Iqrā’ bi-smi rabbika’lladhi khalaqa
“Recite the name of your Lord Who created”
Excerpt: The meaning of the above reading is vastly different than the traditional reading. Instead of being told to read a pre-determined, static text, the first verse of Ṣūrah al-Alaq is instructing the Prophet Muḥammad to recite or invoke the Name of his Lord. This reading was also supported by the early Qur’ān commentator Abu ‘Ubayda (d. 825) who held thatiqrā’ bi-smi rabbika actually means iqra isma rabbika (‘Recite the Name of your Lord’). The bais added in speech but is silent in its meaning and does not add anything to the phrase.
It appears that this was the original meaning of the first verses of the Qur’ān based on the earliest sources. It seems that later traditions and commentaries eventually shifted the meaning of this verse to the way it is read today: “Read: In the name of your Lord” according to which the Prophet was being commanded to simply read the ‘text’ of the Qur’ān. In this sense, the scholar Uri Rubin concludes that:
“The command to recite the Name of the Lord seems to refer to a certain act of devotion which the prophet is prompted to perform in honour of his Lord…The view that in Sūrat al-‘AlaqMuḥammad is commanded to start spreading the divine message of the Qur’ān has thus become the most prevalent one. The interpretation preserved by Abū ‘Ubayda, according to which Sūrat al-‘Alaq urges the prophet to praise the Name of his Lord, was almost utterly forgotten.”
(Uri Rubin, Some Notes on the Interpretation of Sūrat al-‘Alaq)
Therefore, we must ask the question: Why does it matter that the Qur’ān instructs the Prophet to “recite the Name of your Lord” as opposed to “Read: In the Name of your Lord”?
Source: Ismaili Gnosis