Inheritance in Islam

will

Source: The Muslim Times

By Dr. Lutf ur Rehman, Nashville, TN

After the death of a person, his belongings are left as his estate, which is passed on to his surviving family members in some way. Different religions and governments have their own rules and regulations regarding this matter. In the Old Testament (Torah) it is said, “Therefore, tell the Israelites; if a man dies without leaving a son, you shall let his heritage pass on to his daughter; if he has no daughter, you shall give his heritage to his brothers; if he has no brothers, you shall give his heritage to his father’s brothers; if his father had no brothers, you shall give his heritage to his nearest relative in his clan who shall then take possession of it.” (Numbers 27, 8-11)

Many people die without having made a will. To deal with this situation, most countries have their own laws of inheritance that apply in the absence of a will of the deceased. In the USA, each state has its own laws. For example, here is a small sample from the laws of inheritance in the state of New York.

The decedent’s will names the beneficiaries and the property which is distributed as inheritance. However, when there is no valid will, New York’s laws of intestate succession determine who will inherit from the decedent. Not all states follow the same procedure or percentage of distribution. According to the laws of New York Estate, Powers, Trust Section 4.1-1, a surviving spouse with no issue (child, grandchild and great-grandchild) would receive 100 percent of the estate. However, if the decedent had children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, the spouse would receive one-half of the estate in addition to a monetary sum, and the issue(s) receive the remainder of the estate.

If there is no surviving spouse, the order of inheritance in New York descends to children, parents, siblings (whether full or half), grandparents, uncles and aunts, grandchildren of the decedent’s grandparents, and great-grandchildren of the decedent’s grandparents. If the decedent leaves no surviving relatives, New York State claims the estate’s assets.

The matter of inheritance falls in the area of Family Law. An increasing number of governments around the world are allowing their citizens to decide these matters according to their own preferences and beliefs. Any Muslim is free to make his will according to the principals of Islam.

The Quran is a complete guidance for the Muslims. In the area of inheritance, it has given us principals that allow us to distribute the estate of a person upon his death in an equitable and just manner. Allah says in the Holy Quran, “For men there is a portion in the estate of their deceased parents and close family, and for women there is a share in the estate of their deceased parents and close family, may it be little or plenty. It is defined inheritance.” (4:8). The shares of the surviving family members have been fixed in a determined order of succession. This makes it clear and simple to divide the estate. Of course, there are some areas that need some clarification. The Holy Prophet (saw) has advised Muslims to learn the principles of inheritance. “Learn the knowledge related to inheritance (Ilm-al-Faraidh) and teach it to others, as this constitutes half of all knowledge.” (Sunan Ibn Majah)

Making a Will: In the Holy Quran, Allah says, “When death approaches one of you, it is your duty to make a Will for parents and close family members in the matter of your estate, fairly. This is an obligation for the righteous.” (2:181) A person making a Will should have something of value about which he is writing the Will. He should be of sound mind and not insane. Many people use lawyers to write their Wills to ensure conformity with the legal language and to ensure that their Will is not judged to be legally deficient. In the Holy Quran, Allah tells us to have two witnesses of the Will to ensure accuracy and validity. (5:107)

Those who transcribe a will for someone or those who find the will of the deceased and alter it to benefit or harm someone are declared sinners by Allah. “And he who alters it after he has heard it, the sin thereof surely falls upon those who alter it.” (2:182). The wills which do not follow the directions of God or are unjust can be challenged, and arbitration between the parties, as well as changing of the will, to guard the interest of all involved is permitted (Through family courts or the legal system). “But whoso apprehends from a testator apartiality or a wrong, and makes peace between them (the affected parties), it shall be no sin for him.” (2:183) The wasiyyat portion of the will should be made in a just manner without attempting to harm anyone with the help of the will (4:13).

Making a will in Islam is not a choice or option. It is necessary for a Muslim to make a will before his death. “It is prescribed for you, when death comes to anyone of you and he leaves much wealth that he should make a will to parents and near relatives to act with fairness; it is an obligation for those who are aware of God.” (2:181). The Holy Prophet (saw) said that a person should not let two nights pass without a Will (Bokhari, Kitab-ul-Wasaya, Muslim, Kitab-ul-wasiyyat, Abu Dawood, Kitabul Wasaya).

If a person dies without a will, many governments have their own rules that may differ from the wishes of the deceased. Therefore, it is important to have a will not just for the distribution of the estate, but also for the custody of children and other matters.

Order of Distribution: In Islam, the estate of any person, whether large or small, is distributed in the following order.

1) Pay for funeral expenses. If a person was poor at the time of his death and his estate cannot bear the expenses of the funeral, the state is responsible to pay from the treasury (Bait-ul-maal).

2) Pay the debts. This includes mortgages on residential or business properties, car loans, credit card loans, personal loans, unpaid employee wages, hospital bills, taxes, etc. A verse of the Holy Quran (4:12) listing such obligations mentions wasiyyat before debt. Hadhrat Ali said, “You read this verse where wasiyyat appears before debt. However, the Holy Prophet (saw) instructed to pay debt before wasiyyat, and this was his practice (Tirmidhi, Bab-ul-Faraidh). If dowry money (Haq Mehar) has not been paid to the wife, it will also be considered a debt.

3) Pay any bequeaths. This is called “Wasiyyat” in the Holy Quran. This includes any charitable contributions, share for those relatives who are not defined as inheritors in Islam, and money or property given to the poor, servants, and the needy.  The limit of such bequests is 1/3rd of the estate at the most. The payment of “Hissa Jaidad” as part of “Nizam-e-Wassiyat” of jamaat Ahmadiyya falls into this category. This is the only portion of the estate on which the deceased has control.

4) The remaining part of the estate will be divided according to a predetermined order of defined inheritors as mentioned in the Holy Quran. The shares of these inheritors have also been fixed by Allah (4:8). The inheritors or their defined shares cannot be changed by anyone. 

Heirs in Islam:

The estate in Islam is distributed according to the principles mentioned in the Holy Quran. In addition to passing down the estate to the next generation, Allah has also defined shares for the previous generation (parents and grandparents). The estate can go two generations up as well as two generations down. The presence of certain inheritors blocks others. For example, the presence of a son will block inheritance to the brothers and sisters of the deceased. As a general rule, the estate is divided as follows:

Parents: If the deceased has children, then parents will get 1/6th each. If the deceased has no spouse or children, then the mother will get 1/3rd and the father will get 2/3rd. If the deceased has siblings, then the mother will get 1/6th (4:12).

