Iqra. It’s an arabic word which means “read” (or “recite”). It’s the first word of the Noble Qur’an that was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) by ALLAH Subhanahu wa ta’ala through the angel Jibreel.
I still have a long way to go in my quest to learn Arabic; hence, I find myself reading the Arabic text, checking the transliteration while listening to its mp3 to check if I got it correctly, and then reflecting on the English translation. Yet I must say, reading and reflecting on HIS Words always makes me realize why the first word is an instruction–“read.” I honestly believe it’s our Creator’s way to make us realize that HE is indeed reaching out to HIS creations.
“Seriously?”, you ask. Yeah, seriously. I know there are times, especially when we are faced with so many trials, people feel like losing hope as they wonder if HE even hears our prayers. We all know praying or supplicating is our way of conversing with HIM. But, then you wonder, in times of despair, is HE even reaching out to us?
HE does listen and HE does reach out. Let me share with you this hadith:
Narrated by Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him):
The Prophet (saws) said,
“ALLAH (swt) says: ‘I am just as My slave thinks I am, (i.e. I am able to do for him what he thinks I can do for him) and I am with him if He remembers Me. If he remembers Me in himself, I too, remember him in Myself; and if he remembers Me in a group of people, I remember him in a group that is better than they; and if he comes one span nearer to Me, I go one cubit nearer to him; and if he comes one cubit nearer to Me, I go a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to him; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.'” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)
HE really does, you know. Look around and within you and you’ll realize that HE really does. But, I know it’s hard to simply take my word for it, and I don’t even advise that you simply take it, so…read. And, don’t just read for the sake of reading. Read and reflect. In shaa Allah, the more you read HIS Words, the more you’ll realize how HE addresses everyone no matter who we are or in what situation we find ourselves.
For the too rational ones who wonder if HE does exist, I find Him conversing with them about His proofs. He talks about the book of the Universe and other phenomena in this world to make us realize that it’s preposterous to merely attribute it all to science. And, interestingly, when HE talks about His signs, HE often ends with “these are for people of understanding (or people with knowledge or people who reflect/know).” It makes me realize, that’s HIM inviting us to use the mental prowess HE’s lovingly given us to reflect, to understand, and to know HIM. Everything points to HIM, yet often, because of our training in this world, it’s easy to end with scientific explanations for certain phenomena or merely say “it hasn’t been discovered yet but scientists are working on that” for those that can’t be explained yet. Admit it or not, that happens a lot. I know that happens because I’ve personally been there. But, let me just say HE uses so many analogies and stories to make it simple for us to understand, too. And, as I’ve experienced in class, it is often through analogies and real stories that students become interested and are able to grasp the topic better. Alhamdulillah.
I also can’t help but think that speaking about the prophets (peace be upon them) and their own experiences in His Book is His way of conversing with those who are starting to lose hope. We are suddenly reminded that whatever it is that we’re going through is nothing compared to what the prophets went through, subhanAllah. It’s so uplifting how HE teaches us what to do in times of trouble–i.e, to remain patient, to persevere, to pray and trust in HIM, and how HE reminds us that trials are not nonsensical but are a natural part of life in this world–i.e, tests of faith for us. Read, and we experience how calming it is to have HIM tell us that when things don’t turn out the way we hope they would, it is simply part of His Perfect Plans for us which are always for the best–i.e, that sometimes what we want is not good for us and what we dislike is actually what would be best for us. Read, and we’ll find HIM reassuring us that there is good to come–i.e, there is ease after every difficulty and there is a reward for us not just in this world but in the hereafter, in shaa Allah. And, if that is not enough to make one remember that even the unspoken prayers in his heart is heard, ALLAH (swt) repeatedly reminds us that He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing, All-Knowing.
As for those who constantly forget that life is filled with tests and that all our actions have corresponding consequences, HE reminds us by repeatedly telling us of the fate of those who came before us and of what is to come after this worldly life–both good and bad. Yes, HE talks of the existence of an afterlife which goes to show how Merciful and how Just our Creator is. And, mind you, HE doesn’t just state that Judgment Day and heaven and hell are to come, HE describes them in ways that will help us relate or visualize to a certain degree, thus, making those who comprehend strive hard for success in the hereafter, in shaa Allah. Not only that, HE makes sure we remember the purpose of our existence and the actions that would lead to either a good or a bad end, subhanAllah. And like a manual, HIS Book tells us how to manage our daily affairs–both intra- and interpersonal, mashaAllah. And, should we be those who’ve engaged so much in the actions that would lead to a bad end, HE tells us to never despair of HIS Mercy–after all, He is Oft-Forgiving and All-Merciful. But of course, HE also makes sure we don’t take that for granted; yes, there is a time limit for everything and everyone. And, surely, there will be a day of Reckoning as HE has repeatedly mentioned.
Think of all the ways HE converses with us through HIS book, which get us reflecting on life around and within us, and our relationship with HIM, subhanALLAH. “Then which of the blessings of your Lord do you both (jinn and men) deny?” (an oft-repeated verse in Surah/Chapter 55 of the Noble Qur’an)
Read and reflect…learn and be guided, in shaa Allah. And, just to make sure that when we read and gain knowledge, we don’t get our egos all inflated in thinking we know enough so we now have the power to guide others (one good trap of Shaytan who, by the way, is performing his role with excellence), HE reminds us of something that we can actually forget as we gain knowledge–that guidance can only come from HIM.
‘makes you pause, doesn’t it? Guidance can only come from HIM. Had HE willed, I wouldn’t be interested in reading His Book at all. Had HE willed, I wouldn’t even be one who believes. And, should HE will it, I could go back to how I was before HIS guidance came. Humbling and terrifying. Humbling that we are suddenly reminded to never look down on anyone who may not grasp things the way we do. And terrifying that HE can change our condition anytime HE pleases that in an instant, we are reminded of that supplication mentioned in His Book that asks HIM to not allow our hearts to deviate once HE has guided us. Goosebumps right there. Subhanallaahi walhamdulillaahi wa la ilaha ilallaahu Allahuakbar wa la hawla wa la quwatta ilah billah.
“Iqra”. Read. And, what were the next words that came after that?
In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists)
Perfect, isn’t it?
Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists). (Noble Qur’an 96:1)
There is indeed no better way to start something but by remembering HIM and reminding ourselves to perform all actions with “Bismillah“…making all actions done sincerely for HIS Sake as acts of worship, in shaa Allah.
So, why not start reading in HIS Name?
Like I said, I know it’s hard to simply take my word for it, so…read. It sounds so much like a teacher giving an assignment, but perhaps you can start learning (ok, ‘googling’, if you wish) the terms with which you’re not familiar in this article and the ones you deem most appealing in HIS ways of conversing with us through His Book, in shaa Allah.
Read. Reflect. Reach UP. In shaa Allah.
Subhanaka Allahumma wa bihamdika, ash-hadu an la ilaha illa Anta, astaghfiruka wa ‘atubu ‘ilayk.