IN THE SHADE OF THE MESSAGE AND PROPHETHOOD
When Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was nearly forty, he had been
wont to pass long hours in retirement meditating and speculating over
all aspects of creation around him. This meditative temperament helped
to widen the mental gap between him and his compatriots. He used to provide
himself with Sawiq (barley porridge) and water and then directly
head for the hills and ravines in the neighbourhood of Makkah. One of
these in particular was his favourite resort — a cave named Hira’, in
the Mount An-Nour. It was only two miles from Makkah, a small cave 4 yards
long and 1.75 yard wide. He would always go there and invite wayfarers
to share him his modest provision. He used to devote most of his time,
and Ramadan in particular, to worship and meditation on the universe around
him. His heart was restless about the moral evils and idolatry that were
rampant among his people; he was as yet helpless because no definite course,
or specific approach had been available for him to follow and rectify
the ill practices around him. This solitude attended with this sort of
contemplative approach must be understood in its Divine perspective. It
was a preliminary stage to the period of grave responsibilities that he
was to shoulder very soon.
Privacy and detachment from the impurities of life were two indispensable
prerequisites for the Prophet’s soul to come into close communion with
the Unseen Power that lies behind all aspects of existence in this infinite
universe. It was a rich period of privacy which lasted for three years
and ushered in a new era, of indissoluble contact with that Power.
When he was forty, the age of complete perfection at which Prophets were
always ordered to disclose their Message, signs of his Prophethood started
to appear and twinkle on the horizons of life; they were the true visions
he used to experience for six months. The period of Prophethood was 23
years; so the period of these six months of true visions constituted an
integral part of the forty-six parts of Prophethood. In Ramadan, in his
third year of solitude in the cave of Hira’, Allâh’s Will desired His
mercy to flow on earth and Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was honoured with
Prophethood, and the light of Revelation burst upon him with some verses
of the Noble Qur’ân.
As for the exact date, careful investigation into circumstantial evidence
and relevant clues point directly to Monday, 21st. Ramadan at night, i.e.
Au, 10, 610 A.D. with Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) exactly 40
years, 6 months and 12 days of age, i.e. 39 Gregorian years, 3 months
and 22 days.
‘Aishah, the veracious, gave the following narration of that most significant
event that brought the Divine light which would dispel the darkness of
disbelief and ignorance. It led life down a new course and brought about
the most serious amendment to the line of the history of mankind:
Forerunners of the Revelation assumed the form of true visions that would
strikingly come true all the time. After that, solitude became dear to
him and he would go to the cave, Hira’, to engage in Tahannuth
(devotion) there for a certain number of nights before returning to his
family, and then he would return for provisions for a similar stay. At
length, unexpectedly, the Truth (the angel) came to him and said, “Recite.”
“I cannot recite,” he [Muhammad (Peace be upon him)] said. The Prophet
(Peace be upon him) described: “Then he took me and squeezed me vehemently
and then let me go and repeated the order ‘Recite.’ ‘I cannot recite’
said I, and once again he squeezed me and let me till I was exhausted.
Then he said: ‘Recite.’ I said ‘I cannot recite.’ He squeezed me for a
third time and then let me go and said:
“Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists),
has created man from a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood).
Read! and your Lord is the Most Generous.’” [96:1-3]
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) repeated these verses. He was trembling
with fear. At this stage, he came back to his wife Khadijah, and said,
“Cover me, ... cover me.” They covered him until he restored security.
He apprised Khadijah of the incident of the cave and added that he was
horrified. His wife tried to soothe him and reassured him saying, “Allâh
will never disgrace you. You unite uterine relations; you bear the burden
of the weak; you help the poor and the needy, you entertain the guests
and endure hardships in the path of truthfulness.”
