Islam – A Compulsory 'Read'

By: AbuBakr Karolia

February 9, 2001/May 30, 2002

To establish human life in some satisfying and meaningful relations to the universe in which mankind finds himself, and to get some wisdom in the conduct of human affairs is the juncture that modern man discovers himself. An Islamic perspective is quite impressive in its scope and a commendable attempt at putting in a bold belief of the authentic theory and practice of self-discovery and knowledge. 

These are fundamental questions and must set the basis for a creative standard and how mankind can relate to the setting of these standards and where to find these impressive scopes and practise. The criteria and guide is explored from the Noble Qur`an and the life of our blessed Rasul (S) and how we interpret his Seerah (history). Further, to understand the relationship that one should have with his Creator and how one can realize and act upon it. 

The first, five verses revealed to the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (S) sets the basis of mankind’s relationship with the Almighty and the form of capacity, which the creator endowed him with, namely, to read. The intellectual capacity of mankind can be transformed into a creative process, which set the tone for writing, recording and researching.

“Read in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher Who created-
Created man out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood -

Read! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful, -

He Who taught (The use of) the Pen, -
Taught man that which he knew not.”

Surah 96 VERSE 1-5

This declaration or proclamation of ‘Iqra’ i.e., to read, in the name of Allah the Creator. The divine injunction in the first verses, to read lays undeniable emphasis on the creative capacity of mankind which the Creator has endowed him with. The command of the original verses revealed to the Prophet (S) transformed him, from an Ummi (illiterate) to a being of great knowledge and insight. 

These five verses of Surah Alaq (The Clot) is the foundational approach that Allah used to teach the Prophet (S) of Islam and the extent to which capabilities and potential that were endowed within him could be nourished. The implication and intention of this knowledge leads to a broad spectrum of understanding that Allah taught mankind which he could be familiar with. 

According to these five verses, The Almighty gave mankind creative tools, which can guide him towards the real goal of finding harmony in his affairs. 

Firstly, Allah equipped mankind with an internal compass that recognises the essential rule to do everything in His name. This quest is eternal and the command of proclaiming or reading in the name of the Lord, acknowledges that through belief and faith elucidates Islam as the path of knowledge and the path of success. ‘Iqra’ or to read with the clear intention of belief is the type of tools necessary for the perfection of the human capability. 

Secondly, Allah endowed mankind with the five outer senses for observation and empirical study and action. For a deeper understanding of the senses Allah has also endowed man with five inner senses. The understanding of the inner senses require thought, method and structure as one becomes aware of the combination of the inner and outer senses. 

The five inner sense are termed as, common sense, imagination, that which enables us to give value to forms or attributes, the faculty of memory and lastly, the faculty of thinking or cognition. (Refer Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri’s book ‘Cosmology of the Self for further details regarding the inner senses). 

This realization of one’s capacity enhances the understanding of the purpose of mankind’s journey through life. The gift of these senses is seemingly the quest for mankind to utilise these tools to define and seek knowledge in all its shape and forms to understand the signs of Allah, which, is centred in the concept of Tawheed (the Unity of Allah). 

Thirdly, Allah has equipped mankind with ‘Aql’ i.e. the reason for deduction and rationalization and not for its ends but to understand the reason of his creation. To learn and attain perfection, which will guide him to his aspiration and goal. The product of ‘read’ produces harmony through the teachings of the Pen, which further implies reading, writing, study, research, books and knowledge. 

The idea of reading in the name of the Lord distinguishes the world-view from all other outlooks and ideologies. No other world-view makes the pursuit of knowledge, an individual and social obligation, and gives enquiry the same moral and religious significance as worship. The tools which Allah has endowed mankind is to find a synthesis through an array of principles and notions into a single unified understanding of the basic features of the world-view of Islam. 

Fourthly, knowledge without action has been described as a tree without fruit. Contemplative thought and reflection in Islamic spirituality are essential ingredients to provide knowledge that guides and relates the seeker to higher modes of being. The Prophet of Islam’s quest for the truth, through meditation and contemplation in the cave of Hira are beautiful examples of a beginning process of searching for the truth. The Prophet of Islam translated the process of inquiry, establishing the truth and a virtuous character into a living Islam. 

Fifthly, Allah provided mankind with guidance revealed through the Prophet of Islam as the ultimate basis of an example. The connotation of ‘Iqra’, to read, to proclaim are both gifts of divine revelation and creative aspects of the human spirit. Therefore the rational behaviour to establish human life in some satisfying and meaningful relationship is to live according to the guidance, which is propounded in the Qur`an and the way of Prophet Muhammad (S). 

Finally, the world can be seen through the Noble Qur`an, which considers all things to be the signs to the ultimate origin of the world and the purpose of mankind, which is the love and obedience to the Creator of the Worlds. It also discusses the universe and places mankind’s role in perspective from origination to the ultimate end. 

In this manner the two wings of origination and ultimate purpose are revived and rejuvenated in research carried out about these phenomena. In this way, the Noble Qur`an turns reading, proclaiming and knowledge into reason and reason into wisdom. This wisdom becomes a tool of action and practise to help mankind to live according to the divine decree. This is the fashion in which the Noble Qur`an coordinates the finding of theoretical reason with the effort of practical wisdom. 

This means that the guidance of Allah turns a specialist into a man of religion, a scientific researcher into a practical investigator, a scientific ‘authority into a devotee of the Truth, a technical inventor into a committed believer, and industrial entrepreneur into a man of faith, thus transforming raw mind into a seasoned intellectual and humble believer. 

In conclusion the standard of Iqra sets precedence for mankind to develop the Qur`anic message into a full-blown way of life that transcends time, space and all fields of knowledge.  The various branches of knowledge, philosophy, ethics, the fine arts, linguistics, architecture, etc, and the standards of recording History, the Natural Sciences – botany, zoology, chemistry, physics and through deductive thinking, inductive thinking, discussion and practise must realize and fulfil a quality life through the love and worship of the Almighty Creator. 

Ibadah’ – the worship of Allah has always been through His divine Guidance and He has never left us alone and as long as humanity remains within the boundaries of Compassion and the moral and intellectual courtesy to Allah, then the world can be under one’s feet. 

We must improve and check and recheck our closeness to our Creator as our primary objective so that we can then have more expectation of Him and through correct action and the correct prescription we can realize the Dual Falah – Prospering in this world and in the Hereafter.

The first five verses of Surah Alaq revealed to the Prophet (S) of Islam illustrate that the tools mankind has been endowed with, originate from the same source from which the guidance came. Therefore the emphasis of our judgement and action is to maintain a balance as a bondsman to the Creator – The Rabb (The Lord). The conclusion lies in the recognition, acknowledgment and the unconditional submission to the oneness of Allah (swt) and therefore the command to, “Read in the name of thy Lord who created.”