Tafseer of Seven Short Surahs For Young Muslims (Quiz Included)

I was invited by a Muslim organization to do a tafseer series focusing on young Muslims to cover the most often recited chapters of the Qur’an. This is something that I had been wanting to do for a while but just didn’t have time but alhamdulillah this Ramadan Allah opened an opportunity for me to be able to prepare something for Muslim youth. Our kids should, at the bare minimum, understand what Allah is saying to them in the chapters that they often read, hear, and memorize.

The links below are to these tafseer lectures with a brief analysis of each verse focusing on young Muslims. As a bonus, I am also providing my lecture slides for further study for those who want to do so. I also created a quiz for most of the chapters to test the students’ knowledge after the session.

These lectures were given by me over Zoom to an audience of 50+ Muslim families with youth boys and girls.

Surah al-Fatihah | Lecture Slides


Surah al-Asr | Lecture Slides

Surah al-Kawthar | Lecture Slides

Surah al-Nasr | Lecture Slides


Surah al-Ikhlaas | Lecture Slides


Surah al-Falaq | Lecture Slides


Surah al-Naas | Lecture Slides


Tafseer of “O believers! Fasting is prescribed for you—as it was for those before you—so perhaps you will become mindful ˹of Allah˺”

Allah Says in the Qur’an:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

O believers! Fasting is prescribed for you—as it was for those before you—so perhaps you will become mindful ˹of Allah˺ [Qur’an 2:183]

O believers! Fasting is prescribed for you

Linguistically, the Arabic word for fasting (الصِّيامُ) means to refrain from something. In Islamic law, the word specifically refers to abstaining from food, drink, and sexual intercourse with intention.

as it was for those before you

There are three opinions among Muslim scholars who this refers to:

  1. It refers to the People of the Book
  2. It refers to the Christians only
  3. It refers to people of all [previously revealed] religions

In what way were those before us prescribed fasting similar to us? There are two opinions among Muslim scholars:

First Opinion

Their fasting was similar to us in ruling and description but not number of days. Sa’eed ibn Jubayr said, “It was prescribed for them that if one of them slept before eating, then it was forbidden for that person to eat or drink until the following night. They were also forbidden to have sexual intercourse during the night [if intending to fast during the following day]. However, the Muslims were given concessions to such rules.” This would mean then that this verse was abrogated by the verse, “It has been made permissible for you to be intimate with your wives during the nights preceding the fast” [Qur’an 2:187].

Second Opinion

Their fasting was similar to us in the number of days only. There are two statements among the scholars on what this means:

First: In the beginning of Islam, there was an obligation to fast three days of every month and it was this same obligation prescribed for those before us. Then this ruling was abrogated by the obligation of fasting in Ramadan. This was reported by Ibn ‘Abbas and Qatadah. This means this verse was abrogated by the verse, “Ramaḍan is the month in which the Quran was revealed as a guide for humanity with clear proofs of guidance and the standard ˹to distinguish between right and wrong˺. So whoever is present this month, let them fast” [Qur’an 2:185].

Second: It was the month of Ramadan itself that was made obligatory on the Christians as well. Perhaps this occurred during the hottest period of the year and they found it difficult, so they changed it to some period between winter and summer. Then they made expiation for it by fasting extra 20 days. If this is the case, then it means this verse is fixed and not abrogated.

so perhaps you will become mindful ˹of Allah˺

There are two opinions on what this means:

First Opinion

Meaning perhaps you will become mindful of Allah with regards to things which are forbidden for you during fasting, such as, eating, drinking, and sexual intercourse. This was said by Abu Ja’far al-Tabari.

Second Opinion

Meaning that fasting can be a reason for the person to return to taqwa (being mindful of God) because during it the self is overcome, the desires are broken, and there is departure of pleasure [i.e. because the person is in a weaker state due to hunger, it is easier to avoid falling into sins, which is the essence of taqwa]. This was said by Az-Zajjaj.

Sources: Tafseer Ibn Jawzi and Tafseer al-Mawardi

Tafseer of Surah al-Qadr – The Thinking Muslim

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ

Indeed, We sent the Qur’an down during the Night of al-Qadr (Laylat al-Qadr)

Meaning, we sent down this miraculous Qur’an to you, O Muhammad (pbuh), during a noble night called Laylat al-Qadr. It is called by this name due to its honor and high rank with Allah. It is a night in which Allah shines divine light onto the people of earth.

The word al-Qadr means honor and nobility.

