Assalamualaikum.

Surah Alaq (in Arabic text: العلق‎) is the 96th Surah of the Qur’an and the meaning is “The Clot” or “The Clinging Thing”. It is a Meccan Surah composed of 19 ayat (verses). It was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) in the famous cave Hira.

This was the first Surah which was revealed by Allah and signified the beginning of his Prophethood. At the time it was revealed the Angel Jibreel commanded him to read this Surah but Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) was illiterate and could neither read or write.

We hope this page helps you learn more about Surah Al-Alaq, it is the goal of My Islam site to not only help you read the Qur’an but also to learn and understand the meaning of each Surah. Below every ayah you can find transliteration, translation and at the end we’ve provided various tafseer.

Skip To Tafsir of Surah Alaq

Read Surah Alaq with Translation and Transliteration

Bismillah Hir Rahman Nir Raheem
In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious and The Most Merciful

surah al alaq ayah 1

Iqra bismi rab bikal lazee khalaq
1. Recite in the name of your Lord who created –

Surah Al Alaq Ayah 2

Khalaqal insaana min ‘alaq
2. Created man from a clinging substance.

Surah Al Alaq Ayah 3

Iqra warabbuka al-akram
3. Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous –

Surah Al Alaq Ayah 4

Al lazee ‘allama bil qalam
4. Who taught by the pen –

Surah Al Alaq Ayah 5

‘Al lamal insaana ma lam y’alam
5. Taught man that which he knew not.

Surah Al Alaq Ayah 6

Kallaa innal insaana layatghaa
6. No! [But] indeed, man transgresses

Surah Al Alaq Ayah 7

An raahu istaghna
7. Because he sees himself self-sufficient.

Surah Al Alaq Ayah 8

Innna ilaa rabbikar ruj’aa
8. Indeed, to your Lord is the return.

Surah Al Alaq Ayah 9

Araayta allathee yanha
9. Have you seen the one who forbids

Surah Al Alaq Ayah 10

Abdan iza sallaa
10. A servant when he prays?

Surah Al Alaq Ayah 11

Ara-aita in kana ‘alal hudaa
11. Have you seen if he is upon guidance

Surah Al Alaq Ayah 12

Au amara bit taqwaa
12. Or enjoins righteousness?

Surah Al Alaq Ayah 13

Ara-aita in kaz zaba wa ta walla
13. Have you seen if he denies and turns away –

Surah Al Alaq Ayah 14

Alam y’alam bi-an nal lahaa yaraa
14. Does he not know that Allah sees?

Surah Al Alaq Ayah 15

Kalla la illam yantahi la nasfa’am bin nasiyah
15. No! If he does not desist, We will surely drag him by the forelock –

Surah Al Alaq Ayah 16

Nasiyatin kathibatin khati-a
16. A lying, sinning forelock.

Surah Al Alaq Ayah 17

Fal yad’u naadiyah 
17. Then let him call his associates;

Surah Al Alaq Ayah 18

Sanad ‘uz zabaaniyah
18. We will call the angels of Hell.

Surah Al Alaq Ayah 19

Kalla; la tuti’hu wasjud waqtarib (make sajda) 
19. No! Do not obey him. But prostrate and draw near [to Allah].

Quran Transliteration

Tafsir of Surah Alaq

To gain a deeper understanding of Surah Alaq we’ve provided four different tafseer works which explore the significance, period of revelation, hadiths, and explain each ayah of the entire Surah. There’s rewards associated with reading the Qur’an in Arabic but we should also make an effort to study the Qur’an which is why we’ve compiled various interpretations of this Surah.

Tafseer of Surah Alaq by Ibn Kathir

Which was revealed in Makkah
This was the First of the Qur’an revealed

﴿بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ ﴾

 

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

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,

«فَقُلْتُ: مَا أَنَا بِقَارِىء»

 

(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:

﴿اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِى خَلَقَ ﴾

 

(Read in the Name of your Lord who has created.) until he reached the Ayah,

﴿مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ﴾

 

(That which he knew not. )” So he returned with them (those Ayat) and with his heart trembling until he came (home) to Khadijah, and he said,

«زَمِّلُونِي زَمِّلُونِي»

 

(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),

«قَدْ خَشِيتُ عَلَى نَفْسِي»

 

(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,

«أَوَ مُخْرِجِيَّ هُمْ؟»

 

(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,

﴿اقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ الاٌّكْرَمُ – الَّذِى عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ – عَلَّمَ الإِنسَـنَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ ﴾

 

(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.”

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,

﴿إِنَّ إِلَى رَبِّكَ الرُّجْعَى ﴾

 

(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,

﴿أَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِى يَنْهَى – عَبْداً إِذَا صَلَّى ﴾

 

(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,

﴿أَرَءَيْتَ إِن كَانَ عَلَى الْهُدَى ﴾

 

(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

﴿أَوْ أَمَرَ بِالتَّقْوَى ﴾

 

(Or enjoins Taqwa) in his statements Yet, you rebuke him and threaten him due to his prayer.’ Thus, Allah says,

﴿أَلَمْ يَعْلَم بِأَنَّ اللَّهَ يَرَى ﴾

 

(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,

﴿كَلاَّ لَئِن لَّمْ يَنتَهِ﴾

 

(Nay! If he ceases not,) meaning, if he does not recant from his discord and obstinacy,

﴿لَنَسْفَعاً بِالنَّاصِيَةِ﴾

 

(We will scorch his forehead.) meaning, `indeed We will make it extremely black on the Day of Judgement.’ Then He says,

﴿نَاصِيَةٍ كَـذِبَةٍ خَاطِئَةٍ ﴾

 

(A lying, sinful forehead!) meaning, the forehead of Abu Jahl is lying in its statements and sinful in its actions.

﴿فَلْيَدْعُ نَادِيَهُ ﴾

 

(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.

﴿سَنَدْعُ الزَّبَانِيَةَ ﴾

 

(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,

«لَئِنْ فَعَلَ لَأَخَذَتْهُ الْمَلَائِكَة»

 

(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,

﴿فَلْيَدْعُ نَادِيَهُ – سَنَدْعُ الزَّبَانِيَةَ ﴾

 

(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,

«لَوْ دَنَا مِنِّي لَاخْتَطَفَتْهُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ عُضْوًا عُضْوًا»

 

(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:

﴿كَلاَّ إِنَّ الإِنسَـنَ لَيَطْغَى ﴾

 

(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,

﴿كَلاَّ لاَ تُطِعْهُ﴾

 

(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.’

﴿وَاسْجُدْ وَاقْتَرِب﴾

 

(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,

«أَقْرَبُ مَا يَكُونُ الْعَبْدُ مِنْ رَبِّهِ وَهُوَ سَاجِدٌ، فَأَكْثِرُوا الدُّعَاء»

 

(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

﴿إِذَا السَّمَآءُ انشَقَّتْ ﴾

 

(When the heaven is split asunder.) (84:1) and

﴿اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِى خَلَقَ ﴾

 

(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.

Beginning of The Qur’ anic Revelation
It is universally agreed that the first five verses of Surah Al-Alaq or Iqra mark the very beginning of Qur’anic revelation. [Baghawi]. Bukhari, Muslim, other authentic sources and overwhelming consensus of scholars, ancient and modern, all concur on this point. However, some scholars state that Surah Al-Muddaththir was the first Surah to be revealed, and yet others say that Surah Al-Fatihah [The Opening] was revealed first. It is possible to reconcile between these different views as follows: After the revelation of Surah Al-Alaq or Iqra’, there was a temporary break in the revelation during which the Holy Prophet used to be very sad, but after some time, the Angel Jibra’il (علیہ السلام) appeared to him once again, and he faced the same situation as he faced when the first verses of Surah Iqra’ were revealed to him. On this occasion, the opening verses of Surah Al-Muddaththir were conveyed to him by the angel. From this point of view, it may be said that the first Surah to be revealed after the temporary break was Surah Al-Muddaththir. Some of the Companions held the view that Surah Al-Fatihah was the first Surah to be revealed. They probably meant to say that this was the first Surah to be revealed in a complete form. Undoubtedly, some verses (of Surahs Al-Alaq or Iqra’, Al-Muzzammil and Al-Muddaththir) were revealed earlier, but the rest of the verses of those Surahs were revealed at later dates. Al-Fatihah is the first Surah that was revealed to the Holy Prophet ﷺ in its entirety, all seven verses at once. [Mazhari]

