Did the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) understand the whole Quran?

Details of the Question

- Was the Prophet taught the ambiguous verses of the Quran?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

- Is it possible for the Prophet not to understand the mutashabih (ambiguous/allegorical) verses of the Quran?

“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.” (Aal-i Imran, 3/7) The scholars who are firmly grounded in knowledge are emphasized in the verse above.

According to an important part of the scholars, the meaning of the relevant sentence of the verse is as follows: “However, nobody but Allah and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge can know the reality and real interpretation of those allegorical verses.” (see Tabari, Razi, Mawardi, Baydawi, Nasafi, Ibn Kathir, Ibn Ashur, the interpretation of the verse in question.)

According to a narration, Abdullah b. Abbas said, “I am one of those who know allegorical verses”. (see Tabari, Razi, Mawardi.., ibid)

If some scholars like Ibn Abbas know the allegorical verses of the Quran, is it possible for the Prophet (pbuh) not to know them?

- However, according to a narration from Ibn Abbas, he divides tafsir into four:  

“Tafsir that can be known by everybody (like the words Allah and the Messenger of Allah). Tafsir that can be known by Arabs (like qala = he said). Tafsir known by scholars (general tafsir). Tafsir known by nobody except Allah. (see. Razi, ibid) 

According to this narration, there might be some (very few) things that even the Prophet (pbuh) does not know in the Quran. 

This decree does not mean that the Prophet (pbuh) does not know ambiguous verses in general. There might be some knowledge Allah keeps hidden with His infinite knowledge for Himself. For instance, the lifespan of the Islamic ummah might be indicated in the Quran and the Prophet might not know it exactly. As a matter of fact, it is emphasized in verses and hadiths that “nobody but Allah can know the exact time of Doomsday”.

We should state that the Prophet (pbuh) understood fully from the Quran what was necessary to be understood. For, he is the first addressee of the Quran and the Quran was sent down to him.

“And We have sent down unto thee (also) the Message; that thou mayest explain clearly to men.” (Nahl, 16/44)

Besides, as it is understood from the verse above, it is not in compliance with divine wisdom for something the Prophet cannot understand to be sent down to him.  

As a matter of fact, Badiuzzaman Said Nursi states that the Prophet (pbuh) felt the holy words with all their meanings:   

“Think of Muhammad’s (Upon whom be blessings and peace) spiritual progress: his essential being was the source, seed, life, and means of the mighty tree of the world of Islam: it arose from his performing with his extraordinary capacity and faculties the sacred worship and glorifications which form the spiritual aspects of the world of Islam perceiving all their meaning;...” (see Lem'alar, Otuzuncu Lem'a, Dördüncü Nükte.)

The following statement of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi shows how much effulgence and knowledge the Prophet (pbuh) receives from every verse of the Quran:

"Also, the Divine effulgence which God’s Noble Messenger (PBUH), who manifested the Greatest Name, received from a single verse, may have been as much as all the effulgence one of the other prophets received." (see Sözler, Yirmi Dördüncü Söz, Üçüncü Dal)

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