Friday, 12 August 2011

Tafsîr of the Qûr’an by the Qûr’an

Tafsîr of the Qûr’an by the Qûr’an

The most important source of understanding the Qûr’an is the Qûr’an itself after all, the Qûr’an is an entire Book that has been revealed by Allâh, and therefore in order to understand any one verse, the entire context of this verse must be looked at. The meanings of the Qûr’an can never contradict each other, as Allâh says,

Do they not ponder over the Qûr’an? For indeed, had it been from other than Allâh, they would surely have found many contradictions in it [4:82]

In this verse, the command is given to ponder over the whole Qûr’an, verse by verse, for had it been from any other than Allâh, its verses would have contradicted one another. Therefore, it is essential to turn to the Qûr’an itself in order to interpret any verse in the Qûr’an.

This principle is demonstrated in many verses in the Qûr’an. Sometimes, a question is asked, and then answered in the next verses. For example,

By the Heavens, and the târiq. And what will make you know what the târiq is? (It is) the star of piercing brightness [86:1-3]

In other cases, the reference to another verse is not obvious. For example, the reference to the path of those whom You have favoured [1:7] is explained in 4:69 as:

And whoever obeys Allâh and His Messenger, they will be in the company of those whom Allâh has shown favour, of the Prophets, and the truthful followers, and the martyrs, and the pious. And how excellent these companions are! Therefore, the second verse explains who 'those whom You have favoured' are.

In some places in the Qûr’an, a story is mentioned in brief and in another place it is elaborated. For example, in the story of the repentance of Aadam, verse 2:37 states,

Then Aadam received from his Lord words, and He relented towards him.

In this verse, the 'words' that Aadam received are not mentioned, and it is essential to turn to another verse to know what Aadam said:

They (Aadam and Eve) said, 'Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If you do not forgive us and have Mercy on us, we will be of the lost! [7:23]

Other verses direct the reader to another passage in the Qûr’an, or tell the reader that the subject has already been mentioned. For example, Allâh says,

And unto the Jews, We forbade them such (foods) that We have already mentioned to you before... [16:118]

In other words, these prohibitions have already been elaborated upon elsewhere in the Qûr’an (cf 6:146). In another verse, Allâh states,

Lawful to you (for food) are all the beasts of cattle, except that which will have been recited to you. [5:1]

After two verses, the beasts that are forbidden are 'recited':

Forbidden to you are all dead animals, and blood, and the flesh of pigs.... [5:3]

The Prophet (saws) also showed the principle of interpreting the Qûr’an by the Qûr’an when he was asked concerning the verse,

Those who believe and do not mix their belief with injustice...[6:82]

The Companions asked, "O Messenger of Allâh! Who amongst us does not do injustice (to his soul)?" The Prophet (saws) replied, "Have you not read the statement of Luqman, 'Verily, shirk is a great injustice?'" (31:13).[3] In other words, the Prophet (saws) quoted them another verse in the Qûr’an to explain to them what the 'injustice' referred to in the verse actually meant - an example of tafsîr of the Qûr’an by the Qûr’an.

Included in the interpretation of the Qûr’an with the Qûr’an is the knowledge of asbâb an-nuzûl, the knowledge of makkî and madanî verses, the nâsikh and mansûkh verses, the various qira’ât, and the knowledge of the different categories of verses (the muhkam and mutashâbih, the 'âm and the khâs, themutlaq and the muqqayad, the mantûq and the mafhûm, the haqîqî and the majâzî, and other categories which were not discussed).

This is because a general ruling ('âm) in one verse might be specified ( khâs) in another verse, and so forth. In addition, all the different qira’ât of a verse must be considered to arrive at a proper understanding of a verse. All the relevant verses must be taken into account to form a complete picture, as all the verses of the Qûr’an complement one another.

To conclude, it is essential that every verse of the Qûr’an be looked at in light of its sister verses; no interpretation of any verse can contradict another verse.


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