Can we act upon the translation of the verses whose meaning we can understand clearly? Are all verses mutashabih?

The Details of the Question
Some people say all verses have different meanings than they appear. Is such a thought not contrary to the fact that the Quran is a clear guide for us?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Even a very small deed done in the way of Allah will not be left without a return. Besides, reading the Quran, which is a great deed of the universe, will never be without reward. Since a person gets a thawab (reward) by only looking at the Quran, he will definitely receive thawabs when he reads a translation of the Quran. However, reading the original of the Quran is different from reading its translation. What is essential is to learn to read the original of the Quran and to read its translation in order to understand its meaning.

However, no translation of the Quran can replace its original; therefore, translation of the Quran cannot be read while performing prayers. We have to read the original of the Quran in prayers. Allah’s word is the one that is in Arabic. It has a different place and thawab. Many thawabs are given for each letter of it.

The verse of the Quran are divided into two as "muhkam (clear)" and "mutashabih (ambiguous, allegorical)":

"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 not of well-established meaning. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is not of well-established meaning. Seeking discord, and searching for its interpretation, but no one knows its true meanings except Allah, and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: ‘We believe in it; the whole of it is from our Lord’; and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding." (Aal-i Imran, 3/7)

It is possible to translate it as follows: “Their interpretation can only be known by Allah and those who have deep knowledge. They say, We believe in it; all of it is from our Lord.’Accordingly, "those who have deep knowledge" know the meaning of mutashabih verses.

Muhkam means having a clear and definite meaning, not needing any other evidence in order to be explained. Mutashabih means necessitating other evidence since it may have more than one meaning; it means a verse about which a definite decree cannot be given.

The word mutashabih is derived from the word shibh (similarity); since meanings are intertwined, it expresses doubt, leading to different possibilities. If we think that man’s intellect and senses are limited, it is inevitable that the divine speech addressing man will include mutashabih verses. With mutashabih words, Allah, informs people about the issues the whole of which they cannot understand with similes, at a certain rate and in a way that will be understood differently by people of different levels. This relative state of mutashabih verses does not harm the unchangeable truths of the religion. For, Allah informs us about the things that He wants from responsible people about creed, worshipping, ethics and decrees with muhkam verses. He wants to inform us about some “relative truths” with mutashabih verses.

Due to the state of being a human, relative truths are more abundant than absolute truths in man’s life. Think of a crystal chandelier. Although its voltage and the power of light bulbs do not change, the people sitting around it see different colors and rays when they change their places slightly. It originates from the fact that the gems of the chandelier being cut in a way to form different angles.

Similarly, Allah sent mutashabih verses in order to tell all people that will come to the world up to the Last Day endless meanings at different levels by using limited words and to make them ponder over His book. This inevitable state originates from a necessity. However, it should not be forgotten that similarities in all aspects are not sought between the thing that is likened and the thing that resembles in similes. A similarity even in only one aspect is enough for simile. That is, mutashabih verses are also divided into two as real mutashabih and relative mutashabih. All mutashabih verses have several meanings. Therefore, several meanings are given in tafsir books. However, the real meaning is referred to Allah’s knowledge.

The most important issue to be careful about reading a translation of the Quran is that it is necessary to look at tafsir books and fiqh books related to the principles of belief and decrees like fard, wajib and haram.

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