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Can Quran be understood without understanding the pre-Quranic milieu?

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That’s what i said at the first place smile

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Muneeb

 


Yes, but you also said this:
“I agree that every surah has a topic , around which it revolves, but sometimes it’s essential for us to know the shan-e-nazul or background of the verse, like i gave the example in previous comment , that how else would we know that this refers to sulah-e-hudaibia?”

What I tried to say is that it is “not” “essential” for us to know the narrations of Shan-e-Nuzool of any Surah. Surah Fatah itself is clearly telling us that it is about Sulah Hudaibiya. Narrations are a useful information to have, but it is not essential as you asked.

I hope I am clear enough this time smile

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Thanks Qutub for your valuable explanations!  We hope you linger around !

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got the point. Thanxs !

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Muneeb

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Understanding Qur’an has two dimensions;

i) to understand the text of Qur’an, and

ii) to learn the lessons and the rulings from Qur’an.

If the text of Qur’an is to be understood, then certainly the milieu of that period is to be understood first.

But if the object is to learn lessons and the commandments from Allah - and which is the main object of Qur’an - then to know the social and cultural environments of that period become secondary, if not irrelevant.

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Muneeb - 16 April 2011 02:47 PM

The context and the one to whom Quran is given and the circumstances should be kept in consideration else how would one interpret the ayahs of Surah Tauba of Qitaal , and of the ayah which grants permission to have sex with “Laundis” etc etc. .

Please increase my knowledge by quoting all the verses of Quran which are referred above. Shukran

 

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Naveed Ul Islam
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Naveed, there seems to be something amiss what is posted here on this forum is not complete yet what we received as an E- mail is much more than what is shown here, I wonder what happened,did you edit your post to this one line? can someone enlighten me please.

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Yes, I edited the post as I thought it was a not written in the best manner that I should have. Therefore I removed my emotional feelings and replaced those with a simple question until I can get a response as to what verses of Quran were being referred.

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Naveed Ul Islam
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I am glad there is someone else with these ” emotional feelings”.... so now the ball is in Muneeb’s court.

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How to understand Quran - Quran’s Perspecive

Part 1 Some Basic Principals (these are not all the principals)
(A) Whoever starts a thread must provide his/her definition and some explaination instead of just throwing a question. Here we don’t exactly know what was the intention of the originator or the thread. Was it a question or else? The result is that peolple start getting confused and everyone is resorting to several sources before even agreeing to one definition
(A) I have carefully read each and every post inclding opinion of Farahi. While there is nothing wrong with the overall understanding of the group I would like to point out that Quran is revealed by the Wise Allah who says:
50:16 وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ وَنَعْلَمُ مَا تُوَسْوِسُ بِهِ نَفْسُهُ ۖ وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ حَبْلِ الْوَرِيدِ
And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] life-vein

Why then we would not assume that Allah would not know in advance and tell us within Quran how to understand Quran?
I would not try to go into too much details and explain all the principals of understanding of Quran here in this post as I am gathering from the Quran itself but I will try to relate Quran’s perspective relating to “milieu”. I would not define milieu as it has already been defined above by Sabaq and I don’t see any issues with that definition.
Here are my observations:
(1) No principal of understanding can be brought in to understand Quran from Outside Quran. It must specifically be directly verifiable from Quran.
56:79 لَّا يَمَسُّهُ إِلَّا الْمُطَهَّرُونَ
None touch it except the purified.
Which means that none can understand the Quran if one tries to understand Quran with preconceived notions or ideas outside Quran
(2) Quran is explain by Allah Himself in details.
75:19 ثُمَّ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا بَيَانَهُ
Then upon Us is its clarification
It means that it is only for Allah to explain the Quran. If someone thinks there is an exception then it must be written very clearly in Quran and it is not.
(3) Quran is explained by Allah through the principal of diversification of Ayat (or Tasreef Al-Ayat)
6:105 وَكَذَٰلِكَ نُصَرِّفُ الْآيَاتِ وَلِيَقُولُوا دَرَسْتَ وَلِنُبَيِّنَهُ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ
And thus do We diversify the verses so the disbelievers will say, “You have studied,” and so We may make the Qur’an clear for a people who know.
Following verses of Quran stress the same principal (there may be others with different words):
(6:46), (6:65), (6:105), (7:58), (17:41), (17:89), (18:54), (20:11), (25:50), (46:27)
(4) Quran is in clear Arabic:
26:195 بِلِسَانٍ عَرَبِيٍّ مُّبِينٍ
In a clear Arabic language.
The word مُّبِينٍ is from triliteral root bā yā nūn (ب ي ن) which means, separation or division. مُّبِينٍ means clear, plain or perspicuous (Lane’s Lexicon)
5:15 يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ قَدْ جَاءَكُمْ رَسُولُنَا يُبَيِّنُ لَكُمْ كَثِيرًا مِّمَّا كُنتُمْ تُخْفُونَ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَيَعْفُو عَن كَثِيرٍ ۚ قَدْ جَاءَكُم مِّنَ اللَّهِ نُورٌ وَكِتَابٌ مُّبِينٌ
O People of the Scripture, there has come to you Our Messenger making clear to you much of what you used to conceal of the Scripture and overlooking much. There has come to you from Allah a light and a clear Book.
The words “كِتَابٌ مُّبِينٌ ” means that, “the book that makes manifest all that is required to be known” (Lane’s Lexicon).
Therefore in order to fully comprehend the message of Quran it is necessary to understand “عَرَبِيٍّ مُّبِينٍ”
The beauty of the arabic language is that unlike other languages its dictionaries or lexicons are not organized alphabetically and the linguistic meanings and its variations are preserved in authentic dictionaries as well as the history and all variations of the words originating from the root. The best reference for Arabic to English is Lane’s Lexicon but Taj Al-Aroos Lissan Al-Arab also provide indispensible information but cumbersome to be used for non-native speakers but still can be used with a little labour and are freely available on internet.
Please take a note that most of the time Quran is a dictionarey of its words by itself and the same or similar words used elsewhere in Quran explain the meanings of the word and many times even the context of the word. Some examples may be presented at the end of this write up to illustrate this point.
(5) If we believe in all the principals described above then another principal follows, that is, if the context is required by the verses then Allah has already provided it either (a) within the verse or (b) before or after the verse or (c) elsewhere in Quran. This is already evident by the argument (3) above.
It will actually follows that the “milieu” is in fact built into either the words, preceding or following cerses or the context of verses elsewhere if the Wise Allah deemed it necassary. If the context cannot be found anywhere then just forget about everything else and understand the message since context or anything like the “milieu” was not necessary at all.
Next
Part 2 - Example

