Quarterly: Issue No 23
INTERPRETING THE HOLY QUR’AN
Qur’an is the living miracle of Prophet Muhammad. Peace and Blessings of Allah
be upon him. From the beginning till the end it contains nothing but the Word
of Allah as revealed to our beloved Prophet through Angel Jibreel (Alayhis
Salaam). It tells us where we are coming from and where we are going to. It
tells us what will happen after death. It shows the Straight Path that will
lead to the place of eternal bliss called
The companions were the first group of people who followed it as it should be followed. They were transformed from being the lowest of the low to being the highest of the high. They established personal standards of piety and virtue that no other group of people since then can match. They established a society based on justice, fairness and goodness that no other society can match.
Then came their successors who deserted this Qur’an. They preserved its words but lost its injunctions. They understood it poorly. They did not put first what this Book puts first. They did not put last what this Book puts last. They did not give eminence to what this Book gives eminence to. They did not belittle what this Book belittles. There is no way for deliverance of this Ummah from its loss, backwardness and ruin except by turning back to this Qur’an. We must make this Qur’an as the Guide and the Leader to find our way out of our current misery.
This turning back to the Qur’an requires many steps. We must learn to read it in its original Arabic and we must teach our children to do the same. This learning to read is part of the knowledge referred to in the oft-quoted Hadith that specifies that seeking knowledge is a duty of every Muslim male and female. We should memorize it as much as possible. We must recite it regularly. Not a day should go by in our life in which we forget to recite the Qur’an. We must understand its message and ponder over its teachings. We must mould our life based on its commands. We must invite the entire humanity to the path of the Qur’an.
The Qur’an is guidance for all humanity but not everyone who reads it will get guidance from it. Qur’an reserves its guidance for those who sincerely seek it and approach it in the proper way and with the right attitude. Many who have ignored these basic requirements have gone astray in their study of the Qur’an.
Interpreting the Qur’an requires expertise in several areas:
First, one must have a firm command over classical Arabic language including its vocabulary, grammar, metaphors, and idioms.
Second, one must know the history of the Qur’an including where and when a verse was revealed; what other verses deal with the same subject; which of those, if any, supercede others. We must remember that the Qur’an is the first resource for its own interpretation.
Third, one must have good command over the Hadith literature, as it was the Prophet’s responsibility to explain the Qur’an to us and no other interpretation of a Qur’anic verse is acceptable in the presence of an authentic Hadith that explains it.
Fourth, one must have knowledge of the comments of the Companions and their successors. After Qur’an and Hadith, they are the third most important resource in interpreting the Qur’an.
Fifth, one must have knowledge of the rich Tafseer literature produced by the most reputed non-deviated scholars of this Ummah.
Sixth, one must have sound knowledge of Shari’ah since no interpretation of the Qur’an is acceptable that violates accepted Shari’ah principles.
Seventh, one must be leading a life of Taqwa and Piety, as the Qur’an does not open doors to its understanding on those who are not serious in following it.
WE CANNOT JUST OPEN THE QUR’AN AND START INTERPRETING IT AS IF WE ARE STARTING ON GROUND ZERO.
Anyone taking this road must be reminded of this grave warning: Sayyiduna Abdullah bin Abbas (radiyallahu anhu), reported that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said, “Whoever says something in interpreting the Qur’an based on his own opinion should find his place in the Fire.” [Tirmidhi Hadith No. 4023]
Unfortunately, today a lot of people are doing just this. They start, say, a Qur’anic study group, and start giving lectures on the Qur’an. If the person is a good speaker, he might also get warm reception from an audience that confuses eloquence with scholarship. Soon, they start giving expert opinions about Shari’ah and the Qur’an without having even the minimum qualification for it. Many a time, the audience participates equally excitedly, discussing the Words of Allah and delicate issues of Shari’ah with the same assumed expertise that is normally reserved for discussion of latest worldly current affairs.
This casual attitude must be contrasted with that of the Sahabaas. They not only new the language of the Qur’an better then anyone else, they were witnesses to its very revelation. Yet, they did not dare interpret it without first learning it, verse by verse, from the Holy Prophet himself. And even then they exercised extreme caution in making comments about the Qur’an. Sayyiduna Abu Bakr (radiyallahu anhu) said: ”Which land will give me protection and which sky will give me cover if I say something in interpreting the Qur’an without knowledge?” They knew that the Qur’an declares that it has been made easy for remembrance, but they did not misinterpret it as a license to give personal opinions in areas of Belief or Law. Their caution stemmed from their realization that to say that a verse means such and such, is to attribute a statement to Allah, Exalted be His Name.
It is our duty to study the Qur’an. But the only proper way of doing it is by seeking a reliable Tafseer and/or a qualified teacher to keep us in line with the true spirit of the Qu’ran as exemplified by our beloved Prophet and his companions.
TESTIMONY OF IMAAN (SHAHAADATAIN)
Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. Peace and blessing of Allah be upon our Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam), his household members and all of his Companions.
How many times have you heard or even said the following words? Ash hadu an laa ilaaha illallah wa ash hadu anna Muhammadar Rasoolullah. (I bear witness that there is no deity except Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah). Yes indeed, it is the two-part testimony or declaration of faith by which the one who utters it enters into the fold of Islam. More importantly however, is whether you as a listener or as the one who has made this declaration have really considered the meaning of this great declaration and its implications for the one who utters it?
