How To Study The Quran
If you are one of those who seek knowledge, and you wish to improve on your knowledge of the Quran, then we have identified seven points listed below which may be of immense use to any true student of the Scripture. These points will appear to be quite obvious once you read them, but sometimes to be reminded benefits us all.
1. Language Is Not A Barrier
The first point of contention in the study of the Quran typically is language. Many of the 1 billion people who want to uphold the Scripture have been informed that the Quran can only be recited or studied in Arabic and that any translation will not give the proper meaning. The flip-side is that these same appointed scholars will then tell the Arabic speakers that the Quran is 'too difficult' for them to understand and that they should leave its understanding to the experts!
Of course, the Quran itself says that language is not a barrier to its understanding as God is the One who is making it understood to people who open their hearts to Him.
"And had We made it a non-Arabic Quran, they would have said: 'If only its verses were made clear!' Non-Arabic and Arabic, Say: 'For those who believe, it is a guide and healing. As for those who disbelieve, there is a deafness in their ears, and they are blind to it. These will be called from a place far away.'" (Quran 41:44)
God's Book is unlike any other book on Earth as it is subject to His system and laws, which state that only the sincere/pure will be allowed understanding (not the language or qualifications or expertise of the reader).
"This is an honourable Quran. In a protected record. None can grasp it except those pure. A revelation from the Lord of the worlds." (Quran 56:77-80)
2. Look At The Full Verse
Quoting the Quran out of context is by far the single biggest mistake that even students of the Scripture continue to fall into. This method of quoting can be used to justify any desire or any view no matter how un-Godlike it may appear.
For example, a favorite quote which is repeated by many groups is that the Quran promotes killing and violence as evidenced by the verse: "And kill them wherever you find them" (2:191).
However, once we use the method of full context, then a totally different picture appears regarding the same issue:
"And kill them wherever you find them, and expel them from where they expelled you, and know that persecution is worse than being killed. And do not fight them at the Restricted Temple unless they fight you in it; if they fight you then kill them, thus is the reward of the disbelievers." (Quran 2:191)
Here we have a case of warfare being engaged in, and the people who were driven out being allowed to fight and reclaim their land/territory. A far cry from the sporadic killing that is implied when quoting out of context.
3. Look To The Surrounding Verses
Another crucial point to studying the Quran properly is to always look at the verses preceding and following a specific verse/subject. An example of how the wrong understanding can be derived if this is not done can be seen in the following:
"And Moses said to his people: 'O my people, you have wronged your souls by taking the calf, so repent to your Maker, and kill yourselves. That is better for you with your Maker, so He would forgive you. He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.'" (Quran 2:54)
This verse on its own creates an enigma as Moses is asking his people to commit suicide while suicide is forbidden according to God's law and is punishable with being cast in Hell (4:29-30). However, when we look at the 'wider' picture that occurs in the verses before and after then the story takes on a completely different light:
"And We appointed a meeting time for Moses of forty nights, but then you took the calf after him while you were wicked. Then We forgave you after that, perhaps you would be thankful. And We gave Moses the Scripture and the criterion, perhaps you would be guided. And Moses said to his people: 'O my people, you have wronged your souls by taking the calf, so repent to your Maker, and kill yourselves. That is better for you with your Maker, so He would forgive you. He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.' And you said: 'O Moses, we will not believe you until we see God openly!' So the lightning bolt took you while you were still staring. Then We resurrected you after your death that you may be appreciative. And We shaded you with clouds, and sent down to you manna and quails: 'Eat from the goodness of the provisions We have provided you.' They did not wrong Us, but it was their souls that they wronged." (Quran 2:51-57)
It was the design of the Almighty to resurrect this particular group from the Children of Israel to manifest His signs. Thus, once they refused to kill themselves, God made them die anyway and then resurrected them to make His will done. Thus the paradox is removed since God is the only One who may take life as it is His gift to begin with.
4. Be Aware Of Multiple Meaning Words
Some Arabic words, like in English, may have more than one related meaning. Thus ascribing the 'wrong' meaning may sometimes create contradictions between verses in the Scripture or give a strange understanding to the topic the verse is addressing.
In such cases, the advice from the Quran itself is to follow the best meaning derived
"The ones who listen to what is being said, and then follow the best of it. These are the ones whom God has guided, and these are the ones who possess intelligence." (Quran 39:18)
A clear example of a multi-meaning word and how its incorrect application can cause serious problems is the word 'Daraba' which occurs in 4:34 and is primarily used to mean 'beat/strike'.
