Rafed English

Awareness of the Philosophical and Scientific Theories

Adapted from: "Introduction to the Science of Tafsir of the Quran" by: "Ayatullah Subhani"

Having an awareness of the philosophical and scientific theories is a valuable source for the mind which would permit the intellect to expand and would lead to valuable interpretations of the Qur`an. By this we mean that although one must keep away from any form of explanation of the Qur`an according to one’s own personal opinion and must not seek to interpret the Qur`an in order to justify and validate one’s preconceived beliefs and thoughts.
However, at the same time, possessing an awareness of the thoughts and theories of the great philosophers of Islam in regards to monotheism (Tawhid), the characteristics and actions of Allah (awj) and other issues in relation to the beginning of creation and resurrection, in addition to having knowledge and understanding of the physical properties and makeup of the world and of mankind, will all lead one to having a better insight. In the end, this awareness and knowledge would actually allow a person to gain more benefit from the Qur`an.
Today, humanity has made great progress in attaining knowledge of the Earth, universe, and animal kingdom. Humankind has arrived at new horizons of understanding in regards to the sciences of psychology and sociology. Although it is correct to assert that not all of the knowledge that has been gained up until today is completely correct, however having a better understanding of the scientific breakthroughs and discoveries can lead a person’s philosophical and scientific awareness to become stronger. This acts as a source of blossoming of the mind of the commentator of the Qur`an, and grants him a special ability through which he would be able to make use of the Qur`an in the most complete way.
We narrate the following example in this regard to better understand this point.
The six verses mentioned in the beginning of Suratul Hadid (57) are the most clear proofs and words which we have in our possession to better understand this point. In this example of ours, we shall refer to and quote only two verses along with their translation:
هُوَ الأَوَّلُ وَالآخِـرُ وَالظَّاهِرُ وَالْبَاطِـنُ وَهُـوَ بِكُلِّ شَــيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ ٭ هُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضَ فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ ثُمَّ اسْـتَوَى عَلى الْعَرْشِ يَعْلَمُ مَا يَلِجُ فِي الأَرْضِ وَمَا يَخْرُجُ مِنْهَا وَمَا يَنْزِلُ مِنَ السَّمَآءِ وَمَا يَعْرُجُ فِـيهَا وَهُوَ مَعَكُمْ أَيْنَ مَا كُنْـتُمْ وَاللٌّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ
“He is the First and the Last and the Apparent and the Hidden and He has knowledge of all things. He it is Who created the Heavens and the Earth in six days; then settled on the Throne. He knows that which goes deep down into the Earth and that which comes forth out of it, and that which comes down from the sky and that which goes up into it, and He is with you wherever you are. And Allah sees what you do.”1
The philosophical and theological points mentioned in these two verses of the Qur`an (and indeed in the other four verses which follow) are so great that Imam ’Ali b. Husayn as-Sajjad (‘a) has stated the following in regards to these verses:
نُزِلَتْ لِلْمُتَعَمِّقِينَ فِي آخِرِ الزَّمَانِ.
“(These verses and indeed this chapter of the Qur`an) were revealed for those people who would come at the end of time who would go forth in deep thinking and pondering.”
There is not a single person who could objectively state that with mere knowledge of the Arabic language, he would be able to elucidate upon these verses of the Qur`an. When we (for example) go forth to translate these verses into Farsi, we would still remain in a state of ambiguity and uncertainty in regards to the actual purport of these verses.
However, the knowledge which we have gained through what the researchers of Islam have stated in regards to the encompassing nature of an entity and the science of the beginning of creation, act as a tool which permits the blossoming of the mind, which in turn leads us to having a better understanding of the substance of these verses of the Qur`an.
Is it possible for a person who has never studied anything and never seen a teacher to reach to the depths of the sentence which reads:
وَهُوَ مَعَكُمْ أَيْـنَمَا كُنْـتُمْ
“And He is with you wherever you may be.”
Can anyone who does not possess deeply grounded knowledge in the teachings of the Divine understand the reality of the part of the verse that reads:
هُوَ الأَوَّلُ وَالآخِرُ وَالظَّاهِرُ وَالبَّاطِـنُ
“He (Allah) is the First and the Last, the Apparent and the Hidden…”
We must repeat this point that: Our purpose in stating this issue is not that we go forth and interpret the Qur`an through the use of Greek or Islamic philosophy or through employing the new sciences and that we compare the Qur`an with these fallible theories. If this was the case, then surely this would be nothing other than commentary of the Qur`an through our own opinion which is, as we know and as was previously mentioned, prohibited both through employing the logical understanding and the Islamic legislations!
Rather, our aim here is that this form of awareness and knowledge (of other sciences and theories) would actually give our intellect the power and strength to better understand the verses of the Qur`an with a much more careful precision and in which we would be in a better position to appreciate the aims and goals intended by this Heavenly Book.
Today, the discussions of the psychologists and sociologists in regards to mankind and the studies of the scholars of the natural sciences in regards to the Earth and Universe have opened up new horizons in understanding the Qur`an and have given people in this day and age, the power to look at the Qur`an in a new light.
At this point, the greatness contained in the words of the eighth Imam, ’Ali b. Musa al-Rida (‘a) are made manifest. Once, a person asked the Imam (‘a) the following question:
مَا بَالُ الْقُرَآنِ لاَ يَزْدَادُ عِنْدَ النَّشْرِ وَالدَّرْسِ إِلاَّ غَضَاضَةً؟
“Why does the publication and study of the Qur’an, increase its freshness and newness?”
The Imam (‘a) replied:
لأَنَّ اللٌّهَ تَبَارَكَ وَ تَعَالَـى لَمْ يَجْعَلْهُ لِزَمَانٍ دُوْنَ زَمَانٍ، وَ لاَ لِنَاسٍ دُوْنَ نَاسٍ، فَهُوَ فِي كُلِّ زَمَانٍ جَدِيدٌ، وَ عِنْدَ كُلِّ قَوْمٍ غَضٌّ إِلـى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ.
“This is because Allah, the Blessed and the High, did not make it (the Qur`an) for a particular time period nor for a specific group of people. Therefore it is new for every time and fresh for every nation until the Day of Resurrection.”2
Perhaps it is due to this very reason that Ibne Abbas has said:
أَلقُرْآنُ يُفَسِّرُهُ الزَّمَانَ.
“Time interprets the Qur’an.”
The meaning of time is the different thoughts and sciences that appear in the human society, which bestow a new vision to the exegete of the Qur’an, as a result of which he derives such information from the Qur’an that the minds of his predecessors never contained.
  • 1. Suratul Hadid (57), Verses 3 & 4
  • 2. Tafsirul Burhan, vol. 1, pg. 28


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