It should make sense that the Quran, as a divine message, is mubeen or clear and unambiguous.
طس ۚ تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْقُرْآنِ وَكِتَابٍ مُّبِينٍ
Ta, Seen. These are the verses (ayat) of the Qur’an and a clear Book. (Quran 27:1)
The word “mubeen” here is translated “clear” for readability but the exact meaning has stronger implications than merely “clear.” It is unambiguous and the opposite of occult. That in turn is important because the Quran is a book sent for people to understand, not to create mysteries that require a special clergy or priest-like caste of scholars to interpret.
This point is further emphasized here:
اعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ يُحْيِي الْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا ۚ قَدْ بَيَّنَّا لَكُمُ الْآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ
Know that Allah gives life to the earth after its lifelessness. We have made clear to you the signs (ayat); perhaps you will understand.
Here Allah tells us he has deliberately “made clear to us” His “signs” so we could understand. The “perhaps” is indicated to show that this is a choice we make, to understand or not. Religion can not be true if it is coerced, but must come by free will and choice. The word ayat here is translated “signs” whereas in the previous aya it is translated “verses.” This is because the same word “ayat” means both signs and verses. And in fact, verses in the Quran are also signs, but ayat can also mean miracles, as well as natural phenomena which show Allah’s power.
This point is so important it can’t be overstated. The Quran was sent to give us a crucial and complete message that he made clear for us to understand. And “us” refers to any human being. It was not sent to a specific group of people or some kind of intelligentsia or professional clergy to interpret for us. Rather it was sent to all humankind. All people are responsible for their own faith because it is their choice of free will to choose one’s life-path, either guided by Allah’s revelations or by one’s personal desires. The aya above also indicates that Allah himself makes His ayat clear. First, His ayat or Quranic verses are made or written in such a way as to be understandable to us by Allah Himself, the Omniscient. Second, He explains these ayat further by their placement and frequency in the context of the Quran as a whole.
الر ۚ تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ وَقُرْآنٍ مُّبِينٍ
Alif, Lam, Ra. These are the verses of the Book and a clear Qur’an.
Note that this and the first quotes are ayat at the beginning of their respective Suras, and that each contains “Quranic initials”, letters that precede certain select Suras and whose meaning is not known but several possible explanations for them have been presented. Nothing in the Quran is without meaning; at the very least one could say they are likely part of a divine signature that gives both meaning and possibly a mathematical or other evidence of authenticity and the Quran’s miraculous nature.
One reasonable possibility, which does not preclude other possibilities as to the significance of these initials, is that they indicate something of importance/ significance is being said. In this case, that would be that the Quran is clear, that it clearly and with necessary details presents its message so that ordinary people can understand. When the Quran mentions what translated as “people of intelligence/ understanding”, it is referring to ordinary people: Allah created humans with intelligence; it’s what makes us human. This includes, as discussed in the previous post, abstract thought. Ordinary people are not animals, and possess the ability to think in abstract ways, such as using math to solve problems or discover/ gain knowledge. Language itself contains a great deal of abstraction. Words in fact are abstract or symbolic representations of actual things or ideas. They can be both visual (written) or voiced (spoken). The purpose of language is to present information and communicate with other people. It can also be used, like math, as a means to seek knowledge and discover the world around us. As such, divine Books must be supremely clear, because their Source is Allah Himself, who is omnipotent and capable of perfectly understandable language.
Knowing it is clear and understandable is an extremely important fact that shows us the Quran must be read by each individual Muslim, who not only must learn how to read, preferably in Arabic as its original language, but also can see that this message is directed at them as the audience, not a class or priests or mediums. Islam is the ultimate religion for the common man, not to “talk down to their level” but to raise them up with its miraculously clear and beautiful presentation of truth, the truth that sets us free. For the whole purpose of the Quran is to teach us who Allah is and what He wants from and for us, and that is to worship Allah, to fight oppression and enjoin compassion and charity, and to make Allah our greatest value, not money or self-gratification. Worshipping Allah, meaning the only One worthy of worship, helps us transcend our weaknesses and serve Allah by compassion and charity to our fellow humans (as well as animals and indeed all creation in balance), using reason and the understanding that comes from the heart, rather than emotion/ passio without thinking, or cold logic without heart. Understanding combines both, and by using it, we develop this capacity to reasonably feel or compassionately think, which ultimately helps us improve life for ourselves and others. Combined with faith, the ultimate compassionate intellect’s chosen “Home base”, or guiding light, humans can be a light for each other and the world they inhabit.