The Holy Prophet’s ﷺ First Experience of Revelation
In a lengthy narration, as recorded in the Sahihs of Bukhari and Muslim, the Mother of the Faithful, Sayyidah A’ishah ؓ says that revelation to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ was started by true dreams. Whatever he saw in a dream would happen in reality as clearly as the light of dawn. Then solitude became dear to him, and he used to seclude himself for worship in the cave Ha’, (a cave in the mount known today as ‘Jabal-un-Nur, which is clearly visible in front of Jannat-ul-Ma` la, the famous graveyard of Makkah) and therein he devoted himself to Divine worship for several nights before he came back to his family and took provisions for his retirement; then he would return to the Mother of the Faithful, Sayyidah Khadijah ؓ and take more provisions for a similar period. (The period of his stay in the cave is mentioned differently by different reports, but the report of sahihain maintains that it was a month, the whole month of Ramadan. Authentic traditions are silent about the mode of worship he adopted during this period. Some scholars have opined that he used to worship according to the Shari` ah of Nuh, Ibrahim and ` Isa (علیہم السلام) but neither any authentic report supports it, nor is it likely, because he was an ‘ummiyy (unlettered). It is, therefore, more likely that his worship was concentration and reflection on Allah Almighty and His omnipotence until the Truth, that is, the revelation came to him while he was in the cave of Hira’; so the angel came to him and said, اِقرَا ‘Read’. The Holy Prophet replied, ما انا بقاری ‘I am not the one who can read’. (The Holy Prophet was under the impression that he was directing him to read a written document. Since the Holy Prophet ﷺ could not read or write, he replied accordingly.) Then the angel embraced him and pressed him so hard that he felt extreme pain, then he released him and said, اِقرَا ‘Read’. The Holy Prophet ﷺ replied, ‘I am not the one who can read’. Then he embraced him and pressed him a second time so hard that he felt extreme pain, then he released him again and said, اِقرَا ‘Read’. The Holy Prophet ﷺ replied ما انا بقاری ، ‘I am not the one who can read’. Then he embraced the Holy Prophet ﷺ and pressed him a third time, then he released him and said,
اقْرَ‌أْ بِاسْمِ رَ‌بِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ ﴿1﴾ خَلَقَ الْإِنسَانَ مِنْ عَلَقٍ ﴿2﴾ اقْرَ‌أْ وَرَ‌بُّكَ الْأَكْرَ‌مُ ﴿3﴾ الَّذِي عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ ﴿4﴾ عَلَّمَ الْإِنسَانَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ ﴿5﴾
‘Read with the Name of your Lord Who created [ everything ], He created man from a clot of blood. Read, and your Lord is the most gracious, who imparted knowledge by means of the Pen. He taught man what he did not know.’

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ returned with this message [of five verses] while his heart trembled and he came to Sayyidah Khadijah ؓ saying زمّلونی زمّلونی ‘wrap me up, wrap me up’, and she wrapped him up, until the awe left him. (It should be noted that the fear felt by the Holy Prophet ﷺ was due to the great responsibility delegated to him, and due to the unusual event of seeing an angel in his original form.)

Then he said to Sayyidah Khadijah ؓ عنہا while he related to her what had happened: “I feared for myself.” Sayyidah Khadijah ؓ said: ‘Nay, by Allah, Allah will never expose you to disgrace, because you unite the ties of kinship, and bear the burden of the weak, and earn for the destitute, and offer hospitality to the guests, and help (people) in real distress.’

Then Sayyidah Khadijah ؓ took him to her cousin, Waraqah Ibn Naufal. He was a man who had adopted Christianity (which was a true religion at that time) during the days of Ignorance, and he used to write the Hebrew script, and translate it into Arabic. He was a very old man who had turned blind. Sayyidah Khadijah ؓ said to him, 0 Uncle’s son! Listen to your brother’s son. Waraqah asked him, My brother’s son! What have you seen? So the Messenger of Allah ﷺ related to him what he had seen. Waraqah said to him, This is the very same confidant [angel Jibra’il (علیہ السلام)] whom Allah sent to Holy Prophet Musa (علیہ السلام) ; would that I were a young man at this time – would that I were alive when your people would expel you! The Messenger of Allah ﷺ asked in surprise, Will they expel me?” He replied. Yes; never has a man appeared with the like of that which you have brought, but he has been held in enmity; and if your time finds me alive, I shall help you with the fullest support. After that, not much time had passed before Waraqah died, and the revelation broke off temporarily. [Bukhari and Muslim]

The temporary break of revelation, according to Suhaili, lasted for about a year and half. Other reports say that it lasted to about three years. [Mazhari]

Verse [1] اقْرَ‌أْ بِاسْمِ رَ‌بِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ (Read with the Name of your Lord, Who created [everything ]) In the prepositional phrase bismi rabbika [with the name of your Lord], the addition of the word ismi is significant in two ways [1] that whenever the Qur’an is being recited, the reader should begin by reciting the formula , بسم اللہ الرحمٰن الرحیم “With the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful”. When Jibra’il Amin (علیہ السلام) suddenly appeared to the Holy Prophet ﷺ and said ‘iqra’ (read) , he tendered apology that he is unable to read or recite, because he is unlettered. The phrase b-ismi rabbika points to the fact that under present circumstances you, 0 Holy Prophet ﷺ ، may be ‘ummiyy’ or unlettered, but Allah has the power to grant you the highest level of knowledge, the most elegant style of oration and eloquence, so that you would surpass and subdue the most educated or literate people, as it became manifest later on. [Mazhari]. [ 2] Allah has many Beautiful Names, but the blessed name rabb is particularly chosen in the verse here probably because it supports and emphasizes the theme that Allah cherishes and sustains the Holy Prophet through all the different stages of his development, until he is fully consummated. He can make him read and recite, despite being unlettered. In the relative clause al-ladhi khalaqa [ Who created ], particularly contains the Divine attribute of takhliq [ creating ] presumably because the first Divine favor is wujud or ‘existence’ as a result of His drawing out beings from the realm of non-existence into the realm of existence. Many other favors of His follow. The verb khalaqa [created] is transitive and it requires an object that is absent here. This indicates the verb is used absolutely, and it signifies that the Creator has created the entire universe and every existent thing it contains.

Verse [96:2] خَلَقَ الْإِنسَانَ مِنْ عَلَقٍ (Created man from a clot of blood.) The previous verse referred to the creation of macrocosm, the large or entire universe in general. In this verse, the phrase is khalaqa’l-insan which refers to the creation of microcosm ‘the best, noblest or most honourable creation’, Man. If analysed carefully, we notice that man is the epitome of macrocosm or the large universe. He is a small scale representation, analogue, or miniature of the large and complex universe. Another reason why man has been particularly mentioned is that the purpose of Prophet-hood, messenger-hood and revelation of the Qur’an is the implementation of Divine ordinances, injunctions and laws and acting upon them: This is the essential peculiarity of mankind. The word ` alaq, being the plural of ‘alaqatun, means ‘congealed blood’. The creation of man has passed and passes through various phases. His primordial creation is from the four major elements, that is, earth, water, fire and air. His procreation is from an insignificant and humble state, the sperm which then transforms into congealed blood. This is the primary state of the embryo which happens after the conception. Then it takes the shape of a lump of flesh and then the skeletal structure is created. ‘Alaqah is the middle phase in the whole process of creation. The specific mention of alaqah covers the initial stage and the final stage of the process of creation.

Verse [96:3] اقْرَ‌أْ وَرَ‌بُّكَ الْأَكْرَ‌مُ (Read, and your Lord is the most gracious.) The command iqra’ [Read] has been repeated in this verse for two reasons: The first command in verse [1] was for the Holy Prophet himself to read or recite. The second command in this verse is to proclaim, convey, communicate and teach or preach. It is not inconceivable that the command iqra’ is repeated by deliberate design for emphasis. The Divine attribute al-Akram ‘the Most Gracious’ signifies that Allah did not create the world or man for any ulterior motive, for selfish motivation or for His own benefit. He has done it out of His infinite grace, generosity and magnanimity. He endowed upon the universe the great favour of existence without asking for it.

Verse [96:4] الَّذِي عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ (Who imparted knowledge by means of the Pen.) The preceding verse spoke of the creation of man. The current verse speaks of man’s education or literacy, because knowledge, as part of education and literacy, distinguishes man from all other animals and creatures, and occupies the position of the crown of creation. There are two means, methods or media through which knowledge is imparted: [ 1] oral or spoken method or by word of mouth; and [ 2] Pen or written method. The command iqra’ [ read ] at the beginning of Surah refers to the oral or spoken method. However, the current verse, which speaks more explicitly about imparting knowledge, speaks of the written method of recording and transmitting knowledge from generation to generation.

Pen and Writing: The First and Most Important Means of Transmitting Knowledge
An authentic narration of Sayyidna Abu Hurairah ؓ reports that the Messenger of Allah said:
لَمَّا خلق اللہ الخلق کتب فی کتابہ فھو عندہ فوق العرش، ان رحمتی غلبت غضبی
“When Allah created the creation, He inscribed a document which is with Him above the Throne: Indeed My mercy has preceded My anger.”

In another narration, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ is reported to have
said:
اوّل ما خلق اللہ القلم، فقال لہ : اکتب، فکتب ما یکون الٰی یوم القیامۃ فھو عندہ فی الذکر فوق عرشہٖ
“The first thing Allah created was the pen. He told it to write, so it wrote what was to take place till Doomsday. This is with Allah on His Throne.” [Qurtubi]

Three Types of Pen
Scholars have said that there are three types of pen in the world: [1] a Pen that Allah created with His own hand and instructed it to write the decree of the universe; [2] the pen of the angels who record the events that are to occur and their magnitude, they also use it to record the deeds of human beings; and [3] the pen of human beings, which they use to reduce their speech to writing. Writing, in fact, is a kind of speech [or a manifestation of it]. Humans are biologically programmed by Allah for speech, and it is thus natural, inborn and innate faculty. [Qurtubi] The leading authority on Tafsir, Mujahid, cites from Abu Amr that Allah created four things in the entire universe with His own Creative hand, and the rest of the creation came into being by His cosmic command of kun [be] and they became. The four things are: [1] the pen; [2] The Divine Throne; [3] the Garden of Eden; and [4] Holy Prophet ‘Adam (علیہ السلام).

