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Only Allah Knows the True Ta'wil (Interpretation) of the Mutashabihat

Allah said,

﴿ وَمَا يَعۡلَمُ تَأۡوِيلَهُ ۥۤ إِلَّا ٱللَّهُ‌ۗ

(But none knows its Ta'wil except Allah.)

Similarly, as preceded in what has been reported from Ibn `Abbas, "Tafsir is of four types: Tafsir that the Arabs know in their language; Tafsir that no one is excused of being ignorant of; Tafsir that the scholars know; and Tafsir that only Allah knows.'' Scholars of Qur'an recitation have different opinions about pausing at Allah's Name in this Ayah. This stop was reported from `A'ishah, `Urwah, Abu Ash-Sha`tha' and Abu Nahik.

Some pause after reciting,

﴿ وَٱلرَّٲسِخُونَ فِى ٱلۡعِلۡمِ

(And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge) saying that the Qur'an does not address the people with what they cannot understand. Ibn Abi Najih said that Mujahid said that Ibn `Abbas said, "I am among those who are firmly grounded in its Ta'wil interpretation.'' The Messenger of Allah supplicated for the benefit of Ibn `Abbas,

« اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيل »

(O Allah! Bestow on him knowledge in the religion and teach him the Ta'wil (interpretation).)

Ta'wil has two meanings in the Qur'an, the true reality of things, and what they will turn out to be. For instance, Allah said,

﴿ وَقَالَ يَـٰٓأَبَتِ هَـٰذَا تَأۡوِيلُ رُءۡيَـٰىَ مِن قَبۡلُ

(And he said: "O my father! This is the Ta'wil of my dream aforetime!''.) (12:100), and,

﴿ هَلۡ يَنظُرُونَ إِلَّا تَأۡوِيلَهُ ۥ‌ۚ يَوۡمَ يَأۡتِى تَأۡوِيلُهُ ۥ

(Await they just for it's Ta'wil On the Day (Day of Resurrection) it's Ta'wil is finally fulfilled.) (7:53) refers to the true reality of Resurrection that they were told about. If this is the meaning desired in the Ayah above (3:7), then pausing after reciting Allah's Name is warranted, because only Allah knows the true reality of things. In this case, Allah's statement,

﴿ وَٱلرَّٲسِخُونَ فِى ٱلۡعِلۡمِ

(And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge) is connected to His statement,

﴿ يَقُولُونَ ءَامَنَّا بِهِۦ

(say: "We believe in it'') If the word Ta'wil means the second meaning, that is, explaining and describing, such as what Allah said,

﴿ نَبِّئۡنَا بِتَأۡوِيلِهِۦۤ‌ۖ

((They said): "Inform us of the Ta'wil of this'') meaning its explanation, then pausing after reciting,

﴿ وَٱلرَّٲسِخُونَ فِى ٱلۡعِلۡمِ

(And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge) is warranted. This is because the scholars have general knowledge in, and understand what they were addressed with, even though they do not have knowledge of the true reality of things. Therefore, Allah's statement,

﴿ يَقُولُونَ ءَامَنَّا بِهِۦ

(say: "We believe in it'') describes the conduct of the scholars. Similarly, Allah said,

﴿ وَجَآءَ رَبُّكَ وَٱلۡمَلَكُ صَفًّ۬ا صَفًّ۬ا

(And your Lord comes, and the angels, in rows.) (89:22) means, your Lord will come, and the angels will come in rows.

Allah's statement that the knowledgeable people proclaim,

﴿ يَقُولُونَ ءَامَنَّا بِهِۦ

(We believe in it) means, they believe in the Mutashabih.

