Given, the verses of the Quran are to be interpreted "literally", how do Muslims interpret the following 3, 4 verses out of many (which I found metaphorical) literally.

  • Hold fast to the "rope" of God (3:103).
  • They have "hearts" with which they don't understand (7:179).
  • God have "sealed" there hearts. Deaf, Dumb, and Blind, so they won't listen (1:7).
  • As for those who disbelieve, their deeds are like a mirage in a desert. The thirsty one thinks it to be water, until he comes up to it, he finds it to be nothing, but he finds Allah behind him (24:39).

Thank You.

  • Not everything in quran meant literally. And I saw a question from you yesterday. I was going to answer all of them but you deleted. – Yusha Nov 7 '20 at 11:53
  • I deleted because it was closed by admins! Anyway, if these scenarios are not meant to be taken literally, then why do Muslims make a huge deal of God's attributes in the Quran? And who decides what is meant to be taken literally or metaphorically? – user41856 Nov 7 '20 at 12:20
  • It's usually done by as-Salaf as-Ṣāliḥ (Pious Predecessors) and those who followed them. They have their method. If you want to understand, you can always read the tafsir of the quran. – Yusha Nov 7 '20 at 14:34
  • Is there a Quranic verse or Authentic Hadith which says Pious Predecessors decide what is meant to be taken literally or metaphorically? – user41856 Nov 7 '20 at 14:37
  • The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "The best people are those of my generation, and then those who will come after them (the next generation), and then those who will come after them (i.e. the next generation).... Sahih al-Bukhari 6429. They are Pious Predecessors – Yusha Nov 7 '20 at 14:44

The Holy Qur'an does use allegory.. This is good for our understanding because we are not able to understand God entirely. If someone has said that we should read it literally, he probably means that we must not give it another meaning, saying it is not meant as it is written., so to say adapting the Qur'an to our thoughts. Instead we shall adapt our thoughts according to the Qur'an.

First quotation


O you who believe! Revere God with due reverence, and do not die except as Muslims. And hold fast to the rope of God, altogether, and do not become divided. And remember God’s blessings upon you; how you were enemies, and He reconciled your hearts, and by His grace you became brethren. And you were on the brink of a pit of fire, and He saved you from it. God thus clarifies His revelations for you, so that you may be guided.

Tafseer ibn Khatir:

It was said that, بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ (to the Rope of Allah) refers to Allah's covenant

The verse actually says to stay to believe in God, using an image. You may take the image may refer as tug-of-war saying that we are on the rope on the side of God, or as in mountain-climbing, that God is our Guide and security. The last sentence fits better to the image of mountain-climbing (although I am not sure that this was already practised in the times of the Prophet ﷺ).

Second quotation:


We have destined for Hell multitudes of jinn and humans. They have hearts with which they do not understand. They have eyes with which they do not see. They have ears with which they do not hear. These are like cattle. In fact, they are further astray. These are the heedless.

Tafseer ibn Khatir:

(They have hearts wherewith they understand not, and they have eyes wherewith they see not, and they have ears wherewith they hear not.) meaning, they do not benefit from these senses that Allah made for them as a means of gaining guidance. Similarly, Allah said, وَجَعَلْنَا لَهُمْ سَمْعًا وَأَبْصَارًا وَأَفْئِدَةً فَمَا أَغْنَىٰ عَنْهُمْ سَمْعُهُمْ وَلَا أَبْصَارُهُمْ وَلَا أَفْئِدَتُهُم مِّن شَيْءٍ إِذْ كَانُوا يَجْحَدُونَ بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ (And We had assigned them the (faculties of) hearing, seeing, and hearts; but their hearing, seeing, and their hearts availed them nothing since they used to deny the Ayat.) [46:26].

It is comon in ancient writings (not only Arabic and not only Islamic) that the heart is said to be the seat of our understanding. The Quran speaks in the language of the people of the time. The heart is not an image in this sense.

Third quotation

(found several times but not in 1:7)

Their hearts were sealed = they were stubborn, not accepting (due to their disbelief). God has abandoned them as they have abandoned the path of God. Of course, "sealed" cannot be understood literally.

Fourth quotation:


God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The allegory of His light is that of a pillar on which is a lamp. The lamp is within a glass. The glass is like a brilliant planet, fueled by a blessed tree, an olive tree, neither eastern nor western. Its oil would almost illuminate, even if no fire has touched it. Light upon Light. God guides to His light whomever He wills. God thus cites the parables for the people. God is cognizant of everything. In houses which God has permitted to be raised, and His name is celebrated therein. He is glorified therein, morning and evening. By men who neither trading nor commerce distracts them from God’s remembrance, and from performing the prayers, and from giving alms. They fear a Day when hearts and sights are overturned.


As for those who disbelieve, their works are like a mirage in a desert. The thirsty assumes it is to be water. Until, when he has reached it, he finds it to be nothing, but there he finds God, Who settles his account in full. God is swift in reckoning. Or like utter darkness in a vast ocean, covered by waves, above which are waves, above which is fog. Darkness upon darkness. If he brings out his hand, he will hardly see it. He to whom God has not granted a light has no light.

For tafseer, see here (too long to cite here).

Aya 39-40 has to be seen in the context with the preceding 35-37. In God is the light (beginning) without God is darkness (end). If you are a Christian (as you ask "how do Muslims interpret .." I think you are not a Muslim), you will see the parallel with Matthew 25, and Jesus liked to speak in allegories. All words about heaven is more or less allegoric.

  • I never said anything about "understanding God". I don't see any relation between "understanding God" and "using metaphors" - Can you demostrate what do you mean by this? And how does this answers what I am asking? The verses I quoted can be understood "literally" & "metaphorically", who decides what should be taken literally & metaphorically? – user41856 Nov 7 '20 at 13:50
  • hope this is what you were looking for. Finally it is up to you to decide how you understand it. And it is God who knows how it is. – Jeschu Nov 7 '20 at 18:14
  • Yes but that is Ibn Kathir! He is not from the first 3 generations! Anyway, if there are metaphors in the Quran then why most of the Muslims say "everything in the Quran/Hadith has to be taken literally" ?? – user41856 Nov 8 '20 at 6:20
  • For instance, there is a Hadith which says "Human heart is in between God's 2 fingers", why do Muslims intrerpret this literally & not metaphorically ? – user41856 Nov 8 '20 at 6:21
  • I do not know why you insist that "Muslims intrerpret this literally & not metaphorically" - I suggest to put a new question on a special text and openly ask for interpretation. You will see how Muslims interprete. – Jeschu Nov 8 '20 at 14:00

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