"The men are to support the women by what God has gifted them over one another and for what they spend of their money. The upright women who are attentive, and keep private the personal matters for what God keeps watch over. As for those women from whom you fear a desertion, then you shall advise them, and abandon them in the bedchamber, and 'Idriboohun'; if they obey you, then do not seek a way over them; God is High, Great." (Quran 4:34)
The choice of 'beat/strike' in this example creates a bizarre meaning as the verse is dealing with the issue of resolving a husband/wife dispute, and that if the final step were to 'beat' ones wife then that is a sure guarantee for ending the marriage rather than fixing it!
The word 'Daraba' has at least 6 meanings in Arabic and are all used within the Quran:
"O you who believe, if you attack (Darabtum) in the cause of God then make a clear declaration, and do not say to those who greet you with peace: 'You are not a believer!' You are seeking the vanity of this world; but with God are many riches. That is how you were before, but God favoured you, so make a clear declaration. God is expert over what you do." (Quran 4:94)
"So how will it be when the Angels put them to death, striking (Yadriboona) their faces and their backs" (Quran 47:27)
"So We sealed (Darabna) upon their ears in the cave for a number of years." (Quran 18:11)
"Shall We take-away (Na'drib) the reminder from you, because you are a transgressing people?" (Quran 43:5)
"Have you not seen how God cites (Daraba) the example of a good word is like a good tree, whose root is firm and its branches in the sky." (Quran 14:24)
"As for the poor who face hardship in the cause of God, and they cannot leave (Darban) the land; the ignorant ones think they are rich from their modesty; you know them by their features, they do not ask the people repeatedly. And what you spend out of goodness, God is fully aware of it." (Quran 2:273)
As such, the best meaning which can be used and which will then give a logical and consistent meaning to the issue of working towards the resolve of matrimonial strife is that the husband yields by 'leaving/separating' rather than letting the wife carry out her wish to leave:
"The men are to support the women by what God has endowed them over one another and for what they spend of their money. The upright women who are attentive, and keep private the personal matters for what God keeps watch over. As for those women from whom you fear a desertion, then you shall advise them, and abandon them in the bedchamber, and separate from them; if they obey you, then do not seek a way over them; God is High, Great." (Quran 4:34)
5. Arrange Similar Topic Verses Together
The study point which has been lacking from Muslims for many centuries is the ability to arrange the Quranic verses by order of subject/topic to seek its meaning.
The Quran itself speaks to us about making such an arrangement under the command of 'Ratil':
"Stand the night except for a little. Half of it, or a little less than that. Or a little more, and arrange (Ratil) the Quran in its arrangement." (Quran 73:2-4)
'Ratil' is an Arabic word which means: 'to arrange things of similarity together'. For example: a series of tanks lined together is called 'Ratil Dababat' (an arrangement of tanks).We would not say 'Ratil' in Arabic if the things together are not similar (i.e. if the series included cars and planes and tanks, the word 'Ratil' cannot be used).
Therefore, if we wanted to study any subject in the Quran in depth, then we would take all the verses which speak about this subject and are scattered throughout the Book and 'arrange them together' (Tarteel).
Next, once we have placed all the verses that deal with a topic side-by-side, then it is time to 'relate its meanings'.
"Your Lord knows that you rise a little less than two thirds of the night, and half of it, and one third of it, as well as a group of those who are with you. And God measures the night and the day. He knows that you will not be able to keep-up, so He pardons you. So study (Iqr'a) what is made easy of the Quran. He knows that there will be sick among you, and others that venture out in the land seeking from God's bounty, and others who are fighting in the cause of God, so study (Iqr'a) what you can of it. And hold the contact-method and contribute towards betterment and give God a loan of righteousness. And whatever you put forth yourselves, you will find it with God, for it is better and a greater reward. And seek God's forgiveness, for God is Forgiving, Merciful." (Quran 73:20)
The word 'Iqra' means: 'relate/understand/study'. As with the word Ratil, this word has been diluted in its usage to simply mean 'recite'. For example: When a person is reading the news from a piece of paper or teleprompter, that person is 'Yatlu' the news (not Qar'a or Iqr'a) However, when a teacher is relating to his students the concepts of relativity in physics, he is 'Yaqra' the lesson (relating its meaning) to them.
