MUTASHABIHÂT – متشابهات
Literally: Mutually resembling. Similar. Equable. Ambiguous.
As a term in fiqh: Unclear, allegorical and ambiguous âyahs of the Qur’an and the Hadiths. As it is declared in the âyah (Qur’an 3:7) explanations of them can be made by those ‘ulamâ, who are deeply rooted in ‘ilm through Allah’s protection, favour and grace.
“A subtle point of the âyâh, فَقَدْ جَۤاءَ اَشْرَاطُهَا 1 written in order to protect the aqîdah of the ‘awâm of mu’mins and preserve it from doubt.
Like the mutashabihât of the Qur'an, some Hadiths about the events that will occur at the âkhirzaman have profound meanings. They cannot be made to tafsir like muhkamât âyâhs and not everyone can understand them. Rather than being made tafsir, they are explained (ta'wil). Through the mystery of وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَاْوِيلَهُ اِلاَّ اللّٰهُ وَ الرَّاسِخُونَ فِى الْعِلْمِ 2 their explanation (ta'wil) and what is intended by them is understood only after they have occurred so that those well-grounded in ‘ilm say: آمَنَّا بِهِ كُلٌّ مِنْ عِنْدِ رَبِّنَا3 and they disclose those hidden haqiqahs.” The Fifth Ray-Introduction
“Guidance is beneficial only when commensurate with the intellectual capacity of the majority of the people. And the great majority are ‘awâm, and the ‘awâm are not capable of contemplating the sheer haqiqah; they are accustoming to seeing it clothed only in the dress of their familiar imaginings. Because of this, the Qur'an depicts such haqiqahs in mutashabihât, with isti'âra (metaphors) and tashbîh (similes), and it protects the mass of people, who have not advanced, from falling into the abyss of error. Thus, it is vague and obscure in matters that they necessarily believe to be contrary to actuality due to bi'l-hiss adh-dhâhirî4 , yet it still makes allusion to and indicates the haqiqah….
…They say: "The existence of mutashabihât and obscurities in the Qur'an is contrary to its miraculousness, which is based on eloquence (al-balâghat), and eloquence is based on the clarity of expression.
… Answer to the first doubt, which is the existence of mutashabihât and obscurities:
The Qur'an's guidance is for all people, and most of them are ‘awâm. In guidance, the minority follows the majority, for when the ‘awâm are addressed, the khawass can benefit from it and receive their share. But if the reverse is true, the ‘awâm are deprived [of their share]. The ‘awâm cannot free their minds from what they are accustomed to and imaginary things and are therefore unable to apprehend sheer haqiqahs and abstract ideas except through the telescope of their imaginations and by depicting things familiar to them. However, [when doing this] they should not fix their attention on the apparent forms [of those things] lest it necessitates something impossible like their embodiment or having 'sides;' they should look beyond [the form] to the haqiqahs.
For example, the masses can conceive of the haqiqah of Ilahî disposal over the universe in the form of a sultân seated on the throne of his power holding sway over his dominions. It is for this reason that [the Qur'an] chooses [to use] a metonymy in the âyah: اَلرَّحْمٰنُ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ اسْتَوٰى 5 Since the feelings of the mass of people are thus, it is imperative according to eloquence and guidance that their understanding is taken into account, and their feelings are respected, and their minds are deferred to, and allowance is made for their ideas. Like someone who speaks with a child has to come down to his level so that he can get the child to understand in a friendly manner. The literary devices and styles of the Qur'an (al-asâlîb al-Qur'âniyya) in such places, that show regard for the mass of people are called اَلتَّنَزُّلاَتُ اْلاِلهِيَّةُ اِلَى عُقُولِ الْبَشَرِ 6 It is to put [people's] minds at ease. For this reason, it sets the forms [depicted by] the mutashabihât before the people's eyes like telescopes. Haven't you seen how most of the eloquent literati use figures of speech to depict subtle meanings or to portray disparate ideas? Thus, the mutashabihât are figures of speech of an abstruse kind for they depict abstruse haqiqahs.” Signs of Miraculousness (191-192)
Since the Noble Hadiths that speak of the signs of the qiyâmah, the events of the âkhirzaman, and the fadhîlah and merits of certain actions (‘amal) have not been well understood, some people of ‘ilm who rely on their mind have pronounced some of them to be either weak or false (mawdhû). While some of them whose îmân was weak and ananiyyah was strong have gone as far as denying them. For now, we shall not attempt any detailed discussion but shall only explain twelve 'Principles'.
