How should take the first command of the Holy Qur’an, which is “Read”? In fact, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was illiterate?

Wherever and whenever there is a conversation over reading, knowledge etc., this is sure to be said: “Our holy religion has attached great importance to reading. In the same way, the first command of the Holy Qur’an was “Read !”.

That is correct. The first command of Qur’an was “Read!”. Yet, we always ignore reading the following part of this Qur’anic word.

What is the real intention of the command “Read!”, which was directed to the Ummi (illiterate) prophet (PBUH) and through him to all of us ? Does that mean how to read and write ? For example, did the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) start to learn how to read and write after this command was given? If not, what lessons did he take from this command? Does that command mean that “what and how you read is not important, what is important is to read.” ?

In order to find answers to all of these questions, we need to read the verses that follow this verse, which starts with “read.”

“İqra’ bismi rabbikalladhi khalaq”; namely, “Read in the name of thy Lord who createth.”

What Qur’an means to imply is not a random “reading.” It certainly is not reading any written books. It is such a reading that it means, be it either any book or the book of the universe whose each sentence and letter is full of wisdom and meanings, reading “in the name of thy Lord who createth.”  


The Prophet (PBUH), who was given this command for the first time, read the verse exactly in this sense; and afterwards made every endeavor to read every moment and everything “in the name of Lord.” It was such a reading that, as German poet Rilke puts it, “even angels were filled with admiration.” He was an illiterate prophet; he could not read and write; but it was him who read the book of the universe, the book of human nature and the Qur’an most perfectly.   

 Alaâddin Başar (Prof. Dr.)

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