According to one ‘rawayat’ “Allah has revealed Quran with five levels”. While substantiating this ‘rawayat’ on the basis of Quran, we may infer that these levels of understanding of Quranic knowledge are vertical and can be accessed only one after the other. Access to each of these levels is associated with a certain level of spiritual elevation.
The first level of understanding of Quranic knowledge is ‘kitaab-e-mastoora’. Quran has been called by this name many times: “And [by] a Book inscribed (mastoor)” (al-toor-2); “And there is no city but that We will destroy it before the Day of Resurrection or punish it with a severe punishment. That has ever been in the Book inscribed -mastoora” (Isra-58). This is in the Book inscribed (al-ahzaab-6). At this level, one can have access to the grammatical meanings of Quran’s written words. This is the level of Quranic knowledge pertaining to facts and events apparently described in the Quran. This is the level of Quranic knowledge associated with common Muslims/ ‘muttaqeen’. “This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah” (al-baqra-2).
The second level of access to Quranic knowledge is ‘kitab-e-mubeen’. At this level of Quranic knowledge, access is granted to facts and events described by inference, not apparently described, in the Quran. At this level, Quranic knowledge pertaining to natural laws (physical and social) relating to this world is accessed to. Quran says: “everything unseen in the sky and earth has been described in “kitab-e-mubeen” (al-naml-75). Every ‘khabar’ relating to this world has also been mentioned in the ‘kitab-e-mubeen’. “And no moist or dry [thing] (in the darkness of earth) but that it is[written] in a ‘kitab-e-mubeen’ (al-anam-59). “And there is no creature on earth but that upon Allah is its provision, and He knows its place of dwelling and place of storage. All is in a “kitab-e-mubeen” (hud-6). This is the level of Quranic knowledge/ information relating to both changeable and unchanged destiny of every person/ mankind; but the person having access to this level can’t differenciate between changeable and unchanged destiny. This level of Quranic knowledge/ information is associated with ‘mumineen’.
Both levels of Quranic knowledge/information described above can be accessed by non-Muslims as well; in Quran, non-Muslims have not been excluded from having access to these both levels. But they have been excluded explicitly from having access to the third level of Quranic knowledge/ information.
The third level of Quranic knowledge is called ‘kitab-e-maknoon’. This level is different from the second level in some aspects. For instance, this is the level of Quranic knowledge, which non-Muslims cannot have access to. “Indeed, it is a noble Qur'an. In a ‘kitab-e-maknoon’. None touch it except the purified” (al-waqiah-77-79). It means non-Muslims cannot be first recipient of Quranic knowledge of ‘kitab-e-maknoon’. However they can receive this knowledge from its Muslim recipients.
Another difference as compared to second level is that the third level pertains to unchanged destiny of persons/mankind. “Allah eliminates what He wills or confirms, and with Him is the ‘ummul kitab’ (al-ra,ad-39). Out of two types of destiny-changeable and unchanged- Allah eliminates the changeable one (depending upon His Will and actions of the concerned people) and the unchanged destiny may be accessed to at the third level of Quranic knowledge/information. This level of Quranic understanding is associated with ‘mutahharin’/purified.
The fourth level is ‘kitab-ul-hakim’. Quranic verses have been described as “ the signs of the Wise Book (kitab-ul-hakim)” [al-luqman-2). This level provides rationale of all natural laws working in this world; and rationale of all events happening in this world. This level pertains to knowledge as to why natural laws and events are like as they exist. This level of Quranic knowledge is associated with ‘muhsaneen’.
The fifth level is ‘ummul kitab’. Quran has been called by this name in al-imran-7 which states: “It is He who has sent down to you, [Muhammad (saw)], the Book; in it are verses [that are] precise/ ‘muhkamat’ - they are the foundation of the Book/ummul kitab”. Sura zu khraf-2-4 states: “By the ‘kitab-e-mubeen’. Indeed, We have made it an Arabic Qur'an that you might understand. And indeed it is, in ‘ummul kitab’ with Us, exalted and full of wisdom”. This level of Quranic knowledge provides the Basic Principles from which natural laws and events originate. Al-imran-7 also states that these Basic Principles are found in the verses which are ‘muhkamat’/precise. There are two kinds of verses in the Quran; firstly those which are ‘mutashabihat’-these are not so precise/easy to understand; secondly those which are ‘muhkamat’- these are precise/easy to understand in nature. The Basic Principles which are origin of natural laws and events happening in this world are to be discovered out of Quranic verses which are precise in nature. This fifth level of Quranic knowledge is associated with ‘mutwaqqalin’.
‘Lohe Mahfooz’ is just a compilation of all these five levels of Quranic knowledge/ information.