First Principle: this is the matter which we have explained in the question and answer at the end of the twentieth word. Its summary is this: Religion is an examination, a test. It distinguishes elevated rûhs from low ones. It, therefore, speaks of matters that everyone shall see with their eyes in the future in such a way that they remain neither altogether unknown, nor self-evident so that everyone would be compelled to confirm them. It opens the door to the mind but does not take the will from the hand. Because if a sign of the qiyâmah appeared completely self-evidently and every one was compelled to affirm it, then an inner disposition like coal would remain equal to one like diamonds. The mystery of man's accountability and results of examination would be destroyed. It is because of this that there has been much dispute over many matters like that of the Mahdî and Sufyan. Also, there are many different riwâyât; they have become pronouncements which contradict one another.
Second Principle: There are levels in the matters of Islam. If one requires a certain proof, for another a strong opinion is sufficient. Others require merely acceptance and submission and not to be rejected. In which case, secondary matters or events of time which are not among the fundamentals of îmân do not require a definite proof through certain idh‘ân. They require just not to be rejected and not to be doubted through submission.
Third Principle: In the time of the Sahâbah most of the sons of Isrâel and Christian ‘ulamâ entered Islam, and their former knowledge became Muslim along with them. Some of their former knowledge which was contrary to the truth was imagined to be a part of Islam.
Fourth Principle: Some of the words of the narrators of the Noble Hadith or the meanings they deduced were considered to be part of the texts of the Hadiths themselves. However, since man cannot be free of fault, some of their deductions or words which were contrary to the occurrence were supposed to be Hadiths and were pronounced to be weak.
Fifth Principle: According to the mystery of اِنَّ فِى اُمَّتِى مُحَدَّثُونَ7 that is, مُلْهَمُونَ8 some of the meanings which came through the ilham of muhaddisîn9 who received ilham from Allah and who were ahl al-kashf and ahl al-walâyah, were accepted as Hadiths. Whereas, due to certain obstructions, the ilham of awliyâ may be in error. Thus, a part of them from this sort may be contrary to the haqiqah.
Sixth Principle: There are certain stories which, have become well-known among people and have become like proverbs. True meanings of them may not be considered. For whatever purpose they were spread, that is what is considered. Thus, some stories and parables which have become well-known among people in this way, Ar-Rasûl Al-Akram ‘Alayhissalâtu Wassalâm told in the form of comparisons and metaphors for the purpose of guidance. If there is any defect in the true meanings of this sort of matters, it pertains to the customs and traditions of the people, and the way they have been passed among them.
Seventh Principle: There are many similes and comparisons that with the passage of time or with passing from the hand of ‘ilm to the hand of ignorance have been accepted as a material haqiqah, and have become mistaken. For example, two malâikah of Allah called 'Sawr'10 and 'Hût',11 who are among the supervisors of the animals of the land and the sea and in al-‘âlam al-misâl are represented as an ox and fish, were supposed to be a huge ox and a material fish, and created doubt in the Hadith. And for example, one time in the presence of the Prophet a deep sound was heard. Ar-Rasûl Al-Akram ‘Alayhissalâtu Wassalâm decreed: "This is the sound of a rock that has been rolling downhill for seventy years and only now has hit the bottom of Jahannam." Thus, someone hearing this Hadith who does not know the haqiqah may deviate into denial. But then, twenty minutes after the Hadith was spoken it was definitely established, for someone came and told Ar-Rasûl Al-Akram ‘Alayhissalâtu Wassalâm: "The famous munâfiq died twenty minutes ago." Ar-Rasûl Al-Akram ‘Alayhissalâtu Wassalâm had described in a most eloquent form that the lifetime of that seventy-year-old munâfiq as a stone of Jahannam was had consisted of falling into asfal sâfilîn and kufr approaching it by degrees. Janâb-i Haqq had made that sound heard at the moment of his death and made it a sign for that.