She set out with the Prophet (Peace be upon him) to her cousin Waraqa
bin Nawfal bin Asad bin ‘Abd Al-‘Uzza, who had embraced Christianity in
the pre-Islamic period, and used to write the Bible in Hebrew. He was
a blind old man. Khadijah said: “My cousin! Listen to your nephew!” Waraqa
said: “O my nephew! What did you see?” The Messenger of Allâh (Peace be
upon him) told him what had happened to him. Waraqa replied: “This is
‘Namus’ i.e. (the angel who is entrusted with Divine Secrets) that
Allâh 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 (Peace be upon
him) asked: “Will they drive me out?” Waraqa 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 till that day, then
I would support you strongly.” A few days later Waraqa died and the revelation
At-Tabari and Ibn Hisham reported that the Messenger of Allâh (Peace
be upon him) left the cave of Hira’ after being surprised by the Revelation,
but later on, returned to the cave and continued his solitude. Afterwards,
he came back to Makkah. At-Tabari reported on this incident, saying:
After mentioning the coming of the Revelation, the Messenger of Allâh
(Peace be upon him) said: “I have never abhorred anyone more than a poet
or a mad man. I can not stand looking at either of them. I will never
tell anyone of Quraish of my Revelation. I will climb a mountain and throw
myself down and die. That will relieve me. I went to do that but halfway
up the mountain, I heard a voice from the sky saying ‘O Muhammad! You
are the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) and I am Gabriel.’ I looked
upwards and saw Gabriel in the form of a man putting his legs on the horizon.
He said: ‘O Muhammad You are the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him)
and I am Gabriel.’ I stopped and looked at him. His sight distracted my
attention from what I had intended to do. I stood in my place transfixed.
I tried to shift my eyes away from him. He was in every direction I looked
at. I stopped in my place without any movement until Khadijah sent someone
to look for me. He went down to Makkah and came back while I was standing
in the same place. Gabriel then left, and I went back home. I found Khadijah
at home, so I sat very close to her. She asked: ‘Father of Al-Qasim! Where
have you been? I sent someone to look for you. He went to Makkah and returned
to me.’ I told her of what I had seen. She replied: ‘It is a propitious
sign, O my husband. Pull yourself together, I swear by Allâh that you
are a Messenger for this nation.’ Then she stood up and went to Waraqa
and informed him. Waraqa said: ‘I swear by Allâh that he has received
the same Namus, i.e. angel that was sent to Moses. He is the Prophet
of this nation. Tell him to be patient.’ She came back to him and told
him of Waraqa’s words. When the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him)
finished his solitary stay and went down to Makkah, he went to Waraqa,
who told him: ‘You are the Prophet of this nation. I swear by Allâh that
you have received the same angel that was sent to Moses.’”
Ibn Sa‘d reported on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas that the Revelation
paused for a few days.After careful study, this seems to be the most possible.
To say that it lasted for three and a half years, as some scholars allege,
is not correct, but here there is no room to go into more details.
Meanwhile, the Prophet (Peace be upon him), was caught in a sort of depression
coupled with astonishment and perplexity. Al-Bukhari reported:
The Divine inspiration paused for a while and the Prophet (Peace be upon
him) became so sad, as we have heard, that he intended several times to
throw himself from the tops of high mountains, and every time he went
up the top of a mountain in order to throw himself down, Gabriel would
appear before him and say: “O Muhammad! You are indeed Allâh’s Messenger
in truth,” whereupon his heart would become quiet and he would calm down
and return home. Whenever the period of the coming of the Revelation used
to become long, he would do as before, but Gabriel would appear again
before him and say to him what he had said before.
Ibn Hajar said: ‘That (the pause of Allâh’s revelation for a few days)
was to relieve the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) of the fear
he experienced and to make him long for the Revelation. When the shades
of puzzle receded, the flags of truth were raised, the Messenger of Allâh
(Peace be upon him) knew for sure that he had become the Messenger of
the Great Lord. He was also certain that what had come to him was no more
than the ambassador of inspiration. His waiting and longing for the coming
of the revelation constituted a good reason for his steadfastness and
self-possession on the arrival of Allâh’s inspiration, Al-Bukhari reported
on the authority of Jabir bin ‘Abdullah that he had heard the Messenger
of Allâh (Peace be upon him) speak about the period of pause as follows:
“While I was walking, I heard a voice from the sky. I looked up, and
surely enough, it was the same angel who had visited me in the cave of
Hira’. He was sitting on a chair between the earth and the sky. I was
very afraid of him and knelt on the ground. I went home saying: ‘Cover
me …, Cover me …’. Allâh revealed to me the verses:
‘O you [Muhammad (Peace be upon him)] enveloped (in garments)!
