It seems that the literal meaning of the word 'Iqra' is 'Read'.
The translation of the first verse of Surah Al-'Alaq by different scholars also shows that it is 'Read' i.e. 'Read in the name of your Lord, Who created' (Al-'Alaq 96:1)
When the Angel Gabriel ordered the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to read; the Prophet (pbuh) said 'I cannot read'. This further strengthens the meaning of Iqra as 'Read'.
What I have failed to comprehend is why angel Gabriel asked Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to read; when 'Iqra' means 'Read'. God certainly knew that His Prophet was an unlettered person. Then why to reveal the verse with a word 'Iqra'? Why not the word, for instance, 'Qul' has been used i.e. 'Say'?
Is there any other meaning of the word 'Iqra'? Please clarify the word 'Iqra' and its usage in the Surah Al-'Alaq?
The words "إقراء" (from قراءة) and "اتل" (from تلاوة) are not used only for reading out from a written document but is also used for a verbal rendering of a statement. In this connotation, the word 'Iqra' has the same implication as the English phrase verbal recitation. Thus, it would be correct to use the word 'Iqra' when a person is required to verbally repeat another person's statement.
I hope this clarification will answer your questions.
June 24, 2002
Answer published by Moiz Amjad