In order to clarify the potential danger and corruption inherent in tafseer by unsubstantiated opinion, the following examples of deviant tafseers have been collected from various movements, sects, and philosophical schools from the distant past to the present. From the tenth century CE (4th century AH), some Soofees have interpreted “Pharaoh” to mean the heart in Allaah’s command to Prophet Moosaa:
“Go to Pharaoh, for verily he has transgressed,”
as it is the heart which oppresses every man, causing him to transgress. Others interpreted Allaah’s command to Prophet Moosaa:
“Throw down your staff,”
as a command to throw aside the material world and only depend on Allaah. These spiritualistic tafseers are indicative of the Soofee movement’s overemphasis of the spiritual over the material.
In the Mu‘tazilee (Rationalist) tafseers of the ‘Abbaasid era, revelation was interpreted according to human logic. Hence, the word “heart” in the following verse was given a new meaning:
“And (remember) when Ibraaheem said, ‘My Lord, show me how You give life to the dead.’ [Allaah] replied, ‘Do you not believe?’ Ibraaheem said, ‘Yes, but (I am asking You) in order that my heart may be at rest.”
It was claimed that Ibraaheem had a friend whom he referred to as his “heart” and, thus, the true meaning of the verse was, “Yes, but I am asking You in order that my friend may be at ease.”This interpretation was considered necessary to explain away the doubt which Ibraaheem felt in his heart, as it seemed inconsistent with prophethood, according to the Rationalists.
The Shee‘ah tafseers of the late ‘Abbaasid era, under the influence of their inordinate obsession with the Prophet’s descendants, interpreted the verse:
“He has let the two seas flow freely and they meet,”
as a reference to ‘Alee, the Prophet’s son-in-law, and Faatimah, the Prophet’s daughter; and in a following verse:
“Out of them come pearls and coral,”
they found a reference to the Prophet’s grandsons, al-Hasan and al-Husayn.
The Qaadiyanee sect, which appeared in India during the latter part of the nineteenth century, claimed that in the verse,
“Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is Allaah’s messenger and the seal (khaatam) of the prophets,”
khaatam does not mean seal, as most translate it, but ring. Thus, they claimed that just as the ring beautifies the finger, the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) was the beautification of prophethood. Therefore, the meaning of the verse is that Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) was the most superior of the prophets but not the last. They also assert that even if the word khaatam were taken to mean “seal,” it would be like the seal placed on an envelope sealing its contents, but not limiting them. These interpretations were made to validate the claim of their founder, Ghulam Ahmad, to prophethood. They also distorted the following verse in reference to Prophet ‘Eesaa:
“They did not crucify him nor did they kill him, but it was made to seem so to them ….But Allaah raised him up to Himself.”
They claimed that “raised him up” meant a figurative raising, as used in the verse:
“And I raised your esteem for you.”
This interpretation was necessary in order for them to prove their doctrine that ‘Eesaa died a natural death on earth after marrying and having children and being buried in Kashmir, and that Ghulam Ahmad was the promised messiah whose return was prophesied.Even more recently in America, Elijah Muhammad, founder of the Elijah sect and claimant to Prophethood (d. 1975), interpreted the verse,
“On that day when the trumpet is blown, I will assemble the criminals blue-eyed,”
as proof that the inhabitants of the fire will all be white people. This interpretation was used to support the Elijah doctrine that Allaah, God, was a black man, that all black people were gods and that all white people were devils. Although the word zurq literally means blue, it was used to refer to the clouding of the cornea due to certain eye diseases which gives the eye a bluish-grey tinge. Hence, a more accurate translation would have been “bleary-eyed.”
According to Elijah, since the white man resembles the black man, he was referred to as “mankind” in the Qur’aan, that is, a kind of man! Therefore, in the verse:
“O mankind, verily, We have created you from a male and a female,”
“We” was interpreted by Elijah to refer to the black men/gods who supposedly created the white race (mankind).These few examples of tafseers based solely on sectarian opinions clearly show the incoherence and deception that result from the disregard for the correct method of tafseer. The Qur’aan becomes a voice for each sect’s deviant and heretical claims. The Qur’aan is manipulated mercilessly, as there are no logical boundaries nor coherent rules by which the founders of these sects abide; hence, the same verse may have a multiplicity of meanings for them. Whatever interpretation promotes their ideas become correct. For them, the Qur’aan is no longer a book of guidance, but a book containing the hidden secrets of their sect, which only their leaders and the specially initiated can unlock.