Example of Arranging Similar Verses:
Looking to the example of 'divorce,' we find that the subject is scattered in three different chapters (chapter 2, chapter 33, and chapter 65) which, when placed together, provide a complete picture of the proceedings and laws regarding divorce
"For those who are discontent with their wives, let them wait for four months. If they reconcile, then God is Forgiving, Most Merciful." (Quran 2:226)
"And if they insist on the divorce, then God is Hearer, Knowledgeable." (Quran 2:227)
"And the divorced women shall wait for three menstruation periods; and it is not lawful for them to conceal what God has created in their wombs, if they believe in God and the Last Day. And their husbands would then have just cause to return together, if they both wish to reconcile. And for what obligations the women are owed, so similarly must they fulfil their obligations. But the men will have a greater responsibility over them in this. And God is Noble, Wise." (Quran 2:228)
"The divorce is allowed twice. So, either they remain together equitably, or they part ways with kindness. And it is not lawful for you to take back anything you have given the women unless you fear that they will not uphold God's limits. So if you fear that they will not uphold God's limits, then there is no sin upon them for what is given back. These are God's limits so do not transgress them. And whoever shall transgress God's limits, then these are the wicked." (Quran 2:229)
"So if he divorces her again, then she will not be lawful for him until she has married another husband. If the other husband divorces her, then there is no sin that they come back together if they think they will uphold God's limits. These are God's limits, He clarifies them for a people that know." (Quran 2:230)
"And if you have divorced the women, and they have reached their required interim period, then either you remain together equitably, or part ways equitably. And do not reconcile with them so you can harm them out of animosity; whoever does so is doing wickedness to his soul; and do not take God's revelations lightly. And remember God's blessings towards you, and what was sent down to you of the Scripture and the wisdom, He warns you with it. And be aware of God and know that God is Knowledgeable in all things." (Quran 2:231)
"And if you divorce the women, and they have reached their required interim period, then do not prevent them from remarrying their husbands if they amicably agree amongst themselves out of what is best. This is to remind any of you who believe in God and the Last Day, this is better for you and purer; and God knows while you do not know." (Quran 2:232)
"O you who believe, if you marry the believing women, then divorced them before having intercourse with them, then there is no interim required of them. You shall compensate them, and let them go in an amicable manner." (Quran 33:49)
"O you prophet, if any of you have divorced the women, then they should be divorced while ensuring that their required interim is fulfilled, and keep count of the interim. You shall reverence God your Lord, and do not evict the women from their homes, nor should they leave, unless they have committed a proven adultery. And these are God's limits. And anyone who transgresses God's limits has wronged his soul. You never know; perhaps God will make something come out of this." (Quran 65:1)
"Then, once the interim is fulfilled, either you remain together equitably, or part ways equitably and have it witnessed by two just people from among you; and give the testimony for God. This is to enlighten those who believe in God and the Last Day. And whosoever reverences God, He will create a solution for him." (Quran 65:2)
"And He will provide for him whence he never expected. Anyone who puts his trust in God, then He suffices him. God's commands will be done. God has decreed for everything its fate." (Quran 65:3)
"As for the women who have reached menopause, if you have any doubts, their interim shall be three months. And as for those whose menstruation has ceased, and those who are already pregnant, their interim is until they give birth. And anyone who reverences God, He makes his matters easy for him." (Quran 65:4)
"This is God's command that He sends down to you. And anyone who is aware of God, He remits his sins, and will improve his reward." (Quran 65:5)
"You shall let them reside in the home you were in when you were together, and do not coerce them to make them leave. And if they are pregnant, you shall spend on them until they give birth. Then, if they nurse the infant, you shall pay them their due for such. And you shall maintain the amicable relations between you. If you disagree, then another woman may nurse the child." (Quran 65:6)
Here is a summary of the rules for divorce as obtained when arranging all similar verses:
A 'cooling-off' period of four months is required before commencing a divorce. (Quran 2:226)
If they still insist on divorce, then the wife and husband must remain together in the same home during the 'interim-period.' (Quran 65:1)
If the couple reconcile, then divorce may be retracted and cancelled at any point during the interim period. (Quran 2:229)
The divorce is automatically retracted if sexual intercourse takes place between the husband and wife during the interim period. (Quran 65:1)
There is no interim period required if the divorce takes place while no sexual intercourse has ever taken place between the couple. (Quran 33:49)
If the couple still wishes to follow through with the divorce after the end of the interim period, then two witnesses are required to complete the process. (Quran 65:2)
If this is the 3rd divorce, then the couple may not remarry each other unless the woman has been married to another man and then divorced. (Quran 2:230)
As shown in this example of divorce, the simple step of examination of all related verses gives a very detailed conclusion that can be applied in any modern and civil society.
