Lack of Detail in the Qur'an

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The Qur'an states in several verses that it is a book explained clearly and in detail. This page lists verses that contradict this claim by lacking detail or clarity, sometimes for important aspects of Islam.

Claims of Detail[edit]

Say: "Shall I seek for judge other than Allah? - when He it is Who hath sent unto you the Book, explained in detail.
A Book, whereof the verses are explained in detail;- a Qur'an in Arabic, for people who understand;
Nothing have we omitted from the Book
We have revealed the Book to you explaining clearly everything

The following issues show that in fact the Quran is missing details about many topics or important aspects of Islam.

Ablution[edit]

O ye who believe! Draw not near unto prayer when ye are drunken, till ye know that which ye utter, nor when ye are polluted, save when journeying upon the road, till ye have bathed. And if ye be ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from the closet, or ye have touched women, and ye find not water, then go to high clean soil and rub your faces and your hands (therewith).
O ye who believe! when ye prepare for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands (and arms) to the elbows; Rub your heads (with water); and (wash) your feet to the ankles. If ye are in a state of ceremonial impurity, bathe your whole body. But if ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands,

The purpose of this excessive (ritual) cleanliness is omitted, and more details concerning ablution before daily prayers can be found in the hadith.

Abu Lahab[edit]

Perish the hands of the Father of Flame(Abu Lahab)! Perish he! No profit to him from all his wealth, and all his gains! Burnt soon will he be in a Fire of Blazing Flame! His wife shall carry the (crackling) wood - As fuel!- A twisted rope of palm-leaf fibre round her (own) neck!

It is not possible to learn who Abu Lahab is and why he and his wife are damned to hell without referencing hadith, thus leaving the entire 111th chapter of the Qur'an without a point.

Blowing on Knots[edit]

Say: I seek refuge with the Lord of the Dawn, From the mischief of created things; From the mischief of Darkness as it overspreads; From the mischief of those who blow on knots;

Many translators identify those who blow on knots as "those who practice secret arts" or witchcraft, but this information is not found within the actual Qur'anic text. Others choose to translate it accurately as "those who blow on knots", which makes it impossible to identify who these people are and why they would do such a thing.

Beast[edit]

And when the word is fulfilled concerning them, We shall bring forth a beast of the earth to speak unto them because mankind had not faith in Our revelations.

The Qur'an does not elaborate on the beast, its physical appearance or how it would communicate with humans.

Color of Allah[edit]

(We take our) colour from Allah, and who is better than Allah at colouring. We are His worshippers.

Allah's color or the meaning behind this phrase is not explained. Some translators replace "colour" with the term "baptism" but this information is not found within the actual Qur'anic text. It is taken from later interpretations by Qur'anic commentators.

Companions of the Elephants[edit]

Sees thou not how Allah dealt with the companions of the elephants? Did He not make their plan into misguidance? And he sent against them flights of birds.

No details about this battle are available.

Crucifixion[edit]

And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah's messenger - they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain.

The lack of detail in this verse has led to different Muslim opinions on Jesus' death with some calling it an illusion, some saying he was immortal and only appeared dead and others saying he was replaced by a look-alike on the cross.

Day of Congregation[edit]

O ye who believe! When the call is heard for the prayer of the day of congregation, haste unto remembrance of Allah and leave your trading. That is better for you if ye did but know.

The "day of congregation" refers to the day which Muslims gather (usually at a mosque) to perform a congregational prayer. Other translators add "the Friday prayer" (i.e. Jumu'ah) to this verse, but this information is not found within the actual Qur'anic text.

Dhul-Qarnayn[edit]

They ask thee concerning Zul-qarnain Say, "I will rehearse to you something of his story."

The story of Dhul-Qarnayn continues on for many verses but nowhere does it mention who he is, only that he appears to be a historical figure.

Exalted Assembly[edit]

We have indeed decked the lower heaven with beauty (in) the stars,- (For beauty) and for guard against all obstinate rebellious evil spirits, (So) they should not strain their ears in the direction of the Exalted Assembly but be cast away from every side,

There is no explanation provided concerning who this Exalted Assembly consists of, nor any explanation of their function.

Examining Women[edit]

O ye who believe! When believing women come unto you as fugitives, examine them. Allah is Best Aware of their faith. Then, if ye know them for true believers, send them not back unto the disbelievers.

How to examine these women is not explained, nor is the criteria for passing a positive or negative judgment.

