Al-Alaq · Juz 30 · Qur'an Tafseer

Surah Al-‘Alaq – An Overview

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

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


Period of Revelation: Makkan

Order of Revelation: 1

Background of Revelation:

It has been said that Surah Al-‘Alaq and Surah At-Tin are interconnected. In Surah At-Teen, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala honors man by stating that he is the best creation. Then in Surah Al-Alaq He shows how man rebels despite being the best creation. In this Surah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala tells us how this best creation was created. One of the attributes that makes human beings noble is the fact that they possess intellect. This is the thing which differentiates that makes human beings noble is the fact that they possess intellect. This is the thing which differentiates us from animals. With intellect we can do a lot of things.

This Surah however is mainly signified because its ayah was the first revelation of the Qur’an.

Imam Ahmad recorded that ‘A’ishah radhiAllahu ‘anha said: The first thing that began happening with the Messenger of Allah ﷺ 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 radhiAllahu ‘anha 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 Messenger of Allah ﷺ said,

مَا أَنَا بِقَارِىء

“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,’ (96: 1) until he reached the ayah,

مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ

‘That which he knew not,’ (96: 5). So he returned with them (those ayaat) and with his heart trembling until he came (home) to Khadijah radhiAllahu ‘anha, 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 radhiAllahu ‘anha everything that had happened (and said),

قَدْ خَشِيتُ عَلَى نَفْسِي

‘I fear that something may happen to me.’ Khadijah radhiAllahu ‘anha 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 Injeel in Hebrew as much as Allah willed for him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadijah radhiAllahu ‘anha 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 ﷺ 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 ﷺ 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 ﷺ 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, Jibreel [Gabriel] 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, Jibreel appeared to him again and said to him the same as he had said before.” This Hadith has been recorded in the two Saheehs by way of Az-Zuhri.

The first thing that was revealed of the Qur’an were these noble and blessed ayaat. They are the first mercy that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala bestowed upon His servants and the first bounty that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala favored them with.

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