Al-Alaq · Juz 30 · Qur'an Tafseer

Taseer Surah Al-‘Alaq Ayaat 1-5

The Honor and Nobility of Man is in His Knowledge 


These ayaat inform of the beginning of man’s creation from a dangling clot. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala out of His generosity taught man that which he did not know. Thus, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala exalted him and honored him by giving him knowledge and it is the dignity that the Father of Humanity, Adam ‘alayhi salaam was distinguished with over the angels.

This is one of the Surahs that begins with a command, “Read, in the Name of your Lord,” (96: 1). The usage of the word ‘read’ indicates that the Prophet ﷺ was given these words in the written form. For if the angel had meant that he should repeat what he recited, the Prophet ﷺ would not have replied saying he could not read.

By saying, “Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created,” (96: 1) Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala establishes His authority over what He has made. Today, we have curriculums where there is no mention of the Creator. People are gaining knowledge about numerous subjects without connecting to their Creator. By saying, “Read, in the Name of your Lord,” Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala reminds us to remember Him – He Who taught man to read.

Secondly, the Prophet ﷺ lived in a hostile environment. It was the life of survival of the fittest. They were power hungry people and would not let anyone have authority over them; stopping them from following the practices of their forefathers? It was out of question.

The Prophet ﷺ was not to keep the revelation to himself he was to spread it among others. By saying, “Read, in the Name of your Lord,” Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala was preparing him for the opposition that he would face in the future. His own tribesmen and uncles were to turn against him. His people were to plot his assasination. To face such intense hostility he was to strengthen himself knowing that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala was with him. He was to fear no one but Him.

LESSON: This is an important tip for anyone engaged in da’wah. When you are to convey some authentic knowledge to others do not fear mockery or opposition. Trust Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and carry forward the message. You are subservient to the Creator not the creation. If the creation is pleased with you and the Creator is not, you have lost everything. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala not make us of the losers, ameen.

This also teaches us that before beginning any task we should first take the Name of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (that is, recite Basmallah). We should also be careful of what we are reading and not read just about anything. Therefore, we pray for beneficial knowledge. When you learn something do not keep it to yourself but convey it to others too.

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.”

[How to seek Knowledge]

Next, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala reminds us of our creation – how we were created. He created us from a clot that is how insignificant we were. Our status, our looks, our wealth should not make us arrogant. We must remember our humble beginning.

Reminding man of his insignificant position, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala follows it up by telling us Who in reality deserves honor. He says, “And your Lord is the Most Generous,” (96: 3). He is the One Who deserves all praise and credits – and not us. Had it not been His favor we would not have learned how to read or write. Had we not learned how to read or write, how could we have gained knowledge? How could we have earned our degrees and made a living? He has been Extremely Kind and Generous to us, alhumdulillah.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “Who has taught (the writing) by the pen,” (96: 4). All the knowledge that we have in the world today is due to someone writing knowledge and passing it on to the later generations.

Twice Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala commands us to “read” and twice He said “Alam-ma” meaning taught. This signifies the importance of reading and learning. Not just learn but preserve it and benefit others by it too. In Surah Al-Qalam, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala swears by pen. The pen is a means of preserving knowledge. The angels too are preserving our records through their pens.

Mu’awiyah radhiAllahu ‘anhu reported the Prophet ﷺ said,

من يرد الله به خيرًا يفقه في الدين‏‏

“When Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) wishes good for someone, He bestows upon him the understanding of Deen.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

‘Abdullah ibn Mas’oud radhiAllahu ‘anhu reported the Prophet ﷺ said,

‏لا حسد إلا في اثنتين‏:‏ رجل آتاه الله مالا فسلطه على هلكته في الحق، ورجل آتاه الله الحكمة فهو يقضي بها ويعلمها‏‏

“Envy is permitted only in two cases: A man whom Allah gives wealth, and he disposes it of rightfully, and a man to whom Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) gives knowledge which he applies and teaches it.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

Abu Musa radhiAllahu ‘anhu reported that the Prophet ﷺ said,


مثل ما بعثني الله به من الهدى والعلم كمثل غيث أصاب أرضًا، فكانت منها طائفة طيبة قبلت الماء فأنبتت الكلأ، والعشب الكثير وكان منها أجادب أمسكت الماء، فنفع الله بها الناس، فشربوا منها وسقوا وزرعوا، وأصاب طائفة منها أخرى إنما هي قيعان لا تمسك ماء ولا تنبت كلأ فذلك مثل من فقه في دين الله ونفعه ما بعثني الله به وعلم، ومثل من لم يرفع بذلك رأسًا ولم يقبل هدى الله الذي أرسلت به‏‏

“The guidance and knowledge with which Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) has sent me are like abundant rain which fell on a land. A fertile part of it absorbed the water and brought forth profuse herbage and pasture; and solid ground patches which retained the water by which Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) has benefitted people, who drank from it, irrigated their crops and sowed their seeds; and another sandy plain which could neither retain the water nor produce herbage. Such is the similitude of the person who becomes well-versed in the religion of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and receives benefit from the Message entrusted to me by Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), so he himself has learned and taught it to others; such is also the similitude of the person who has stubbornly and ignorantly rejected Allah’s Guidance with which I have been sent.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

Sahl ibn Sa’d radhiAllahu ‘anhu reported that the Prophet ﷺ said to ‘Ali radhiAllahu ‘anhu,

فوالله لأن يهدي الله بك رجلا واحدا خير من حمر النعم

“By Allah, if a single person is guided by Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) through you, it will be better for you than a whole lot of red camels.” [Agreed upon]

Abu Huraira radhiAllahu ‘anhu reported that the Prophet ﷺ said,

ومن سلك طريقًا يلتمس فيه علما سهل الله له به طريقًا إلى الجنة

“Allah makes the way to Jannah easy for him who treads the path in search of knowledge.” [Muslim]

May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala make us of those for whom the path of Jannah has been made easy, and make us of those who learn the Qur’an and teach it to others, ameen.

[For more ahadeeth on the virtue of gaining knowledge click here]

“He taught man what he knew not,” (96: 5) this is similar to what Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in Surah Al-Baqarah ayah 239, “So remember Allah, as He taught you that which you did not know.”

We must learn to attribute all good that we possess to none but Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. We are not special. It is Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala Who has especially favored us. Therefore, we must appreciate His gifts and remember to express our gratitude for His blessings.

There was a time when we were known for our esteemed educational standards, today the total number of universities in the Muslim world are less than the universities in one European country. We broke our covenant with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala indulged in worldly charms and forgot our purpose of creation. We built fancy shopping malls and recreational centers and forget the Masjid. We need to rise up from chasing insignificant things and go for worthier goals – chase Jannah, learn and teach beneficial knowledge.

[Education in Islamic History]

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