Eighth Principle: In this arena of trial and realm of examination, the Absolute Janâb-i Hakîm, conceals most important things in the midst of numerous others, and this concealing is tied to many hikmahs and benefits. For example, He has hidden the Night of Qadr in the whole of Ramadhan, and the hour when prayers are answered in the whole of Friday, and well-accepted walî among the people, and the appointed hour in a person's life-time, and the time of qiyâmah in the life-time of the world. For if the appointed hour of man's death had been specified, it will give absolute ghaflah to the first half of his life and a terror like going step by step to the gallows to the second. Whereas the benefit of preserving the balance between the world and the âkhirah, and to remain perpetually between hope and fear requires living and dying to be possible every moment. In which case, a twenty-year life-time in an indefinite manner is preferable to a thousand years of a life-time which is specified.
Thus, the qiyâmah is the appointed hour of death of the world which is the great human being. If the time had been specified, all the early and middle ages would have been plunged into absolute ghaflah, and the latter centuries, into terror. Just as in his personal life man is concerned with the continued existence of his home and village, so he is concerned with the continued existence of his social life, the life of mankind, the globe of the earth and the world. The Qur'an says,اِقْتَرَبَتِ السَّاعَةُ . It decrees “The qiyâmah is near.” It does not negate its closeness, not having come after a thousand or this many years. Because qiyâmah is the appointed hour of death of the world. In relation to the life of the world, one or two thousand years are like one or two minutes in relation to a year. The hour of qiyâmah is not only mankind’s appointed hour of death that it should be related to it and seen as distant. It is because of this that the Absolutely Hakîm conceals qiyâmah in His ‘ilm among the 'Five Hidden Things.'12 It is due to this mystery of being indefinite that every age including the Age of the Bliss which was the age that sees the haqiqah, people have been afraid of the qiyâmah. Some of them said that the conditions of it had all but appeared.
Thus, unfair people who do not know this haqiqah say: "Why did the thoughts of Sahâbah whose sight was keen and hearts were awake who had been taught the lesson of the âkhirah with all its details, supposed to be close to their century, supposed a haqiqah that will come one thousand four hundred years later in the future of the world to be close to their century, as though their thoughts had deviated a thousand years from the haqiqah?
The Answer: Because, through the faydh of the Prophet's conversation, the Sahâbah thought of the realm of the âkhirah more than anyone, and knowing the perishment of the world and understanding the Ilahî hikmah in being indefinite time of qiyâmah, they assumed a position of always awaiting the world's appointed hour of death and worked seriously for their âkhirah. Ar-Rasûl Al-Akram ‘Alayhissalâtu Wassalâm repeating: "Expect qiyâmah. Wait for it" was prophetic guidance (irshad) arising from this hikmah. Otherwise, it was not a pronouncement of wahy concerning the specific time of its occurrence so that would be far from the haqiqah. The real cause (‘illah) is one thing and the hikmah is another. Thus, sayings of the Prophet ‘Alayhissalâtu Wassalâm of this sort arise from the hikmah of being indefinite.
It is also due to this mystery that they expected the individuals who will come in the âkhirzaman like the Mahdî and Sufyan long beforehand, and even in the time of the tâbi’în, and hoped to live long enough to see them. Some of the people of walâyah, even, said that they had passed. Like the qiyâmah, Ilahî hikmah requires that the times of these individuals are not specified either. Because every time and every age is in need of the Mahdî's meaning, for strengthening ma’mawî power and saving the people from despair. Every age has to have a share of this meaning. In order that people should not follow evil ones in ghaflah and the reins of the nafs should not be left free in negligence, every age must beware and fear the fearsome individuals who come to lead nifâq. If they had been specified, the benefits of general guidance would have been lost.
