Fulfilling the Proprieties of the Qur’an
Shaykhul-Hadeeth Maulana Muhammad Zakariyyah Kandhlawi رحمه الله
Sayyiduna ‘Abdullaah ibn Mas‘ood رضي الله عنه said, “If you seek knowledge then ponder into the meanings of the Qur’an.”
The Qur’an is a trove of sacred knowledge and guidance for all times, but to acquire this knowledge one must fulfill the necessary conditions and proprieties of the Qur’an. Unfortunately, we live in an era where once a person learns a bit of the Arabic language and memorizes the translation of the Qur’an, he thinks he has the right to make his own opinions regarding the Qur’an. The Blessed Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “Whosoever explains the Qur’an from his own opinion is wrong even if he is right.” 
Modernists generally ignore the opinions and exegesis of the pious predecessors [as-salafus-saalihoon] issuing fatwas that are based on their own whims. In our time, the modernist desires to embody all the greatest attributes in every field. If he can write simple Arabic, articulate himself in his native language, or deliver impromptu speeches, he sees himself the teacher of Junaid and Shibli in Tasawwuf and also a mujtahid in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). He introduces new ideas in the exegesis of the Qur’an without concern for the opinions of the pious predecessors or that his opinions contradict the ahaadeeth of the Blessed Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم.
He is whimsical in matters of Deen. He states his heart’s desire no matter how much it contradicts the Qur’an and the Sunna. Despite this, no one discredits him, protests his incompetence, or shows him his deviation.
If one gathers the courage to say, “This is against the teachings of the pious predecessors,” he is immediately branded a sycophant of the pious predecessors. He is condemned as ultra-orthodox, anti intellectual, and someone not attuned to the modern world. Conversely, if a person rejects the explanations of the pious predecessors and lays out his own views on matters of Deen he is looked upon as an authority [muhaqqiq] in the Deen.
Fifteen Sciences of the Qur'an
This is despite the fact that the exegetists [mufassireen] listed fifteen sciences that must be mastered before one can authoritatively interpret the Qur’an. These are:
1) Classical Arabic is how one learns the meaning of each word. Mujaahid said, “It is not permissible for one who holds faith in Allah سبحانه و تعالى and the Day of Judgment to speak on the Qur’an without learning classical Arabic.” In this respect, it should be known that classical Arabic must be mastered in its entirety because one word may have various meanings. A person may only know two or three meanings to one word whereas the meaning of that same word in the Qur’an may be altogether different.
2) The Science of Arabic Syntax [‘Ilm an-Nahw] is important because any change in the diacritical marks affects the meaning, and understanding the diacritical marks depends on the science of Arabic Syntax.
3) The Science of Arabic Morphology [‘Ilm as-Sarf] is important because changes in the conjugations of nouns and verbs change the meaning. Ibn Faaris said, “A person who misses out on Arabic morphology has missed out on a lot.” Zamakhshari writes in ‘Ujoobaat at-Tafseer that one man recited the aayah: "[Think of] the day when We will call every people with their Imaam [book of deeds]." (17:71) Because of his ignorance of Arabic morphology, he mistranslated the aayah as: "[Think of ] the day when We will call every people by their mothers." He thought the word imaam, which is singular, was the plural of umm [mother]. Had he known morphology he would know that imaam is not the plural of umm.
4) The Science of Arabic Etymology [‘Ilm al-Ishtiqaaq] should be learned because sometimes one word derives from two root words, the meaning of each root word being different. This science explains the reciprocal relation and radical composition between the root and derived word. For example, mas-h derives from the root word masah which means ‘to feel and touch something with a wet hand,’ but also derives from the root word maseeha which means ‘to measure.’
5) Arabic Semantics [‘Ilm al-Ma‘aani] is the science which teaches about phrase construction and its implications on meaning.
6) The Science of Expression [‘Ilm al-Bayaan] is the science by which one learns the similes, metaphors, metonymies, evident [dhuhur] and hidden meanings [khafi] of the Arabic language.
7) The Science of Rhetoric [‘Ilm al-Badee‘] is the science through which one learns to interpret sentences which reveal the beauty and eloquence of the spoken and written word. The above mentioned three sciences are categorized as the Science of Eloquence [‘Ilm al-Balaagha]. It is one of the most indispensable tools for the exegete because he is able to reveal the miraculous nature of the Qur’an through these three sciences.
8) The Science of Arabic Pronunciation [‘Ilm al-Qiraa’a] is important because one reading [qiraa’a] of the Qur’an may differ in meaning from another, and one learns to favour one reading over another based on the difference in the meanings.
9) The Science of Islamic Doctrine [‘Ilm al-‘Aqaa'id] is important because we cannot attribute the literal meaning of certain ayas to Allah سبحانه و تعالى. In this case, one will be required to interpret the aayah, as in the aayah, "Allah’s hand is over their hands." (48:10)
10) The Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence [Usool al-Fiqh] are important so one understands the methodology of legal derivation and interpretation.