Who was First Trained in the Writing Skill and Art?
Scholars have differed on this question. Some say the art and skill of writing was first imparted to the father of mankind, i.e. the prophet ‘Adam (علیہ السلام) and he was the first one to write. [Ka` b Ahbar]. Others say that this art was first taught to the Holy Prophet Idris (علیہ السلام) and he was thus the very first scribe. [Dahhak]. Some others have observed that the art and skill of writing is the Divine knowledge given as a gift to anyone whom Allah wills.

Writing Skill and Art: A Great Divine Gift
Sayyidna Qatadah (رح) stated that Pen is a great Divine gift. If Allah had not granted man the art and skill of writing with pen, it would not have been possible for him to preserve or protect the religion in its pristine form, nor would it have been possible for him to conduct his worldly affairs in the proper manner. Sayyidna Ali has stated that it is a great generosity that Allah has granted His servants knowledge of things they did not know. He drew them out from the darkness of ignorance and brought them into the light of knowledge. He urged them to acquire the art and skill of writing as it accrues great benefits. Only Allah is able to keep count of the benefits of writing. All sciences and philosophies are codified by means of pen. The history of the former and latter nations are compiled by means of pen. Their chronicles and monographs are preserved in writing. The Divinely revealed Books are committed to writing, and shall be preserved till the world lasts. The pen’ is thus able to make great contribution towards the propagation and dissemination of spiritual sciences and Divine secrets revealed by the Qur’an and of physical sciences to which the study of the Qur’an imparted a great stimulus. Without the pen, all worldly and religious works will come to a standstill.

Writing Skill and Art: Attitude of Scholars in All Ages
Scholars of the former and the latter times have always realised the stupendous role pen plays in the preservation and transmission of knowledge, as a result they made a great use of it and left behind a huge legacy of books and writings. It is regretful to notice that in this age students and scholars have ignored the importance of this skill and art. As a result, scarcely a few people in a few million people have mastered the art, or developed the skill, of writing. To Allah do we direct our complaint!

Writing Skill and Art: The Reason Why the Holy Prophet ﷺ was not Taught
It is really very significant that mention should have been made of ‘Pen’ in a Book which was revealed to a person, the Final Messenger ﷺ ، who himself did not know how to read and write. The reason for this is the profound Divine wisdom underlying it. Allah had willed that the dignity and status of the Final Messenger ﷺ should be far above the thinking of the general populace. Allah placed the Holy Prophet ﷺ in an environment which was not favourable for any spontaneous accomplishments, nor was it conducive to any achievements by natural exposure. His birthplace was the rugged and rocky mountainous terrain. The desert of Arabia had fewer plants apart from the date-palms, little water apart from the zam zam well and the weather was always dry, far away from civilisation, and completely cut off from the cradle of knowledge and wisdom. The communications system or network was inaccessible; as a result, the people of Arabia had no contact with Syria, Iraq, Egypt and other civilised areas of the world. Hence, all the Arabs were referred to as ‘unlettered’ who generally had no respect for knowledge, wisdom and writing. Very rarely people had the opportunity to learn knowledge or to acquire the art and skill of writing. The Holy Prophet ﷺ was born in such bare region, among such illiterate tribes and in such harsh environment. He was never given the opportunity to become literate. It was inconceivable that a person born in such a surrounding will be gifted with knowledge, wisdom and high morals. He was, however, suddenly granted the cloak of Prophethood, together with incessant flow of knowledge and wisdom. The greatest of poets and orators of Arabia were subdued by the eloquence of the unlettered Holy Prophet ﷺ . This was his open and overt miracle. Every open-minded person should be able to see with his eye of certainty that his attainments were not the result of acquisition by his own efforts or human exertion, but they were the result of the invisible generosity of Allah Who endowed him with the Prophetic gift. This is the Divine wisdom underlying the reason why the Holy Prophet ﷺ was not trained in the skill and the art of writing. [Adapted from Qurtubi]

Verse [96:5] عَلَّمَ الْإِنسَانَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ (Taught Man what he did not know.” The preceding verse was concerned with a particular means of teaching, namely, ‘pen’, the written method.

Many other Means of Teaching
The present verse purports to say that the real teacher is Allah, and He has innumerable ways and means, besides pen, to impart knowledge. Therefore, the verse says that Allah taught man things with which he was unacquainted previously. The verse does not mention ‘pen’ or any other means of teaching. The reason for that is man is taught from the very inception of his life. First, he is gifted with intellect, the greatest means of receiving knowledge. Man, by the right use of intellect, is able to understand many things. Further, his entire environment is the manifestation of the perfect power of Allah and studded with the evidence of Divine power by witnessing which he is able to recognise his Creator. Revelation and inspiration are other means of knowledge. The knowledge of many essential things are learnt intuitively. Intuition is the God-given ability to know or understand things through feelings, rather than by considering facts or evidence. As a result, there is no need for tongue or pen. When a baby is born, it is not conscious of how its environment operates. However, it instinctively reaches out for the mother’s breast, when it feels hungry and feeds itself. Who teaches it and who can teach it? Allah has taught it the ‘skill’ of crying since its birth. The cry of the baby is the means of satisfying all its needs. When it cries, it becomes a cause of concern for the parents to find out what is wrong. The baby’s cry satisfies its hunger, thirst, heat and cold. Who teaches the new-born baby how to cry? All this is instinctive knowledge with which Allah has programmed every living organism, especially man. After the instinctive knowledge, man’s knowledge continues to increase by word of mouth, and then by the supra-rational organ of intuition, called the heart. Apparently, there was no need to say مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ (… what he did not know) because normally knowledge is imparted of things that are not known. It is explicitly stated here, probably because man may not assume that the God-given knowledge and skills are the results of his own efforts and exertion. The concluding phrase مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ “what he did not know” has been added in order to make man realise that there was a time when he knew nothing, thus in [16:78] we came across أَخْرَ‌جَكُم مِّن بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ شَيْئًا (And Allah has brought you forth from your mothers’ wombs when you knew nothing…). This shows that knowledge is not an ingrained personal excellence of man. It is the gift of the Creator and the Master. [Mazhari]. Some scholars interpret the word ‘man’ to be referring to the Holy Prophet ‘Adam (علیہ السلام) because he was the first man to whom knowledge was imparted, thus in [2:31] وَعَلَّمَ آدَمَ الْأَسْمَاءَ كُلَّهَا (And He taught ‘Adam the names, all of them…). And others say the reference is to the Final Messenger ﷺ whose knowledge embraces the knowledge of all the previous Prophets (علیہم السلام).

As stated earlier, these five verses of this Surah represent the very beginning of the revelation of the Qur’an. Verses [6-19] of the Surah are of much later date. We assert this on the following grounds: These verses were revealed in connection with an incident in which Abu Jahl prevented the Holy Prophet from offering salah. In the initial stages of revelation and Prophet-hood, the Holy Prophet ﷺ had no enemies in Makkah. All used to call him by the title of ‘al-Amin’ [the honest or upright]. They respected and loved him. Abu Jahl’s enmity and opposition obviously started when the Holy Prophet ﷺ proclaimed his propagation openly, called the people towards Islam publicly, and performed the salah in the Sacred Mosque. Salah was prescribed on the Night of Ascent, (Mi`raj). Therefore, prevention from salah, referred to in these verses, may not be imagined before that time.

[96:5] He taught man what he did not know.

Verses [6-7] كَلَّا إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَيَطْغَىٰ أَن رَّ‌آهُ اسْتَغْنَىٰ (The fact is that man crosses the limits, because he deems himself to be free of need.) Although the verse immediately refers to a particular person, namely, Abu Jahl who insulted the Holy Prophet ﷺ ، the statement is general which draws man’s attention to one of his weaknesses. So long as man is in need of others, he walks straight; but when he thinks that he does not need anyone, he tends towards transgression, and develops the tendency to wrong-doing, tyranny and oppression. This is generally the behavior of the affluent people, government officials, and people with abundant children and friends or servants. They become purse-proud and intoxicated with the leadership power they exercise on their groups. Abu Jahl was a typical example of this. He was one of the well-to-do and prosperous people of Makkah. All the members of his tribe and inhabitants of the city respected and obeyed him. He became arrogant and insulted the leader of all the Prophets – the noblest of creation. The next verse warns such arrogant people about the evil consequences of their behavior.

[96:7] because he deems himself to be free of need.

