بسم الله اللرحمن الرحيم

(Verse 1 to 5)

Read! through the Name of your Rabb. Who created. He Who created Man from a clot of blood (Alaq). Read! and your Rabb is the Akram. He who taught through the Pen. He taught the Man what He knows not.

The first five verses of Surah Alaq was the first passage of the Quran to be revealed. These verses are rich in meaning; discussing Allah Ta’aala , the Noble Messenger sallAllahu alayhi wasallam as well as the rest of mankind and creation. This passage opens up an understanding of our place in this hierarchy. Being the first revelation, with so much of depth, we can call it the ‘Purpose of My Existence’ passage.

Verse 1
The Surah opens with the word Iqra which is loosely translated as Read. Throughout the Quran, Allah Ta’aalawould uses the word ‘Qul’, Say, meaning that when the word Qul is used, RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam would repeat that verse or say out that verse to whomever. However in this very first revelation, we come across the word Iqra as opposed to Qul. There’s no discrepancies in the Quran, that’s one of the things that makes it so unique. So why is Iqra being used and not Qul. The answer is simple, when Allah Ta’aala says Qul, it means say out or repeat what has been revealed. But when He Ta’aala said Iqra, He Ta’aala meant something different to Qul. Before we actually find out what was meant by Iqra, let’s get a background of how these verses were revealed.

The incident of the first revelation at the cave of Hira is quite well known. So let’s quickly recall: Jibreel alayhis Salaam said Iqra and Nabi sallAllahu alayhi wasallam replied Maa Ana Bi Qaari, which means I am not at the Qaari. Jibreel alayhis Salaam gave Nabi sallAllahu alayhi wasallam a tight embrace and repeated: Iqra. After three consecutive times, on the fourth time Nabi sallAllahu alayhi wasallam begins to recite Iqra Bismi ….. The intriguing part is that RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam said to Sayyidah Khadija that all this: Jibreel alayhis Salaam ; the Iqra; the Maa Ana Bi Qaari, all this occured just as it did in my dream. -Haafidh Abu Nuaym in his Dalaailin Nabuwwa-

Remember, a Nabi’s dream is Wahi, it is from Allah Ta’aala. This means that Allah Ta’aala showed the Nabi sallAllahu alayhi wasallam beforehand, that the revelation would come and it would start in this manner. This means that when he sallAllahu alayhi wasallam said Maa Ana Bi Qaari, it did not mean I do not know what to do, I am at a loss, for the dream gave him a heads up of exactly what is to come.

So let’s look closer at Qaari and what it means to be a Qaari. Qadhi Ayadh explains that being a Qaari means that the one who teaches would teach or say out something to the student, and he would give these very words in writing to the student and in turn the student would learn and say it off by heart. If that happens then the learner is a Qaari of that saying. -Qadhi Ayadh in his Alilmaa’a ila Ma’rifa-

The Quran clarifies that as far Allah Ta’aala talking to his Anbiya alayhimus Salaam, there’s three ways for it to happen. Let’s look at the verse that explains this.
Allah Ta’aala says in the Quran: ‘And it is not fitting for a man that Allah speak to him except (1. by way of) Wahy direct revelation / inspiration or
(2. whereby) the man be at the other side of a veil or
(3. whereby) He sends a messenger so by His command revealing what He pleases. Undoubtedly He is Exalted Wise. -alQuran 42:51-

Imam Fakhrudeen Raazi explains that this verse is specifically regarding the Anbiya. -Kitaabul Anbiya by Imam Raazi- Thus, this verse explains that there are three different methods by which Allah Ta’aala speaks to His Anbiya alayhimus Salaam.

The first method by direct inspiration / revelation. The second whereby the Nabi is at the other side of a veil. The third whereby an angel is sent as a messenger to a Nabi.

The third method, whereby a messenger is sent, refers to whereby Allah Ta’aala sends an angel to whichever Nabi and in this way the Kalaam of Allah Ta’aala is revealed. This method of revelation could also occur through True Vision of a Nabi whilst he is asleep (Ru’ya Saadiqa). During the True Vision of this method, a Nabi would get revelation. Haafidh alAsqalani radi Allahu anhu explains that in this case the revelation would reach that Nabi’s heart via an angel. -Ru’ya wal Ahlaam by Haafidh alAsqalani-

The second method that this verse explains is, whereby the respective Nabi is at the other side of a veil. An example of this is Nabi Moosa alayhis Salaam, who spoke directly with Allah Ta’aala but he did not see Allah Ta’aala.

The first method of (Wahhyan) direct inspiration / revelation is whereby the respective Nabi would see Allah Ta’aala (as He knows best) and Allah Ta’aala would speak directly to him. Imam alBayhaqi radi Allahu anhu in his Kitaab Asma wa Sifat, says that this method (Wahhyan) is the foremost method for in this method, the Nabi actually sees Allah Ta’aala and receives the Wahi directly from Allah Ta’aala. -Tafseer Imam Qurtubi, Tafseer Imam Raazi, Kitaab Asma wa Sifat by Imam Bayhaqi, Kitaab alAnbiya by Imaam Raazi, Iqmal Mu’lim by Qadhi Ayadh cumulative-

After explaining these three different methods, the very next verse of the Quran explains, ‘And through this manner we directly inspired to you, (who art) a soul through Our Command. It was not that you came to know the Book and Imaan by learning but instead We had made him a Noor through which We would allow Huda to whomever of Our servants We wished. And well and truly you (Oh Prophet) guides to the straight path.’ -alQuran 42:52-

After explaining the three methods of revelation, the Quran now declares that Nabi Muhummud sallAllahu alayhi wasallam did receive the Quran through direct inspiration. (أوحينا is the verb of وحيا , which the Quran labeled as the first method.) This verse of the Quran thus teaches us that Nabi sallAllahu alayhi wasallam received the Quran directly from Allah Ta’aala whilst seeing Allah Ta’aala.

RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam also said that when the Quran was revealed it entered his heart like precious stone. He also said that the Quran was inscribed on his heart. In this way RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam had the Quran with him.

Having understood this, we can now see that when the Quran was revealed, RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam was a Qaari of it, that is Allah Ta’aala spoke to him directly whilst he sallAllahu alayhi wasallam saw Allah Ta’aala and at the same time, RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam had the Quran in his heart. In this manner he sallAllahu alayhi wasallam fulfilled the status of being a Qaari and thereby obeyed the command of Iqrah.

This is a great Mu’jizah (Prophetic Miracle), for nobody else had achieved this level and manner of seeing and perceiving Allah Ta’aala. So the first word to be revealed is testimony to the Mu’jizah of RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam.

This manner of RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallamlearning has been extended to the Ummah. We find that it is the practice of this Ummah to learn from a teacher. Even if scholars learn a text, Islam asks that they learn it from a teacher. Similarly spiritual training is only undertaken under a teacher. This is the spirit of Iqra and Qaari.

The principle of Iqra-Qaari involves learning the Quran by heart. Hadrath Saeed bin Jubayr radi Allahu anhu explains that the previous Ummats were not allowed to by-heart their revealed books. Imam Qurtubi radi Allahu anhu records that the Bani Israeel were only allowed to recite the Tawrah whilst looking at it, except Nabi Moosa, Haroon, Uzayr and Yusha alayhimas Salaam whom were permitted to learn the Tawrah by heart.

However this first revealed word of Iqra, opened the door for the entire Ummah of RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallamto learn the Quran by heart and it is a great privelege which has only been accorded to this Ummah.

Hadrath Saeed bin Jubayr radi Allahu anhu says that Allah Ta’aala makes special mention of this through the verse:
And verily We have made the Quran easy for remembrance, is there anyone to remember it ? -alQuran 54:17- So we should consider the Hifz of the Quran to be a privilege that has come to us courtesy of the word Iqra.

The verse goes on to say Read through the Name of your Rabb Who created.

In this we find an instruction of beginning with the Name of Allah Ta’aala, to the extent that the scholars say that each time we begin to recite the Quran, we should first say Bismillah Hir Rahmaanir Raheem, except for Surah Tawba. -Tafseer Baydawi-

Furthermore, RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam said that the Shaytaan gets involved in those things which do not begin with the Name of Allah Ta’aala.

This verse also serves as an instruction for us to make Zikr of Allah Ta’aalas Names, for it says Read in the Name of your Rabb -Tafseer Baydawi, Tafseer Raazi-

It is interesting that this being the first time Allah Ta’aala is mentioned in the Quran, and He addresses Himself as ‘Rabbik’ your Lord, that is Nabi Muhummud’s sallAllahu alayhi wasallam Lord. Allah Ta’aala could have said, Recite in Allah’s Name, but He chose to be first known as Nabi Muhummud’s sallAllahu alayhi wasallam Lord. It is also the first time that Nabi sallAllahu alayhi wasallam is being mentioned, and he sallAllahu alayhi wasallam is being mentioned with his Lord.

This makes us understand the intimate relationship between Allah Ta’aala and Nabi Muhummud sallAllahu alayhi wasallam. Nabi Aadam alayhis Salaam says that he saw on the Arsh, the name Muhummud was written next to the Name Allah. From this he knew that Nabi Muhummud is the beloved of Allah Ta’aala . -Imam Haakim- Here in the Quran we find the same thing, that is, Allah Ta’aala and His Beloved Nabi sallAllahu alayhi wasallam are mentioned together, and it signals to us their relationship of love.

Allah Ta’aala is Rabb of each and every creation. But in this verse, he adresses himself as Rabb of Nabi Muhummud sallAllahu alayhi wasallam. He could have said ‘Rabb of Abu Jahl’, but He did not. If Allah Ta’aala would have introduced Himself as Rabb of Abu Jahl, then people would ask Abu Jahl who is your Rabb, and he would point to one of the idols, and this would have meant that Islam is a pagan religion. Thus we find that Allah Ta’aala made himself known as Rabb of Nabi Muhummud sallAllahu alayhi wasallam, so if any body asked Nabi sallAllahu alayhi wasallam Who is your Rabb, he sallAllahu alayhi wasallam would answer, Allah Ta’aala. Thereby people would learn about Allah Ta’aala.

This also means that even at that stage RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam had the correct concept and correct belief of Allah Ta’aala. This fact, that RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam had the correct belief about Allah Ta’aala, is also understood from another verse of the Quran: By the Star when it descended your companion had not been on misguidance and nor did he infringe. -alQuran 51:1&2- Regarding ‘The Star’, Imam Mujaahid and Ahmad bin Hanbal radi Allahu anhum say, refers to the Quran. The ‘companion’ refers to RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam .-Tafseer Qurtubi, Radduz Zanaadiq- Imam Raazi explains that the words ‘misguided and infringe’ are two different things. Misguided refers to having wrong beliefs, and infringe refers to doing wrongful deeds. In this verse both these are in the past tense, meaning that even before the Quran was revealed, RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam did not have wrong beliefs and he did not commit any loathsome acts. -Tafseer Mafatihul Ghayb- Thus we find that in this very first verse of Surah Alaq, Allah Ta’aala refers to himself as Nabi Muhummud’s sallAllahu alayhi wasallam Rabb, confirming that RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam was a Muslim even before the revelation of the Quran.

