Ayat Muḥkamat and Mutashabihât. Correct Exegesis of the Qur'ân
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيم
Praise be to God the Creator of the world, the One Who exists without beginning, without end, without location, without a “how” and Who does not depend on time. Nothing resembles Him in anyway and He hears and sees everything without organs. Whatever you imagine, God is different from that. May the elevation in degree and preservation of his community of what he fears for it, be granted to our master Muḥammad Al-‘Amin, the Honest One, who called for following Islam, the religion of truth, the religion of all the Prophets: of the First, Adam, to the last Muḥammad.
All praise is due to Allâh The Exalted, and may Allâh raise the rank of our beloved Prophet Muḥammad peace be upon him, his kind relatives and companions, and protect his nation from that which he feared for them Thereafter ;
Allâh said in the Qur'ân:
﴿هُوَ الَّذِيَ أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُّحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ في قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَابَهَ مِنْهُ ابْتِغَاء الْفِتْنَةِ وَابْتِغَاء تَأْوِيلِهِ وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلاَّ اللّهُ وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ يَقُولُونَ آمَنَّا بِهِ كُلٌّ مِّنْ عِندِ رَبِّنَا وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلاَّ أُوْلُواْ الألْبَابِ﴾
(Huwa l-ladhî ‘anzala `alayka l-kitâba minhu ‘âyâtun muḥkamâtun hunna ‘ummu l-kitâbi wa ‘ukharu mutachâbihâtun fa ‘ammâ l-ladhîna fîqulîbihim zayghun fayattabi`ûna mâ tachâbaha minhu btighâ’a l-fitnati wa btighâ’a ta'wîlihi wa mâya`lamu ta'wîlahu ‘illâ l-Lâhu wa r-râçikhûna fî l-`ilmi yaqûlûna ‘âmannâ bihî kullun min `indi rabbinâ wa mâ yadh-dhakkaru ‘illâ ‘ulû l-‘albâb)
which means: « Allâh is the One Who has sent down to the Prophet the Book that contains muHkamât âyât, which are the foundation of the Book, and other âyât which are mutashâbihat. Those who have perversity in their hearts, they follow the mutashâbihât âyât seeking discord and searching for unbefitting meanings based on their delusions. No one knows their true meanings except Allâh and those who are firmly rooted in the knowledge of the Religion. The latter say, “We believe in it, all of it is from our Lord and none will understand the message except men of comprehension”. » [sûrât ‘Âli `Imrân, ayah 7].
So, know firmly, that the Qur’ân contains two types of ayat MuHkamat ayat and Mutashabihat ayat.
Explicit Verses Muḥkamāt ayat
These are the ayat that have only one meaning according to the rules of the Arabic language or else the meaning of the ayah is clearly known.
Examples of this type of ayat are: the saying of Allâh, ta`âlâ:
﴿ لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ البَصِيرُ ﴾
(Layça kamithlihi chay’ wa huwa s-Samî`u l-Baṣîr)
which means: « Absolutely there is nothing like Him. » [Surat Ash-Shûrā, ayah 11]
And His saying, ta`âlâ:
﴿وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ﴾
(wa lam yakun lahu kufuwan ‘aḥad)
which means: « There is nothing which is equal to Him. » [Surat Al-Ikhlâṣ, ayah 4]
Non-Explicit Verses Mutashabihat âyat
These are the âyat that can have many meanings according to the rules of the Arabic language. Assigning meanings to these ayat requires thorough thinking so that acceptable meanings are given to them that doesn't contradict the explicit ayat.
Examples of this type of âyat are: the saying of Allâh, ta`âlâ, in Sûrat Tāhā, âyah 5:
﴿الرَّحْمَنُ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ اسْتَوَى﴾
(Ar-Raḥmânu `ala l-`archi stawâ)
which means: « Allâh subjugated the `arsh in al-azal with a subjugation which is without a beginning, like all of the attributes of Allâh. »
According to the rules of the Arabic language, this ayah is among the mutashabihat verses ; so they can have many meanings. If meanings are assigned to them, this must be done in a manner that complies with the language and the Religion, and does not contradict the ayat that are muhkamat. Surely the ayat of the Qur’ân do not contradict one another. Likewise, the aHadîth sayings of the Prophet, Sallallâhu `alayhi wa sallam, do not contradict one another, and they do not contradict the ayat of the Qur’ân.
