This is the first post in our series of Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma.

The entrance to Cave Hira

Although the story is well-known amongst the Muslims, we will recap the story of the first revelation: Surah Iqraa (also known as Surah ‘Alaq), revealed in Mecca.

Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal (rahimahullah) relates from ‘Aisha (radiallahu ‘anhaa) that the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam), for six months before revelation, would see true dreams that would happen the next day–day after day after day, for six months.

Seclusion became beloved to him. He used to go to Cave Hiraa to worship Allah, alone, for a period of days and nights.

One night, alone, in the dark, a man he didn’t know appeared to him in the cave. The man said: Iqra (read). He (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, I cannot read (being illiterate, salallahu alayhi wa sallam).

So the man grabbed him, and squeezed him until he felt like he would die. Then the man said: Iqra. He said: I cannot read.

So the man grabbed him, and squeezed him again, until he felt like he would die. Then the man said: Iqra. He said: I cannot read!

Then the man recited:

اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ
خَلَقَ الْإِنسَانَ مِنْ عَلَقٍ
اقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ الْأَكْرَمُ
الَّذِي عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ
عَلَّمَ الْإِنسَانَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ


Recite in the name of your Lord who created.

Created man from a clinging substance.

Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous.

Who taught by the pen.

Taught man that which he knew not. [Surah Iqraa, verses 1-5]

It was the angel Jibreel (alayhi salaam), coming with the first revelation.

The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) fled home to his wife, Khadijah (radiallahu ‘anhaa), and told her what happened. He said, “I feel as if I have gone mad.” And she said “Allah will never disgrace you. You keep good relations with your relatives, you speak the truth, you help the poor and the destitute, you serve your guests generously, and you help the deserving, calamity afflicted people.”

They went to her cousin, Waraqa, who was a scholar of the religion of that time (one who followed the true Islam, worshipping Allah alone); he affirmed that the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) was indeed a prophet, and that the people would exile him, as they did to all prophets; he said “If I remain alive till that day (when they begin prosecuting the messenger of Allah) then I would firmly support you.” But he died before that time came.

(Note: statements of the Prophet have been paraphrased to make them easier to understand.)

Lessons Learned

This story is well-known; so we’re going to dive into some points insha’Allah you may not have heard (or realized!) before.

  • True dreams. True dreams are the sign of a believer–and for the anbiyyah (prophets), ALL of them received true dreams during the night, that would occur precisely the next day exactly as they saw them. This was preparing the Messenger of Allah for what would come–showing Allah’s support of him.
  • Mountain-Climber. The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) was strong and fit–fit enough to climb a big, tall mountain, all by himself, with no ropes or hooks or anyone to see if he falls and gets hurt!
  • Fear and pain. Imagine if you’re in a dark place, and a man comes out of nowhere and tells you to recite. It’s frightening! And what’s more, Jibreel squeezed him, so much so that the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) thought he was going to die! Some ‘ulama say that this pain was a preparation for revelation.
  • Think. Allah says “Iqraa”–read! Unlike other religions, Islam is not about shutting down your brain. Quite the opposite!

    • Illiteracy. The messenger of Allah was illiterate–he couldn’t read or write. Despite this, Orientalists claim he wrote the Qur’an, THE best work of Arabic language ever. Allah praises him, because this is a miracle–an unlettered man reciting the most amazing book; not by building up his skill on small successes, but suddenly, WHAM! And nobody could write anything close to it.
    • The good qualities of the Prophet prior to Islam. Khadijah mentioned five points that he used to do even BEFORE Islam:

      • Keeping good ties with his relatives.
      • Speaking the truth (and not lying).
      • Helping the poor and needy.
      • Serving guests generously.
      • Helping those whom calamities struck.

      These are qualities we should all strive for!

        • The Role of Khadijah as a wife. From the first revelation, she supported the Messenger of Allah. Even after her death, he used to visit her relatives and friends, and spoke well about her–so much so that ‘Aisha once said “Why do you remember an old woman so much, when Allah has given you better than her” (i.e. ‘Aisha herself); the Prophet replied: “Khadija was such-and-such (i.e. recounting the support she gave), and from her (alone) I had children.” [Hadith 1 and Hadith 2 in Bukhari].
        • Islam Survived to the time of the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam). The Prophet himself used to worship Allah! As did Waraqa! So from the anbiyyah who came before (most recently, ‘Isa alayhi salaam) the true message survived to a small extent, albeit to a few of the people (the majority of people in that time, in that area, were mushrikeen).
        • Difference of Opinion. Once upon a time, there was difference of opinion as to what the first revelation was; today, there’s consensus that this is it–the first five ayaat of Surah Iqraa.
        Wallahu ta’ala ‘alam.

      Action Steps:

      • Memorize the first five ayaat of Surah Iqraa. It’s only five ayaat, each 4-5 words. Spend a few minuets and just DO it, wallahi it’s very easy! Insha’Allah next post (tomorrow), we’ll do some in-depth grammar of these five ayaat.
      • Resolve to speak the truth and never to lie again. It’s a good quality, and one of the Messenger of Allah even BEFORE revelation! So no more excuses–just do it.

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      • Tafseer ibn Katheer: Surah ‘Alaq
      • Touched by an Angel: Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma. By Muhammad Alshareef. 2007.
      • Muhammad Alshareef. Lecture. AlMaghrib. The Shepherd’s Path. University of Ryerson, Toronto. March 2007.
      • Yasir Qadhi. Lecture. AlMaghrib. Route 114: Qur’anic Sciences. University of Toronto, Scarborough Campus, March 2008.