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Naveed Ul Islam
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Part 2 - Example

Example 1: Surat Al-Kawthar (The Abundance) - سورة الكوثر
Below is a traditionl translation
108:1 إِنَّا أَعْطَيْنَاكَ الْكَوْثَرَ
Indeed, We have granted you, [O Muhammad], al-Kawthar.
108:2 فَصَلِّ لِرَبِّكَ وَانْحَرْ
So pray to your Lord and sacrifice [to Him alone].
108:3 إِنَّ شَانِئَكَ هُوَ الْأَبْتَرُ
Indeed, your enemy is the one cut off.

Notes: Al-Kawthar in the verse 1 is described as a river stream in paradise by a naration from a book of hadith.
Verse 3 is said to describe that the enemy of the Prophet Muhammad will not have any descendants.
Now if read in the plain text: O Muhammad (AS) We have granted you the al-Kawthar which is a river stream in paradise. Therefore you should pray and sacrifice as a result your enemy will have no descendants.
This is what we have been told this Surah means since we were kids. It is s nice to read story and as far as we do not ponder over the verses and just follow them blindly (see verse 25:73 of Quran) then it is fine.  Let us not criticize the translation in details. Farahi and Islahi have interpreted this Surah by attributing the blessings of Kaabah and its surroundings as being the manifestation of Al- Kawthar in this world while maintaining that Al- Kawthar can still be attributed towards river stream in paradise for the life in hereafter. In fact it is actually Farahi’s original thought that he has considered all possibilities and then decided to use Kaabah as Al- Kawthar. No doubt it was a brilliant effort and approach but there is one very SIMPLE problem with his approach which will be apparent when explained below:
The literal meanings of the word “الْكَوْثَرَ” “Al-Kawthar” is “abundance”. It is derived from the trilateral root kāf thā rā (ك ث ر) occurs 167 times in the Quran, in 10 derived forms:

By looking at its different variations as that occur in Quran we need to find something that that is given in abundance and without further due one reaches to the following verse:
2:269 يُؤْتِي الْحِكْمَةَ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُؤْتَ الْحِكْمَةَ فَقَدْ أُوتِيَ خَيْرًا كَثِيرًا ۗ وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّا أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ
He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except those of understanding.

From above verse it follows that:
Wisdom = Much Good or خَيْرًا كَثِيرًا
Therefore it means that Allah gives Wisdom to those whom He wills and that is equivalent to wisdom. But the issue here is that since there is Al in Al- Kawthar it should be something specific. Continuing the search can we find something that specific that gives us abundance of good and wisdom? There we go:
There are several verses in Quran in which Quran has been termed as being parallel to wisdom and one of them is:
2:129 رَبَّنَا وَابْعَثْ فِيهِمْ رَسُولًا مِّنْهُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِكَ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ ۚ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ
Our Lord, and send among them a messenger from themselves who will recite to them Your verses and teach them the Book and wisdom and purify them. Indeed, You are the Exalted in Might, the Wise.”