Husband: If the wife dies without children, the husband will get ½ of the estate. If the wife had children, the husband will get 1/4th (4:13).

Wife: If the husband dies without children, the wife will get 1/4th. If he had children, the wife will get 1/8th (4:13).

Daughters: If the deceased had two or more daughters and no sons, they will get 2/3rd of the total. If there is only one daughter and no son, she will get 1/2 (4:12).

Sons: It should be noted that son is not mentioned in the heirs by the Holy Quran. But son is the most important heir. Holy Prophet (saw) said, “Whatever is left after giving away the share to the mandatory heirs goes to the son. (Bokhari, Kitab-ul-Faraidh) A son’s share is twice that of a daughter (4:12).

All of the above shares will be distributed after payment of funeral expenses, debts, and bequests. Each of the above family members will inherit from the deceased if they are living at the time (an unborn child is included in the inheritance). The shares of these heirs in the inheritance cannot be blocked. There are other heirs too, but their inheritance depends on the presence or absence of the above mentioned heirs.

Guardians should be appointed for those heirs who are minors at the time of inheritance. They will get control once they become adults. There is no set age for this – once the elders feel that that heir is mature enough to take control, he can have ownership. In cases of dispute, courts can decide. Those heirs who are mentally disabled should also have guardians appointed to manage their share.

Women’s Share: In the Holy Quran, Allah has fixed a share for the women along with men in the estate of the deceased. “For men there is a portion in the estate of their deceased parents and close family, and for women there is a share in the estate of their deceased parents and close family, may it be little or plenty. It is defined inheritance.” (4:8).

As a general principal, the share of women in inheritance is half that of men (although not always – for example, the share of the father and mother is equal in the estate of their son). Some critics consider this as unequal treatment and proof of inferior status of women in Islam. Men and women are equal as human beings (God created man and woman from a single soul 4:2), but they are different from each other. Their roles in life are different. For example, only women can be mothers and therefore are afforded certain rights and obligations. In the matters of family, Islam has charged men with the duty of financial support (Men are responsible for the maintenance of women 4:35). Women are not obligated to contribute financially in the support of their families even when they have wealth and money. Therefore, from a financial standpoint, men need more resources. Hence, Islam provides them with more. However, Islam does not deprive women and has fixed shares for all close female relatives (mother, wife, and daughters) of the deceased in the inheritance.

Some other Situations: As is true for any set of rules, regulations, or laws, there will always be some exceptional situations that require individual attention. These situations cannot be addressed with regular rules. I will mention some of them but address only one in detail to demonstrate the availability of recourse in all such circumstances. 

Problem: A grandchild is not an heir of his grandfather if child’s father has died. This seems an unfair situation. Child’s father who was his provider has passed away and the mother may not have sufficient means to take care of family expenses.

Solution: This situation has been recognized and addressed in Islamic Family Law. Allah says in the Holy Quran, “If at the time of division of an estate other family members and orphans are present, give them a portion too and deal with them kindly.” (4:9) Allah has permitted bequest of 1/3rd of the inheritance. This can be used for those who cannot inherit in the regular order. So in this situation the grandfather is free to give to his grandchildren whose father has died up to 1/3rd of his estate. Promised Messiah (as) says, “Grandfather can bequeath some to his grandson at the time of writing his Will…. That grandson whose father has passed away, being an orphan is more deserving of mercy. (Mulfuzat, Vol. 4, Page 297)

In 1950, Egyptian government formed a committee of scholars and they recommended the following, “Grandfather is obligated to make a Will in favor of his orphaned grandson up to 1/3rd of his estate. If he neglects to do so, it would be assumed as such.” The government adopted this as law. (Al Muwaris-ul-Islamia, rule 137 & 138)

In Islamic family law grandfather stands in place of father if father dies. Similarly a grandson is considered in place of a son, if son dies. (Bokhari, Kitab-ul-Faraidh) Majority of Muslim scholars are agreed on this. Therefore the grandson can inherit from his grandfather in the absence of his father, as a son. There is not a single documented case from the time of the Holy Prophet (saw) or the Khulafa where a grandson was deprived because of death of his father.

Problem: If a man has a daughter and a son, the son will inherit double the amount of his sister. The sister may be a single parent supporting her father and mother, and in need of more financial help. The son may be rich and uncaring.

Solution: It seems an unfair situation. Once again the father has the option of bequeathing a significant portion (1/3rd) to his grand children from the daughter, thus rectifying the situation. The daughter and her children will be able to get more of the total inheritance than the son.

Problem: The shares do not add up. There may be situations where the shares may not add up to whole. In some situations they may be less than the whole (Radd) and in others, more than the whole (Awal).

Example of Awal (Parts adding up to more than the Whole): A woman dies and leaves behind a husband, a mother and daughters. According to Quranic principal, husband will get 1/4th, mother will get 1/6th and daughters will get 2/3rd. To make it simple we can also write it as follows: Husband’s share 3/12 + Mother’s share 2/12 + Daughter’s share 8/12 = 13/12, which is more than the whole.

Solution: We can solve this problem by defining the share as follows: Husband’s share 3/13 + Mother’s share 2/13 + Daughter’s share 8/13 = 13/13. Now this adds up to the whole. Everyone’s share has been reduced proportionately.

Example of Radd (Shares add up to less than whole): A man dies and leaves behind his mother and a daughter. The mother gets 1/6th and the daughter gets 1/2 . To make it simple we can also write this as Mothers’ share 1/6 + Daughter’s share 3/6 = 4/6 which is less than the whole.

Solution: We can solve this problem by defining the shares as follows: Mother’s share ¼ + Daughter’s share ¾ = 4/4 which is equal to the whole. Everyone’s share has been increased proportionately.

Another solution: If the total is less than the whole, the left over can be distributed among those who are not mentioned as heirs. The excess cannot be given to the spouse. (Hadhrat Ali and Imam Abu Hanifah). When father is present, all of the excess will go to him. If only a spouse is left behind, then excess should be given to the treasury (Bait-ul-maal). (Ahmadiyyah view).

