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Why Is There Room for Interpretation in Islam?

28 June, 2017
Q Why is there so much room for interpretation in Islam?


Asalamu Alaikum,

Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question.

Dr. Shabir Ally, from Let The Quran Speak, addresses this question in the video below:


Safiyyah Ally: OK Brother Shabir, here’s a very interesting question. It says, why is there so much room for interpretation in Islam. If Islam is the absolute truth, should it not be completely clear and therefore require no interpretation to be practiced?

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I’m sure the almighty is quite capable of articulating His needs of us clearly enough for there to be no doubt. Fascinating question, I think.

Dr. Shabir Ally: Yes, it is and certainly the Creator is capable of making Himself clear. But in every communication, there are three elements. First there is the communicator, or what the communicator has in his or her mind. And then the words in which that communication is put.

And then there is the recipient who has to decode that. So, you can be a perfect communicator and you can say things perfectly. But when you speak to a wide variety of recipients then each recipient may interpret the same thing in different ways.

And you can hardly control that without fixing the minds of the individuals to all have a similar type of thinking. And this is what our Creator didn’t do. He left human beings to be of a wide variety of opinions and outlooks.

And with these different opinions and outlooks, when we received the same communication, naturally we have different opinions about what that communication means for us. So, this is an inevitable part of communication itself.

The second thing is that and the Creator could have given us like a prefabricated structure within which we each find ourselves inevitably placed. And we can’t move out of that structure. So, we’re confined as we are in that prefabricated mold. Let’s imagine that situation happening now.

Now, let’s step back from that and imagine a different situation where God allows human beings to grow, develop, evolve, change, and now we become the diversity that we are already.

Now, we already know how to do things: how to dress, how to greet each other, how to be kind to other people, how to live in a social harmony with other people. But at the same time, we’re lacking in certain issues.

So, God now steps into the picture to give us a message to correct us on those issues on which we need the correction. So, that’s to me and that is what Islam is in my estimation. It is God stepping in, giving a message at a time when it is needed.

But only that much that is needed, beyond what people have already discovered and learned for themselves. So, in this case then, we are already speaking to a diversity which is there. And that diversity, different opinions, different outlooks, is already a natural part of life.

So, it is not the prefabricated mold in which God is force feeding everyone to think in the same way and act in the same way. It is the organic growth and development of society to which God just simply gives an add-on.

And naturally that add-on it is not going to remove all of the diversity. It’s going to only inform people in such a way that given their diversity already which is still preserved, they can rise to a higher level.

But the diversity will still remain and this is what has happened not only with the Islamic message, but with other messages of great prophets prior to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as well, which indirectly we will also call the Islam, meaning that this is submission to God.

But I mean to say that is not only with the message of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that we have this diversity of interpretations. But we have this in the case of all of the prophets. …

Continue watching for the full answer. I hope this helps answer your question. You can also check out more from Let The Quran Speak at the link here. Please keep in touch.

Walaikum Asalam.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Does Islam Allow Discourse and Critical Thinking?

How to Interpret the Quran