By using the term ‘Your Lord’, a distinction is made between Allah Ta’aala and His Beloved Messenger sallAllahu alayhi wasallam. It sets things very clear, that RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam is not here to claim divinity, and this is especially important, considering the context, in that trinity theories had become widespread.

The next phrase in this verse is ‘(He) who created’. After introducing us to His Names and Attributes, Allah Ta’aalanow introduces us to His action, in this case His action of creating. Anything non-Divine is a creation, and thereby needs to have been created in order to exist. This includes tangible things like mountains, oceans, cars, animals as well as intangibles like feelings, ideas, etc. By raising this contrast of Rabb and creation, the theme of dependence quickly surfaces. All non-Divine things are a creation, and thus need to be created in order to exist. As Allah Ta’aala is the Creator, it means that creation is dependent on Allah Ta’aala in order to exist. This short clause let’s us know our place as creation, dependent on the Creator.

Imam Ghazzali radi Allahu anhu explains that Allah Ta’aala may be known and recognised in three levels. The first being His actions. The second is through His Names and Attributes, and third is through knowing and recognising His Being. -Jawaahirul Quran- In this verse, the very first verse to be revealed, we find that Allah Ta’aala has introduced Himself to us in each of these levels.

With regards to His actions, He says He is the One Who Created. With regards to knowing Him through His Names and Attributes, the verse clearly directs us to ‘through the Name of your Lord’. The Ma’rifa of Allah’s Ta’aala Names and Attributes is important and it distinguished Mankind from all other creation.

Allah Ta’aala says in Surah Baqrah, that when He informed the angels that He is going to create Man, who will preside as a representative in earth, the angels were very sceptical about the ability and obedience of this new creation called Man. The Quran then explains that when Allah Ta’aala created Nabi Aadam alayhis Salaam, the first Man, He taught him the Names. Allah Ta’aala asked the angels about the Names, but they did not know. However Nabi Aadam alayhis Salaamknew the Names and so the angels conceded that Allah Ta’aala is Wise to have created Man.

Shaykh Muhuyyideen bin alArabi radi Allahu anhu explains that the Names which Nabi Aadam alayhis Salaam had learnt were the Names of Allah Ta’aala , and the angels were not able to take cognisance of His Names. -Fusus Hikm- Thus the Ma’rifa of Allah’s Ta’aala Names is an essential aspect of Mankind’s creation.

In this verse, the concept of Allah’s Ta’aala Names is introduced with the phrase ‘through the Names of your Lord’, your Lord, meaning Nabi Muhummud’s Lord. The question arises, if this is a phrase about the Ma’rifa of Allah’s Ta’aala Names, then what is the wisdom of mentioning Nabi sallAllahu alayhi wasallam ? Imam Qastalani radi Allahu anhu explains that at first even Nabi Aadam alayhis Salaam could not take cognisance of the Names of Allah Ta’aala.Then Allah Ta’aala made the Noor of Nabi Muhummud sallAllahu alayhi wasallam to enter Nabi Aadam’s alayhis Salaam body. After the Noor entered his entire body, then only could Nabi Aadam alayhis Salaam take cognisance of the Names of Allah Ta’aala. -Mawahibul Ladunya- Thus we find that the phrase that informs us about Allah’s Ta’aala Names, makes a simultaneous mention of Nabi Muhummud sallAllahu alayhi wasallam, for Man relies on his Noor to make the Ma’rifa of Allah Ta’aalas Names. Imam Ghazali radi Allahu anhu affirms this by saying that the Noor of RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam is such that it knows itself, it knows Allah Ta’aala and it causes others to know Allah Ta’aala . -Mishkaatul Anwaar-

This first verse of Surah Alaq, also makes reference to knowing Allah Ta’aalas Being, for, as explained earlier, Iqra involved RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam seeing Allah Ta’aala and being spoken to directly by Allah Ta’aala. This cognisance of Allah Ta’aala in a wakeful state is a unique miracle of the Wahi on RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam. It is a miracle of such a great magnitude that RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam says that each Nabi was blessed with his miracle, but through this miracle of how Wahi came to him, he is hopeful that he would have the largest Ummah. -Sahih Bulhari-

Thus, the first level of recognising Allah Ta’aala , that is by taking cognisance of His Being, is also addressed in this verse of Surah Alaq. However, just as Rabb was introduced with Nabi sallAllahu alayhi wasallam, we find that the Ma’rifa of Allah Ta’aala is also introduced via RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam. The wisdom behind this can be found in the following verse of the Quran:
What! He whose chest Allah has expanded to total submission to Allah; then upon him is a light (Noor) from his Lord -alQuraan 39:22-

In a couplet that was recited to RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam, just after Surah Alaq was revealed, the ‘widening of the chest’ refers to RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallamreceiving revelation in the cave of Hira. -Haafidh Abu Nuaym, Dalaailin Nabuwwa-

RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam was asked about this verse. He said, ‘Verily the Noor when it enters the heart, it becomes vast and it opens.’ Sahabi, Hadrath Abdullah ibn Mas’ood radi Allahu anhu asked Nabi sallAllahu alayhi wasallam, ‘Oh Messenger of Allah sallAllahu alayhi wasallamdoes this refer to the science of gnosis?’
Nabi sallAllahu alayhi wasallam replied, ‘Yes, the dislike; avoidance of the deception of the ego, and the repeated sojourn towards the station of eternities, and the eager preparation of death before the descent of death.’ -Imam Haakim, Tabraani, Bayhaqi in Zuhd, Ghazzali in Minhaajul Aabideen-

The science of gnosis refers to the Tasawwuf to the Ma’rifa of Allah Ta’aala (Recognising Allah Ta’aala). By virtue of the Arabic used in the phrase ‘repeated sojourn towards the station of eternity’, there are three meanings.

