If you want to understand a subject well and gain depth, you must prepare before going to lesson – this is called mutala. The following is a suggested approach to preparing for a text covered in a lesson.
Firstly, determine the literal meaning (lughat) and form (sayghah) of the words. You may enquire, is the word an ism, fi’l or harf? If the word is an ism, what is the gender (muzakkar or mu’annath), number (wahid, tathniya or jama’) and type (ma’rifah or nakirah)? If it is a fi’l, what is the sayghah as per the rules of sarf and perhaps even ascertain what is its masdar? If it is a harf, which group of harf does it belong. Ultimately, you would determine, what does this word literally mean and perhaps it has more than one literal meaning? The primary skill in this step is sarf and vocabulary (esp. masadir).
Secondly, determine the structure (tarkib) of the sentence and the relationship between the words vis status (marfu’, mansub and majrur). You may need to identify if the word is mu’rab, mabni (ghayr mutamakkin) (mabni), ghayr munsarif or munsarif to glean how the word will react to a stimuli (‘amil). Ultimately, you should try to read the text and identify its function through the irab. The primary skill in this step is nahw.
Thirdly, translate the text in a meaningful way. You may ask what did the author intend here? If there are different possible meanings, what is the likely meaning here. To this end, you will need to look at the context of the sentence by checking what came prior to and after it as well as read further around the topic.
The objective is not to understand everything rather identify areas where you may need help. The part which you do not understand, mark it and when in class ask the teacher to clarify.
This is a tried and tested method. At first it may seem tedious and time consuming. In fact at first a few lines may take your entire time. But rest assured, it gets easier – after awhile you will get sharper and faster. Then reading will become a joy and you would advance at an accelerated pace so long as you are consistent in mutala daily even if the quantity is little.
If you were to read the dars nizami entirely in this manner, you would have built within yourself a capacity to de-construct any subject in the field.
Extended reading, beyond the dars nizami, is the subject of another note. Suffice it to say, you should read selectively and consult a pious expert alim regarding a book rather than reading any and every book that crosses your path – do not squander your time or cloud your judgement.
Muhammad Saifur Rahman Nawhami
1 Rabi II 1437 AH
11 January 2016 CE