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Hope you enjoy reading the story of how the first verse of the Quran and surah Al-Alaq were revealed to the prophet Muhammad(PBUH).
You can read the story here Iqra bismi rabbika allazi khalaq – The revelation
Today we will discuss the tafsir or explanation of surah Al-Alaq in sha Allah.
The main source we’re looking at is tafsir ibn Kathir.
The first few verses of surah Al-Alaq are considered the first revelation to the Prophet(S).
We know from narrations that the first thing that started happening with the prophet(s) is that he started having dreams.
Those dreams would come true he would not see any dream except that it would come true just like the clearness of the daybreak in the morning.
So very clear dreams that were coming true were happening to him at the beginning before he got the first verses.
He started to like seclusion. He likes to be isolated in his own space and time, so he would go to this cave called the cave of Hera.
He would stay there in seclusion, just contemplating thinking about life and reflecting in silence and peace, so he would go to the cave and devote himself to worship.
Finally, in one of these moments of seclusion, the revelation came down to him when he was in the cave of hera, and the angel Jibril appeared and said to him,
The prophet(S)was illiterate. He couldn’t read or write, so he said,
“I cannot read.”
Then the prophet saw him said that this angel seized him so tight until he could no longer bear it, and then it released him and again said “read,” and again he replied
“I’m not one who reads,”
He was pressed a third time so tight until he could no longer bear it, and then Jibrael(A) released him and said
“Iqra bismi rabbika allazi khalaq”
These are the first five verses that were revealed to the prophet.
Then he left the cave having learned these five verses, and he was terrified. He was so terrified and frightened, so he went rushing home frightened and said, “wrap me up,” “wrap me up.” So he was wrapped up until he calmed down, and his fear subsided.
Muhammad(S) explained to his wife what had just happened to him, and he said
“I fear that something may happen to me.”
He was terrified of what had just happened, and Khadija replied, comforting him and calming him down, telling him,
“never! by Allah, Allah will never disgrace you.
You keep good relations with your relatives. You speak the truth, help the poor. You serve your guests generously and help the deserving calamity afflicted people.
You are a good person. Allah is not going to disgrace you, and then she suggested that they visit her cousin Waraqa ibn Nawfal.
He was a Christian, and he used to write scriptures. He was a very wise, devout religious person. They explain what had happened Waraqa responds by saying, “this is Jibrael that came to you. This is a namus whom Allah had sent to Musa(PBUH).
He continued and said, “I wish I were young and could live until the time when your people would drive you out.
The prophet(S) was surprised to hear that. He said, “will they drive me out ” and Waraqa replied, “yes, anyone who came with something similar to what you brought was treated with hostility.
If I remain alive till that day, I would firmly support you.
Because of his old age, he did not remain for much longer, so he passed away.
That is a little bit of background of what happened with the first few revealed verses.
Let’s dive into those first five verses now and talk about them in a little more detail.
The first verse
“Read in the name of your Lord who has created.”
Several benefits are taken from this first verse. Allah said, Yes, you are illiterate but read with the support of your lord.
The second benefit is that it instructs when we recite or when the prophet would recite; he would start by saying
“Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim” which means
“In Allah’s name, the most gracious the most merciful.”
So when he or we or anyone starts to recite the words of the Quran, we are not just saying something from our own words. This is coming from Allah. We should start off saying bismillah and then say the verses. We should start within the name of Allah to distinguish between our human speech and words that are coming from Allah.
The second verse
He has created man from a clot.”
The first verse has said read in the name of your Lord who created. It was general. He created everything, but in the next verse, he talks about one specific thing that he has created.
He created man from a clot.
So, our creation itself is a big lesson and reminder for us. The intricacy in our creation should be assigned to us by Allah
and the incredible power and precision and details in everything.
That alone is a big sign, a big miracle in all of these little details that make us work.
The interesting thing is that the word “Alaq” includes the meaning that something is clinging or something is hanging, and Subhan Allah(all praise be to Allah), we have learned in modern science that it is actually clinging on.
So, this verse is telling us from over 1400 years ago that it’s as if something is clinging there. The word that is used captures the
meaning of something that is clinging or hanging on.
Even the choice of words is so precise. and then
The third verse
“Read, and your Lord is the most generous.”
Allah reminds us in the previous verse that we are created from a clot. We are created from the smallest, most insignificant thing, the tiniest substance, which should bring humility that we are all equal. We come from the same substance. We shouldn’t look down on each other.
The third verse tells us that Allah is the most generous or the noblest, so he reminds us to be humble and have humanity, and then he reminds us who is the noblest of all.
He also reminds the Prophet(S) that he is the most generous. He is not trying to burden the Prophet or make his life difficult.
The fourth verse
“Who has taught by the pen.”
As a human, we have the intellect to learn, or we can preserve that knowledge that we learn.
So, not only can we comprehend the knowledge and speak that knowledge, but we can also preserve it by writing it down.
That is another sign and blessing for us to recognize how generous Allah has been with us.
He has created us in the most intricate ways; we have the intellect to think and reflect. We can speak and communicate with that intellect and preserve and write things down.
Because of the pen and the ability to write and preserve, that is also how the Quran is preserved for us today.
The fifth verse
“He has taught man that which he never knew.”
Again a reminder to us that Allah has allowed us to learn what we do not know. He has given us knowledge and this ability to learn, and he has taught us that we wouldn’t have known if he didn’t give us.
These abilities or this knowledge is out of Allah’s generosity that he taught man what he did not know.
So, those were the first five verses that were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad(PBUH). The rest of the verses came down at a later point in time.