But were people to instead rely on a class of go-betweens such as scholars or priests to do their thinking and feeling for them, they would be as empty shells, mere robots who do not actively participate in their lives, but rather go through the motions like zombies. Islam not only encourages but enjoins Muslims to think compassionately and try to understand their world and each other, as well as Allah’s message and significance. It enjoins people to think for themselves and not engage in rote obedience to an imposed dogma. That is why the Quran is so seemingly short on dogmatic commands. It does not spell out how to pray in terms of the specifics on bowing and prostration (number of times per day, number of times to bow or prostrate an where to put one’s hands etc.), how exactly to dress, what to say before entering an elevator, whether or not to learn horseback riding, play or listen to music, under what conditions to speak to people of the opposite sex, or the exact amount of money to pay for zakat. These details are left up to us to figure out. Because what IS spelled out in details is what is faith, how to maintain it, how to properly worship Allah and the right attitude for salat, resolving disputes, fighting oppression (the only legitimate Quran-sanctioned jihad or struggle), and what kind of people could be acceptable to and close to Allah and what kind are actually enemies: what actions make one faithful or an enemy. Yet these highly important points are not what is presented as Islam by its “clerics”
And scholars who have formed a sort of class on whom many Muslims rely for guidance, but rather the thrust of questioning and discussion centers around micromanagement of the details of mundane daily life as well as spiritual life. It’s about problems with his in-laws, problems with her husband and children, about how many rakas to perform bowing and prostration or whether the hands should be raised in the air or at one’s side, about naming children or having guests or covering the hair and feet or allowing or not women to work even if they have no means of support from relatives. It’s about dancing and music being satanic or not, about reading novels as a danger to faith, about poetry or symphonies as a threat to stir up dangerous desires. But not about who is Allah and what does he actually want from us! We need a larger view and from there work down to the details. The Quran indeed speaks to issues of human relationships and families, of economics and survival, of war and peace, of crime and punishment, of civil behavior vs uncivil behavior, of how to worship very clearly in all meaningful details. This seems to indicate that perhaps the exact nature of women’s clothing is not as significant except insofar as it covers that which is socially considered sexually attractive in a salacious way. But to make herself look good for possible marriage is not sinful. The lines are made clear yet open to variation. The same is true for salat: what is important is who we worship and how sincere and without idolatry is one’s heart in worship, and does one have actual, expressed compassion or only doing lip service.
This means the larger issues are actually the heart of the matter not the outer expression of it. So what counts is what’s inside, not the outer appearance. And this can only be developed by actual free will participation, not by going through the motions of the five pillars without actively consciously participating. It would be useless to fast for example if one only deprives oneself of food as a custom but when a poor family comes to that same worshipper asking for help or not asking but obviously in need of help, and then such help is refused even though one is capable to help, the fasting and even Hajj pilgrimage, the prayers and claims of being Muslim will not help.
Therefore the fact that the Quran is clear and unequivocal means that what seems to be left out of the Quran is precisely those things where variance is acceptable: matters of dress code and exact physical attributes of worship not delineated in the Quran. As for the zakat, the Quran only mentions the requirement to be “the excess,” not some percentage. This makes great wealth, excessive wealth, unacceptable as long as there are poor and hungry people one is aware of whom one could help with ease but does not. This means that the accumulation of wealth to unimaginable heights of excess is PROHIBITED by the law of zakat. One need not give away all one has, no. But the extremes of excess wealth clearly do not meet the standards for Muslims. If there are hungry people who are neighbors, it is haram to ignore them and go buy a yacht. This fact most Muslims, especially the rich knew, do NOT accept even though it is Quranic. Rather they follow hadeeths which offer an easy percentage or other metric among zakat EZ for the rich to pull off while discarding tons of food needy people are being deprived of in countries such as Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.
Those who do this are oppressors and the enemies of Islam! But there is always repentance. One need not give away everything; running a business requires money and that money is not “excess”. It’s the personal luxuries that are indulged in, the palaces and adultery and drugs, while their own countrymen go without roofs or bread. Such people will never see the face of Allah but only His anger. So some things may seem easier, such as less strict dress codes, in the Quranic view, but others, like zakat, more difficult. But the truth is clear and we must not cover it up.