Another opinion: Hadhrat Zaid Bin Thabit a companion of the Prophet (saw) said that any left-over should be given to the national treasury. (Bait-ul-maal) Imam Malik and Imam Shafi agree with this.

These solutions are not mentioned in the Holy Quran or Traditions (Ahadith) of the Prophet (saw). These were first adopted in the time of Hadhrat Umar.

Ineligible relatives: These cannot inherit from the deceased in the regular order. They can be included in the bequest part of the Will.

 Daughter’s children

 Sister’s children

 Brother’s daughters

 Mother’s brothers

 Mother’s sisters

 Father’s sisters

 Mother’s father

 All of husband’s relatives from his wife’s estate

 All of wife’s relatives from her husband’s estate

 Step parents from their step children

 Step children from their step parents

 Adopted children are not included in inheritors

 Non-Muslim relatives, such as non-Muslim parents or children are not part of the prescribed inheritors. This is a common problem when we are living in the West, where many Muslims have married into non-Muslim families. A Muslim cannot inherit from a non-Muslim either. (Bokhari & Muslim. Bab-ul-Faraidh) This may apply to only those situation where the relationship of the two Faiths is adversarial. (state of war) Quran gives clear instructions regarding non believer parents. It instructs us to deal with them with kindness and fairness in all worldly matters. (31:16) Non believer parents and other relatives can receive through wasiyyat. (Tafseer Kabir, Khalifatul Massih Sani)

 Slaves: With God’s mercy, slavery is not legal in any part of the world and has disappeared. In old days, any property or possessions of the slaves would become the property of the owners. Therefore they were not included in inheritors as the inheritance would pass on to the un-intended person.

 Ex wife

 Illegitimate child (conceived and born outside of wedlock) can inherit from mother only.

 A killer cannot inherit from his victim. (Sunan Ibn-e-Majah, Vol. 2. Bab-ul-Faraidh)

 Time of death: If two people die at the same time, such as in an airplane crash, drowning etc, and it is not possible to determine, who died first, then they cannot inherit from each other. The time of death of some deceased in the battles in early Islam, such as “Jamal” and some other battles could not be determined accurately. In these circumstances no deceased was awarded inheritance form the other deceased unless the time of death could be determined and order of death could be established. (Mauta Imam Malik, Kitab-ul-Faraidh)

Removing or depriving an heir form inheritance: It is a practice in some parts of the world that father disowns his son because of son’s bad behavior. He also removes the name of the son from his heirs (aaq). Ads are taken out in newspapers to advertise the displeasure. The will is written to reflect that so and so cannot inherit from the estate.

Islam does not allow this. The heirs have been determined by Allah the Almighty in His infinite wisdom and their shares are fixed. According to the Holy Quran, no one has the authority to instruct the division or allocation of his estate after his death. Allah has permitted a wasiyyat which can include only 1/3rd of the estate at the most. The rest is divided among the divinely appointed heirs. Even wasiyyat part can be changed if it is determined to be unjust. Such a Will can be challenged and will be held deficient in Islamic Family Law. No one has the authority to expunge an heir from inheritance if Allah has included him or her in the heirs.

Allah says in the Holy Quran, “Among your elders and your children, you don’t know who is of more benefit to you. (in the context of fixed portions in inheritance) This is an obligation from Allah. Surely Allah is All Knowing and Wise.” (4:12)

During a person’s life time one is free to gift (hiba) anything from his possessions to anyone. If some property or money is legally given to someone else, this does not remain the legal possession of the deceased. Therefore it will not be included in his estate. Of course Quran also teaches us fairness and justice, and this should always be kept in mind.

Hadhrat Nauman Bin Bashir relates, “My father gave me a gift (hiba). My mother, Umrah binnat Rawaha, objected and insisted that we should have the Holy Prophet (saw) as witness for this gift (hiba). His father went to the Holy Prophet (saw) and said, I have made a gift to my son but his mother insists that you should be the witness for this transaction. Holy Prophet (saw) asked, “Have you gifted the same to all of your sons?” He said, “No”. Holy Prophet (saw) said, “Fear Allah and act with justice between your children.” Hadhrat Nauman says his father withdrew the gift. (Bokhari, Kitab-ul-Hiba)

Hadhrat Anas says, Holy Prophet (saw) said, “A person who makes an effort to deprive his heirs of their share in his inheritance, Allah will not let him inherit the Paradise on the Day of Judgment.” (Ibne Majah, Bab-ul-Wasaya)

Bequest or Wasiyyat cannot be done in favor of one who is included in the heirs. For example, father cannot give anything extra to his son or daughter over and above their prescribed share. (Tirmidhi, Bab-ul-Wasaya)

A Special Case: Holy Prophet (saw) said, “We, Messengers have no inheritance. What we leave behind is all charity.” (Bokhari, Kitab-ul-Faraidh)

At the time of death the Holy Prophet (saw) owned some land in Khaibar and his personal belongings such as his armor etc. Hadhrat Ayesha relates that Hadhrat Fatimah (daughter of the Holy Prophet saw) and Hadhrat Abbas (uncle of the Holy Prophet saw) went to Hadhrat Abu Bakr asking for their inheritance. Hadhrat Abu Bakr replied, I have heard the Prophet (saw) say that we Messenger of God have no inheritance. Whatever we leave behind is sadaqah (charity). Upon this Hadhrat Fatimah left and did not speak with Hadhrat Abu Bakr until his death. (Bokhari, Kitab-ul-Faraidh)

After the death of Hadhrat Abu Bakr, Hadhrat Ali (husband of Hadhrat Fatimah) and Hadhrat Abbas came to Hadhrat Umar who was the Khalifa at that time and asked for their inheritance in the estate of the Holy Prophet (saw). Hadhrat Umar said, “Do you not know that a Prophet has no heirs? Allah says in the Holy Quran in sura Al-Hashr, “Whatever Allah has given to His Messenger as spoils from the people of the towns is for Allah and for the Messenger and for the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer. (59:8). (Bokhari, Kitab-ul-Faraidh) Hadhrat Umar also did not give any share to Hadhrat Fatimah or Hadhrat Abbas. The wives of the Holy Prophet (saw) received their daily expenses from the income of the land through Bait-ul-Maal.

