Understanding the Quran

The Quraan is filled with valuable life lessons and each page is a gift, and for that reason, although one gets a reward for reciting the Quran without knowing the meaning, it is so important to strive to understand what we are reading.

I am going to repeat what I mentioned in Part 2:

“Allah has revealed the Quraan as hudan linnaas, a source of guidance for ALL of MANKIND

Deen is for everyone and Quraan is for everyone…

So don’t feel that you have to be at a certain level,

whatever level you are at,

whether you have just embraced Islam a few days ago, a few months ago, a few years ago or you are born Muslim and you have forgotten what you have learnt.

Open a Quran and just start reading (and open a Translation and Tafseer, and start reading too!)

Yes, one cannot just start making up your own translations and making up your interpretations.

But don’t for one moment think or let anyone make you feel inferior to the point where it stops you from opening the Quraan to just start that journey.

Quran is for every type of intellect,

It’s for those who ponder and it’s for those who don’t ponder…

because perhaps through it they will start pondering..

Quran is for the intelligent person and the incompetent person

because perhaps through it, He will learn maturity and intelligence

Quran is for the Scholars, the Sheikhs, The Ulema, The Appas

And the Quran is for the cleaner, the doctor, the teacher, the servants and the leaders

the Quran is for the male Imaams and Hufaath who recite it loudly in Salaah

and Quran is for all women to recite in their homes, for their family and children to hear

The Quran is for the “pious”, the “saalih”, the waliullaah (one who is close to Allah), the worshipper who spends a lot of time in Ibaadat

and the Quran is for the sinner who despairs of Allah’s mercy and is so scared of what people may think of him or what Allah may recompense him with..

the Quran is for adults and the Quran is for every child to learn the examples and stories that Allah has revealed to us

The Quran is Allah’s Manual for us to live our life in a way that will please Him

..this is Allah’s kalaam, (Allaah’s speech) and is meant to be engaged with.

Allah does not intend difficulty for us.

I don’t think that anyone can honestly say that any person exists who does not want to connect with Allah by means of reading Quraan.

But I believe that it is fear that stops us from moving forward, fear of making a mistake, fear of what the process is going to feel like, fear of being judged, fear of what may happen when you start getting hooked onto Quran, fear of what it feels like to stop doing whatever it is that is holding you back from Quran and this is normal.

Some tips to learning to understand the Translation and Tafseer of the Quran

Make an intention and ask Allah for help

Ask Allah to open your heart and understanding Make dua that Allah increases your knowledge, that Allah opens your heart and makes this quest for your knowledge of Quraan easy, and Ask Allah to keep you steadfast.

Set up your plan

Set a big goal/long-term goal for yourself.

How many Surahs would you like to have read through/ studied by the end of this year or by the end of 6 months or 3 months?

Formulate a plan on how you are going to spread out your learning, by breaking up your big goal into smaller goals.

Eg. If you plan to study the translation and a bit of Tafseer of Juz Amma over 3 months. There are 78 Surahs. You could then study 1 surah a day.

Mark your wall / desk Calendars with your mini-goals.

And use the calendar blocking system on your Google Calendar to schedule in the time for learning Quran, with reminders that will go off for yourself (according to your preference).

Don’t let any other meetings, work, cooking, or anything else be done at this time.

This is your special Quran time.

Stick to your schedule. Make dua to Allah for steadfastness and to facilitate your learning journey.

Choose your resources

For Tarjama (translation):

If you at a level where you are wanting to learn to read Arabic and/or wanting to read a translation, I suggest you go to quran.com it has very beautiful big and clear Arabic text, it has the translation, you can ‘click play’ and listen to the recitation of each ayah individually.

I also recently discovered that you can hover over any individual word and it turns blue and it gives the translation for that word.

A nice Kitaab to use is “The Quraan Made easy” by Mufti Afdhal Hoosein Elias, it provides the Arabic ayah and the English translation as well as an inline commentary where necessary.

For Tafseer (Explanation):

A lovely set of Books that has an easy-to-read translation and Tafseer is Anwaarul Bayaan – Illuminating Discourses of The Quran. This comes on the top of my list as the easiest Tafseer for non – scholars to learn from.

Another great in – depth set of Tafseer Books is Maáariful Quran by Mufti Muhammad Shafee (rahmatullaah alayh)

You can download the app called Ma’ariful Quran which is a complete compilation of all the 8 volumes of the Kitaab.

This is an amazing Tafseer, not something that you are going to read from beginning to end, but when there is something that you would like further insight or a better understanding of, then this something nice to refer to, I used to use these kitaabs when I taught.

And for ambitious learners, you can look for an English version of Ibn Kathir.

Set up a learning space and notebooks

Set up your desk and your stationery

Buy a pretty notebook and different coloured pens and / highlighters

Sticky bookmarkers may also come in handy

Set up a neat and inspiring space no matter how small it is, that you can dedicate to reading and learning Quran and make the intention that what you are doing is for the pleasure of Allah.

I have recently heard about (and am amazed at) Quran Journaling. I would still like to delve a bit deeper into it. Read more about it here.

