Muhammad’s First Revelation
Muhammad’s revelation was an event described in Islam as taking place in 610 AD, during which the Islamic prophet, Muhammad was visited by the archangel Jibrīl, who revealed to him the beginnings of what would later become the Quran. The event took place in a cave called Hira, located on the mountain Jabal an-Nour, near Mecca.
According to biographies of Muhammad, while on retreat in a mountain cave near Mecca (the cave of Hira), Gabriel appears before him and commands him to recite the first lines of chapter 96 of the Quran. Muhammad’s experience is mentioned in Surah 53:4–9:
- “It is no less than inspiration sent down to him:
- He was taught by one Mighty in Power,
- Endued with Wisdom: for he appeared (in stately form);
- While he was in the highest part of the horizon:
- Then he approached and came closer,
- And was at a distance of but two bow-lengths or (even) nearer;”[Quran 53:4–9]
Before the revelation
Muhammad was born and raised in Mecca. When he was nearly 40, he used to spend many hours alone in prayer and speculating over the aspects of creation. He was concerned with the “ignorance of divine guidance” (Jahiliyyah), social unrest, injustice, widespread discrimination (particularly against women), fighting among tribes and abuse of tribal authorities prevalent in pre-Islamic Arabia. The moral degeneration of his fellow people, and his own quest for a true religion further lent fuel to this, with the result that he now began to withdraw periodically to a cave named Mount Hira, three miles north of Mecca, for contemplation and reflection. Islamic tradition holds that Muhammad during this period began to have dreams replete with spiritual significance which were fulfilled according to their true import; and this was the commencement of his divine revelation.
The first revelation
- “Proclaim! (or read!) in the name of your Lord who created:
Created man from a clinging substance:
- Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous,–
- Who taught by the pen–
- Taught man that which he knew not.”[Quran96:1–5]
After the revelation
Perplexed by this new experience, Muhammad made his way to home where he was consoled by his wife Khadijah, who also took him to her Ebionite cousin Waraqah ibn Nawfal. Waraqah was familiar with Jewish and Christian scriptures. Islamic tradition holds that Waraqah, upon hearing the description, testified to Muhammad’s prophethood, and convinced Muhammad that the revelation was from God. Waraqah said: “O my nephew! What did you see?” When Muhammad told him what had happened to him, Waraqah replied: “This is Namus (meaning Gabriel) that Allah sent to Moses. I wish I were younger. I wish I could live up to the time when your people would turn you out.” Muhammad asked: “Will they drive me out?” Waraqah answered in the affirmative and said: “Anyone who came with something similar to what you have brought was treated with hostility; and if I should be alive until that day, then I would support you strongly.” A few days later Waraqah died.
The initial revelation was followed by a pause and a second encounter with Gabriel when Muhammad heard a voice from the sky and saw the same angel “sitting between the sky and the earth” and the revelations resumed with the first verses of chapter 74.
At-Tabari and Ibn Hisham reported that Muhammad left the cave of Hira after being surprised by the revelation, but later on, returned to the cave and continued his solitude, though subsequently he returned to Mecca. Tabari and Ibn Ishaq write that Muhammad told Zubayr:
- “when I was midway on the mountain, I heard a voice from heaven saying “O Muhammad! you are the apostle of Allah and I am Gabriel.” I raised my head towards heaven to see who was speaking, and Gabriel in the form of a man with feet astride the horizon, saying, “O Muhammad! you are the apostle of Allah and I am Gabriel.” I stood gazing at him moving neither forward nor backward, then I began to turn my face away from him, but towards whatever region of the sky I looked, I saw him as before.”
There is doubt about the period of time between Muhammad’s first and second experiences of revelation. Ibn Ishaq writes that three years elapsed from the time that Muhammad received the first revelation until he started to preach publicly. Bukhari takes chapter 74 as the second revelation however chapter 68 has strong claims to be the second revelation.
First wahy in Sunnah
Ḥadīth (حديث) is literally “speech”; recorded saying or tradition of Muhammad validated by isnad; with Sirah Rasul Allah these comprise the sunnah and reveal shariah. According to Aishah, the life of Muhammad was practical implementation of Qur’an. The first and foremost exegesis/tafsir of the Qur’an is found in hadith of Muhammad. Therefore, study of hadith elaborates the importance and context of pertinent event. The event of first revelation of Mohammed is recorded in hadith via his wife Aisha
The commencement of the Divine Inspiration to Allah’s Messenger was in the form of good dreams which came true like bright daylight, and then the love of seclusion was bestowed upon him. He used to go in seclusion in the cave of Hira where he used to worship (Allah alone) continuously for many days before his desire to see his family. He used to take with him the journey food for the stay and then come back to (his wife) Khadija to take his food likewise again till suddenly the Truth descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hira. The angel came to him and asked him to read. The Prophet replied, “I do not know how to read.” The Prophet added, “The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read and I replied, ‘I do not know how to read.’ Thereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read but again I replied, ‘I do not know how to read (or what shall I read)?’ Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me, and then released me and said, ‘Read in the name of your Lord, who has created (all that exists), created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous.” (96.1, 96.2, 96.3) Then Allah’s Messenger returned with the Inspiration and with his heart beating severely. Then he went to Khadija bint Khuwailid and said, “Cover me! Cover me!” They covered him till his fear was over and after that he told her everything that had happened and said, “I fear that something may happen to me.” Khadija replied, “Never! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you. You keep good relations with your kith and kin, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guests generously and assist the deserving calamity-afflicted ones.” Khadija then accompanied him to her cousin Waraqa ibn Naufal bin Asad bin ‘Abdul ‘Uzza, who, during the pre-Islamic Period became a Christian and used to write the writing with Hebrew letters. He would write from the Gospel in Hebrew as much as Allah wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadija said to Waraqa, “Listen to the story of your nephew, O my cousin!” Waraqa asked, “O my nephew! What have you seen?” Allah’s Messenger described whatever he had seen. Waraqa said, “This is the same one who keeps the secrets (angel Gabriel) whom Allah had sent to Moses. I wish I were young and could live up to the time when your people would turn you out.” Allah’s Messenger asked, “Will they drive me out?” Waraqa replied in the affirmative and said, “Anyone (man) who came with something similar to what you have brought was treated with hostility; and if I should remain alive till the day when you will be turned out then I would support you strongly.” But after a few days Waraqa died and the Divine Inspiration was also, paused for a while.
