There are two kinds of
knowledge complementing each other. The knowledge that is not accessible to man
in foresight but perfectly understandable in hindsight has been given to us through
revelations to the Messengers of Allah. Knowledge which is accessible to us in
foresight is in the pursuit of the Sciences and is only attainable through
study. There is no knowledge beyond these two. If our knowledge is not anchored
in the Quran or the Sciences, then it is not knowledge but a form of ignorance.
In the revelation of verse
4:176 there is a powerful message. Implementing correctly verses 4:11 and 12
requires knowledge made accessible to man in the pursuit of the Sciences and this
knowledge must be gained through study and personal effort in the normal course
and God does not impart such knowledge even to a prophet. He has given man the required
mental ability and man must use his intellect to develop the solution and live
with compromise solutions in the meantime.
Understanding of the Quran
requires a good knowledge of the Sciences. You cannot understand the Quran
perfectly, unless your knowledge of what God has created is accurate. Many of
the verses were misunderstood and continue to be misunderstood because our
knowledge of the world is defective. The simplest examples are the verses on
conception which speak about the intermingling of the seed from the man issuing
from his loins and the seed from the woman in her pelvis. People who thought
that the seed came only from the man understood the verses differently and said
that the seed comes from between the backbone and the ribs of the man. They
reasoned that if the seed came only from the man then Sulb which means like a
rigid rod must mean the backbone and Taraib
which means an arch must mean the ribs (rather than the pelvic area of a woman)!
Correct understanding of the Quran, is left to human
effort. A sincere seeker of the correct meaning who is also well versed in the Sciences,
mathematics and logic, will understand the Quran better. Piety alone is not
enough. Any saying of the Prophet (pbuh)
in explanation of the Quran is also his own understanding and not inspired by
Allah as demonstrated by the necessity of revelation of 4:176. There is
therefore no need to consider any hadith when the meaning of the Quran is clear.
And there is no verse of the Quran that is unclear today.
While it is beyond debate is that the Prophet (pbuh)
is the foremost among the Momineen and the Muslimeen, and so also the Vanguard
Muslims, it does not necessarily mean that they also had the most perfect understanding
of the Quran. It is also widely acknowledged that many of the stories or
ahadith about the Prophet (pbuh) and the Salaf are concocted to support the
views or stand taken by various groups in the past and in the present. So, when
the Quran is perfectly understandable today, why do we need
anyone’s real or imaginary practice to (mis)guide us?
What is said about the Jews in the Quran is today
true about the Muslims:
(9:31) They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in
derogation of Allah, and (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary; yet
they were commanded to worship but One Allah: there is no god but He. Praise
and glory to Him: (Far is He) from having the partners they associate (with
When a Christian protested that they do worship
Allah and not their priests, the Prophet is believed to have asked him ‘Do you not follow what your priests and anchorites say rather than what your scriptures say?’, the questioner remained silent.
The call to return to the Islam of the Salaf is
therefore the blind trying to lead the other blind. First of all, the “Islam of
the Salaf” is poorly documented if at all, and therefore what is portrayed as
the Islam of the Salaf is a hideous caricature of the Islam in the Quran. What
we need to do is to correctly understand the Quran and build on it discarding
the errors of the past.