Firstly, it means that the sojourner achieves the station of eternities. Secondly, it also means that this sojourner is given authority to preside over the station of eternities. And thirdly, this sojourner does this sojourn repeatedly.

Whilst at the cave of Hira, RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam saw Allah Ta’aala. It was the first time in history that anybody had traversed to that spiritual height of seeing Allah Ta’aala whilst in a wakeful state. So as the Hadith outlines, RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam then became the authority to preside over this station. Altogether this means that RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam would facilitate and preside over those who aspire to this journey of the Ma’rifa of Allah Ta’aala.

So in this, the very first verse to be revealed, we are directed to knowing Allah Ta’aala by recognising His action; His Names and His Pure Being. Simultaneously the verse teaches us that this has already been achieved by RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam in an unprecedented manner. This verse advises us that we may aspire to the Ma’rifa of Allah Ta’aala via RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam.

Thus the first instruction of the Quran is the belief and Ma’rifa of Allah Ta’aala. -Tafseer Baydawi, Tafseer Mafatihul Ghayb Raazi-

Verse 2

The second verse says: He Who created Man from a clot of blood (Alaq). Whilst the first verse ends by saying Allah Ta’aala created, the second verse says He created Man. Imam Ghazzali radi Allahu anhu says that there is no repetition in the Quran. So, after saying Allah Ta’aala created, why does the Quran say Allah Ta’aala created Man?

The reason is, in the first verse Allah Ta’aala speaks about Him creating in general. Whereas in the second verse He speaks specifically about the creation of Man. Man was created in a manner different to the rest of creation and Man was created more marvelously than the rest of creation. -Tafseer Raazi, Mafatihul Ghayb-

After Shaytaan refused to make Sajda to Nabi Aadam alayhis Salaam, Allah Ta’aala said, Oh Iblees why do you refuse to prostrate for I created him (Aadam alayhis Salaam) with my Yadd -alQuran 38:75- Imam Qurtubi radi Allahu anhuexplains that this verse shows that Man was created in a manner different to general creation, furthermore, most of creation was created by the method of Allah Ta’aala say ‘Kun Fa Yakoon’ saying Be! And it became. However Man was not created in this mass fashion. As Allah Ta’aala says, He Himself created Man with His Yadd. -Tafeer Qurtubi-

This sentiment is also found in Surah Wat-Teen, wherein the Quran declares, He created Man in the best mould/standard.

The uniqueness of Man’s creation can also be understood from the words of RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam. He said that Allah Ta’aala created Nabi Aadam alayhis Salaam upon the manner in which He Ta’aala will be recognised. -Sahih Bukhari, Muslim- This means that Allah Ta’aala had given to Man some attributes that are connected to Allah Ta’aala. -Tafseer Qurtubi- Qadhi Abu Bakr bin Arabi radi Allahu anhuadds that Allah Ta’aala created Man with the qualities of Aalim (Knowledgable), Samee (Hearing), Baseer (Perceiving), Qaadir (Able,Competent). These are AllahTa’aalas Attributes and He has created Man with a manifestation of these Attributes. This makes the creation of Man unique. -Ahkaam alQuran, Qadhi Abu Bakr- In fact, the special qualities of Samee (Hearing) and Baseer (Perceiving) are important in understanding Surah Alaq. The importance of these two attributes of man are emphasised elsewhere in the Quran. Allah Ta’aala says, Verily We created Man from a mixed liquid …. and We made him Samee (Hearing) Baseer (Perceiving). -Surah Insaan v 2-

As Qadhi Ibn Arabi has said, these attributes are a distinction of Man over the rest of creation. Imam Ghazzali radi Allahu anhu explains that Seeing Allah Ta’aala and Hearing Allah Ta’aala is the pinnacle of human Seeing and Hearing and it only comes after having perceived Allah’s Ta’aala creation -Sharah Asma Ul Husnah- So the essence of Man being Samee (Hearing) and Baseer (Perceiving) as a unique attribute, is that Man has the potential ability to Hear and Perceive Allah Ta’aala , which has manifested in it’s purest form with RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam.

This verse ends by saying He created man from Alaq (a clot of blood). Surah Haj explains that Man is created from sand. Thereafter there are three initial stages to the creation of a human in a mother’s womb. The first stage is of Nutfah, which refers to the parents’ liquids having contact with each other. The second stage is of Alaqah, wherein a clot of blood is formed. The next stage is of Mudghah, wherein Allah Ta’aala makes it into flesh.

This verse first makes reference to Man being created from sand. With regards to each of us, it refers to our ancestral bloodline. -Tafseer Qurtubi- RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam explains that at the end of the third stage (Mudghah), an angel comes to the four month old foetus and upon the instruction of Allah Ta’aala , it starts forming the baby’s bodily appearance and the child’s Rooh enters the body. Based on instruction from Allah Ta’aala , the angel records the details of child’s Rizq, death the deeds he will perform. The angel also notes whether the child will be one of pleasure or displeasure. Allah Ta’aala creates in the child the ability to see and perceive. Thus by the stage of Mudghah, a new human has been created.

