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A simple example is this:

hur

As you can see, I want to learn the true meaning of some Quranic words. Very similar to what we see in wiktionary.

But a single simple word has many meanings.

What is our argument for choosing a given meaning?

How do we know that we understand Allah's words truly?

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  • You might want to consider reading books of Usool At-Tafsir. That whole science is about how we interpret the Quran's words and sentences.
    – The Z
    Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 16:04
  • I guess to understand you need at least basic knowledge of Arabic language. As searching for "وَحُورٌ " would hardly give you an answer in a typical dictionary, as the word you are looking for is "حُور ". Further even if meanings may differ the context is helpful. Further as stated in the answer qur'an is the first help for understanding the qur'an itself, then sunnah, then ... ibn 'Abbas used to compare to Arabic poetry, so knowledge of Arabic language is essential.
    – Jamila
    Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 2:18
  • @TheZ, there is this problem that I believe a lot of ulama of Islam is exactly like corrupt ulama of bani israeel. My evidence is huge corruption in Islamic countries. Thus I would rather find out the truth myself than read biased texts. And I have read many tafsirs for years. Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 15:12
  • @Jamila, thanks to Allah, I already have learned maybe more than 70% of Quranic Arabic and I enjoy every new word that I learn. I'm also learning Arabic language side by side. But there are some words in the Quran that are very controversial and I want to know the true meaning of them. Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 15:17
  • Honestly then, there is no point fixing tiny leaks here and there when a flood is there. All of Islam collapses with this sort of distrust of the scholars you have. If you wish, we can discuss this in length in chat.
    – The Z
    Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 18:18

1 Answer 1

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We have four sources to know a word's meaning: the Quran itself, the Sunnah, the opinions of the Salaf, and the language. If a word may have multiple meanings, we can refer to those sources.

Quran

If the Quran itself defines the word, we have no issue. This is evident in some places like: "Al-Qari'ah. What is the Qari'ah? And what can make you know what is the Qari'ah? It is the Day when people will be like moths, dispersed, [...]." (101:1-4)

Here, Allah mentions a rare word, then defines it Himself. Obviously, Allah defining a word himself is uncommon to find in the Quran.

So, there are other methods like looking at the current context of the word, use of the same word in different context, use of a different word in the same context, etc.

For the case of Hur, let us look at the contexts which it is used in: "Thus. And We will marry them to the Hur al-Ain." (44:54)

The fact that Allah uses "marry" in context basically rules out every possible meaning of Hur you could come up with from a dictionary except the one meaning we all know.

Sunnah

We can look at very similar things from the Sunnah. Perhaps the Prophet directly defines the word, or perhaps you can look at how the word is used.

Let us look at some of the many ahadith that mention the Hur:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "The first batch (of people) who will enter Paradise will be (glittering) like the full moon, and the batch next to them will be (glittering) like the most brilliant star in the sky. Their hearts will be as if the heart of a single man, for they will have neither enmity nor jealousy amongst themselves; everyone will have two wives from the Hurs, the marrow of the bones of their legs will be seen through the bones and the flesh." (Sahih Bukhari)

In this hadith, we can understand that the Hur refer to women who will be wives for the people of Paradise.

The Prophet (SAW) said: Amongst the inhabitants of Paradise the lowest in rank will be the person whose face Allah would turn away from the Fire towards the Paradise, and make a shady tree appear before him. He would say: O my Lord! direct my steps to this tree so that I (should enjoy) its shade; and the rest of the hadith is like that narrated by Ibn Mas'ud, but he did not mention:" He (Allah) would say: O son of Adam! what will bring an end to your making requests to Me" to the end of the tradition. In it, he added: Allah will remind him: Ask such and such, and when his expectations would be realised, Allah would say: That is for you, and ten times as much. He said that he would then enter his house and his two wives from the Hur al-Ain would enter after him. They will say: Praise be to Allah, Who has created you for us and us for you. He will say: No one has been given the like of what I have been given. (Sahih Muslim)

From this hadith as well, we understand the Hur are wives of the people of Paradise and that they talk and praise Allah.

All of this obviously narrows down the meanings of Hur completely and there can be no doubt left in which meaning Hur refers to.

Opinions of the Salaf

Since the early scholars were closest to original Arabic and closest to the Prophet (SAW), we can look to their understanding if we do not find any evidence in the Quran or Sunnah that helps us narrow down the meaning of a word.

If all of the Salaf agreed on a particular meaning of a word, it is unlikely the word means something else. To consult the opinions of the Salaf, you can refer to Tafasir that collect their opinions like the Tafsir of Tabari.

Language

If ultimately there is no evidence present in the Quran or in the Sunnah and the Salaf differed amongst themselves, then one can look to the language and check the dictionaries to find out which is the more common meaning of a word in a certain context.

Then, one can interpret it according to the more common meaning. One should refer to classical dictionaries rather than modern ones. Modern Arabic is not exactly the same as the Quran's Arabic. Al-Maany is a nice resource but it should always be kept in mind that it is Modern Arabic.

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  • This was an excellent explanation. Thank you so much for this. Though based on a lot of criticism concerning hadith's authenticity, I can't accept hadith or anything that has no textual evidence from the time of Prophet, I only refer to the Quran itself and the language. Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 15:11

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