Exile[edit]

It is He Who got out the Unbelievers among the People of the Book from their homes at the first gathering (of the forces). Little did ye think that they would get out: And they thought that their fortresses would defend them from Allah! But the (Wrath of) Allah came to them from quarters from which they little expected (it), and cast terror into their hearts, so that they destroyed their dwellings by their own hands and the hands of the Believers, take warning, then, O ye with eyes (to see)!

These unbelievers are the Banu Nadir, but their identity cannot be known without the tafsirs. What caused them to destroy their own homes is also not explained other than it being attributed to Allah.

Fasting[edit]

O you who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard (against evil). For a certain number of days; but whoever among you is sick or on a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days; and those who are not able to do it may effect a redemption by feeding a poor man; so whoever does good spontaneously it is better for him; and that you fast is better for you if you know. The month of Ramazan is that in which the Quran was revealed, a guidance to men and clear proofs of the guidance and the distinction; therefore whoever of you is present in the month, he shall fast therein, and whoever is sick or upon a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days; Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty, and (He desires) that you should complete the number and that you should exalt the greatness of Allah for His having guided you and that you may give thanks.....It is made lawful to you to go into your wives on the night of the fast; they are an apparel for you and you are an apparel for them; Allah knew that you acted unfaithfully to yourselves, so He has turned to you (mercifully) and removed from you (this burden); so now be in contact with them and seek what Allah has ordained for you, and eat and drink until the whiteness of the day becomes distinct from the blackness of the night at dawn, then complete the fast till night, and have not contact with them while you keep to the mosques; these are the limits of Allah, so do not go near them.

Though there seems to be an adequate amount of detail, the certain number of days is not given (the length of the lunar month varies, so does its first day across the globe). Either the sighting of the crescent moon or astronomical start of Ramadan should have been mentioned but both are missing. The rituals like recitation, prayers and Eid are also missing.

Five Pillars[edit]

The Five Pillars of Islam are central to Islam. This concept is not found in the Qur'an, but within the sirah and hadith, without which four of the Five Pillars would not exist. As an example, praying five times a day is considered very important. Yet the Qur'an does not mention that prayers should be said five times a day. It would take a lot more verses to create specifics for the five pillars.

This differs from most of the other entries on this list, in that it is not strictly a case of the Qur'an lacking detail. The Qur'an never claims there are Five Pillars. However, the Five Pillars form a fundamental part of Islam, and all forms of Islam accept the Qur'an as its holy text. Meaning that, for adherents, this difference is meaningless; they still have a holy text that claims to be detailed, yet fails to mention the most fundamental of Islamic concepts.

Gog and Magog[edit]

They said: "O Dhu'l-Qarneyn! Lo! Gog and Magog are spoiling the land. So may we pay thee tribute on condition that thou set a barrier between us and them?"

Very little information is provided about who or what Gog and Magog are.

Harut, Marut and the Devils[edit]

Yusuf Ali: They followed what the evil ones gave out (falsely) against the power of Solomon: the blasphemers Were, not Solomon, but the evil ones, teaching men Magic, and such things as came down at babylon to the angels Harut and Marut. But neither of these taught anyone (Such things) without saying: "We are only for trial; so do not blaspheme." They learned from them the means to sow discord between man and wife. But they could not thus harm anyone except by Allah's permission. And they learned what harmed them, not what profited them. And they knew that the buyers of (magic) would have no share in the happiness of the Hereafter. And vile was the price for which they did sell their souls, if they but knew!

Shakir: And they followed what the Shaitans chanted of sorcery in the reign of Sulaiman, and Sulaiman was not an unbeliever, but the Shaitans disbelieved, they taught men sorcery and that was sent down to the two angels at Babel, Harut and Marut, yet these two taught no man until they had said, "Surely we are only a trial, therefore do not be a disbeliever." Even then men learned from these two, magic by which they might cause a separation between a man and his wife; and they cannot hurt with it any one except with Allah's permission, and they learned what harmed them and did not profit them, and certainly they know that he who bought it should have no share of good in the hereafter and evil was the price for which they sold their souls, had they but known this.

Only the general message of this verse (not to disbelieve) can be understood. The rest of the story consists of unclear, inconsistent and abrupt sentences. There is not enough context provided concerning the angels and their place (Babel). Then they seem to be taking both sides, good and evil. By the end, the subject "they" becomes unclear.

Hidden Meanings[edit]

He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: In it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: "We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord:" and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding.

