4. Explanation of the Qur’an by the Qur’an

4. Explanation of the Qur’an by the Qur’an

As discussed in the previous chapter there are many verses in the Qur’an which are easy to understand and which should form the basis for our lives (for examples see sections 6.1 and 6.2). When looking to understand the Qur’an further we should bear in mind that  Allah says in many verses that He will explain the Qur’an. A few of these verses are quoted below:

(75:19) And that behold, it will be for Us to explain it. (by-ya-nahu)

(41:3) A Book, the signs which have been explained in detail as a Qur’an in Arabic for people of knowledge to be a herald of glad tidings as well as a warning.

There are a number of points here: it is a Book which has been explained in detail and Allah is explaining it. Another important point is that it is for people of knowledge. Therefore, we must have the desire to understand the Qur’an by studying it, and thereby acquire knowledge with Allah’s help.

(17:41) We have explained (things) in various (ways) in the Qur’an, in order that they may receive admonition, but it only increases their flight from the truth.

(17:89) And We have explained to mankind, in this Qur’an, every kind of similitude, yet the greater part of mankind refuse (to receive it) except with ingratitude […]

(39:27) And verily We have coined for mankind in this Qur’an all kinds of similitudes, that perhaps they might reflect […]

(18:54) We have explained in detail in this Qur’an, for the benefit of mankind, every kind of similitude, but man is in most things contentious.

(30:58) Verily, We have propounded for mankind in this Qur’an, every kind of parable […]

(6: 65) Behold how many facets We give to these signs, so that they might understand the truth […]

(7:52) […] For indeed We did convey unto them a Book which We expounded with knowledge (ilm) — a guidance (huda) and a grace (rahmat) for people who believe.

(6:114) Shall I seek other than Allah for judge when it is He who has revealed unto you (this) Book, fully explained [..?]

(2:219) […] Thus Allah makes plain to you (His) revelations, that perhaps you may reflect.

(3:103) […] Thus Allah makes clear His revelations unto you that perhaps you may be guided.

(6:97) […] clearly, indeed, have We spelled out these signs unto people of knowledge.

(6:98) […] clearly, indeed, have We spelled out these signs unto people who can grasp the truth.

(6:99) […] Verily in all this are signs (ayats) for people who will be convinced.

Since the Qur’an itself states that it has propounded all and every kind of similitude, has displayed its signs in various forms, has explained its signs in detail, and that it is based on knowledge and is for people of knowledge who reflect and think, the only conclusion we can reasonably come to is that the Qur’an explains itself, i.e. the Qur’an is self-explanatory. We, on our part, must receive it as Allah’s word, and do our best to study and understand it. Mohammed Asad, a translator of the Qur’an, has stated that the Qur’an is self-explanatory, it needs nothing else. This point has been echoed by other famous scholars, such as Mohammed Abduh  of Egypt, Dr. Abdul Wadud, Inayat Ullah Khan El- Mashriqi and Allama G. A. Parwez. The Book should be interpreted as it says, that is, through itself. This is the correct method, the method which the Qur’an specifies.

To summarise: (1) The Qur’an is the only source of true and comprehensive guidance. (2) The Qur’an is in Arabic. (3) To study it, we must have an open mind, no pre-conceived notions, and a desire for knowledge. (4) The Qur’an indicates very clearly that it does its own tafsir (explanation).


  1. Tafsir Al-Qur’an Bil Qur’an (Explanation of the Qur’an by the Qur’an): Lecture by  Syed Mustafa Ali. Section based on the handout supplied.
  2. Translations of the quoted Qur’anic verses are based on M.Pickthall and Yusuf Ali.