Verse [96:8] إِنَّ إِلَىٰ رَ‌بِّكَ الرُّ‌جْعَىٰ إِنَّ إِلَىٰ رَ‌بِّكَ الرُّ‌جْعَىٰ (Surely to your Lord is the Return.) The word rufa, like bushra, is the verbal noun of infinitive – meaning all will be returning to their Lord. The apparent meaning is ‘returning to the Lord after death and giving account of good and bad deeds and seeing with their own eyes the evil consequences of arrogance.’ The profounder meaning of the verse is that though man has been endowed with great natural powers and has been created in the best make, he errs grievously if he thinks that he can ignore Allah’s help and guidance. He constantly stands in need of Divine assistance, because his capacities and capabilities – either as an individual or in his collective capacity – are at best limited. The proud and arrogant man is thus not self-sufficient. If he thinks deeply, he will find that he needs Allah for every movement and pause. If He has apparently not made any member of the human species in need of another, he is at least in need of Allah for all his needs. Thinking that human beings are not in need of one another is also a fallacy. Allah has made man a social being, and as such he cannot satisfy all his needs by himself. Allah has made the social system or network such that all human beings need one another to satisfy their needs some time or the other. Let us consider an example: A fresh morsel of food that goes into our mouth and we swallow it unreflecting, is the result of thousands of human beings and animals who worked hard for a long period of time. It is not possible for anyone to engage so many thousands of human beings in his service. The same applies to clothes and other needs which require the services of thousands of millions of humans and animals to prepare the needful things. None of them is his servant. Even if he hires them at a rate of wages to work for him, it would not be possible for him to pay them their wages or salary. This secret or mystery dawns upon man when he realizes that the system of preparing all his needs is set into motion by the consummate wisdom of the Creator of the universe. He inspired someone to become a farmer, He cast into another’s mind to become a woodcutter or a carpenter, He kindled in someone else’s mind to become a blacksmith, He stimulated others to be content with labouring or working for somebody else, He ignited in others the burning desire to be involved in commerce or business, trade or industry. In this way, Allah has set up a bazaar of human needs which no government, nor its legal system or an individual could ever set up. A careful thinking along this line must lead us to the natural corollary that إِنَّ إِلَىٰ رَ‌بِّكَ الرُّ‌جْعَىٰ (Surely to your Lord is the Return.”, that is, we witness that ultimately all things are under Divine power and wisdom.

Verses [96:9-10] أَرَ‌أَيْتَ الَّذِي يَنْهَىٰ عَبْدًا إِذَا صَلَّىٰ أَرَ‌أَيْتَ الَّذِي يَنْهَىٰ (Have you seen him who forbids a slave of Allah when he prays?) From here to the end of the Surah, the verses allude to an incident. When the Holy Prophet was enjoined to perform the salah, he started performing it at first privately, later in public in the Sacred Mosque. Abu Jahl stopped him from performing salah and threatened him that if he were to perform salah and prostrate, he would [ God forbid!] trample his neck. Verse [ 14] أَلَمْ يَعْلَم بِأَنَّ اللَّـهَ يَرَ‌ىٰ (Does he not know that Allah is watching?) is in response to the threat made by Abu Jahl, and the verse does not mention whom He is watching. It is of general application – He is watching the pious personality who is performing the salah, as well as the wretched, miserable person who is obstructing the performance of the salah. Here the statement merely asserts that Allah is watching everything and everyone. It does not specify what will happen at Resurrection, because the horrible, terrible and dreadful scenes of that are unimaginable.

[96:10] a slave of Allah when he prays?

[96:11] Tell me, if he is on the right path,

[96:12] or bids to piety, (would the former still forbid him?)

[96:13] Tell me, if he rejects (the true faith) and turns away,

[96:14] does he not know that Allah is watching (him)?

[96:15] Verse [15 – concluding part ] لَنَسْفَعًا بِالنَّاصِيَةِ (…We will certainly drag [him] by forelock.) The nasfa’an is derived from the infinitive safuun which means ‘to seize and drag’ and the word nasiyah means ‘forelock’, that is, the front part of a person’s hair that falls forward over the forehead. When a person’s forelock is seized, he becomes helpless in the hands of the seizer.

[96:16] a lying, sinful forelock.

[96:17] So let him call the men of his council,

[96:18] We will call the soldiers of the Hell.

[96:19] كَلَّا لَا تُطِعْهُ وَاسْجُدْ وَاقْتَرِ‌ب ۩ (No! never obey him, and bow down in sajdah {Prostration}, and come closer.) The Holy Prophet ﷺ is advised to ignore and disobey Abu Jahl when he stops him from praying. He is asked to be steadfast in prayer and prostration.

Acceptability of Supplication in the Posture of Prostration

It is recorded in Abu Dawud on the authority of Sayyidna Abu Hurairah ؓ that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: اقرب ما یکون العبد من ربّہٖ وھو ساجد فاکثروا الدعاء . (The closest that a servant can be to his Lord is when he is in prostration. Therefore, make abundant supplications [ while prostrating ]) Another authentic Tradition states: فانّہ قمن ان یستجاب لکم (…because it is fitting and proper that supplications be accepted in the state of prostration.)

Ruling
It is valid to supplicate in the supererogatory (nafi) salah while prostrating. In certain narrations, special words of the supplications are recorded from the Holy Prophet ﷺ . It is better to recite those transmitted prayers of the Holy Prophet ﷺ . There is no proof or evidence of such supplications in the prostration of obligatory salah, because the obligatory salah needs to be short.

Ruling
A prostration is compulsory for one who recites this verse and listens to it. A narration of Sayyidna Abu Hurairah ؓ states that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ used to prostrate when he recited this verse. Allah knows best!

Al-hamdulillah
The Commentary on
Surah Al-` Alaq
Ends here

The First Revelation

It is universally agreed that the opening of this surah was the first Qur’anic revelation. The accounts stating that other verses were revealed first are not authentic. Imam Ahmad transmits the following hadith on the authority of `A’ishah, the Prophet’s wife:

The first aspect of revelation to God’s Messenger was that his dreams came true. Whatever vision he might have in his sleep would occur exactly as he had seen. Then, he began to enjoy seclusion. He used to retreat alone into the cave of Hira’ where he would spend several days in devotion before going back to his family. He used to take some food with him, and when he came back, he would take a fresh supply for another period. He continued to do so until he received the truth while in the cave of Hira’. The angel came to him and said, ‘Read.’ He replied, ‘I am not a reader.’ The Prophet says, ‘He held me and pressed hard until I was exhausted, then he released me and said, ‘Read,’ and I replied, ‘I am not a reader.’ o, he held me and pressed me hard a second time until I was exhausted, then he released me and said, ‘Read.’ I replied, ‘I am not a reader.’ He then held me and pressed me hard for the third time. Then he said, ‘Read in the name of your Lord who has created — created man out of a germ-cell. Read — for your Lord is the most Bountiful One, who has taught the use of the pen, taught man what he did not know.’ The Prophet returned home to Khadijah trembling and said, ‘Wrap me! Wrap me!’ They wrapped him and his fear subsided. He turned to Khadijah and exclaimed, ‘What has happened to me?’ and related to her what had happened and said, ‘I fear for myself.’ And Khadijah replied, ‘Fear not, be calm and relax. God will not let you suffer any humiliation, because you are kind to your relatives, you speak the truth, you assist anyone in need, you are hospitable to your guests and you help in every just cause.’ Then she took him to Waraqah ibn Nawfal, her paternal cousin who was a Christian convert and a scholar with a good knowledge of Arabic, Hebrew and the Bible. He had lost his eyesight and had grown very old. Khadijah said to Waraqah, ‘Cousin, would you like to hear what your nephew has to say?’ Waraqah said, ‘Well, nephew, what have you seen?’ The Prophet related to him what he had seen. When he finished, Waraqah said, ‘It is the same revelation as was sent down to Moses. I wish I was a young man so that I might be alive when your people turn you away from this city.’ The Prophet exclaimed, ‘Would they turn me away?’ Waraqah answered ‘Yes! No man has ever preached a message like yours but was met with enmity. If I live till that day, I will certainly give you all my support.’ But Waraqah died soon after that…

This hadith is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim in both of the most authentic books of the Prophet’s traditions. Al-Ţabari also relates the following hadith on the authority of `Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr:

The Prophet said, ‘While I was asleep he came to me carrying a case made of very rich material in which there was a book. He said, ‘Read.’ I replied, ‘I am not a reader.’ He pressed me so hard that I felt I was about to die. Then he released me and said, ‘Read.’ I asked ‘What shall I read?’ (I said this only out of fear that he might repeat what he had already done to me.) He said, ‘Read in the name of your Lord who has created — created man out of a germ-cell. Read — for your Lord is the most Bountiful One, who has taught the use of the pen, taught man what he did not know.’ I read it. He stopped, then left me and went away. I woke up feeling that it was actually written in my heart.’ The Prophet went on to say, ‘No man was ever more loathsome to me than poets or the deranged. I could not bear even looking at either. I thought, ‘The man (meaning himself) is undoubtedly a poet or deranged. This shall not be said about me among the Quraysh. Let me climb high up in the mountain and throw myself down and get rid of fall.’ I went to carry out this intention. When I was half way up in the mountain I heard a voice coming from the heavens saying, ‘Muhammad, you are God’s Messenger and I am Gabriel.’ I raised my head up to the sky and I saw Gabriel in the image of a man with his feet one next to the other, up on the horizon. He said again, ‘Muhammad, you are God’s Messenger and I am Gabriel.’ I stood in my place looking up at him. This distracted me from my intention. I was standing there unable to move. I tried to turn my face away from him and to look up at the sky, but wherever I looked, I saw him in front of me. I stood still, moving neither forward nor backward. Khadijah sent her messengers looking for me and I remained standing in my place all the while until they went back to her. He then left me and I went back to my family.