﴿ كُلٌّ۬ مِّنۡ عِندِ رَبِّنَا‌ۗ

(all of it is from our Lord) meaning, both the Muhkam and the Mutashabih are true and authentic, and each one of them testifies to the truth of the other. This is because they both are from Allah and nothing that comes from Allah is ever met by contradiction or discrepancy. Allah said,

﴿ أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ ٱلۡقُرۡءَانَ‌ۚ وَلَوۡ كَانَ مِنۡ عِندِ غَيۡرِ ٱللَّهِ لَوَجَدُواْ فِيهِ ٱخۡتِلَـٰفً۬ا ڪَثِيرً۬ا

(Do they not then consider the Qur'an carefully? Had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein many a contradiction.) (4:82).

Allah said in his Ayah (3:7),

﴿ وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّآ أُوْلُواْ ٱلۡأَلۡبَـٰبِ

(And none receive admonition except men of understanding.) meaning, those who have good minds and sound comprehension, understand, contemplate and comprehend the meaning in the correct manner. Further, Ibn Al-Mundhir recorded in his Tafsir that Nafi` bin Yazid said, "Those firmly grounded in knowledge are those who are modest for Allah's sake, humbly seek His pleasure, and do not exaggerate regarding those above them, or belittle those below them.''

Allah said that they supplicate to their Lord,

﴿ رَبَّنَا لَا تُزِغۡ قُلُوبَنَا بَعۡدَ إِذۡ هَدَيۡتَنَا

(Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after You have guided us.) meaning, "Do not deviate our hearts from the guidance after You allowed them to acquire it. Do not make us like those who have wickedness in their hearts, those who follow the Mutashabih in the Qur'an. Rather, make us remain firmly on Your straight path and true religion.''

﴿ وَهَبۡ لَنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ

(And grant us from Ladunka) meaning, from You,

﴿ رَحۡمَةً‌ۚ

(Mercy) with which You make our hearts firm, and increase in our Faith and certainty,

﴿ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ ٱلۡوَهَّابُ

(Truly, You are the Bestower)

Ibn Abi Hatim and Ibn Jarir recorded that Umm Salamah said that the Prophet used to supplicate,

« يَا مُقَلِّبَ الْقُلُوبِ ثَبِّتْ قَلْبِي عَلَى دِينِك »

(O You Who changes the hearts, make my heart firm on Your religion.)

He then recited,

﴿ رَبَّنَا لَا تُزِغۡ قُلُوبَنَا بَعۡدَ إِذۡ هَدَيۡتَنَا وَهَبۡ لَنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحۡمَةً‌ۚ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ ٱلۡوَهَّابُ

("Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after You have guided us, and grant us mercy from You. Truly, You are the Bestower.'') The Ayah continues,

﴿ رَبَّنَآ إِنَّكَ جَامِعُ ٱلنَّاسِ لِيَوۡمٍ۬ لَّا رَيۡبَ فِيهِ‌ۚ

("Our Lord! Verily, it is You Who will gather mankind together on the Day about which there is no doubt'') meaning, they say in their supplication: O our Lord! You will gather Your creation on the Day of Return, judge between them and decide over what they disputed about. Thereafter, You will reward or punish each according to the deeds they did in this life.

﴿ إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ لَن تُغۡنِىَ عَنۡهُمۡ أَمۡوَٲلُهُمۡ وَلَآ أَوۡلَـٰدُهُم مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ شَيۡـًٔ۬ا‌ۖ وَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمۡ وَقُودُ ٱلنَّارِ ڪَدَأۡبِ ءَالِ فِرۡعَوۡنَ وَٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبۡلِهِمۡ‌ۚ كَذَّبُواْ بِـَٔايَـٰتِنَا فَأَخَذَهُمُ ٱللَّهُ بِذُنُوبِہِمۡ‌ۗ وَٱللَّهُ شَدِيدُ ٱلۡعِقَابِ

(10. Verily, those who disbelieve, neither their properties nor their offspring will avail them whatsoever against Allah; and it is they who will be fuel of the Fire.) (11. Like the behavior of the people of Fir`awn and those before them; they belied Our Ayat. So Allah punished them for their sins. And Allah is severe in punishment.)

