by Dina Mohamed Basiony
Most of us know by heart the very first words that were revealed from the Qur’an to Noble Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
But sometimes we don’t reflect deep enough on the major life-changing message that is in there.
The circumstances of revealing those verses relate so much to the state that many people find themselves in today … this is the state of seeking meaning, seeking answers, clarity, purpose and direction.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) had a very good and comfortable life. He had an honourable wife whom he loved dearly, he had children, he had a good job, he was well respected in his community… he had a very successful and stable life. But something was missing. Something big was missing and it was aching his heart and he needed answers, he needed clarity, he needed meaning and understanding. What’s beyond this life? What’s the purpose? What’s the meaning? What’s next? Is this it? Marriage, children, job, living, dying…. This is it? But what’s in my heart? Why is it still searching? What is it searching for? What am I missing?
He left everything behind and went in seclusion in the cave to think and reflect and listen attentively to what’s in his heart because he knew someone was listening and he knew there were answers…
Then came the answer.
“Read what exactly?”
“I don’t know how to read what you’re asking me to read… I can’t read!!”
Then he received the answer that gives meaning to everything he ever had to wonder about…
“Read in the name of your Lord who created –
Created man from a clinging substance.
Read, and your Lord is the most Generous –
Who taught by the pen –
Taught man that which he knew not.” (Qur’an 96: 1-5)
Beautiful, deep, subtle yet powerful answer that cannot be taken at face value.
When Prophet Muhammad needed to understand this life, he was then given the most truthful and most powerful answer: Read life through the lens of its Creator! He will teach you how to read life, how to read yourself, and how to find what you are looking for.
It is not random “reading” or “reciting” that was instructed here. It was a specific instruction to know and understand the truth from its Source whose Name is The Ultimate Truth.
You know when you buy a machine, and then you find it difficult to deal with, or it stops working. In this case, who is the best one to help you deal with this machine? The one who created it, right? He knows it inside out, he knows every little detail in it. He knows its purpose and its limits and its capacity and the best way to use it. So you seek the creator to understand what he created. No one would know the creation better than its creator who made it.
This is it.
This is this revelation.
This is the message in those verses.
“Read in the name of your Lord who created -”
He is telling you to read and understand yourself and your life with the powerful Name and guidance of your own Lord who created. Created what?
“Created man from a clinging substance.”
He created You out of nothing, out of an almost insignificant substance and He turned you to what you are now…He is The One who knew you from the very beginning, before your own consciousness, and He is The One who will remain at the end, when everything is turned back to its helpless, powerless state.
“Read, and your Lord is the most Generous -”
Read and never think He will get bored of your questions or of you asking Him. His Name is The Most Generous and He created you to teach you, He created you to give you..
“Who taught by the pen –
Taught man that which he knew not.”
And so long as you’re asking Him and seeking Him, He will show you the meaning and He will show you the wisdom and He will teach you what you didn’t know.
This was such a powerful moment in human history, a powerful moment for the human being. Any human being who sincerely thinks, reflects and searches for the truth should be reminded of this message.
And this is such a truthful and honourable standpoint: to ask the main source. In journalism, they teach you that you should always seek the primary source. If an article is talking about a certain person by getting accounts of different people about him, without actually speaking to him, then this is biased. You should always seek the primary source to get the most accurate information.
When we talk about God or about existence, we go to this source or the other, but sometimes we neglect to go to the main source, the primary source, The Creator Himself.
And He did speak and He did send His messages and He will continue to teach those who sincerely seek Him and seek answers.
Getting answers from Him, The One who sees everything, The One who knows all views, The One who has been there from the very beginning, The One who will last for eternity, The One who is Generous and wants to give and created to give…. THIS is the ultimate experience of this life. This is completion, this is fulfillment. This is satisfaction and this is the answer.
This message is for all human beings. This Qur’an that is the direct verbatim message of the Creator is for all human beings. And the generosity and nearness of The Creator is open to all human beings. Just read and listen… Sometimes we follow certain worldly standards about what success is, what happiness is, what beauty is….etc. And we follow fluctuating views and ever changing social norms and human trends, but this will never be a substitute for the real answer. It will always be insufficient. Something will always be missing.
Just like He created us out of nothing, He placed in us a desire to know Him, a desire to seek Him… this is the fitrah (the innate God-given nature) that already knows deep down meanings of love, faith, mercy, justice, beauty… because these are His Names and this is His Essence and He taught us those meanings before any other institute was able to teach us anything. He placed in us a compass that seeks Him. It will never settle unless we’re directed towards Him… and we do that in prayer… we direct our entire beings to Him, asking for meaning and help and guidance. This experience – for those who reflect- is the most peaceful, most truthful, most satisfactory, most real and most eternal experiences we can have in this life.
So when you are confused, just ask the Creator. We always seek those who are more knowledgeable than us when we need help. How then do we neglect to ask The Most Knowing, The Source of knowledge Himself!
Do we think He is far? He is closer to us than our own consciousness. It might take you a lot of time to explain to someone what is really bothering you or what’s on your mind or why you are asking certain questions. But Him, The Creator… He knows before we speak, He knows before the thought formulates in our minds… He knows even before the heart cries out for Him… so just call on to Him.
And the best place to ask is in sujood (prostration)….this is when the created being is closest to His Creator…it’s not a coincidence then that this surah ends with this:
“Prostrate and draw near to Allah” (96: 19)
Don’t lose those precious moments of connecting with The Originator of our beings, The Source of existence, The Healer, The One Nearer than all others.