6. Look To Examples In The Quran
Once a meaning is derived, the final accuracy test is to compare such a meaning to the stories related in the Quran if such a story can be found. The reason being that the stories related in the Quran are 'live' examples for us to learn from and compare situations. The stories in the Quran have not been placed there without purpose or simply for our entertainment.
"We relate to you the best stories through what We have inspired to you in this Quran; and before it you were of those who were unaware." (Quran 12:3)
One of the clearest examples for using this method is to deal with the issue of 'theft'. There is one verse that gives the law for theft and its interpretation can vary widely depending on which meaning is ascribed to the Arabic words:
"The male thief, and the female thief, you shall cut/cut-off/sever/separate (Iqta) their hands/resources/belongings/possessions (Aydiyahum) as a punishment for their crime, and to serve as a deterrent from God. God is Almighty, Wise." (Quran 5:38)
The scholars of today and the past have all gone for the 'cut-off the hand' understanding and thus we witness scenes of amputations being carried out in countries which claim to uphold the Quran. However, had they gone through the extra step of looking to the 'examples' within the Quran for application, they would have come to a far different conclusion. The story of Joseph with his brothers provides the clearest and simplest example for how to deal with the subject of theft
"They said: "By God, you know we did not come to cause corruption in the land, and we are no thieves!" He said: "What shall be the punishment, if you are not truthful?" They said: "The punishment is that whomever it is found in his bags, then to compensate is his punishment. It is such that we punish the wicked." (Quran 12:73-75)
Thus, the proper meaning/translation of the verse becomes:
"The male thief, and the female thief, you shall cut from (Iqtau) their resources (Aydiyahum) as a punishment for their crime, and to serve as a deterrent from God. God is Almighty, Wise." (Quran 5:38)
Such a meaning also conforms to the overall laws of Quranic justice: that the punishment should never exceed the crime 16:126.
7. Be Patient And Seek God's Help
Even with all the skill and knowledge we may possess, the study of the Scripture will always be lacking if God is not sought for help and assistance. After all, He is the ultimate teacher of mankind in all things, especially the Scripture.
"So, when you study the Quran, you shall seek refuge with God from Satan the outcast. He has no authority over those who believe, and who put their trust in their Lord. His authority is over those who follow him, and set him up as a partner." (Quran 16:98-100)
Also, do not be scared or confused if your findings or understanding does not conform to what others have said or taught for years or centuries. Truth does not need to conform to the majority to be truth.
"And if you obey the majority of those on Earth they will lead you astray; that is because they follow conjecture, and that is because they only guess." (Quran 6:116)
Finally, remember we are here on this planet to serve God and walk in His path, and not to serve our own agendas and our own egos: "You alone we serve, and You alone we seek for help." (1:5)
You now should have the necessary tools to educate yourself to the Quran's system and method for deriving meanings and laws. Try to make it a habit of seeking the answers for yourself through the guidance of God. Do not be quick to ask 'others' what God says regarding this or that matter, but try to establish the bond with God directly yourself. It is only through this self-awareness that people can have a defense mechanism against the misinformation and ignorance that has been taught for many generations.
Learn to let God be the focus of your actions and your life, and let His words be your guide to success in this life and the next...What will count is not how much wealth we accumulate or how powerful we become, but how we use that wealth to help others and how we use our power and position to help mankind towards betterment.
"O you who believe, do not be distracted by your money and your children from the remembrance of God. And those who do this, then they are the losers. And give from that which We have provided to you, before death comes to one of you, then he says: "My Lord, if only You could delay this for a short while, I would then be charitable and join the righteous!" And God will not delay any soul if its time has come. And God is Expert to all that you do." (Quran 63:9-11)
We are certain that you will find more than what you expect upon reading and studying the Quran. For, although the Scripture is 'finite' in its words and pages, it is 'infinite' in its knowledge and lessons.