Tafsir Surah al 'Alaq - The Clot (Surah 96)
by Shaykh 'Abdur-Rahmân ibn Nâsir as-Sa'dî
Translated by Abû Rumaysah
1) Read in the name of your Lord who created, 2) created man from a clinging form. 3) Read! Your Lord is the Most Generous, 4) who taught by means of the pen; 5) taught man what he did not know.
This was the first chapter to be revealed to the Messenger of Allah (SAW), it was revealed at the beginning of his Prophethood when he “knew not what the Book was nor what faith was.”[1 ] Jibril came to him with the message and commanded him to recite. He said that he could not because he was illiterate. Jibril kept asking him until he began to recite, “Read in the name of your Lord who created,” all creation. Then He specifically mentions man and the beginning of his creation, “created man from a clinging form.” The One who created man, undertaking the task of regulating his affairs, must regulate them through prescription and proscription. This is done by sending Messengers and revealing Scripture, and this is the reason why the creation of man has been mentioned after the command to recite. “Read! Your Lord is the Most Generous,” having many Attributes, beneficent and munificent, and extremely generous. Because of this, He taught man knowledge, “who taught by means of the pen; taught man what he did not know,” Allah took him out of his mother's womb not knowing anything, gave him the faculties of hearing and seeing, gave him a heart, and made easy the route to learning for him. He taught him the Qur’an and wisdom, and He taught him the use of the pen through which these sciences are preserved and duties and rights are precisely recorded.
To Allah belongs all praise and grace, who blessed His servants with all these favours for which they can never show due gratitude or repay. Then, additionally, He blessed them by conferring them with wealth and provision.
6) No indeed! Truly man is inordinate, 7) thinking himself self-sufficient! 8) Truly, to your Lord is the Return. 9) Have you seen him who prevents 10) a servant when he prays? 11) Do you think he is rightly guided 12) or enjoins mindfulness of Allah? 13) Do you see how he has denied and turned away? 14) Does he not know that Allah sees all?
Yet man – because of his ignorance and oppression – when he thinks himself to be wealthy and self-sufficient, transgresses and turns away from guidance and forgets that “truly to your Lord is the Return,” and does not fear the recompense. He could indeed reach such a state that he willingly leaves guidance and calls others to leave it as well, prohibiting man from performing the best actions of faith: prayer. Allah says to such a rebellious, insubordinate hinderer, “Have you seen him who prevents a servant when he prays? Do you think,” O you who would prohibit the servant from praying the one who is praying “is rightly guided,” i.e. knows the truth and acts by it “or enjoins” others with “mindfulness of Allah?” How can one prohibit a person who has such qualities? Is not his prohibiting one of the greatest manifestations of turning away from Allah and fighting the truth? Prohibitions like this should only be directed to a person who is not upon guidance or enjoins other people to do things that oppose the dictates of taqwa. “Do you see how he” the one who prohibits from the truth “has denied and turned away” from the command. Does he not fear Allah and dread His punishment? “Does he not know that Allah sees all” that he does?
15) No indeed! If he does not desist, We will seize him by the forelock – 16) a lying, sinful forelock! 17) Let him call his henchmen, 18) We will call the guards of Hell! 19) No indeed, do not obey him, but prostrate and draw near (to Allah).
Allah proceeds to threaten those who persists in such a state, “No indeed! If he does not desist,” from what he says and does “We will seize him by the forelock,” forcibly, harshly as is befitting “a lying,” in what it says “sinful” in what it does “forelock! Let him” who is deserving of this punishment “call his henchmen,” his companions and friends, and those around him to help him out of his predicament. “We will call the guards of Hell,” to seize him and torment him. Carefully consider which of the two groups is mightier and more able! This then is the state of this prohibiter and the punishment he is threatened with. As for the one who is being prohibited, Allah orders him never to lend ear to such a person, “No indeed, do not obey him,” for he commands only to that which will bring loss and anguish “but prostrate,” to your Lord “and draw near,” to Allah in prostration and outside of prostration by performing all the various duties of obedience: all of them draw one closer to Him and His good-pleasure.
This is general to every prohibiter and every person prohibited even though the specific occasion of revelation concerned Abu Jahl when he prohibited the Messenger of Allah (SAW) from praying and tormented him and harmed him.
1. Fath(48): 2
2. Bukhari records on the authority of `A’ishah who said,
“The commencement of the revelation to Allah's Messenger was in the form of good righteous dreams. He never had a dream but that it came true like the cleaving of light in the morn. He used to go in seclusion (to the cave of) Hira where he used to worship (Allah) continuously for many nights. He used to take with him food for that (stay) and then come back to (his wife) Khadija to take his food again for another period of stay, till suddenly the Truth descended upon him while he was in that cave. The angel came to him in it and asked him to read. The Prophet replied, “I do not know how to read.” (The Prophet added), “The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it anymore. He then released me and again asked me to read, and I replied, ‘I do not know how to read,’ whereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it anymore. He then released me and asked me again to read, but again I replied, ‘I do not know how to read (or: what shall I read?).’ Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me and then released me and said, ‘Read in the name of your Lord who created, created man from a clinging form. Read! Your Lord is the Most Generous, who taught by means of the pen; taught man what he knew not.’”
Then Allah's Messenger returned, his neck muscles twitching with terror till he entered upon Khadija and said, "Cover me! Cover me!" They covered him till his fear was over and then he said, "O Khadija, what is wrong with me?" Then he told her everything that had happened and said, "I fear that something may happen to me." Khadija said, “Never! But have the glad tidings, for by Allah, Allah will never disgrace you as you keep good reactions with your kith and kin, speak the truth, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guest generously and assist the deserving, calamity-stricken ones." Khadija then accompanied him to (her cousin) Waraqa ibn Nawfal ibn Asad ibn 'Abdu-l-'Uzza ibn Qusayy. Waraqa was the son of her paternal uncle, who during the Pre-Islamic Period had become a Christian and used to write the Arabic writing and used to write of the Gospels in Arabic as much as Allah wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadija said to him, "O my cousin! Listen to the story of your nephew." Waraqa asked, "O my nephew! What have you seen?" The Prophet described whatever he had seen.
Waraqa said, "This is the same Namus (Angel) whom Allah had sent to Moses. I wish I were young and could live up to the time when your people would turn you out." Allah's Messenger asked, "Will they turn me out?" Waraqa replied in the affirmative and said: "Never did a man come with something similar to what you have brought but was treated with hostility. If I should remain alive till the day when you will be turned out then I would support you strongly." But after a few days Waraqa died and the revelation also paused for a while and the Prophet became so sad that he intended several times to throw himself from the tops of high mountains and every time he went up the top of a mountain in order to throw himself down, Jibril would appear before him and say, "O Muhammad! You are indeed Allah's Messenger in truth" whereupon his heart would become quiet and he would calm down and would return home. And whenever the period of the coming of the inspiration used to become long, he would do as before, but when he used to reach the top of a mountain, Jibril would appear before him and say to him what he had said before.”