This tradition is related in these details by Ibn Ishaq, on the authority of Wahb ibn Kaysan. [28]

A Momentous Event

I reflected for a while upon this event. We have all read it many times in books; either those of the Prophet’s biography or those explaining the meaning of the Qur’an. But we either read it casually or give it little thought and go on with our reading.

Yet this is an event which has immense significance. It is an event which has an important bearing on the life of humanity; but much as we try today to perceive its great value, many of its aspects remain beyond our perception. It is no exaggeration to describe this event as the greatest in the long history of human existence.

The true nature of this event is that God, the Great, the Compeller, the Almighty, the Supreme, the Sovereign of the whole universe, out of His benevolence, has turned to that creation of His which is called man, and which takes its abode in a hardly visible corner of the universe, the name of which is the earth. He has honoured this species of His creation by choosing one of its number to be the recipient of His divine light and the guardian of His wisdom.

This is something infinitely great. Some aspects of its greatness become apparent when man tries, as best as he can, to perceive the essential qualities of God: absolute power, freedom from all limitations and everlastingness; and when he reflects, in comparison, on the basic qualities of God’s servants who are subject to certain limitations of power and life duration. One may then perceive the significance of this divine care for man. He may realize the sweetness of this feeling and manifest his appreciation with thanksgiving, prayer and devotion. He feels that the whole universe shares in the general happiness spread by the revelation of divine words to man in his obscure corner of the universe.

What is the significance of this event? With reference to God, it signifies that He is the source of all great bounties and unfailing compassion. He is the Benevolent, the Loving, who bestows His mercy and benefactions for no reason except that benevolence is one of His divine attributes. As for man, this event signifies that God has bestowed on him an honour the greatness of which he can hardly ever appreciate and for which he can never show enough gratitude, not even if he spends all his life in devotion and prostration. This honour is that God has taken notice and care of him, established contact with him and chosen one of the human race as His Messenger to reveal to him His words; that the earth, man’s abode, has become the recipient of these divine words, which the whole universe echoes with submission and devotion.

This great event began to bear on the life of humanity as a whole right from the first moment. It marked a change in the course of history, following the change it brought about in the course followed by human conscience. It specified the source man should look up to in order to derive his ideals, values and criteria. The source is heaven and divine revelations, not this world and man’s own desires. When this great event took place, the people who recognized its true nature and adapted their lives accordingly enjoyed God’s protection and manifest care. They looked up to Him directly for guidance in all their affairs, large and small. They lived and moved under His supervision. They expected that He would guide them along the road, step by step, stopping them from error and leading them to the right way. Every night they expected to receive some divine revelation concerning what they had on their minds, providing solutions for their problems and saying to them, ‘Do this and leave that.’

The period which followed the event was certainly remarkable: 23 years of direct contact between the human race and Supreme Society. The true nature of this cannot be recognized except by those who lived during this period and experienced it: witnessed its start and end, relished the sweet flavour of that contact and felt the divine hand guiding them along the road. The distance which separates us from that reality is too great to be defined by any measure of length this world has known. It is a distance in the world of conscience incomparable to any distance in the material world, not even when we think of the gaps separating stars and galaxies. It is a gap that separates the earth and heaven; a gap between human desires and Divine revelation as sources from which concepts and values are derived; a gap between jahiliyyah and Islam, the human and the divine.

The people who lived at the time were fully aware of its uniqueness, recognized its special place in history and felt a huge loss when the Prophet passed away to be in God’s company. This marked the end of that unique period.

Anas related that Abu Bakr said to `Umar after the Prophet had passed away: ‘Let us go to visit Umm Ayman as the Prophet used to do.’ [29] When they went to her she burst into tears. They said, ‘What are you crying for? Don’t you realize that God’s company is far better for the Prophet?’ She replied, ‘That is true, I am sure. I am only crying because revelation has ceased with his death.’ This made tears spring to their eyes and the three of them cried together. [Related by Muslim.]

The impact of that period has been in evidence in the life of humanity ever since its beginning up to this moment, and it will remain in evidence until the day when God inherits the earth and all that walks on it. Man was reborn when he started to derive his values from heaven rather than earth and his laws from divine revelation instead of his own desires. The course of history underwent a change the like of which has never been experienced before or since. That event, the commencement of revelation, was the point at which the roads crossed. Clear and permanent guidelines were established which cannot be changed by the passage of time or effaced by events. Human conscience developed a concept of existence, and human life and its values became unsurpassed in comprehensiveness, clarity and purity of all worldly considerations. The foundations of this divine code were firmly established in the world and its various aspects and essential standards were made clear, ‘so that anyone who was destined to perish might perish in clear evidence of the truth and anyone destined to live might live in clear evidence of the truth.’ (8: 42) There would no longer be any excuse of lack of clarity. Error and deviation would be upheld deliberately, in the face of clear guidance.

The beginning of revelation was a unique event at a unique moment marking the end of one era and the start of another. It was the demarcation line in the history of mankind, not merely in the history of a certain nation or a particular generation. It was recorded by the universe and echoed in all its corners. It was also recorded in man’s conscience which today needs to be guided by what God has revealed and never lose sight of it. Man needs to remember that this event was a rebirth of humanity which can take place only once in history.

A Special Type of Education

It is self evident that the rest of the surah was not revealed at the same time as its opening but at a later date. It refers to a certain situation and later events in the Prophet’s life, after he was instructed to convey his message and offer his worship in public, and after he was met with opposition by the unbelievers. This is indicated in the part of the surah which begins: “Look at the one who tries to prevent a servant of God from praying!” (Verses 9-10) Yet there is perfect harmony between all parts of the surah. The facts it relates after the opening part are also arranged in a perfect order. These two factors make the surah one perfectly harmonious unit.

Read in the name of your Lord who has created — created man out of a germ-cell. Read — for your Lord is the most Bountiful One, who has taught the use of the pen, taught man what he did not know. (Verses 1-5)

This is the first surah of the Qur’an, so it starts with the name of God. It instructs God’s Messenger right at the very first moment of his blessed contact with the Supreme society and before taking his very first step along the way of the message he was chosen to deliver, to read in the name of God, ‘Read in the name of your Lord.’ The first attribute of God’s it mentions is that of creation and initiation: … your Lord who has created.’ Then it speaks in particular of the creation of man and his origin: ‘created man out of a germ-cell.’ He is created from a dried drop of blood which is implanted in the womb: a humble and unsophisticated substance. This reflects the grace and mercy of the Creator as much as it reflects His power. It is out of His grace that He has elevated this germ-cell to the rank of man who can be taught and who can learn: ‘Read! For your Lord is the most Bountiful One, who has taught the use of the pen, taught man what he did not know.’ The gulf between the origin and the outcome is very wide indeed. But God is limitless in His ability and generosity; hence this extremely wonderful change.

Here also emerges the fact of man’s teaching by the Creator. The pen has always been the most widespread means of learning and it has always had the most farreaching impact on man’s life. This fact was not as clear at the time of revelation as it is now. But God knows the value of the pen; hence, this reference to the pen at the beginning of this His final message to humanity, in the first surah of the Qur’an. Yet God’s Messenger charged with the delivery of this message could not write. Had the Qur’an been his own composition, he would not have stressed this fact at the first moment. But the Qur’an is a message God has revealed.

The surah then states the source of learning, which is God. From Him man receives all his knowledge, past, present and future. From Him man learns any secret revealed to him about this universe, life and himself.

This single paragraph revealed at the very first moment of the Islamic message states the comprehensive basis of faith and its concepts. Everything starts, works and moves in His name. He is the One who creates, originates and teaches. Whatever man learns and whatever experience and knowledge he acquires come originally from God. He has taught man what he did not know. The Prophet recognized this basic Qur’anic fact. It governed his feelings, teachings and practices for the rest of his life because it is the principal fact of faith.

Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah summarizes the Prophet’s teaching concerning remembrance of God:

The Prophet was the most perfect man with regard to his remembrance of God. Indeed whatever he spoke was in the line of such remembrance. His commands, prohibitions, legislation, what he taught about the Lord and His attributes, judgements, actions, promises and threats were all part of this remembrance. o were his praise and glorification of God, prayers, his feelings of fear and hope and even his silence. He was conscious of God at all times and in every state. His praise of God was part of his very nature as if he praised Him with every breath. Indeed he praised Him as he stood up, sat or reclined and when walking, riding, moving, at home or travelling.

When he woke up he used to say, ‘Praise be to God who has given us life after He had caused us to die. To Him we shall be resurrected.’ [Related by al Bukhari.]

A’ishah said that the Prophet used to say when he woke up at night, ‘God is Supreme,’ and would repeat it ten times. Then he would repeat ten times the statement, ‘There is no deity but God,’ and pray, ‘My Lord, I seek refuge with You against constraint in this life and on the Day of Resurrection,’ repeating it also ten limes. Then he would start his formal prayers. `A’ishah also said that when the Prophet woke up at night for his devotion he would say, ‘There is no God but You, my Lord. Praise be to You. I beseech You to forgive my sins and appeal to You for mercy. My Lord, enrich my knowledge and cause not my heart to go astray after You have granted me Your guidance. Grant me Your mercy, for You are the most Bountiful One.’ [Both ahadith are related by Abu Dawud.]

