Comment by Shaikul Hadith Maulana Muhammad Zakariyaa
The meaning of the expression "outward and inward of the Qur'an" is evident. The Qur'an has an apparent meaning, which can be understood by all, but the Deeper spiritual significance not understood by everybody. It is in this connection that Rasulullah (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) has said: "Whosoever expresses his personal opinion in respect of anything in the Qur'an commits a mistake, even if he be right in his opinion."
Some scholars hold that the word 'outward', i.e., the body of the Qur'an, refers to its words, which can be recited properly by everybody and the word 'inward', i.e., spirit, refers to its meanings, and its underlying ideas, the understanding of which varies with the ability of the readers
Ibn-e-Mas'ud (Radhi Allaho anho) said; "If you seek knowledge, you should meditate on the meanings of the Qurtan, because it embodies the history of the former times as well as of the latter."It is, however, essential to obsene the pre-requisites for interpreting the Qur'an. An unbecoming present-day fashion is that even those who possess a little or no knowledge of Arabic vocabulary offer their personal opinion on the basis of vernacular translations of the Qur'an. Specialists have laid down that any one attempting a commentary of the Holy Qur'an should be well versed in fifteen subjects. These, as briefly given below, will show that it not possible for everybody to understand the underlying significance and real meanings of the Holy Quran
(1) Lughat, i.e., philology of language, which helps in understanding the appropriate meanings of words. Mujahid says, "One who believes in Allah and the Day of Judgement should not open his lips in respect of the Qur'an unless he is thoroughly conversant with the philology of the Arabic language. Quite often an Arabic word has several- meanings. A person may be knowing only one or two of them, though in a given context the actual meaning may be quite different."
(2) Nahv, i.e., syntax, a branch of grammar, which helps in understanding the relation of a sentence with another and also of 'Irab' (vowel sounds) of the letters of a word. A change in 'Irab' often means a change in the meaning.
(3) Sarf, i.e., etymology, a branch of grammar, which helps in knowing the root words and conjugations. The meaning of a word changes with the change in the root and with a change in its conjugation. Ibn-e- Faris says, "One who loses the knowledge of etymology loses a great deal." 'Allamah Zamakhashri mentions that, when a certain person set to translate the 'ayat’ On the day that We shall call each and every people after their leader, he ignorantly rendered it thus: “On the day that We shall call each people after their mother." He supposed that the singular Arabic word 'Imam' (leader) was the plural of the Arabic word 'um' (mother). If he had been conversant with etymology, he would have known that the plural of 'um' is not 'imam'
(4) Ishtiqaq, i.e.,derivatives. It is necessary to have the knowledge of derivatives and their root words, because if a word has been derived from two different root words, it will have two different meanings, e.g., the word 'masih' is derivable from 'masah' which means to touch or to move wet hands over, and also from 'masahat' which means measurement
(5) Ilm-ul-Ma'ani, i.e., knowledge of semantics, because phrase constructions are understood from their meanings.
(6) Ilm-ul-Bayan, i.e., knowledge of figures of speech, like similes and metaphors, due to which expressions or shades of meaning or similes and metaphor become known.
(7) 'llm-ul-Badi', i.e., knowledge of rhetoric, the knowledge which reveals the beauty of language and its implications.
(8) Ilm-ul-Qir'at, i.e., knowledge of the art of pronunciation, because different methods of recitation sometimes convey different meanings, and sometimes one meaning is to be preferred over the other.
(9) 'Ilm-ul-'Aqaid, i.e., knowledge of the fundamentals of faith. This is necessary to explain certain analogies. The literal meaning of certain ayaat' referring to Almighty Allah is not the correct one. For example, the analogy in the ayat—(The hand of Allah is over their hands)will have to be explained because Allah has no physical hands.
(10) Usul-e-Fiqah i.e., Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence. These are necessary for reasoning out and finding arguments in the basic support of statements.
(11) Asbab-unaz-ul, i.e., the particular circumstances which caused the revelation (of ayat). The meaning of an 'ayat' will be better understood if we know how and when it had been revealed. Sometimes the true meaning of an 'ayat, is understood only if we know the circumstances in which the 'ayat' had been revealed.
(12)Nasikh-mansukh, i.e., knowledge of commandments that have subsequently been abrogated or changed, so that abrogated commandments may be distinguished from the standing ones.
(13) Ilm-ul-Fiqah, i.e., knowledge of Islamic Jurisprudence, because it is only through this knowledge that we arrive at a complete understanding of general principles.
(14) Knowledge of such 'ahadith' that happen to be a commentary on certain brief verses of the Qur'an.
(15) The last but most important is the 'ilm-e-Wahbi'or the gifted understanding, bestowed by Almighty Allah upon His selected ones, as referred to in the ‘hadith'— Whosoever acts upon what he knows, Almighty Allah bestows upon him the knowledge of things not known to him.
It is this special understanding that was implied in the reply of Hadrat 'Ali (Karram Allaho wajhu) (may Allah be kind to him) when he was asked by the people if he had received from Rasulullah (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) any special knowledge or instructions which were not received by others. Hadrat Ali (Radhi Allaho anho) said, " I swear by Him Who made the Paradise and created life that I possess nothing special, except the clear understanding which Almighty Allah bestows upon a person in respect of the Qur'an.
Ibne-Abi-Dunya says that the knowledge of the Holy Qur'an and that which can be derived out of it are as vast as a boundless ocean.
The branches of knowledge described above are like tools, i.e. essential pre-requisites for a commentator. A commentary written by a person who is not thoroughly acquainted with these branches of knowledge will be based on his personal opinion, which is prohibited. The Sahabah (Companions of the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alaiahe wasallam) already had Arabic language as their mother-tongue, and they reached the depth of the rest of the knowledge by means of the illuminating contact that they had with Rasulullah (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam).
'Allamah Suyuti' says that those who think that it is beyond the capacity of a man to acquire! Ilm-e-Wahbi, or gifted understanding, are not right. To get this knowledge from Allah, one should adopt the means to this end, e.g., acting upon the knowledge that one has acquired, and disinclination towards the world.
It is stated in 'Kimia-e-Sa'adat' that three persons are not blessed with complete understanding of the Qur'an. First, one who is not well versed in Arabic, secondly, one who persists in committing a major sin or indulges in act of religious innovation, because these actions blacken his heart, which in turn prevents him from understanding the Qur'an. Thirdly, one who is a rationalist, even in the matter of faith, and feels embarrassed when he reads an 'ayat' of the Qur'an which he is not able to fully rationalise. May Allah protect us from all such sins and evils.