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The Mutashaabihat Or The Allegorical Verses Of The Quran


By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam

12 September 2018

What are the Mutashaabihat verses of the Quran? Are they beyond our understanding?  Does the Quran discourage us from discussing these or to try to understand them or derive lessons from them? Verse 3:7 discusses what these are:

The Keywords in the verse that are often mistranslated are:

1.       Mutashaabihaat – It Means Allegorical Using Similitude

2.       Tashaabaha – Means Similitude Or What Is Similar

There is no word which means ambiguous and those who translate “Tashaabaha” as ambiguous mistranslate. No word or verse of Allah can be ambiguous.

The correct translation of the verse 3:7

He is the One who revealed to you the Book. Of it are verses of precise meaning. They are the most important part of the book (Ummu also means mother and therefore these verses are the foundation of the Book or the mother of the Book). And others are allegorical verses. (Verses that describe reality using similitudes describe a model of reality for our understanding and do not represent the reality itself). Then as for those on whose hearts is perversity they follow the part that is the similitude seeking mischief and seeking its interpretation. None knows its meaning except Allah. Those, firm in the knowledge they say we believe in it - all is from our lord and none will take heed except persons with understanding.

The best example of “Tashabaha” or use of a similitude is the “Wajha of Allah” which literally means “the face of Allah” but only means the existence or presence of Allah or takes the appropriate meaning from the context of the verse. People should not take the face which is only “Tashabaha” to approximately describe to us a reality that is outside our experience and therefore beyond our precise comprehension, to speculate on what the face of Allah is like or to conjure an anthropomorphic conception of Allah. Those who speculate thus, based on the “Tashabaha”, are those in whose hearts is perversity. They follow the part that is the similitude seeking mischief and seeking its interpretation. None knows its meaning except Allah. Who can imagine what it is to see the “face of Allah” or what the expression means except Allah? However, the meaning of an allegorical verse is clear and unambiguous. There is nothing ambiguous about the following verses that contain “Tashabaha”:

((2:115) To Allah belong the east and the West: Whithersoever ye turn, there is the presence (Wajha) of Allah. For Allah is all-Pervading, all-Knowing.

(28:88) And call not, besides Allah, on another god. There is no god but He. Everything (that exists) will perish except His own Face (Wajha). To Him belongs the Command, and to Him will ye (all) be brought back.

(55:27) But will abide (for ever) the Face (Wajha) of thy Lord,- full of Majesty, Bounty and Honour.

The import or intent or the meaning sought to be conveyed using a “Tashabaha” is never in doubt and can be discussed, understood and adopted.

There are therefore two types of verses – Muhkamat verses that use precise words in which we should take the literal meaning of the words and the Mutashaabihat verses that use a “Tashabaha” or similitude and the similitude is not the reality itself but gives an approximate idea using what is familiar, to convey what is beyond our comprehension. While the word used is a similitude, the meaning of the verse itself is clear and never ambiguous.

Now let us take the word “Ruh”. Is it a “Tashabaha”? Face in the “face of Allah” and throne in “the throne of Allah” are “Tashabaha” but “Ruh”, if it is used to mean Ruh itself, is not “Tashabaha” and the verses containing it are not Mutashaabihat verses. The Quran itself defines the meaning of the word as brought out in my article:

Islam and Mysticism: Is ‘Ruh’ Soul? (Part 2)

The verses covered in the article are not Mutashaabihat and the word Ruh in those verses is not used as a similitude or “Tashabaha” but for Ruh itself. Since these are Muhkamat verses and not Mutashaabihat, the meaning is precise and must be taken literally. The meaning of Ruh defined by Allah is that it means “divine inspiration” as discussed in detail in the article. That it does not mean “soul” is also clear from the verses.

Which of the verses are Muhkamat and which of the verses use similitudes is never in doubt. For example, the following verse uses similitudes and which of the words are used as similitudes is not in doubt at all.

(24:35) Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The Parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche and within it a Lamp: the Lamp enclosed in Glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star: Lit from a blessed Tree, an Olive, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it: Light upon Light! Allah doth guide whom He will to His Light: Allah doth set forth Parables for men: and Allah doth know all things.

