The following guidelines should help in making the collective Quran study effective.
Study Circle Participants
One: The number of participants should be 3-10; with no great divergence in the levels of their knowledge and intelligence. Anything less will make it a dialogue, anything more may hinder the active participation of everyone.
Two: The stress should always remain on the message, context and what guidance and lessons are to be drawn. Never get entangled in fine points which have no relevance to real life.
Three: All members should be fully aware of their aims, limitations and procedures.
Four: All members should have the necessary commitment to their task and realize that time, attention and hard work will be required. It is especially important that regular preparation and attendance are observed.
Five: All members should know how to find their way through the Quran. A study of this book (the author’ Way to the Quran) may be of some use.
Six: The group members should not sit as strangers, but as brothers in faith in the Quran, committed to understanding and obeying it.
How to Conduct a Study Circle
One: One member should, first, make a presentation of the results of his study.
Two: The rest should then join in, further elaborating, correcting, modifying, raising questions, or providing answers.
Three: If all the members are required to study, then you may either designate beforehand who will do the presentation; this will result in better standards of presentation. Or, call upon anyone present to do the presentation; this will keep everyone alert and working hard.
Four: It will always be useful if at least one member of the circle is more knowledgeable and has access to sources. He would, then, during the discussion, overcome any deficiencies and shortcomings in the original presentation. He may also set and steer the tone and direction of discussion.
Five: If one member who is learned in the Quran participates, he should not intervene from the beginning. Rather he should let the participants say what they want to say, and only then, gently correct them if they are wrong, or add to their knowledge. His method should be suggestive and interrogative rather than discursive.
Six: Towards the end, one member, preferably the leader or teacher, should always sum up the broad message of the passage, its main themes, and its call to action.
The following guidelines may help to make a Dars or a Quran lesson effective.
One: Have a fair idea about the audience: such as, their level of knowledge and intelligence, their state of iman, their concerns and worries, and their needs and requirements.
Two: Select the passage in keeping with the state of your audience, rather than what you find yourself eager to expound.
Three: The nature and level of your style, language and exposition should correspond to the nature of your audience.
Four: Pray to Allah to help you in bringing the true message of the Quran to your listeners.
Five: Study the passage and write down your notes: what do you want to say? In what order? How? How do you begin? How do you end?
Six: Give due regard to the time at your disposal. Never exceed your time. You may have a lot of good points and be very eager to pour them all out. But, remember, your listeners have a very limited capacity to retain. They may admire your learning and erudition, but may not learn very much from it.
Long passages can always be dealt with in a short duration and short passages can be dwelt upon for a long duration. It all depends on what you think you have to communicate from the passage under study.
Seven: Give full attention as to what clear message or messages, out of all that you may say, you would like to leave with the listeners for them to retain, reflect and act upon. This must conform with the central idea of the passage, not with your own desires.
How to Deliver
One: You must have only two aims:
Firstly, to seek Allah’s pleasure by doing your duty in making others hear His words.
Secondly, to communicate the message of the Quran clearly and effectively.
Two: Remember that it lies in the hands of Allah to make your communication effective in reaching your listeners’ hearts and minds.
But this does not absolve you from your responsibility for doing your best to prepare as best you can, to deliver as effectively as you can, to bring the message of the Quran in a manner as makes it living and dynamic for them, to make it relevant to their concerns, to make it bear upon their situation.
Your delivery may not be of high oratorical or rhetorical standards, it may be very ordinary but it is your niyyah and effort that count.
Three: You may first read the whole text and give its translation, and then take up the exposition, with or without reading each verse and its translation again. Or, you may give a brief introduction and start by taking up one verse after another, or a group of verses. What procedure you adopt will depend on the time at your disposal and the situation.
Remember that it is not essential to read the whole passage and its translation in the beginning, especially if time is short. You may spend the time better in preparing the listeners for what they are going to hear.
Four: As far as the individual verses or groups of verses are concerned, you may use a mixture of various approaches. If the verse is clear and short, you may first read it and then elaborate. You may turn to the theme before and after your exposition. What you must ensure is that your listeners get a sense of cohesive unity each statement should be seen to flow from the preceding one and lead to the next.
Five: At the end, you must sum up the contents, and emphasize the message. You may also, if you have time, even read the whole text again, or only the translation. Reading the text or translation towards the end serves to bring your listeners in direct contact with the Quran after they have understood what it means in light of your exposition.
Six: Always be on guard that it is the Quran which must speak, and not you. The Quran has been effective, without any exposition, for those who knew the language and the Messenger. It still is.
You may hinder the Quran from speaking not only by inserting your own views too much, but also by your very lengthy and elaborate explanations. By the time you finish your long discourse, your listeners may very well forget what the Quranic text said.
So, firstly, keep your explanations as short as possible; and, secondly, if they have to be long as may be necessary in some instances, you should refer back to the text as often as possible. You should create no distance between the listeners and the text of the Quran, not only in meaning, but also in hearing.
Seven: Model your own exposition on the pattern and style of the Quran. This may be the most effective means of ensuring the success of the occasion.
Initially you may find it difficult, but gradually as you move nearer to the Quran, read it often, memorize it, it will become part of your own style.
You must remember certain characteristics of the Quranic style:
Firstly, that it appeals to both reason and feeling, intellect and soul as one whole.
Secondly, that it is short, precise, direct, personal, and evocative.
Thirdly, that it confronts its listeners with choices and decisions and inspires them to heed and act.
Fourthly, that its language is a powerful as the message, which penetrates deep inside you.
Fifthly, that its argument is always what its listeners are able to understand, that it is always drawn from their everyday experience, that it always finds an echo inside them. Above all, that it is not abstract, logical and speculative.
Eight: Do not make overly abstract statements, nor conceptualize and systematize at the cost of the Quran’s dynamic impact.
Concepts and systematic presentation are vital to the presentation of the Quran’s message, but so long they are made in simple and ordinary language and within the grasp of the audience.
Calls to action; summons to commit, must be essential ingredients of your Dars. Whether it is nature or history, injunction or statement, dialogue or address each should result in some call to respond, to come forward, to decide and to act.
Nine: Do not use the Quran as a pretext to propound your views, instead make yourself an exponent of the word of God.
Ten: Let the Quran make its way to your listeners’ hearts, let it reside there, let it stir impulses of recognition, love, gratitude and awe: this should be the thrust of your Dars.
Eleven: Always remain attentive to the response of your audience. You can always cut an argument short or give up what you may consider valuable to impart, if you feel that it does not interest them or arouse them. You can always introduce new points, styles, and emphasis, depending on what you feel are the demands of the situation.
Taken, with slight modifications, from the author’s Way to the Quran