Shiite Vs Salafi interpretation of Holy Quran – A debate

The opponents, particularly the hardcore elements, accuse the Shias of making fantastic and over the top interpretations of the Holy Book. They accuse the Shias of turning day into night and night into day with their Quranic exegeses (tafaseer and taaveel) and interpretation.

The critics maintain that the Holy Quran must be interpreted literally – as it is. There is no scope or permission to look for an interpretation that departs from the literal interpretation.


A. General Response

The subject of interpretation of the Holy Quran is not quite as simple as the skeptics make it out to be. If it were as straightforward as adopting the literal interpretation or translation then why did Allah raise the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)? The Holy Quran and its literal interpretation would have been sufficient for the Muslims.

This in fact was the claim of some ignorant and prejudiced companions who were anxious to see the back of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) at the earliest. In their own anxiety and deliriousness they prevented the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) from writing a will and declared that the Quran was sufficient for the Muslims.

They could not have been further from the truth.

Didn’t they refer the Holy Quran which declares:

‘He it is Who has revealed the Book to you; some of its verses are decisive, they are the basis of the Book, and others are allegorical; then as for those in whose hearts there is perversity they follow the part of it which is allegorical, seeking to mislead and seeking to give it (their own) interpretation, but none knows its interpretation except Allah and those who are firmly rooted in knowledge, say: We believe in it, it is all from our Lord; and none do mind except those having understanding.’

Clearly, this and many other verses, prove that the Holy Book is not a simple matter of literal translation. It is replete with verses that are allegorical and require the knowledge of ‘those who are firmly rooted in knowledge’ i.e. Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) and his infallible progeny (a.s.).

B. Debate with Father of Modern Salafism

The matter of interpretation of Quran is settled in a short debate involving the great Shiite jurist – Sayyed Mohsin al-Hakim (r.a.) and Abdul Aziz Ibn Baaz, arguably the Father of Modern Salafism.

In one of his Hajj journeys, Sayyed Mohsin al-Hakim (r.a.) encounters Ibn Baaz.

True to his nature, Ibn Baaz begins by making pointed objections against Sayyed Mohsin al-Hakim (r.a.) in particular and the Shias in general.

Ibn Baaz’s main contention was – Why don’t the Shia take the apparent of the Holy Quran and act according to it.

Why do you mix it with the exegesis and interpretation? You claim that Imam Sadiq (a.s.) and Imam Baqir (a.s.) said such and such regarding the interpretation.

It is necessary that the apparent of Holy Quran should be acted on and we must keep aside the interpretation and exegesis.

Sayyed Mohsin al-Hakim (r.a.) responded – This does not mean that we take the apparent without its interpretation and exegesis.

Holy Quran declares:

وَمَنْ كَانَ فِي هَٰذِهِ أَعْمَىٰ فَهُوَ فِي الْآخِرَةِ أَعْمَىٰ وَأَضَلُّ سَبِيلًا
‘And whoever is blind in this, he shall (also) be blind in the hereafter; and more erring from the way.’ (Surah Bani Israel (17): 72)

If you like to accept the apparent of this verse then we have no problem.

Ibn Baaz became silent and could not utter a word because he himself was blind!

Ma Same’to min ma Ra’ayto p 25
Is it any coincidence therefore that many mufti like Ibn Baaz and Abdul Aziz Aal al-Shaikh are blind, literally and figuratively, to the interpretation of the Holy Quran and the role of Ahle Bait (a.s.) in its explanation and exegesis!

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