Assalamualaikum, we begin with a short introduction of Surah Al-Alaq. The English meaning of this surah is “The Clot” or “The Clinging Thing”. It was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (saws) in Mecca at the famous cave Hira; referred commonly as the mountain of light.
It is the 96th surah of the Quran with 19 ayats. This was the first surah that was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) which signifies the beginning of his Prophethood. At the time it was revealed the Angel Jibraeel commanded him to read this surah but at the time he could neither read or write. The full historical context is given in the tafsir by Ibn Kathir.
You can read Surah Al-Alaq with transliteration and translation below. After that you will find the Tafsir given by Ibn Kathir if you want to learn more about this surah in-depth.
Read Surah Al-Alaq Transliteration
Bismillah Hir Rahman Nir Raheem
In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious and The Most Merciful
Iqra bismi rab bikal lazee khalaq
1. Recite in the name of your Lord who created –
Khalaqal insaana min ‘alaq
2. Created man from a clinging substance.
Iqra/ warabbuka al-akram
3. Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous –
Allathee AAallama bilqalam
4. Who taught by the pen –
AAallama al-insana ma lamyaAAlam
5. Taught man that which he knew not.
Kalla inna al-insana layatgha
6. No! [But] indeed, man transgresses
An raahu istaghna
7. Because he sees himself self-sufficient.
Inna ila rabbika arrujAAa
8. Indeed, to your Lord is the return.
Araayta allathee yanha
9. Have you seen the one who forbids
‘Abdan iza sallaa
10. A servant when he prays?
Ara-aita in kana ‘alal hudaa
11. Have you seen if he is upon guidance
Au amara bit taqwaa
12. Or enjoins righteousness?
Ara-aita in kaz zaba wa ta walla
13. Have you seen if he denies and turns away –
Alam y’alam bi-an nal lahaa yaraa
14. Does he not know that Allah sees?
Kalla la-in lam yantahi lanasfaAAanbinnasiya
15. No! If he does not desist, We will surely drag him by the forelock –
Nasiyatin kathibatin khati-a
16. A lying, sinning forelock.
17. Then let him call his associates;
Sanad ‘uz zabaaniyah
18. We will call the angels of Hell.
Kalla; la tuti’hu wasjud waqtarib
19. No! Do not obey him. But prostrate and draw near [to Allah ].
Tafsir and Benefits of Surah Al-Alaq
It’s important we learn from scholars that are reputable and intelligent. This Tafsir is by Ibn Kathir, a famous Mufassir (commentator of Quran). He is well known and respected for his keen memory and a highly regarded scholar of tafsir. The Tafsir of Ibn Kathir is known by many Muslims as a complete thorough explanation of The Quran and is often cited by many scholars in their research.
His books became popular during his lifetime, and since his death have benefited many people (Read Ibn Kathir Wikipedia for more background information).
This was the First of the Qur’an revealed
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
(1. Read! In the Name of your Lord Who created.)
(2. He has created man from a clot.)
(3. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous.)
(4. Who has taught by the pen.)
(5. He has taught man that which he knew not.)
The Beginning of the Prophethood of Muhammad and the First of the Qur’an revealed
Imam Ahmad recorded that `A’ishah said: The first thing that began happening with the Messenger of Allah from the revelation was dreams that he would see in his sleep that 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. Then seclusion became beloved to him. So, he used to go to the cave of Hira’ and devote himself to worship there for a number of nights, and he would bring provisions for that.
Then he would return to Khadijah and replenish his provisions for a similar number of nights. This continued until the revelation suddenly came to him while he was in the cave of Hira’. The angel came to him while he was in the cave and said, “Read!” The Messen- ger of Allah said,
(I replied: “I am not one who reads.) Then he said, “So he (the angel) seized me and pressed me until I could no longer bear it. Then he released me and said: `Read!’ So I replied: `I am not one who reads.’ So, he pressed me a second time until I could no longer bear it. Then he released me and said:
(Wrap me up, wrap me up!) So they wrapped him up until his fear went away. After that he told Khadijah everything that had happened (and said),
(I fear that something may happen to me.) Khadijah replied, “Never! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you.
