How should it be understood that the Quran was sent down clearly? Is it possible for everybody to read the translation of the Quran and practice it?

Details of the Question
We are weak and sinful humans. We sometimes ask respectable scholars about the things that we do not understand. However, some brothers mention some verses stating that everything in the Quran is understandable and that they can be understood without asking the opinion of anybody. I would like you to write an article to address those people stating that scholars know everything and that we cannot understand those verses with our limited minds.
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The Quran is an endless sea. It is like an ocean. You understand that it is a sea when you see it. You see waves and fish in it. You can even swim in its shore. However, not everybody can understand what is in it equally. Those who cannot swim well can swim in the shore. Those who can swim well swim in deeper places.

However, there are very deep places where even the best swimmers cannot swim. It is necessary to board on a ship in those places. There are even some places in the oceans where transatlantic ships can hardly sail. The Quran is a clear book (like the sea being seen as sea). In the Quran, there is knowledge that can be understood by even the most ignorant people and knowledge that can be understood only by great scholars. Mutashabih (ambiguous) verses are among them. It is possible to say the same thing about hadiths too.  

Badiuzzaman Said Nursi states the following in his work called Sözler (Words): “The Quran passes through seventy thousand veils, it looks to each and illuminates it.It scatters its radiance and spreads its light to the thousands of levels of those it addresses, the understanding and intelligence of whom are all different.”

Like this book of the universe, the Quran is wrapped in veils of meaning; it is full of so many intertwined secrets and wisdoms. It is not possible to move to the second screen before watching the first screen. There are numerous screens in front of humans before they can be real addressees of the kalam attribute, which is the source of the divine decrees. 

If it is thought that the same Quran educates all Companions, mujtahids, saints, righteous people and all believers, it will be clearly seen that there are seventy thousand veils (screens) between the Divine Speech and us. All plants turn toward the sun but each of them benefits from the sun based on their nature. Every tree in a garden is placed into the same ground and is irrigated with the same water but they yield different fruits. 

The Book of the Universe and the Quran. There are seventy thousand veils in both of them. As man covers distances in the field of the heart, spirit and intellect, he will receive different manifestations and will progress in the way of knowing his Lord.

Those veils can be passed after the barriers in front of the soul are removed. The more we overcome our laziness, the more we will progress on the way. The more we overcome our ignorance, the more progress we will make in ilm (knowledge). As we move away from ignorance, we will approach peace. 

The fact that Allah Almighty is behind seventy thousand veils teaches us this: The weakness, poverty, mistakes and ignorance, in short, all of man’s incomplete attributes also contain seventy thousand veils.

How should we act when the decrees in the Quran and hadiths contradict our mind?

First of all, we should determine this: When the mind contradicts the nass (verses and hadiths), the mind that is authorized to interpret the nass is a mind that is an expert regarding the issue and whose word and view is valid. If the thing that contradicts is a verse, the person who is authorized to interpret is a tafsir scholar who is specialized. If the verse contains a fiqh decree, the right to speak belongs to fiqh scholars and mujtahids. If a hadith is in question, the duty belongs to the experts of hadith. The minds of the people who have not studied ilm and who regard their desires and souls as criteria cannot have any right to speak about the issue.

First, let us give an example about verses, which are the primary part of nass: The following is stated in verse 10 of the chapter of al-Fath:

“The Hand of Allah is over their hands.”

The mind decrees that Allah, who is the Creator of all material and spiritual realms, is free from having hands. However, the verse mentions a hand. In that case, it needs to be interpreted based on the mind.

Tafsir scholars are divided into two groups related to the interpretation of mutashabih verses like the one above. Tafsir scholars called Mutaqaddimun (scholars who lived earlier) did not interpret mutashabih verses. They kept silent by saying, “Allah knows best what is known by this verse.” The scholars called Mutaakhkhirun (scholars who lived later) interpreted verses like that one acting upon the rule“When the mind and nass contradict, the mind is regarded as basis and nass is interpreted” and they said what is meant by “hand” is “power”. This is an interpretation and only tafsir scholars are authorized to make this interpretation. Another example is as follows: The following is stated in verse 154 of the chapter of al-Baqara:

“And say not of those who are slain in the way of Allah. ’They are dead.’ Nay, they are living, though ye perceive (it) not.”

The mind decrees that those people died but nass says, “Do not call them dead”. At this point, the mind is regarded as basis and acting upon the following verse

“Every soul shall have a taste of death...” (al-Anbiya, 21/35),

it was decreed that martyrs also had the taste of death and their janazah prayers were performed. However, it is thought that those heroes of belief are not aware that they are dead and that they lead a life of grave that is very different from that of the other dead people.