On the Day of Resurrection, No Wealth or Offspring Shall Avail

Allah states that the disbelievers shall be fuel for the Fire,

﴿ يَوۡمَ لَا يَنفَعُ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ مَعۡذِرَتُہُمۡۖ وَلَهُمُ ٱللَّعۡنَةُ وَلَهُمۡ سُوٓءُ ٱلدَّارِ

(The Day when their excuses will be of no profit to wrongdoers. Theirs will be the curse, and theirs will be the evil abode (i.e. painful torment in Hell-fire).) (40:52).

Further, what they were granted in this life of wealth and offspring shall not avail them with Allah, or save them from His punishment and severe torment. Similarly, Allah said,

﴿ فَلَا تُعۡجِبۡكَ أَمۡوَٲلُهُمۡ وَلَآ أَوۡلَـٰدُهُمۡ‌ۚ إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ ٱللَّهُ لِيُعَذِّبَہُم بِہَا فِى ٱلۡحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنۡيَا وَتَزۡهَقَ أَنفُسُہُمۡ وَهُمۡ كَـٰفِرُونَ

(So let not their wealth nor their children amaze you; in reality Allah's plan is to punish them with these things in the life of this world, and that their souls shall depart (die) while they are disbelievers.) (9:55), and,

﴿ لَا يَغُرَّنَّكَ تَقَلُّبُ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ فِى ٱلۡبِلَـٰدِ مَتَـٰعٌ۬ قَلِيلٌ۬ ثُمَّ مَأۡوَٮٰهُمۡ جَهَنَّمُ‌ۚ وَبِئۡسَ ٱلۡمِهَادُ

(Let not the free disposal (and affluence) of the disbelievers throughout the land deceive you. A brief enjoyment; then, their ultimate abode is Hell; and worst indeed is that place for rest.) (3:196, 197).

Allah said in this Ayah (3:10),

﴿ إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ

(Verily, those who disbelieve) meaning, disbelieved in Allah's Ayat, denied His Messengers, defied His Books and did not benefit from His revelation to His Prophets,

﴿ لَن تُغۡنِىَ عَنۡهُمۡ أَمۡوَٲلُهُمۡ وَلَآ أَوۡلَـٰدُهُم مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ شَيۡـًٔ۬ا‌ۖ وَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمۡ وَقُودُ ٱلنَّارِ

(Neither their properties nor their offspring will avail them whatsoever against Allah; and it is they who will be fuel of the Fire.) meaning, they will be the wood with which the Fire is kindled and fed. Similarly, Allah said,

﴿ إِنَّڪُمۡ وَمَا تَعۡبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ حَصَبُ جَهَنَّمَ

(Certainly you (disbelievers) and that which you are worshipping now besides Allah, are (but) fuel for Hell!) (21:98).

Allah said next,

﴿ كَدَأۡبِ ءَالِ فِرۡعَوۡنَ‌ۙ

(Like the Da'b of the people of Fira`wn.) Ad-Dahhak said that Ibn `Abbas said that the Ayah means, "Like the behavior of the people of Fir`awn.'' This is the same Tafsir of `Ikrimah, Mujahid, Abu Malik, Ad-Dahhak, and others. Other scholars said that the Ayah means, "Like the practice, conduct, likeness of the people of Fir`awn.'' These meanings are all plausible, for the Da'b means practice, behavior, tradition and habit. The Ayah indicates that the disbelievers will not benefit from their wealth or offspring. Rather, they will perish and be punished. This is the same end the people of Fir`awn and the previous nations met, those who rejected the Messengers, the Ayat, and proofs of Allah that they were sent with.

﴿ وَٱللَّهُ شَدِيدُ ٱلۡعِقَابِ

(And Allah is severe in punishment.) meaning, His punishment is severe and His torment is painful. None can escape Allah's grasp, nor does anything escape His knowledge. Allah does what He wills and prevails over all things, it is He to Whom everything is humbled and there is no deity worthy of worship, nor any Lord except Him.