Arise and warn! And your Lord (Allâh) magnify! And your garments
purify! And keep away from Ar-Rujz (the idols)!’” [74:1-5]
After that the revelation started coming strongly, frequently and regularly.
Before we go into the details of the period of communicating the Message
and Prophethood, we would like to get acquainted with the stages of the
Revelation which constituted the main source of the Message and the subject-matter
of the Call. Ibn Al-Qayyim, mentioning the stages of the Revelation, said:
The First: The period of true vision. It was the starting point of
the Revelation to the Men of Allâh (Peace be upon him).
The Second: What the angel invisibly cast in the Prophet’s mind and
heart. The Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) said: “The Noble
Spirit revealed to me ‘No soul will perish until it exhausts its due
course, so fear Allâh and gently request Him. Never get so impatient
to the verge of disobedience of Allâh. What Allâh has can never be
acquired but through obedience to Him.’”
The Third: The angel used to visit the Messenger of Allâh (Peace
be upon him) in the form of a human being and would speak to him directly.
This would enable him to fully understand what the angel said. The
angel was sometimes seen in this form by the Prophet’s Companions.
The Fourth: The angel came to him like the toll of a bell and this
was the most difficult form because the angel used to seize him tightly
and sweat would stream from his forehead even on the coldest day.
If the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was on his camel, the camel would
not withstand the weight, so it would immediately kneel down on the
ground. Once the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) had such
a revelation when he was sitting and his thigh was on Zaid’s, Zaid
felt the pressure had almost injured his thigh.
The Fifth: The Prophet (Peace be upon him) saw the angel in his
actual form. The angel would reveal to him what Allâh had ordered
him to reveal. This, as mentioned in (Qur’ân), in Sűrah An-Najm
(Chapter 53 - The Star), happened twice.
The Sixth: What Allâh Himself revealed to him in heaven i.e. when
he ascended to heaven and received Allâh’s behest of Salât
The Seventh: Allâh’s Words to His Messenger (Peace be upon him) at
first hand without the mediation of an angel. It was a privilege granted
to Moses (Peace be upon him) and clearly attested in the Qur’ân,
as it is attested to our Prophet (Peace be upon him) in the Sűrah
Al-Isrâ’ (Chapter 17 - The Journey by Night) of the Noble Qur’ân.
Some religious scholars added a controversial eighth stage in which they
state that Allâh spoke to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) directly without
a curtain in between. This issue remains however unconfirmed.
PROCLAIMING ALLAH, THE ALL-HIGH; AND
THE IMMEDIATE CONSTITUENTS
The first Revelation sent to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) implied
several injunctions, simple in form but highly effective and of serious
far-reaching ramifications. The angel communicated to him a manifest Message
“O you [Muhammad (Peace be upon him) ] enveloped (in garments)!
Arise and warn! And your Lord (Allâh) magnify! And your garments
purify! And keep away from Ar-Rujz (the idols). And give
not a thing in order to have more (or consider not your deeds of
Allâh’s obedience as a favour to Allâh). And be patient for the
sake of your Lord (i.e. perform your duty to Allâh)!” [74:1-7]
For convenience and ease of understanding, we are going to segment the
Message into its immediate constituents:
- The ultimate objective of warning is to make sure that no one breaching
the pleasures of Allâh in the whole universe is ignorant of the serious
consequences that his behaviour entails, and to create a sort of unprecedented
shock within his mind and heart.
