The first word revealed in the Quran is sometimes translated as "read" or "recite". In the English language, these two words can hold a broad scope of meanings with slight variations such as:

Read: to understand the meaning of written symbols (not necessarily aloud)
Recite: to verbally repeat from memory (read aloud)

So what is the proper definition of Iqra when it is used in the Quran? Does Iqra imply to verbally say aloud?

  • it is recite; when we recite we obviously understand it. We must try to recite the verses by understanding them. Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 16:13

11 Answers 11


The word "ikra" in the original of the verse is the imperative of the verb "karae". This word is also available in Hebrew and Syriac. For example, even now, in Syriac, "kıryono" is used for the word "to read". The word "ikri" also means "read in steps." Researchers do not have a firm belief from which language the word "ikra" might have rooted or which language it might have transferred to.

While the notebook-book is not yet invented, the word 'karae' has the meaning of "gathering the blessed blood in the womb and being thrown out," and over time, it has been used as the name of the periods that include women's idle days and immediately after them. Indeed, the use of the word is also in this sense in Bakara / 228.

Later, the word began to be used by means of istiare [borrowing] in the sense of "accumulating something, distributing it, transferring it to other places". "For example, karaet'in-nâqatu was the name to the general incident of camels getting pregnant, carrying the baby in the womb,and giving birth to it. in addition, the same word is used for "bringing together letters, words, sentences or information and transmitting it to someone else". This is also why it is used in the sense of "reading". However, it would be doing injustice to the word "karae" if we would have translated it only as "reading." The verbatim translation for "reading" is ""tilâvet" in Arabic. This could be roughly translated as 'reading a text that has already been written.'However, it is clear that the Qur'an does not contemplate a reading in this sense. "Iqra" means the prophet will accumulate something (knowledge) and then will distribute this knowledge. In other words, our Prophet will learn something from Allah (the God), and also has the responsibility to teach people what he learned, either verbally or in writing. That is the duty given to him by the giver. This can be seen in the following verses: Isrā / 14, 45, 93, 106; Nahl / 98; Current A'ruf / 204; İnşikak / 21; A'la / 6 and Müzzemmil / 20.


Most translations of the Quran translate it as read. Different translations of the word Iqra in major translations:

Sahih International: Recite in the name of your Lord who created -

Pickthall: Read: In the name of thy Lord Who createth,

Yusuf Ali: Proclaim! (or read!) in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created-

Shakir: Read in the name of your Lord Who created.

Mohsin Khan: Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists),

-- Quran 96.1

Notice that only one major translation of the Quran translated it as recite. Yusuf Ali translated it as "proclaim!". These different translations seems to create a lot of confusion.

So, what exactly does it mean?

The meaning of the word Iqra can be understood by learning the context of the first revelation. Ibn Khatir wrote in his tafsir of the said revelation:

Imam Ahmad recorded that A'ishah said: The first thing that began happening with the Messenger of Allah from the revelation was dreams that he would see in his sleep that would come true. He would not see any dream except that it would come true just like the (clearness of) the daybreak in the morning.

Then seclusion became beloved to him. So, he used to go to the cave of Hira' and devote himself to worship there for a number of nights, and he would bring provisions for that. Then he would return to Khadijah and replenish his provisions for a similar number of nights.

This continued until the revelation suddenly came to him while he was in the cave of Hira'. The angel came to him while he was in the cave and said, "Read!'' The Messenger of Allah said, (I replied: "I am not one who reads.) Then he said, "So he (the angel) seized me and pressed me until I could no longer bear it. Then he released me and said: `Read!' So I replied: I am not one who reads.' So, he pressed me a second time until I could no longer bear it. Then he released me and said:

(Read in the Name of your Lord who has created.) until he reached the Ayah, (That which he knew not.)

So he returned with them (those Ayat) and with his heart trembling until he came (home) to Khadijah, and he said, (Wrap me up, wrap me up!) So they wrapped him up until his fear went away. After that he told Khadijah everything that had happened and said, I fear that something may happen to me.

Khadijah replied, "Never! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you. You keep good relations with your relatives, you speak the truth, you help the poor and the destitute, you serve your guests generously, and you help the deserving, calamity afflicted people.' ...

The context indicates that the word Iqra in verse 96.1 is a command to the prophet (saw) to recite or read or proclaim. Its meaning may be to read and understand the meaning and then proclaiming/reciting it aloud to others. The following verse has a different form of the same word used to command the Muslims (of that time) to listen to the Quran attentively (which indicates that it is asking the Muslims to pay attention and understand the meaning since Muslims of that time were Arabic speakers):

When the Qur-aan is recited (quri-a) aloud, listen to it attentively and keep quiet so that you are shown mercy

-- Quran 7:204


The word Iqra in the said revelation seems to have a broad meaning which is (a command to the prophet) to read and then proclaim it to the people of Mecca (who were pagans) by reciting it aloud.