The Prophet has also taught us that whoever gets up at night and says, ‘There is no deity other than God alone; He has no partner; to Him belongs all dominion and to Him is due all praise; He is able to do everything; praised is God who is limitless in His glory; there is no deity but God; God is great; no power can operate without His permission; He is the Great, the Supreme,’ and after this says, ‘My Lord, forgive me,’ or any other prayer, his prayers will be answered. Should he make ablution and offer prayers, these will be accepted. [Related by al-Bukhari.]

God’s Messenger once stayed overnight at Ibn `Abbas’s home, who later reported that when the Prophet woke up he raised his hands to the sky and read the last ten verses of surah Al `Imran before going on to say, ‘My Lord, to You belongs all praise; You are the light of heaven and earth and all therein; praise be to You, the true Lord; Your promise is true; whatever You say is true; the meeting with You is true; heaven is true; hell is true; the Prophets are true; and the Hour is true. I submit myself to You, I believe in You and depend on You. To You I shall return. Any dispute I may enter into is for You. To You I turn for judgement. Forgive me all my sins, past and future, public and secret. You are my Lord and there is no God but You. No power can operate without God’s permission; He is the Great, the Supreme.’ [Related by al-Bukhari, Muslim and Ahmad.]

A’ishah related that when the Prophet woke up at night to worship he used to say, ‘My God, the Lord of Gabriel, Mika’il and Israfil, the Creator of heaven and earth, who knows what is concealed and what is made public. You judge between Your servants in their disputes. Guide me, with Your own will, to the truth over which people argue and dispute, for You guide whom You will to the straight path.’ She might have also said that he used to say this at the start of his prayers. [Related by Muslim, al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah.]

After offering the witr prayer, the Prophet used to repeat three times, ‘Glorified be God, the Holy One.’ [Related by Abu Dawud, al-Nasa’i and Ahmad.]. When he went out of his house he would say, ‘In the name of God. I place my trust in God. My Lord, I appeal to You to guard me against going astray or causing anyone to go astray, and against making a slip or causing anyone to slip, and being unjust to anyone or being victim to any injustice by others, and against acting ignorantly, or being ignorantly done by.’ [Related by al Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud and Ahmad.]

The Prophet said, “Whoever says as he leaves his home: ‘In the name of God. I place my trust in God. No power is operative without God’s leave,’ will be answered: ‘You are rightly guided and well protected,’ and the devil will be made to turn away from him.” [Related by al-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud.]

Referring to the night when he was host to God’s Messenger, Ibn `Abbas said that when the Prophet left for the dawn prayers at the mosque he said, ‘My Lord, give me light in my heart, tongue, ears and eyes: give me light in front of me, over me and below me, and make the light You give me abundant.’ [Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.]

Abu Said al-Khudri relates that the Prophet said: “When a man goes out to the mosque for prayers and says, ‘My Lord, I appeal to You by the right of those who pray to You, and the right of my journey to You. I have not come out with any feeling of self- sufficiency, nor in hypocrisy or conceit, nor to seek reputation. I have come out with the hope of avoiding Your anger and earning Your pleasure. I pray to You to save me from hell and to forgive me my sins; You are the only One who forgives sins;’ seventy thousand angels will be charged with praying for his forgiveness and God will receive and welcome him until he finishes his prayers.’ [Related by Ahmad and Ibn Majah.]

Abu Dawud related that the Prophet used to say when he entered the mosque, ‘I seek refuge with God, the Great, and His Holy face, and His old power against Satan, the outcast.’ When a man says this, the Devil says, ‘He is now protected against me for the rest of the day.’

The Prophet said: “Whenever any of you comes to the mosque, let him pray and ask peace for the Prophet and say, ‘My Lord, open to me the doors of Your mercy.’ When he leaves the mosque, let him say, ‘My Lord, I pray to You to give me out of Your grace.’” [Related by Muslim, Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah.]

It is also related that when the Prophet entered the mosque, he would ask peace for Muhammad (himself) and his household, then he would say, ‘My Lord, forgive me my sins and open the doors of Your mercy to me.’ When he left, he would again ask peace for Muhammad and his household, and say, ‘My Lord, forgive me my sins and lay open to me the doors of Your grace.’ [Related by Ahmad and al-Tirmidhi.]

After offering the dawn prayers, God’s Messenger used to stay in his praying place until sunrise, utilizing his time in remembrance of God.

In the morning, he would say, ‘Our Lord, we have lived till this morning by Your will, and we also live till evening by Your will. We live and die by Your will. To You we will return.’ [Related by al-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah.]

He also used to say, ‘The morning has appeared. This morning all dominion belongs to God, praised be He. There is no deity but God alone. He has no partner; to Him belongs all the universe and to Him is all praise due. He is able to do what He wills. My Lord, I pray to You to give me of the best of this day and the best of the days to follow. I seek refuge with You against the evil of this day and the days to follow. My Lord, I seek Your refuge against laziness and the evils of old age, against suffering in hell and suffering in the grave.’ In the evening he would repeat the same prayer substituting evening for morning. [Related by Muslim.]

Abu Bakr, the Prophet’s Companion said once to him: “Teach me some prayers to say in the morning and in the evening.” God’s Messenger taught him the following prayer, ‘My Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth, who knows the visible and the unseen, the perceptible and the imperceptible, the Lord and Possessor of all, I declare that there is no deity but You. I appeal to You to protect me against my own evil and the evil of Satan;

I seek Your refuge against doing myself any harm or causing harm to any Muslim.’ The Prophet told Abu Bakr to say this prayer in the morning, evening and before going to bed. [Related by al-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud.] [30]

When God’s Messenger had a new garment, he would mention it by name (for example, a shirt, gown or turban) and say, ‘My Lord, praise be to You. You have given me this. I pray to You to give me its goodness and the goodness for which it was made; and to guard me against its evil and the evil for which it was made.’ [Related by al-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ahmad and alNasa’i.] [31]

The Prophet was in the habit of saying the following prayer when he returned home, ‘Praise be to God who has given me this shelter and what is sufficient for me; and praise be to God who has given me food and drink, and praise be to God who has given me abundance out of His generosity. I pray to You to extend Your protection to me against hell.’ [Related by Abu Dawud.]

It is confirmed in the two most authentic Hadith anthologies by al-Bukhari and Muslim that, as the Prophet was about to enter the toilet, he used to say, ‘My Lord, I pray to You to rid me of evil things.’ [32]

When he finished his toilet, he used to say, ‘I seek Your forgiveness, my Lord.’ [Related by al-Tirmidhi.]. It is also reported that he would say, ‘Praise be to God who has ridden me of harm and given me good health.’ [Related by Ibn Majah.] [33]

It is also confirmed that he once put his hand in a water container and said to his Companions, ‘Make ablutions in the name of God.’ [Related by alNasa’i.] [34]

When he saw the new moon, he used to say, ‘My Lord, let it come to us with security, faith, safety and submission to You. New moon, God is my Lord and Your Lord.’ [Related by al- Tirmidhi, Ahmad and al-Darimi.] [35]

When he started eating, he used to say, ‘In the name of God.’ He also said, ‘When any of you eats, let him mention the name of God. If he forgets to do so, let him say [when he remembers], in the name of God at the beginning and at the end.’ [Related by al-Tirmidhi.] [36]

Thus was the life of God’s Messenger. It was conditioned, down to every single detail, by the divine instruction which he received at the very first moment of his message. This instruction helped his faith to be established on a genuine basis.

Arrogance and Ingratitude

It is God, then, who creates, teaches and bestows His abundant bounties on man. This implies that man should acknowledge God’s benevolence and be grateful for it. But what actually happens is something different.

The second part of the surah deals with man’s transgression. “Indeed, man becomes grossly overweening, once he thinks himself self- sufficient. Surely to your Lord all must return.” (Verses 6-8) It is God who gives to man in abundance and makes him independent. He also creates and teaches him and extends to him His generous treatment. But men in general — except for those guarded by faith — are not thankful for their independence which is made possible by what they are given. They do not recognize the source of this grace, which is the same as the source of their creation, knowledge and livelihood. They behave arrogantly and transgress all limits instead of being dutiful and thankful.

The image of the transgressing, conceited person who has forgotten his origin is followed by a comment charged with an implicit warning: “Surely to your Lord all must return.” (Verse 8) Where can this proud and overweening person then turn?

At the same time a fundamental rule of the Islamic faith is emphasized. That is, all must refer to God in every matter, thought or action. He is the only resort and refuge. The good and the bad, the obedient and the sinner, the righteous and the wrongdoer, the rich and the poor, will all return to Him. Even the man who tyrannizes when he thinks himself independent will come to Him eventually.

