The Noble Quran is an ultimate source of enlightenment for mankind and how to learn Tafseer of Quran the proper way is definitely a great virtue. Allah Almighty has revealed Quran to guide humankind to be on the right path until the Day of Judgement and seek happiness both in this world and the Hereafter.
Allah SWT, in Holy Quran, mentions: “Verily this Quran guides to the Way that is the Straight most. To those who believe in it, and do righteous works, it gives the good news that a great reward awaits them. (Al-Isra: 9)
Besides mentioning past nations, Quran also contains solutions for all kinds of moral, economic, family, and social life problems, not to mention the valuable information about every modern science. So, in order to follow the commandments of Allah SWT, we need to read and fully comprehend the accurate meaning of the Quranic verses.
It goes without saying that Quranic interpretation doesn’t come naturally to anybody as every verse needs to be read in the context of its revelation. If you wish to understand the true meaning but wonder how to learn Tafseer of Quran, you have landed on the right post. In this article, we’ll shed some light on the description of Tafseer, methods to learn, and its types, followed by the best Tafseer learning online course.
Tafseer or Tafsir is an Arabic term (تفسير), which linguistically means interpretation or exegesis. It means lifting the curtain and shedding light on any matter. This word has come from another Arabic term Fassara, which intends to clarify, explain, or decipher. Tafseer is the accurate interpretation of the Quranic verses, including the Arabic syntax, grammar, literature, and Quranic sciences.
In other words, it constitutes a collection of knowledge intended to describe what the Quran mentions, the orders on which it is based, and the background of its revelation. In the Holy Quran, Allah SWT has explained the word Tafseer further: “And they do not come to you with an example [i.e., argument] except that We bring you the truth and the best explanation”. (Al-Furqan: 33)
Note that how to learn Tafseer of Quran is not an easy task; nobody can do it with ordinary or common intellect and understanding of Islam. Instead, it is carried out by people who hold extensive knowledge about the religion and are familiar with Islamic history in every respect. A person who obtains the vast knowledge of Islam and the Holy Quran is called Mufassir (Arabic: مُفسّر). A Mufassir is such a blessed person in Islam as his extensive knowledge of the Quran enables him to provide interpretation or translation of Allah’s message.
Now that the definition of Tafseer in the Quran has been clarified, it is essential to know how to learn Tafseer of Quran. After the demise of Allah’s Apostle Muhammad (PBUH), his Companions (RAA) and new Muslims sought their understanding of the Quran first from the Quran itself, from the explanation and sayings of the Messenger (PBUH), and then from their own understanding of the verses. All these methods are still in practice and will continue to understand the true meaning of the Quran. For all those thinking about how to start Quran Tafseer, here are the methods explained in a certain order, covering the most authentic and reliable before others:
Studying Tafseer of the Quranic texts using the Quran itself has always been an ultimate and foremost method. This method involves the explanation of one verse by referring to another verse. For instance, if we were to ask the question whether Allah SWT will forgive the person who committed the sin of polytheism or not, the following Quranic verse answers the question:
“Surely Allah does not forgive that a partner is ascribed to Him, although He forgives any other sins for whomever He wills. He who associates anyone with Allah in His divinity has indeed forged a mighty lie and committed a grave sin. (An-Nisa: 48)
However, Allah SWT further tells us in another Quranic verse that He forgives even the idol worshippers if they sincerely repent before departing from the world. Here is that Quranic verse:
“Say (This is addressed to the Prophet), “O My bondmen who have been extravagant against themselves, (i.e., who have committed sins) do not feel despondent of the mercy of Allah! Surely Allah forgives guilty (deeds) altogether; surely He, Ever He, is The Ever-Forgiving, The Ever-Merciful. (Az-Zumar: 53)
Therefore, prior to seeking a clarification or interpretation elsewhere, those wondering how to learn Tafseer of Quran and the meaning behind the verses must rely on the Quran to explain itself, for Allah SWT knows best what He meant.
Another method to study the Tafseer of the Quran is through Sunnah. After Quran, the traditions of Allah’s Prophet (PBUH) stand as a secondary source of guidance for Muslims. People studying how to learn Tafseer of Quran can look for the explanation of the Quran from the traditions and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). In Quran, for instance, Allah SWT says:
“…and eat and drink until the white thread of the dawn becomes distinct from the black thread; then complete the fast up to the night…” (Al-Baqarah: 187)
For this verse, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) provided the following explanation: Narrated by Adi bin Hatim: ‘I said, “O Allah’s Messenger (PBUH)! What is the meaning of the white thread distinct from the black thread? Are these two threads?” He said, “You are not intelligent if you watch the two threads.” He then added, “No, it is the darkness of the night and the whiteness of the day. [Sahih Al-Bukhari]
Thus, people asking how to learn Tafseer of Quran should rely on Sunnah like the Messenger’s Companions (RAA), who used to ask him questions related to Quran for clarification and get remarkable answers.
Another method of how to learn Tafseer of Quran is to learn it through Aathaar (the sayings of Companions (RAA) of Prophet (PBUH)). Many of them spent their lives with the Prophet (PBUH) and knew the Quran better than others, due to their knowledge of the circumstances of its revelation, their true understanding of it, and their righteous deeds.
Their explanations are based on the Quran as they were taught to seek clarification from the Quran first and then Prophet (PBUH). And whenever they were unable to find the true meaning of the verse through Quran or Sunnah, they used to make an interpretation based on their knowledge of the contexts of the verses. So, it is another way to learn Tafseer by looking for the sayings of the Companions (RAA).