﴿ قُل لِّلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ سَتُغۡلَبُونَ وَتُحۡشَرُونَ إِلَىٰ جَهَنَّمَ‌ۚ وَبِئۡسَ ٱلۡمِهَادُ قَدۡ ڪَانَ لَكُمۡ ءَايَةٌ۬ فِى فِئَتَيۡنِ ٱلۡتَقَتَا‌ۖ فِئَةٌ۬ تُقَـٰتِلُ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ وَأُخۡرَىٰ ڪَافِرَةٌ۬ يَرَوۡنَهُم مِّثۡلَيۡهِمۡ رَأۡىَ ٱلۡعَيۡنِ‌ۚ وَٱللَّهُ يُؤَيِّدُ بِنَصۡرِهِۦ مَن يَشَآءُ‌ۗ إِنَّ فِى ذَٲلِكَ لَعِبۡرَةً۬ لِّأُوْلِى ٱلۡأَبۡصَـٰرِ

(12. Say to those who disbelieve: "You will be defeated and gathered together to Hell, and worst indeed is that place of rest.'') (13. There has already been a sign for you in the two armies that met. One was fighting in the cause of Allah, and as for the other, in disbelief. They saw them with their own eyes twice their number. And Allah supports with His aid whom He wills. Verily, in this is a lesson for those who understand.)

Threatening the Jews With Defeat and Encouraging Them to Learn a Lesson From the Battle of Badr

Allah commanded the Prophet Muhammad to proclaim to the disbelievers,

﴿ سَتُغۡلَبُونَ

(You will be defeated) in this life,

﴿ وَتُحۡشَرُونَ

(And gathered together) on the Day of Resurrection,

﴿ إِلَىٰ جَهَنَّمَ‌ۚ وَبِئۡسَ ٱلۡمِهَادُ

(to Hell, and worst indeed is that place of rest)

Muhammad bin Ishaq bin Yasar recorded that `Asim bin `Umar bin Qatadah said that when the Messenger of Allah gained victory in the battle of Badr and went back to Al-Madinah, he gathered the Jews in the marketplace of Bani Qaynuqa`.

Therefore, Allah said,

﴿ قَدۡ ڪَانَ لَكُمۡ ءَايَةٌ۬

(There has already been a sign for you) meaning, O Jews, who said what you said! You have an Ayah, meaning proof, that Allah will make His religion prevail, award victory to His Messenger, make His Word apparent and His religion the highest.

﴿ فِى فِئَتَيۡنِ

(In the two armies) meaning, two camps,

﴿ ٱلۡتَقَتَا‌ۖ

(that met) in combat (in Badr),

﴿ فِئَةٌ۬ تُقَـٰتِلُ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ

(One was fighting in the Cause of Allah) the Muslims,

﴿ وَأُخۡرَىٰ ڪَافِرَةٌ۬

(And as for the other, in disbelief) meaning, the idolaters of Quraysh at Badr. Allah's statement,

﴿ يَرَوۡنَهُم مِّثۡلَيۡهِمۡ رَأۡىَ ٱلۡعَيۡنِ‌ۚ

(They saw them with their own eyes twice their number) means, the idolaters thought that the Muslims were twice as many as they were, for Allah made this illusion a factor in the victory that Islam had over them.

It was said that the meaning of Allah's statement,

﴿ يَرَوۡنَهُم مِّثۡلَيۡهِمۡ رَأۡىَ ٱلۡعَيۡنِ‌ۚ

(They saw them with their own eyes twice their number) is that the Muslims saw twice as many idolaters as they were, yet Allah gave them victory over the disbelievers. `Abdullah bin Mas`ud said, "When we looked at the disbelievers' forces, we found that they were twice as many as we were. When we looked at them again, we thought they did not have one man more than we had. So Allah's statement,

﴿ وَإِذۡ يُرِيكُمُوهُمۡ إِذِ ٱلۡتَقَيۡتُمۡ فِىٓ أَعۡيُنِكُمۡ قَلِيلاً۬ وَيُقَلِّلُڪُمۡ فِىٓ أَعۡيُنِهِمۡ

(And (remember) when you met, He showed them to you as few in your eyes and He made you appear as few in their eyes.) (8:44)''.

