Notes on Gateway to God’s Book (Qurʼān) by Hamza Yusuf

Notes based on Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s Gateway to God’s Book (Qurʼān) Ramadhan Series.

I recommend you to watch the full 7 part series to get a better understanding of the Qurʼān by the Shaykh as well as other pearls and the Q and A session.

This series is based on the works by ibn Juzayy.

Ibn Juzayy short biography

Imām Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad ibn Juzayy al-Kalbī al-Gharnāṭī al-Mālikī (693/1294 – 741AH/1340), known as Ibn Juzayy was an Arab scholar born in Granada, Spain but from the Yemeni tribe Banu Kalb.

He wrote many religious works such as his al-Qawanin al-Fiqhiyyah or “The Laws of Jurisprudence”, a comparative manual of the jurisprudence of the four Sunni madhhabs (Maliki, Hanafi, Shafi`i, Hanbali) with emphasis on the Maliki school and notices of the views of the Ẓāhirī school and others.

He is also noted for his tafsir of the Qur’an al-Tashil li Ulum al-Tanzil, his book on legal theory Taqrīb al-Wuṣūl ‘ilā ‘Ilm al-Uṣūl or The Nearest of Paths to the Knowledge of the Fundamentals of Islamic Jurisprudence, as well as his treatise on Sufism based on the Qur’an, The Refinement of the Hearts.

One beauty about him is that he wrote his works slely for his son Muhammad, so they are very compact and full of key knowledge.

Ibn Juzayy died as a martyr in the Battle of Rio Salado.

Orion’s Belt

Introduction to the Qurʼān

Some brief notes on what the Shaykh said about the Quran.

  • The Qurʼān abrogates previous books but does not negate them.
  • The Qurʼān is a non-linear book and is not set chronologically. Surah Yusuf is the only linear Surah. Whereas the Bible (and Torah) is very linear. Hamza Yusuf says, God has already revealed a linear book, he doesn’t need to again.
  • Therefore, we see the Qurʼān like the starry night, they look like a jumble of lights, but if you are patient and study them you see a deep pattern i.e. the science of Astronomy. If you study the Qurʼān, you will also see the patterns. And it’s a pattern that is extraordinary.
  • In truth there is no repetition in the Qurʼān, everything is there on purpose, and each time giving a different message.
  • The miracle of the Qurʼān is the miracle of the language and rhetoric used.
  • The secret of the Qurʼān is the impossibility of the Balagha by man. The method of the portrayal is amazing.
  • The Qurʼān is Kaleidoscopic, it has all views at once. What does the Ant know about the pattern of the Persian carpet? It just runs from one colour to another, then another. So we need to rise above and see it from a bird’s eye perspective. Also only Allah can encompass the Qurʼān alone.
  • Qurʼān is not a copy of the Bible. It is a different book with a different purpose.
  • Qurʼān is never black and white, it recognises there are good people in a bad group and bad people in a good group, like the bad from the people of Moses and the girl in Pharaoh’s circle who said Bismillah.

Defining Tilawaḥ

To the Qari, this means to recite the book – give every letter its due and each circumstance like hunna.

To the Jurist, Tilawaḥ means to follow. So to follow as it’s recited.

Therefore it is said ‘Recite with the tongue, believe with the heart and act to it with the limbs.’

Major Themes of the Qurʼān

The Theologians say the Qurʼān is ‘indications that utterances convey that are eternal with Allah.’

The Jurists say Qurʼān is ‘an utterance revealed to Prophet ﷺ in order to incapacitate creation, i.e. a miraculous book that can’t be replicated and a means of devotion.

Ibn Juzay says, ‘The purpose of the Qurʼān is Invitation to the creation, to believe in him and worship him and then enter into a transaction with him.’

Indeed this Qur’an is the banquet of Allah, so learn as much as you can from the banquet of Allah. Indeed this Qur’an is the strong rope of Allah and it is the clear guidance and it is a beautiful cure, a protection for those who cling to it and a salvation for those who follow it.

Nothing is bent or corrupted except that the Qur’an rectifies it, nor deviated but that it reprimands them. Its marvels do not fade nor is the sweetness of it decreased by the frequency of those who recite it.

So recite it, for indeed Allah will bestow upon you ten times the single reward for your recitation of each letter. I do not say Alif Laam Meem is a letter, but Alif is a letter, Laam is a letter and Meem is a letter.

