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Surah Alaq is the 96th chapter of the Holy Quran. Alaq means ‘clot’ or ‘clinging thing.’ People often also refer to it as being ‘congealed blood.’ The Surah consists of 19 ayat or verses. However, this Surah is mainly famous because the first five verses of it were part of the first revelation to Prophet Muhammad (S) in the Cave of Hira.

Background

This incident took place when Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was around 40 years old. He had become disillusioned with the lifestyle of the polytheists of Makkah, and he did not believe in their idols for one moment.

Hence, he spent his time in a cave on Mount Hira, where he supplicated and searched for guidance. It was during one of these periods in the Cave of Hira when Angel Jibrail came to the Prophet (PBUH) and revealed the first five verses of Surah Alaq. He told the Prophet (PBUH) to read, to which he replied that he couldn’t read. He repeated this on two more occasions and then proclaimed the word of Allah.

Surah Alaq: Verse 1

Recite in the name of your Lord who created

The first thing that Angel Jibrail said to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was Iqra, i.e., to read or recite. This shows that reading and reciting, especially when it comes to the Quran, is a very important part of Islam.

The Prophet (PBUH) in the lead up to the incident was absorbed in prayer and the search for truth. Now the truth was coming to him in the form of a message from Allah. The command to ‘read’ was the first step in the Prophet (PBUH)’s mission to spread Islam and the word of Allah.

The word ‘khalaq,’ which Allah has used in the absolute form, shows the vastness of Allah’s creation. There is no limiter attached, and Allah doesn’t mention the object of creation. Hence, Allah is the Ultimate Creator. He created everything in the heavens and on earth.

Surah Alaq: Verse 2

Created man from a clinging substance

Allah switches from the mention of the creation of everything and brings the focus onto the creation of humankind. Allah shows how He created man from practically nothing and made him into one of His creations.

This verse shows the unique nature of Allah’s creation of human beings. Allah stresses this elsewhere in the Quran, where He says that He has created man in the best of molds (Surah Tin).

Alaqah means congealed blood. Congealed blood is how the embryo is after a few days of a human being’s conception in the mother’s womb. After that, it takes the shape of a lump of flesh before eventually transitioning into a full-fledged, albeit tiny, human being. Allah has ordained this whole cycle of human birth, and He indirectly refers to it in this verse.

Alaqah means congealed blood. Congealed blood is how the embryo is after a few days of a human being’s conception in the mother’s womb. After that, it takes the shape of a lump of flesh before eventually transitioning into a full-fledged, albeit tiny, human being. Allah has ordained this whole cycle of human birth, and He indirectly refers to it in this verse.

Surah Alaq: Verse 3

Recite, and your Lord is the Most Generous

Here, Allah introduces the Prophet (PBUH) to one of His attributes. The usage of ‘iqra’ once again also puts the importance of reading and learning to acquire knowledge, a recurring theme in Islam. Prophet Muhammad (S), in this case, had to read and also teach the Quran to people, urging them to accept Islam.

The word ‘Akram,’ which Allah uses here as one of His attributes, means the Most Bountiful or the Most Generous. As is the case with other attributes of Allah, this one of absolute and perfect without any deficiencies. It is because of His generosity that He taught man knowledge.

Surah Alaq: Verse 4

Who taught by the pen

This follows the verse about Allah being the Most Generous. Hence, it shows that knowledge and wisdom is one of the greatest blessings for any of His creation. Allah cites the pen, which we can interpret in a few ways. The reference to the pen means that humans know about sciences and knowledge. We can also understand it to refer to Allah’s blessing toward human beings of the ability to write and gain knowledge.

The ability to have knowledge and to be able to differentiate between right and wrong with intellectual capacity shows how much Allah blessed humans. Without having knowledge and the capacity to read and write, humans’ potential would have been very limited in comparison to what it is today.

Allah honors the pen in the Quran, not only on this occasion. There is a Surah of the Quran named al-Qalam, meaning the pen. With it being the primary tool of learning and spreading knowledge for many centuries, leading humans to progress, we can’t undermine the importance of the pen.

Surah Alaq: Verse 5

Taught man that which he knew not.

When Allah created Adam (a.s.), He gave him knowledge. Knowledge isn’t an ingrained part of a human being, but humans gain knowledge by Allah’s will. The same applies to a newborn baby. It comes out of the mother’s womb alive but needing help to survive. Initially, humans have no idea of how to walk and talk. Allah gives us these facilities.

We need to realize that all the knowledge that we have comes from Allah. If He wishes, He could deprive us of it. There are many things about the world that we do not know of, and that is His will. He says in verse 255 of Surah al-Baqarah that humans have no knowledge except for what He wills and allows them to have knowledge of.

Therefore, whenever we obtain some new information of knowledge, we should be thankful to Allah for it. He is the Creator, and it is by His will that we gain that knowledge. Prophet Muhammad (S) received this revelation, and immediately upon receiving it, he is also receiving the message about it being one of Allah’s bounties.

Conclusion

In this first revelation of Surah Alaq to the Prophet (PBUH), Allah gave a lot of information. If we ponder over the Quran and comprehend its meanings, we will start to see even more of His bounties.

Focusing on reading in the first verse shows the importance of actively searching for knowledge. The discussion about creation in the second verse shows Allah’s ultimate power and ability to do as He wishes. In the third verse, we see Allah’s all-encompassing generosity, without which we would be lost and clueless. In the fourth verse, we see the immense bounty of knowledge that Allah blessed Muslims with. And in the fifth and final verse of the first revelation, we can see Allah’s blessings that cause us to go from being a clot of blood to a full-fledged, intelligent, and thoughtful human being.

This revelation of Surah Alaq would have likely had a massive impact on Prophet Muhammad (S). His reaction certainly suggests that as well. The revelation was very heavy, full of meaning, and the rest of the revelation of the Quran was the same. What a blessing the Quran is for Muslims!