Imam Ibn Rajab al-Hanbaliyy explained the term al-istiwa’, in Surat Tāhā, âyah 5:
﴿الرَّحْمَنُ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ اسْتَوَى﴾
(Ar-Raḥmânu `ala l-`archi stawâ)
as al-istiwâ', which means subjugating. When al-istiwâ' is used to explain this âyah it means that Allâh subjugated the `arsh with a subjugation that is without a beginning, like all of the attributes of Allâh.
If the ayah is explained in this manner, it means that Allâh was attributed with subjugating the `arsh before the `arsh was created in the same way that Allâh was attributed with being the Creator before anything from the creation existed. In this context, the scholars have used the term al-azal, which means the status of existing without a beginning. Thus it can be said that Allâh subjugated the `arsh in al-azal, meaning that Allâh subjugated the `arsh with a subjugation which is without a beginning.
In his book, Al-Mu`taqad, Imam Al-Bayhaqiyy related in a chain back to Al-’Awza`iyy and Imam Mâlik and Sufyan ath-Thawriyy and Al-Layth Ibn Sa`d that when they were asked about the âyat and the Hadîth that are mutashabihat, they said:
« Accept them as they came without applying a ‘how’ to them. »
This is because if one asked the question ‘how?’ the answer would be, ‘Like this or that.’ Everything other than Allâh is His creation so to say ‘like this or that’ would mean ‘like this or that created thing’ and Allâh is not like His creation.
Anything a person can imagine, Allâh is different from it.
When the scholars said: “… without applying a ‘how’ to them”, they meant that Allāh is clear of being attributed with sitting, resting, moving, limbs, bodies, and parts. They did not mean that His istiwa’ over the throne has a ‘how’ of which we are ignorant.
On the contrary, the scholars completely negated that a ‘how’ could be applied to Allâh. So the statement of those who say “Allâh sits on the throne but we do not know how”, is rejected on the basis of what these scholars said. Anyone with a sound mind knows that sitting, no matter how it is, is an attribute of bodies. Occupying places necessitates a ‘how’ and applies to bodies. Furthermore, color and touching are attributes of bodies and ‘how’ applies to them. All of that is impossible to apply to Allâh.
Imam Mâlik said: « Allâh said about Himself that He’s attributed with Istiwa’ which befits Him. It is invalid to say ‘how’ ; and ‘how’ does not apply to Him. »
The ‘how’ connotations are descriptions of the created. Only the created can be described with sitting, settling, and occupying a place. The word istawa has 15 meanings in the Arabic language, some of which befit Allāh such as to subjugate, to preserve, and to maintain.
On the other hand, the word can also imply physical meanings, which do not befit Allâh such as to sit, to settle, and to stabilize. It is blasphemy to apply any of these physical meanings to Allâh. The words preserve and subjugate are meanings that comply with the religion and the Arabic Language.
Al-Qushayriyy explained the meaning istiwa in this Ayah as to preserve, subdue and maintain. It cannot be believed that Allâh sits on the throne as this belies:
﴿فَلاَ تَضْرِبُواْ للهِ الأَمْثَالَ﴾
(falâ taḍribû li l-Lâhi l-‘amthâl)
This verse means: « Do not attribute to Allâh the attributes of His creation. » [sûrat An-Naḥl / ‘âyah 74]
Imam Ash-Shafi`iyy said: « The one who attributes to Allâh bodily characteristics blasphemes. » This was narrated by Al-Hafidh As-Suyutiyy in the book Al-ashabah wa anatha’ir.
Imam Aḥmad Ibn Hanbal said: « The one who says Allâh is a body not like other bodies Blasphemes. » This was narrated by Abu Muḥammad Al-Baghdādiyy in his book Al-Khiṣâl and Badr adîn azzarkashiyy in his book tashnîf Al masami`.
Yet the Mushabbihah (those who liken Allâh to the creations) and those who ignorantly follow them and merely read their books take the literal meaning, and they say istiwa’ means Allâh ‘sits’ on the throne and ‘firmly establishes’ Himself on it. Even if they say Allâh sits but "we dont know how" or "He sits in a way that suits his Majesty".
This is against the fundamental belief of all Muslims, against the Qur'ân, clear blasphemy and would render a person among the inhabitants of Hellfire if he or she dies on that belief.
We humbly ask Allâh to enlighten us with the light of Knowledge, and keep us steadfast to the path of truth and righteousness.
الحمد لله رب العالمين