This is simplified account of the principles of inheritance in Islam. The more complex the situation of relatives at the time of death, the more complex is the solution. Since heirs have been accurately defined as well as their share in inheritance, it becomes possible to calculate each person’s inheritance by simple arithmetic. There are many calculators available on the internet which can calculate the exact inheritance of each heir.

The subject of inheritance has been mentioned in only a few verses of the Holy Quran. And within these verses Allah has given us a detailed and firm guidance in this matter. All Muslims are required to follow these principles.

Allah says in the Holy Quran, “These are the limits set by Allah. Those who abide by Allah and His Messenger will enter into Gardens by which streams flow. This is where they shall live. This is a great triumph. And those who disobey Allah and His Messenger and step over the limits set by Him will be cast into the Fire. This is where they shall live and for them is a humiliating punishment. (4:14-15)

Debts: Islam does not prohibit taking out loans. In times of need one can take out a loan. There are many examples in the life of the Holy Prophet (saw) when he took loans even from non-Muslims. Islam instructs its followers to spend a frugal life and try to keep the needs within means. Holy Prophet (saw) said, “One who takes a loan from others and intends to return it, Allah would help him. And the one who takes out a loan and does not intend to return it, Allah will let him go to waste.” (Bokhari)

Hadhrat Salmah Bin Aku states that one day they were in the company of the Holy Prophet (saw) when a funeral was brought to him. People requested him to lead the funeral prayers. Holy Prophet (saw) asked, “Did this person have any debts?” People said, “No”. Holy Prophet (saw) asked, “Did he leave behind any wealth?” People said, “No”. Holy Prophet (saw) lead the funeral prayers.

Another funeral was brought to him and people requested for funeral prayers. Holy Prophet (saw) asked if the deceased had any debt. People said, “Yes”.  Holy Prophet (saw) asked if he had left any wealth. People said, “Yes”. The Prophet led the prayers. A third funeral was then brought and people requested funeral prayers. Holy Prophet (saw) asked if the deceased had left any wealth. People said, “No”. The Prophet (saw) then asked, if he had debts. People said, “Yes”. The Holy Prophet (saw) said, “You should do the funeral prayers of your companion”. Abu Qatadah said, “I take responsibility for his debt”. Upon this Holy Prophet (saw) led the prayers.” (Bokhari & Muslim)

Hadhrat Abu Hurairah relates when a funeral was brought to the Holy Prophet (saw) and the deceased had unpaid debt, the Holy Prophet (saw) used to ask; has this person left enough to pay off the debt? If the answer was yes, the Prophet (saw) would lead the funeral prayers. Otherwise he would ask the companions to do the funeral prayers. (Muslim)

It is clear from the traditions of the Prophet (saw) that he attached great importance to paying off the debts. Anyone whose debt was more than his estate, Holy Prophet (saw) did not lead his funeral prayers.

These days we live in a society where mortgages and loans are a way of life. We should all strive hard to live within our means and save enough that at the time of death, not only our debts will be paid off, we will also leave behind sufficient for our heirs as well as give some to charitable causes. This is the teaching of Islam.

A Non-Muslim scholar on Islamic law of inheritance: Professor Almaric Rumsey (1825-1899) of King’s College, London, the author of many works on the subject of the Muslim law of inheritance and a barrister-at-law, stated that the Muslim law of inheritance, “comprises beyond question the most refined and elaborate system of rules for the devolution of property that is known to the civilized world.” (Rumsey, A. Mohummudan Law of Inheritance. (1880) Preface iii)

The Scope, Style and Effect of the Holy Quran

From the introduction section of the English translation of the holy Quran by Muhammad Abdel Haleem:

THE QUR’AN is the supreme authority in Islam. It is the fundamental and paramount source of the creed, rituals, ethics, and laws of the Islamic religion. It is the book that ‘differentiates’ between right and wrong, so that nowadays, when the Muslim world is dealing with such universal issues as globalization, the environment, combating terrorism and drugs, issues of medical ethics, and feminism, evidence to support the various arguments is sought in the Qur’an. This supreme status stems from the belief that the Qur’an is the word of God, revealed to the Prophet Muhammad via the archangel Gabriel, and intended for all times and all places.  The Qur’an was the starting point for all the Islamic sciences: Arabic grammar was developed to serve the Qur’an, the study of Arabic phonetics was pursued in order to determine the exact pronunciation of Qur’anic words, the science of Arabic rhetoric was developed in order to describe the features of the inimitable style of the Qur’an, the art of Arabic calligraphy was cultivated through writing down the Qur’an, the Qur’an is the basis of Islamic law and theology; indeed, as the celebrated fifteenth—century scholar and author Suyuti said, ‘Everything is based on the Qur’an’. The entire religious life of the Muslim world is built around the text of the Qur’an. As a consequence of the Qur’an, the Arabic language moved far beyond the Arabian peninsula, deeply penetrating many other languages within the Muslim lands—Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Indonesian, and others. The first sum (or section) of the Qur’an, al-Fatiha, which is an essential part of the ritual prayers, is learned and read in Arabic by Muslims in all parts of the world, and many other verses and phrases in Arabic are also incorporated into the lives of non-Arabic-speaking Muslims.

Our confidence that the holy Quran can indeed transform our readers is grounded in history, in the miracle that the Quran has wrought in the last 14 centuries in large swaths of lands and in the lives of millions if not billions of people.

From the introduction to the recent commentary of the Quran by Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues, on the effect the dramatic effects the Quran has had on the Muslim society over the centuries:

The Quran is recited on occasions of both joy and sorrow, at weddings and at funerals, in individual circumstances as well as in communal events. It is recited often by individuals during private moments when they are alone with their Creator as well as at the opening of conferences or parliaments, the investiture of political authorities, or even sports events.

It can be said that the substance of the soul of a Muslim, whether male or female, is like a mosaic made up of the imprint of verses of the Quran upon that human substance. Not only are the laws by which Muslims live, the ethical norms that are to be followed in life, the root of all authentic knowledge, and the principle and spirit of all forms of art that can be called truly Islamic based on the Quran, but the Quran is present in the soul and mind of believers during every moment of life, whether one is engaged in lovemaking, fighting a battle in the middle of war, or busy in economic activity. No matter how much one writes about the role of the Quran in Muslim life, it is impossible to exhaust the subject, for the Quran affects every aspect of a Muslim’s existence, from the body, to the psyche and the inner faculties, to the mind, the intellect, and spirit.

