Literal or Figurative Meaning of Qur’an

What is the stand of Abdullah ibn Mas'ood on the interpretation of the Qur’an? Is it:

To stick closely to the literal meaning of the Qur'an and aviod giving personal interpretations, or

To give what is beyond the text ?

Abdullah bin Mas'ood like the other companions of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) gave precedence to what was in the revealed scriptures over anything else including their own opinions. [1]

Having said the above I think we have to first understand how the different schools saw the ahadith ( I am referring to ahl hadith and ahl ra'i)

  • A hadith either had its reasons stated explicitly or not stated explicitly.
  • Both the schools had the same opinion when the reason of the hadith was stated explicitly: Analogical deduction was possible by looking at the given reason; e.g, Everything that causes a person to be drunk is haraam. In this case the qiyas is very clear; based on this vodka whisky will be haraam even if this was not there during the time of the Prophet (ﷺ).
  • If the reason was not explicitly stated then the Ahl Hadith did not go beyond the literal meaning of the hadith.[2] As for the ahl ra'i (approach adopted by people like Ibn Mas'ood) a person could look deep into the hadith since each and everything said by the Prophet (ﷺ) had wisdom and a reason behind it. For example [3]sleeping makes the washing of hands compulsory upon the person who slept regardless of whether he slept during the day or night’ ;this will be the approach of the ahl ra'i. For the ahl hadith they would say; ‘washing the hands before putting them into a water container is only obligatory if you slept during the night and not the day
  • It is important to note that the Salaf avoided resorting to personal opinion and this includes Ibn Mas'ood. The difference was only when it came to point 3 mentioned above.

[1] Dr B Philips, The Evolution of Fiqh 88

[2] Dr B Philips, The evolution of Fiqh 89

[3] Based on the interpretation of the hadeeth: The Apostle of Allah (ﷺ) said: When anyone amongst you wakes up from sleep, he should wash his hands three times before putting it in the utensil, for he does not know where his hand was during the night. (Narrated by Abu Hurayrah, Sahih Muslim Hadeeth 112)

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