How to study/take notes.

Read the ayah in Arabic. If you can’t read the aayah, listen to it using quran.com

When writing notes, always make a heading at the top of the page indicating what surah you are working on.

Note the ayah number in your margin.

From the resources I have listed, find a translation of the ayah that is easiest for you to understand. And write this down. You may want to keep your translations a separate colour from your explanations

Sometimes using a thesaurus may help.

If it’s not a very clear meaning, after doing some more reading into the tafseer books recommended, write down a simplified version of what the aayah actually means.

There may be little stories, anecdotes, reasons for revelation of certain aayahs. Keep these in the same colour as your explanation, but add an appropriate heading to these sections.

Follow Salma Darvesh on Facebook to see how she has studied so many surahs of the Quran.

She uses a plain notebook, cuts out a copy of the word for word Arabic Ayah and English Translation and pastes it in her book. Thereafter she writes the translation of the aayah down and any explanation inbetween.

See below an example of how she studies surah Falaq

Image Credit: Salma Darvesh

Ponder over the verses you learn about

Make notes of things that mean a lot to you personally,

You could pick an ayah a day and journal about what your thoughts are,

what the lessons are that you learn about,

how this applies to us today

and write down a duaa that comes to your mind to either aquire a good thing mentioned, or seek protection from a bad thing mentioned

Ask the Ulema when you don’t understand

And if you get stuck, or get confused, ask for help.

What we used to do as students is that we would keep a loose page with us (one for each kitab or subject) and as we were going over our work.

We would keep a running list of any misunderstandings or questions or anything we needed further explanation of (including which page or chapter it comes from to the number of the aayah so we can easily find it again).

And you keep on moving it along with you in your kitab like a bookmark as you are reading.

And when you have an opportunity to spend some time with someone who can help you, you have all your questions at hand.

Afterword: a note from me

That being said….only to a certain point, can one teach themselves…

There is an Arabic saying:

العلم لا يعطيك بعضه حتي تعطيه كلك

Alilmu laa yu’teeka ba’dhahu hattaa tu’tiyahu kullaka  

Knowledge does not give even a portion of itself to you until you give your whole self to it

meaning your whole being, your whole life

I believe that each and every person should make the intention to study Deen full time at some point in their life if they can’t manage to do it immediately.

I have been on both sides, sitting with a bunch of kitaabs around me, and making notes trying to self-study, not knowing what type of Ilm to prioritize in my learning, going down a rabbit hole, forgetting everything, and falling off the bandwagon…

and I have had the opportunity and blessing of being a full-time student of deen where I had



suhbat (company) of the pious,

accountability and encouragement,

and where my teachers guided me to the shortest route to a certain destination

So I can say from experience, it isn’t easy to self-study Deen and it isn’t advisable.
There is no comparison to directly acquiring the noor (light) of Ilm (knowledge) from your Ustaadths (teachers)..

There is no comparison to when you set aside 3 – 5 years of your life in which you dedicate your whole day from the morning till the afternoon to learning Allah’s kalaam, then you come to go over your work and start again the next day…

There is just so much to learn…

…when you delve deeper into all the different parts of Arabic sciences: The Nahw, the Sarf, Usoolut Tafseer and Balaagha (Rhetoric) and the Asbaabulun Nuzool (the reasons for the revelation of aayaat)…

People may think that they have experienced the height of happiness or euphoria when on a “high” from drugs,

or  when the bass drops in their favourite song,

or when they commit a temporarily thrilling and exciting sin (wa na’oothubilla)

wait till they feel the sweetness of Allah speaking to your heart

when Allaah opens up your heart to understanding a part of the Quraan…

and when you come across that aayah again and Allah teaches you a different lesson again through the same words

I have no words for that feeling of sweetness that you feel….

it will bring you to tears and I wish for everyone to have this feeling.

قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ ‏ “‏ مَنْ يُرِدِ اللَّهُ بِهِ خَيْرًا يُفَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ “
“The Messenger of Allah said: ‘When Allah wills good for a person, He causes him to understand the religion.'”
– Sunan Ibn Majah

May Allah grant us beneficial knowledge,

may He make us of those who are close to Him who are people of the Quran,

and for whom the Quran will be a means of Intercession on the day of Qiyaamah.

And may He give us Taufeeq, energy, motivation, and the opportunity to learn His Kalaam.

PS: I have started a little project and mission to bridge the gap between the non – ulema, and Deeni knowledge;

making acquiring Deeni knowledge more accessible,

easier to understand with better translations, more relatable,

and integrated into our everyday life.

And also coming up with different resources and learning methods for Talabatul Ilm who have different ways of learning.

Click over to the page and send a message to me if you have any suggestions.

PPS: If you would like to Catch up on previous posts, click on any of the links below:

Part 1: What does it mean: Ramadhan is the month of the Quraan?

Part 2: 5 steps to starting your relationship with Quran

Part 3: Practical steps to upgrading your connection to Quran

Part 4: Encouraging the Youth to read Quran in Ramadhan

or listen to the full podcast interview.

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