The Quran, complemented by the Prophetic wont (Sunnah), even affects in a subtle manner all aspects of comportment (adab), which includes not only thoughts, speech, and actions, but also bodily postures and physical faculties—how traditional Muslims carry themselves while walking or talking, entering the mosque, sitting in an assembly, or greeting others. The Quran also transforms the inner faculties, especially the memory, and affects even the dreams of believers.

As far as memory is concerned, there is no practicing Muslim who does not know some of the Quran by heart. The Quran itself strengthens the memory, and traditional Islamic pedagogy places a great deal of emphasis upon memorization. The traditional education system begins with Quranic schools for the very young, where their memory becomes imprinted with Quranic verses that will serve them the whole of their lives.

Needless to say, this is also true for all those Muslims who have gone on to produce intellectual or artistic works on the highest level. When Ibn Sina (d. 4.28/1037), the greatest Muslim philosopher—scientist, was writing his a1—Qanun fi’l-tibb (The Canon of Medicine), which is the single most influential medical work in the history of medicine, his memory was as much filled with Quranic verses, which affected his whole attitude toward knowledge and science, as when he was writing his own Quranic commentaries.

The most outstanding Muslim spiritual poets, such as Hallaj, Ibn al-Farid, Ibn ‘Arabi, ‘Attar, Rumi, and Hafiz, did not compose their great poetic masterpieces by forcing themselves to focus on the verses of the Quran. The Quran was already present in their memory and had transformed their souls, so that during the artistic process of creating their beautiful poetry the Quran was already functioning as the central reality of their creative power. Those familiar with the history of German literature know that Goethe and Ruckert were influenced by the Quran. They can surmise how much greater this influence must have been in the literatures of the Islamic peoples themselves.  The same can be said for the Islamic arts and sciences in general. In the field of the arts that affect directly everyday life, the Quran both provided the spirit, the principles, and in many ways the forms of these arts and determined the direction that these arts would take. It is the Quran that made calligraphy, architecture, and Quranic psalmody the central sacred arts of Islam, and it is also the teachings of the Quran that prevented the development in Islam of iconic sacred art, which is so central to Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism. It is the Quran that led to the development of the aniconic sacred art of Islam.

From Muhammad Ali’s introduction to the short commentary of the holy Quran:

Al-Qur’an.  The name Al-Qur’an, the proper name of the Sacred Book of the Muslims, occurs several times in the Book itself (2:185, etc.). The word Qur’an is an infinitive noun from the root qara’a meaning, primarily, he collected things together, and also, he read or recited; and the Book is so called both because it is a collection of the best religious teachings and because it is a Book that is or should be read; as a matter of fact, it is the most widely read book in the whole world. It is plainly stated to be a revelation from the Lord of the worlds (26:192), or a revelation from Allah, the Mighty, the Wise (39:1, etc.), and so on. It was sent down to the Prophet Muhammad (4.7:2), having been revealed to his heart through the Holy Spirit (26:193, 194), in the Arabic language (26:195; 43:3). The first revelation came to the Holy Prophet in the month of Ramadan (22185), on the 25th or 27th night, which is known as Lailat al-Qadr  (97:1).

Other names and Epithets. 

The Holy Book speaks of itself by the following additional names: al-Kitab (2:2), a writing which is complete in itself; al-Furqan (25:1), that which distinguishes between truth and falsehood, between right and wrong; al-Dhikr (15:9), the Reminder or a source of eminence and glory to mankind; al-Mau’izah (10:57), the Admonition; al-Hukm (13:37), the Judgment; al-Hikmat (17:39), the Wisdom; al-Shifa’ (10:57), that which heals; al-Huda (72:13), that which guides or makes one attain the goal; al-Tanzil (26:192), the Revelation; al-Rahmat (2:1o5), the Mercy; al-Ruh (42:52), the Spirit or that which gives life; al-Khair (3:104), the Goodness; al-Bayan (3:138), that which explains all things or clear statement; al-Ni‘mat (93:11), the Favour; al-Burhan (4.:174.), the clear Argument or manifest proof; al-Qayyum (18:2), the Maintainer or Rightly-directing; al-Muhaimin (5:48), the Guardian (of previous revelation); al-Nur, the Light; at-Haqq (17:81), the Truth; Habl-Allah (3:103), the Covenant of Allah. In addition to these, many qualifying epithets are applied to the Holy Book, such as al-Mubin (12:1), one that makes manifest; al- Karim (56:77), the Bounteous; al-Majid (50:1), the Glorious; al-Hakim (36:2), full of Wisdom; al-‘Aziz (41:41), the Mighty or Invincible; al-Mukarramah (80:13), the Honoured; al-Marfu’ah (80:14), the Exalted; al-Mutahharah (80:14), the Purified; al-‘Ajab (72:1), the Wonderful; Mubarak (6:92), Blessed; and Musaddiq (6:92), confirming the truth of previous revelation.

If the holy Quran is indeed all these things, we need a commentary that brings these out and we will make our humble effort to do that.

From the introduction by Seyyed Hossein Nasr on good and bad use of Quran:

Muslims also turn to the Quran for its therapeutic effect upon illnesses of both body and soul. There is a whole traditional science dealing with the therapeutic power of certain Quranic verses, and countless anecdotal accounts in all Islamic societies maintain the miraculous efficacy of these verses. This aspect of the Quran is also the source of such practices in folk medicine as immersing particular verses of the Quran in water and then drinking it.

Let us quote here Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, from his book Islam and Human Rights, in the chapter Man and the Universe. He was the President of United Nations General Assembly from. Please note that his number of Quranic verses counts Bismillah as the first verse, so his numbering may be one higher than commonly known numbering:

It is this comprehensiveness of the Quran, the need to make provision for guidance in every respect for all peoples for all time, that made it necessary that the guidance should be conveyed in verbal revelation. The Quran is literally the Word of God, and possesses the quality of being alive, as the universe is alive. It is not possible to set forth at any time the whole meaning and interpretation of the Quran or, indeed, of any portion of it with finality. It yields new truths and fresh guidance in every age and at every level. It is a standing and perpetual miracle (18:110).

The world is dynamic and so is the Quran. Indeed, so dynamic is the Quran that it has always been found to keep ahead of the world and never to lag behind it. However fast the pace at which the pattern of human life may change, the Quran always yields, and will go on yielding, the needed guidance in advance. This has now been demonstrated through more than thirteen centuries, and that is a guarantee that it will continue to be demonstrated through the ages.

