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Surah Al-ʿAlaq - Perspective on Iqra'


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Perspective on Iqra'



اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ

Read  in  the  name  of  your  Sustainer,  who  has  created.  (Al-ʿAlaq, 96:1).


This is the very first āyah that started the revelations that lasted for twenty three years. It is a very famous āyah. It is also a greatly misused āyah. We frequently hear that the first Qur’ānic command was to read. With that we justify all sorts of activities that go on in the name of education. The irony is that we stop reading immediately after the word “read.” For the very first command was not simply “Read.” It was “Read in the name of your Lord.” And there is a world of difference between the two.

To understand the difference, we can look more closely at the revelations. The very first revelation consisted of five āyahs. It began with this āyah and ended with, “He taught man what he did not know.” The command was not to read anything and everything, but to read with a purpose and a proper perspective. Allāh is the source of true knowledge. And the command is to acquire that knowledge.

The remaining āyahs of this sūrah were revealed sometime later. And here is how the sūrah that began with the word Iqra ended: “bow down in sajdah, and come close to Me.” This is the logical result of reading done in the name of Allāh. It impels the person to prostrate himself before his Creator and thus brings him closer to Him. We can judge whether we are reading as commanded by seeing if it is producing the result as mentioned in the command.

Further, the entire sequence of revelations ended twenty- three years later. And it is also very instructive to see how that happened. The very last āyah to be revealed said: And be conscious of the Day on which you shall be brought back unto Allāh, whereupon  every human being shall be repaid in full for what he has earned, and none shall be wronged.

This is the ultimate result of reading in the name of Allāh. The command to read was clearly leading in this direction, making us lead Hereafter-conscious lives. If our reading is not doing the same then we are not really following the command. It is a great travesty that our current education systems are promoted and justified by invoking this āyah, although they are not at all informed by it.

Qur'an Reflections


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