Another verse regarding the issue is as follows:

“His Throne doth extend over the heavens and the earth.” (al-Baqara, 2/255)

A material chair and throne cannot be thought about Allah Almighty; therefore, the word kursiy” (chair/throne) mentioned in the verse was interpreted as “Allah’s sovereignty and power” and “a description of divine loftiness and greatness”.

The same rule is used for hadiths too.

“If this world was worth the wing of a mosquito to Allah, the disbeliever would not have a drop to drink from it.”(Ibn Majah, Zuhd 3; Tirmidhi Zuhd: 13)

Let us think about the hadith above. The mind does not think that the world, which is the place of manifestation for divine names and the field of the hereafter, is not worth the wing of a mosquito to Allah; therefore, the mind and nass contradict here. At this point, the mind is regarded as basis and acting upon the decree “the world is not unimportant”, nass is interpreted.

The explanation of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi regarding the issue is as follows:

“The reality of it is this: the phrase for Almighty Allah refers to the eternal realm. Yes, since a light from the eternal realm to the extent of a fly’s wing is everlasting, it is greater than a temporary light that fills the face of the earth. That means it is not to say that the huge world is equal to a fly’s wing, but that everyone’s private world which is situated within their short lives, is not equal to an everlasting Divine effulgence and bounty to the extent of a fly’s wing from the eternal realm.” (Sözler, Yirmi Dördüncü Söz)

Another example is as follows: The Messenger of Allah states the following related to a glorification: “Those who read it will be given thawabs as many as those given to Hz. Musa (Moses) and Harun (Aaron)”. It is not logical that a believer will receive as many rewards as a prophet by uttering a glorification. At this point, the mind and nass contradict. The mind is regarded as basis here and it is interpreted that a believer cannot get as many rewards as a prophet; thus the nass, that is, the hadith, is interpreted.

We will quote two parts from the wonderful analysis of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi here: 

The reality of the matter is this:

With our narrow mind and short views in this world, we know how much we imagine the rewards of Moses and Aaron (Peace be upon them) to be. The reward the Absolutely Compassionate One will give to one of His infinitely needy servants in the world of eternity and everlasting happiness, in return for a single invocation may be equal to the reward of those two, but equal to the rewards as we conceive of them and surmise them to be.” (see ibid.)

“Thus, with our worldly views and narrow minds, we cannot think as much as that primitive man of the true rewards which look to the hereafter. It is not the equivalent of the true rewards of Moses and Aaron (Peace be upon them), for according to the rule of similes and comparisons, the unknown is compared to the known; the true reward, which is unknown, for an invocation of one of Allah’s believing servants is compared with the rewards that we know and surmise. Moreover, the surface of the sea and the heart of a droplet are equal when it comes to holding the complete reflection of the sun. The difference is only in quality. The nature of the reward reflected in the mirrors of the ocean-like spirits of Moses and Aaron (Peace be upon them) is exactly the same in nature as the reward that a believing servant, who is like a droplet, receives from a Qur’anic verse. They are the same in nature and quantity, while their quality is dependent on capacity.” (see ibid)

The third example: The nass and the mind contradict in the following verse: “The earth rests on an ox and a fish.” The mind knows that the earth is noton an ox and a fish. In that case, this hadith of the great Messenger, who was honored with the miracle of Miraj, will definitely be interpreted. 

It is stated in Nur Collection that it is metaphorical and very nice explanations are made about it.

We will summarize those explanations: The state is on sword and pen, that is, knowledge and power; similarly, most people make their living by sea animals and agriculture. This reality is expressed as “The earth rests on an ox and a fish.” In addition, according to another narration, all of this hadith was not uttered as a whole. Once, the Prophet said, “The earth rests on a fish” and on another occasion, he said, “The earth rests on an ox.” They are in the sense of the zodiac signs Taurus and Pisces.

To sum up: The mind is something created. It is an important tool for man’s study and research in the material world. However, what the mind needs to do related to the issues like Allah’s names and attributes, the purpose of creation of man, divine orders and prohibitions, when and how to worship, metaphysical fields like the realms of grave and the hereafter is to be subject to nass. 

Since the mind is a creature of Allah Almighty and since nass is His decree, a contradiction between the true religion and the mind is unthinkable. When such a contradiction is seen in metaphorical meanings, the rule mentioned above is to applied and the qualified and specialized people regarding the issue are to interpret the nass based on the mind.

It is a separate honor and worshipping for the mind to make such an interpretation. If Allah Almighty had wished, He would have imposed all decrees in a way that would not necessitate any interpretation; and the mind would not have to do many things. Divine wisdom and mercy allocated a share of honor for the mind and caused human mind to interpret and make ijtihad related to a small amount of verses and hadiths. 

Islamic scholars have evaluated the issue like that. Otherwise, it is not appropriate for a person to use that rule as a basis for changing the religious decrees that does not comply with his mind or for rejecting those decrees. In that case, as many different views as people will occur. Then, the traces of the true religion will be invisible.

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