You keep good relations with your relatives, you speak the truth, you help the poor and the destitute, you serve your guests generously, and you help the deserving, calamity afflicted people.” Khadijah then accompanied him to her cousin Waraqah bin Nawfal bin Asad bin `Abdul-`Uzza bin Qusay, who, during the period of ignorance became a Christian and used to scribe the Scriptures in Arabic.
He would write from the Injil in Hebrew as much as Allah willed for him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadijah said to him, “O my cousin! Listen to the story of your nephew.” Waraqah asked, “O my nephew! What have you seen” Allah’s Messenger described what he saw. Waraqah said, “This is An-Namus whom Allah had sent to Musa.
I wish I was young and could live until the time when your people would drive you out.” Allah’s Messenger asked, (Will they drive me out) Waraqah replied in the affirmative and said, “Anyone who came with something similar to what you have brought, was treated with hostility and enmity; and if I should remain alive till that day then I would firmly support you.”
But Waraqah did not remain. He died and the revelation paused until Allah’s Messenger became sad according to what we were told. Due to this grief he set out a number of times with the intent of throwing himself from the mountain tops. However, every time he would reach the peak of a mountain to throw himself from it, Jibril would appear to him and say, “O Muhammad! You are truly the Messenger of Allah!”
Therefore, his worry would be eased, his soul would be settled and he would return (down from the mountain). Then, when the revelation did not come again for a long time, he set out as he had done before. So when he reached the peak of the mountain, Jibril appeared to him again and said to him the same as he had said before.”
This Hadith has been recorded in the Two Sahihs by way of Az-Zuhri. We have already discussed this Hadith’s chain of narration, its text and its meanings at length in the beginning of our explanation of Sahih Al-Bukhari. Therefore, whoever would like to read it, it is researched there, and all praise and blessings are due to Allah. So the first thing that was revealed of the Qur’an were these noble and blessed Ayat.
They are the first mercy that Allah bestowed upon His servants and the first bounty that Allah favored them with.
The Honor and Nobility of Man is in His Knowledge
These Ayat inform of the beginning of man’s creation from a dangling clot, and that out of Allah’s generosity He taught man that which he did not know. Thus, Allah exalted him and honored him by giving him knowledge, and it is the dignity that the Father of Humanity, Adam, was distinguished with over the angels.
Knowledge sometimes is in the mind, sometimes on the tongue, and sometimes in writing with the fingers. Thus, it may be intellectual, spoken and written. And while the last (written) necessitates the first two (intellectual and spoken), the reverse is not true.
For this reason Allah says, (Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous. Who has taught by the pen. He has taught man that which he knew not.) There is a narration that states, “Record knowledge by writing.” There is also a saying which states, “Whoever acts according to what he knows, Allah will make him inherit knowledge that he did not know.”
(6. Nay! Verily, man does transgress.)
(7. Because he considers himself self-sufficient.)
(8. Surely, unto your Lord is the return.)
(9. Have you seen him who prevents)
(10. A servant when he prays)
(11. Have you seen if he is on the guidance)
(12. Or enjoins Taqwa)
(13. Have you seen if he denies and turns away)
(14. Knows he not that Allah sees)
(15. Nay! If he ceases not, We will scorch his forehead –)
(16. A lying, sinful forehead!)
(17. Then let him call upon his council.)
(18. We will call out the guards of Hell!)
(19. Nay! Do not obey him. Fall prostrate and draw near (to Allah)!)
The Threat against Man’s Transgression for the sake of Wealth
Allah informs that man is very pleased, most evil, scornful and transgressive when he considers himself self-sufficient and having an abundance of wealth. Then Allah threatens, warns and admonishes him in His saying, (Surely, unto your Lord is the return.) meaning, `unto Allah is the final destination and return, and He will hold you accountable for your wealth, as to where you obtained it from and how did you spend it.’
Scolding of Abu Jahl and the Threat of seizing Him
Then Allah says, (Have you seen him who prevents. A servant when he prays) This was revealed about Abu Jahl, may Allah curse him.