I hope that it is what Allah meant with those words that i understand, and what i understand is that Allah is telling the messenger to recite the Qur'aan onto people, to spread Allah's message, Allah knows better what is meant, this is my interpretation, which i trust


Iqra can have both meanings and I would say both are implied in the Surah. For the Prophet directly, it is a command to preach and to speak the message (to recite). But given the statement of Allah in the following verses that one of His blessings is the pen and what is taught by it, it also means read. The Prophet could not read but from the first revelation there is an emphasis for writing and reading. This is for preservation and teaching/spreading the message. Reading/understanding and recite/teach are also sides of the same coin.

  • Add reference plese. Commented Nov 26, 2016 at 16:47

"Iqra" or "ikra" is very loosely defined as 'read' or 'recite'. We have to understand the circumstances of the Divine Revelation. The Lord is not going to ask us to read or Nabi ask us to recite, something he himself could not do. Instead, he wants us to concentrate on — to pay attention to — the flow of wisdom that we are privileged to receive.

In Tamil we use the word "akrai" to denote careful and dedicated speech or work. The Bible also says, "know thou this…," thus drawing our wandering attention to words of wisdom.

Yes, what is written will be read, at least by those who want to, just as it follows that after reading one is expected to pass on the content. If, thus, we get into the mechanics of reading and reciting we will hit a wall because we are not sure of the competence of the recorders or indeed whether desert folk and tribes would make any sense of the scripture. It is safer to assume that the Prophet was reiterating the wisdom of the past and asking, nay commanding, us to pay heed to the Revelation as he heard or understood.


IQRA set the Beginning of the Prophethood of Muhammad PBUH and the First of the Qur'an was revealed.

The first word of verse (96:1) is an imperative verb (فعل أمر). The verb is second person masculine singular. The verb's triliteral root is qāf rā hamza (ق ر أ).

According to this IQRA would mean READ. Although, an Arabic word may have a range of meanings depending on context. Follow the link for more forms of the word http://corpus.quran.com/qurandictionary.jsp?q=qrA

To answer your question

The first word revealed in the Quran is sometimes translated as "read" or "recite". In the English language, these two words can hold a broad scope of meanings with slight variations such as:

first word revealed in the Quran is READ not RECITE

So what is the proper definition of Iqra when it is used in the Quran? Does Iqra imply to verbally say aloud?

The triliteral root qāf rā hamza (ق ر أ) occurs 88 times in the Quran, in four derived forms:

 16 times as the form I verb qara-a (قَرَأَ)
 once as the form IV verb nuq'ri-u (نُقْرِئُ)
 once as the noun qurū (قُرُوٓء)
 70 times as the nominal qur'ān (قُرْءَان)

Again, an Arabic word may have a range of meanings depending on context.

Allahu A'lam


A word may have different meanings. Similar is the case with إقرأ. Theoretically, it may be used in different meanings at different places in the Qur'an. The meaning it has been used in Sūrah ‘Alaq is explained by Islahi as:

The word إقرأ (read) is not merely used to convey what a teacher would say to a student in order to ask him to read. It is also used to ask others to read the way it is in إقرأ على الناس (read it out to people) and أتل على الناس (recite it out to people).

Accordingly, the translation of the verse will be:

Read out to them [O Prophet!] in the name of your Lord who created


Read is very important in life, recite I don't know. read with your 5 senses. As read means read how the wind blows , how the river flows, how price moves in markets, read and learn how Massie kicks the ball when where read Massie, do it. In hockey read and then hit and score, wrong reading will give wrong results do, its your duty to read correctly. I don't think it has anything to do with education. As Muhammad PBHU never did went to school to educate himself, and did everything so education is not as important than reading, observing via your 5 senses.

  • 1
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    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 5:27

My personal opinion on the matter is as follows: IQRA is alone by itself ambiguous (two possible meanings at least).

  • READ1 - read a written text
  • READ2 - recite from memory
  • READ3 - interpret
  • READ4 - etc. etc.

So context of its use if important. Given the usual account of events, since the PROPHET SAW was illiterate/unable to read he might have interpreted it as meaning READ1 and replied he could not READ1. I don't believe he could not recite from memory. Else he would have replied something to the effect: "What should I READ2/recite?" Therefore the very first IQRA alone means READ1.

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    – III-AK-III
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 2:16

As we know that Prophet Muhammad PBUH was not literate, he could not have read any text given to him. The correct interpretation of iqra will be "to preach" this message to others. It correlates to the Prophet's response that I am not a religious preacher.

Its similar to the meaning "qari sahib" term is used in sub-continant.

  • The op seems to be looking for Tafseer-like answer. You should also put some references for support.
    – Ghasan
    Commented Jun 30, 2013 at 12:46

Iqra means read or recite as is my name is iqra and I have read that Surah. I am very sure that it means read or recite when it is in the surah. it means you should read the quran and recite that’s how I see it.


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