Surah Ale-Imran (The Family Of Imran ) 3 : 7

هُوَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكَ ٱلْكِتَٰبَ مِنْهُ ءَايَٰتٌ مُّحْكَمَٰتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ ٱلْكِتَٰبِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَٰبِهَٰتٌ ۖ فَأَمَّا ٱلَّذِينَ فِى قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَٰبَهَ مِنْهُ ٱبْتِغَآءَ ٱلْفِتْنَةِ وَٱبْتِغَآءَ تَأْوِيلِهِۦ ۗ وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُۥٓ إِلَّا ٱللَّهُ ۗ وَٱلرَّٰسِخُونَ فِى ٱلْعِلْمِ يَقُولُونَ ءَامَنَّا بِهِۦ كُلٌّ مِّنْ عِندِ رَبِّنَا ۗ وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّآ أُو۟لُوا۟ ٱلْأَلْبَٰبِ


 Muhsin Khan
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
It is He who has sent down to you, [O Muhammad], the Book; in it are verses [that are] definitive – they are the core of the Book – and others seem ambiguous. As for those in whose hearts is deviation, they will follow that of it which seems ambiguous, seeking discord and seeking to misinterpret. And no one knows its [true] interpretation except Allāh. But those firm in knowledge say, "We believe in it. All [of it] is from our Lord." And no one will be reminded except those of understanding,

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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  • مُّحْكَمَاتٌ 'Muhkam' decisive, whose meanings are absolutely clear. All Ayat related to rulings and orders are all Muhkam. These are the fundamental pillars of the Book around which all other Ayat revolve around.
  • مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ  'Mutashabihat' the meanings are not obvious, not exactly clear, they resemble each other. Matters of al-Ghayb [the unseen] belong to this category. The people of Fitnah [discord] seek to twist the meanings of these Ayat towards fitting their own agendas.  

  • فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَابَهَ مِنْهُ ابْتِغَاءَ الْفِتْنَةِ وَابْتِغَاءَ تَأْوِيلِهِ  - Two types of people are engaged with the Mutashabihat Ayat. One type are seeking to spread Fitnah [twisting the meanings] and the other type are trying to get to the conclusive and decisive understanding of the Ayat. 

  • Ibn Katheer writes  “Allah states that in the Qur'an, there are Ayat that are Muhkamat, entirely clear and plain, and these are the foundations of the Book which are plain for everyone. And there are Ayat in the Qur'an that are Mutashabihat not entirely clear for many, or some people. So those who refer to the Muhkam Ayat to understand the Mutashabih Ayat, will have acquired the correct guidance, and vice versa.

  • Muhammad bin Ishaq bin Yasar commented on, مِنْهُ آيَـتٌ مُّحْكَمَـتٌ "In it are verses that are entirely clear" as "Containing proof of the Lord, immunity for the servants and a refutation of opponents and of falsehood. They cannot be changed or altered from what they were meant for.'' He also said, "As for the unclear Ayat, they can (but must not) be altered and changed, and this is a test from Allah to the servants, just as He tested them with the allowed and prohibited things. So these Ayat must not be altered to imply a false meaning or be distorted from the truth.'' [Ibn Kathir]

  • إنما أنزل المتشابه لذلك؛ ليظهر فضل العلماء، ويزداد حرصهم على الاجتهاد فى تدبره، وتحصيل العلوم التى نيط بها استنباط ما أريد به من الأحكام الحقيقية؛ فينالوا بذلك وبإتعاب القرائح، واستخراج المقاصد الرائقة والمعاني اللايقة المدارج العالية. الألوسي: 3/83 [Be the first to translate this....]
  • بين سبحانه وتعالى أنه لا يضل بحرف المتشابه إلا ذوو الطبع العوج؛ الذين لم ترسخ أقدامهم في الدين، ولا استنارت معارفهم في العلم. البقاعي: 2/22 [Be the first to translate this....]

