Broadening Our Comprehension of the Qur’an

A Lecture by Suhaib Webb | Transcribed by Fuseina Mohamad

Surat Al-Fatiha Series: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IV | Part VPart VIPart VIIPart VIIIPart IXPart X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII | Part XIV | Part XV | Part XVI | Part XVII | Part XVIII | Part XIX | Part XX | Part XXI | Part XXII | Part XXIII | Part XXIV | Part XXV


The Qur’an provides a comprehensive understanding of life. We can go to the story of Adam `alayhi assalam (upon him be peace) in which Allah had Adam (as) and his wife removed from Paradise. It’s interesting that, in the Qur’an, Allah used two grammatical forms al-jama’ wa al-muthana (the plural and the dual) in this verse.  Allah says:

“Qala ihbita minha jamee’an.”

“All of you get out of paradise.”

All of you indicates three or more, the plural form.  Sometimes when Allah was talking to Adam and his wife He would say,

“Qulna ahbita minha jamee`an.”

This is muthana, the dual form, meaning:

“You both get out of paradise.”

Why did Allah use the plural form?  Because every human being is the son or daughter of Adam (as).  So when the Qur’an says “Qulna ahbitu Allah is speaking to you and me.  Then He says, “And if there should come to you guidance from Me [and Ibn Kathir said guidance here means books and messengers]— then whoever follows My guidance will never go astray (in the world) nor suffer (in the Hereafter)” (20:123).

So when we take the Qur’an, read it and follow it, we will have a good life in this life, and a good life in the Hereafter. After reading this verse, Ibn Abbas used to say that Allah has promised to amina (to secure, take care of and protect) the one who reads the Qur’an and acts according to the Qur’an; that He will not allow them to be led astray in this life and they will not fear in the Hereafter. Subhan’Allah, this is the Qur’an.  It is a blueprint for how we should live and act in our lives.

Many young adults ask, “Is there anything about gender relations in the Qur’an?”

Allah says, “You read the Qur’an – don’t you think about it?” (2:44). Look at the following story.  It’s just one example of how the Qur’an can help you in your life. Go to the story of Musa (as).  You see, our sisters are being pounded by two extremes: the extreme of feminism and the extreme of the Burger King madhab.

The Burger King madhab is ‘have it your way.’ You want to do this? Okay, fine.  Do whatever you like.  And this is not from our traditional scholars, it was born right here. A sister wants to sit with me? Ok, alhamdullilah, no problem I’ve been looking for a wife anyway!  Or alhamdullilah, no problem she wants to give khutbah (Friday sermon), my mother voted in ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) in the late seventies so alhamdullilah let her give khutbah.  This is the Burger King madhab.

On the other end we have the “shut your mouth, stay home and make dinner” madhab.  So we have the extreme of feminism and the extreme of shut-your-mouth-and-don’t-burn-the-food madhab.  So here are these two extremes and we find our sisters being pounded on all sides. And really, it’s affecting them.

So look at this one example of how the Qur’an gives us the practical example of how to function in daily life. Go to the story of Musa in Surat al-Qasas.  When Musa left Egypt and went to a place called Madyan he came across a well, and there he found two women waiting while a bunch of men crowded around the water, procuring supplies for themselves. What did Musa (as) say?  Did he say, “I seek refuge in Allah from the fitnah (trial) of women?” Did he say, “Astaghfirullah – I seek refuge in Allah!  Go home and cook!” No. And of course, he didn’t go to them and say, “Yo, what’s up? You got AOL?” No. Here are the two extremes.

And what about those sisters? Did they say, “Astagfirullah, astagfirullah! La hawla wa la quwata illa bila (There is no strength or power except in Allah)!  We seek refuge in Allah from men.” Or did they do the opposite and try to talk to the men? No.

What happened in this story is that they came to Musa and said, “Can you help us with the water?”  So women can talk to non-mahram men.  This is proved in the Qur’an.  But how can we talk to them, and in what way should we carry ourselves? When it is a necessity and we’re not flirting.  How many of us have read this story a billion times?  But we never took this hukum (ruling) that the ulema (scholars) took.  So the Qur’an has practical, everyday lessons for us.

Another dangerous understanding that we have is that the Qur’an is above us.

“I can’t read the Quran.”


“I’m not good enough to read the Quran.”

“OK, but you’re good enough to read the Yellow Pages, so you know all about the Yellow Pages but you don’t know what Allah wants from you.”

Sheikh Muhammed Hassan Al Shanqiti said that there are three or four levels in the Qur’an.  One of the levels of the Qur’an is that anyone can read the Qur’an and understand it and apply it.  For example Allah says, “Pray.” This is very clear.  Allah says, “Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him” (4:36).  It’s very clear.

Now if you go to Surat an-Nisa, to the verses about inheritance where Allah says, “Give a fourth to the aunt if the uncle dies….” This is not for everyone.  But there are parts of the Qur’an which, according to the ulema, are for the layman.  Like “Say: He is Allah, [who is] One” (112:1). This is very clear.

We don’t need hours and hours of scrutiny on this verse. It’s very clear. So you should feel that you can approach the Qur’an and understand its basic message.  You shouldn’t go to the Qur’an, for example, and then go to someone and say, “Now I have a fatwa.” Of course not; this is for scholars.  But the basic messages of the Qur’an are made for everyone.  The proof is how many of us can read?  Is there anyone in this audience right now who cannot read? Masha’Allah this is a big ni`ma (blessing) from Allah upon us that we can read.  So who did Allah send the Qur’an to?  People who could not read – al-ummiyyoon (the illiterates).  And they understood the Qur’an, the basic message of the Qur’an, and they applied it in their lives.

I want you to be careful about this.  This is a very dangerous concept, the idea that one is not good enough to approach the Qur’an.  Yes, we are not good enough to approach the Qur’an as, for example, Imam Malik would approach the Qur’an.  But you can approach the Qur’an as the slave of Allah who wants to come close to Allah, who wants to obey Allah, who wants to worship Allah in the way that pleases Him.

You can.

Most definitely.

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.


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