The meaning of We sent the Qur’an is that the revelation began during this night. The remaining of it was sent down in parts over a period of 23 years. Ibn ‘Abbas said, “Allah sent down the Qur’an all at once from the Preserved Tablet (al-lawh almahfuz) to the Bayt al-‘Izzah in the lowest heaven. Then it was sent down to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) according to circumstances over a period of 23 years.”

وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ

And what can make you know what is Night of al-Qadr?

This is a rhetorical question for the purpose of showing esteem and glorification for this night’s extreme importance. The meaning here is, “What will make you realize, O Messenger, what the Night of al-Qadr is?!”

لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ خَيْرٌ مِّنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ

The Night of al-Qadr is better than a thousand months

Meaning, this night in honor and merit is better than worshiping a thousand months.

تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِم مِّن كُلِّ أَمْرٍ

The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter

Meaning, the angels come down to earth during this blessed night with the Angel Jibreel himself, who is the leader of the angels, in order to celebrate whatever Allah has Decreed of good for mankind.

سَلَامٌ هِيَ حَتَّىٰ مَطْلَعِ الْفَجْرِ

Peace it is until the emergence of dawn

Meaning, during this blessed night there is only peace and security from its beginning to its end. Allah only decrees in it good and safety for human beings. There are no catastrophes, disasters, earthquakes, thunder, floods, etc. There is only goodness and blessings the entire night. The angels, and Jibreel along with them, pray and send peace over every slave standing worshiping Allah or sitting doing remembrance (dhikr) of Allah. They do not stop descending on them until dawn (Fajr)!

There are three things which Allah mentions specifically special about this blessed night:


Worshiping Allah during this night is equal to worshiping Him more than 1000 months (83+ years)! Any worship or act of obedience done to Allah during this night is as if it was done for more than a 1000 months!


The angels descend down to earth on this very blessed night in celebration of it. The Angel Jibreel, the chief of all the angels, comes down along with them.


Allah decrees in it only safety and security for mankind and there is happiness and delight in it for those on earth and heaven. This is the great value this night holds with Allah!

Source: Al-Tafseer al-Waadih al-Muyassar by Sh. Muhammad Ali al-Sabuni

How to Study Tafseer Properly

For beginner level tafseer study, I would highly recommend Muhammad Ali Sabuni, Al-Mukhtasar fee al-Tafseer, and Tafseer Sa’di.

Muhammad Ali Sabuni

It’s too good. He has gathered and summarized the past tafseers in concise and easy language and also adds his own reflections from time to time. It’s probably one of the best beginner level tafseers written. If you read it properly, it will help you in more advanced studies in tafseer later on. It’s also excellent to use to prepare lectures, khutbas, or tafseer, halaqas for beginners and kids. He has two for beginners and both are excellent. I’m actually shocked that nobody has even bothered to translate it into English:

Al-Mukhtasar fee al-Tafseer

This was written by a group of scholars who specialize in tafseer. It’s good if you want to just get the intended meaning without the details. Many of the explanations are just one sentence long. It’s a good resource for a quick look up and has some sort of commentary on every verse of the Qur’an. You can download it here.

Tafseer Sa’di

I read this mainly as a tazkiyyah (spiritual) supplement. He often extracts beautiful tazkiyyah benefits from verses which really melt your heart. It also helps that it is precise. You can view it here. This tafseer has been translated now into English as well.

My Own Notes on Tafseer

I am currently working on putting together a beginner level tafseer using various sources. It’s currently in the works and I’ve done over 40 chapters thus far. The objective is to have some sort of commentary on every verse of the Qur’an in plain and simple English. My original reason for doing this was so I can go to any verse of the Qur’an and find it’s meaning not just for myself but also to pass on to my kids. It’s an ongoing project and you can view them all here.

Intermediate Level

For intermediate level tafseer study, my favorite one at the moment is Ibn Jawzi’s Zaad al-Maseer. It’s the first place I go to whenever I want to find out the various opinions about a verse. He keeps it precise without the long details and evidence. So it’s an excellent resource to quickly find various opinions about the meaning behind verses. Occasionally, I’ll go to Ibn Kathir for further discussion and evidence behind the opinions. This should not be confused with Dar-us-Salam’s summarized English translation of Ibn Kathir, which is very selective and is nowhere near the actual Arabic one in detail or quality. They often skip whole paragraphs and arguments that he brings in his book. I would not even call it a summary. It should be translated as “Selections from Ibn Kathir.”