Practical Implication

  •  اعلم أن ترك الدليل الواضح والاستدلال بلفظ متشابه هو طريق أهل الزيغ، ﴿ۖ فَأَمَّا ٱلَّذِينَ فِى قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَٰبَهَ مِنْهُ ٱبْتِغَآءَ ٱلْفِتْنَةِ وَٱبْتِغَآءَ تَأْوِيلِهِۦ ۗ  [Be the first to translate this....]

2. Linguistic Analysis

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Frequency of Root words in this Ayat used in this Surah *

3. Surah Overview

4. Miscellaneous Information

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5. Connected/Related Ayat

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6. Frequency of the word

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7. Period of Revelation

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“This Surah consists of four discourses:

  • The first discourse (v. 1-32) was probably revealed soon after the Battle of Badr.
  • The second discourse (v. 33-63) was revealed in 9 A.H. (After Hijrah - migration from Makkah to Madinah) on the occasion of the visit of the deputation from the Christians of Najran.
  • The third discourse (v. 64-120) appears to have been revealed immediately after the first one.
  • The fourth discourse (v. 121-200) was revealed after the Battle of Uhud.” [Mawdudi]

8. Reasons for Revelation

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1. The Believers had met with all sorts of trials and hardships about which they had been forewarned in Al-Baqarah. Though they had come out victorious in the Battle of Badr they were not out of danger yet. Their victory had aroused the enmity of all those powers in Arabia which were opposed to the islamic Movement. Signs of threatening storms had begun to appear on all sides and the Muslims were in a perpetual state of fear and anxiety. It looked as if the whole Arabian world around the tiny state of Madinah - which was no more than a village state at that time - was bent upon blotting out its very existence. This state of war was also adversely affecting its economy which had already been badly disturbed by the influx of the Muslim refugees from Makkah.

2. Then there was the disturbing problem of the Jewish clans who lived in the suburbs of Madinah. They were discarding the treaties of alliance they had made with the Prophet after his migration from Makkah. So much so that on the occasion of the Battle of Badr these people of the Book sympathized with the evil aims of the idolaters in spite of the fact that their fundamental articles of Faith - Monotheism, Prophethood and Life-after-death - were the same as those of the Muslims. After the Battle of Badr they openly began to incite the Quraysh and other Arab clans to wreak their vengeance on the Muslims. Thus those Jewish clans set aside their centuries-old friendly and neighbourly relations with the people of Madinah. At last when their mischievous actions and breaches of treaties became unbearable the Prophet attacked the Bani-Qaynuqah, the most mischievous of all the other Jewish clans who had conspired with the hypocrites of Madinah and the idolatrous Arab clans to encircle the Believers on all sides. The magnitude of the peril might be judged from the fact that even the life of the Prophet himself was always in danger. Therefore his Companions slept in their armours during that period and kept watch at night to guard against any sudden attack and whenever the Prophet happened to be out of sight even for a short while they would at once set out in search of him.

3. This incitement by the Jews added fuel to the fire which was burning in the hearts of the Quraysh and they began to make preparations to avenge the defeat they had suffered at Badr. A year after this an army of 3000 strong marched out of Makkah to invade Madinah and a battle took place at the foot of Mount Uhud. The Prophet came out of Madinah with one thousand men to meet the enemy. While they were marching to the battlefield three hundred hypocrites deserted the army and returned to Madinah but there still remained a small band of hypocrites among the seven hundred who accompanied the Prophet. They played their part and did their utmost to create mischief and chaos in the ranks of the Believers during the Battle. This was the first clear indication of the fact that within the fold of the Muslim Community there was quite a large number of saboteurs who were always ready to conspire with the external enemies to harm their own brethren.