The words: Light, Niche, Lamp, Glass, Oil are used as similitudes. The verse is difficult to understand but not ambiguous. What it means and what it does not mean can be understood with the help of other verses as brought out in my article:

An Exposition of the Verse of Light (Ayat al-Nur)

To summarise, there are no ambiguous verses in the Quran. There are two types of verses – the Muhkamat are those that use precise words and must be taken literally and those that use similitudes “Tashabaha” where a word does not take its literal meaning but is used only as a similitude.

Allah has made clear what must be taken literally and what needs to be interpreted. The irony is that the Book is mostly misunderstood because the Muhkamat verses that must be taken literally are also interpreted with the result that everyone has his own understanding of the Book in place of a common understanding!

Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to


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  1. Did not GM Sb argue about two meanings of nafs in the Quran, one of which means the immortal soul according to him? What has he produced in evidence of the second meaning? He never had anything worthwhile to say but being a fuzool troll keeps arguing without a basis. He breaks all records in arguing when he has nothing worthwhile to say.

    He has finally conceded that it is a discovery but his churlishness makes him say that it is worthless.  A clear case of sour grapes! Why did his argue about something that is worthless? His laughter sounds hollow and cannot hide his extreme discomfiture.

    By Naseer Ahmed 09/10/2017 00:19:29
  2. While Naseersaab's touting his worthless discoveries does need to be exposed, his prolonging the discussion with copious repetition of the same lame arguments and vituperation make it fuzool. And when he talks of "sour grapes", he just make me laugh! I hope this is my last comment in this thread.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin 04/10/2017 11:27:54
  3. What can be said of GM sb, who has relentlessly argued across several threads, against what he says is my "worthless discovery"? Why has he wasted my time and his time on a "fuzool dialogue"? Is he not then both a worthless and fuzool person by his own account? A clear case of sour grapes! 
    By Naseer Ahmed 04/10/2017 00:20:30
  4. Naseersaab's supreme confidence in his totally worthless discovery is typical of him, but I shall not continue this fuzool dialogue.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin 03/10/2017 10:20:01
  5. For the sake of argument, let us accept that nafs means soul. If so, nafs is mortal and dies with the person as per six different verses. It is not immortal.

     Now, if it also means another nafs which is the immortal soul, then let GM Sb cite a verse in support of such a nafs. The verse in Arabic must contain the word nafs and not some English translations that puts in the word “soul” without the verse in Arabic containing nafs.

     The nafs of the Quran is what “psyche” in psychology means or the more modern word “cognition” and its associated processes. The same psyche has been understood as soul in philosophy and religion but not in science or psychology. The nafs of the Quran is the “psyche” or “cognition” of psychology/science and not the “soul” of philosophy and other religions. As to why nafs gets mistranslated should be obvious from the fact that psyche is also understood as soul in philosophy and other religions.

     Many of the beliefs of our scholars have no basis in the Quran. For example, there is no mention of punishment in the grave in the Quran but this is a firm belief of all the scholars. There is no mention of Alam-e-Arwah or Alam-e-Barzakh but these are also firm beliefs.

     Most of the Muslims have been brought up to not entertain any arguments about religious beliefs and go by what the scholars have said. Is GM Sb one among such Muslims? No, he isn’t. He is even prepared to edit the verses or give them new meanings to suit his beliefs. He talks about rendering words and verses as obsolete. He talks about over inclusion and is therefore prepared to drop verses that he thinks should not be included. He isn’t even bothered about the correct meaning of the Quran if what is said agrees with him. To him interpretation as per his beliefs is more important than the meaning. So why is he so bent upon forcing the concept of an immortal soul on the Quran? Is it because he believes in the existence of an immortal soul? No, he does not even believe in the immortal soul. Then what is his motivation? He is most comfortable if the Quran is shown to be flawed rather than flawless. It is simply a defence mechanism to justify to himself, his inability to take the Quran seriously. He is uncomfortable when the Quran is shown to be the infallible word of God and in complete agreement with science. He would rather that the Quran is presented as a 7th century Book which in the 21st century has become anachronistic and therefore need not be taken seriously. The fact however, is that the Quran is the infallible word of God and flawless. A thousand years of misinterpretations have not managed to conceal its meaning. The crystal clear meaning shines through for all those whose vision has not be blurred by their false beliefs.

    By Naseer Ahmed 03/10/2017 00:11:27