Additional Points

Shaykh Haitham Hamdan recommends the following three steps to learning tafseer:

  1. Get yourself a brief tafseer book, one or two volumes. Such as Al-Jalalayn, Zubdat Al-Tafseer, or Al-Tafseer Al-Muyassar.  Spend a few years in totally absorbing/memorizing one of these books. Do not refer to any other book of tafseer. The idea is that you become familiar with an understanding of each Qur’anic verse, without paying attention to disputes over tafseer. Whenever you come across a verse you must be able to recall a full understanding of it according to this book.
  2. Then move on to an intermediate tafseer, such as Ibn Katheer’s.  Stick to it for several years until you have absorbed it all.
  3. Finally, get one or more advanced tafseers, such as Al-Tabari’s. Or get a specialized tafseer such as one on Fiqh, such as Qurtubi, or linguistic tafseers, such as Abu Hayyan’s.

For an even more thorough look into this topic, I strongly suggest reading through this page.

Principles of Tafseer: Notes on the Summary of Shaykh Musa’id al-Tayyar’s Work on Usool al-Tafseer

These are my complete notes on the book Lubaab al-Tahreer fee Usool al-Tafseer, which is a summary of a much larger book by Shaykh Musa’id ibn Sulayman al-Tayyar’s remarkable work on the topic of principles of tafseer. Shaykh Musa’id is considered one of the most influential people in the field of principles of tafseer in the modern era. 

I first came to learn of Shaykh Musa’id in a course related to various tafseer books written throughout the ages and their impact. It was then that I decided to go through the summary of the book and produce English notes based on it for eager students of knowledge who are not yet able to benefit from Arabic books. However, I became busy with some other projects and was not able to dedicate the appropriate time for this very small but useful endeavor. 

This is an important and serious topic of study for anyone wanting to delve deeper into tafseer literature. It looks to answer questions such as: what exactly is tafseer? What are the sources of tafseer? Why do scholars differ about the meaning of a verse? What is the difference between an acceptable and rejected tafseer? If there are differences of opinion over the tafseer of a verse, how do we judge between them? The book and the notes expect some level of basic understanding of the topic, therefore, the writing will not be as detailed as someone completely unfamiliar with the topic would want it to be.

I pray the reader is able to benefit from them as much as I did while noting them down and that it serves as a means to draw the reader closer to His perfect book and to connect with the marvelous contributions in tafseer made by the luminaries of this ummah.

Brief Tafseer of First 10 Verses of Surah al-Kahf


  • This is one of five chapters of the Qur’an which begin with the word Alhamdulillah to teach us how to praise Allah. The other chapters are Fatihah, An’aam, Saba’, and Faatir.
  • It is reported in a hadith that whoever memorizes the first 10 verses of Surah al-Kahf will be protected from the Anti-Christ (Dajjal) [Reported by Muslim]. Some narrations say it is the last 10 verses.
  • The Prophet ﷺ recommended to recite Surah al-Kahf on Fridays (night or morning) and stated that it will be a light for him until the following Friday.
  • The purpose of this chapter is to make clear how to deal with different types of tribulations and provides various examples of people going through different types of trials in their lives and how they dealt with it.

Tafseer of the Verses

1 – All praise is for Allah Who has revealed the Book to His servant, allowing no crookedness in it

  • Meaning praise your Lord who sent the Qur’an down to His servant Muhammad ﷺ. This Qur’an is the greatest blessing given to mankind.
  • Allah made the Qur’an such that it guides clearly to the straight path without any deviation from it. It is free of any mistakes or errors. Allah has promised to preserve it. The other books revealed in the past were not given such a guarantee, therefore, they were changed and corrupted over time by the people. Due to the fact that the Qur’an is the final book, it must be protected.
  • Whenever Allah praises Himself, it is to teach us because it is He who is the origin of all existence, everything that we have comes from Him, thus, He alone truly deserves all praise. All of existence is dependent on Him yet He is not dependent on anything.
  • Al-Hamd (praise) in Arabic incorporates love and glorification and is of a higher level than  gratitude (shukr), which it also incorporates into its meaning.
  • The Arabic word ‘Allah’ is a unique name reserved only for Him.
  • Allah refers to the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as His servant in order to honor and distinguish him and to show His closeness to him. In origin, every single thing in creation is His servant because He is their Creator and has complete control and power over them.

