Revealed at Makkah.


THE five first verses of this chapter are generally regarded as the first revelation of the Quran. Like the first verses of chap. lxxiv., these were connected with a vision of Gabriel. These two visions are referred to in chap. lxxxi. as the ground of Muhammad's assurance that he was truly a prophet of the Lord.

As to the vision in which Muhammad heard these five verses summoning him to the prophetic office, one tradition regards it as a real occurrence, while another tradition, said to have emanated from the same source, declares the whole incident to have been a dream. The former of these traditions is that of Urwa Ibn al Zubair, received from Ayesha, who heard it from Muhammad many years after the event. It is given as follows by Noëldeke :— "The revelation commenced with real dreams, which illuminated Muhammad like the glow of the dawn. Thereupon he retired to the solitude of Mount Hint. When he had spent some time there in devotion, the angel appeared to him and said, ‘Read!‘ Muhammad answered, ‘I cannot read.' Thereupon the angel pressed him mightily, and repeated the command. This was all repeated three times, when at last the angel pronounced these five verses. Muhammad was greatly frightened at seeing this, and hastened to his wife, Khadija, who comforted him."

The other tradition, which represents this vision as simply a dream, is found in Ibn Hishaam, 151, on the authority of Umar Ibn Qatada. In this tradition it is said that "when Muhammad woke up, the words of the revelation were impressed upon his heart."

After noticing briefly the views of Weil, who thinks Muhammad received in these verses the direction to read publicly a revelation previously given, and who is followed by Muir,—and of Sprenger,


who thinks that Muhammad was here commanded to "read the holy books of the Jews and Christians,"—Noëldeke, "following the import of the text, and keeping in mind the tradition, without considering its embellishment," explains the origin of these verses as follows: — "Muhammad, having for some time led an ascetic life in solitude, and having wrought himself up by means of meditation and inner struggles to that condition which is adapted to apparitions, feels himself at last induced by a dream or vision definitely to undertake the work of proclaiming what he had recognised as the truth—in other words, to proclaim himself a prophet. This call to take up this work assumed in his mind the form of the first revelation, the drift of which is, ‘Preach to thy fellow-men that which thou last learned (above all, the unity of God), in the name of thy Lord, who has raised man from the smallest beginning to a higher level, and who therefore may help also thee. Proclaim to them the truth, since thy Lord is the Mighty One who has taught man the art of writing, formerly unknown to thee, and who thereby has furnished thee with a powerful instrument to spread the faith." Noëldeke rejects the position of Weil and Muir, but both his own explanation and the former of the traditions quoted above, which he regards as the most important, seem to me to require the supposition of a period preceding this vision during which Muhammad felt himself drawn toward the prophetic office. The tradition distinctly mentions dreams which occurred previous to this vision, and that the result of these dreams was the awakening of the spirit of inspiration. Granting, then, that these verses are the first of the Quran, and that the "Soliloquies" of Muir should follow in chronological order, having now been proclaimed in public for the first time, may they not still represent the thoughts of Muhammad during these years of doubt and uncertainty? As to the remainder of the chapter, it is said to refer to the opposition of Abu Jahl to the Muslim cause, amid must therefore have been added by Muhammad at a later date.

Probable Date of the Revelations.

The date of the first five verses of this chapter, being the first part of the Quran, would be the celebrated Night of Power, which occurred in the month of Ramadhan. The remaining verses are of later origin.

Principal Subjects.

Command to Muhammad to recite the Quran ... 1-5
Rebuke of Abu Jahl for hindering the Muslim cause.. . 6 -14
Abu Jahl threatened with the pains of hell . . . 15 -19



R 1/22.

(1) Read, in the name of thy LORD, who hath created all things; (2) who hath created man of congealed blood. (3) Read by thy most beneficent LORD; (4) who taught the use of the pen; (5) who teacheth man that which he knoweth not. (6) Assuredly. Verily man becometh insolent, (7) because he seeth himself abound in riches. (8) Verily unto thy LORD shall be the return of all. (9) What thinkest thou as to him who forbiddeth (10) our servant when he prayeth? (11) What thinkest thou; if he follow the right direction; (12) or command piety? (13) What thinkest thou; if he accuse the divine revelations of falsehood, and turn his back? (14) Doth he not know that GOD seeth? (15) Assuredly. Verily, if he forbear not, we will drag him by the forelock, (16) the lying, sinful forelock. (17) And let him call his council to his assis

(1) Read. Rodwell translates the word Quraa recite. See his note in loco.

(2) Congealed blood. "All men being created of thick or concreted blood except Adam, Eve, and Jesus."— Sale, Yahya.

See also note on chap. xxii. 5.

(3) Read, &c. "These words, containing a repetition of the command, are supposed to be a reply to Muhammad, who, in answer to the former words spoken by the angel, had declared that he could not read, being perfectly illiterate; and intimate a promise that God, who had inspired man with the art of writing, would graciously remedy this defect in him."— Sale, Baidháwi.

On the question of Muhammad's ability to read and write, see chaps. xvii. 47, and xxix. 47, and notes there.

(6) Man becometh insolent. "The commentators agree the remaining part of the chapter to have been revealed against Abu Jahl, Muhammad's great adversary."— Sale.

(9, 10) Him who forbiddeth. "For Abu Jahl threatened that if he caught Muhammad in the act of adoration, he would set his foot on his neck; but when he came and saw him in that posture, he suddenly turned back as in a fright; and being asked what was the matter, said there was a ditch of fire between himself and Muhammad, and a terrible appearance of troops to defend him."— Sale, Baidhawi.

(15) Drag him by his forelock. See note on chap. xi. 56.

(17) His council, i.e., "the council or assembly of the principal Makkans, the far greater part of whom adhered to Abu Jahl."— Sale.


tance; (18) we also will call the infernal guards to cast him into hell. (19) Assuredly. Obey him not: but continue to adore God, and draw nigh unto him.

(18) Infernal guards. See chap. lxxiv. 31—32.

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