Importance of Understanding The Testimony
This testimony of faith is the foundation upon which Islam is based. The concept of life, the universe and man is diffused from it, and upon it is based the message of all Messengers (alaihimus salaam) beginning with Noah (alayhi salaam) and ending with Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), peace be upon them all.
THE FIRST HALF OF THE TESTIMONY constitutes what is also known as al-kalimah, which literally means ‘the word’ Laa ilaaha illallah.
Allah the Exalted says: We did not send a Messenger before you without revealing to him: 'There is no God worthy of being worshiped except Me, therefore worship Me’. (Al-Anbiyaa - ).
The Testimony Comprises Two Pillars: Denial And Affirmation.
1. The first half of this first part Laa ilaaha - There is no Ilaah (deity) - denies everyone and everything other than Allah, the Exalted, the attribute of divinity. This is known as nafy (negation) in Arabic.
2. The second half of this declaration illallah (except Allah) affirms and restricts divinity to Allah alone. That is, the slave must believe that Allah is the only true God, and therefore must not dedicate any act of worship to other than Allah. This is known in Arabic as ithbaat (affirmation).
Conditions Of The First Half Of The Declaration
Confessing the testimony of faith must be coupled with fulfilling its conditions. Every door has a key that unlocks it. These conditions may be analogised with the teeth of that key in order that it function properly. Though one may have indeed entered Islam upon uttering the words it can also be said that complete faith cannot be attained unless he fully understands the implications of his testimony.
1. Knowledge which negates Ignorance. Allah says: So know that La ilaaha Illa-Allah. (There is no God but Allah). [47:19]. The more a believer knows about Allah and His Deen the less likely is he to fall prey to the traps of Satan and more likely to benefit himself and others.
2. Certainty which negates Doubt. Only those are the believers who have believed in Allah and His Messenger, and afterward doubt not but strive with their wealth and their lives in the Cause of Allah. They are the truthful. [49:15]. The declaration should be made with the fullest conviction and confidence that Allah is One and Alone and Islam is indeed the true religion.
3. Sincerity and purity of intent which negates Shirk. Surely the religion (i.e. worship and obedience) is for Allah only. [39:3]. No deed will be accepted if it is not done with pure intent and aim to please Allah.
4. Truthfulness which negates Hypocrisy. Do people think that they will be left alone because they say ‘We believe’ and will not be tested? And we indeed tested those who were before them. And Allah will certainly make known those who are true and will certainly make known those who are liars. [29:2,3]. It is very simple for one to feign belief but it is Allah who indeed knows the inner truthfulness of all who claim to believe in Him.
5. Love and devotion which negates disdain of Allah’s religion. And to mankind are some who take some (associates for worship) besides Allah as rivals; they love them as they love Allah. But those who believe love Allah more (than anything else). [2:165]. Loving Allah necessitates that the believer put full trust in him and loves all that he learns of what Allah has commanded and forbidden. Therefore the true believer loves each and every aspect of Islam and he loves those others who likewise do so.
6. Submission which negates Disobedience. And turn in repentance to your Lord and submit to Him in Islam. [39:54]. To willfully disobey when Allah’s commands have been made clear is to belie this declaration of faith.
7. Acceptance which negates Rejection or Denial. Truly when it was said to them: ‘There is no God except Allah’, they puffed themselves up with pride (i.e. denied it). And (they) said : ‘Are we going to abandon our gods for the sake of a mad poet? [37:35-36]. There can be nothing but full acceptance of the truth of the declaration. Partial acceptance is like no acceptance at all.
THE SECOND HALF OF THE TESTIMONY: Muhammadan Rasoolullah.
This is the declaration that "Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) is the Messenger of Allah". This second part of the testimony of faith is no less important than the first. In fact, it is impossible for one to be a true believer in the first part without also believing in the second. It necessitates belief in the following:
1 . Total submission to our Beloved Prophet in whatever he ordered. Allah states: But no, by your Lord, they can have no faith, until they make you judge in all disputes between them, and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions and accept them with full submission. [4:65] and He who obeys the Messenger has indeed obeyed Allah [4:80]
2 . Avoiding what the Prophet forbade. And whatsoever the Messenger gives you, take it and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it). [59:7].
3. Believing in all those matters of faith and deeds he informed us about. The Messenger believes in what has been revealed to him form his Lord and so do the believers. [2:285]
4. Loving the Messenger (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam). The Prophet has said about himself. None of you truly believes until I am more beloved to him than his parents [lit. father], his children [lit. son] and all of mankind. [Al-Bukhari]
A Sobering Thought
Allah says: O Prophet! We have sent you as a witness and a bringer of glad tidings and a Warner. And as one who invites to Allah (i.e, to worship Him Alone) by His Leave and as a Lamp spreading Light (through your instructions). [33:45, 46]
In an age when there is actually controversy over whether or not a Muslim must actually obey the Prophet and adhere to his way, no true Muslim should remain ignorant of the great meanings contained within the two-part testimony by which one joins this great Deen of Islam. Our beloved Prophet is the one who brought us Al-Qur’an in its final form and exemplified it in his speech and character. Through him, Allah has spread His light all over this earth and surely in such a dark place as the world can at times be, there is nothing more needed than a beacon to show us the right way.
I request your humble du'aas.
Abdul Haq Abdul Kadir
Umhlanga Rocks, KZN