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4 Ways the Prophet Explained the Quran

The role of the Prophet Muhammad didn’t end with the conveying of the verses of the Quran.

He taught his companions, and through them he taught us, the importance of the verses, their usage, and how to implement them in practice. Allah says:

It is He who has sent among the unlettered a Messenger from themselves reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom – although they were before in clear error. (Quran 62:2)

“Teaching” is vaster in meaning than mere conveying.

It involves giving the students the text, then explaining the meaning and demonstrating with examples, and then helping them put the lessons into practice.

Here are four ways in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) explained the Quran.

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1- Direct Explanation of Verses of the Quran

Sometimes the Prophet would recite a verse and then explain its meaning.

At other times, he would say something profound, and then back it up with a verse from the Quran.


The Prophet said:

A surah has just been revealed to me.’ He then recited (Surah al-Kawthar). Then he asked: ‘Do you know what Abundance (al-Kawthar) is?’ They replied: Allah and His Apostle know it better. He said: ‘It is a river of which my Lord, the Exalted, the Majestic has promised me to give in Paradise. (Abu Dawud)

The Prophet said:

“No people go astray after having followed right guidance, but those who indulge in disputes.’ Then he recited the Verse: {Nay! But they are a quarrelsome people.} (43:58)” (Ibn Majah)

2- Answering Questions

Sometimes, when the Companions were confused about certain words of the Quran, they would ask the Prophet to explain it to them.


“When (the following) was revealed: {It is those who believe and confuse not their belief with zulm (wrong)} (6:82) – That bothered some Muslims, so they said:

‘O Messenger of Allah! Which of us has not wronged himself?’

He said:

“It is not that, it is only Shirk, have you not heard what Luqman said to his son: {O my son! Do not commit Shirk with Allah. Verily Shirk is a tremendous zulm (wrong)} (31:13).” (Tirmidhi)

Sometimes the Prophet was asked questions by disbelievers, often in order to ridicule him – questions about which no revelation had yet come.

Allah gave their answers, beginning with the words: “And they ask you . . .” (Note that not all of these questions may have come from disbelievers).


“As I was going along with Allah’s Apostle in a cultivable land and he was walking with the support of a wood, a group of Jews happened to meet him. Some of them said to the others:

“Ask him about the Soul.”

They said: What is your doubt about it? There is a possibility that you may ask him about anything (the answer of) which you may not like.

They said: “Ask him”.

So one amongst them asked him about the Soul. Allah’s Messenger kept quiet and he gave no reply and I came to know that revelation was being sent to him, so I stood at my place and thus this revelation descended upon him: {They ask thee about the Soul. Say: The Soul is by the Commandment of my Lord, and of Knowledge you are given but a little.} (17:85)) (Muslim)

3- Indirect Explanation of Verses in his Speech

Sometimes the Prophet’s speech reflected the Quran even without any direct reference to it.

That’s natural for the Prophet, since his whole life was absorbed in the Quran.


In Surah Maryam, Allah says:

Indeed, those who have believed and done righteous deeds – the Most Merciful will appoint for them affection. (19:96)

This was explained by the Prophet in greater detail, though he didn’t refer to the verse itself:

“When Allah loves a slave, calls out Jibril and says: ‘I love so-and-so; so love him’. Then Jibril loves him. After that he (Jibril) announces to the inhabitants of heavens that Allah loves so- and-so; so love him; and the inhabitants of the heavens (the angels) also love him and then make people on earth love him.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

4- Implementation of a Verse

We find the Prophet following the Quran in every sphere of his life.

The most evident example of his direct implementation of the Quran is when surah al-Nasr was revealed.

Aisha narrated:

‘The Prophet used to say frequently in his bowing and prostrations:

“Exalted are You, O Allah, our Lord, and by Your praise [do I exalt you]. O Allah! Forgive me.”

In this way, he was acting on what was explained to him in the Holy Quran.’ (Sahih al-Bukhari)

The verse referred to is the following:

Then exalt [Him] with praise of your Lord and ask forgiveness of Him. Indeed, He is ever Accepting of repentance. (110:3)