- ‘Magnifying the Lord’ dictates explicitly that the only pride allowed
to nourish on the earth is exclusively Allâh’s to the exclusion of all
- ‘Cleansing the garments and shunning all aspects of abomination’ point
directly to the indispensable need to render both the exterior and interior
exceptionally chaste and pure, in addition to the prerequisite of sanctifying
the soul and establishing it highly immune against the different sorts
of impurities and the various kinds of pollutants. Only through this
avenue can the soul of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) reach an ideal
status and become eligible to enjoy the shady mercy of Allâh and His
protection, security, guidance and ever-shining light; and will consequently
set the highest example to the human community, attract the sound hearts
and inspire awe and reverence in the stray ones in such a manner that
all the world, in agreement or disagreement, will head for it and take
it as the rock-bed in all facets of their welfare.
- The Prophet (Peace be upon him) must not regard his strife in the
way of Allâh as a deed of grace that entitles him to a great reward.
On the contrary, he has to exert himself to the utmost, dedicate his
whole efforts and be ready to offer all sacrifices in a spirit of self-fogetfulness
enveloped by an ever-present awareness of Allâh, without the least sense
of pride in his deeds or sacrifices.
- The last verse of the Qur’ân revealed to the Prophet (Peace be upon
him) alludes to the hostile attitude of the obdurate disbelievers, who
will jeer at him and his followers. They are expected to disparage him
and step up their malice to the point of scheming against his life and
lives of all the believers around him. In this case he has got to be
patient and is supposed to persevere and display the highest degree
of stamina for the sole purpose of attaining the pleasure of Allâh.
These were the basic preliminaries that the Prophet (Peace be upon him)
had to observe, very simple injunctions in appearance, greatly fascinating
in their calm rhythm, but highly effective in practice. They constituted
the trigger that aroused a far-ranging tempest in all the corners of the
The verses comprise the constituents of the new call and propagation
of the new faith. A warning logically implies that there are malpractices
with painful consequences to be sustained by the perpetrators, and since
the present life is not necessarily the only room to bring people to account
for their misdeeds or some of them, then the warning would necessarily
imply calling people to account on another day, i.e. the Day of Resurrection,
and this per se suggests the existence of a life other than this one we
are living. All the verses of the Noble Qur’ân call people to testify
explicitly to the Oneness of Allâh, to delegate all their affairs to Allâh,
the All-High, and to subordinate the desires of the self and the desires
of Allâh’s servants to the attainment of His Pleasures.
The constituents of the call to Islam could, briefly speaking, go as
- Testimony to the Oneness of Allâh.
- Belief in the Hereafter.
- Sanctifying one’s soul and elevating it high above evils and abominations
that conduce to terrible consequences, besides this, there is the dire
need for virtues and perfect manners coupled with habituating oneself
to righteous deeds.
- Committing one’s all affairs to Allâh, the All-High.
- All the foregoing should run as a natural corollary to unwavering
belief in Muhammad’s Message, and abidance by his noble leadership and
The verses have been prefaced, in the voice of the Most High, by a heavenly
call mandating the Prophet (Peace be upon him) to undertake this daunting
responsibility (calling people unto Allâh). The verses meant to extract
him forcibly out of his sleep, divest him of his mantle and detach him
from the warmth and quiet of life, and then drive him down a new course
attended with countless hardships, and requiring a great deal of strife
in the way of Allâh:
“O you [Muhammad (Peace be upon him) ] enveloped (in garments)!
Arise and warn.” [74:1-2]
Suggesting that to live to oneself is quite easy, but it has been decided
that you have to shoulder this heavy burden; consequently sleep, comfort,
or warm bed are items decreed to be alien in your lexicon of life. O Muhammad,
arise quickly for the strife and toil awaiting you; no time is there for
sleep and such amenities; grave responsibilities have been Divinely determined
to fall to your lot, and drive you into the turmoil of life to develop
a new sort of precarious affinity with the conscience of people and the
reality of life.
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) managed quite successfully to rise to
his feet and measure up to the new task, he went ahead in a spirit of
complete selflessness, relentlessly striving and never abating in carrying
the burden of the great Trust, the burden of enlightening mankind, and
the heavy weight of the new faith and strife for over twenty years, nothing
distracting his attention from the awcommission. May Allâh reward him,
for us and all humanity, the best ending. The following research at hand
gives an account in miniature of his long strive and uninterrupted struggle
he made after receiving the ministry of Messengership.