What is the Meaning of Reading?

iq’ra bi-is’mi rabbika alladhī khalaq

“Read in and with the Name of your Lord, Who has created.” (96:1)

The Messenger of Allah, upon him be peace and blessings, educated his noble Companions, taught and instructed them. In what did he instruct them? He instructed them in being a servant of Allah. He instructed them in being able to attain knowledge of Allah, or ma’rifa. In this way, the people of the Age of Ignorance rose to the degree of those elevated people who built a civilisation of virtues. They tasted the delight of servanthood.

Consequently, the mercy of Allah Almighty became manifest in that Age of Happiness community. They became a community of mercy. They became people of mercy. Their negative characteristics became transformed into positive ones.

They engaged in deep contemplation on the body, the human being’s coming forth from a minute amount of water, a bird’s coming into existence from a simple egg and fruit’s coming into existence from a tiny seed. They beheld these Divine showcases.

iq’ra bi-is’mi rabbika alladhī khalaq

“Read in and with the Name of your Lord, Who has created.” (96:1)

They began to turn and read the pages of this universe in the Name of their Lord.

As a result, the heart was purified of worldly interests and carnal desires. The notion of the stopping place of this selfhood tomorrow being the grave, developed.

In short, the Qur’an was the book if instruction of the Age of Happiness community and it is our book of instruction also. The Messenger of Allah was a guide to them and is our guide also.

Allah Almighty reveals the favour of the Qur’an as follows:

wanunazzilu mina l-qur’āni mā huwa shifāun waraḥmatun lil’mu’minīn

“We are sending down the Qur’an in parts – it is a healing and a mercy for the believers…” (17:82)

And Allah Almighty invites the Community of Muhammad, until the End of Time, to read the Qur’an.

Again, by virtue of the fact that the verse first revealed to the Messenger of Allah was:

iq’ra bi-is’mi rabbika alladhī khalaqiq’ra bi-is’mi rabbika alladhī khalaqiq’ra bi-is’mi rabbika alladhī khalaqiq’ra bi-is’mi rabbika alladhī khalaq

“Read in and with the Name of your Lord, Who has created,” (96:1)

the Sufis interpret this Qur’anic verse in the following manner:

Read, it says, read everything. Read the Book of Allah, read the signs of Allah, read the book of the universe, page by page. Most importantly, forever read being a servant of Allah. For you have been created to be a servant. Read being a servant. Read to attain guidance and to avoid misguidance. Read to perfect your belief. Read to learn. Read to draw near to your Lord. Read the Creator of Causes by considering the causes. Read the Owner of Causes. Read the Divine, the Real Cause by looking at the work. Read the true, the great Artist by looking at His art. Everything, from the micro to the macro, is a great Divine mystery, a [manifestation of] Divine majesty.

In short, read every line, every sentence that the Pen of Power has drawn in this realm. And read the pages of power in the universe.

One of God’s friends says:

“For the knowing, the possessors of reason and heart, this realm is a journey of wonder (that is, the beholding of the workings of Divine power and advancing [in spiritual rank] before Allah Almighty), while for the foolish, it is consumption and appetence.”

Again, Sa’di Shirazi says:

“For the knowers, a single leaf on a tree is a divan leading the human being to knowledge of Allah. (Of course, for those who possess a heart. For those who develop spiritually.) For the heedless, however, all trees put together are not even a single leaf.”

This reading precisely is for us the true education.

“Taught the human being what he did not know (Read in and with the Name of your Lord).(96:5)

In brief, there are for us three great wonders of Divine manifestation:

The first is the Qur’an: A manifestation in speech.

A manifestation in action: the universe: Everything from the particle to the heavenly body is a manifestation of Divine majesty.

The miracle in the human being: The Messenger of Allah is a miracle becoming manifest in the human being for all time, from the lowest rank, to the most elite echelon.

In short, wheresoever we may look – look at the atmosphere, the earth – whatever we look at, is a favour conferred upon us by Allah Almighty to make our test (in this world) easier.

To sum up, Allah Almighty presents contemplation to us as the key to the most excellent belief.

