verses are examples:
1- "You said to the one on whom God bestowed favour, and on whom you bestowed favour, "Hold on to your wife and revere God", and you hid inside yourself that which God deemed to be proclaimed. You feared the people, when it was God who is more worthy for you to fear. When Zeid dissolved his union with her, We had you marry her to confirm that no blame falls on the believers for marrying the wives of their adopted sons, once their union is dissolved. God's command shall be done." 33:37
2- "O you Prophet, why do you prohibit what God has made lawful for you, seeking to please your wives? God is Forgiver, Merciful." 66:1
It has been said in connection to the first of these two verses, that the historical background goes that Zeid and Zeinab's marriage was blessed by the Prophet. Since Zeid was a freed slave and Zeinab was among the upper class of Mecca, their marriage was a symbol of the brotherhood of Islam. However, their marriage was not a happy one. Zeinab looked down on Zeid because of his background. Zeid wished to divorce Zeinab and asked for the Prophet's approval. The Prophet, having blessed the marriage for what it stood for, feared that a divorce would incur the ridicule of the people, and thus advised Zeid against the divorce. The Prophet feared the people's reaction when he should have feared God alone.
The historical background of the second verse goes that the Prophet went to visit one of his wives, Hafza, and remained with her for a while and she offered him some honey. When he returned to his other wives, Aisha and Sawda, they were jealous and accused him of spending more time with Hafza than with them. They said that they too had honey to offer him. They caused him great distress that he said that he would never ever taste honey again (prohibited on himself).
It must be said that these historical events, whether they are genuine or not, are not given in the Quran because they do not contribute to the message of the Quran. In addition, the historical background of any Quranic verse should never alter or invalidate the law inherent in the verse. These two verses proclaim the following laws:
Verse One (33:37)
1- All believers should never fear anyone but God alone.
2- It is not prohibited for a man to marry the divorced wife of his adopted son.
Verse Two (66:1)
1- The Prophet, or indeed any human being, may not prohibit anything that God has made lawful.
As a result of the implementation of the historical background, some scholars have interpreted these two verses in a totally corrupt way by saying:
1- That verse 1 of Sura 66 applies only to honey and that the prophet is allowed to prohibit other things!
2- That the law allowing a man to marry the divorced wife of his adopted son applied only at the time of the prophet and not to all times!
Perhaps God, being aware of all future corruptions, has deliberately avoided in 66:1 any mention of the article which the Prophet had prohibited on himself so as to indicate to the true believers that the nature of the article in itself is of no significance. It could have been honey, milk or peanuts! What matters is that the Prophet does not have the authority to prohibit anything made lawful by God. This is well in line with Quranic truth:
"The sole duty of the messenger is the clear delivery (of God's message)." 24:54
The Quran states that no prophet brings a law of his own. The only law and Sunna is that of God:
"You will find that there is no substitute for the Sunna of God." 33:62
1- The claim that God revealed a certain verse, containing one rule or law, in direct response to a specific historic event, would imply that if this historic event did not take place that we may not have been given that rule or law from God!
2- To claim that a certain historic event was the reason behind the revelation of a certain Quranic verse would imply that the rules and laws contained in such verses are related only to local places and specific times. This contradicts the universal nature of God's law which is applicable to all people and all times, regardless of what historic event took place at the time. The law of God stands indepnedent of all incidents related to a time or a place, and it shall be revealed whether these incidents took place or not.
3- With the creation of the so-called science of 'Asbaab al-nuzool' (Historical reasons behind the revelations), the hadith scholars are able to corrupt many Quranic verses (usually when it contradicts a certain hadith) by claiming that this verse was only revealed because of a historic event and that it does not apply to us today!
4- The Quran indeed speaks of several historic events, not because the Quran is a book of history, but because the narration of these events contributes to the Quranic message as a whole. For that, God may not give us all the details of these historic events, but only the details that are connected to the message of the Quran. If God saw that we need the extra historic knowledge of any event to understand the Quran, God would have surely included such information in the book.
5- Finally, these historic narrations all come from hadith and other unreliable sources; their credibility is highly questionable. But even if some of these sources may contain various pieces of truth, to use hadith to understand the Quran is to disregard God's instruction to believe no hadith other than the Quran (45:6).
Rule Five: The Quran contains all the details
Believe it or not, some sceptics are asking questions such as:
"If the Quran contains everything as you say, then why can't I find in it the recipe for cooking a curry?"
The answer to this question is quite straightforward. The reason why the Quran does not contain information about how to cook a curry or how to drive our cars, etc, is given in the Quran. The purpose of the Quran (or any Scripture) is defined very clearly, and it is to provide mankind with the means for salvation. Therefore, since the way we cook a curry or the way we drive our cars does not affect our fate on judgement day, then their details are not included in the scripture. Most assuredly, the Quran is all we need for salvation.
To understand the meaning of 6:114 and other verses that assure us that the Quran contains all we need, we must read a number of other verses as well:
We are told in 2:38 that God's offer to redeem mankind involved sending mankind the guidance, and that the ones who will accept this guidance, which in verse 2:39 is connected to 'Ayat Allah' (God's revelations) will be redeemed while those who reject it will end up in hell.
"We said, "Go down there from, all of you, then when guidance comes to you from Me, those who follow My guidance will have no fear nor will they grieve. And for those who disbelieved and rejected Our revelations, they will be the companions of the fire; therein they permanently remain." 2:38-39
We also read that God sent the guidance through the Quran (27:2, 31:3). The guidance was given to the previous people in the previous Scripture (3:4).
With the above confirmation of the role of the Quran (and all the other Scriptures) in providing the means for salvation, God then states that the Quran contains all the details. It is only logical to understand the completeness of the Quran in relationship to its function, which is to provide the guidance and the means for salvation.
The verse which gives us the attribute of the Quran being fully detailed is 6:114, and the opening words of this verse are:
"Shall I seek other than God as a law maker?"
God's words then continue to describe the Quran as being "fully detailed".
As a result, we are given the precise meaning of the fully detailed attribute of the Quran. The Quran is fully detailed in respect of containing all the law of God which we need to practice Islam, and to attain salvation.
Let us consider the following situation:
You are studying in school for a physics exam, and your teacher gives you a book and tells you it contains everything you need to pass the exam. You cannot one day complain to him that you did not find in the book how to cook a pizza!
The teacher never claimed that the book contained information on how to cook a pizza, he only said it contained everything to pass the exam.
Moreover, you should not go and acquire a book from any other source and follow it, since the questions you will get in your exam will be based on the book the teacher gave you and not any other book.
Similarly, since God defined for us the function of the Quran (or any Scripture), which is to provide the complete rules to attain salvation (2:38-39), then we must understand the completeness of the Quran according to the function ascribed to it and not in an absolute sense.
Once again, all this confirms the fact that to attain salvation and redeem our souls in God's heaven we only need the rules and laws which are set for us, and not the rules and rituals which were decreed for those before us. In 5:48, we are told that our 'menhaj' is the Quran and not the rituals or scripture given to those before us.