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- Is the interpreter cleverer than God? How can the interpreter be able to put the correct meaning across while God could not?
3- How can God say one thing yet the interpreters tell us that the messenger of God said the contrary? 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 (as per the following verses), yet these self-proclaimed custodians of the faith claim that it 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 may they take heed” 44:58
5- 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 self-appointed ulama (scholars) tell us that no one can understand the Quran without their enlightened interpretations!
"The Almight taught the Quran." 55:1-2
"Then it is for Us to explain it." 75:19
The genuine believers will choose to believe God’s words rather than the words of any interpreter. They will always accept the straightforward meaning of the Quranic verse. The genuine believer will always show absolute trust and respect for God’s words, rather than be duped into accepting any farfetched meaning fabricated by the interpreters. In return, God has rendered the Quran easy for them to understand. As for those who choose to believe other than God, God has placed shields over their eyes and hearts which stops 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 don’t understand it and deafness in their ears. If you invite them to the guidance they will never ever be guided.” 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 tricked into rejecting the straightforward meaning and instead accepting a twisted meaning:
"The Hajj is during the known months, so whoever executes the Hajj in them shall refrain from sexual intercourse, wickedness and arguing throughout Hajj, and whatever good you do, God is aware of it, and supply yourself with provisions and verily the best provision is reverence. You shall revere Me, O you who possess intelligence." 2:197
The above words state clearly that God has decreed Hajj is to be observed at anytime during the specified months. These are the four months which God calls "hurum" in 9:36.
Still, somehow the interpreters have restricted the hajj to the first 10 days of the first of the four months. When they are asked why they restrict hajj to the first 10 days of the 4 months when God has allowed it for the duration of 4 months, they will come up with the most ridiculous explanations like:
- In the old days, people used to travel by camel, and so it would take months to arrive at Mecca! So 2:97 does not really say that hajj can be observed any time during the 4 months, what 2:97 really means is that people can make the intention during the 4 months!
Is that so! Ok, let us assume that this ridiculous excuse is correct, then someone making the intention on the first day of the 4 months (as they say the intention is to be made during the 4 months) and then getting on his camel and arriving one or two months later, would have actually missed his hajj (since the hajj according to the corrupt interpreters can only be observed during the first 10 days of the 4 hurum months).
- Some others will tell us that this Quranic verse (2:197) has been abrogated or that a certain hadith has cancelled this verse! What they are actually saying is that God was unsure of what He wanted to authorise, so in effect He authorised one law, then changed His mind and cancelled it (as the fabricated claim of Quranic abrogation implies). Some others will make the outrageous claim that some hadith actually abrogate some Quranic verses! This claim would in fact endorse the prophet as one who had the authority to abrogate Quranic verses! Needless to say, all these claims are totally blasphemous and are in direct contradiction to a number of Quranic verses.
For more details, please see: The Lie of Quranic Abrogation
So to conclude, 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 kingship 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 own ways rather than manipulate the meaning 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 the prophet. This is to lead us into believing that the prophet interpreted the Quranic verse in a manner that is contrary to the literal meaning of the verse:
"We have permitted the enemies of every prophet, human and jinn devils, to inspire to one another fancy sayings in order to deceive. Had your Lord willed, they would not have done it. You shall disregard them and their fabrications." 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 the command to accept no source of law other than the Quran which is described as "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. 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 Sura’s deal with one particular topic or incident, it is not uncommon to find other Sura’s 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 clan 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, do address all people at all times (e.g. the last 3 Sura's 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 beside Him, they rejoice.” 39:45
The corrupt 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 blatant manipulation because the word used in the Quranic text is “Doonihee” which means ‘other than He’, however, to restrict the meaning to ‘other gods’ is indeed a corruption of the verse. When the verse says ‘other than He’, this could mean other gods, but could equally mean angels, prophets, saints, people 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 also 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. The same religion that was decreed to Noah and Abraham was decreed to Moses and Jesus, and is indeed that which was decreed to Muhammad and to us today. This is confirmed in the following verse:
“He has legislated for you of the religion what He has instructed for Noah and what We inspired to you and what we instructed for Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: "You shall establish the religion and be not divided therein .....” 42:13
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 that 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 away 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 and purpose behind the revelation of certain 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 who was blessed by God, and blessed by you, "Hold on to your wife and revere God," and you hid inside yourself that which God deemed 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 commands 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 her than with them. They said that they too had honey to offer him. They caused him such a 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.
To interpret the significance of the historical background of these two verses in a corrupt way is to claim for example:
1- That verse 1 of Sura 66 applies only to honey and that the prophet is allowed to prohibit other matters!
2- That the law allowing a man to marry the divorced wife of his adopted son applied only to the time of the prophet and not to all times!
Perhaps God, being aware of all future corruptions, has deliberately avoided any mention of the article which the prophet had prohibited on himself as in 66:1, 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." 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
The proper use therefore of the historical background, or as is known as ‘Asbaab Al Nozool”, is to better understand the circumstances that surrounded the revelation of the verse. It is a blatant corruption to use 'Asbaab Al Nozool' to impose restrictions of any kind or to alter or cancel the law contained in such verses. Furthermore it is a total misunderstanding to imply that any isolated incident related to a particular moment in time (e.g. the divorce of Zeid and Zeinab) could have been the reason for legislation from God. It is more realistic to maintain that God’s Law is set well before the occurrence of any historical incident and that God ordained such historical incidents to occur, and merit a mention in the Quran, so as to set an example. With this in mind, the term ‘Asbaab Al Nozool’ (Historical Reason for revelation) becomes erroneous and that is because the term implies that before such incidents occurred these laws were not necessary! A Quranic verse, containing God’s Divine Law, is never revealed to accommodate a historical incident. Instead, God ordains historical incidents to happen so as to stand as examples in affirming His Law.
Using verse 1 of Sura 66 as an example, it would be incorrect to assume that the law of God, which states that God is the only Law Giver, was only established in response to the incident in 66:1, but rather it is more factual to conclude that God decreed that such incident should occur, and that it is deliberately mentioned in the Quran, so that believers reading the Quran hundreds of years later would be assured that the only Law Giver is God. Prohibition belongs to God alone. The importance of this matter is further emphasized by the fact that the Sura itself is named ‘Prohibition”.
Rule Five: The Quran contains all the details
Believe it or not, some sceptics are asking questions like:
"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 us with the means for salvation. And 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. As a result, the Quran is all we need for salvation.
The Quran, like any other Scripture is a manual of how to get to heaven and how to correct our initial mistake. The Quran contains all the details we need for this specific purpose.
To understand the meaning of 6:38 (the Quran contains everything) 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 us ‘Huda’ (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 forever remain." 2:38-39
We also read that God sent the ‘Huda’ (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 exact duty of the Quran (and all the other scripture), which is to outline the means for salvation, God then states that the Quran contains everything. It is only logical to understand the completeness of the Quran in relationship to its function, which is to provide the guidance and 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 source of law?"
God's words then continue to describes the Quran as being "fully detailed".
As a result, we are give 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 compare with 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 cannot go and borrow a book from the class of the year before you and follow it, since the questions you will get in your exam will be based on the book the teacher gave you and not the book given to them. You have your 'minhaj' (rules) and they have theirs (see minhaj in 5:48).
Similarly, since God defined for us the function of the Quran (or any Scripture) as being 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.