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Hajj and Umrah

Muhkam and Mutashaabih

These lessons are only a brief introduction to the sciences of the Qur’aan and one should not consider that they have completely studied it after these lessons.

Usage of the terms in the Qur'aan

“It is He Who has sent down to you the Book. In it are Verses that are entirely clear (muhkamaat), they are the foundations of the Book; and others not entirely clear (mutashaabihaat). So as for those in whose hearts there is a deviation they follow that which is not entirely clear thereof, seeking Al-Fitnah, and seeking for its hidden meanings, but none knows its hidden meanings save Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: "We believe in it; the whole of it (clear and unclear Verses) are from our Lord." And none receive admonition except men of understanding.” [3:7]

Muhkamaat make up the majority/core of the Qur’aan

An example of the mutashaabih can be found in the number in the story of the people of the cave (al kahf) and those who have the problem in their heart disputed over it.
In one recitation (that of ibn Abbaas), those who are firmly grounded in knowledge are included in knowing its meanings although the scholars have said the preferred view is the knowledge is with Allah alone. [Note: ibn Taymiyyah said (that the recitation of ibn Abbaas is valid in that) those grounded in knowledge know the ta’weel of the mutashaabih in the sense of its meanings (but the real essence is known only to Allah)]

From this ayah we know that there are muhkam and mutashaabih in the Qur’aan.

In [39:23], Allah called the Qur’aan mutashaabih. In this context mutashaabih means similar or uniform.
The word can also be used for doubt as in [2:70]
In [11:1], Allah says the aayaat of the Qur’aan are all muhkam. In this context, muhkam means perfected.

Thus muhkam is used to mean perfect or clear and mutashaabih is used to mean uniform, doubtful or obscure

Explanation of [3:7]

There are several opinions regarding the meaning of the clear and unclear verses:

Some aayaat (muhkam) have a clear intended meaning whilst others do not have a clear intended meaning but needs explanation.
Muhkam is a shari’ ruling that is not subject to abrogation whilst the mutashaabih can be abrogated.
Imam Ahmad said Muhkam is that which is independent and does not require explanation and the mutashaabih is that which is not independent and needs explanation
Muhkam is that upon which you act and mutashaabih is that in which you believe. As Suyuti took this from those tabi’een who studied under ibn Abbaas like Mujaahid and Ikrimah.
Muhkam is that which has an understandable meaning whilst the mutashaabih does not.
Best definition is that of ibn Abbaas which covers all angles: Muhkam is that which is not likely to be explained in more than one way although it does require some explanation (as everything in the Qur’aan is mujmal (comprehensive) and needs some explanation) whilst the mutashaabih is that which can have more than one likely explanation.

Therefore the intention of Allah is clear in the muhkam and not clear in the mutashaabih.

Tashaabah (ambiguity)

3 Categories (although there are many different ways of categorising):

An ayah that is unclear due to one words meaning not being known. 3 types:

A word that is unknown in the language is used in an ayah, e.g. abba in [80:31] was explained by the prophet to mean that which grows from the earth but is not eaten by man but by the cattle (e.g. grass, etc.)
A word that is used in a way that the meaning was not immediately known by the arabs, e.g. yameen in [37:93] meant the right hand
A word that is used out of sequence, e.g. Qayyima in [18:2] referred to what was said in the ayah before but was placed in the next ayah out of sequence.

The words are known but the meaning/essence is not.

For example, the attributes of Allah, His face, hands, etc.

Both the words and meaning need explanation to understand the ayah.

5 types where explanation is required:

In terms of the shari’ ruling -  a statement is made but the ruling that is drawn from the ayah needs explanation, e.g. [4:3], could be interpreted to mean 9 wives due to the usage of ‘wa’, it could also be interpreted to mean that one should marry the orphan girls to prevent injustice, both are wrong interpretations of rulings.
In terms of the time -  whether a statement is abrogated or not, e.g. [3:102] ordered the muslims to fear Allah as is His right to be feared but this was abrogated by the order to fear to the best of our ability [64:16]
In terms of the context of revelation – why and when it was revealed, e.g. [2:189] was revealed to prohibit the practise of entering their houses from the back (by making a hole) in the state of Ihraam during hajj due to a ritualistic belief that the Quraysh had that they should not enter from the front door.
[9:37] – an nasee was the practise of shuffling the months around due to the desire to fight in prohibited months or to fast on shorter days.
In terms of the general and specific – is a statement general or intended for some specific people/time, for example, the aayaat to free Aaishah from the slander were specific to her or [2:195], referred to the leaving of jihad by the ansaar after some battles to tend to their trade.

However, the lesson taken is from the generality of the words and not the specificity of the reason. This application has to be done by the one who knows only.

In terms of the conditions of acts of worship – need explanation to understand
E.g. [5:6] says wudhu should be done by wiping your head and feet but the grammatical construction is such that washing applies to the feet rather than wiping them.

Types of Mutashaabih

1) That which only Allah knows and man cannot understand,

e.g. knowledge of the hour, letters at the beginning of the surahs, etc.

2) That which man can understand by the permission of Allah with study.

3) That which can only be understood be certain people of knowledge,

e.g. ibn Abbaas due to the du’aa of the prophet for him ‘O Allah give him the understanding of the deen and teach him the interpretation’
Ibn Mas’ud asked for the same du’aa to which the prophet replied ‘you have already got that’.

Wisdom behind these types:

For that which is not humanely possible to know:

Mercy of Allah as man is not capable of understanding and can have distressing effects, e.g. if man was aware of the terrors of the grave, the day of judgement and the hellfire, he would despair due to his weakness.
This is a trial to see who believes and hopes in the unseen.
Establishes the proof of the ignorance and inability of the man to have the capabilities of knowing everything.

For that which can be learnt:

It is an encouragement to learn about the Qur’aan and the religion
To make the memorisation of the Qur’aan easy due to the deeper study and understanding of the aayaat.
Encouragement towards seeking the evidences.
Frees a person from blind following due to the knowledge of tafsir and how it should be done.
Establishes the miracles of the Qur’aan