The first ayah that was revealed unto the heart of Prophet Mohammad was:
اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ
Surah Al-Alaq [96:1]
In order to arrive at a satisfactory explanation and interpretation, one has to cover different dimensions of the words and different shadows of the meaning. You see, before we transliterate or interpret certain words, we need to see the connotation that lies behind every word. There are two main things we need to understand. God does not speak Arabic, it’s not his language and the evidence that God’s language is not Arabic is found in the Quran. God said, ‘We revealed the Quran in Arabic so that you can understand it.’ If God spoke Arabic he wouldn’t say this. In other words had God revealed the Quran in his own very language the chances were the people would not understand a single word. So the purpose of the Quran being revealed in the Arabic language is that the Arabic language was the language of the land where Prophet Mohammad lived and everybody that lived there spoke the language. Therefore, God decided to reveal the Quran in the language of the people who lived in that particular area. Now the Quran is in the Arabic language and Arabic language is the lingo of that particular land which means those people who lived in that area have been speaking the language for a long time, as a result of which there may have been several words in Arabic which would have different connotations. The connotation which comes from the Arab culture, from Arab tradition is one factor. The Arabic language has cultural and traditional connotation, and then God also revealed the Quran in the Arabic language. Now we need to see which word is heavily dominated by the divine connotation and how much that word is burdened with the cultural connotation of the Arabic land. So there are two different types of connotation with every single word of the Arabic language, the divine connotation and the cultural connotation.
Then, some of the words of the Quran were not Arabic. This is why when certain ayahs were revealed and Prophet Mohammad said it to them, they asked Prophet Mohammad what does it mean? If those words were Arabic words they would understand and they would not ask Prophet Mohammad questions. Some of those words were naïve, uncommon, never heard before to those people so they asked the Prophet what did it mean and then the Prophet Mohammad explained it to them. The question rises, these people who were very literate and whose standard of language was very high, they were poets and they were asking the meaning of Arabic words to a person who has never been to school? It is impossible. Those who say every word of Quran comes from the Arabic language, may I bother them to ponder on this subject and point that these Arabs who were very literate who were poets, they would know every word of Quran. Their language skills were very high. They had wonderful expertise in that language. They would not have asked Mohammad the ‘unlettered one’, the one who had never been schooled. That is my evidence and that is my argument. The reason why these very literate people ask Prophet Mohammad about certain words is because the words were not Arabic. They were Syriac (Suryani, God’s language).
In a similar way this word ‘Iqra’ (اقْرَأْ) is not from Arabic. Our highly qualified interpreters of Quran in Pakistan and India translate the word Iqra into read. May I ask them, was this ayah written on a piece of paper? How would you read when it was not written? It was not written even according to the Quran, it was revealed onto the heart of the Prophet. It was not written on any piece of paper then why do you say the meaning of Iqra is to read? It doesn’t mean read! It is not an Arabic word; it is a Syriac word and Iqra means acknowledge. But the religious clergy, religious scholars of our times do not seem to know what was happening inwardly, what was going on inside the heart of Prophet Mohammad and why Prophet Mohammad did not acknowledge to whatever the Gabriel was asking him to acknowledge. Gabriel said ‘Iqra’ (acknowledge), and he said ‘انا لىس بقارئ’ and this happened three times. Then Gabriel hugged Prophet Mohammad really tight. According to one of the most famous saints in Pakistan, Sultan Haq Bahu that while the Gabriel was hugging the Prophet chest to chest, the name of God in form of light was transferred from the chest of Gabriel into the chest of Prophet Mohammad. And Prophet Mohammad did not acknowledge until God’s name became prominently visible written on the screen of his heart. Once the name of God became visible, prominent, glittering and shining on the screen of the Prophet’s heart, he said ‘اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ’ and this was the acknowledgement of the name which was handed over to Prophet Mohammad. And my argument which of course is against the regular interpretation of the Quran which almost every single interpreter has put forward that of translating the word Iqra into read, if the meaning of this word Iqra was to read then you have to prove that Gabriel brought something written on a piece of paper, because you only read what is written.
Secondly, Gabriel did not say anything. If Gabriel had said repeat these words he would say ‘Qul’ (قُلْ), say it, not Iqra. You read what is written and you say what you hear and acknowledge what you receive. Therefore, the first verse means to acknowledge, and the Prophet Mohammad did not acknowledge it until he saw the word Allah written on his heart. Once he received it he said: اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ. The meaning of Iqra is not to read or say, but to acknowledge.