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Surah Al-Alaq

Ayat/pg: 5 | 10 | 15 | 20 | All

Maududi's Commentry (Tafseer) on Surah Al-Alaq

Mecca Mecca (1)
19Total Ayat: 19
1Total Ruku: 1


The Surah is so entitled after the word `alaq in the second verse.

Period of Revelation

This Surah has two parts: the first part consists of vv. 1-5, and thesecond of vv. 6-19. About the first part a great majority of theIslamic scholars are agreed that it forms the very first Revelation tobe sent down to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah's peace andblessings). In this regard, the Hadith from Hadrat Aishah, which ImamAhmad, Bukhari, Muslim, and other traditionists have related withseveral chains of authorities, is one of the most authentic Ahadith onthe subject. In it Hadrat Aishah has narrated the full story of thebeginning of revelation as she herself heard it from the HolyMessenger of Allah. Besides, Ibn Abbas, Abu Musa al-Ashari and a groupof the Companions also are reported to have stated that these were thevery first verses of the Quran to be revealed to the Holy Prophet. Thesecond part was sent down afterwards when the Holy Prophet (upon whombe peace) began to perform the prescribed Prayer in the precincts ofthe Kabah and Abu Jahl tried to prevent him from this with threats.

Beginning of Revelation

The traditionists have related on the strength of their respectiveauthorities the story of the beginning of revelation from Imam Az--Zuhri, who had it from Hadrat Urwah bin Zubair, who had it fromHadrat Aishah, his aunt. She states that revelations to the HolyProphet (upon whom be peace) began in the form of true (according toother traditions, good) visions. Whichever vision he saw it seemed asthough he saw it in broad daylight. Afterwards solitude became dear tohim and he would go to the Cave of Hira to engage in worship there forseveral days and nights (Hadrat Aishah has used the word tahannuth,which Imam Zuhri has explained as ta'abbud: devotional exercises. Thiswas some kind of worship which he performed, for until then he had notbeen taught the method of performing the Prayer by Allah). He wouldtake provisions with him and stay there for several days, then wouldreturn to Hadrat Khadijah who would again provide for him for a fewmore days. One day when he was in the Cave of Hira, Revelation camedown to him unexpectedly and the Angel said, to him: "Read". Afterthis Hadrat Aishah reports the words of the Holy Prophet himself, tothe effect, "I said: I cannot read! There upon the Angel took me andpressed me until I could bear it no more. Then he left me and said:Read. I said: I cannot read! He pressed me a second time until I couldbear it no more. Then he left me and said: Read. I again said: Icannot read! He pressed me for the third time until I could bear it nomore. Then he left me and said: Iqra bismi Rabbi kal- ladhi khalaqa:(Read in the name of your Lord Who created) till he reached ma lam yalam (what he did not know)."Hadrat Aishah says: "Then the HolyMessenger (upon whom be peace) returned home to Hadrat Khadijahtrembling with fear, and said to her: `Cover me, cover me', and he wascovered. When terror left him, he said: `O Khadijah, what has happenedto me?' Then he narrated to her whatever had happened, and said: `Ifear for my life'. She said; `No never! Be of good cheer. By God,never will God debase you: you treat the kindred well, you speak thetruth, (one tradition adds: you restore what is entrusted to you), youbear the burden of the helpless, you help the poor, you entertain theguests, and you cooperate in good works.' Then she took him to Waraqahbin Naufal, who was her cousin. He had become a Christian in pre-Islamic days, wrote the Gospel in Arabic and Hebrew, and had becomevery old and blind. Hadrat Khadijah said: `Brother, listen to the sonof your brother.' Waraqah said to the Holy Prophet: `What have youseen, nephew?' The Holy Prophet described what he had seen. Waraqahsaid; `This is the same Namus (the Angel of Revelation) which Allahhad sent down to Moses. Would that I were a young man during yourProphethood! Would that I were alive when your tribe would expel you!'The Holy Prophet said: `Will they expel me?' Waraqah said; `Yes, neverhas it so happened that a person brought what you have brought and wasnot treated as an enemy. If I live till then I would help you with allthe power at my command.' But not very long after this Waraqah died."

