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How do we reconcile apparent contradictions in our literature?

We have been taught a principle on interpreting the Holy Quran, and we use this principle when interpreting the words of Prophets and Khulafa’ as well.

It is on record that one day the Holy Prophet, on hearing people disputing about the interpretation of certain verses of the Quran, angrily said, “Thus were ruined those who have gone before you. They interpreted certain parts of their scripture in such a manner as to make them contradict other parts. But the Quran has been so revealed that different parts of it should corroborate one another. So do not reject any truth by making one part contradict the other. Act on what you understand thereof and refer that which you do not understand to those who know and understand it.”

(Musnad; Holy Quran English w/ 5 Vol. Commentary, p. 367, 3:8)

However, if there happens to be a contradiction because of the human error of a Khalifah, it can easily be corrected. Hudur aba said that it is also not necessary for a Khalifah to know everything. Indeed, Hadrat Abū Bakr ra did not know all ahadith, similarly, if anyone has knowledge of something the Promised Messiah as said and shares it, it is very generous of them (Friday Sermon, Feb 27, 2015).

We find examples of this in the time of the Khilafat-e-Rashidah [Righteous Khilafat] as well.

Hadrat Abū Hurairah ra reported that Hadrat ‘Umar ra happened to pass by Hadrat Hassan ra as he was reciting verses in the mosque. Hadrat ‘Umar glared at him, whereupon Hadrat Hassan ra said, “I used to recite (verses) when one better than you (the Holy Prophet) had been present (here).”

(Sahih Muslim, Book 44, Hadith 214)

Here, we see that although Hadrat ‘Umar ra was a very close companion of the Holy Prophet sas, he did not know all ahadith and was sometimes informed by others of guidances of the Holy Prophet sas. Hudur aba said that if a Khalifah was to give an interpretation which appears contrary to the interpretation of the Promised Messiah as he should be informed. If the Khalifah of the time considers that his interpretation could be gleaned from the Promised Messiah’s interpretation, fine, or else he would correct his interpretation. It is not that there is any contradiction of views. There is no contradiction; the cause of any such occurrence would be unawareness (Friday Sermon, Feb 27, 2015).

For example, Hudur aba explained that in one sermon, he related a narration of a Hadith. However, he was later sent an extract of the Promised Messiah as which negates that narration that was related. Hudur aba said:

After the injunction of the Promised Messiah as, there is no need for any further discussion whatsoever. He is the Imam of this age. In fact, according to some narrations, the Promised Messiah as has stated: “I myself through true dreams or in a state of vision, have received direct corroboration from the Holy Prophet sas, of the traditions.” Therefore, there is no doubt that this narration which I related, which is also mentioned in several books of Hadith, is not what happened, the actual incident did not occur in that way.

If the Promised Messiah as has given any directives regarding any of those Hadith they most definitely must be taken into account. It is correct that the words of the Khalifah of the time cannot be altered or rectified by anybody. The Khalifah of the time should be asked himself if the previous Khulafa’ have cited a reference mentioned something that needs to be rectified, or the original reference, or the original hadith, or within any book the Promised Messiah as has said anything about that, then in accordance with that, it should be rectified. However, the Khalifah of the time must be asked and then the rectification must occur.

(Friday Sermon, November 18, 2011)

Usually, misunderstandings in interpreting our teachings happen because we try to force our own interpretations onto Hudur’s aba words. Hadrat Musleh Mau‘ud ra said that there is a condition we have to fulfill before we can understand the teachings of the Promised Messiah as, and this condition applies to understanding the Holy Quran as well.

Before reading any book of the Promised Messiah as, we must remove all thoughts from our mind, and read it after completely emptying our mind. If someone reads his books in this way, then he will gain a great deal of knowledge and correct knowledge. But if he reads it while holding on to a doctrine of his own, then he will not have these results.

(Anwarul ‘Ulum, vol. 5, p. 560, Malaikatullah)

If someone is still unclear on the guidance we are given, then Hudur aba has given a simple solution. In his Friday sermon on Unconditional Obedience of Khilafat, Hudur aba said that office-holders cannot rightfully be “authority over” people unless they too completely obey Khilafat and do not desist from making their own interpretation; rather they consider each word of the Khalifah of the time as worthy of being obeyed. If an instruction of the Khalifah of time is not fully understood, then rather than guess its interpretation, the Khalifah of the time should be written to and further advice sought (Friday Sermon, June 6, 2014).

What the Holy Quran, a Prophet, or a Khalifah has said has precedence over what anyone else said. If any scholar of the Jama‘at makes a contrary interpretation, the contradiction does not have to be reconciled, the interpretation of the scholar is simply overruled.

Updated on January 4, 2019

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