2 – ˹making it˺ perfectly upright, to warn ˹the disbelievers˺ of a severe torment from Him; to give good news to the believers—who do good—that they will have a fine reward

  • The Qur’an warns the disbelievers of a severe punishment and gives glad tidings to the believers of everlasting paradise.
  • The warning will be an evidence against the disbelievers on the Day of Judgment and is also a lesson for the believers to remain firm and steadfast on the straight path and not to wander off.
  • It is actually a form of mercy from Allah that He warns us in this life by sending prophets and books to us so that we can have opportunities to save ourselves from eternal punishment in the afterlife.
  • Allah constantly links good deeds with faith throughout the Qur’an, which means that belief without action is incomplete. A true believer does not only believe with his/her heart but also performs deeds mandated by that belief (prayer, fasting, Hajj, obedience to parents, speaking the truth, avoiding sins, etc.).

3 – in which they will remain forever;

  • The believers will remain in this paradise, enjoying its pleasures, for all eternity and will never be separated from it.
  • We believe that both paradise and hell will remain forever and that both have already been created and exist right now.
  • Allah created people with the power to choose but some chose to remain astray, despite the opportunities in their lives to change their ways for the better, so Allah let them have their way and they ended up in hell. As for those who entered paradise, they took the opportunities to obey Allah and change their lives for the better. This is why people of hell complain on the Day of Judgment, as mentioned in the Qur’an, to send them back and not that Allah was unfair with them, “If you could but see when the criminals are hanging their heads before their Lord, [saying], “Our Lord, we have seen and heard, so return us [to the world]; we will work righteousness. Indeed, we are [now] certain” (Qur’an 32:12).

4 – and to warn those who claim, “Allah has offspring.”

  • This could be in reference to the Christians who claim that Jesus is the son of God or to the pagans of Mecca who believed that the angels were Allah’s daughters. It could also be in reference to both.

5 – They have no knowledge of this, nor did their forefathers. What a terrible claim that comes out of their mouths! They say nothing but lies

  • There is neither proof nor evidence for their claims that Allah has offspring. It is a pure slander and lie without any basis. Most of them are just blindly following their forefathers in such repulsive claims without giving it much thought.
  • The idea that Jesus is the son of God was only crystallized in 325 CE at the council of Nicea. Arius, Bishop of Alexandria, vehemently opposed it. However, Constantine, who had just converted from Roman paganism, enforced it through military might across the empire. Over time, the Unitarian movement among Christians, who did not believe Jesus to be the son of God, disappeared with rare pockets here and there.

6 – Now, perhaps you ˹O Prophet˺ will grieve yourself to death over their denial, if they ˹continue to˺ disbelieve in this message

  • The Prophet ﷺ constantly worried and distressed over the faith of his people who refused to accept his message and constantly turned away from it. He cared about them and did not want them to be eternally punished in hell. He is being told by Allah in this verse, as a form of consolation, not to do this, as giving them guidance is not his responsibility; he is only responsible for conveying the message, thus, he should not worry too much about it.
  • There is a lesson in this for us too who invite others to Islam. We must realize that we can only deliver the truth of Islam’s message and whether people accept it or not is up to Allah not us. We cannot force others to believe.  We should convey the message and to utilize all means which could lead to their guidance, and to block all paths of misguidance and deviation as much as possible, along with putting full trust in Allah. If someone is guided, then this is good, if not, then there is no need to overly stress over it as long as we’ve done our part of conveying the message of Islam.

7 – We have indeed made whatever is on earth as an adornment for it, in order to test which of them is best in deeds

  • This is describing the reality of this temporal worldly life. All that Allah created on it of ornaments, gold, silver, properties, minerals, etc. are mere adornments in order to test to see who does the best actions in obedience to Allah and who does the worst, then the people will be accordingly rewarded or punished.
  • Note that the Allah said, ‘best in deeds,’ and not the ‘most deeds’, because the crucial factor is their quality of goodness and not their ‘quantity’. A good deed is anything that is done sincerely for the sake of Allah and complies with Islamic law.
  • The tests serve to confirm Allah’s Justice and Mercy on the Day of Judgment; that those going to hell deserve it and those going to paradise only got there by His grace.
  • Although not every test may be passed, even in failure the believers grow by learning spiritual lessons to help them in future tests. Tests of this life can also come in the form of misfortune and calamities which contribute to the spiritual growth of the true believers, and purify them of sin, if they are patient with the trials.