The Prophet ﷺ said Reported by al-Hakim

What is Human creation?

Genus is the common factor and Species is the difference between us. So we are in the Genus of Animals and Humans species.

Greek say Human is a rational being whose supreme dignity is in his intelligence.

For the Jew and Muslim it is a free individual that has the ability to enter in to covenant to God. And supreme dignity is in to obey and submit to God.

To Christians a fallen creature wounded through sin and whose supreme dignity is accepting grace through sacrifices.

The Summation of the Qurʼān

The Qurʼān can be summarised by:

  1. Delineate worship to the creator
    1. Foundations of belief (Aqidah)
    2. Rules (Šharī’ah)
  2. Provide motivation to do so repeatedly
    1. Enticement
    2. Deterrence

We are designed to respond to the Carrot and Stick. Mostly motivated by Enticement, and it is what the Qurʼān does. Most people think it is about the fire of hell, even warning is a form of Mercy.

The Detailed Exposition of the Qurʼān

A comprehensive Exposition is as follows:

There are 7 Purposes of the Qurʼān:

  1. Knowledge of the Lord – Begins with Lord and ends with Nass (people), the message is in between, this is the message from the Lord to the Naas. Also, Allah says ‘…Rabil Alameen’, Rab instead of ila, the Rab is the one who sustains, provides and nourishes. Rab is more imminent, whereas ila is further.
    1. Affirms existence of the Maker
    2. Explains the creation indicated a create
    3. Affirms unity of God
    4. Refutes those who associate powers/deities with God
    5. Provides the attributes of God
  2. Prophethood – Tells us about prophecy. They differ in Šharī’ah, but Aqida is the same, All Prophets are brothers from different mothers. Mother is Šharī’ah, and father is Aqida.
    1. Confirm Prophethood (previous Prophets)
    2. Confirm Prophethood of Prophet Muḥāmmād ﷺ
    3. Confirm previous Scriptures
    4. Confirm Angels and their duties
    5. Refutes arguments of Disbelievers (towards the Prophet ﷺ)
    6. Provide statements of comfort for the Prophet ﷺ
  3. Resurrection – The place where we go back to or eschatology
    1. Confirm resurrection
    2. Provide arguments for a resurrection
    3. Refute those who reject the resurrection
    4. Describe what will be experienced in the afterlife – Heaven, Hell, The Account, the Scales, etc
  4. Legal Rulings – The Šharī’ah itself
    1. Commands and Prohibitions – Obligatory, Recommended (inc. Sunnaḥ and Nafl), Permissible, Disliked and Prohibited
    2. Relates to our body like prayer and fasting
    3. Relates to wealth like zakat
    4. Relates to matters of the heart
  5. Divine Promise
    1. Good of the Dunya like prominence and victory
    2. Good of the Aḵira like Heaven
  6. Divine Threat – Allah can break his threat and it doesn’t diminish him in his Lordship, but he won’t break his promise.
    1. Punishment in the Dunya
    2. Punishment in the Akhira like Hell.
  7. Stories (I would say Parables is a better word)
    1. Stories of earlier Prophets and other peoples
    2. The wisdom behind the reoccurrence of stories
      1. Sometimes concise and sometimes amplify another point, used as part of the rhetoric – The first time Ibrahim is mentioned, he gave salam to the angels and the second time it mentions the fear he had. But at both times…it is relevant to what Allah is trying to tell us.
      2. Different details of the particular story in different Surahs
      3. Told with particular aims, so repeated with a different aim
        1. Affirming Prophecy and miracles that took place in their hands
        2. Stating how previous nations were destroyed
        3. Confirming the Prophecy of our Prophet ﷺ by narrating stories he could not have known
        4. Affirming the unity of God
        5. Considering the severity and power of God for those who reject
        6. Console the Prophet ﷺ regarding his people
        7. Comforting the Prophet ﷺ and promising him victory
        8. Engendering fear of punishment of those who reject the message
        9. Presenting the wondrous events of Prophets and disputes with those who rejected the message.

The first time Ibrahim is mentioned he gave peace to the angels and the second time it mentions the fear he had. But at both times.. it is relevant to what Allah is trying to tell us.

The 7 purposes can be said are in the Fatiha. No. 1 is the 1st and 2nd verse. No. 3 is the 3rd verse. No. 4 is the 4th verse. No. 2 is the 5th Verse and 6th Verse, No. 5 is the 6th verse. No. 6 is the 7th verse. No. 7 is the 7th verse (وَلَا ٱلضَّآلِّينَ).

