First of all, it is not prohibited for a “common Muslim” to try to understand the Quran while reading it; trying to understand it is the whole point of reading it. Tafseer is, of course, interpretation, but you should read the Quran, even though in translation, the way you would read any book you wish to understand: by studying it. Far better than to have one “scholar” (and scholars vary on how to interpret certain ayat) standing over your shoulder and telling you what to think, would be to read multiple translations. Many Quran apps out there feature multiple translations; one called “alQuran” from tanzil.net has a feature where you can compare translations on the same page for specific ayat (verses). Others have both the Arabic and transliteration on the same page with the translated text.
There is a “movement” of sorts prohibiting the use of the mind to interpret Quranic text. To those who espouse this, I would refer them to this aya:
Holy Quran 2:242
------------------ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ
Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you might use
Allah Himself repeats this idea in various ways, emphasizing that the Quran is clear and easy to learn. There is no noun for “mind” in the Quran in the modern English sense because in the Quran, “thinking” takes place in the heart, where the “self” resides, Rather, the “self” makes decisions and achieves understanding by “reason” which is the way people sort out between emotions and thoughts, ideas, and sensory input. The example you gave us a good one, however, regarding possible misinterpretations. Even after comparing translations, such misinterpretation is possible. Then again, some of the most widely accepted interpretations can also be wrong. For example, the “splitting of the moon” is mentioned in the Quran clearly as a sign of the approach of Judgment Day, yet many claim it was a miracle performed by Prophet Mohammad (saaws) thus reducing this terrifying momentous sign into a cheap illusion, and the great Prophet, whose miracle was the Quran itself, into a mere magician, far be it from the truth. The original interpreters were usually quite aware of possible shortcomings in their understanding and humble about their level of knowledge, as they should be. But that did not prevent them from studying the Quran and trying to understand it. And not a few ayat are in dispute between various schools of thought.
So I would recommend that you read the Quran (using perhaps two different translations that seem most sensible to you) with an eye to understand the important things to which Allah gives the greatest emphasis. Such as salat, what is faith and the description and examples of a faithful Muslim, the nature of Allah and how He interacts with humankind, the major prophets and what they did and how they lived, and what is Judgment Day and the Hereafter, belief in which is so important in the Quran that it is equated with faith in Allah Himself. Don’t get too bogged down at first in the many details until you get a sense of the whole Quran as a message. Then these details will become clearer in context. Be sure to bookmark or highlight those verses (ayat) you don’t understand or aren’t sure of. You can ask in this forum or elsewhere if you know of a reasonable scholar or imam who has the patience and reasonableness to answer you without blaming you for trying to understand. The worst mistake you can make in fact, is to “abandon” any attempt to read the Quran for fear of making a mistake. It not only is not a mistake, the Quran tells us to use our minds/ reason (not “the mind of a scholar) when reading the Quran. To read anything is a kind of interpretation, as an astute commenter said above.
Holy Quran 57:17
------------------ اعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ يُحْيِي الْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا ۚ قَدْ بَيَّنَّا لَكُمُ الْآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ
Know that Allah gives life to the earth after its lifelessness. We
have made clear to you the signs for you to think about.
Part of being Muslim is to develop one’s faculty of reason. The Quran was not sent for rote learning.
Holy Quran 54:17
------------------ وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ
And We have certainly made the Qur'an easy to remember (bring to
mind), so is there any who will study it?
The word “muddakir” in Arabic means “study/ learn”, not “memorize” as some interpret it. This exact question is repeated as a refrain four times, emphasizing its importance. Over time, and taking the opinions of scholars on areas you don’t understand, you will learn more through studying the Quran rather than following a particular “sheikh” or school without knowing first the basics or foundation of faith which is clear and unequivocal in the Quran.
And pray for guidance too because Allah answers prayer. Have faith that Allah sent the Quran to all people, and made it understandable to all people too. It does not need a special guide but you must have a broad mind (ie not look for petty issues such as “can I eat with my left hand” without knowing the bigger issues such as “what does Allah tell us about Himself and about what He wants from us”). People won’t go to hell for eating with their left hand (especially if left-handed) but could go to hell for idolatry, so you’d be advised to figure that out first. And don’t be fooled by those who say the Quran needs specially trained scholars to interpret and we should take their interpretations without question, or that we should follow “traditions” blindly without thinking.
Holy Quran 7:179
------------------ وَلَقَدْ ذَرَأْنَا لِجَهَنَّمَ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الْجِنِّ وَالْإِنسِ ۖ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ لَّا يَفْقَهُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ
أَعْيُنٌ لَّا يُبْصِرُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ آذَانٌ لَّا يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا
ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ كَالْأَنْعَامِ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ
And We have certainly created for Hell many of the jinn and mankind.
They have hearts with which they do not understand, they have eyes
with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do not
hear. Those are like livestock; rather, they are more astray. It is
they who are the heedless.
To develop your faculties, which are gifts from Allah, you must use them. Allah gave you free will; otherwise you wouldn’t be tested, or subjected to judgement Day. Free will means making choices with consequences; far better to make informed choices. And who should be informed? The responsible choice-maker, the human being, us, you. Then there is this aya which has been often quoted in support of the erroneous prohibition against the use of reason.
Holy Quran 17:36
------------------ وَلَا تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ ۚ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولَٰئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ
And do not uphold that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the
hearing, the sight and the heart - about all those [one] will be
The word “uphold” is sometimes translated “pursue” which in English could be confused with the idea of pursuing knowledge one does not yet know. The idea of prohibiting learning contradicts a large number of Quranic ayat advising Muslims to pursue learning and to reason or think for themselves. Respect for elders in both age or status as scholars or sheikhs does not prohibit thinking for oneself. The Quran is easy to understand, even with contradicting translations, because the major and important points are made repeatedly and in different ways and situations. Sometimes you might understand something that a scholar, with his reading of secondary texts that can sometimes misdirect one’s understanding of the Quran, might miss. But always know that your knowledge can never be complete and be willing to listen to those who have studied more. I hope this helps.