Can You Interpret Qur’an Based on Personal Opinion?

By Daniel Haqiqatjou

One of the most important things young Muslims should learn early in their studies of Islam is this: Do not speak about the meaning of the Qur’an based on your personal opinion.

The Prophet ﷺ said “He who speaks about the Qur’an on the basis of his personal opinion, he commits an error, even if he is right” [Tirmidhi].

Many Muslims have been affected by the modernist attitude that everyone is equally able to interpret texts and provide an opinion about their meaning and that should be valued in a democratic society because “Everyone has a voice.”

But this is contrary to sound Islamic understanding and it is contrary to basic adab with the Words of Allah. When Allah Most High speaks, we have to first and foremost shut our mouths. That’s the minimum amount of decency. Next we listen and next we obey. Our personal opinion has nothing to do with it.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with * reflecting on the meaning of the Qur’an and thinking about how the Divine Address is relevant to you and is meaningful to you. We should all do this, as Allah tells us to reflect and ponder upon His ayat. The problem is when you take those personal reflections as exegesis of the Qur’an and disseminate that by speaking or writing to others as if you are explaining the Qur’an.

Another related problem is saying things like, “If the Prophet ﷺ were here today, he would not approve of this,” or, “He would side with this [activist group or cause],” etc. The problem here is not simply that one does not know and is merely speculating. The problem is it is inappropriate to presume to speak on behalf of the Messenger of Allah. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ is not your buddy that you can casually speak about in this way.

Without proper adab with Allah and His Messenger ﷺ, no other adab is possible.
أدبني ربي فأحسن تأديبي

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