بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
As Sura Al-Imran ayat 7 (3:7) states, the Quranic ayahs can be considered to be of two broad categories. Ones which contain hukum/orders and others which are termed as mutashabehat or similar ones. The mutashabehat ayahs are further defined in 39:23 to be written ones, similar ones and repeated ones. So mutashabehat ayahs are those which are similar and are repeated in Quran. They are not ambiguous ayahs containing confusions or abstractions, as some translations suggest. Mutashabeha means ‘similar’ in Quran such as ayahs 6:99 and 6:141 suggest, when they mention similar fruits.
The ayat 3:7 states that the people who have crookedness in their hearts they follow what is similar to Al-Quran. Please carefully note that this ayat states that these people do not follow the mutashabehat or similar ayahs, instead they follow what resembles Quran. Practically we observe that in some lectures on Quranic topics, the lecturer will read an ayat or few ayahs from Al-Quran but then he will tell details related to these ayahs from other books. The story being told will have some resemblance to the narration in these ayahs but it will not be purely from Quran. People who are fascinated with these stories which have some resemblance with Quranic ayahs, are said to be those who have crookedness in their hearts.
Those people with crookedness in their hearts will have fascination with these stories and in order to find Taweel or details, they follow what would seem similar to the Quran. But those people who are established in knowledge, they believe in all ayahs of Quran and they do not seek fascination in finding Taweels of similar and repeated ayahs. They know that the details are only known to Allah, so nobody, no matter how great they are considered by people, would know the Taweel or interpretation. The Tafseers written by so called great scholars of yore, are just their personal opinions and beliefs.
Some even mistranslate the verse 3:7 to suggest that the Taweel is known by Allah and Rasikoon ul Ilm/(people established in knowledge). However, the period/mim (the stop sign) in the ayat, after Allah clarifies that the ayat means that the Taweel is only known to Allah and no one else. Had the intention of the ayat was that the Taweel is known to Rasikhoon fil-Ilm, then the stop in Qirat sign would have appeared after Raikhoon Fil-ilm and not after Allah.وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلَّا اللَّهُ ۗ وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ
3:7 هُوَ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُّحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ ۖ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَابَهَ مِنْهُ ابْتِغَاءَ الْفِتْنَةِ وَابْتِغَاءَ تَأْوِيلِهِ ۗ وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلَّا اللَّهُ ۗ وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ يَقُولُونَ آمَنَّا بِهِ كُلٌّ مِّنْ عِندِ رَبِّنَا ۗ وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّا أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ
It is He who has revealed Al-Kitab / The Book over you. In it are muhkamat / governing ayats / signs. They are the mother of Al-Kitab / The Book, and others are mutashabehat / resembling (ayats / signs). So in whose heart is deviation, they follow what resembles with it (Al-Quran) , seeking Fitna/captivation and its interpretation and no one knows its interpretation except Allah. Those who are stable in knowledge they say we believe with it, all is from the nearness of our Lord. And none remembers except those who posses the core (i.e. innermost part of anything).
39:23 اللَّهُ نَزَّلَ أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ كِتَابًا مُّتَشَابِهًا مَّثَانِيَ تَقْشَعِرُّ مِنْهُ جُلُودُ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُدَى اللَّهِ يَهْدِي بِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُضْلِلِ اللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ هَادٍ
Allah has revealed the most beautiful Al-Hadees, as a book mutashabiha / resembling, repeating itself. Skin of those shiver for the fear of their Lord from it. Then their skin and their hearts soften towards the remembrance of Allah. That is the guidance of Allah. He guides whom He wills with it. And to whom He leaves astray so for him there is none from the guide.
In the Ayat 39:23, The mutashabehat ayahs are defined as written, similar and repeated and they are called the ahsanul hadees that is the most beautiful narration. These different narrations of different prophets and people are often repeated in Al-Quran and look similar. What is in Al-Quran is the most beautiful narration or ‘Ahsanul Hadees’ which is revealed by Allah. However, what ever is in other books having similarity with Al-Quran narrations are not the best of narration. In fact those who get fascinated with the stories in other books having similarity with Al-Quran are said to have crookedness in their hearts.
6:99 وَهُوَ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَخْرَجْنَا بِهِ نَبَاتَ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ فَأَخْرَجْنَا مِنْهُ خَضِرًا نُّخْرِجُ مِنْهُ حَبًّا مُّتَرَاكِبًا وَمِنَ النَّخْلِ مِن طَلْعِهَا قِنْوَانٌ دَانِيَةٌ وَجَنَّاتٍ مِّنْ أَعْنَابٍ وَالزَّيْتُونَ وَالرُّمَّانَ مُشْتَبِهًا وَغَيْرَ مُتَشَابِهٍ ۗ انظُرُوا إِلَىٰ ثَمَرِهِ إِذَا أَثْمَرَ وَيَنْعِهِ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكُمْ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ
It is He Who sends down rain from the skies, with it We produce vegetation of all kinds. from some We produce green (crops), out of which We produce grain, heaped up (at harvest); out of the date-palm and its sheaths (or spathes) (come) clusters of dates hanging low and near. and (then there are) gardens of grapes, and olives, and pomegranates, each similar and not similar. when they begin to bear fruit, feast your eyes with the fruit and the ripeness thereof. Behold! in these things there are signs for people who believe.
In the above ayat, we can see that the word Mutashabeha when used in Al-Quran, gives the meaning of ‘Similar’ not allegorical or abstract.
25:33 وَلَا يَأْتُونَكَ بِمَثَلٍ إِلَّا جِئْنَاكَ بِالْحَقِّ وَأَحْسَنَ تَفْسِيرًا
And no example do so they bring to you but We bring to you the truth and the best tafseer/explanation.
The best explanation of Al-Quran is within the book, i.e ayahs explain each other. The explanation comes from within the book and one’s inner-self . It may take some time and Allah’s will when the true spirit of Al-Quran is revealed to a person.
16:101 وَإِذَا بَدَّلْنَا آيَةً مَّكَانَ آيَةٍ ۙ وَاللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يُنَزِّلُ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا أَنتَ مُفْتَرٍ ۚ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
When We substitute the place of one ayat with another ayat and Allah knows best what He reveals ,- they say, “You are but a forger”. but most of them understand not.
When the Messenger delivers a lecture on a certain topic, he will recite ayahs from different suras related to that topic. The ayahs sequence or place will not be the sequence in which they appear in Al-Kitab. For example a lecture on divorce may have ayahs from different suras of Al-Kitab. After the Messenger clarifies a topic with the help of ayahs from different places in the book, the people who don’t like this understanding as it may differ from their previous beliefs, would say that the messenger made this up by himself.