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Lesson 53

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Lesson - 53

Aal Imran (Family of Imran)

"Surely nothing in the earth or in the heaven is hidden from Allah. He it is Who shapes you in the wombs as He pleases. There is no god (ilaha) but He, the Mighty, the Wise. He it is Who has revealed the Book to thee; some of its verses are decisive — they are the basis of the Book — and others are allegorical. Then those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part of it which is allegorical, seeking to mislead, and seeking to give it (their own) interpretation. And none knows its interpretation save Allah, and those firmly rooted in knowledge. They say: We believe in it, it is all from our Lord. And none mind except men of understanding." (Ch. 3:4-6)

Misinterpretation of allegorical verses by previous nations

These are verses four, five and six of the chapter Aal-Imran. I have commented on verses one, two and three in the preceding lesson, which mention the revealed scriptures prior to the revelation of the Holy Quran. These scriptures were a source of guidance for the people at the time of their revelation, however, those who follow them today are not guided towards the right path through them. This is proven by the fact that in spite of following their guidance, the followers of these scriptures are unable to establish communion with God. The proof of such communion has always been, that Allah the Most High spoke with such persons. Now that falsehood has entered these religions, the Holy Quran has been revealed to discriminate between truth and falsehood and forever sustain the truth. Those who believe in the Holy Quran should not commit the same errors committed by the ones before them. I will discuss this at length later on. What they did was to ignore the decisive verses of the scripture in favor of the allegorical ones and interpret them in accordance with their desires. In this way not only did they go astray from the truth, but also lead others astray and created disunity.

Definition of decisive and allegorical

Before any further comments, it is essential to explain what is meant by decisive and allegorical verses. The famous lexicologist, Imam Raghib has defined the Arabic word muhkam (decisive) as "that in which there is no doubt between the word and its meaning." For example the verses of the Holy Quran dealing with the unity of the Divine Being, the reward for good and punishment for evil are so clear and uniform that no doubt can arise concerning their meaning. The allegorical verses are such that they can be interpreted in one or more ways and though their meanings have a certain similarity, those in whose hearts is perversity, instead of interpreting these verses in light of the decisive ones, interpret them in accordance with their own desires. In this manner, they create a climate of dissension and turn away from the truth.

Another example to illustrate this is that the Bible clearly teaches and enjoins the unity of the Divine Being. When Jesus was questioned about the first amongst the commandments, he replied:

"The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the scribe said unto him, Well Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God: and there is none other but He." (Mark 12:29, 30,32).

In places, however, he called God, "father," and himself the, "son of God." For this the Jews accused him of blasphemy i.e., calling himself God and tried to stone him. To this accusation, he replied:

"Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods [referring to Psalms 82:6 — 'I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High'.) If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken: Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest: because I said, I am the Son of God?" (John 10:34-36).

All his life Jesus called himself, "son of man," and two of the gospels in his genealogical tree mention Joseph the carpenter as his father. Later on, however, Paul and others took advantage of the allegorical statements of Jesus and created the doctrine which considers Jesus as son of god in a real sense. In fact, not only that, but considers him as one god, out of three. This is the perversity of the heart which has lead to the interpretation of allegorical verses in accordance with ones desires, the result of which is deviation from the truth. As a consequence of this deception, a great majority of mankind today has gone astray.

I have intentionally quoted Christian sources to illustrate this tendency of setting aside the decisive verses in favor of the allegorical ones and interpreting them according to ones desires. This behavior led these nations to go astray and caused dissension. I preferred to highlight these biblical references because the Chapter Aal-Imran mentions the Christian beliefs. In conjunction with these, the Holy Quran also mentions Prophet Jesus (Isa) peace be upon him, as healing the sick, raising the dead to life, or creating birds, which is also in an allegorical sense. There are decisive verses of the Holy Quran which state that the healing of physical ailments, raising of the dead, and the task of creation is only the work of Allah the Blessed Most High. I will, if Allah please, discuss in detail the reasons Why the Holy Quran has mentioned these in an allegorical sense for Jesus when I am discussing those verses. I am bringing up this reference at this point, because unfortunately our own commentators forgot the difference between the decisive and the allegorical verses of the Holy Quran. As a result of this error, they interpreted these works of Jesus in a literal sense. In doing so, they provided the Christian missionary with a very effective weapon for his missionary propaganda. These missionaries would refer to the Holy Quran and argue that since these tasks performed by Jesus were distinctly Divine, they provided (may Allah protect us from this) proof of his divinity. They would then effectively use these arguments to convert Muslims to Christianity. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmed (Reformer of the 14th Century Hijra ) was the first person to clarify this matter and effectively demolish their arguments.

Divine objective behind allegorical verses

The Holy Quran contains prophecies which are based on the knowledge of the future. They are mostly in the form of allegorical verses. The wisdom behind this arrangement is that their meaning does not become apparent until they are fulfilled. This has two advantages. Firstly, a dishonest and untruthful person cannot take advantage of these prophecies and apply them to his own person, since he is unaware of their real meaning. Secondly, when these prophecies are fulfilled, they provide cogent proof of the truthfulness of the Holy Prophet, and of the Holy Quran being a Divinely revealed scripture.