Thus, the first two sections of the surah lay down the essential components of the Islamic ideological concept: creation, education and honour come from God alone, and to Him all will return: “Surely to your Lord all must return.” (Verse 8)

The third section of this short surah tackles a particularly appalling form of tyranny. Its description in the inimitable Qur’anic style fills us with wonder and dismay that it should take place at all. “Look at the one who tries to prevent a servant of God from praying! Think: does he follow the right guidance and enjoin [others to be] Godfearing? Think: if he denies the truth and turns his back, does he not realize that God sees all?” (Verses 9-14)

Our dismay is enhanced by the manner of expression which takes the form of address and conversation, using short sentences that follow in rapid succession. The effect can hardly ever be produced by ordinary written language. ‘Look at’ this ghastly business actually taking place! “Look at the one who tries to prevent a servant of God from praying.” (Verses 9-10) Have you seen this repulsive sight? Have you realized how repugnance is doubled by the fact that the person being prevented from his prayers is in fact following divine guidance. He merely enjoins righteousness and piety, yet he is discouraged and told to desist!

Yet the transgressor outdoes himself by taking a still more abhorrent stand, “Think: if he denies the truth and turns his back.” (Verse 13) The closing note is one of implicit warning, similar to that of the previous paragraph, “Does he not realize that God sees all?” (Verse 14) He sees everything: the denial of truth, the turning away from it, as well as the prevention of believers from offering their prayers. Since God sees all, something must be done on the basis of what He sees. This is the implicit warning.

Thus, we have a scene of tyranny trying to suppress the call of faith and obedience to God. This is followed immediately by a stern warning stated explicitly this time: “Nay, if he does not desist, We will most certainly drag him by his forelock, his lying, sinful forelock. Then let him call his henchmen. We will call the guards of hell.” (Verses 15-18) The Arabic term, lanasfa`n, used for ‘drag’ has a marked violence about it. The dragging is by the forelock, the part of the head raised high by every conceited tyrant. It undoubtedly deserves to be hit violently: “His lying, sinful forelock!” The tyrant may think of calling his clan and supporters to come to his aid: “Then let him call his henchmen.” On the other side, “We will call the guards of hell,” and they are powerful and ruthless. The outcome of the battle is never in doubt.

In the light of this frightening destiny for the unbelievers, the surah concludes with an instruction to God’s obedient servants to persevere and follow the path of faith: “No, pay no heed to him, but prostrate yourself and draw closer to God.” (Verse 19) Do not obey this tyrant who tries to stop you from offering your devotion and conveying your message. Prostrate yourself before your Lord and bring yourself closer to Him through worship and obedience. As for the tyrant, leave him to the guards of hell who are sure to mete out to him what he deserves.

Some authentic reports say that the surah, with the exception of the first part, refers to Abu Jahl who once passed by the Prophet while he was praying at Maqam Ibrahim, close to the Ka`bah. He turned to him and said, ‘Muhammad, have I not ordered you to stop these practices?’ He also added some warning to the Prophet who gave him a stern reply. This was possibly the time when the Prophet seized Abu Jahl by the collar and warned him of his impending doom. Abu Jahl said, ‘Muhammad, what do you threaten me with? I am sure I have the largest following in this valley.’ Hence, the revelation, ‘Let him call his henchmen.’ Ibn `Abbas, the Prophet’s learned Companion, said in comment: “Had he called them, the angels charged with meting out punishment would have taken him away there and then.”

The surah, however, is general in its significance. It refers to every obedient believer calling men to follow the path of God and to every tyrant who forbids prayer, threatens the believers and acts arrogantly. The concluding divine instruction is therefore: “No, pay no heed to him, but prostrate yourself and draw closer to God.” (Verse 19)

References:
28. Ibn Hisham, Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah, Dar al-Qalam, Beirut, Vol. 1, n.d., pp. 252-3.
29. Umm Ayman was the nurse who took care of the Prophet during his childhood. He remained grateful to her throughout his life. — Editor’s note.
30. Ibn al-Qayyim, Zad al-Ma`ad, Beirut and Kuwait, 1994, Vol. 2, pp. 365-371. Many more ahadith are also included under the same chapter.
31. Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 379.
32. Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 383.
33. Ibid., Vol. 2, pp. 386-387.
34. Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 387.
35. Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 396.
36. Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 397.

Tafsir of Surah Alaq By Abul A’la Maududi
The Surah is so entitled after the word `alaq in the second verse.

Period of Revelation
This Surah has two parts: the first part consists of vv. 1-5, and the second of vv. 6-19. About the first part a great majority of the Islamic scholars are agreed that it forms the very first Revelation to be sent down to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah’s peace and blessings). In this regard, the Hadith from Hadrat Aishah, which Imam Ahmad, Bukhari, Muslim, and other traditionists have related with several chains of authorities, is one of the most authentic Ahadith on the subject. In it Hadrat Aishah has narrated the full story of the beginning of revelation as she herself heard it from the Holy Messenger of Allah. Besides, Ibn Abbas, Abu Musa al-Ashari and a group of the Companions also are reported to have stated that these were the very first verses of the Quran to be revealed to the Holy Prophet. The second part was sent down afterwards when the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) began to perform the prescribed Prayer in the precincts of the Kabah and Abu Jahl tried to prevent him from this with threats.

Beginning of Revelation
The traditionists have related on the strength of their respective authorities the story of the beginning of revelation from Imam Az-Zuhri, who had it from Hadrat Urwah bin Zubair, who had it from Hadrat Aishah, his aunt. She states that revelations to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) began in the form of true (according to other traditions, good) visions. Whichever vision he saw it seemed as though he saw it in broad daylight. Afterwards solitude became dear to him and he would go to the Cave of Hira to engage in worship there for several days and nights (Hadrat Aishah has used the word tahannuth, which Imam Zuhri has explained as ta’abbud: devotional exercises. This was some kind of worship which he performed, for until then he had not been taught the method of performing the Prayer by Allah). He would take provisions with him and stay there for several days, then would return to Hadrat Khadijah who would again provide for him for a few more days. One day when he was in the Cave of Hira, Revelation came down to him unexpectedly and the Angel said, to him: “Read”.

After this Hadrat Aishah reports the words of the Holy Prophet himself, to the effect, “I said: I cannot read! There upon the Angel took me and pressed me until I could bear it no more. Then he left me and said: Read. I said: I cannot read! He pressed me a second time until I could bear it no more. Then he left me and said: Read. I again said: I cannot read! He pressed me for the third time until I could bear it no more. Then he left me and said: Iqra bismi Rabbi kal- ladhi khalaqa: (Read in the name of your Lord Who created) till he reached ma lam ya lam (what he did not know).

Then the Holy Messenger (upon whom be peace) returned home to Hadrat Khadijah trembling with fear, and said to her: `Cover me, cover me’, and he was covered. When terror left him, he said: `O Khadijah, what has happened to me?’ Then he narrated to her whatever had happened, and said: `I fear for my life’. She said; `No never! Be of good cheer. By God, never will God debase you: you treat the kindred well, you speak the truth, (one tradition adds: you restore what is entrusted to you), you bear the burden of the helpless, you help the poor, you entertain the guests, and you cooperate in good works.’

Then she took him to Waraqah bin Naufal, who was her cousin. He had become a Christian in pre-Islamic days, wrote the Gospel in Arabic and Hebrew, and had become very old and blind. Hadrat Khadijah said: `Brother, listen to the son of your brother.’ Waraqah said to the Holy Prophet: `What have you seen, nephew?’ The Holy Prophet described what he had seen. Waraqah said; `This is the same Gabriel (the Angel of Revelation) which Allah had sent down to Moses. Would that I were a young man during your Prophethood! Would that I were alive when your tribe would expel you!’ The Holy Prophet said: `Will they expel me?’ Waraqah said; `Yes, never has it so happened that a person brought what you have brought and was not treated as an enemy. If I live till then I would help you with all the power at my command.’ But not very long after this Waraqah died.

This narrative is explicit that even until a moment before the coming Angel the Holy Messenger of Allah (upon whom be His peace) was without any expectation that he was going to be appointed a Prophet. Nothing to say of any such wish or expectation, he did not even have any idea that he would meet with such an experience. Coming down of the Revelation and appearing of the Angel face to face was an unexpected accident for him the first effect of which on him was precisely the same as could naturally be on a person meeting with such a tremendous experience, in the absence of any preparation. That is why when he proclaimed the message of Islam, the people of Makkah raised all sorts of objections, but no one said that they were already apprehending that he would make a claim, for he had been making preparations since long to become a Prophet.

From this narrative another thing which also becomes obvious is how pure was the Holy Prophet’s life and how sublime was his character before Prophethood, Hadrat Khadijah was no young lady: she was 55 years old at the time this event took place and had been the Holy Prophet’s life companion for 15 years. No weakness of the husband can remain hidden from the wife. She had during this long period of married life found him to be such a generous and noble man that when he told her of his experience in the Cave of Hira’, she admitted without the least hesitation that it was indeed Allah’s own Angel who had come to him with Revelation. Likewise, Waraqah bin Naufal also was an old inhabitant of Makkah, who had seen the Holy Prophet grow up from childhood. Particularly, for the past 15 years because of the close relationship he was even more intimately aware of his life, his Affairs and dealings. When he also heard of his experience, he did not regard it as an evil suggestion, but immediately said that it was the same Gabriel who had descended on Moses (peace be upon him). This meant that even according to him the Holy Prophet was such a sublime person that there was nothing surprising in his being elevated to the office of Prophethood.

