Types of Interpretation (2)

Types of Interpretation (2)

But the Prophet and the Imams gave importance to its exterior as much as to its interior; they were as much concerned with its revelation as they were with its interpretation. We shall explain in the beginning of the third chapter, "The Family of 'Imran", that "interpretation" is not a meaning against the manifest meaning of the verse. Such an interpretation should more correctly be called "misinterpretation". This meaning of the word, "interpretation", came in vogue in the Muslim circles long after the revelation of the Quran and the spread of Islam. What the Quran means by the word, "interpretation", is some- thing other than the meaning and the significance.

In recent times, a new method of exegesis has become fashionable. Some people, supposedly Muslims, who were deeply influenced by the natural sciences (which are based on observations and tests) and the social ones (that rely on induction), followed the materialists of Europe or the pragmatists. Under the influence of those anti-Islamic theories, they declared that the religion's realities cannot go against scientific knowledge; one should not believe except that which is perceived by any one of the five senses; nothing exists except the matter and its properties. What the religion claims to exist, but which the sciences reject-like The Throne, The Chair, The Tablet and The Pen should be interpreted in a way that conforms with the science; as for those things which the science is silent about, like the resurrection etc., they should be brought within the purview of the laws of matter; the pillars upon which the divine religious laws are based-like revelation, angel, Satan, prophet- hood, apostleship, imamah (Imamate) etc.-are spiritual things, and the spirit is a development of the matter, or let us say, a property of the matter; legislation of those laws is manifestation of a special social genius, who ordains them after healthy and fruitful contemplations, in order to establish a good and progressive society.

They have further said: One cannot have confidence in the traditions, because many are spurious; only those traditions may be relied upon which are in conformity with the Book. As for the Book itself, one should not explain it in the light of the old philosophy and theories, because they were not based on observations and tests-they were just a sort of mental exercise which has been totally discredited now by the modern science. The best, rather the only, way is to explain the Quran with the help of other Quranic verses-except where the science has asserted something which is relevant to it. This, in short, is what they have written, or what necessarily follows from their total reliance on tests and observations.

We are not concerned here with the question whether their scientific principles and philosophic dicta can be accepted as the foundation of the Quran's exegesis. But it should be pointed out here that the objection which they have leveled against the ancient exegetes -that theirs was only an adaptation and not the explanation- is equally true about their own method; they too say that the Quran and its realities must be made to conform with the scientific theories. If not so, then why do they insist that the academic theories should be treated as true foundations of exegesis from which no deviation could be allowed? This method improves nothing on the discredited method of the ancients. If you look at all the above-mentioned ways of exegesis, you will find that all of them suffer from a most serious defect: They impose the results of academic or philosophic arguments on the Quranic meanings; they make the Quran conform with an extraneous idea. In this way, explanation turns into adaptation, realities of the Quran are explained away as allegories and its manifest meanings are sacrificed for so-called "interpretations". As we mentioned in the beginning, the Quran introduces itself as the guidance for the worlds;(1) the manifest light,(2) and the explanation of everything.(3) But, these people, contrary to those Quranic declarations, make it to be guided by extraneous factors, to be illuminated by some outside theories, and to be explained by something other than itself! What is that "something else"? What authority has it got? And if there is any difference in various explanations of a verse and indeed there are most serious differences-which mediator should the Quran refer to? What is the root-cause of the differences in the Quran's explanations? It could not happen because of any difference in the meaning of a word, phrase or sentence.

The Quran has been sent down in plain Arabic; and no Arab (or Arabic-knowing non-Arab) can experience any difficulty in understanding it. Also, there is not a single verse (out of more than six thousand) which is enigmatic, obscure or abstruse in its import; nor is there a single sentence that keeps the mind wandering in search of its meaning. After all, the Quran is admittedly the most eloquent speech, and it is one of the essential ingredients of eloquence that the talk should be free from obscurity and abstruseness. Even those verses that are counted among the "ambiguous" ones, have no ambiguity in their meanings; whatever the ambiguity, it is in identification of the particular thing or individual from among the group to which that meaning refers.

This statement needs some elaborations:- In this life we are surrounded by matter; even our senses and faculties are closely related to it. This familiarity with matter and material things has influenced our mode of thinking. When we hear a word or a sentence, our mind races to its material meaning. When we hear, for example, the words, life, knowledge, power, hearing, sight, speech, will, pleasure, anger, creation and order, we at once think of the material manifestations of their meanings. Likewise, when we hear the words, heaven, earth, tablet, pen, throne, chair, angel and his wings, and Satan and his tribe and army, the first things that come into our minds are their material manifestations. Likewise, when we hear the sentences, "Allah created the universe", "Allah did this", "Allah knew it", "Allah intended it" or "intends it", we look at these actions in frame of "time", because we are used to connect every verb with a tense. In the same way, when we hear the verses: ﴾and with Us is more yet)(4),... ﴾We would have made it from before Ourselves)(5), . . . ﴾and that which is with Allah is best﴿.(6) ... , ... ﴾and to Him you shall be brought back)(7) (etc.).

we attach with the divine presence the concept of " place", because in our minds the two ideas are inseparable. Also, on reading the verses: ﴾And when We intend to destroy a town)(8), ﴾And We intend to bestow a favor) (9)..., ﴾And Allah intends ease for you﴿,(10)

we think that the "intention" has the same meaning in every sentence, as is the case with our own intention and will. In this way, we jump to the familiar (which most often is material) meaning of every word. And it is but natural. Man has made words to fulfill his social need of mutual intercourse; and society in its turn was established to fulfill the man's material needs. Not unexpectedly, the words became symbols of the things which men were connected with and which helped them in their material progress. But we should not forget that the material things are constantly changing and developing with the development of expertise. Man gave the name, lamp, to a certain receptacle in which he put a wick and a little fat that fed the lighted wick which illuminated the place in darkness.

That apparatus kept changing until now it has become the electric bulb of various types; and except the name "lamp" not a single component of the original lamp can be found in it. Likewise, there is no resemblance in the balance of old times and the modern scales -especially if we compare the old apparatus with the modern equipment for weighing and measuring heat, electirc-current's flow and blood-pressure. And the armaments of old days and the ones invented within our own times have nothing in common, except the name. The named things have changed so much that not a single component of the original can be found in them; yet the name has not changed. It shows that the basic element that allows the use of a name for a thing is not the shape of that thing, but its purpose and benefit. Man, imprisoned as he is within his habitat and habit, often fails to see this reality.

That is why al-Hashawiyyah and those who believe that God has a body interpret the Quranic verses and phrases within the fame-work of the matter and the nature. But in fact they are stuck with their habit and usage, and not to the exterior of the Quran and the traditions. Even in the literal meanings of the Quran we find ample evidence that relying on the habit and usage in explanation of the divine speech would cause confusion and anomaly. For example, Allah says: ﴾Nothing is like a likeness of Him) (11); ﴾Visions comprehended Him not, and He comprehends (all) visions; and He is the Knower of subtilities, the Aware﴿(12); ﴾glory be to Him above what they ascribe (to Him)(13﴿.

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NOTES:

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1. (The Holy Quran 3:96)

2. (The Holy Quran 4:174)

3. (The Holy Quran 16:89)

4. (The Holy Quran 50:35)

5. (The Holy Quran 21:17)

6. (The Holy Quran 62:11)

7. (The Holy Quran 2:28)

8. (The Holy Quran 17 :16)

9. (The Holy Quran 28: 5)

10. (The Holy Quran 2:185)

11. (The Holy Quran 42:11)

12. (The Holy Quran 6:73)

13. (The Holy Quran 23:91; 37:159)