How to Understand the Quran Correctly

“The Quran actually says this: “Do not come near salah (prayer).”

These are the very words of the Quran, I tell you!” said one of my teachers to us students in class, back in high school, before bursting out laughing.

I found his joke in very bad taste, but what he was saying was actually true.

He was referring to the verse of the Quran that prohibits praying salah in a state of intoxication, the ruling of which has been long abrogated.

Since then, I have come a long, sad way. I have had the dismal experience of listening to and reading the disdainful opinions of many a self-proclaimed “critic” of religion and Islam, and most of them have very disrespectful and blasphemous things to say about the Quran.

So the question arises, that even though the Quran is undoubtedly a glorious, unparalleled book of guidance, mercy, healing, and spirituality,- why do so many people, both Muslims and non-Muslims, misinterpret its verses and do not get guided towards Islam, i.e. towards submitting themselves humbly to Allah, even after reading it and perusing it deeply and analytically, numerous times?

Why does the Quran not guide them?

The Effect of the Intention

The state and purity of the heart of a person greatly determines how fast and how much they will receive guidance from the Quran once they start to read, study and ponder upon it.

It is the intention inside their hearts with which they approach the Quran, which becomes the crucial determining factor of whether this Glorious book becomes a source of Divine guidance for them, or embodies merely a written piece of text that they read to glean information about Islam, Prophet Muhammad, and poignant events in Islamic history.

In the Quran itself, Allah has described how the Quran guides only those whose hearts are humble, submissive, and receptive to being guided:

{Verily, in this is a Message for anyone who has a heart, or who gives ear, and earnestly witnesses (the truth).} (50:37)

In essence, the light of guidance of the Quran does not enter a hard, blackened heart that does not believe in Allah or does not seek to be guided towards Him, i.e. a heart that does not harbor the burning desire to be guided towards God, nor has the submissive humility that is characteristic of a powerless slave before its all-powerful master.

According to the Quran itself, it is a source of guidance, yes, but only for a person who believes in Allah and becomes conscious of obeying or disobeying Him i.e. the person possesses taqwa:

{This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, for those who are conscious of Allah.} (2:2)

Solitary Reading of the Quran Text

The Quran becomes a source of peace, guidance and mercy for anyone who seeks to become closer to Allah, but it is all the more so for those with a broken soul and a shattered will who want to turn back towards Allah in repentance and submission after they have endured hardship, loss, grief or calamity in life.

Many a people come back towards Allah after they encounter and endure extremely distressful and difficult situations and events in life, which they did not have the strength to bear except with the strong helping hand of Allah that they sought to grasp by picking up the Quran and endeavoring to decipher it.

Nevertheless, although reading the translation of the Arabic text of the Quran, and reflecting upon its meanings alone, in privacy, is very beneficial for the believer who is new to the world of Islam and who does not yet possess greater, more in-depth knowledge of Islam yet,- it is only the tip of the iceberg.

There comes a point in the life of every student of Islamic knowledge, young or old, when reading the translations of the Quran (and hadiths) is just not enough for them. They start pining to understand the language of the Quran directly.

That is because they begin to realize that they are reaching out to Allah via the work of His creation, i.e. by reading the meanings of its text in another language that was a human effort to decode the spoken word (kalam) of their Lord.

Formal Education and Instruction

Although they are a great contribution towards da’wah to non-Muslims, and were a monumental stepping stone in the history of Islam that helped spread the message of the Quran far and wide, translations of the Quran cannot impart that unparalleled, soul-reaching, moving effect that the kalam (audible words) of the Arabic recitation of the Quran can have on a believer’s heart.

It is at this point that the ardent student of knowledge, who seeks to interpret and ponder upon the Quran more deeply, begins to seek ways to be able to understand the language of the Quran – Arabic – directly.

And this he or she can only do when they enroll in a proper course under a teacher, i.e. attend in-person, one-on-one classes under a more learned person or scholar, which deliver Islamic knowledge via formal, structured instruction.

This traditional method of seeking knowledge i.e. ta’leem, is one of the most reliable, effective, and surefire routes that a sincere student of the Quran can acquire in their quest to become closer to Allah via deep reflection of His Book, the Quran.

Staying Clear of the Devils’ Shenanigans

The last thing that I want to point out as a very important factor that one must give heed to while endeavoring to reflect upon and understand the Quran, is the absolute necessity of steering completely clear of any misinterpretations of its verses and distorted meanings derived from its text.

One must acknowledge and be wary of the devils among jinn and mankind who are working day and night to mislead humankind from the Right Path. They never tire in their efforts to keep humans astray and devoid of Divine guidance.

However, it is easy for these devils to mislead those humans who are still far away from the Quran. It is with the religious Muslims that Shaitan employs more devious shenanigans in order to deviate them.

One of the strongest plots that the armies of Iblis use to mislead religiously inclined people, i.e. those who study and propagate the Quran, is to make them glean unauthentic and baseless interpretations of the Quran text; to keep them involved in innovations; and to involve them in useless, time-wasting arguments with each other regarding the meanings of the Quran.

The one who seeks to gain deeper understanding of the Quran must always remember that Allah has taken it upon Himself to protect the Quran from deliberate distortion, which all the previous Scriptures were subjected to by human beings, for personal gains.

Therefore, when seeking to reflect deeper into the meanings of the Quran, it is important to bear in mind that this is the only Book of Allah that has remained free from deliberate errors or manipulations.

Keeping a strict check on one’s aqeedah (belief); joining the circles of knowledge of only those scholars, teachers and du’at who are correct in their belief and ideology; continuing to recite and study the Quran in solitude with deep reflections and ponder; and steering clear of the company, writings and propaganda of the devils among the jinn and mankind who are striving to lead mankind astray with their anti-Quran efforts (such as anti-Islamic/Islamophobic atheists, agnostics, secularists, liberals, humanists, and apostates), are all necessary steps that someone needs to undertake as part of a holistic approach towards understanding the Quran correctly in order to become close to Allah.

{Say: “If the whole of mankind and Jinns were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support.} (17:88)