The Quran has proclaimed that falsehood will never overtake it. All research into the past and every discovery and invention of the future will affirm its truth (41:43). The Quran speaks at every level; it seeks  to reach every type of understanding, through parables, similitudes, arguments, reasoning, the observation and study of the phenomena of nature, and the natural, moral and spiritual laws (18:55; 39:28; 59:22).

It reasons from the physical and tangible to the spiritual and intangible. For instance: “Among His Signs is this; that thou seest the earth lying withered, but when
We send down water on it, it stirs and quickens with verdure. Surely He Who quickens the earth can quicken the dead. Verily, He has power over all things” (41:40). Here by quickening of the dead is meant the revival and rebirth of a people. As the dead earth is quickened by life-giving rain from heaven, a people that appears to be dead in all respects is revived and regenerated through spiritual water from the heavens, that is to say, through Divine revelation. This idea is expressed in the Quran in several places. Both resurrection and renaissance are explained with reference to the phenomenon of the dead earth being revived through life-giving rain (22:6-8).

Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan’s book Islam and Human Rights is available online: Islam-and Human Rights.

Another of his book also has the above excerpt in the chapter Quran and is also available online here: Islam – its meaning for modern man.

 

Defensive War: Why Fighting Was Allowed?

Why Fighting Was Allowed?

Source: Introduction of the Quran Translation and Commentary by Muhammad Ali

The Muslims were allowed to fight indeed, but what was the object? Not to compel the unbelievers to accept Islam, for it was against all the broad principles in which they had hitherto been brought up. No, it was to establish religious freedom, to stop all religious persecution, to protect the houses of worship of all religions, mosques among them. Here are a few quotations:

“And if Allah did not repel some people by others, cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques in which Allah’s name is much remembered, would have been pulled down” (22:40).

“And fight them until there is no persecution, and religion is only for Allah” (2:193).

“And fight them until there is no more persecution, and all religions are for Allah” (8:39).

Under what conditions was the permission to fight given to the Muslims? Every student of Islamic history knows that the Holy Prophet and his companions were subjected to the severest persecution, as Islam began to gain ground at Makkah; over a hundred of them fled to Abyssinia, but persecution grew still more relentless. Ultimately, the Muslims had to take refuge in Madinah, but they were not left alone even there, and the sword was taken up by the enemy to annihilate Islam and the Muslims. The Qur’an bears express testimony to this:

“Permission (to fight) is given to those on whom war is made, because they are oppressed. And Allah is able to assist them — those who are driven from their homes without a just cause except that they say: Our Lord is Allah” (22:39, 40 .

Later, the express condition was laid down:

“And fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but be not aggressive. Surely Allah loves not the aggressors” (2:190).

The Qur’an, therefore, allowed fighting only to save a persecuted community from powerful oppressors, and hence the condition was laid down that fighting was to be stopped as soon as persecution ceased:

“But if they desist, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And fight them until there is no persecution” (2:192, 193).

If the enemy offered peace, peace was to be accepted, though the enemy’s intention might be only to deceive the Muslims:

“And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it, and trust in Allah. Surely He is the Hearer, the Knower. And if they intend to deceive thee, then surely Allah is sufficient for thee” (8:61, 62).

The Holy Prophet made treaties of peace with his enemies; one such treaty brought about the famous truce of Hudaibiyah, the terms of which were not only disadvantageous, but also humiliating to the Muslims. According to the terms of this treaty “if an unbeliever, being converted to Islam, went over to the Muslims, he was to be returned, but if a Muslim went over to the unbelievers, he was not to be given back to the Muslims”. This clause of the treaty cuts at the root of all allegations of the use of force by the Holy Prophet. It also shows the strong conviction of the Holy Prophet that neither would Muslims go back to unbelief, nor would the new converts to Islam be deterred from embracing Islam because the Prophet gave them no shelter. And these expectations proved true, for while not a single Muslim deserted Islam, a large number came over to Islam, and, being refused shelter at Madinah, formed a colony of their own in neutral territory.

It is a mistake to suppose that the conditions related above were abrogated at any time. The condition to fight “against those who fight against you” remained in force to the last. The last expedition led by the Holy Prophet was the famous Tabuk expedition, and every historian of Islam knows that, though the Prophet had marched a very long distance to Tabuk at the head of an army of thirty thousand, yet, when he found that the enemy did not fulfil the condition laid down above, he returned, and did not allow his troops to attack the enemy territory. Nor is there a single direction in the latest revelation on this subject, in ch. 9, The Immunity, that goes against this condition. The opening verse of that chapter speaks expressly of “idolaters with whom you made an agreement”, and then, v. 4., excepts from its purview “those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement, then they have not failed you in anything and have not backed up anyone against you”, thus showing clearly that the “immunity” related only to such idolatrous tribes as had first made agreements with the Muslims and then, violating them, killed and persecuted the Muslims wherever they found them, as v. 10 says expressly: “They respect neither ties of relationship nor covenant in the case of a believer”. Such people are also spoken of in an earlier revelation: “Those with whom thou makest an agreement, then they break their agreement every time, and they keep not their duty” (8:56). Further on, in ch. 9, the condition of the enemy attacking the Muslims first is plainly repeated: “Will you not fight a people who broke their oaths and aimed at the expulsion of the Messenger, and they attacked you first?” (9:13). So from first to last, the Holy Qur’an allowed fighting only against those who fought the Muslims first; it allowed expressly only fighting in defence without which the Muslims could not live and it clearly forbade aggressive war. The waging of war on unbelievers to compel them to accept Islam is a myth pure and simple, a thing unknown to the Holy Qur’an. It was the enemy that waged war on the Muslims to turn them away from their religion, as the Holy Book so clearly asserts: “And they will not cease fighting you until they turn you back from your religion, if they can” (2:217).

Additional information from other sources

Among the key Quranic verses pertainging to defensive war are 2:190-194; 2:216-217; 3:116-156; 4:75; 5:13; 8:5; 8:38-39; 8:61; 9:1-15; 9:1-15; 9:29; 9:111; 10:109; 22:39-40; 22:52; 42:40; 47:4; 60:8-9, though there are others.