This verse claims the opposite of what verses 6:114, 41:3, 6:38 and 16:89 claim concerning clarity and detail. Which verses are allegorical is not specified. Some which look allegorical may have been intended as literal. Then this verse says there are hidden meanings which no one except Allah can understand. Thus the purpose of details is negated.

Isra and Mi'raj[edit]

Glory to (Allah) Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless,- in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things).

No details are provided concerning this journey. One has to refer to the hadith to learn about Gabriel, Buraq, the visit to each of the seven heavens, their gates, gatekeepers and earlier prophets.

Jesus' Success[edit]

O ye who believe! Be ye helpers of Allah: As said Jesus the son of Mary to the Disciples, "Who will be my helpers to (the work of) Allah?" Said the disciples, "We are Allah's helpers!" then a portion of the Children of Israel believed, and a portion disbelieved: But We gave power to those who believed, against their enemies, and they became the ones that prevailed.

This verse ends the surah without explaining what "power" (physical or spiritual) was provided to the Children of Israel and how this helped them prevail over the disbelievers. This verse also ignores that, according to Islam, Jesus's message was corrupted, hence his prophethood eventually failed.

Jizyah[edit]

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

No details are provided concerning the Jizyah (i.e. its terms, conditions, amounts or even a definition), other than it must be paid in order to humiliate non-Muslims.

Job[edit]

Commemorate Our Servant Job. Behold he cried to his Lord: "The Evil One has afflicted me with distress and suffering!" (The command was given:) "Strike with thy foot: here is (water) wherein to wash, cool and refreshing, and (water) to drink." And We gave him (back) his people, and doubled their number,- as a Grace from Ourselves, and a thing for commemoration, for all who have Understanding. "And take in thy hand a little grass, and strike therewith: and break not (thy oath)." Truly We found him full of patience and constancy. How excellent in Our service! ever did he turn (to Us)!

Little can be understood concerning the events surrounding Job. His distress and suffering, the location of where he struck his foot, where his people were, who or what he is supposed to strike with grass, the oath he took. None of these issues are explained.

Makers of the Pit[edit]

Cursed be the makers of the pit, Of the fire (kept burning) with fuel, When they sat by it, And they were witnesses of what they did with the believers.

It is never explained who these "makers" are. Interpreters claim this to have referred to different historical events, such as the persecution of Axumite Christians by Dhu Nuwas in Yemen, the persecutions by Nebuchadnezzar II, or the Battle of the trench.[1]

Mother of the Book[edit]

Allah doth blot out or confirm what He pleaseth: with Him is the Mother of the Book.

There is no detail about this Mother of the Book or its contents. Even its meaning is not clear and varies across translations.

Muhammad[edit]

Muhammad is no more than a messenger: many Were the messenger that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will ye then Turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah; but Allah (on the other hand) will swiftly reward those who (serve Him) with gratitude.
Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets: and Allah has full knowledge of all things.
But those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, and believe in the (Revelation) sent down to Muhammad - for it is the Truth from their Lord,- He will remove from them their ills and improve their condition.
Muhammad is the messenger of Allah; and those who are with him are strong against Unbelievers, (but) compassionate amongst each other. Thou wilt see them bow and prostrate themselves (in prayer), seeking Grace from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure. On their faces are their marks, (being) the traces of their prostration. This is their similitude in the Taurat; and their similitude in the Gospel is: like a seed which sends forth its blade, then makes it strong; it then becomes thick, and it stands on its own stem, (filling) the sowers with wonder and delight. As a result, it fills the Unbelievers with rage at them. Allah has promised those among them who believe and do righteous deeds forgiveness, and a great Reward.

These are the only four verses that mention Muhammad by name, and the only information they provide about him is that he is a messenger of Allah. Without the hadith and sirah literature, almost nothing would be known about him (e.g. his birth, age, appearance, wives, children, death, and so on).

Pharaoh[edit]

Then after them We sent Moses with Our signs to Pharaoh and his chiefs, but they wrongfully rejected them:

There is no mention of who this Pharaoh is. Pharaohs were the rulers of Egypt and number in the hundreds. But the word "Pharaoh" is used as a proper noun whenever narrating the story of Exodus.

Pharaoh's Wife[edit]

And Allah sets forth, as an example to those who believe the wife of Pharaoh: Behold she said: "O my Lord! Build for me, in nearness to Thee, a mansion in the Garden, and save me from Pharaoh and his doings, and save me from those that do wrong";

The previous verse condemns the wife of Noah and the wife of Lut to hell and the next verse praises Mary, but this verse fails to mention the fate of the wife of Pharaoh.

