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The Beginning of Prophethood

Shaykh Mūsá Richardson

Our noble elder and teacher, Abū al ʿAbbās (ḥafiẓahullāh), goes through events leading up to the revelation and prophethood of the Messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam).  

The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam), prior to revelation, was known to possess the noblest of qualities, was from the most truthful, and had the highest standard of character. The following narration in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī tells the story of the human weakness of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam), and Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿāla) then made him infallible through Messengership, meaning he would not err after becoming a prophet, except that Allāh would send down revelation in order to clarify to the people.

ʿĀʾishah (raḍi Allāhu ʿanhā) narrated: The commencement of the Divine Inspiration to Allāh’s Apostle 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 Hirā where he used to worship [Allāh alone] continuously for many days before his desire to see his family. He used to take food with him for the stay and then come back to [his wife] Khadījah (raḍi Allāhu ʿanhā) to take his food likewise again till suddenly the Truth descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hirā. The angel came to him and asked him to read. The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) replied, ‘I do not know how to read.’ The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) added, ‘The angel caught me [forcefully] and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it anymore. 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 anymore. 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] has created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous’ (Sūrah al-ʿAlaq: 96:1-3).

Then Allāh’s Apostle returned with the Inspiration and with his heart beating severely. Then he went to Khadījah bint Khuwailid (raḍi Allāhu ʿanhā) 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.’ Khadījah (raḍi Allāhu ʿanhā) replied, ‘Never! By Allāh, Allāh 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.’ Khadījah (raḍi Allāhu ʿanhā) then accompanied him to her cousin Waraqa ibn Naufal ibn Asad ibn ʿAbd al-ʿUzza, who, during the pre-Islamic period became a Christian and used to write with Hebrew letters. He would write from the Gospel in Hebrew as much as Allāh wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadījah (raḍi Allāhu ʿanhā) said to Waraqa, ‘Listen to the story of your nephew, O my cousin!’ Waraqa asked, ‘O my nephew! What have you seen?’ Allāh’s Apostle described whatever he had seen. Waraqa said, ‘This is the same one who keeps the secrets [angel Gabriel] whom Allāh had sent to Moses. I wish I were young and could live up to the time when your people would turn you out.’ Allāh’s Apostle 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. 

Narrated Jābir ibn ʿAbdullāh al-Anṣārī, while talking about the period of pause in revelation, reporting the speech of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam): ‘While I was walking, all of a sudden I heard a voice from the sky. I looked up and saw the same angel who had visited me at the cave of Hirā’ sitting on a chair between the sky and the earth. I got afraid of him and came back home and said, ‘Wrap me [in blankets].’ And then Allāh revealed the following Holy Verses [of Qurʾān]): ‘O you [i.e. Muḥammad]! wrapped up in garments! Arise and warn [the people against Allāh’s Punishment]…’ up to ‘and desert the idols’ (Sūrah al-Muzammil: 74:1-5). After this, the revelation started coming strongly, frequently and regularly’ [Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, Book of Revelation, ḥadīth no.3].


Published: June 28, 2017
Edited: April 13, 2022


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