Ulum al Qur'an
CONTENTS ONLINE LIBRARY
'Literal' and 'Understood' Meanings
The meaning of certain ayat is derived from the literal wording (mantdq) while that of others is derived from what is understood (mafhum) by them:
Of the literal understanding there are several kinds. The first concerns a clear text, i.e. a text clear and without ambiguity.
'But if he cannot afford it, he should fast three days during the Hajj and seven days on his return, making ten days in all' (Al-Qur'an 2: 196).
In other cases the text may be somewhat ambiguous in its expression but obvious as far as the meaning is concerned.
'And do not approach them until they are clean' (Al-Qur'an 2: 222).
The Arabic word tatahharna may refer to the end of the woman's menstrual period, or the completion of the bath after the period; the second being more obvious. [Qattan, M.: mabahith It 'ulum al-qur'an, Riyadh. 1971.]
Still other verses imply a meaning through the context, although the wording itself is not clear.
'And out of kindness reward to them the wing of humility' (Al-Qur'an 17: 24).
This applies to parents, and not to all human beings in general, as the context of this verse suggests.