The Lahore Ahmadiyya Islamic Movement
Showing Islam is Peaceful • Tolerant • Rational • Inspiring
www.ahmadiyya.orgA Research and Educational Website
1. Islam


Seven criteria for the right interpretation of the Holy Quran
2. Ahmadiyya Movement
3. Publications & Resources

Contact us
Search the website

Seven criteria for the
right interpretation of the Holy Quran

From the book Barakat-ud-Du‘a

(The Light and Islamic Review, March-April 1998)

by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad

Translated by Dr. Muhammad Ahmad, Columbus, Ohio

The first criterion for its right interpretation is the evidence provided by the Holy Quran itself. It should be remembered with full attention and concentration that the Holy Quran, unlike ordinary books, is not dependent on other sources for substantiating and exposing the truths it contains. It is like the perfectly proportioned edifice, moving a single brick from which would change the shape of the whole structure. It contains no truth within it that is not supported by ten or twenty pieces of evidence from within itself. If we interpret a verse of the Holy Quran in a certain way, we should see to it that affirmative evidence for it is provided by other verses of the Holy Quran. If such evidence is lacking or if in fact the interpretation is clearly contradicted by other verses, then we should understand that it is totally false, for it is not possible for there to be a contradiction amongst the various verses of the Holy Quran. The distinguishing feature of a true interpretation is exactly this that the Holy Quran contains abundance of evidence in support of it.

               The second criterion is the interpretation of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace and the blessings of Allah be upon him. There is no doubt that our beloved and honored Prophet had the greatest understanding of the Holy Quran. If an interpretation can be directly proven to be from him, every Muslim is duty bound to accept it unhesitatingly and without fear. His failure to do so is an indication of deviant and irreligious tendencies.

               The third criterion is the interpretation of Companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. There is no doubt that the Companions of the Holy Prophet were the recipients of the spiritual light directly from him, and the prime inheritors of prophetic knowledge. They were blessed by Allah the Most High, and their understanding received Divine assistance because the Quran was not merely words to them but a matter of actual experience.

               The fourth criterion involves pondering over the Holy Quran with a pure mind. There is an affinity between a pure heart and the Holy Quran. Allah says: “[it is a book] which none touches save the purified ones” (56:78,79). To a person with a pure mind the matters of sacred knowledge of the Holy Quran are opened up because of the affinity between the two. He is able to recognize and appreciate them. His heart bears testimony that this is the true path, and his inner spiritual light is an excellent standard for the recognition of the truth. Unless a person has experienced such a spiritual condition, and has traversed the difficult and narrow path traveled by the prophets, it is inappropriate for him that, due to insolence and pride, he should lay claim to be an interpreter of the Holy Quran. In this case the interpretation would be based merely on his personal whim, which has been forbidden by the Holy Prophet who said: “whosoever interprets the Holy Quran on basis of his personal whim and considers it a good interpretation, his interpretation is still a bad one.”

               The fifth criterion is the Arabic language. The Holy Quran has established its own resources to such an extent that much more searching into Arabic lexicons is not needed. Nevertheless, it can enhance one’s insight, and at times attention is drawn towards the hidden secrets of the Holy Quran by delving into Arabic lexicons and a concealed meaning comes to light.

               The sixth criterion for understanding spiritual matters is the physical creation. There exists a complete congruity between both these realms of God’s creation.

Seventh criterion: Revelation to a saint

The seventh criterion is the revelations of sainthood (wilayat) and visions of the non-prophets to whom God speaks (muhaddas). This criterion encompasses all the previous criteria because the recipient of the revelation as given to saints is totally imbued with the color of the prophet whom he follows. Without possessing prophethood (nubuwwat) nor new commandments, he receives all that is given to a prophet. True knowledge is bestowed upon him in a sure manner, and not only that, but all the matters revealed to the Prophet whom he follows are given to him as a gift and honor. What he says is not sheer conjecture, but he speaks after having seen and heard. This path is open to the Muslim umma. It is entirely impossible that there should not remain any real heir [of true knowledge], and instead a man who is a worm of the material world and seeks worldly honor and fame should inherit the spiritual knowledge of prophethood. Allah the Most High has promised that besides the pure of heart no one else shall receive the knowledge of prophethood. In fact it is to sport with this pure knowledge to suggest that any person, despite his impure condition, can claim to be a inheritor of the prophet. And it is also an act of profound ignorance to deny the existence of real heirs and to hold the belief that the sublime mysteries of prophetic knowledge are now only to be accepted as a tale of bygone days, so that they no longer exist before our eyes, nor is it possible for them to do so, nor does there exist any example of them.

               This is not the case, however, for had it been so then we could not call Islam a living religion. Like other religions, it would also be a dead religion, and belief in prophethood would also be a tale of yore, only known by reference to the generations gone by. But God the Most High did not will this, for He was quite aware that the undeniable proof for the truth of prophethood and the living faith of Islam, which can silence the deniers of Divine revelation always and in every age, can only be sustained if Divine revelation in the form of sainthood continues forever. Therefore, thus did He ordain it. The muhaddas are those individuals who are blessed with the honor of Divine communication. The essence of their soul bears a strong resemblance to that of the prophets, and they are a continuing sign which serves as a reminder for the wonderous qualities of prophethood, so that the subtle concept of the coming of revelation does not become devoid of proof, reduced to a mere narrative, in any age.

               The idea is entirely untrue that the prophets left this world without a spiritual inheritance and that to express any opinion regarding them now is no more than relating a story of the past. Quite contrary to this, the spiritual heirs of the prophets have been raised in every century during the time of need. In the present century, this humble servant has been chosen for this purpose. God, the Most High, has sent me for the reformation of this age, so that those errors which cannot be corrected without the special assistance of Allah be removed from the minds of the Muslims, the non-believers be given a proof of the true and living God, and the glory and truth of Islam be manifested by fresh signs. Accordingly, this is what is happening. Knowledge of the Holy Quran and the finer points and subtleties of Divine revelation are becoming more apparent. Heavenly signs and miracles are being manifested and Allah is showing once more the excellence, light and blessings of Islam. Those who are blessed with insight should witness this, and he who possesses true fervor should ask for it. Anyone who has even an iota of love for Allah and His Prophet should wake up, and test this, and enter into this Movement chosen by God the Most High, the foundation stone of which He has laid with His own hand. To say that the revelation to saints (wahy wilayat) has ended, heavenly signs are no longer manifested, and prayers are no more accepted, is the path of spiritual annihilation, not prosperity. Dismiss not the blessings of Allah. Arise and evaluate through personal experience, and if you find that I am a man of ordinary mind, ordinary intellect, and ordinary words, do not accept me. If, however, you see a manifestation of Divine Power and perceive the luminescence of His hand, exhibited only by those who are the supporters of truth and receive Divine communion, then show acceptance.

               Understand this with certainty, that the greatest favor of Allah the Most High upon His servants is that He does not want to keep Islam as a dead religion. He always wants to leave open the ways to ascertain belief, give spiritual knowledge and censure the hostile critics of Islam. To show somebody who does not believe in Divine revelation and calls it a figment of imagination, can there be a better argument to mute his criticism than to show him a living example of such Divine blessing? Is this good news or bad news that heavenly blessings remained only for a few years in Islam, which then became a dead and dry religion? And should this be the sign of a true and living faith?