03 Nov What is the reason for the mutashabih verses in the Qur’an?.Part1
The Qur’an is not a book that addresses the people of a particular area at a particular time.
On the contrary, it is universal, speaking to all people at all times. Accordingly, whatever principles and messages it has brought are able to be grasped and understood by all people, no matter where or when they live. Such intelligibility can only be achieved with the expressions that the Qur’an employed in its approach to and introduction of matters; that is, people at all times should be able to perceive the implications of the expressions used in the Qur’an to the degree of comprehension that they have reached at the time in which they live. Such a condition is secured and maintained by the existence of the mutashabih, or intricate, verses of the Qur’an.
The following example might help to make the matter clearer:
Suppose that you are to explain the radio to an audience that has a scientific understanding from many centuries earlier. Naturally, such a people are unaware of even electricity, let alone information about electro-magnetic waves, transistors, transmitters, receivers, or studios, all of which are required for radio technology. Therefore, it would be best to tell them, for instance, that the radio is a speaking box. Such a description is, in fact, not even 1% of the facts inherent in radio technology. Since it is impossible to present to such an audience all the facts in all their aspects, the best way to tell them about the radio is to compare it to things they know, using certain words that are suitable for their level of comprehension.
This comparison of the radio, on the one hand, makes it more easily understandable, while, on the other, people are better able to understand that the radio is a complicated piece of machinery which is difficult to explain. What is expected of such an audience is to believe in the ideas and knowledge they can glean from the description without having any overly detailed or complicated explanations. Otherwise, they might be inclined to unrealistic or wrong deductions and may end up saying:
“The radio should have a mouth if it speaks and it should have a tongue if it has a mouth. It should also feed itself.”
Likewise, interpreting mutashabih verses according to one’s own preconceptions, and contrary to their context, would result in the same unrealistic deductions that God reproaches in the Qur’an.
Because of the realities of human life, people place, in most cases, more importance on relative truths than on absolute ones. For instance, largeness and smallness, abundance and scarceness, beauty and ugliness, nearness and distance, or heat and cold are all relative concepts and may vary from person to person or from situation to situation. Human life continues its existence dependent on these relativities.
What’s more, time progresses, conditions change, human information increases, and there are as many levels of understanding as there are people. The Qur’an is a treasury of realities that addresses all humanity – present and future generations – until the Final Day. It is full of lessons, and it speaks to all levels of understanding. Such addressing to different understanding levels with the very same words is attained with the mutashabihat (plural for mutashabih) in the Qur’an.