The other kind of allegorical verses are those, that in order to unravel their meaning, the researcher of the Holy Quran has to stay within the limits set by the decisive verses, work hard, use his intellect, and supplicate before Allah the Most High. When Allah The Most High illuminates the meaning of these verses for him, the suppliant commentator is overwhelmed and prostrating humbly before Allah admits in the words of the Holy Quran:

"Glory be to Thee! We have no knowledge but that which Thou hast taught us. Surely Thou art the Knowing, the Wise" (2:32).
A world of humanity then benefits from these disclosures. Faith is strengthened in the truth that the Quranic revelation is from Allah and contains limitless treasures of spiritual knowledge. One should remember that just as the human mind cannot progress in the worldly sciences unless man works and struggles hard to dig for these hidden treasures, a similar situation exists in the matter of religious and spiritual knowledge.

I will illustrate this with an example from the physical sciences to make it easily understandable. Allah created electricity with its defining principles and characteristics. For example we have negative and positive charges, alternate current, direct current etc. and the various laws governing them. By creating electricity, Allah has given man the opportunity to use his God given intellect, hard work and effort to make all the useful appliances which are of such great benefit for mankind today. All these appliances are based on the fundamental principles and laws of electricity. They are controlled by and evolve out of the knowledge of these fundamental principle. These are the basic definitive principles, similar to the decisive elements of religious law upon which man can capitalize to interpret the allegorical verses and utilize them for his spiritual development.

In a similar manner, the allegorical verses are overruled by the decisive ones and in a way evolve from them. The criterion for the good and evil of a mans actions and his accountability for them is based on the decisive verses. All the verses describing hell and heaven are, however, allegorical and only after death will their true nature be revealed. That is why the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said after he was given knowledge from Allah regarding the blessings of paradise that no one has seen or heard of them, nor have they been perceived by the human mind. Some similarity does, however, exist between them and the worldly blessings, that is why it is stated in the Holy Quran:

"and they are given the like of it" (2:25).
Allegorical language is essential for our understanding in this earthly existence and this is again expressed in the Holy Quran:

"A parable of the Garden which the dutiful are promised" (47:15).
For example the mention of rivers of milk and honey in this regard is not at all in the real sense of the meaning of these words, but by way of metaphor. The meaning of these allegorical references are disclosed upon the commentator of the Holy Quran as a result of his hard work, effort and supplications. I will, if Allah please, discuss these at the opportune time.

The gist of this discussion is that the allegorical verses of the Holy Quran contain within them a great knowledge of the unseen, which evolves or becomes apparent from the decisive verses at the appropriate time. Keeping these two facts in view, we return to the verses under discussion.

Difference between the Divine and human perception of time

The first verse states:

"Surely nothing in the earth or in the heaven is hidden from Allah".
Whatever is in the heavens and the earth is hidden from human perception, until its knowledge becomes apparent. Allah The Most High, Who has created all of this, is aware of all His creation and has knowledge of it. This is because He is the creator of both its outer form and internal composition. In a similar manner, Allah is aware of what has occurred in the earth in the past or present for He has been an eyewitness to all of these occurrences and whatever happens in the future will also be in accordance with His law of measure. For mankind knowledge of the future is an unknown dimension, but it is not hidden from Allah. Scientific knowledge now informs us that that the past, present and the future occur in the human perception as a series of events, however, they are there all the time. To check this reference see page seventy two of the book, "The Universe and Doctor Einstein", written by Lincoln Barnett. One is amazed at the knowledge and the wisdom of the Holy Quran. The Holy Quran has compared the knowledge of Allah to an open book. The page of this book which is open is the present, the preceding pages are the past, and the pages that follow are the future. In Allah's knowledge they are present simultaneously. For the human eye looking at an open page of a book the preceding and following pages of the book are invisible, however, for a book which encloses all these pages, they are all the same. It does not visualize them with the human visual faculty but its own visual dimension which includes all the pages within it. What a simple and easily understood example the Holy Quran has given to explain a very complex problem!

Why may one ask has the all encompassing knowledge of Allah the Most High been mentioned in this context? It is because this verse is followed by verses discussing the allegorical and the decisive. Allah has given knowledge to mankind in both these ways. The decisive verses are in front of our eyes like the open pages of a book. The allegorical verses are like those closed pages of the book which are not apparent to the human eye, but are open before Allah, and He can when He so wishes, turn over the unturned pages of the book and display their contents before man.

Relationship of the decisive verse to the allegorical

The verse that follows is even more amazing!

"He it is Who shapes you in the wombs as He pleases. There is no god (Ilaha) but He, the Mighty, the Wise."
It is a well known fact that no human being, either on his own, or with the assistance of a doctor or midwife can shape the features of his children. The unborn child which is hidden in the confines of the mother's womb is not hidden from Allah and He gives shape to its form as He pleases.