Also read 42:48; 2:256; 13:40; 5:48; 5:92 and 88:21-23.

 

Sources or Criteria for Interpretation of the Holy Quran

Source: The Muslim Times

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

I will describe here the four main sources, as I understand them, under the four headings:

1. Commentary from the Quran itself

2. Commentary from Sunnah and Hadith

3. Commentary from one’s honest and unbiased opinion

4. Laws of nature as a source of understanding the Quran

Commentary from the Quran itself

Muhammad Asad, born Leopold Weiss; 12 July 1900 – 20 February 1992, was a Jewish-born Austro-Hungarian journalist, traveler, writer, linguist, thinker, political theorist, diplomat and Islamic scholar. After traveling across the Arab World as a journalist, he converted to Islam in 1926 and chose for himself the Muslim name ‘Muhammad Asad’—Asad being the Arabic rendition of his root name Leo (Lion).

Asad was one of the most influential European Muslims of the 20th century. He writes in regards to the Quran itself being the main source of its own commentary:

I have tried to observe consistently two fundamental rules of interpretation.  Firstly, the Qur’an must not be viewed as a compilation of individual injunctions and exhortations but as one integral whole: that is, as an exposition of an ethical doctrine in which every verse and sentence has an intimate bearing on other verses and sentences, all of them clarifying and amplifying one another. Consequently, its real meaning can be grasped only if we correlate every one of its statements with what has been stated elsewhere in its pages, and try to explain its ideas by means of frequent cross—references, always subordinating the particular to the general and the incidental to the intrinsic. Whenever this rule is faithfully followed, we realize that the Qur’an is — in the words of Muhammad ‘Abduh — ‘its own best commentary.’

We believe that this is not Asad’s original idea. It has been expressed by numerous commentators and is grounded in the following verse of surah Zumar:

Allah has sent down the best Message in the form of a Book, whose verses are mutually supporting and repeated in diverse forms at which do creep the skins of those who fear their Lord; then their skins and their hearts soften to the remembrance of Allah. Such is the guidance of Allah; He guides therewith whom He pleases. And he whom Allah adjudges astray — he shall have no guide. (39:23)

Now a video message of Hamza Yusuf, who is an American Islamic scholar and co-founder of Zaytuna College, about the holistic understanding of the Quran:

Commentary from Sunnah and Hadith

The second most important source for commentary is sunnah, the practice of the holy prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him and his sayings that have been collected in a very extensive hadith literature.

The hadith literature is very extensive and almost none of us has extensive grasp of the subject.

We have, however, borrowed from prior commentaries, whenever we felt that expressed useful ideas from hadith. We up hold the sentinel principle that if any hadith is contradictory to the Quran, we disregard it as a later fabrication, rather than a genuine saying of the prophet.

Likewise, sayings of the prophet’s companions or saintly people in the last 1400 years are also a good source of commentary. This can, of course, be extended to all the good commentaries that have gone before.

Commentary from one’s honest and unbiased opinion

Muhammad Asad writes in his introduction to the translation of the holy Quran, regarding commentary from one’s opinion:

If, on occasion, I have found myself constrained to differ from the interpretations offered by the latter (early commentators), let the reader remember that the very uniqueness of the Qur’an consists in the fact that the more our worldly knowledge and historical experience increase, the more meanings, hitherto unsuspected, reveal themselves in its pages.

We believe that this is an information age and human learning is increasing at a dramatic pace. We hope that our commentary serves some of the needs of our contemporary times, with that inspiration we have tried to put forth our additional contributions, while we also try to preserve what we feel has been the best in the most popular commentaries of the last century.

Asad continues:

The great thinkers of our past understood this problem fully well. In their commentaries, they approached the Qur’an with their reason: that is to say, they tried to explain the purport of each Qur’anic statement in the light of their superb knowledge of the Arabic language and of the Prophet’s teachings — forthcoming from his sunnah — as well as by the store of general knowledge available to them and by the historical and cultural experiences which had shaped human society until their time. Hence, it was only natural that the way in which one commentator understood a particular Qur’anic statement or expression differed occasionally — and sometimes very incisively — from the meaning attributed to it by this or that of his predecessors. In other words, they often contradicted one another in their interpretations: but they did this without any animosity, being fully aware of the element of relativity inherent in all human reasoning, and of each other’s integrity. And they were fully aware, too, of the Prophet’s profound saying, ‘The differences of opinion (ikhtilaf) among the learned men of my community are [an outcome of] divine grace (rahmah)’ — which clearly implies that such differences of opinion are the basis of all progress in human thinking and, therefore, a most potent factor in man’s acquisition of knowledge.  But although none of the truly original, classical Qur’an-commentators ever made any claim to ‘finality’ concerning his own interpretations, it cannot be often enough stressed that without the work of those incomparably great scholars of past centuries, no modern translation of the Qur’an — my own included — could ever be undertaken with any hope of success; and so, even where I differ from their interpretations, I am immeasurably indebted to their learning for the impetus it has given to my own search after truth.

Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, first Foreign Minister of Pakistan and President of the UN General Assembly in 1962–63, in his book, Islam – Its meaning for the modern man, writes in the chapter on Quran:

It  has  sometimes  been  suggested  that  belief  in Divine  revelation  and  acceptance  of  revealed  truth  tend  toward  intellectual  rigidity  and  narrowness.  The exact reverse is the truth.  Revelation stimulates the intellect and opens all manner of avenues for research and   expansion   of   knowledge.   The   constant   and   repeated exhortation to reflect upon and ponder every type  of  natural  phenomenon  with  which  the  Quran  abounds  is  an  express  urge  in  that  direction.  History furnishes incontrovertible proof of this.  Within  an  astonishingly  brief  period  following  the  revelation  of  the  Quran,  darkness  and  confusion  were  dispelled  over vast areas of the earth, order was established, all manner  of  beneficent  institutions  sprang  into  life,  a  high  moral  order  was  set  up,  and  the  blessings  of  knowledge,  learning,  and  science  began  to  be  widely  diffused.  Human intellect,  which  for  some  centuries had  been  almost  frozen  into  inactivity,  experienced  a  sudden  release  and  upsurge,  and  the  world  became  witness to an astounding revolution. This was no freak occurrence,  no  sudden  flare-up  followed  by  an  even  more   sudden   collapse.   This   was   a   phenomenon   characterized by strength, beneficence, and endurance. It fulfilled to a preeminent degree the needs and yearnings of the human body, intellect and soul. It changed the course of human history. It flung wide open the gates of knowledge and progress in all directions.   Its   impact continues to be felt today through many and diverse channels.

