Masood N. Khan, MD

Muslims should denounce and discourage those so called ignorant scholars who give big lectures about life after death with graphic descriptions of the Day of Judgement, Heaven and Hell!!

The Quran divides its verses into two types.

  1. Muhkamat محکمات (firmly construed and clear)
  2. Mutashabihat بہات متشا (allegorical, figurative and susceptible to varied interpretations)

“ He it is who has revealed to you (Muhammad) scripture. In it are verses, basic and fundamental (of established meaning); They are the foundation of the Book and others are allegorical. seeking to cause dissention by seeking to interpret it. None knows its explanation except Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: “We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord; None but only the men of understanding really heed.” (Al-Quran S:3 V:7)

(Muhakamat is derived from its root word حک from which are derived two words; Hukuma مُحک that means to give command or order and Hakam حكم that means judge. Also is derived the word Muhkamah which means “that which is firmly constructed”, clear and definite. Muhkamat محكمات is its plural. Similarly the root word for Mutashabihat is shabaha that means “to have a semblance” or “to render dubious”. From it is derived the word Tashabaha تشابه meaning a semblance and متشابه that which has a semblance but not clearly established. Mutashabihat متشابهات is its plural.)

The above verse is categorical, emphatic and holds a warning for those who go after متشا بهات Mutashabihat (allegorical) to give their figurative expressions a literal meaning. The verse makes clear that محكمات Muhkamat (firmly construed and clear) are the essence of the book; they contain the essence of guidance and Deen, therefore should be studied in their literal sense, given serious attention to, and followed with due diligence.

In compliance with the above verse, it becomes an important responsibility of Muslims to know which verses are Muhkamat and which are Mutashabihat. Let us try to apply certain broad principles to identify and differentiate Muhkamat from Mutashabihat. Quran could be broadly divided, contentwise, into four categories of verses.

  1. Clear injunctions with Dos and Don’ts including some laws and rulings about human conduct, individually and collectively. These are of course Muhkamat.
  2. Significant events of peoples of the past, as they relate to divine guidance delivered by Prophets of God. These are meant to emphasize the truth of God’s unity, authority and sovereignty and to condemn disbelief, rejection of divine guidance, polytheism and immoral conduct. These are also very clear facts of history with clear messages and therefore can be categorized as Muhkamat.
  3. Such attributes of Allah that are beyond human comprehension such as يد الله Allah’s hand, ونفخ فيه من روحه Allah’s spirit, etc. These of course have to be from Mutashabihat.
  4. Angels and the nature of their existence, Jinns and their nature of creation and existence, the narrations regarding creation of Adam, matters related to the life after death, the conditions on the Day of Judgement, God’s justice on that Day and life in Heaven and Hell. These are all Mutashbihat.

The above categorization of the content of Quran, makes for the student of Quran the identification of muhkamat and Mutshabihat very easy. Essentially leaving the clear injunctions and events related to Prophets divine which obviously are Muhkamat, the rest are all Mutashabihat which include certain attributes of God, description of what is going to happen in the life after death including the life in Heaven and Hell. The real knowledge about them is only with God. According to above verse Muslims are not supposed to inject their interpretation and give them any meaning much less interpreting them literally.

It is not uncommon to have long lectures in Masajid delivered by so called scholars giving detailed descriptions of Heaven and Hell with such certainity and clarity as if they have seen them with their own eyes. It is the duty of the educated Muslims to denounce and discourage such practice. If an Imam or any of the so called scholars gives a big lecture or Khutbah describing in detail the conditions of heaven and hell; the events that will take place on the Day of Judgement, and life after death in general, Muslims should confront him after the lecture and condemn him for what he did and warn him not to waste their time in such lectures that inject concrete meaning to the verses in Quran comprising of Mutashabihat.

This should be seriously condemned and discouraged. It is enough for Muslims to know that there is life after death, there is a Day of Judgement, there will be a system of accountability of human conduct, the bliss and joy as reward for good deeds and a painful existence for those who committed sins and hurt others.