4. Though the devices of the hypocrites had played a great part in the set-back at Uhud, the weaknesses of the Muslims themselves contributed no less to it. And it was but natural that the Muslims should show signs of moral weakness for they were a new community which had only recently been formed on a new ideology and had not as yet got a thorough moral training. Naturally in this second hard test of their physical and moral strength some weaknesses came to the surface. That is why a detailed review of the Battle of Uhud was needed to warn the Muslims of their shortcomings and to issue instructions for their reform. It should also be noted that this review of the Battle is quite different from the reviews that are usually made by generals on similar occasions.

9. Relevant Hadith

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  • A'ishah [ra] said, "The Messenger of Allah recited, هُوَ الَّذِى أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَـبَ مِنْهُ آيَـتٌ مُّحْكَمَـتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَـبِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَـبِهَـت "It is He Who has sent down to you the Book. In it are verses that are entirely clear, they are the foundations of the Book; and others not entirely clear," until, أُوْلُواْ الأَلْبَـبِ "Men of understanding" and he said,  فَإِذَا رَأَيْتُمُ الَّذِين يُجَادِلُونَ فِيهِ، فَهُمُ الَّذِينَ عَنَى اللهُ، فَاحْذَرُوهُم " "When you see those who argue in it (using the Mutashabihat), then they are those whom Allah meant. Therefore, beware of them."' [Musnad Ahmad]

10. Wiki Forum

Comments in this section are statements made by general users – these are not necessarily explanations of the Ayah – rather a place to share personal thoughts and stories…

11. Tafsir Zone


Overiew (Verses 7 - 8)

Two Types of Revelation

In this brief passage, the sūrah uncovers the reality of those who swerve from the truth. These people turn their back on the facts stated with absolute clarity in the Qur’ān, pursuing other Qur’ānic statements which admit more than one explanation in order to use the same as a basis for their fabrications. It also shows the distinctive characteristics of those who truly believe in God and submit to Him, accepting everything they receive from Him without any doubt or argument.

One report suggests that the Christian delegation from Najrān said to the Prophet: “Do you not state that Jesus Christ was the word of God and His spirit?” They wanted to utilise this statement to support their own doctrines that Jesus was not a human being, but the spirit of God. At the same time they paid no heed to those unequivocal verses which emphatically state the absolute oneness of God, categorically rejecting all claims of His having any partner or son. The report says that verse 7 was revealed by way of reply, showing the reality of their attempt to make use of such allegorical statements, while at the same time abandoning other clear and precise statements.

This verse does, however, have more general significance than its relevance to that particular historical case. It shows the attitudes of different people towards this Book which God has revealed to the Prophet, stating the essentials of the correct concept of faith and the basics of the Islamic way of life. It also includes other statements which relate to matters kept beyond the realm of human perception. The human mind cannot fathom these matters beyond what the relevant Qur’ānic statements point out.

As for the basics of faith and Islamic law, these are definitively stated, clearly understood and have well-defined aims. These are the essence of this Qur’ān. Those matters which are stated allegorically, including the origin and birth of Jesus (pbuh) are so given in order that we accept them at face value. We believe in them because they come to us from the source which speaks the truth: their sense and form are difficult to comprehend because, by nature, they are beyond our human, finite means of comprehension.

People’s reception of both types of revelation differs according to whether their nature has remained straightforward or has swerved from the truth. Those whose hearts have deviated and erred deliberately overlook the clear and precise essentials which make up the foundation of the faith, the law and the practical way of life. Instead, they pursue those allegorical verses which can only be accepted on the basis of believing in their source and acknowledging that He is the One Who knows all the truth, while human perception is limited. Acceptance of both types of revelation also depends on human nature remaining pure and straightforward, believing as a matter of course that this whole book is a book of truth, and that it has been sent down with the truth and that no deviation or error can creep into it. Deviants, however, create trouble and dissension by attributing interpretations to those allegorical statements which shake the foundation of the faith, and which bring about confusion as a result of forcing the human mind into a realm which lies way beyond it. " None save God its final meaning."

