لا يمسه الا المطهرون

No one touches it except the pure ones 1

Something which I have wanted to make mention of for a while now is the wealth of methodologies and approaches extant within the exegetical corpus.

I think that rather than approach such exegetical methodologies in a descriptive manner, it would be prudent to present examples of such approaches while, at the same time, being aware that one example may not be accurately representative of an exegete’s methodology. My purpose for highlighting such differences is to introduce different scholarly views and also to encourage questions and thoughts.

As such, in the following post, I hope to briefly cover different exegeses of verse 79 of Surah al-Wāqīat.

لَّا يَمَسُّهُ إِلَّا الْمُطَهَّرُون‏

No one touches it except the pure ones [1. al-Wāqīat 56:79]

Many jurists have interpreted this verse to be indicative of the impermissibility of touching the Qurān while being ritually impure2. Of course, narrations are also present that support this interpretation3.

This seems to be a valid understanding, supported by narrations. However, there are also other interpretations such as that which Sadr al-Dīn presents in one of his works entitled, “Risalay Seh Asal”.

Although, Sadrā does discuss this verse in his exegesis, I will focus on what he discusses in the above mentioned work.

Sadrā begins by bringing forth the following narration,

إن من العلم كهياة المكنون لا يعلمه إلا العلماء بالله فاذا نطقوا به لم ينكره إلا أهل الغرة بالله

There is a knowledge from amongst the various knowledges that is like a hidden structure. Only those who have knowledge of God have knowledge of it and when they speak of that knowledge no one denies them except for those who have conceit in relation to God.

Sadrā begs the question as to what this knowledge that is spoken of in the narration is. He proposes that it is not transmitted (naqlī) knowledge. He argues that this knowledge is not the knowledge of Arabic grammar, theology, astronomy, philosophy etc, rather this knowledge which is spoken of is that of the inner levels/meanings (buṭūn) of the Qurān and narrations.

It is with this belief that Sadrā goes onto criticise exegetes such as Zamakhsharī claiming that,

…that which Zamakhsharī and the likes of him have understood is not knowledge of the Qurān, rather they have understood grammar, semantics and theology which are separate from knowledge of the Qurān. These sciences which they have understood are similar to the skin and exterior of a human which are not truly the human itself.

This is why when someone quoted a view attributed to Zamakhasharī, one of his companions replied to him, ‘You are from amongst the scholars of the skin’. The knowledge of the Qurān is as such that God has said, ‘No one touches it except the pure ones[4. al-Wāqīat 56:79] [5. Sadr al-Dīn, Risalay Seh Asal pg. 33-34]’

Sadrā goes onto say that what is meant by ‘pure’ here is not ritual purification, ie ablution, rather the intent is purification of the heart from the pollution of lust, anger, false beliefs and the impurity of kufr etc. As such, Sadrā asserts that what is meant by the verse is that no one can perceive the inner meanings of the Qurān except for those who purified.

After having presented this matter, it is very interesting to look at Syed Khūī’s take on it. Although I attempted to warn against generalisation, one may presume that the first view presented is one adopted by jurists in general. As such, Syed Khūī, an eminent jurist in his own right, admits that one may first think that the verse can be used in a jurisprudential context but goes on to refutes the use of this verse in any such context by asserting that the word المُطَّهِرُون (the pure) is actually a reference to Sūrah al-Ahzāb verse 33,

إِنَّمٰا يُرِيدُ اللّٰهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنْكُمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَ يُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيراً

 Indeed Allah desires to repel all impurity from you, O People of the Household, and purify you with a thorough purification 4

As per Syed Khūī’s reasoning, the purification discussed in verse 79 of Sūrah al-Wāqīat is not ritualistic purification, rather it is referring to the purification by which the Household of the Prophet were purified by5. As such, Syed Khūī goes on to say,

…Touching the book here is an allusion to perceiving its inner meanings (bavātin), that which cannot be facilitated except for the purified imams, for anyone apart from those whom Allah has purified will not perceive anything of the Quran except its apparent meaning (dhāhir)6

Syed Khūī presents a very interesting view, and it is interesting to note the approach used to reach his conclusion.

As mentioned before, my goal here was to simply present different views to introduce the wealth of approaches extant within the exegetical corpus. At the same time, I will not present any sort of criticism or evaluation of the views presented as such an endeavour would entail a thorough examination of jurisprudential principles, Sadrā’s exegetical work and Syed Khūī’s own jurisprudential discussions. I hope that this post was beneficial for those who value such discussions.

  1. al-Wāqīat 56:79
  2. This view is presented in works such as, Tūsī, al-Khilāf v.1 pg. 99; Hillī, Mukhtalif al-Shī’a fi Ahkām al-Sharī’a v. 1 pg. 292
  3. Tūsī, al-Istibsār fī mā ikhtalafa min al-akhbār v.1 pg. 114
  4. al-Ahzāb 33:33
  5. Interestingly enough ‘Allāmah Tabātabāī expresses the same view, that is, المطهرون is a reference to the Household of the Prophet whose purification is mentioned in al-Ahzāb 33:33, refer to Tabātabāī, al-Mīzān fī Tafsīr al-Qurān v. 19 pg. 137
  6. Khūī, Mousou’at al-Imām al-Khūī v. 3 pg. 292

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