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Does the Quran Contradict Itself?

16 August, 2017
Q 1. It is He who has sent down to you, [O Muhammad], the Book; in it are verses [that are] precise - they are the foundation of the Book - and others unspecific. 2. As for those in whose hearts is deviation [from truth], they will follow that of it which is unspecific, seeking discord and seeking an interpretation [suitable to them]. 3. And no one knows its [true] interpretation except Allah. 4. But those firm in knowledge say, "We believe in it. All [of it] is from our Lord." And no one will be reminded except those of understanding. Just reading the Quran and I came across the above verses. I have broken it down into 4 parts. Part one says there are specific and unspecific verses in the Quran. Part two says that some devious people will follow the unspecific parts seeking and interpretation that suits themselves. Part three says that no-one actually knows the true meaning of the Quran. Part four says people firm in knowledge claim to believe in the Quran. What is the point of the Quran if no-one actually knows it's true meaning? Why not give it's true meaning if you are going to give anything? How can you blame the devious people if you are going to hold back the meaning? What is the point of specific and unspecific parts if the true meaning is withheld both cases? What knowledge do these people in part four who apparently are firm, actually have, given that they cannot have the true interpretation? The Quran says again and again and again how it is clear and yet here is says its true interpretation is unknown to man. How can it then be clear?


Salam Dear Brother,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

The selection that you have cited from the Quran is from Chapter 3 – Aal ‘Imran (The Family of ‘Imran) verses 3 to 7. The first verse tells those blessed with understanding what they already know:

“It is He who has sent down to you, [O Muhammad], the Book; in it are verses [that are] precise – they are the foundation of the Book – and others unspecific.”

This is saying that the Quran indeed has messages in it that are quite clear and need little elaboration for us to grasp the general meaning.

This is the nature of the Quran, clear and concise.

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There are also some verses, however, whose meaning requires some study and wisdom, some effort on our part to grasp the deepest meaning possible.

The Quran is Not a Textbook

The Quran is not a textbook of historical and scientific facts, although many are found in it. God is beyond the laws of science and physics. He created them.

Allah can cause miracles to happen that defy the laws of nature (virgin birth, parting the sea, etc.) as He wills.

He can reveal some or all of these laws to us, and keep some hidden, perhaps for our own good. Only He knows what is best for us.

We shouldn’t expect God to hand everything to us on a silver platter.

We neither have the ability or capacity to understand at His level, so it is reasonable to expect from any message sent to mankind from The Creator of the Universe would include some mystery or unknown elements.

Perhaps a better translation would be,

…And no one knows its deepest meaning except God.

The Quran is not merely a narrative of historical events documented with no broader lessons to be learned.

Awe and Wonder

For a message to be truly from God, there must be some amount of wonder and awe instilled in us upon reading or listening to it.

There should be more meaning and information than is plainly obvious.

For example, Prophet Moses, peace be upon him, asked God for something he thought would be straightforward enough.

He asked to be able to gaze upon his Lord:

And when Moses came to Our appointed meeting place, and his Lord had spoken to him, he said, “My Lord! Show me, that I may gaze upon You.” He said: You will not (be able to) see Me, but gaze upon that mountain. If it stands still in its place, then you will see Me. And when his Lord revealed (His) Glory to the mountain He sent it crashing down (to dust). And Moses fell down dazed, and when he woke he said, “Glory unto You! I turn unto You in repentance, and I am the first of (true) believers. (Quran 7:143)

Should we expect to fully understand every message sent to us as it is fully intended, or to instantly grasp its deepest depths and ramifications?

We are only human beings and have limited understanding and abilities. We are not like a computer processor that takes data and processes it in a predetermined fashion.

The very nature of the human being is to be curious, to explore, to delve deeper, to search for greater meaning.

God knows this and has made the core message of the Quran easy for any human being to understand.

At the same time, He has made it challenging to those who seek greater understanding than that of the average person, and placed many opportunities for us to explore, debate and reflect.

The meaning of the verses you have quoted is that the foundation of the Quran is very clear and logical. But some verses will focus on gray areas.

The main message of the Quran is of paramount importance and found repeated throughout the book: “There is only one God; Worship only Him”.

Asking the Right Questions

There is benefit in pursuing independent study and exploration, discussion with scholars and others likewise filled with curiosity and a desire to understand the Quran on a deeper level.

However, we do not engage in study and exploration of mysterious matters while completely ignoring those that are obvious.

We seek answers in order to make our lives more meaningful and productive, benefiting ourselves and others.

We do not spend all of our time in speculation and conjecture, and especially not in trying to find fault in what is clearly a message from God.

Check Your Intentions

I fear you may have fallen into the category of those described in verse 4 (the second mentioned in your list):

“As for those in whose hearts is deviation [from truth], they will follow that of it which is unspecific, seeking discord and seeking an interpretation [suitable to them].”

They are those seeking discord among people (fitna) and finding fault in the Quran, Islam, and Muslims to advance their own agenda.

It is like complaining that we cannot see the forest because there are too many trees in the way, or drawing attention to all the problems we have in life rather than all the blessings that far outweigh them.

Many seek to justify their animosity towards Islam and Muslims simply because they are different, not because there is any real threat to them.

They try to draw attention away from the beautiful and positive contributions that Islam and Muslims have made to the world throughout history.

Ultimately, the “true meaning” you refer to is to understand things at their deepest and broadest level, and this is something that only God can do, regardless of what topic or truth we are trying to grasp.

He has blessed us with the ability to understand and accomplish far more than plants and animals. He has placed human beings above the Angels, even!

However, we will never elevate ourselves to greater and deeper understanding of God or His Message without His help.

If we submit to His Will, His Guidance, His Infinite Mercy and Wisdom, we will find Him to be greater than we could have ever imagined or hoped.

I hope this has helped clarify this matter for you. Please keep in touch.


(This is from AboutIslam’s archives and was originally published in September 2016)

Read more:

The Quran in Focus (Special Folder)

About Waleed Najmeddine
Waleed Ahmed Najmeddine is a Canadian born Muslim and public school administrator. He is an active member of the Muslim community and enjoys educating Muslims and non-Muslims about Islam. He currently holds a Master of Education degree in leadership and school improvement.