“Those who are firmly grounded in knowledge” and who have recognised the nature of human thinking and the area within which the human mind can operate say with confidence and reassurance: “We believe in it; it is all from our Lord.” Such scholars are reassured because they know that it is all from their Lord; hence it must tell the truth, simply because whatever originates with God is the truth. It is not part of the function or ability of the human mind to look for reasons and arguments to support it. Nor is it within its ability to fathom its nature or the nature of the causes which give rise to it. True knowledge presupposes that the human mind need not try to penetrate what is kept beyond it nor what man has not been given the means to discover or understand.

This is a true description of those firmly grounded in knowledge. Only those who are deluded by the scanty knowledge they have acquired make boastful statements that they have acquired omnipotent knowledge and only they deny the very existence of what they cannot understand. Furthermore, they sometimes impose their own understanding on universal facts, allowing them to exist only in the manner they understand them. Hence, they try to measure God’s Word, which is absolute, by their own rational dictates formulated by their own finite minds. Those who are truly learned, however, are much more humble in their attitude, and they readily accept that the human mind cannot fathom the great many facts beyond its capability. They are more faithful to human nature, recognising the truth and accepting it: “... only those who are endowed with insight take heed.”

It seems that those who have insight need only reflect and take heed in order to recognise the truth and to have it well established in their minds. When this is achieved they repeat their prayers in total devotion, asking God to enable them to hold on to that truth, to not let their hearts swerve from it, and to give them of His Abundant grace. They also remember the undoubted day when all mankind will be gathered together, and they remember the promise which will never fail: “Our Lord, ... bestow on us mercy from Yourself You are indeed the great Giver. Our Lord, You will indeed gather mankind together to witness the Day of which there is no doubt. Surely, God never fails to keep His promise.”

This is the sort of attitude those who are firmly grounded in knowledge adopt, and it is the attitude which suits the believers. It emanates from the reassurance that what God says is the truth and that His promise will be fulfilled. It is an attitude influenced by knowledge of God’s mercy and His grace, and by fear of what His will may determine. It is an attitude shaped by fear of God and the great sensitivity faith implants in the hearts of believers so that they never forget or overlook these facts at any moment of day or night.

A believer’s heart appreciates the value of having guidance after being misguided, the value of clarity after impaired vision, the value of following a straight road after confusion, the value of reassurance after being at a loss, the value of liberation from subjugation to other people, through submission to God alone, the value of having high concerns after being preoccupied with pettiness. It appreciates that God has given him all that through faith. Hence, the believer fears to return to error as much as a person who follows a bright, clear way fears to return to a dark, endless labyrinth, or a person who has enjoyed the cool shade fears to return to the burning sun of the desert. Only a person who has experienced the bitter misery of unbelief can appreciate the sweetness and happiness of faith, and only a person who has tasted the bitterness of deviation and error can enjoy the reassurance of faith.

Hence, the believers address their Lord with this prayer which reflects their sincere devotion: “Our Lord, let not our hearts swerve from the truth after You have guided us.” They pray for more of God’s mercy which has saved them from error, provided them with guidance, and given them what they could not have from any other source: “... and bestow on us mercy from Yourself You are indeed the great Giver”

Their faith tells them that they cannot attain anything except through God’s mercy and grace. They do not even have control-over their own hearts; for they are in God’s hand. Hence, they pray for God’s help. `Ā’ishah, the Prophet’s wife reports: “God’s messenger (peace be on him) often repeated this prayer: Lord, You are the One Who turns hearts over. Let my heart stick firmly to your faith. I said: Messenger of God, you often repeat this prayer. He said: Every single heart is held in between two of the Merciful’s fingers; He will keep it on the right path if He wills, and He will let it swerve from the truth if He wills.”

When the believer appreciates that God’s will is accomplished in this way, he realises that his only choice is to hold tight to God’s guidance, and to pray to God to bestow His mercy on him so that he may keep the great treasure which God has given him.

12. External Links

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