However in Surah Alaq (the Surah currently under Tafseer) Allah Ta’aala singles out the third stage of Alaq. The significance of this, is that the Alaq stage just precedes the perfection of Man’s creation. After the Alaq stage, Man will be created, and as mentioned earlier, the Divine Attributes of Samee (Hearing) and Baseer (Perceiving) will manifest in Man and this sets Man apart from the rest of creation. -Tafseer Qadhi Abu Bakr ibn Arabi-

This sets a metaphor, that receiving the Wahi has reached the final stage, in which Man’s attributes of Samee (Hearing) and Baseer (Perceiving) will be actualised.

Just as the creation of Man in the womb goes through three phases, the receiving of Wahi by RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam also passed three phases. Prior to the Quran being revealed, there were two phases of revelation to RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam . -Mawahibul Ladunya, Imam Qastalani- When Nabi sallAllahu alayhi wasallam passed the age of 36, for a period of three years, Allah Ta’aala sent Angel Israfeel alayhis Salaam to Nabi sallAllahu alayhi wasallam. He would come with messages from Allah Ta’aala. -Dalaailin Nabuwwa li Bayhaqi, Tareekh Ibn Jareer Tabari- Imam Qastalani explains that Hazrath Israfeel coming with messages from Allah Ta’aala was the first phase of Wahi. Next came the second phase of Wahi.

Sayyidah Ayesha Siddeeqa radi Allahu anha explains that the revelation of the Quran did not begin suddenly before it was a phase of Ru’yatus Saadiqa – a vision of Reality. -Sahih Bukhari- Imam Qastalani explains that this was the second phase of Wahi and during this phase, Allah Ta’aala would speak to RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam through a dream.

The third stage of Wahi was the revelation of the Quran. As discussed earlier under the Tafseer of ‘Iqra’, this involved RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam seeing Allah Ta’aalaand hearing Allah Ta’aala whilst in a wakeful state. This is a unique blessing to RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam. Now recall that earlier we discussed the uniqueness of Man’s creation over general creation, and Qadhi Ibn Arabi pointed out that part of Man’s uniqueness in creation is that Allah Ta’aala created us Samee (Hearing) and Baseer (Perceiving). So in truth these two qualities have manifested in RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam like no other person. Thus we find that this Surah ties up the uniqueness of Man with the uniqueness of the Quran being revealed through the method of ‘Iqra’.

Imam Raazi in his alMukhtaar, states that Alaq has two meanings. The first meaning is a clot of blood. This is the apparent meaning and it is a stage in the creation of Man in a mother’s womb. The second meaning is a collection of the best treasures. In this respect it refers to Allah Ta’aala having created RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam, with a choice selection of the best physical and spiritual qualities.

Earlier we mentioned, via the Hadith of Sahih Muslim, that an angel comes to the four month old foetus and upon the instruction of Allah Ta’aala, it starts forming the baby’s bodily appearance and the child’s Rooh enters the body. Based on instruction from Allah Ta’aala, the angel records the details of child’s Rizq, death the deeds he will perform. The angel also notes whether the child will be one of pleasure or displeasure. Allah Ta’aala creates in the child the ability to see and perceive.

Having learnt that Alaq would also refer to RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam being a collection of the best attributes, we will look at it through the Hadith of Sahih Muslim, which mentions the formation of the body, the Rooh entering the body, the Rizq, deeds, place and time of death, and state of happiness or sadness being recorded.

1. Physical Appearance of RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam
Jibreel alayhis Salaam said that I traversed the east and the west of the earth, and I did not see a man better that Muhummud sallAllahu alayhi wasallam, and I did not see a paternal lineage better than Banu Haashim. -Imam Bayhaqi and Abu Nuaym in their Dalaailin Nabuwwa- Haafidh alAsqalani radi Allahu anhu says that this deduction of Jibreel alayhis Salaam makes it very clear that RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam is the best in all aspects of his physical existence. -Mawahibul Ladunya- We can understand from this that Allah Ta’aala created RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam with the best physical attributes.

2. Rooh of RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam
Imam Ghazzali in a lengthy discussion explains that the Rooh of RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam is directly connected to Allah Ta’aala. This unique nature of his Rooh allows him to make the Ma’rifa of Allah Ta’aala like no other person. -Mishkaatul Anwaar-

3. Rizq of RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam
At first, fasting was almost a full day. Iftaar was at Maghrib, but once one fell asleep, the next fast commenced. During the hot Arabian summer, this meant that fasting could have an effect on a person’s health.

Despite these long hours, RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam would keep Nafl fasts for days on end. Some Sahaba radi Allahu anhum followed suit. However RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam advised them to rather keep fast every alternate day or even just three days a month. They said to RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallamthat you keep continuous fast, and we like to follow that. He sallAllahu alayhi wasallam replied that you are not like me, I receive the nourishment of food and drink. -Masnad Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal-

This means that the blessed body of RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam received Rizq directly from Allah Ta’aala. We receive our Rizq through our earnings, with which we buy food, which we in turn cook, eat and need to digest. Khalif Umar bin Khattab radi Allahu anhu says that in receiving Rizq through food, the food is a veil between us and the Provider. -Kitaab Zuhd- However this veil was removed for RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam and he was able to receive his Rizq directly from Allah Ta’aala.

4. Deeds of RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam
Surah Waaqia explains that on the Day of Resurrection, we would be separated into two groups, those on the right and those on the left. Those on the right would be the righteous.

RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam says that he will be on the right and he will be the best of those on the right. Then from amongst those on right, the foremost of the foremost will be chosen and they would be the best of us. Surah Waaqia says that they would be chosen according to their deeds. -Surah Waaqia v 10- In this regards too, RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam says that he will be in this group, known as Saabiqoon asSaabiqoon, and from all of them he will be the best. -Imam Bayhaqi in his Dalaailin Nabuwwa-

As we have seen, Surah Waaqia says that the grading of the Saabiqqon asSaabiqoon is according to their deeds, and RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam says that he would be the best of the Saabiqoon asSaabiqoon. This means that from all of creation, The deeds of RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam would be the most excellent in total and nature.

5. Place and Time of Death
For each of us, the place and time of our death is decreed by Allah Ta’aala and it is recorded by the angel whilst we are just 4 months in our mother’s womb. However for RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam it was different.

During the last day of RasoolAllah’s sallAllahu alayhi wasallam final illness, his daughter Sayyidah Faatima was at his house. She heard a somebody at the door. The man made Salaam and asked to enter. Sayyidah Faatima said to the man, may Allah Ta’aala reward you but she politely did not allow him in. After his third Salaam, RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam told Sayyidah Faatima that is actually the Angel of Death, so let him in.

RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam asked the Angel of Death if he had come to visit or to take him. The Angel of Death said that he came to visit and that Allah Ta’aala instructed that he can only take away RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam when he sallAllahu alayhi wasallam wants. Jibreel alayhis Salaam came and he explained that he has opened the door of the sky and of Jannah in anticipation of RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam. The Hoors (heavenly maidens) are all adorned and ready for RasoolAllah’s sallAllahu alayhi wasallam reception. And he has arranged the angels in Saffs, so that they will stand up sending greetings to RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam. After a while RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam gave permission to the Angel of Death to take hold of him. -Imam Tabraani in Mu’jam alKabeer-

With regards to all of us, our time and place of death is recorded whilst we are in the womb. We have no choice about it, and death pounces upon us unexpectedly. However in the case of RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam, he had to choose his time and place, and all the heavenly beings gave him a grand reception as his soul passed through.

6. Happiness or Sadness
The last thing that the angel records whilst the child is in the womb, is if the child will be one who would be happy or sad. With regards to RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam, the Quran confirms that RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallamwould be one who would be pleased; happy.

Allah Ta’aala says, And soon your Rabb will give you such abundance that you would be pleased. -alQuran 93:5-

Some say that being happy or sad, refers to whether the person would end up in Paradise or Hell. In this respects too, RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam has been guaranteed his happiness, for Allah Ta’aala has undertaken that none will enter Paradise before RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam. -Imam Tabraani-

These six points are the matters that an angel would record for each baby in it’s mother’s womb. As we have just discussed above, in each of these six points, Allah Ta’aala has blessed RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam tremendously and beyond any other human. And this is one of the meanings of Alaq, namely a collection of treasures. If this meaning is considered then the third verse of this Surah would mean: He created the Nabi in a combination of various treasures.

Verse 3

The third verse is: Read! and your Rabb is the Akram.

In the first verse we were introduced to ‘Rabb’ which is one of Allah Ta’aalas Names. Rabb means that Allah Ta’aala decrees and causes all that He has decreed to be created. And He remains the Lord of all creation, taking each creation along the path He has decreed. -derived Kitaabul Asma wa Sifaat, alBayhaqi-

Now we are introduced to another Name of Allah Ta’aala , ie alAkram. Akram means that Allah Ta’aala gives benefit and help beyond what we have earned. -Kitabul Asma wa Sifat, alBayhaqi-

Both the first verse and the third verse start off with the word ‘Iqra’. So the question surfaces, why give the same instruction after just three verses. Before we discuss this, bear in mind that ‘Iqra’ was the process whereby Allah Ta’aala spoke directly to RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam whilst he sallAllahu alayhi wasallam saw Allah Ta’aala. In order for this to occur, Jibreel alayhis Salaam tightly embraced RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam three times. Imam Qastalani explains that with each embrace, the soul of RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam transcended until it was intimate with Allah’s Ta’aala Speech and he saw Allah Ta’aala. -Sharah Bukhari, Irshaadus Sareeh-

In the Iqra of the first verse, Allah Ta’aala addressed Himself as Rabb. RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam achieved that state of Iqra by spending days on end in the Ibadat of Allah Ta’aala. Then Jibreel alayhis Salaam gave him the three very tight embraces. This angelic action resulted in his sallAllahu alayhi wasallam soul transcending and RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam saw Allah Ta’aala and received Wahi directly from Him. But all this involved some effort from RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam. Thus we find that in that instance Allah Ta’aala draws our attention to the fact that He is Rabb, the Lord Who takes each creation along the path He has decreed.

In the Iqra of the third verse, Allah Ta’aala addresses Himself as ‘Akram’. Remember, Akram is He Who gives more than what has been earned. This makes us understand that the second ‘Iqra’ is sheer Benevolence from Allah Ta’aala, and in this Iqra, RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam will exceed the first Iqra.

Surah Najm captures this scene beautifully. Allah Ta’aalasays: By the Star when it descended. Your companion had neither been misguided nor did he infringe. He speaks not of his own accord (rather) it is nothing but Wahi being directly inspired. -alQuran 52:1to4-

The Star, refers to the Quran. -Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal in his Radduz Zanadeeq, Imam Mujaahida in Tafseer Qurtubi- The phrase ‘your companion’ refers to RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam. -Tafseer Raazi, Qurtubi-

So the explanatory translation of these verses would be: ‘By the Quran when it was revealed, the Prophet had not been misguided nor had he infringed. He speaks not of his own accord (rather) it is nothing but Wahi being directly inspired.

