Allah tells us in many places of the Qur’an, that the Qur’an is a guide for the individual person.
That is, the actual verses within it are guidance:
“That is the Book, without any doubt. A Guide for those who guard against evil.” (Qur’an 2:2)
“These are the verses of the wise Book. A Guide and mercy for those who do good.” (Qur’an 31:2-3)
Despite Allah continuously reminding people of this fact, people do not take the Qur’an as the guide and know very little about the Qur’an. Immediately, they will plead their lack of qualifications and cite how difficult it is to properly understand the Qur’an without resorting to other sources.
A person who has fallen into this trap will cite quotes he has heard or read which are said to be from the Qur’an in order to justify his stance on the Qur’an. One of these is where the Qur’an allegedly says, “Ask those who know”. So where is this verse which so many people repeat?
16:43 and 21:7 are both repetition of the same verse. Below is 21:7:
“None of the towns which We destroyed before them had believed. Will they believe?”
“And We did not send before you except men whom We inspired to. So ask the People of the Reminder (Ahl-Azzikr) if you do not know.” (Qur’an 21:6-7)
The underlined portion is what they say they quote. They quote it as “ask those who know”. The correct meaning is strikingly apparent when reading the actual verse. It reads,
So Ask the People of the Reminder (Ahl-Azzikr). ‘Azzikr’ means “The Reminder”. It does not say “Ask those who know”. But who are “Ahl-Azzikr (People of the Reminder)” mentioned in the verse?
If we look at what is just before the verse: “And We did not send before you except men whom We inspired to…”, we notice that this verse is speaking of previous messengers who were sent with Scriptures, and it points out that they were ordinary human beings.
The verse continues…
“So Ask the People of the Reminder (Ahl-Azzikr) if you do not know”. This is a statement continuing on from the previous portion, a metaphorical expression to ask the ‘People of the Book’ (Jews and Christians) who will testify to the existence of previous messengers, since they are following them. Therefore, “Ahl-Azzikr” is another name for the “Ahl-Al Kitab (People of the Book)”, the Jews and the Christians. The particle “(fa)” or “so” in English, used in “so ask the people of The Reminder” is an additional evidence, since it links the two parts of the verse together.
Furthermore, Azzikr (The Reminder) is a term used in the Qur’an to refer to Allah’s Books. For example, the disbelievers too had used this term: “They say, ‘Receiver of this Reminder (Azzikr), you are mad!’ ” (Qur’an 15:6)
“We have sent down The Reminder (Azzikr), and We will guard it” (Qur’an 15:10)
“It is all the same to them whether you warn them or not. You can only warn those who will follow The Reminder (Azzikr) and hold the merciful one in awe.” (Qur’an 36:10)
So we can clearly see that “The Reminder” is another term for “The Book”. “Ahl-Azzikr” (People of the Reminder) is a term equivalent to “Ahl-alkitaab” (People of the Book).
1) The verse does not say “Ask those who know” it says “Ask the People of the Reminder”, which is referring to the People of the Book
– this phrase has been taken out of context of the verse and also erroneously translated by them as “Ask those who know” to meet their objectives.
2) When we take the whole verse into consideration, we see that “Ask the People of the Reminder if you do not know” is related to the first part of the verse, which they deliberately omit. The verse in complete form reads: “And We did not send before you except men whom We inspired to. So ask the People of the Reminder if you do not know” – the context renders it completely clear.
Therefore, verses 16:43 and 21:7 do not order the believer to resort to clergy in order follow the Qur’an, they are far from meaning this. Allah continuously orders people to take the Qur’an as a personal guide and asks everyone to think over its message for themselves. He also reveals to us that the Qur’an can be understood when any person sincerely thinks over its verses:
“We clarify the verses for a people who reflect” (Qur’an 10:24) and that the Qur’an is easy to comprehend and follow:
“We have made the Qur’an easy to understand and remember: will anyone take heed?” (Qur’an 54:17)
Moreover, Allah opposes the popular notion of clergymen, which has drifted many people from devoting themselves to Allah by understanding the Qur’an, in the following verse:
“Then We sent in their tracks Our messengers. We sent Jesus the son of Mary, and We gave him the Injeel, and We ordained in the hearts of his followers kindness and mercy. But they invented Monasticism – We did not ordain it for them, only that they should seek Allah’s good pleasure – and even so, they did not observe it properly.” (Qur’an 57:27)