He threatened the Prophet for performing Salah at the Ka`bah. Thus, Allah firstly admonished him with that which was better by saying, (Have you seen if he is on the guidance.) meaning, `do you think this man whom you are preventing is upon the straight path in his action, or (Or enjoins Taqwa) in his statements Yet, you rebuke him and threaten him due to his prayer.’
Thus, Allah says, (Knows he not that Allah sees) meaning, doesn’t this person who is preventing this man who is following correct guidance know that Allah sees him and hears his words, and He will compensate him in full for what he has done Then Allah says by way of warning and threatening, (Nay! If he ceases not,) meaning, if he does not recant from his discord and obstinacy, (We will scorch his forehead.) meaning, `indeed We will make it extremely black on the Day of Judgement.’
Then He says, (A lying, sinful forehead!) meaning, the forehead of Abu Jahl is lying in its statements and sinful in its actions. (Then let him call upon his council.) meaning, his people and his tribe.
In other words, let him call them in order to seek help from them. (We will call out the guards of Hell!) `And they are the angels of torment. This is so that he may know who will win — Our group or his group’ Al-Bukhari recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, “Abu Jahl said, If I see Muhammad praying at the Ka`bah, I will stomp on his neck.’ So this reached the Prophet, who said, (If he does, he will be seized by the angels.)”
This Hadith was also recorded by At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa’i in their Books of Tafsir. Likewise, it has been recorded by Ibn Jarir. Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa’i and Ibn Jarir, all recorded it from Ibn `Abbas with the following wording: “The Messenger of Allah was praying at the Maqam (prayer station of Ibrahim) when Abu Jahl bin Hisham passed by him and said, `O Muhammad! Haven’t I prevented you from this’ He threatened the Prophet and thus, the Messenger of Allah became angry with him and reprimanded him.
Then he said, `O Muhammad! What can you threaten me with By Allah, I have the most kinsmen of this valley with me in the large.’ Then Allah revealed, (Then let him call upon his council. We will call out the guards of Hell!)” Ibn `Abbas then said, “If he had called his people, the angels of torment would have seized him at that very instant.”
At-Tirmidhi said, “Hasan Sahih.” Ibn Jarir recorded from Abu Hurayrah that Abu Jahl said, “Does Muhammad cover his face with dust (i.e., from prostration) while he is among you all” They (the people) replied, “Yes.” Then he said, “By Al-Lat and Al-`Uzza, if I see him praying like this, I will stomp on his neck, and I will certainly put his face in the dust.” So the Messenger of Allah came and he began praying, which made it possible for Abu Jahl to stomp on his neck.
Then the people became surprised at him (Abu Jahl) because he began retreating on his heels and covering himself with his hands. Then it was said to him, “What’s the matter with you” He replied, “Verily, between me and him is a ditch of fire, monsters and wings.”
Then the Messenger of Allah said, (If he had come near me, the angels would have snatched him limb by limb.) The narrator added; “Allah revealed an Ayah, but I do not know whether it is concerning the Hadith of Abu Hurayrah or not: (Nay! Verily, man does transgress.) to the end of the Surah.” Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, Muslim, An-Nasa’i and Ibn Abi Hatim all recorded this Hadith.
Amusement for the Prophet
Then Allah says, (Nay! Do not obey him.) meaning, `O Muhammad! Do not obey him in what he is forbidding from such as steadfastness in worship and performing worship in abundance. Pray wherever you wish and do not worry about him. For indeed Allah will protect you and help you, and He will defend you against the people.’ (Fall prostrate and draw near (to Allah)!) This is just like what has been confirmed in the Sahih of Muslim on the authority of Abu Salih who reported from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah said, (The closest that a servant can be to his Lord is when he is in prostration. Therefore, make abundant supplications (i.e., while prostrating).)” It has also been mentioned previously that the Messenger of Allah used to prostrate when he recited (When the heaven is split asunder.) (84:1) and (Read! In the Name of your Lord Who has created.) (96:1)
This is the end of the Tafsir of Surah Iqra’ (Surat Al-Alaq). Unto Allah is due all praise and thanks, and He is the Giver of success and protection against error.