Disputing with the Language of the Sacred Texts A – The issue of Mutashabih
It is He who has sent down to you, [O Muhammad], the Book; in it are verses [that are] precise (muhkam) – they are the foundation of the Book – clearand others not as clear (mutashabih). As for those in whose hearts is deviation [from truth], they will follow that of it which is unspecific, seeking discord and seeking an interpretation [suitable to them]. And no one knows its [true] interpretation (ta’wil) except Allah . But those firm in knowledge say, “We believe in it. All [of it] is from our Lord.” And no one will be reminded except those of understanding. [3:7]
Muhkam linguistically means to prevent or obstruct. In context of the ayaat of Quran it means an ayah clear in meaning, and not open to interpretation. An example of this is the verses pertaining to inheritance. They are explicit.
Mutashabih means to resemble or be similar to. In this context it is verses that can have more than one meaning and thus be misinterpreted if misunderstood. It does not, however, mean allegorical as some translations say.
All scholars of the Quran have stated that the mutashabih verses must be understood in light of the muhkam ones.
Allah (swt) divides the Quran into 2 categories. People with a disease in their hearts will be able to misinterpret the mutashabih ayaat.
An example of this is the Qadiyanis who claim that there is a prophet after Rasoolullah(saw) by twisting the ayah,
And for every Ummah (a community or a nation), there is a Messenger [10:47]
The response to this is to look at this ayah in terms of the muhkam ayaat in this regard, for example,
Muhammad (SAW) is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last (end) of the Prophets [33:40]
The main point to remember is that the mutashabih ayaat are not neglected, rather, they are understood in light of the muhkam ones. The common error of all groups of kalam was to claim that all the Attributes of Allah were mutashabih.
This led to what is known as ta’wil. Linguistically it has 3 meanings, 2 of which are used by the Quran and classical Arabic grammarians, and one added by later scholars of kalam.
To strip a word of its primary meaning, and understand it in light of a secondary, or even unknown, meaning. This meaning was unknown to early scholars.
The ayah (3:7) can be read in 2 ways. The first is to stop here, “…and no one knows its ta’wil except for Allah. And those grounded in knowledge say….” This is how ibn Mas’ood and Ubay bin Ka’b would recite it. The second is to read it, “…and no one knows its ta’wil except for Allah and those grounded in knowledge. [They] say….” and this was the recitation of ibn Abbas.
The recitation of ibn Abbas goes back to interpretation (tafseer) and the reading of ibn Mas’ood is of actualization. One of the proofs of this is ibn Abbas saying that I am of the people of knowledge and know the ta’wil.
Since the groups of kalam claim that Allah’s Attributes are mutashabih they claim that we must make ta’wil of them. So for example they will say the Hand of Allah means His Power.
Posted on November 3, 2013, in Aqeedah 102, V - Disputing with the Language of the Sacred Texts and tagged Disputing with the language of the Sacred Texts. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.