Science of Tafsīr

12 sciences need to be mastered to be able to interpret the Qurʼān successfully, exegesis, to interpret soundly and free from error.

  1. Creedal foundations – The Aqida of the Muslims
    1. Ilahiyat
    2. Nabuwat
    3. Samihaat (things we know through revelations)
  2. Juristic foundations – The principles of jurisprudence, how we derive legal rulings
  3. Vocabulary – Including etymology, nuances and other very subtle elements relating to language
  4. Grammar – Language (Nahu), Literature, Morphology,
  5. Linguistic style – Rhetoric, Metaphor
  6. Tafsīr – know what previous Tafsīr say like Tabari is important as compilation of lots of opinions. Then also the various Qurʼān Commentaries. Fakkhurdin Razi wrote the first philosophical Qurʼān.
  7. Qira’at – This is the mode of recitation, the Qurʼān is agreed upon but there are various styles of recitation, 10 are mutawatir, and some include another 4 so 14 in total. And then including the Riwayah (transmission), there’s about 40 in total. The two most important are from Imam Nafi‘ al-Madani (Riwaya: Qalun and Warsh) which is mainly used in North Africa and Imam Aasim ibn Abi al-Najud (transmission: Shu’bah and afs) which most of the Muslim world recites. This also includes knowing Tajwid and the deep science of Tajwid.
  8. Legal Rulings – The Šharī’ah
  9. Abrogation – Verses that have been abrogated or claim to be abrogated
  10. Hadith studies – The Hadith support many verses the Quran to help us understand. But there aren’t that many really. One wisdom is to not affix a meaning, as the Quran is eternal and the meanings can be understood differently.
  11. Historical accounts – General History, comparative study
  12. Tassawuf  – Understanding the inner of man

Other Notes on the Qurʼān

Ilm Rubibbiyah

Rab means, there are 4 types. Ishtiqaq is the science of the derivation of the words that share letters have a share a meaning, even if not in same order, like (add Arabic letters) A L M, A M L, L M H Knowledge, Action, to Gleam, like a scholar who is now full of knowledge. One meaning of Rab is the one who nurtures. And Allah is Rabbil Alameeen, essentially the whole of creation, everything depends on him. The Shaykh didn’t explain the 4 types.


Imam Malik says Basmala was only in Anakabut (He may have meant Al-Naml), but other than that was used as a separator of the Surah’s. But there are multiple opinions.

How the Qurʼān broken down in Juz

Initially, people read Qurʼān once a month, so 30 Juz for 30 days. And then Hizbs to break it down further. Also further broken for reading in 7 days. And then for memorisation and Tarawih.

Significance of Yasin

Surah Yasin is the heart of the Qurʼān. Physical Heart is Surah Isra. Relates to death. Constant reminders of the temporariness of this world is repeated in the Qurʼān.

Uncreated word

HY briefly speaks on the Qurʼān being uncreated – this is from subtle aspects of theology. The Mushaf came in to the world physically and when we recite there is articulation of sounds therefore created, but Allah’s speech is eternal speech. This issue should not be considered so much, it came up as Christians said Qurʼān is God in Book form, so what’s wrong with God in man’s form.


In linguistic the phonemes like AA EE OO are meaningless. Only when brought together it has meaning. But the Qurʼān is saying it all has meaning, like alif laam meem is not meaningless. Somebody put Muqaṭṭaʿāt together in a sentence نصٌّ حكيمٌ له سرٌّ قاطعٌ which means ‘A Wise Text with an Indisputable Secret.’

Muhkam and Mutashabih

These are the clear and ambiguous verses. Allah knows the true meanings. Most verses are clear. The ones with firm belief say we believe in it no matter what our understanding of it is.


  • HY advises instead of other Awrads, read Qurʼān. Awrad are additional to Qurʼān. Focus on the Awrad after you read Qurʼān regularly, then any Awrad from the Sunnah first like Yasin after Fajr. And finally by the Awlia.
  • HY speaks on Al-Jawahir by Imam Ghazali but never touches on it later
  • Tilawaḥ has a profound effect on the heart, so just because you don’t understand Arabic, don’t think you don’t need to read it. But learn Arabic. Don’t rush the Arabic.

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