The verse ‘By the Quran when it was revealed’ is in the present tense. The next verse, ‘the Prophet had not been misguided nor had he infringed,’ is in the past tense and it refers to before the revelation. Whilst the next two verses, ‘He speaks not of his own accord (rather) it is nothing but Wahi being directly inspired’ refers to after the revelation. -Tafseer Raazi- This means that just after the first verses were revealed, RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam was elevated to the spiritual state whereby he was so Divinely connected that, from then on, whatever came out of his lips, was classified as the Speech of Allah Ta’aala.

The following Hadith Qudsi will let us know more about how the speech of RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam was the Speech of Allah Ta’aala. Allah Ta’aala says: My servant does not continue seeking My nearness through Nafl worship, until I love him and I become his Hearing with which he hears and his Perception through which he perceives and his Strength with which he takes hold of things and the Movement with which he walks… -Sahih alBukhari- Haafidh alAsqalani radi Allahu anhu says that this is a spiritual state of Fana. -Sharah Bukhari, Fatthul Baari- The Fana that RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam reached was and is unique and unsurpassed.

Just as this narration of Bukhari explains, so too, after achieving the first Iqra, RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam thereafter reached such a closeness and direct connection to Allah Ta’aala that as Surah Najm praises his speech ‘is nothing but Wahi being directly inspired.’ This then is the difference between the first Iqra and the second Iqra.

In the subsequent revelations, Jibreel alayhis Salaam did not need to tightly embrace RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam in order that his soul transcends to the Divine Presence, rather upon this second Iqra Allah Ta’aala made his sallAllahu alayhi wasallam soul to be always Divinely connected. The first Iqra involved some effort from RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam whilst the second and all subsequent Iqra was just a Divine Favour from Allah alAkram. Thus we find that in this verse Allah Ta’aala draws our attention to His Name ‘alAkram’, He Who gives benefit and help beyond what has been earned.

Verse 4

The next verse says, (He) Who taught through the Pen.

The Pen, refers to three different Pens through which Allah Ta’aala has caused knowledge to be spread. The first Pen is the Sacred Pen which was amongst the first things to be created. After Allah Ta’aala created the Sacred Pen, He instructed it to write all things that were and will occur. -Tafseer Qurtubi- All this as well as Wahi like the Quran, is recorded in the Looh Mahfuz (The Protected Tablet).

The knowledge from the Wahi is kept beyond Sidratul Muntaha. Jibreel alayhis Salaam, who is the highest ranking angel, can only go as far as Sidratul Muntaha. Allah Ta’aala causes the angels at Sidratul Muntaha to receive this knowledge similar to how a breeze passes through a tree. -Tafseer Qurtubi, Surah Najm-

The second reference to the Pen is the Pen of the angels. Eg, when a human foetus is 120 days old, an angels comes to it and writes down the child’s Rizq, circumstance of death, etc. This is the Pen of the angels.

The third reference to Pen is the pen of the Dunya. Sahabi Ibn Umar radi Allahu anhu asked RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam if he could write down the Ahadith. RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam said yes, for Allah teaches with the Pen. Thus this verse includes the pen of this Dunya. -Tafseer Qurtubi-

We thus find that Allah Ta’aala has caused knowledge to be spread by the Pen of the Dunya, the Pen of the Angels and the Sacred Pen.

Verse 5

The next verse says: He taught the Man what He knows not.

To understand more about this verse, the Mufassireen look at a verse in Surah Nisa: And He taught you (Oh Prophet) what you knew not. -alQuran 4:113- This verse of Surah Nisa helps us understand that actually Surah Alaq is referring to Nabi Muhumummad sallAllahu alayhi wasallam. -Tafseer Qurtubi- Thus the explanatory translation would be: He taught the Prophet what he knew not.

In verse four, Allah Ta’aala says that He teaches through a means, namely the Pen. Teaching through this means occurs in Dunya, in the skies and beyond Sidratul Muntaha. However in verse five, there is no intermediary. Allah Ta’aala teaches RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam directly. This fact takes us back to the central theme of this Surah, which is Iqra. And Iqra involves RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallamreceiving Wahi directly from Allah Ta’aala whilst seeing Him.

This is also confirmed by another verse, in which Allah Ta’aala says, ‘And through this manner we directly inspired to you, (who art) a soul through Our Command. It was not that you came to know the Book and Imaan by learning but instead We had made him a Noor through which We would allow Huda to whomever of Our servants We wished. And well and truly you (Oh Prophet) guides to the straight path. -alQuran 42:52-

Imam Bayhaqi radi Allahu anhu explains that the phrase ‘directly inspired to you’ means that Allah Ta’aala spoke directly to RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam, whilst RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam was directly looking at Allah Ta’aala. -Kitaabul Asma wa Sifaat-

The Quran then addresses RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam as ‘a Soul through the command of Allah.’ Imam Ghazzali radi Allahu anhu says that this indicates that RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam is a Divinelyconnected soul; having a direct connection with Allah Ta’aala. The verse goes on to clarify that RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam did not come to know about the Quran or Iman by learning about it in the manner that we would at school or university. Instead, the verse explains, Allah Ta’aalamade RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam from Noor and his Noor allowed him ‘Huda’ and it allowed others ‘Huda’. -Mishkaatul Anwaar, Imam Ghazali-

Imam Bayhaqi radi Allahu anhu explains that ‘Huda’ is the process whereby Noor allows the veils that separate a Servant to be uplifted and Allah Ta’aala is Apparent to a person. -I’tikaad al Imaan- As each veil is removed, one is able to recognise Allah Ta’aala (Ma’rifa Allah) more.

