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Interpretation or allegorical interpretation. The term occurs in Quran 3:5–7 in the context of distinguishing between those verses of the Quran that are precise in meaning (muhkamat) and those that are ambiguous (mutashabihat). Subsequent verses assert, according to one reading, that “only God and those well grounded in knowledge” know the interpretation of the ambiguous parts of the text, whereas according to another, more popular reading, only God knows the interpretation or hidden meaning of those parts. Historically, from the seventh century on, scholars were divided into those who rejected interpretation in any guise or form and those who were willing to apply the discursive methods of reading the text in varying degrees. The former or literalist group included such scholars as Malik ibn Anas (d. 795), Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 855), and Ahmad ibn Hazm (d. 1086); the latter included such liberal scholars as Hasan al-Basri (d. 728), the Mutazili theologians, and the philosophers in general. The most enthusiastic advocate of allegorical interpretation in the twelfth century was the great Aristotelian philosopher and Maliki judge Ibn Rushd (Averroës) (d. 1198).

Subjects: Islam.

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