Another method for those wondering how to learn Tafseer of Quran is through the language. However, note that literal meaning in one language may not fully intend the actual meaning of the verse. Many instances were seen right after the demise of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the era of his Companions (RAA) and successors.
A lot of changes were observed in the Arabic language, and the vocabulary began to lose its actual meaning due to the use of foreign words. That was the time when the explanation of the literal and grammatical meanings of the Quran was needed. Due to these natural changes in the language, some differences of opinions are also noted. This can be seen in the following verse:
“You who believe, do not come anywhere near the prayer if you are intoxicated, not until you know what you are saying; nor if you are in a state of major ritual impurity- though you may pass through the mosque- not until you have bathed; if you are ill, on a journey, have relieved yourselves, or had intercourse, and cannot find any water, then find some clean sand and wipe your faces and hands with it. God is always ready to pardon and forgive. (An-Nisa: 43)
In Arabic, the literal meaning of the term lams is to touch. Imam Al-Shaafi’ee and Maalik interpreted its meaning as the touch of the hand. Conversely, Imam Abu Hanifa mentioned it as sexual intercourse. However, the Prophet’s wives reported that he often kissed them before offering prayer, which showed that this verse did not intend touching. Therefore, in addition to knowing how to learn Tafseer of Quran the proper way, it is important to consider interpretations done by multiple scholars/experts in comprehending the correct meaning of the verse.
Opinion-based interpretation on the meticulous study of the first four methods can be considered logical provided that they don’t contradict any of those methods. The interpretation that is based on scientific, philosophical, or sectarian notions is utterly prohibited.
Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) was reported to have said: “If anyone interprets the Book of Allah in the light of his opinion even if he is right, he has erred. [Sunan Abi-Dawud]
Therefore, anybody wondering how to learn Tafseer of Quran should go for this approach only after resorting to the first four methods. and having enough knowledge and study to do so.
Concerning the interpretation and outlook, scholars have divided the Tafseer of Quran into two main categories: Tafseer bi-al-riwayah (lit. received Tafseer) and Tafseer bi-al-ra’y (lit. received by opinion).
Tafseer bi-al-riwayah is the first category of Tafseer, which is transferred from the initial days of Islam. This Tafseer is done through the Quran itself, where one verse is interpreted by referring to other verses covering the same subject matter. The second source of how to learn Tafseer of Quran is the traditions of Messenger (PBUH), where his implementation and sayings explain the meaning of the verses. Lastly, it encompasses the explanation of verses done by the Messenger’s Companions (RAA).
Tafseer bi-al-ra’y is the second category of how to learn Tafseer of Quran, which isn’t based on the imparting of knowledge. Instead, it is based on personal reflection or reasoning, also called ijtihad. Ijtihad doesn’t mean random or illogical interpretations. Instead, it is done with the help of comparison between verses, sayings, and traditions of the eminent Messenger’s Companions (RAA). Therefore, with this comparison, the scholars reason and come to a particular interpretation of the Quran.
For every Tafseer, there are varied attributes and traditions, presenting specific schools and doctrines, including Sunni sect, Shia sect, and Sufism. In addition, there are basic differences between typical Tafseers collated by renowned Muslim scholars during the early ages of Islam and modern Tafseer, which aim to address the vaster audience, including the masses.
Here is more information about these two types of Tafsir with examples.
Tafseer Ibn Kathir is regarded as the best Tafseer of the Quran available. Moreover, it is considered the most comprehensive and accepted interpretation of the Quran worldwide. Tafseer of Ibn Kathir encompasses the most excellent presentation of hadiths, Islamic history, and scholarly commentary. But, it may differ from one opinion to another depending on the purpose regarding how to learn Tafseer of Quran.
Abd Allah ibn Abbas (RA), also called Ibn Abbas, was the first exegete (Mufassir) of the Quran. He was the paternal cousin and the Companion of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), known as one of the most outstanding scholars of early Islam. Ibn Abbas grew while doing different services for the Messenger (PBUH) and used to follow his actions and activities. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) often drew him closer, patted him on the shoulder, and prayed: “O Allah, teach him (Ibn Abbas) the Book (i.e., the understanding of the knowledge of Quran). [Sahih Al-Bukhari]
Ibn Abbas devoted his entire life to learning and knowledge. He had extensive knowledge of both sacred and irreverent traditions and critical interpretation of the Quran. From his youth, he gathered a lot of useful information from the other Companions (RAA) of Prophet (PBUH), gave classes, and wrote commentaries, which gave him the title of father of the Quranic exegesis as a result.
Allah SWT has explained all matters of life in the Holy Quran to walk on the right path. And we all Muslims can find the right direction only if we know what exactly Allah has mentioned in the Quran. Therefore, it becomes imperative for Muslims to know how to learn Quran with meaning in order to lead a life according to the teachings of Islam. If you are concerned about how to learn Tafseer of Quran, this is the right post for you.
Considering the importance of the Tafseer of Quran, Riwaq Al Azhar presents the most comprehensive and flexible Online Quran Tafseer Course with extraordinarily talented scholars who have got Islamic education from renowned institutions. With one-to-one interactive online Tafseer classes, our qualified tutors will help you or your children learn the correct interpretation of the Quran and know the scenario in which a certain verse was revealed. So, join our online course aimed at Quran Tafsir for beginners and get a treasure that will help you live a successful life according to Islam.