Here is the quotation from Ibn Ishaq on Muhammad’s first meeting with Gabriel:
When it was the night on which God honored him with his mission and showed mercy on His servants thereby, Gabriel brought him the command of God. “He came to me,” said the apostle of God, “while I was asleep, with a coverlet of brocade whereon was some writing, and said, ‘Read!’ I said, ‘What shall I read?’ He pressed me with it so tightly that I thought it was death; then he let me go and said, ‘Read!’ I said, ‘What shall I read?’ He pressed me with it again so that I thought it was death; then he let me go and said ‘Read!’ I said, ‘What shall I read?’ He pressed me with it the third time so that I thought it was death and said ‘Read!’ I said, ‘What then shall I read?’—and this I said only to deliver myself from him, lest he should do the same to me again. He said:
- ‘Read in the name of thy Lord who created, Who created man of blood coagulated. Read! Thy Lord is the most beneficent, Who taught by the pen, Taught that which they knew not unto men.’
So I read it, and he departed from me. And I awoke from my sleep, and it was as though these words were written on my heart.
Now none of God’s creatures was more hateful to me than an (ecstatic) poet or a man possessed: I could not even look at them. I thought, Woe is me poet or possessed—Never shall Quraysh say this of me! I will go to the top of the mountain and throw myself down that I may kill myself and gain rest. So I went forth to do so and then when I was midway on the mountain, I heard a voice from heaven saying, “O Muhammad! thou art the apostle of God and I am Gabriel.” “(Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah, p. 106)
- Shibli Nomani. Sirat-un-Nabi. Vol 1 Lahore
- Husayn Haykal, Muhammad (2008). The Life of Muhammad. Selangor: Islamic Book Trust. pp. 79–80. ISBN978-983-9154-17-7.
- Bogle, Emory C. (1998). Islam: Origin and Belief. Texas University Press. p. 6. ISBN0-292-70862-9.
- Muhammad Mustafa Al-A’zami (2003), The History of The Qur’anic Text: From Revelation to Compilation: A Comparative Study with the Old and New Testaments, pp. 25, 47–8. UK Islamic Academy. ISBN978-1872531656.
- Brown (2003), pp. 72–3
- Sell (1913), p. 29.
- Bukhari volume1, book 1, number 3
- Sell (1913), p. 30.
- Juan E. Campo, ed. (2009). Encyclopedia of Islam. Facts On File. p. 492. ISBN978-0-8160-5454-1.
- Bennett, Clinton (1998). In Search of Muhammad. Cassell. p. 41. ISBN0826435769.
- Grade: Sahih (Al-Albani) صحيح (الألباني) حكم : Reference : Sunan Abi Dawud 1342 In-book reference : Book 5, Hadith 93 English translation: Book 5, Hadith 1337
- Al-Adab Al-Mufrad » Dealings with people and good character – كتاب English reference: Book 14, Hadith 308 Arabic reference: Book 1, Hadith 308
- Sahih Al- Jami’ AI-Saghir, No. 4811
- Sunan Ibn Majah 2333 In-book reference : Book 13, Hadith 26 English translation: Vol. 3, Book 13, Hadith 2333
- Grade: Sahih (Darussalam) Reference : Sunan an-Nasa’i 1601 In-book reference : Book 20, Hadith 4 English translation: Vol. 2, Book 20, Hadith 1602
- Şatibi, El-muvafakat
- Sahih al-Bukhari 3 In-book reference : Book 1, Hadith 3 USC-MSA web (English) reference: Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 3 (deprecated numbering scheme)
- Sahih al-Bukhari 3392 In-book reference : Book 60, Hadith 66 USC-MSA web (English) reference: Vol. 4, Book 55, Hadith 605 (deprecated numbering scheme)
- Sahih Muslim 160 a In-book reference : Book 1, Hadith 310 USC-MSA web (English) reference: Book 1, Hadith 301 (deprecated numbering scheme)
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