By Raiiq Ridwan
The Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam was the best of men even before he was a prophet. He was the most truthful of people, and while he was very successful in business, he was always honest. He never worshipped idols, and he disavowed the sinfulness of the people of Makkah— their killing of infant girls, their caste system, their injustice and lawlessness.
He was desperately seeking a way out of this lifeless, lawless world. He consulted his wife, Khadijah, and decided that he would go to a cave and meditate there. He just wanted a way out, a bit of seclusion to himself so that perhaps something may happen.
The Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam would go to the cave of Hira almost every day, sometimes even for days at a time. He would sit there contemplating and pondering. The situation in Makkah was overwhelming him. At this time, he started having dreams. Having seen those dreams, he would actually see them played out in real life as well!
On one night about 1450 years ago, he was contemplating as he often did. Suddenly, he noticed a bright light in the cave. Amazed and slightly terrified he looked up. Something, or rather someone was there. The creature, whatever it was, said, “Iqra”, Read!
The Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam terrified as he was, said, “ma ana bi-qaari”, “I do not know how to read,” which is true, because he was an unlettered man who could not read or write. Then the creature gave him a squeeze. In fact, squeezed him so hard that the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam thought he would pass away. And when the Prophet thought he would pass out, he was let go, and the booming voice echoed again, “Iqra!!”
The Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam could not understand why this command was being repeated when he had made it clear that he cannot read! He repeated, “ma ana bi-qari” “I do not know how to read” (literally: I am not one who is a reader).
The creature gave him another squeeze, and this time it felt even harder. As he thought he would pass out, the creature let him go, and repeated with the booming voice, “Iqra!!”
The Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam repeated again, “ma ana bi-qari”. He was then squeezed again, squeezed so tight that the Prophet thought that he would die. Then, he was let go. And then the creature, which was the greatest of Angels, Jibreel alayhi salam, recited:
Iqra bismi rabbikalladhee khalaq
Khalaqal insaana min alaq
Iqra wa rabbukal akram
Alladhee ‘allama bil-qalam
‘Allamal insaana ma lam ya’lam
“Read, in the name of your Lord who created
Created man from an embryo
Read and your Lord is Most Noble and Generous
He taught with the pen
Taught man what he had no knowledge of.” [Quran 96:1-5]
Most of us have known this story for many years. Some of us probably know it in even more detail than what has been written above. What is interesting here is that this gives us such an important life lesson that we can never let go of. Moral degeneration of the society of Makkah has overwhelmed the prophet, and what is it that Allah asks him to do? Read!
The beautiful lesson within is that whenever we are stuck in life, facing times which tend to be difficult, things which don’t seem to be going well, the answer lies in the very first revelation of Allah to us- Read!!!
Open the Quran, and read. The Quran is so full of lessons and wisdom that every page has something for everyone to benefit from. Stuck in life? Open the Quran and read. Depressed? Open the Quran and read. People working against you to hurt you and harm you? Open the Quran and read!
Read, in the name of your Lord who created you, and thus He knows you best, and knows exactly what you need. He created you from an embryo when you didn’t even have a soul, and has brought you here. He knows what you need, He knows that you are going through a struggle, and here it is- He has sent you His Divine Advice!
Read, and know that your Lord is the Most Noble and Generous, and that He will give you that which no one can give! He is the one who taught you in the first place, and He is the One who taught man whatever he knows. He can teach you a way out of this when none else can! Read!
To the many problems in our life, to the good times as well, and to wherever and whatever it is that we are doing, one of the best solutions lies in that cold night just outside Makkah, inside a dark cave where Allah the Most High sent His best angel, with His best revelation, on the best night (laylatul qadr), in the best of cities to the best man, Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wasallam such that one day you and I can benefit in both this life and the next. Open up and read!
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