Similarly, Allah Almighty declares in the Qur’anic chapter Al-Jathiyah:

“He has also made of service to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth, all is from Him (a gift of His Grace)…” (45:13)

“…Surely in this there are (clear) signs for a people who reflect.”(45:13)

The sun is subjected [to the human being], the moon is subjected, the atmosphere is subjected, the earth is subjected – all of them, all creatures, all animals are subjected to them [and at their service]…

Allah Almighty then declares:

khalaqa l-insāna min ‘alaq

“[He has] Created human from a clot clinging (to the wall of the womb).” (96:2)

It turns to the human being’s past. Think about your beginnings! A clot, a fertilised ovum and then a blood clot. So, then, for what is a human being’s pride, haughtiness and self-conceit? They are to look at what they were created from and say, “O my Lord!”

Allah Almighty [lists] stage by stage, then fertilised ovum, a clot clinging, a formless life of flesh, bones, clothing the bones in flesh… Allah Almighty declares in a Qur’anic verse:

“O human! What is it that deludes you concerning your Lord, the All-Munificent? He Who has created you, fashioned you, and proportioned you (in measures perfect for the purpose of your creation); Having constituted you in whatever form He has willed.” (82:6-8) In other words, look at your past, at your beginnings… why are you so deceived? Allah Almighty, in such fashion, has brought you to the world as a human being, from stage to stage, in the best form of the human being, in the perfect pattern of creation, equipped with physical and spiritual capabilities.

In short:

iq’ra warabbuka l-akram

“Read, and your Lord is the All-Munificent.” (96:3)

Our Lord is of tremendous grace and bounty.

alladhī ‘allama bil-qalam

“Who has taught (human) by the pen.” (96:4)

Writing, reading, knowledge is given by Allah Almighty to the human being, and there is no such thing for other creatures.

‘allama l-insāna mā lam ya’lam

” Taught human what he did not know.”(96:5)

Allah Almighty teaches the human being what they do not know. We came to the world as a blank tape.

In short, Allah Almighty declares as a consequence:

inna akramakum ‘inda l-lahi atqākum

“…Surely the noblest, most honourable of you in Allah’s sight is the one best in piety, righteousness, and reverence for Allah… (49:13)

This means to say that our sole aim in this world of trial is to be a servant who is near to Allah Almighty. To be able to receive manifestations from the spirituality of the Messenger of Allah, upon him be peace and blessings.

Again, Allah Almighty declares:

wa-in ta’uddū ni’mata l-lahi lā tuḥ’ṣūhā

“…Were you to attempt to count Allah’s blessings, you could not compute them…” (14:34)

All creation was created for the human being. The world is for the human being. Allah Almighty declares:

“…you will most surely be questioned as to all the favours (bestowed on you).” (102:8)

thumma latus’alunna yawma-idhin ‘ani l-na’īm

Again in the Qur’anic chapter al-Mu’minun, Allah Almighty declares:

“Or did you think that We created you in vain, and that you should devote all your time to play and entertainment, and that you would not be brought back to Us?” (23:115)

Again in the Qur’anic chapter Ad-Dukhan, it is stated:

“We have not created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in play and fun.”(44:38) The warning is forever for humanity.

In short, the true knowledge is to be able to know Allah Almighty. The greatest education is to be able to receive a share in the knowledge of Allah Almighty.

Knowing opens the doors of wisdom, while wisdom instructs (in) the mysterious dimension of events and occurrences.

This is why a friend of Allah says in his supplication:

“O Lord, What has one who has found You lost? What has one who has lost You, found?”

This is the true education… To be able to find Allah Almighty…

Allah Almighty addresses us, saying:

“…Are they ever equal, those who know and those who do not know?” (39:9) Again, we come to an education. Who are those who know?

sājidan waqāiman (“…[those] prostrating and standing…)” (39:9)

A life of worship during the night and in the hour of early dawn. Allah Almighty declares:

wal-mus’taghfirīna bil-ashāri (“…[those] who implore God’s forgiveness before daybreak.”(3:17)

That is to say, there is to be certain manifestations in the heart in the hour before dawn. The heart will have heightened sensibility. Allah Almighty will purify the human being further.