11) The Science of Circumstances of Revelation [Asbaab an-Nuzool] is the field by which one learns the circumstances in which an aayah is revealed. It is an important science because the meaning of the aayah is more clearly understood once the circumstances in which it was revealed is known. Sometimes, the meaning of an aayah is wholly dependent on its historical background.
12) The Science of Abrogated and Abrogating Aayaat [‘Ilm an-Naskh] is important because abrogated rulings must be differentiated from the applied rulings.
13) Islamic Jurisprudence is important because one cannot gain an overview of any issue until he has understood its particulars.
14) The Science of Ahaadeeth [‘Ilm al-Hadith] is important because the ahaadeeth explain general [mujmal] aayaat.
15) The Endowed Knowledge [al-‘Ilm al-Laduni] which Allah سبحانه و تعالى grants to his closest servants. They are the servants indicated in the hadith: “Allah سبحانه و تعالى will grant one who acts upon whatever he knows, from a knowledge he never knew.” 
Foundations of the Sharee'ah
The authorities on the principles of fiqh [usooliyyoon] write that to follow the Sharee'ah, one must have knowledge of the four foundations upon which the Sharee'ah rests. They are:
3) [Scholarly] Consensus [Ijmaa‘]
4) Analogical Deduction [Qiyaas] by which one derives rulings from the above three.
Conditions for Acting in Accordance with the Qur'an
Then, to act in accordance with the Qur’an one must know four things:
I) The words of the Qur’an [nadhm al-Qur’ān], their conjugations and root words. They are of four types:
1) The general [‘aamm]
2) The specific [khaas]
3) The homonym [mushtarak]
4) The interpreted meaning [mu’awwal]
II) The methodology Allah u uses to present his message in the Qur’an [wujooh al-bayaan]. This is also of four types:
1) The manifest [dhaahir]
2) The second type of manifest [nass]
3) The unequivocal [mufassar]
4) The transparent [muhkam]
III) Then, these four types are contrasted with four other types:
1) The obscure [khafi]
2) The difficult [mushkil]
3) The ambivalent [mujmal]
4) The intricate [mutashaabih]
IV) Knowledge of the application of the words of the Qur’an [nadhm al-Qur’ān]. This is also of four types:
1) The literal [haqeeqi]
2) The metaphorical [majaaz]
3) The plain [sareeh]
4) The allusive [kinaaya]
V) Then, methodology of understanding the meanings of the Qur’an. This is also of four types:
1) The explicit meaning [‘ibaarat an-nass]
2) The allusive meaning [ishaarat an-nass]
3) The inferred meaning [dalaalat an-nass]
4) The required meaning [iqtidaa’ an-nass]
After all of this, there is one more category that encompasses all the above. This category is also of four types:
1) Sources of Derivation [ma’khadh al-ishtiqaaq] is knowledge of the sources from which the derivation is made.
2) Knowledge of the terminological concepts of the sources of derivation.
3) Knowledge of the sequence of the sources of derivation.
4) Knowledge of the rulings derived from the sources of derivation.
It is important to know when an order [amr] indicates obligation, permissibility, desirability, and when it is merely for repetition. In the Qur’an, an order may require immediate fulfillment of the order [adaa] or sometimes belated fulfillment [qadaa] while at other times vice versa. Furthermore, an order can be general or restricted. A restricted order is of four types. One will find the details of this in the books on the subject of the principles of Islamic Jurisprudence [usool al-fiqh]. 
Mu‘aadh ibn Jabal رضي الله عنه said in a hadeeth of Abu Dawood: "After you, the times of tribulation [fitan] will appear; there will be an abundance of wealth and the Qur’an will be opened by everyone: a believer, hypocrite, a man, a woman, old and young, slaves and freemen will all read it. Then one amongst them will say, ‘Why don’t people follow me though I am learned in the Qur’an? They will not follow me until I bring something new.’" Mu‘aadh رضي الله عنه then said, "Save yourself from the innovations [bid‘a] because every innovation will be a deviation." 
According to the above mentioned hadeeth, those who make grandiose claims about spreading the message of the Qur’an around the world are deviant people. Translating the Qur’an for the blessing of translation is good. However, to derive rulings without sound knowledge of the different sciences [as quoted above] is forbidden. Rulings can only be derived when one gains complete knowledge of those sciences which are necessary for deriving rulings from the Qur’an. In ad-Durr al-Manthoor, it is narrated from Ibn ‘Abbās رضي الله عنهما that he said of the aayah: "He gives wisdom to whom He wills." (2:269) This is reference to knowledge of the Qur’an, knowledge of abrogating and abrogated ayas, transparent [muhkam] and intricate [mutashaabih] aayaat, the chronology of each aayah, what is forbidden and what is permissible and knowledge of other matters of the same kind. 
 Abu Dawood, al-Kalaam fee Kitaabillaah.
 Kanz al-'Ummaal, al-Baab al-Awwal fit-Targheeb fil-Hilm.
 Noor al-Anwaar.
 Abu Dawood, Luzoom as-Sunnah.
 The Inseparability of Shari'a & Tariqa (Islamic Law and Purification of the Heart) (Madania Publications), pp. 29-35.