Let me try to re-translate the Surah Al-Kawthar again.
108:1 Indeed, We have granted you, al-Kawthar (abundance of good of Quran)
108:2 So pray to your Sustainer and sacrifice.
108:3 Indeed, your enemy is the one cut off (from abundance of good of Quran)
Farahi has actually discussed this solution but he resorted to Kaabah as being “abundance of good” and the issue with his perspective is that kaabah is the material center of abundance while the real center of and is restricted in one sense that not everyone can enjoy its abundance out of the Ummah of prophet Muhammad (AS) unless one visits Kaabah whereas Quran is in the hearts of all the believers all the time and that is the real abundance of good that all of us enjoy. Note that even if Prophet Muhammad (AS) is addressed but eventually all of the Ummah is being addressed since the “abundance of good” from Quran and the resulting wisdom from Quran makes us the “people of understanding” or wise.
Therefore the point I wish to bring up from this example is that Quran itself is the only best interpretation of itself and while Farahi’s interpretation is not incorrect is may only be considered as second best and we know that Quran says that:
39:18 الَّذِينَ يَسْتَمِعُونَ الْقَوْلَ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ أَحْسَنَهُ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ هَدَاهُمُ اللَّهُ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمْ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ
Who listen to speech and follow the best of it. Those are the ones Allah has guided, and those are people of understanding.
More examples are available where the great minds and scholar have made obvious and grave mistake just by not sticking to the Quranic interpretations of following Shan-i-Nazool or hadith etc. Surah Abasa is again one such example. I would invite everyone to ponder on this Surah Abasa and if no answer is posted in a day or two then I will write the mistake commited relating to this Surah.

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Naveed Ul Islam
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You have taken great pains to explain how Quran should be understood. I can relate to your reasoning Quran is the word of God and so it should be understood on its own.We should not be looking at history to explain it. The simple reason being history is written by man and it is from the understanding of the historians that we read it now.

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Let alone Quran, no other single written or seen incident can be understood in its true sense without knowing its context. Let me share one of my personal experience;

I have two sons with a year Age-difference. My younger son was to go through Tonsillectomy (surgical removal of Tonsils) a day later while one of my friend visited me unbeknownst to what my son is going to go through tomorrow. My younger son was advised by the Doctor not to consume anything from mouth twelve hours in advance, so we were going through this period. As usual, we served some beverages and snacks to the visitor, and, seeing this, my older son walked to me and asked if he could have some, I allowed! But then my younger son also came forward and asked for the same favor and my answer was big NO!! This activity was repeated for a couple of times until the visitor intervened, apparently sympathizing with my younger son, and said,” why do you discriminate among your sons, isn’t he your son too (pointing to the younger one)?” In response, I explained to him and he realized that I was right.

I wonder, that had my friend left without knowing the fact, how he would have interpreted the incident; in several following ways, that;

1- I hate my younger son
2- I love my older son more than the younger one
3- I was angry on my younger son
4- May be the Snacks were not enough

At most if he had interpreted it right he would have thought;

5- that My younger son was sick so I didn’t allow him to eat, but apparently he didn’t look sick?????

But after knowing the context, the Visitor could have had, and had, just one single statement (not any interpretation), and it was;

‘I stopped my younger son from eating/drinking coz he was waiting for a surgery, and that it was a Doctor’s advice’

This is what context does! We see various interpretations of Quran and Ahadeeth, drastically different from each other and some utterly not making any sense, and, this is only because we ignore the milieu.

It is extremely important!

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Javed Ahmad Ghamidi - 04 May 2011 01:07 AM

Can Quran be understood without understanding the political and societal setup of the time of Prophet PBUH?  Please share your views.

In my humble opinion:

If Quran is a DIVINE book sent for ALL HUMANITY and for ALL TIMES, it should not depend on anything else – it SHOULD be COMPLETE and SELF EXPLANATORY.

And this is exactly what Quran claims as well, to quote a few:

2:97 Say, “Whoever is an enemy to Gabriel - it is [none but] he who has brought the Qur’an down upon your heart, [O Muhammad], by permission of Allah , confirming that which was before it and as
GUIDANCE AND GOOD TIDINGS FOR THE BELIEVERS.”

12:111 There was certainly in their stories a lesson for those of understanding. Never was the Qur’an a narration invented, but a confirmation of what was before it and a detailed explanation of all things and guidance and mercy for a people who believe.

11:1 Alif, Lam, Ra. 
[This is] a Book whose verses are perfected and then presented in detail from [one who is] Wise and Acquainted.

12:1 Alif, Lam, Ra.   
These are the verses of the clear Book.

6:38 No creature is there crawling on the earth, no bird flying with its wings, but they are nations like unto yourselves. We have neglected nothing in the Book; then to their Lord they shall be mustered.

6:115 Perfect are the words of thy Lord in truthfulness and justice; no man can change His words; He is the All-hearing, the All-knowing.

16:89 And the day We shall raise up from every nation a witness against them from amongst them, and We shall bring thee as a witness against those. And We have sent down on thee the Book making clear everything, and as a guidance and a mercy, and as good tidings to those who surrender.