What is the secret behind Jibril’s saying "read" when he brought the first revelation?

Details of the Question

- What is the secret behind Jibril’s saying "read" when he brought the first revelation? – If he means the verse that is revealed, why does the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) say, “I do not know how to read”?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

When the Prophet (pbuh) was in the cave of Hira, where he retired into seclusion on the 27th night of the month of Ramadan (Sunday-Monday), he saw a luminous figure in the horizon just before dawn. He heard that this luminous being, which he had never met before, called him.

The Prophet narrates the incident as follows:

"The angel ordered me to read. I told him that I did not know how to read. He caught me and pressed me hard and said, ‘Read!’  I said, 'I do not know how to read.' Thereupon he caught me again and pressed me again and said, ‘Read!’ again. I said again, 'I do not know how to read.' He caught me and pressed me hard again and said,

Proclaim! (or read!) in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created-Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood: Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful,- He Who taught (the use of) the pen,- Taught man that which he knew not..'" (see Bukhari, Bad'ul-Wahy, 3; Muslim, Iman, 252)

We should first state that the Prophet (pbuh) encountered something like that for the first time. A strange person appeared in the darkness of the night and told him to “read”. It is quite natural for the Prophet– who could not read and write – to say “I do not know how to read.”

In Arabic, the order “iqra=read" can be understood in two ways by the addressee:

The first one is to read a written text.

The second one is to read by heart. Since there is no written text in the first revelation, the order “read” orders the addressee to memorize the verses to be read to him.

"Verily this is a Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds: With it came down the spirit of Faith and Truth-To thy heart and mind, that thou mayest admonish. In the perspicuous Arabic tongue." (ash-Shuara, 26/192-195)

As it is stated in the verses above, the Quran was sent down to the heart of the Prophet and he knew it by heart.

In addition, the order “read” here is an implication that the Prophet (pbuh) should record the verses to be sent down to him in writing and a spiritual order to fulfill it. Therefore, the Prophet dictated every verse he received to his scribes as soon as he received them. In addition, he memorized them and made his friends memorize them.

Those verses consist of the first revelation sent to the Prophet (pbuh) and order him and all Muslims to read and encourage them to write the verses and to be knowledgeable. That the first revelation started with the order "read" and that this order was repeated twice show how important reading and knowledge are in the religion and life of man.

It is significant that the Quran describes the different and superior place of man among living beings with his ability to learn. (see also al-Baqara, 2/31) The topic of the reading ordered to the Prophet (pbuh) is not mentioned in the verse because he is demanded to obtain knowledge about the revelation sent down to him and the verses (signs) in the cosmic universe, that is, to know everything that is necessary to study, meditate on and take lessons, and to understand their real nature.  

Doubtlessly, to know the Creator forms the basis of science and religion. Therefore, the Prophet (pbuh) was ordered by the command "Read in the name of thy Lord, Who created" to start reading or any other activity in (with) the name of the Lord, the Creator, not with any other beings, and to ask help from Him. 

The verse can be translated as "Read with the name of thy Lord, Who created." Thus, reading (or any other activity) is ordered to be done in the name of Allah, for Allah and with the name of Allah.

In addition, Allah’s attribute of creation is emphasized with the statement "Read in the name of thy Lord, Who created" in the verse. For, it is Allah who created the ability to read in man and the things he reads, studies and tries to understand and comprehend.

Man uses the possibilities and abilities Allah gave him in the process of obtaining information and knowledge, and he does scientific study and research under the conditions He created and on the beings He created.

Therefore, it is sheer ingratitude not to thank Allah, not to know Him and to do so in the name of science while studying the realm of beings with the abilities He created by ignoring those graces of Allah.

For more information please click on the link;

Was the Prophet Muhammad ummi? What does "ummi prophet" mean? How did he read if he were illiterate?

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