Answering the claim that any one has the right to interpret Ayahs of the Qur'an

Q 2: Some people claim that everyone is entitled to interpret the Ayahs (verses) of the Qur’an according to their understanding and according to the context. They claim that the text is sacred, but understanding it is not sacred. For example, Ayat-ul-Kursi (the Qur’anic Verse of Allah’s Throne, Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:255) and the Ayahs that speak about the Throne and the Hand of Allah. If this claim is false, who is entitled to interpret the Qur’an, and what is the extent of the sacredness of such interpretation?

We ask that you give us the Tafsir (explanation/exegesis of the meanings of the Qur’an) for this Ayah of Surah Al-`Imran,

( Part No : 3, Page No: 9)

Surah Al-`Imran, 3: 7 it is He Who has sent down to you (Muhammad peace be upon him) the Book (this Qur’an). in it are Verses that are entirely clear, they are the foundations of the Book [and those are the Verses of Al-Ahkâm (commandments), Al-Fara’id (obligatory duties) and Al-Hudud (legal laws for the punishment of thieves, adulterers)]; and others not entirely clear. So as for those in whose hearts there is a deviation (from the truth) they follow that which is not entirely clear thereof, seeking Al-Fitnah (polytheism and trials), and seeking for its hidden meanings, but none knows its hidden meanings except Allâh. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: “We believe in it; the whole of it (clear and unclear Verses) are from our Lord.” And none receive admonition except men of understanding.

We hope you will clarify for us what is meant by Mutashabihat “Verses that are allegorical,” and Muhkamat “Ayahs that are decisively clear”? Who are “the firmly grounded in knowledge” whom Allah entrusts with interpreting it and guides them to do this?

A: It is not permissible to give Tafsir, except for the scholars who are knowledgeable in Tafsir. It is not permissible to give tafsir of the Qur’an based on ignorance and whims. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, Whoever interprets the Qur’an without knowledge, let him assume his seat in Hellfire. Reported by Al-Tirmidhi. Only the scholars can comprehend these texts, and no one should depend on their own understanding while they lack the required knowledge, as this would be saying things about Allah without knowledge, which Allah regards as more grievous than Shirk (associating others with Allah in His Divinity or worship). Allah (may He be Exalted) says,Surah Al-A`raf, 7: 33 Say (O Muhammad peace be upon him): “(But) the things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are Al-Fawâhish (great evil sins, and every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse) whether committed openly or secretly, sins (of all kinds), unrighteous oppression, joining partners (in worship) with Allâh for which He has given no authority, and saying things about Allâh of which you have no knowledge.”

( Part No : 3, Page No: 10)

As for Ayat-ul-Kursy and the Ayahs that speak about the Throne and the Hand, these are considered of the matter of `Aqidah (creed) that accept no Ijtihad (juristic effort to infer expert legal rulings); rather, they are to be confirmed as they are without interpretation. The Mutashabihat are the general and absolute Ayahs, while the Muhkamat are those that explain in detail and specify them. As for “the firmly grounded in knowledge,” they are scholars who are specialists in Shari`ah and in understanding the Nas (Islamic text from the Qur’an or the Sunnah).

May Allah grant us success! May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet, his family and Companions!

Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta’

Member Member Member Member The Chairman
Bakr Abu Zayd Salih Al-Fawzan `Abdul-`Aziz Al Al-Shaykh `Abdullah ibn Ghudayyan `Abdul-`Aziz ibn `Abdullah ibn Baz