هُوَ الَّذِي أَنْزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ
“It is He, Who has sent down to thee the Book in it are verses, basic or fundamental, clear (in meaning). They are the foundation of the Book; others are not entirely clear.” (3:7)
Mutaschabihaat (Sg. mutaschabiha) wird von der Wurzel ischtabaha abgeleitet, mit der Bedeutung „zweifelhaft sein“. Es ist ein substantiviertes Verb im Plural und bedeutet „die ungewissen oder zweifelhaften Dinge“. Als Terminus technicus bezeichnet es diejenigen Verse des Korans, deren Bedeutung nicht klar ist, oder über die nicht völlige Einigkeit herrscht, und die zwei oder mehr Auslegungen zulassen.
Beispiel: „Der Allerbarmer, den Thron hat Er eingenommen.“ (20: 5)
The word muhkamaat - (sg. muhkama) is derived from the root uhkima which means to decide between two things. It is a verbal noun in the plural, meaning judgements, decisions and in technical language refers to all clearly decided verses of the Qur'an, mostly those concerning legal rulings, but also to other clear definitions such as between truth and falsehood etc. This is what is meant by 'general muhkamaat'.
Mutashabihat (sg. mutashabiha) is derived from the root 'ishtabaha' meaning 'to be doubtful'. It is a verbal noun in the plural, meaning the uncertain or doubtful things. In technical language it refers to those verses of the Qur'an the meanings of which are not clear or not completely agreed upon, but open to two or more interpretations.
Example of muhkamaat:
Example of mutashabihat:
Note that the words in brackets have been added by the translator in an attempt to interpret this aya.
The Qur'an says of itself that it contains two kinds of ayat, both of which are fundamental components of the book, and both of which must be accepted:
Here muhkamaat and mutashabihat are described as follows:
Hence in the Qur'an those ayat dealing with halal and haram, punishments, inheritance, promise and threat, etc.belong to the muhkamaat, while those concerning the attributes of Allah, the true nature of the resurrection, judgement and life after death etc. belong to the mutashabihat.
Some verses of the Qur'an are of a very wide, general application (al-'am), e.g. including all human beings, or all Muslims etc. Other ayat are restricted in their application to certain special circumstances only (al-khas).
Furthermore one also distinguishes between 'general verses' which remain general, and others which intend a specific meaning.
Of the 'special meanings' there are several varieties. Usually some kind of condition or limitation is specified.
Some of the ahkam verses are valid, 'free' (mutlaq) from any conditions or circumstances, while others are 'bound' (muqayyad) to special conditions or situations, and apply only therein.
It is free, i.e. left to one's discretion whether to fast three days consecutively or with interruptions.
The meaning of certain ayat is derived from the literal wording (mantdq) while that of others is derived from what is understood (mafhum) by them:
Of the literal understanding there are several kinds. The first concerns a clear text, i.e. a text clear and without ambiguity.
In other cases the text may be somewhat ambiguous in its expression but obvious as far as the meaning is concerned.
The Arabic word tatahharna may refer to the end of the woman's menstrual period, or the completion of the bath after the period; the second being more obvious. [Qattan, M.: mabahith It 'ulum al-qur'an, Riyadh. 1971.]
Still other verses imply a meaning through the context, although the wording itself is not clear.
This applies to parents, and not to all human beings in general, as the context of this verse suggests.
The so-called 'abbreviated letters' are an important section of the mutashabihat' [Itqan, II, p.8f. A summary of the orientalists' efforts on this topic is in Jeffery. Arthur: The Mystic Letters of the Quran, MW, 14 (1924), pp. 247-60. Some of the orientalists suggested that the letters are abbreviations of the names of the various Companions who used to write the Qur'an for Muhammad. Still others say that the letters are simply symbols employed to distinguish the Sura from others before the now common names were introduced. Sura Ta Ha would be a case in point. This is also based on some Muslim scholars' views (Itqan, 11, p.10). Watt, the Edinburgh priest-orientalist, writes 'We end where we began; the letters are mysterious, and have so far baMed interpretation' (Watt, M.: Bell's Introduction to the Qur'an, Edinburgh, 1977, p.64).] insofar as their meanings are not known.The word is derived from the root 'qata'a' - to cut, and means 'what is cut', and also 'what is abbreviated'.
In technical language the word is used for certain letters found at the beginning of several suras of the Qur'an, called 'the abbreviated letters'.
There are fourteen such letters occurring in various combinations at the beginning of 29 suras. The following is a list of their occurrence and distribution in the Qur'an:
Alif Lam Ra: 10, 11, 12, 14, 15.
The meaning and purpose of these letters is uncertain. There have been a variety of explanations offered by Muslim scholars throughout the ages. Among them are: [See itqan, 11, pp.9-11.]
These letters might be abbreviations for certain sentences and words, such as e.g. Alif Lam Mim meaning Ana llahu A'lam; or Nun meaning Nur (light), etc. These letters are not abbreviations but symbols and names of Allah, or something else. [e .g. the letter nun standing for 'fish' . which occurs in every sura that has nun as 'abbreviated letter' in front, or ta standing for snake, as every sura with [a as abbreviated letterw in front contains the story of Musa and the snake.] These letters have some numerical significance, as the semitic letters also have numerical value. These letters were used to attract the attention of the Prophet (and later his audience) for the revelation to follow.
There are also many other explanations which cannot be referred to here. The 'abbreviated letters' are part of the Qur'anic message, revealed to the Prophet Muhammad and therefore included in the text of the Qur'an. They are to be recited and read as part of the suras where they occur. They are a good example for one kind of mutashabihdt which is referred to in the Qur'an itself, (3: 7), the meaning of which is known to Allah. The Qur'an says of them: '... these are the symbols of the perspicuous book' (12: 1).