This narrative is explicit that even until a moment before the comingAngel the Holy Messenger of Allah (upon whom be His peace) was without any expectation that he was going to be appointed a Prophet. Nothing to say of any such wish or expectation, he did not even have any idea that he would meet with such an experience. Coming down of the Revelation and appearing of the Angel face to face was an unexpected accident for him the first effect of which on him was precisely the same as could naturally be on a person meeting with such a tremendous experience, in the absence of any preparation. That is why when he proclaimed the message of Islam, the people of Makkah raised all sorts of objections, but no one said that they were already apprehending that he would make a claim, for he had been making preparations since long to become a Prophet.

From this narrative another thing which also becomes obvious is how pure was the Holy Prophet's life and how sublime was his character before Prophethood, Hadrat Khadijah was no young lady: she was 55 years old at the time this event took place and had been the Holy Prophet's life companion for 15 years. No weakness of the husband can remain hidden from the wife. She had during this long period of married life found him to be such a generous and noble man that when he told her of his experience in the Cave of Hira', she admitted without the least hesitation that it was indeed Allah's own Angel who had come to him with Revelation. Likewise, Waraqah bin Naufal also was an old inhabitant of Makkah, who had seen the Holy Prophet grow up from childhood. Particularly, for the past 15 years because of the close relationship he was even more intimately aware of his life, hisAffairs and dealings. When he also heard of his experience, she didnot regard it as an evil suggestion, but immediately said that it wasthe Namus who had descended on Moses (peace be upon him). This meantthat even according to him the Holy Prophet was such a sublime personthat there was nothing surprising in his being elevated to the officeof Prophethood.

Occasion of Revelation of vv. 6-19

This second part ofthee Surah was revealed when the Holy Messenger of Allah began toperform the Prayer in the Islamic way in the Ka'bahand Abu Jahlthreatened and tried to prevent him from this. It so happened thatafter his appointment to Prophethood even before he could startpreaching Islam openly, he began to perform the Prayer in theprecincts of the Ka'bahin the way Allah taught him; and from this theQuraishfelt for the first time that he had adopted a new religion. Theother people were watching it with curiosity, but Abu Jahl in hisarrogance and pride threatened the Holy Prophet and forbade him toworship in that way in the Ka'bah. In this connection, quite a numberof the Ahadith have been related from Hadarat Abdullah ibn Abbas andHadrat Abu Huraira, which mention the foolish behaviour of Abu Jahl.

Hadrat Abu Huraira says that Abu Jahl asked the people of Quraish:"Does Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) set his faceon the ground before you?"When they replied in the affirmative, hesaid:"By Lat and Uzza, if I ever catch him in that act of worship, Iwould set my foot on his neck and rub his face in the dust."Then it sohappened that he saw the Holy Messenger in that posture and cameforward to set his foot on his neck, but suddenly turned back as if ina fright and being asked what was the matter, he said there was aditch of fire and a terrible apparition between himself and Muhammad(upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) and some wings. On hearingthis the Holy Prophet remarked:"Had he come near me, the angels wouldhave smitten and torn him to pieces." (Ahmad, Muslim, Nasai, Ibn Jarir,Ibn AbI Hatim, Ibn al-Mundhir, lbn Marduyah, Abu Nu'aim Isfahani,Baihaqi).

According to lbn Abbas, Abu Jahl said:"If I caught Muhammad(upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) performing his Prayer bythe Ka'bah, I would trample his neck down." When the Holy Prophetheard of it, he said: "If he acted so, the angels would seize himthere and then?" (Bukhari, Tirmidhi, Nasai, Ibn Jarir, Abdur Razzaq,Abd bin Humaid, Ibn al- Mundhir, Ibn Marduyah).

According to anothertradition from Ibn Abbas, the Holy Prophet was performing his Prayerat the Maqam Ibrahim. Abu Jahl passed that way and said: "O Muhammad,did I not forbid you this, and then he started to threaten him."Inreply the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) rebuked him severely.There upon he said:"O Muhammad, on what strength do you rebuke me? ByGod, my followers in this valley far exceed yours in number." (Ahmad,Tirmidhi, Nasai, Ibn Jarir, lbn Abi Shaibah, Ibn al-Mundhir, Tabarani,Ibn Marduyah).

Because of these very incidents the portion of thisSurah beginning with Kalla inn al-insana la yat gha was sent down.Naturally the place of this part should be the same as assigned to itin this Surah of the Quran, for after the coming down of the firstRevelation the Holy Prophet had given expression to Islam first of allby the act of Prayer, and his conflict with the pagans.

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