How amazing is the work of the Creator! With the same number of muscles and bones and other tissue elements, He creates so many beings all differing in their features to the extent that differences exist even between twins. The Holy Quran tells us that the One who shapes your forms is your ilaha, the meaning of which I have already discussed. The Arabic word ilaha is ordinarily taken to mean the One Who is worshipped with obedience. This word, however, also implies the One Who deserves our love. When obedience is shown out of love for Allah for His supreme beneficence towards mankind, it generates the greatest benefit for mankind, unlike obedience which is only undertaken as a burden. This word also means the One Who is the purpose or Objective of our existence. This communion with Allah which is the purpose of man's existence can only be achieved through obedience with love. Why then is the word ilaha used in this context?

The Holy Quran has given us knowledge which is not to be found anywhere else. As the human child is developing within the mother's womb, within its body is also developing its spirit. After the demise of the physical being, this spirit, which has by now evolved into the human soul i.e., it has formed a distinct personality, is born into the life Hereafter, in a manner similar to the birth of a child in this world. To those who doubt the life Hereafter, the Holy Quran poses the question that is it not possible for the one Who has created you the first time to recreate you again? The wisdom behind the usage of the word ilaha in this context is to emphasize that the soul evolves into the most pleasing form in the Hereafter. This is a result of spending a lifetime in the obedience of Allah, the Most High, striving for His pleasure and thus fulfilling its purpose, i.e., communion with Allah.

This verse also has another very elegant meaning which pertains to the verse that follows in which the Holy Quran mentions the decisive and the allegorical verses. It indicates that the decisive verses in the Book have the position and the status of the mother to the allegorical ones. They bear the same relationship to the allegorical ones as the mother to its unborn child. The form of the allegorical verses is evolved in the shelter of the decisive ones, just as the features of the child are formed in the womb of its mother, therefore more then one meaning of the allegorical verses which are periodically deduced in this manner, are the manifestations of the great wisdom of Allah. However, just as it is necessary for the shape of the unborn child to be formed within the womb of its mother, it is also essential that no interpretation of the allegorical verse should be done outside the meaning of the related decisive verse.

The next verse is:

"He it is Who has revealed the Book to thee; some of its verses are decisive — they are the basis of the Book — and others are allegorical. Then those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part of it which is allegorical, seeking to mislead, and seeking to give it (their own) interpretation. And none knows its interpretation save Allah, and those firmly rooted in knowledge. They say: We believe in it, it is all from our Lord. And none mind except men of understanding."

Those firmly rooted in knowledge

I have already discussed the greater part of the subject matter of this verse. I only need to comment on the last part of this verse i.e.,

"And none knows its interpretation save Allah."
In this Allah states that He has already indicated the status of the decisive verses is akin to that of a mother, we should therefore remain within these bounds, while interpreting the allegorical verses. In other words the interpretation of the allegorical verses should be subject to the decisive verses of this Book. Since knowledge of both comes from Allah there cannot be any disparity between them. It is also enjoined to seek knowledge of their interpretation from those firmly rooted in knowledge. By inserting a period at both ends of the Arabic words of this commandment, it is connected with both the preceding and the following portion of the verse in the following manner. Firstly, that the meaning of the allegorical verses is known only to Allah or those firmly rooted in knowledge. Secondly, if we form the connection at the other end, it means that those who are firmly rooted in knowledge, they believe both in the decisive and allegorical verses and say it is all from our Lord (Rabb) i.e., they are both meant to nurture us in our spiritual knowledge and progress, even if we temporarily lack the understanding of an allegorical verse. It can also mean that those who are firmly rooted in knowledge interpret the allegorical verses by referring to the decisive ones, for they firmly believe that both are from Allah and hence there cannot be any disparity between them. In the end it is stated:

"And none mind except men of understanding."
This statement appeals to our intellect to ponder and ask ourselves the question, how can there be a disparity between Allah's word? We should therefore interpret the different branches of religious doctrine in light of the principles and thus benefit from both types of Quranic knowledge.

Perversity of the Heart

Because perversity of the heart led other nations to go astray, and they forgot the decisive commandments in favor of the allegorical which they interpreted in accordance with their desires, the verse that follows teaches the Muslims to pray:

"Our Lord, make not our hearts to deviate after Thou hast guided us and grant us mercy from Thee; surely Thou art the most liberal Giver."
Only the grace and bounty of Allah can protect ones heart from perversity, for besides Allah no one is aware of the inner secrets of the heart. In the end in order to warn that one is to be held accountable for the perversity of heart and for going astray, this segment of the Holy Quran is closed with the verse:

"Our Lord, surely Thou art the Gatherer of men on a day about which there is no doubt. Surely Allah will not fail in His promise."
A promise is broken only by one who cannot fulfill what he has promised. Allah the Most High is Mighty and possesses all power over His creation, therefore it is easy for Him to fulfill His promise.

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