Now the difference in the riwâyât about individuals like the Mahdî and their mystery is this: those who expounded Hadiths applied the text of the Hadiths to their own tafsir and inferring. For example, since the centre of sovereignty at that time was Damascus or Medina, they imagined the events connected with the Mahdî and Sufyan in places like Basra, Kufa and Syria, which were in the region of those centres, and expounded them accordingly. Moreover, they had concieved the mighty works belonging to that individual’s ma’nawî collective personality or community which those individuals represent to be in their persons and expounded them in that way so that they ascribed a form to them whereby when those extraordinary individuals appear, everyone will recognize them. However, as we said, this world is the arena of trial. The door is opened to the mind, but the will is not taken from the hand. So, when those individuals and even the terrible Dajjâl appear many people and himself even will not know to start with that, he is the Dajjâl. Those individuals of the âkhirzaman will be known through the attentiveness of the nûr of îmân.
It is narrated in the Noble Hadith about the Dajjâl who is one of the signs of the qiyâmah: "His first day is like a year, his second day like a month, his third day like a week and his fourth day like other days. When he appears the world will hear. He will travel the world in forty days." Unfair people have said about this riwâyat that it is impossible. Hashâ they have gone as far as denying and nullifying this riwâyat. Whereas, 13 وَالْعِلْمُ عِنْدَ اللّٰهِ , the haqiqah of it must be this: It indicates the appearance of an individual from the North who will come to lead a great current issuing forth from Naturalism’s idea of kufr, in the North where al ‘âlam of kufr is at its densest, and who will deny ulûhiyyah. There is an allusion of hikmah in this indication, for in the latitudes close to the North Pole the whole year is one day and one night; there are six months of night and six months of day. "One day of the Dajjâl is a year" is an indication to his appearance close to those latitudes. What is meant from "His second day is a month" is that passing in this direction from the North, it sometimes happens that for a month in the summer the sun does not set. This even suggests that the Dajjâl will emerge in the North and invade the civilized world. By attributing the day to the Dajjâl, it points to this indication. He comes further in this direction, and the sun does not set for a week, and so it continues until there are three hours between its rising and setting. While being held as a prisoner-of-war in Russia, I was in such a place. Close to us was a place where the sun did not set for a week. They used to go there to watch it. As for the part, "When the Dajjâl appears, all the world will hear of it," the telegraph and radio have solved this. As for his travelling the world in forty days, the train and aeroplane which are his mounts, have solved. Mulhids who formerly considered these two statements to be impossible, now see them as ordinary!
Since in a risale I have written in some detail about Ya’jûj and Majûj and the Barrier which are among the signs of qiyâmah, I refer to that, and here only say this: The tribes known as the Manchurians and Mongols, who threw human society into chaos and were the cause of the building of the Great Wall of China, will again overturn human civilization close to qiyâmah with an idea like anarchism stated in riwâyât. Some mulhids say: "Where are the tribes that perform these extraordinary acts and that will perform them?"
The Answer: A calamity like locusts appears in one season in enormous numbers. Then, on the change of the seasons, the haqiqah of those numerous tribes which disrupt the country is concealed in a few limited individuals. Then, when the time comes, with Ilahî command, the same corruption starts through great numbers which appear from those limited individuals. As though the haqiqah of their nation subtilizes, but does not rupture. When the season comes it emerges again. In just the same way, when the season returns those tribes which overturned the world at one time will overturn human civilization with Ilahî permission. But what causes to move them will appear in a different form. لاَ يَعْلَمُ الْغَيْبَ اِلاَّ اللّٰهُ14 .” The Twenty-Third Word/Third Branch
1 [Its signs have already come (47:18)]
2 [But no one knows its hidden meanings (ta'wil) except Allah and those who are well-grounded in ‘ilm say...(3:7)]
3 [...“We believe in it; it is all from our Rabb”(3:7)]
4 (their superficial emotional view)
5 (Ar-Rahmân, established on the throne (‘arsh) of His almightiness.) (20:5)
6 (Ilahî condescension to human minds)
7 (Among my ummah are transmitters of Hadiths)
9 (‘Ulamâ of Hadith)
10 (The Ox)
11 (The Fish)
12 Al-Mughayyabât Al-Khamsah: Five Hidden Things which cannot be known by anyone without the permission and information of Allah. It is also called Mafâtih al-Ghayb. These are as follows:
1) The time of qiyâmah.
2) The time of falling rain.
3) Istidad, the essence and ma’nawî features of a fetus in the womb of his mother.
5) Where a man will die?
13 (And the ‘ilm of it is with Allah)
14 (None knows the ghayb save Allah)