But, all this is true only if the scripture is read with an open mindedness rather than dogmatically, with an absolutist mind set or agenda.  To achieve this at a societal level one needs complete freedom of conscience and speech and absence of the Blasphemy Laws, which infest most of the Muslim majority countries. Free speech and discussion necessitates that a few religious authorities are not put on such a high pedestal that leads to shunning of everyone else’s opinion if it differs from certain authority. The Muslims cannot benefit from the Quran in public life unless they create a culture where arguments are judged by reason and logic rather than arguments from authority, grand standing and triumphalism.

William Chittik writes in his book, Divine Love: Islamic Literature and the Path to God, in his first chapter as he quotes Ibn al-Arabi:

Ibn al-Arabi goes so far as to assert that every interpretation of the Qur’an for which a case can be made on the basis of the Arabic language was in fact intended by God, who knew from the outset every possible interpretation of His speech.

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community writes:

The Holy Qur’an is not matchless merely on account of the beauty of its composition, but is matchless on account of all its excellences which it claims to comprise and that is the truth, for whatever proceeds from God Almighty is not unique only on account of one quality but on account of every one of its qualities. Those who do not accept the Holy Qur’an as comprehensive of unlimited eternal truths and insights, do not value the Qur’an as it should be valued. A necessary sign for the recognition of the holy and true Word of God is that it should be unique in all its qualities, for we observe that whatever proceeds from God Almighty is unique and matchless even if it is only a grain of barley, and human powers cannot match it. … For instance, if the wonders of a leaf of a tree are investigated for a thousand years, that period would come to an end, but the wonders of the leaf will not come to an end. … The verse, “Say, ‘If every ocean becomes ink for the words of my Lord, surely, the ocean would be exhausted before the words of my Lord were exhausted, even though We brought the like thereof as further help;’” (18:110) supports this, for the whole of creation is Words of God….. Thus this verse means that the qualities of creation are without limit and endless.

Now when every created thing possesses unlimited and endless qualities and comprises numberless wonders then how could the Holy Qur’an, which is the Holy Word of God Almighty, be confined to the few meanings which may be set out in a commentary of forty or fifty or a thousand volumes, or could have been expounded by our lord and master the Holy Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be on him] in a limited period? To say so would almost amount to disbelief, if it is deliberately persisted in. It is true that whatever the Holy Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be on him] has set forth as the meaning of the Holy Qur’an is true and correct, but it is not true that the Holy Qur’an contains no more than the insights that have been set forth by the Holy Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be on him]. Such sayings of our opponents indicate that they do not believe in the unlimited greatness and qualities of the Holy Qur’an. [Karamat-us-Sadiqin, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 7, pp. 60-62]

There is a Hadith that stresses the judgment and conscience of the believer and suggests that he or she should bank on that. This is also true for our understanding of the Quran for our personal lives or presenting it to others. Narrated Wabisa bin Ma’bad, Allah be pleased with him: Said the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him: “Seek the guidance of your soul! Seek the guidance of your soul! The virtuous deed is one whereby your soul feels restful and your heart contented, and sinful act is one which rankles in your soul and which shrinks your heart, even though the other people endorse it as lawful.” (Musnad Ahmad)

Laws of nature as a source of understanding the Quran

It has been said that at least 750 verses of the holy Quran, almost an eighth of the book use metaphors from nature to make a moral or spiritual point or inspire the believers to study nature and so doing observe the signs of Allah.

I have cataloged and commented on these and many more verses of the Quran: Cataloging 750 verses of the Holy Quran inspiring believers to study nature.

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community writes:

The Holy Qur’an is a Book so full of wisdom that it has brought out the accord between the principles of spiritual medicine, that is to say, the principles of religion which are truly spiritual medicine, and physical medicine, and this accord is so fine that it opens the doors of hundreds of insights and eternal truths. It is only that person who can interpret the Holy Qur’an truly and perfectly, who ponders the principles laid down by the Holy Qur’an in the light of the system of physical medicine. On one occasion I was shown in a vision some books of expert physicians which contained a discussion of the principles of physical medicine, among which was included the book of the expert Physician Qarshi, and it was indicated to me that these Books contained a commentary on the Holy Qur’an. This shows that there is a deep relationship between the science of bodies and the science of religion and that they confirm each other. When I looked at the Holy Qur’an, keeping in mind the books that dealt with physical medicine, I discovered that the Holy Qur’an sets out in an excellent manner the principles of physical medicine.[Chashma-e-Ma‘rifat, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 23, pp. 102-103]

The above quote highlights that the Quran should be interpreted in the light of the laws of nature. Additionally, he names seven criteria for understanding the Quran in his book, the blessings of prayers and laws of nature are one them. His seven criteria are:

  1. Quran itself
  2. The interpretation of the Holy Prophet Muhammad
  3. The interpretation of his companions
  4. The fourth source is to meditate upon the meanings of the Holy Quran with the purity of one’s own self
  5. Arabic lexicon
  6. Laws of nature
  7. The seventh criterion is the revelation granted to saints

I have saved the PDF file of the English translations of his Urdu book here: Blessings of Prayer.

Charles Darwin came to a similar conclusion about relationship between study of nature and scriptures, living in a different age and studying a different scripture, namely the Bible, as he quoted Francis Bacon from his book, Advancement of learning, in the later editions of Origin of Species to establish the proper relationship between religion and natural science:

To conclude, therefore, let no man out of weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain, that a man can search too far or be too well-studied in the book of God’s word, or in the book of God’s works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavor an endless progress or proficiency in both.

In conclusion, allow us to repeat a short quote from Muhammad Asad. He writes in his introduction to the translation of the holy Quran, regarding how one’s insight into the Quran improves as one’s worldly knowledge increases, which in our opinion also includes our scientific knowledge:

If, on occasion, I have found myself constrained to differ from the interpretations offered by the latter (early commentators), let the reader remember that the very uniqueness of the Qur’an consists in the fact that the more our worldly knowledge and historical experience increase, the more meanings, hitherto unsuspected, reveal themselves in its pages.