Qur'an Difficulty:

God alone or also men?

Sura 16:103 states that the Qur'an is "clear Arabic speech." If it were really clear, why is this explanation even necessary? But it doesn't seem to be so clear after all when we read:

He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: In it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah.
And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: "We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord:" and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding.
-- Sura 3:7

In the same verse it says that ONLY Allah knows the meaning of these difficult allegorical verses in the Qur'an ... and then it goes on to tell that "men of understanding" can grasp it. Is that a contradiction or do we want to resolve it with the concept of "incarnation" [God becoming man] which is so much looked down upon by Muslims? But Christianity believes God became man only once. The Qur'an talks about men in the plural...

Actually Arberry translates "... desiring its interpretation; and none knows its interpretation, save only Allah." It does not talk about having a plain clear meaning and also a hidden meaning, but that there are verses which none knows at all what they mean, even though they desire its explanation or interpretation.

A Muslim's Response by Randy Desmond
Date: Wed, 2 Oct 1996 04:40:06 PDT

First, this verse talks about no one knows its hidden meanings except God. The basic or fundamental meanings are clear to all.

Second, what has been translated as "and none will grasp the Message" actually means "and none will take correction/admonition/reminder". So in this case, proposing a contradiction within the verse is irrelevant.

Third, I have read that this verse can also be read as "... but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge. They say "We believe...". A. Yusuf Ali (if I am recalling correctly) mentions this. In this case, the proposed contradiction is exactly opposite of the meaning (aside from the fact that the second point above still holds).

It is instructive to read Yusuf Ali's commentary in the footnote. He is aware of the problem, but also admits that most commentators agree that the sentence ends as he has translated it and then it IS a problem. Making a different sentence structure is ONLY motivated by avoiding a problem, not by the Arabic structure of the sentence.

Look at the second paragraph in the initial response. It is mentioned exactly where A. Yusuf Ali's translation renders "take reminder/admonition/ correction" to be "grasp the Message". There is a HUGE difference in meaning between these two phrases which Jochen uses as a basis for proposing a contradiction.

I only mention my third point as another alternative point of view which would also disprove your proposed contradiction. (You may consider it a problem, but A. Yusuf Ali is just mentioning it for reference.) Suffice it to say, you can throw this point a view out, and you are still disproven in your accusation.

And Jochen is right - it is instructive to read A. Yusuf Ali's commentary regarding the third point to the initial response. Reread it and the verse above. A. Y. Ali is not commenting on the "and none will grasp the message" it is the "and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge" that he is commenting upon. Jochen is mixing apples and oranges here.

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