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Univocity of the Holy Qur’ān
Imam Hamiduddin Farahi
(Tr. by:Tariq Haashmi)


The Holy Qur’ān is univocal and makes the intended meanings of its text absolutely clear. Every single verse gives a single definitive message. It is only the lack of research and study of a verse on the part of the interpreters that makes it subject to various interpretations. The commentators who have recorded multiple interpretations ascribed to the earlier authorities have in fact endeavored to record everything that has reached them from the preceding generations. They did not mean to say that the verse definitely allowed various interpretations. They have left upon us to choose from these various interpretations after careful analysis. It is, therefore, not allowable that we learn and commit to memory all that has been said in this regard treating the sound and the weak equally and let ourselves wander in the mazes of ignorance and doubt. Imām Razī has, in his commentary, recorded five significations of the word “fitnah” occurring in the verse 191 of Sūrah Baqarah.1 Obviously all of them could not have been intended by the author. I have, therefore, only mentioned what I have found right after due research. The great scholars of the past have always adopted this method. A variety of interpretations, in fact, leaves a serious student of the book of God wondering what to take as true and what to discard as spurious. Sometimes people do not even put the arguments in favor of such interpretations and only record sayings what they can get to. I believe that no greater form of injustice to the interpreters of the past and their interpretations than this can be imagined. I have not straightforwardly borrowed the meanings and applications of the verses from the commentaries of the scholars of the past. Rather I have pondered over the verses in the light of the context taking help from their parallels in the Holy Qur’ān. Thus after being clear on the meanings of the verses, I have looked for corroboration in earlier exegetical works like those of Tabarī and Rāzī. Sometimes I found exactly similar interpretation ascribed to the earlier scholars and sometimes my understanding happened to be quite near to what they said. Many times I have been forced to abandon my understanding and at some other difficult instances I had to keep the matter under consideration for a long time. However, such difficulties and problems I ascribe to lack of understanding and knowledge on my part, and my blind adherence to erroneous interpretations.

It may sound strange to hear that one gets confused on something clear like the Holy Qur’ān. However, given the multilayered darkness of heedlessness over the centuries polluting our minds, we may be able to see the reason of this confusion. Many clear facts which are never subject to doubt sometimes remain unnoticed if one is wrapped up in “intellectual darkness”. That God exists, that He is one and unique, that mind rules over body, that there is going to be a Judgement Day, are facts which may never be doubted by any rational being. Yet many doubt and even deny the existence of God and the coming of the Last Day let alone less conspicuous realities. The soul too, like the body suffers from certain ailments. Once it is afflicted, the most obvious of facts get blurred. Facts are addressed at and communicated to sound minds. An ailing mind cannot be expected to grasp them. That the sun gives light and that sugar is sweat are empirical facts acknowledged by all sound minds. But does a blind, a squint and a person suffering from high fever perceives these facts like a normal human being? The answer beyond any doubt is in the negative. The Almighty has, therefore, made it clear in the Holy Qur’ān that all men may not equally acknowledge the truth. While referring to the characteristics of the Holy Qur’ān the Almighty says:

هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ (٢:٢)

[It is] guidance for the God-conscious. (2:2)

At another place it has been said:

وَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرآنَ جَعَلْنَا بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَ الَّذِينَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالآخِرَةِ حِجَابًا مَّسْتُورًا (٤٥:١٧)

And when you recite the Qur'ān [to them], we put a thick veil between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter. (17:45)

This theme has been referred to in some other places.

Socrates is reported to have remarked that human soul knows everything but at times forgetfulness overtakes it. Mawlānā Rūm would say, “do not interpret the Qur’ān according to your personal desire, rather accord your self with what the Holy Qur’ān says.” Khawājah Hāfiz says, “the greatest veil is your nafs (self); remove it.” What do these sages mean by these sayings?

I believe that the Qur’ān has communicated its purport in the most demonstrative and the most appropriate style. Wherever it departs from customary usage, it does so in order to point towards a specific meaning. I will discuss this issue in a separate introduction to this book wherein we will try to elaborate the principles which remove the possibility of multiple interpretations of a Qur’ānic verse.2 I am also convinced that the mutashābih (allegorical) verses and the hurūf al-muqatta‘āt (the abbreviated letters) are not less clear in their meanings. I will also deal with them in a separate introduction.

(Translated from Farāhī’s Majmū‘ah Tafāsīr by Tariq Mahmood Hashmi)






1. The referred to verse says: fitnah is even worse than killing. (2:191). Imām Rāzī has enumerated the following five possible meanings of the word fitnah in the verse: (i) disbelief in God, (ii) anything employed in test and trial, (iii) the everlasting punishment destined for the disbelievers on account of their disbelief, (iv) subjection of the Muslims by the disbelievers, by denying them the right to visit the house of God and (v) irtidād (apostasy). (Rāzī, al-Tafsīr al-Kabīr, 4th ed., vol. 5 (Maktab al-A‘lām al-Islāmī, 1313 AH), 142-3)

2. The author has treated the principles of interpretation in one of his unpublished work. (Islāhī) (This work has been published since long under the title: at-Takmīl fī usūl al-Ta’wīl, (‘Azamgarh, India: Ad-Da’irah al-Hamīdiyyah wa Makātabatuhū, 1338/1968) (Translator)

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