The Wisdom Contained in the Two Facets of the Qur'an: The Inner and the Outer
- :Allamah Tabatabai
Man's primary life, namely, the temporal life of this world, is as a bubble on the immense sea of the material; and since a] his transactions concern the material, he is throughout his lift at the mercy of the moving waves. All his senses are occupied~ with the material and his thoughts influenced by sensor information. Eating, drinking, standing, speaking, listening like all other human actions, take place in the sphere of the material and not in the sphere of thought. Moreover, in reflecting upon such concepts as love, enmity) ambition and nobility, one comes to better understand them by translating them into language derived from the senses a from actual material objects; for example, the magnetic attraction of lovers, a burning ambition, or a man's being mine of wisdom.
Capacity to comprehend the world of meaning, which vaster than that of the material, varies from man to man. F one person it may be almost impossible to imagine the won of meanings; another may perceive it only in the mo superficial terms and, yet another, may comprehend with ea~ the most profound of spiritual concepts. One may say that the greater a man's capacity to understand meanings, the lesser he is attached to the world of the material and its alluring, deceiving appearance.
By his ye: Nature, each person possesses a potential for understanding meanings and, provided that he does not deny this capacity, may be cultivated and increased further. It is not a simple matter to reduce meaning from one level understanding to another without losing its sense. This particularly true for meanings possessing great subtlety why cannot be transmitted, especially to ordinary people, witches adequate explanation. As one example, we may mention t Hindu religion: anyone reflecting deeply upon the vec scriptures of India and studying the different aspects of its message will ultimately see that its basic aim is the worship of one God.
Unfortunately this aim is explained in such a complicated manner that the concept of oneness reaches the minds of ordinary people in the form of idol-worship and the recognition of many gods. To avoid such problems, it becomes necessary to communicate meanings hidden beyond the material world in a language, which is rooted in the material 1, is and readily comprehensible world.
Indeed some religions deprive their adherents of rights Life, accorded to them by the religion itself: women, for example, in ied Hinduism; Jews and Christians who, in general, are denied ory access to knowledge of their holy books. Islam does not, deprive anyone of their rights in the din, and man and the woman, scholar and layman, black and white are equal in Being accorded access to their religion. God affirms this in chapter 111:195, "Indeed 1 do not allow the iem work of an, worker, male or female, to be lost," and, again, in s or chapter XLIX: 13, " mankind! Truly we have created you male and etic female and have made you nations and tribes that you may know one Another. Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of God is the best in conduct. "
In this manner the Qur'an addresses its teachings to for mankind at large and affirms that every man may increase odd himself in knowledge and, thereby, perfect his own behaviour. Most In fact, the Qur'an addresses its teachings specifically to the ease world of man. Since, as mentioned earlier, each man has a different capacity of understanding and since the expounding Lder- of subtle knowledge is not without danger of misinterpreted the lion, the Qur'an directs its teachings primarily at the level of the common man.
In this manner, the subtlest of meanings can be explained, it and multiple meanings and ideas expressed, to the ordinary person, by co-relating them to concrete sensory meanings; meaning, therefore, is always inherent in the letter of the words. The Qur'an reveals itself in a way suitable for different levels of comprehension so that each benefits according to his own capacity. In chapter XLIH: 3-4 God emphasizes this idea: Truly we have appointed it a lecture in Arabic so that you may perhaps understand and indeed in the source of the Book, which we possess, it is sublime, decisive.
God describes the different capacities of man's comprehension in the following metaphor in chapter XIII: 17 He sends down water from the sky, so that valleys flow according to their measure; And the Prophet, in a famous tradition says: "We prophets talk to the people according to the capacity of their intellects. Another result of the multiple meanings within the Qur'an is that the verses take on significance beyond their immediate text. Certain verses contain metaphors which indicate divine gnosis far beyond the common man's understanding but which, nevertheless, become comprehensible through their metaphorical form.
God says in chapter XVII: 89, "And indeed We have displayed for mankind in this Qur'an all kind of similitudes, but most of mankind refuse everything except disbelief "And again in chapter XXIX: 43 God talks of metaphors as a means of expression, "As for these similitude: We coin them for mankind, but none will grasp their meanings except the wise. " Consequently, we must conclude that all Qur'amc teachings, which deal with subtle profound knowledge, are in the form of similitudes.
The Two Kinds of Qur'anic Verses The Explicit and the implicit
In chapter XI:l God says of the Qur'an, "This is a book whose meanings are secure. " From this we may draw the meaning to read "whose meanings are perfected, expanded, firm and strong. " In chapter XXXIX:23, it reads, God has revealed the fairest of statements (consistent with and in relation to each other) and arranged in pairs (according to meaning), which cause the flesh of those who fear their Lord to creep. In chapter 111:7 He says, "He it is who has revealed to you the Book in which are clear revelations, (that is, verses whose meaning is immediately clear and which Muslims use for guidance).
They are the substance of the Book and others, which are allegorical. But those in whose heart is doubt indeed follow the allegorical seeking dissension by seeking to explain it. None knowest its explanation except God and those who are of sound instruction say: We believe in it, it is all from our Lord. The first of the verses describes those sections of the Qur'an whose meaning is explicit, clear and unambiguous, and safe from misinterpretation. The second verse refers to all those verses whose meanings are implicit, and which are considered allegorical.
It then proceeds to indicate that both types of verses, (the explicit, or clear and the implicit, or allegorical), share certain common qualities: beauty and sweetness of language, and a miraculous power of expression, which are present in the entire Qur'an. The third verse under consideration divides the Qur'an into two parts: the explicit and the implicit, the clear and the allegorical, or, in Qur'anic terms, the muhkam and the mutashabih. The ,muhkam and those verses which are explicit, clear and immediate in their message and, therefore, incapable of being misinterpreted; the mutashbih verses are not of this nature.
It is the duty of every firm believer to believe in and act according to the verses, which are muhkam. It is also his duty to believe in the verses which are mutashbih, but he must abstain from acting upon them; this injunction is based on the premise that only those whose heart is corrupt and whose belief is false follow the implicit, mutashbih, verses, fabricating interpretations and, thereby, deceiving common people.
The meanings of the Explicit and the Implicit Verses, according to the Commentators and Scholars.
There is much difference of opinion amongst the Islamic scholars concerning the meaning of explicit and implicit verses, with almost twenty different views on the matter. We can, however, conclude from the views of commentators, ranging from the time of the Prophet to the present day, that the explicit verses are clear and unambiguous, and that one is obliged to believe in and act according to them. The implicit verses, on the other hand, are those, which outwardly seem to express a meaning, but which contain a further truer meaning whose interpretation is known only to God; man has no access to it.
However, he is enjoined to believe in them but to avoid acting upon them. This view is held amongst the Sunni scholars. It is also maintained y the Shi'ites scholars except they believe that the Prophet and the Imams of his family also understood the hidden meanings. They also maintain that the ordinary man must seek knowledge of the implicit verses from God, the Prophet and the Imams. This view, although held by most commentators, is in several aspects not in accord with the text of the verse beginning, He it is who has revealed to you the Book in which are explicit verses (whose meanings are immediately clear).
Adopted from the book: "Quran per Islam" by: "Allamah sayyid Mohammad Hossein Tabatabai"
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