When the two camps saw each other, the Muslims thought that the idolaters were twice as many as they were, so that they would trust in Allah and seek His help. The idolaters thought that the believers were twice as many as they were, so that they would feel fear, horror, fright and despair. When the two camps stood in lines and met in battle, Allah made each camp look smaller in the eyes of the other camp, so that they would be encouraged to fight each other,

﴿ لِّيَقۡضِىَ ٱللَّهُ أَمۡرً۬ا ڪَانَ مَفۡعُولاً۬

(so that Allah might accomplish a matter already ordained (8:42) meaning, so that the truth and falsehood are distinguishable, and thus the word of faith prevails over disbelief and deviation, so that the believers prevail and the disbelievers are humiliated. In a similar statement, Allah said;

﴿ وَلَقَدۡ نَصَرَكُمُ ٱللَّهُ بِبَدۡرٍ۬ وَأَنتُمۡ أَذِلَّةٌ۬‌ۖ

(And Allah has already made you victorious at Badr, when you were a weak little force) (3:12). In this Ayah (3:13) Allah said,

﴿ وَٱللَّهُ يُؤَيِّدُ بِنَصۡرِهِۦ مَن يَشَآءُ‌ۗ إِنَّ فِى ذَٲلِكَ لَعِبۡرَةً۬ لِّأُوْلِى ٱلۡأَبۡصَـٰرِ

(And Allah supports with His victory whom He wills. Verily, in this is a lesson for those who understand.) meaning, this should be an example for those who have intelligence and sound comprehension. They should contemplate about Allah's wisdom, decisions and decree, that He gives victory to His believing servants in this life and on the Day the witnesses stand up to testify.

﴿ زُيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ حُبُّ ٱلشَّهَوَٲتِ مِنَ ٱلنِّسَآءِ وَٱلۡبَنِينَ وَٱلۡقَنَـٰطِيرِ ٱلۡمُقَنطَرَةِ مِنَ ٱلذَّهَبِ وَٱلۡفِضَّةِ وَٱلۡخَيۡلِ ٱلۡمُسَوَّمَةِ وَٱلۡأَنۡعَـٰمِ وَٱلۡحَرۡثِ‌ۗ ذَٲلِكَ مَتَـٰعُ ٱلۡحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنۡيَا‌ۖ وَٱللَّهُ عِندَهُ ۥ حُسۡنُ ٱلۡمَـَٔابِ قُلۡ أَؤُنَبِّئُكُم بِخَيۡرٍ۬ مِّن ذَٲلِڪُمۡ‌ۚ لِلَّذِينَ ٱتَّقَوۡاْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمۡ جَنَّـٰتٌ۬ تَجۡرِى مِن تَحۡتِهَا ٱلۡأَنۡهَـٰرُ خَـٰلِدِينَ فِيهَا وَأَزۡوَٲجٌ۬ مُّطَهَّرَةٌ۬ وَرِضۡوَٲنٌ۬ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ‌ۗ وَٱللَّهُ بَصِيرُۢ بِٱلۡعِبَادِ

(14. Beautified for men is the love of things they covet; women, children, Qanatir Al-Muqantarah of gold and silver, branded beautiful horses (Musawwamah), cattle and fertile land. This is the pleasure of the present world's life; but Allah has the excellent return with Him.) (15. Say: "Shall I inform you of things far better than those For those who have Taqwa there are Gardens (Paradise) with their Lord, underneath which rivers flow. Therein (is their) eternal (home) and Azwajun Mutahharatun (purified mates or wives). And Allah will be pleased with them. And Allah is All-Seer of the servants.'')