Ayaat 16-19 – Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala teaches the Qur’an
In these ayaat Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is addressing the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and the message is for all of us. He says,
This was the initial stage of Qur’an revelation and the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was still unfamiliar with receiving it. He would hasten to memorize everything that Jibreel ‘alayhi salaam taught him. He was afraid that if he does not grasp it quickly he won’t be able to retain the correct way of recital. In these ayaat, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala interrupts the process of revelation and guides the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam as to how to receive the revelation from the angel. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala commanded him to listen first then it was upon Allah to ensure collecting it in his chest, and making it easy for him to recite in the same way as it was revealed to him. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala would explain it, interpret it and clarify it for him. So the first phase was gathering it in his chest, the second phase was recitation and the third phase was its explanation and clarification of its meaning.
Why does Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala say, “And when We have recited it to you, then follow you its recital,” (75:18)? It is because Jibreel ‘alayhi salaam would first be taught by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala as to how to recite the Qur’an, and then he would teach it to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
Here we too get a Qur’an recital tip: At first listen attentively to how the Qur’an is being recited. Make du’a to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to open up the knots on your tongue to recite it with ease, and increase you in knowledge. When you recite the Qur’an emulate the reciter.
“Then it is for Us to make it clear to you,” (75:19) meaning after memorizing and reciting the Qur’an, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will explain the ayaat to him, clarify them and inspire him with their meaning as to what Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala intended and legislated.
Here we learn two things.
First, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala putting this ayah in the Qur’an clarifies that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam never spoke out of his own desire. Whatever he taught us is what Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ‘inspired’ him to say.
Second, the explanation of the meaning and intention of the Qur’an and of its commandments was given by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam so that he should make the people understand the Qur’an and teach them to act on its commands. We find the reference for this in Surah an-Nahl ayah 44, “And We have also sent down unto you (O Muhammad) the reminder and the advice (the Qur’an), that you may explain clearly to men what is sent down to them, and that they may give thought.”
At four places (2:129, 2:151, 3:164, 62:2) in the Qur’an, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has stated that the Prophet’s task was not only to recite the ayaat of the Book of Allah but also to ‘teach’ the Book. Let’s look at Surah al-Jumu’ah ayah 2 as an example,
“He it is Who sent among the unlettered ones a Messenger from among themselves, reciting to them His ayaat, purifying them, and teaching them the Book and al-Hikmah (As-Sunnah). And verily, they had been before in manifest error.”
This tells us there are four main purposes of reciting the Qur’an:
1. Tilawah (recitation);
2. Tazkiyah (purification);
3. Understanding the meaning;
4. Tafseer (in-depth study of the Qur’an as explained by the Prophet)