Thus, this verse draws a contrast between learning through a creation, namely the Pen; and learning by directly receiving knowledge from Allah Ta’aala.

To this day, knowledge can still be acquired through these two methods, namely by means of being taught a book and by way of knowledge being inspired or unveiled. Gaining knowledge by being taught a book includes reading a book, attending a course or a lecture by an Aalim, etc.

On the other hand, gaining knowledge by inspiration or by knowledge being unveiled, is only achieved by those who are spiritually connected to RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam, as can be understood from the following verses of Surah Jumma: ‘It is He (Allah) Who sent from amongst a Ummi people a Messenger reciting to them His verses and sanctifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom, and verily they were previously in manifest error, and (he also does this) for those who are yet to join them.’ -alQuran 62:2,3-

Regarding the phrase ‘those who are yet to come,’ Tafseer ibn Jareer says that it means that Nabi sallAllahu alayhi wasallamsanctifies and gives knowledge to those who have become Muslim before this verse could be revealed as well as all those who will become Muslim after this verse was revealed, up until Qiyaamah. Thus this verse of the Quran teaches us that it is through RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam that we may gain inspired knowledge and spiritual elevation, even in our 15th century Hijri. The same principle is taught from the following Hadith: ‘By Allah you are not granted (anything) and you are not prevented (from anything) but that I am a distributor, it is emplaced as I command.’ -Masnad Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal-

The incident of Nabi Aadam alayhis Salaam learning ‘the names’ is an interesting example of gaining knowledge in this manner. Allah Ta’aala says that He taught Nabi Aadam alayhis Salaam the Names. The Mufassireen explain that this included the Names and attributes of all creation as well as the Names of Allah Ta’aala. This included all of us, all human beings. Imam Bayhaqi radi Allahu anhu relates an interesting Hadith which sheds light on the process through which Nabi Aadam alayhis Salaam learnt the names of all humans. RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam said: When Allah created Adam He informed him of his descendants, at this Aadam saw superiority of some over others, then he saw me towards the end, in the form of an illuminating Noor. He (Aadam) said: O my Lord who is this? The Lord replied: This is your son Ahmed who is the first and the last and (on the Day of Judgment) he will be first to do intercession. -Imam Bayhaqi, Dala’ilin Nubuwwah-

This Hadith let’s us know that Nabi Aadam alayhis Salaam saw each of us and he was informed about us. Through this manner he learnt about us and the rest of creation. The interesting question is that at that stage none of us had been created, so how did he see us. Although we were yet to be created, our existence and all other creation’s existence was unveiled to him and he learnt our Names and attributes.

Allah Ta’aala praises this learning process of Nabi Aadam alayhis Salaam by saying that he managed to learn the Names whilst the angels were unable to do so. -alQuran 2:31/33- However Imam Qastalani radi Allahu anhu explains that initially, Nabi Aadam alayhis Salaam also was unable to learn through this process of unveiling. Only after the Noor of RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam entered his entire body, then could he observe and learn through the process of unveiling.

In our lives too, we do experience learning through unveiling, which is non-Kitaabi method of learning. When we need to make important decisions, like Nikah, travel, etc we pray Istikarah Salah and go to sleep. Whilst sleeping we see a dream in which the outcome of our decision is unveiled; whether it would be a good outcome or not. This is known as a true vision. In this way we too learn through the unveiling process.

RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam said that true vision is one part of Nabuwwa (Prophethood). Imam Qurtubi radi Allahu anhu said that this means that our soul actually sees the true vision via RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam. -Haafidh alAsqalani in Kitaab Ru’ya wal Ahlaam- A purer soul and a stronger connection to RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam would result in seeing a clearer dream. Sayyidah Aayesh relates that the Ru’ya Saadiqa (true vision) that RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam would see would be as clear as the dawn. -Sahih Bukhari- Shaykh Muhiyyideen Ibn alArabi radi Allahu anhu says that this means that whilst our dreams are seen symbolically, eg we see a rat which would represent a thief, or Nabi Yusuf alayhis Salaam saw eleven stars in his dream, which meant his brothers. However, RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam saw things precisely as they would occur. This is a sign of the purity of his Divinely connected soul. -Fusoos Hikm-

So summarising these two verses, verse four and five of Surah Alaq: knowledge is generally gained through the Pen, be it the Pen which wrote out the Looh Mahfooz, or the Pen of the angels or the pen that writes out scripts of this Dunya. This is the general way in which Allah Ta’aala causes knowledge to be disseminated. However, for RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam there is a unique method whereby Allah Ta’aala teaches him directly through direct inspiration and/or unveiling. Surah Jumma outlines that we too have a chance of gaining this type of knowledge, by being taught by RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam. This is a superior method of knowledge and Surah Jumma outlines that one would first need to be sanctified by RasoolAllah sallAllahu alayhi wasallam.

Some scholars have said that learning through the pen and scripts / books, is known as Kitaabi Knowledge. The opposite of Kitaabi in Arabic is Ummi. So the other type of knowledge that we discussed is called the Ummi Knowledge, and it has been gained and taught by the Ummi Nabi sallAllahu alayhi wasallam .

This is the end of the discussion of the first five verses of Surah Alaq. During the first revelation, in the cave of Hira, these five verses were revealed, and the remaining verses of this Surah were revealed at a later stage. It has been said that as the first revelation consisted of five verses, whenever one studies the Quran, one ought not to look at a single verse in isolation, but look at it as a passage of five verses. -Hilya, Haafidh Abu Nuaym-

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