Occasion of Revelation of verses 6-19
This second part of thee Surah was revealed when the Holy Messenger of Allah began to perform the Prayer in the Islamic way in the Ka’bahand Abu Jahl threatened and tried to prevent him from this. It so happened that after his appointment to Prophethood even before he could start preaching Islam openly, he began to perform the Prayer in the precincts of the Ka’bahin the way Allah taught him; and from this the Quraish felt for the first time that he had adopted a new religion. The other people were watching it with curiosity, but Abu Jahl in his arrogance and pride threatened the Holy Prophet and forbade him to worship in that way in the Ka’bah. In this connection, quite a number of the Ahadith have been related from Hadarat Abdullah ibn Abbas and Hadrat Abu Huraira, which mention the foolish behaviour of Abu Jahl.

Hadrat Abu Huraira says that Abu Jahl asked the people of Quraish: “Does Muhammad (upon whom be Allah’s peace and blessings) set his face on the ground before you?”When they replied in the affirmative, he said:”By Lat and Uzza, if I ever catch him in that act of worship, I would set my foot on his neck and rub his face in the dust.”Then it so happened that he saw the Holy Messenger in that posture and came forward to set his foot on his neck, but suddenly turned back as if in a fright and being asked what was the matter, he said there was a ditch of fire and a terrible apparition between himself and Muhammad (upon whom be Allah’s peace and blessings) and some wings. On hearing this the Holy Prophet remarked:”Had he come near me, the angels would have smitten and torn him to pieces.” (Ahmad, Muslim, Nasai, Ibn Jarir, Ibn AbI Hatim, Ibn al-Mundhir, lbn Marduyah, Abu Nu’aim Isfahani, Baihaqi).

According to lbn Abbas, Abu Jahl said:”If I caught Muhammad (upon whom be Allah’s peace and blessings) performing his Prayer by the Ka’bah, I would trample his neck down.” When the Holy Prophet heard of it, he said: “If he acted so, the angels would seize him there and then?” (Bukhari, Tirmidhi, Nasai, Ibn Jarir, Abdur Razzaq, Abd bin Humaid, Ibn al- Mundhir, Ibn Marduyah).

According to another tradition from Ibn Abbas, the Holy Prophet was performing his Prayer at the Maqam Ibrahim. Abu Jahl passed that way and said: “O Muhammad, did I not forbid you this, and then he started to threaten him.” In reply the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) rebuked him severely. There upon he said:”O Muhammad, on what strength do you rebuke me? By God, my followers in this valley far exceed yours in number.” (Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Nasai, Ibn Jarir, lbn Abi Shaibah, Ibn al-Mundhir, Tabarani, Ibn Marduyah).

Because of these very incidents the portion of this Surah beginning with Kalla inn al-insana la yat gha was sent down. Naturally the place of this part should be the same as assigned to it in this Surah of the Quran, for after the coming down of the first Revelation the Holy Prophet had given expression to Islam first of all by the act of Prayer, and his conflict with the pagans.

As we have explained in the Introduction, when the Angel said to the Holy Prophet, “Read”, the latter replied, “I cannot read!”” This indicates that the Angel had presented these words of the Revelation before him in the written form and had asked him to read them. For if the Angel had meant that he should repeat what he recited, he should not have replied, saying “I cannot read!”

2″Read in the name of your Lord”: Bismillah and read. This shows that the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) even before the coming down of this Revelation regarded and acknowledged Allah alone as his Lord. That is why there was no need to ask who his Lord was, but it was said: “Read in the name of your Lord.”

3Only the word khalaqa (created) ‘has been used absolutely, and the object of creation has not been mentioned, This automatically gives the meaning: “Read in the name of the Lord, Who is the Creator, Who created the whole universe and everything in it.”

4After making mention generally of the creation of the universe, mention has been made of man in particular, saying how Allah made him a perfect man starting his creation from an insignificant and humble state. ‘Alaq is plural of ‘alaqah, which means congealed blood. This is the primary state of the embryo which appears a few days after conception. Then it assumes the form of a lump of flesh, then afterwards it gradually takes human shape. (For details, see AI-Hajj: 5 and the corresponding E.N.’s 5 to 7).

5That is, “It is a great favor of Allah that starting man’s creation from a most insignificant state He made him possessor of knowledge which is the noblest attribute of creation, and He made him not only possessor of knowledge but also taught him the art of writing by the use of pen, which became the means of propagation, progress, dissemination and preservation of knowledge on a large scale. Had He not given man the knowledge of the art of pen and writing (by inspiration) his intellectual faculty would have stagnated, and it would have had no opportunity to develop, expand and become a means of transmission of knowledge from one generation to the next and make future progress.

6That is, Man originally was absolutely illiterate. Whatever of knowledge he obtained, he obtained it as a gift from Allah. Whatever doors of knowledge at any stage did Allah will to open for man, they went on opining up before him. This same thing has been expressed in the verse of the Throne, thus: “And the people cannot comprehend anything of His knowledge save what He Himself may please to reveal.” (Al-Baqarah: 255). Whatever man looks upon as his own scientific discovery was, in fact, unknown to him before. Allah gave him its knowledge whenever He willed without his realizing that Allah by His grace had blessed him with the knowledge of it.

These verses were the very first to be revealed to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace), as is stated in the Hadith reported by Hadrat `A’ishah. This first experience was so intense and tremendous that the Holy Prophet could not bear it any more. Therefore, at that time he was only made aware that the Being Whom he already knew and acknowledged as his Lord and Sustainer was in direct communion with him, had started sending down Revelations to him, and had appointed him as His Prophet. Then after an intermission the opening verses of Surah al-Muddaththir were revealed in which he was told what mission he had to perform after his appointment to Prophethood. (For explanation, see Introduction to Al-Muddaththir)

7That is, man should never adopt an attitude of ignorance and rebellion against the Bountiful God Who has been so generous to him.

8That is, when the man has attained wealth, honor and rank and whatever else he desired to attain in the world, he becomes rebellious instead of being grateful and transgresses the boundaries of servitude to Allah.

9That is, “Whatever he might have attained in the world, which makes ,him behave arrogantly and rebelliously, in the end he has to return to your Lord. Then he will realize what fate awaits him in consequence of his such attitude and behavior.”

10″A Servant” : the Holy Messenger of Allah himself. The Holy Prophet has been mentioned by this epithet at several places in the Qur’an. For example, “Glory be to Him Who transported His servant one night from the Masjid al Haram to the distant Temple.” (Bani Isra’il: 1); “All praise is for Allah Who has sent down this Book to His servant.” (AI-Kahf: 1); “And that when the servant of Allah stood up to pray, the people got ready to assault him.” (Al-Jinn: 19). This shows that it is a special style of love by which Allah makes mention of His Messenger Muhammad (upon whom be His peace and blessings) in His Book. Besides, it also shows that Allah after appointing His Messenger to Prophethood had taught him the method of performing the Prayer. There is no mention of this method anywhere in the Qur’an, saying: “O Prophet, perform the Prayer in this and this way.” Hence, this is another proof that the Revelation sent down to the Holy Prophet did not only consist of what has been recorded in the Qur’an, but besides this, other things also were taught to him by revelation, which are not recorded in the Qur’an.

11The audience here apparently is every just man, who is being asked: Have you watched the act of the person who prevents a Servant from God’s worship? What do you think: if the Servant be rightly guided, or warning the people to fear God and refrain from evil, and this forbidden be denying the Truth and turning away from it, what will his act be like? Could this man adopt such an attitude had he known that Allah is watching the man who is exhorting others to piety as well as him who is denying the truth and turning away from it? Allah’s watching the oppressor and his wrongdoing and the oppressed and his misery by itself implies that He will punish the oppressor and redress the grievances of the wronged and down-trodden person.

12That is, the person who threatens that he would trample the neck of Muhammad (upon whom be Allah’s peace and blessings) down when he performed the Prayer, would never be able to do so.

13″The forelock” here implies the person with the forelock.

14As we have explained in the Introduction, when the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) rebuked Abu Jahl on his foolish behavior, he had retorted: “O Muhammad, on what strength do you threaten me? By God, my supporters in this valley far exceed yours in number.” At this it is being said: “Let him call his band of supporters.”

15According to the explanation given by Qatadah, the word zabaniyah in the original, is used for the police in Arabic idiom, and zaban actually means to push away. The kings too kept armed attendants who would push out the one with whom the king was annoyed and angry. Therefore, what Allah means is: “Let him call his supporters; We too shall summon Our Police, i.e. the angels of torment, to deal with him and his supporters.”

16″Sajdah” (prostration) here implies the Prayer, so as to say: “O Prophet, continue to perform your Prayer fearlessly as you have been in the past, and seek your Lord’s presence through it.” In the Sahih of Muslim and other books of Hadith there is a tradition from Hadrat Abu Huraira to the effect: “The servant is nearest to his Lord when he is in the state of prostration”, and in Muslim there is also a tradition from Hadrat Abu Hurairah that when the Holy Prophet recited this verse, he performed a sajdah of recital.