“… [those] who implore God’s forgiveness before daybreak.” (3:17)

yahdharu l-ākhirata (“…who fear the Hereafter…” (39:9) A believer is to lead their life with a concern for the Hereafter. The last breath (moment of one’s dying) is unknown to all but the Prophets.

Allah Almighty declares:

walā tamūtunna illā wa-antum mus’limūn

“…and see that you do not die save as Muslims (submitted to Him exclusively).” (3:102)

This is why the Messenger of Allah constantly said:

“The true life is the life of the Hereafter.” (Bukhari, Riqaq, 1)

In commercial life, family life, bringing up children… in all of them, “The true life is the life of the Hereafter.” In the breaths that we take, being able to use our breaths, our eyes, our ears, all our limbs and organs in the way of Allah. (Not to forget) that the true life is the life of the Hereafter.

Unfortunately in our day, the liberal world advocates those things that cause one to forget the Hereafter. Whether its television, or its Internet, human beings are being swept up in it. A constant deception, whether advertising or fashion. What they all advocate is a world without the Hereafter.

Whatever was the case 1400 years ago is what we have today. This is why the message of the Messenger of Allah, upon him be blessings and peace, will continue unchanged until the End of Time. A believer is not to forget that the true life is the life of the Hereafter.

Reviving the hour before dawn, not forgetting the life of the Hereafter, and thirdly:

wayarjū rahmata rabbihi

“…and hope for the mercy of their Lord…” (39:9)

Those who live in a (constant) state of supplication. Those who live in a state of supplication are then of those who know. This means that we see the highest degree of supplication in the Prophets and the friends of Allah. For those Prophets and friends of Allah are elevated personalities who have rendered their hearts a meeting place.

When we look at the supplication of the Prophets, starting with Prophet Adam, peace be upon him, it is stated (that he said):

rabbanā zalamnā anfusanā

“…Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves…”(7:23) In other words, he says, “we have been heedless.” “…and if You do not forgive us and do not have mercy on us, we will surely be among those who have lost!”(7:23)

Prophet Jonah, peace be upon him, was to convey the message for forty days. He saw that only two people out of a hundred thousand came to believe. He was grieved. He abandoned his people on the thirty-seventh day. He was to stay for forty days; he left them three days early. He was trapped in the belly of the fish. There, he said:

lā ilāha illā anta sub’hānaka innī kuntu mina l-zālimīn

“…There is no deity but You, All-Glorified You are (in that You are absolutely above having any defect). Surely, I have been one of the wrongdoers (who have wronged themselves).” This he said in helplessness. (21:87)

The Pharaoh’s sorcerers who attained a great spiritual truth, said to the Pharaoh in their refusal to make any concessions to him:

rabbanā afrigh ‘alaynā sabran watawaffanā mus’limīn

“…Our Lord! Pour out upon us persevering patience, and take our souls to You as Muslims (wholly submitted to You)!” (7:126)

The Messenger of Allah states:

“I ask for forgiveness from Allah and turn to Him in repentance more than seventy times a day.” (See Abu Dawud, Witr, 26; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, II, 450)

He who was:

wamā arsalnāka illā rahmatan lil”ālamīn

…not sent… but as an unequalled mercy for all the worlds.” (21:107)

Allah Almighty declares that we should not take ownership of victory (and see it from ourselves):

fasabbih bihamdi rabbika wa-is’taghfir’hu

“Then glorify your Lord with His praise, and ask Him for forgiveness.” (110:3) This verse was revealed during the Conquest of Mecca, after a great victory.

Thus, great spirits, namely the friends of Allah, are those who lead lives in a state of constant supplication.

We entreat our Lord in our supplication that the One of Infinite Power and One of Infinite Majesty have mercy on us and shower blessings upon us.

That which completes the spirit of supplication is the hope for Divine mercy. We are all in a state of supplication, taking refuge in this Divine mercy. Of course, when hope in Allah takes the form of love, supplication reaches its pinnacle. Thus is the supplication of the Prophets and of the friends of Allah…

This means that supplication is the sweetest of all Paradisial rivers. It comes forth with tears and out of Divine mercy. Longing and true love converse beside it. The forlorn rest on its banks and seared hearts find relief as they drink of it, with such supplication…

Osman Nuri Topbas

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