8 – And We will certainly reduce whatever is on it to barren ground

  • A time will come when Allah will break down the earth and everything on it to dust free from any vegetation and this will be after the lifespan of the creation on earth expires. So all the beauty and dazzle that we witness in this world will one day be completely wiped out. Allah will make all of these things fade away and the earth will return to a bare dry state with all its sweetness gone. Its rivers will stop flowing and all traces of them will disappear, and the world’s pleasures will all vanish.
  • It is describing the temporal nature of this life, hence, we were advised by the Prophet ﷺ to live like a traveler who rests under a tree for a few hours to take shade and then moves on with his journey. Muslim only takes from the world what will aid him/her to fulfill the purpose of his/her creation, and he/she takes full advantage of the opportunities given to do righteousness in this short life.

9 – Have you ˹O Prophet˺ thought that the people of the cave and the ar-Raqeem were ˹the only˺ wonders of Our signs

  • The subject now shifts to a story of a people who were not attached to this world as an example for us to follow.
  • Meaning do not think, O Messenger, that the story of the people of the cave and the tablet on which their names were written are from our amazing signs. In fact, other signs such as creating the heavens and earth are more amazing. Signs of Allah in the creation are far more apparent than the miraculous stories of other humans. The universe as a creation is far more complex than human beings.
  • The story of the ‘Seven Sleepers of Ephesus’ is mentioned in the Bible as well. Ephesus is a city on the west coast of Asia minor, which is in modern Turkey. The Qur’an clarifies facts about what happened and the lessons to be learnt from it. Though we may never know the full detail account and it is difficult to decipher fact from fiction with the different versions, here is what one version states: They were Christian soldiers who under pagan Roman emperor Decius were forced to hide themselves in a cave (due to his persecution of Christians), near their native city of Ephesus, in order to avoid having to perform pagan sacrifices. Christians had come under persecution at this time in 250 CE. They fell into a miraculous sleep until the fifth century during the reign of the Easter Roman emperor Theodosius II (408 CE – 450 CE). Cave was reopened during his reign and they awoke. The emperor himself was moved by their story. After their story spread and the people came from all over to see them, they died. The emperor ordered that their remains be put into a shrine. He absolved all of the bishops that he had been previously persecuting for their belief in resurrection.
  • Ar-Raqeem has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Ka‘b and as-Suddee said it was the town from which the youths fled; Sa‘eed ibn Jubayr and Mujaahid said it was a stone or lead plaque on which their names were written and placed over the mouth of the cave. This was also the opinion of al-Farraa’ and Ibn ‘Abbaas. Others said it was the name of their dog, the valley they were in, or the name of the mountain in which the cave was located.

10 – ˹Remember˺ when those youths took refuge in the cave, and said, “Our Lord! Grant us mercy from Yourself and guide us rightly through our ordeal.”

  • These young men were being persecuted for their religious beliefs and being forced to worship idols. In order to safeguard their faith, they fled their city and took refuge in a cave in order to escape being hunted and forced into paganism. This is considered hijrah (migration) for the sake of their faith and continues till today. If anyone feels threatened to lose their faith in a land and he/she is able to migrate to another safe location, then he/she must do so.
  • Some scholars noted that this verse is very explicit about fleeing for the sake of one’s religion and the abandonment of family, children, relatives, friends, land and wealth out of fear of trials and the persecution a person may experience. Of course, this is assuming that the family, children, relatives, and friends are not supportive of the believer who is abandoning them.
  • When these youth arrived in the cave, they supplicated to Allah asking Him of His grace and mercy and to keep firm their hearts on faith before their tyrant king and that He make them among the rightly guided. The youths sought refuge in the cave, but there was no guarantee that the cave would protect them. So, after doing what they could, they turned to Allah trusting Him to look after their affairs.
  • Their supplication could also mean, “Our Lord, give us mercy from Yourself, by forgiving our sins and saving us from our enemies, and grant us guidance towards the right path and correctness in the matter of migrating from the disbelievers and in faith.” Ibn Abbas said that their supplication was asking for an exit from the cave and safety.
  • Messenger of Allah ﷺ preferred seclusion and so did a number of scholars, especially during times of persecution and corruption.
  • Some said the reason the first 10 verses protect from the Anti-Christ (Dajjal) is because they remind us to flee with our religion when it is threatened with trials and tribulations, just as these youth did, and when the Ant-Christ appears, the Prophet ﷺ suggested to flee from him as well and not to face him.