How Do We Understand General Wordings in the Quran?

Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat


When Quranic verses are wrongly taken out of context we always stress the importance of contextual understanding – that each verse was revealed at a particular time and place and it’s located within a particular part of the surah for a reason.

However, in other cases is the context just as important? Examples – Allah says: “He knows what you conceal and what you reveal.” (Quran, 16:19); “The blind and the seeing are not alike” (Quran, 35:19); “What is the matter with you? Why will you not fear God’s majesty” (Quran, 71:13). In these examples can we take their meaning at face value or do we still need to first understand each verse’s respective revelatory context? If the latter is true isn’t it impossible to understand the Quran without also reading exegeses?


I pray you are well.

Some verses are clearly meant to be understood in their historical context, such as verses regarding specific events in the life of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless and give him peace). To try and understand them as applying to everyone would be misunderstanding the Quran.

Other verses, such as those relating to warfare, need to be understood in their historical context, and their application is re-contextualised by the Jurists of the umma. Similar to these, are the few abrogated verses of the Quran: they are to be understood as explained by the scholars with the understanding that the Shari’a was developing as the Quran was being revealed.

There are other verses which were revealed in a specific context, but their wording is general, so it can be applied to many similar scenarios. The verses perfectly demonstrate the wisdom of the Shari’a being revealed with general as well as specific rulings. (al-Sabt, Qawa’id al-Tafsir)

As for the verses that are general and about the realities of this life and the next, such as those that tell us of Allah’s knowledge of all things, or the reality of the Judgement, etc, they can be correctly understood within their historical context, and outside of it. The wording is deliberately general to make us think and reflect, so we don’t assume it refers to the contextual understanding alone. These verses are perfect for reflection and discussion with others once one has a good understanding of their meaning.

May Allah give us a deep understanding of His blessed book.

[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim Reasat
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History, he moved to Damascus in 2007, where, for 18 months, he studied with many erudite scholars. In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years in Sacred Law (fiqh), legal theory (Usul al-fiqh), theology, hadith methodology, hadith commentary, and Logic. He was also given licenses of mastery in the science of Quranic recital. He was able to study an extensive curriculum of Quranic sciences, tafsir, Arabic grammar, and Arabic eloquence.