Piercing Star[edit]

And what will explain to thee what the Night-Visitant is?- (It is) the Star of piercing brightness;- There is no soul but has a protector over it.

This verse claims it is explaining a star but fails to provide any details. One does not even know what particular star it is describing.

Runners[edit]

I swear by the runners breathing pantingly, Then those that produce fire striking, Then those that make raids at morn, Then thereby raise dust, Then rush thereby upon an assembly:

The lack of context makes these verses difficult to understand. Other translators use parentheses to depict this as a scene of war because nothing is clear without them.

Sabians[edit]

Those who believe (in the Qur'an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord;

Sabians cannot be identified and nothing more is known about them or their extinct religion. Later sources try to point out who they are.

A Scandal[edit]

Those who brought forward the lie are a body among yourselves: think it not to be an evil to you; on the contrary it is good for you: to every man among them (will come the punishment) of the sin that he earned, and to him who took on himself the lead among them, will be a chastisement grievous. Why did not the believers - men and women - when ye heard of the affair,- thought well of their people and say, 'This (charge) is an obvious lie'? Why did they not bring four witnesses to prove it? When they have not brought the witnesses, such men, in the sight of Allah, (stand forth) themselves as liars! Were it not for the grace and mercy of Allah on you, in this world and the Hereafter, a grievous chastisement would have seized you in that ye rushed glibly into this affair. Behold, ye received it on your tongues, and said out of your mouths things of which ye had no knowledge; and ye thought it to be a light matter, while it was most serious in the sight of Allah. And why did ye not, when ye heard it, say? - 'It is not right of us to speak of this: Glory to Thee (our Lord), this is a most serious slander!' Allah doth admonish you, that ye may never repeat such (conduct), if ye are (true) Believers. And Allah makes the Signs plain to you: for Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom. Those who love (to see the) scandal circulate among the Believers, will have a grievous chastisement in this life and in the Hereafter: Allah knows, and ye know not. Were it not for the grace and mercy of Allah on you, and that Allah is full of kindness and mercy, (ye would be ruined indeed).

There is a scandal/slander/lie being discussed in these verses. But is it not clear at all what this is about. Again, one has to consult the tafsir and the hadith to understand that these verses are about some allegations levied on Muhammad's wife Aisha.

Seven Things[edit]

We have given thee seven of the oft-repeated (verses) and the great Qur'an.

This verse implies that the seven verses are separate from the Qur'an. But what they are is not explained. Major translators write "verses" in parentheses, hence seven may have referred to something entirely different.

Solomon's Throne[edit]

And verily We tried Solomon, and set upon his throne a (mere) body. Then did he repent. He said: My Lord! Forgive me and bestow on me sovereignty such as shall not belong to any after me. Lo! Thou art the Bestower.

Many unanswered questions emerge from this verse. For example, the identity of the body, the reason behind Solomon's repentance, and the possibility of him being responsible for the death of that body.

The Balance[edit]

Allah it is Who revealed the Book with truth, and the balance, and what shall make you know that haply the hour be nigh?

No explanation is provided concerning "the balance". It could be related to the Book or referring to a separate entity.

The City[edit]

I do call to witness this City;- And thou art a freeman of this City;- And (the mystic ties of) parent and child;-

The "city" and context of words are not explained in detail.

Thief's Repentance[edit]

But if the thief repents after his crime, and amends his conduct, Allah turneth to him in forgiveness; for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

There are no details on how to judge repentance and what a thief should do to repent. It could be anything from apologizing to doing something as punishment, or a case where the thief repents just after stealing and promises never to steal.

Unidentified Prophets[edit]

And commemorate Isma'il, Elisha and Zul-Kifl: Each of them was of the Company of the Good.
And Ismail and Idris and Zulkifl; all were of the patient ones; And We caused them to enter into Our mercy, surely they were of the good ones.

Little is known about Idris and there are no more details concerning the identity of Zul-Kifl.

Homosexuality[edit]

If two men among you are guilty of lewdness, punish them both. If they repent and amend, Leave them alone; for Allah is Oft-returning, Most Merciful.

There are several variations of the translation of this verse for example "two men", "if the two of you" and "man and a woman". This ambiguity could have been easily avoided if Quran had been clear in saying whether it was two men or any thing else. Tafsirs confirm that the Quran is most likely referring to "two men".

See Also[edit]

External Links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Maulana Muhammad Ali, "English Translation of the Holy Quran. With Explanatory Notes", p. 765, ISBN 1906109079, 2010.