Can Literal be considered Metaphorical?

By: Shireen Karoon

Last Sunday, Dr. Gasser Hathout presented a lecture on “Issues with Quranic Interpretation.”  He shed light on the meaning on “Muhkam” and “Mutashabih” verses as defined and agreed by the scholars.  He noted that most scholars agree that the “Muhkam” verses of the Quran are those that have a clear cut meaning and are action item verses whereas the “Mutashabih” verses are those that have more than one interpretation, are allegorical, have no actions attached to them and their meanings is open to wide speculation.

Dr. Gasser gave various examples from the Quran to further illustrate this concept.  Why he believes that it is so important to make this distinction and understand this concept is because:

1. It is the best antidote for authoritarianism and dogmatism in Islam

2. It is the source of continuing dynamism or “Ijtihad” that can evolve with time

3. For us to avoid the robotic execution of instructions, but rather to be an active participant who thinks, interprets, and understands the verses within the confinements of the Quran and Sunnah, and implements this understanding in his/her life.

This was a very important lecture for our community as many walked away enlightened with a new understanding of our holy revelation.

Click here to listen to the audio of Dr. Gasser’s lecture.

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