The Prophet Muhammad (saw)
Prophethood
 

Wahy and Prophet Muhammad

Wahy (revelation), which literally means ‘to speak fast and secretly', ‘to command', ‘to inspire', ‘to imply or to refer to' or ‘to send a messenger' in Arabic, is a supernatural and mystic phenomenon that is described in the science of Islamic exegesis (tafsir) as revelation from Allah Almighty to His messengers in a manner, the nature of which is unknown to us, or His communication from behind a veil or communication from Him through His messengers of whatever He wishes, with His permission.

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In the following verse of the Quran, Allah, Who is the owner and the source of wahy, emphasizes that being a prophet is a difficult mission in terms of spreading His word: ‘Surely We will make to light upon you a weighty word.' The weight of wahy on the body is also referred to and Allah commands His messenger to wake up halfway through the night to read the Quran with tarteel (proper recitation of the Quran in the manner that Gabriel revealed) and to worship in order to be able to bear this weight.

It was most probably because of this weight that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) almost collapsed and was left under immense pressure when he received wahy. Whenever this state of receiving wahy came over him, his face became pale, he could be seen to shiver in spite of the hot weather, or sometimes, in cold weather, his forehead would perspire; this pressure was so great that it caused the camel he rode upon to kneel down. Once, when in the state of receiving wahy, Prophet Muhammad's knee touched that of Zayd ibn Sabit who said ‘I thought my knee was going to break' because of the weight he felt. Also Umar says, ‘during some moments of wahy, we would hear sounds like the buzzing of bees around the head of the Messenger of Allah'. All of these situations are examples of the changes that Prophet Muhammad's body went through when receiving wahy.

We believe that it is necessary to focus on Prophet Muhammad himself and his personality so that we can be more familiarized with and understand in clearer what it takes for wahy to occur between Allah and Prophet Muhammad.

First Wahy, First Shiverin

The famous hadith (sayings of the Prophet) of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) about the commencement of wahy is as follows:

As narrated by Aisha, "The commencement of the Divine Inspiration to Allah's Apostle was in the form of good dreams which came true like bright day light, and then the love of seclusion was bestowed upon him. He used to go in seclusion in the cave of Hira where he would worship (Allah alone) continuously for many days before desiring to see his family. He used to take with him the journey food for the stay and then come back to (his wife) Khadijah to take his food likewise again until 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) man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous.'" (96.1, 96.2, 96.3) Then Allah's Apostle returned with the Inspiration and with his heart beating severely. Then he went to Khadijah bint Khuwailid and said, ‘Cover me! Cover me!' They covered him till his fear abated and after that he told her 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 kith and kin, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guests generously and assist the deserving ones who have been afflicted by calamity.'"

Khadijah then accompanied him to her cousin Waraqa bin Naufal bin Asad bin 'Abdul 'Uzza, who, during the pre-Islamic period had become a Christian and used to write in Hebrew. 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. Khadijah said to Waraqa, "Listen to the story of your nephew, O my cousin!" Waraqa asked, "O my nephew! What have you seen?" Allah's Apostle described what he had seen. Waraqa said, "This is the same one who keeps the secrets (Angel Gabriel) whom Allah sent to Moses. I wish I were young and could live until the time when your people will turn you out." Allah's Apostle asked, "Will they drive me out?" Waraqa replied in the affirmative and said, "Anyone (any man) who comes with something similar to what you have brought would be treated with hostility; and if I should remain alive until the day you are turned out then I will support you strongly." But after a few days Waraqa died and the Divine Inspiration also paused for a while.

Narrated by Jabir bin 'Abdullah Al-Ansari, reporting the speech of the Prophet while talking about the period of a pause in the revelation: "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 Hira sitting on a chair between the sky and the earth. I became afraid of him and came back home and said, 'Wrap me (in blankets).' And then Allah revealed the following verses (of the Quran):

O you ( Muhammad)! Wrapped up in garments!' Arise and warn (the people against Allah's Punishment)...' this recitation of the Surah continued until 'and desert the idols' (74.1-5). After this, the revelation started to come more powerfully, frequently and regularly."

In another account in Bukhari, Ibn Abbas narrated:

"When he received wahy, the Messenger of Allah moved his tongue in a hurry to be able to recite the Quran. Upon this, the following verses were revealed: ‘Do not move your tongue to make haste. Surely on Us (devolves) the collecting of it and the reciting of it. Therefore when We have recited it, follow its recitation. Again on Us (devolves) its explanation.'"

We can infer from this verse that:

1. Prophet Muhammad had sound reason, consciousness and will when receiving the wahy; one should not assume from his appearance during these moments that he had lost consciousness or passed out.

2. We can understand from the command to the Prophet to be silent and listen, that the Quran was recited to him in sounds, words and sentences.

3. The words, meaning and discourse of the Quran, all together and at the same time, were united in the memory of the Messenger of Allah by the Owner of the wahy - the Prophet was made to learn it all by heart - this had nothing to do with any effort on the part of the Prophet.

4. The fact that the Messenger of Allah uttered and recited the verses after the angel of wahy (Gabriel) had completed the wahy and that the state of receiving wahy was temporary had nothing to do with the Prophet making up his own sentences or creating his own expression of the wahy through human faculties, but rather was connected to Allah making him recite.

In the sentences of ‘Do not move your tongue to make haste with it' and ‘Surely on Us (devolves) the collecting of it and the reciting of it' Allah prohibits His messenger from creating a version based on his own human skills. So it is not the Prophet who created the Quran, but the Owner of the wahy who gave the Holy Book its contents of nouns and adjective phrases, proverbs, prosaic and poetic forms of expression and all the other qualities that are to be found in a literary text.

{mospagebreak title=First Declaration, First Backlash}

First Declaration, First Backlash

The first believers were Khadijah, Ali b. Abu Talib, Zayd bin Haritha and Abu Bakr; they were the first of the al-Khulafa al-Rashidun.

The first backlash from the polytheists arose with the revelation given to the Messenger of Allah that contained the verse: "Therefore declare openly what you are bidden and turn aside from the polytheists". This commanded him to spread the word of Allah openly and to start to do this from his immediate family and relatives.

The polytheists chose Valeed ibn Mughirah to decide how they would respond to the Messenger of Allah and what had been revealed to him. When they realized that they could not claim that the Prophet was an oracle, lunatic or a poet, they thought it would be best to call him a wizard.

Some of the polytheists who had listened to the Quran and the Prophet (pbuh) believed in what he had revealed deep in their hearts and accepted the fact that these verses could not possibly be the words of a human being. However, their fear of the dominant powers of their community kept them from expressing what was in their hearts. Utbah bin Rabiah, for example, once said: "Nothing that I have ever heard in my life can compare with what I've heard from him. These words are not from a poem nor are they prophecy. They are nothing like that. Oh, people of Quraish! Listen to me and leave him alone. If he cannot succeed, Arabia will destroy him and if he can, then his victory is your victory."

Valeed bin Mughirah also spoke of the Messenger of Allah and the verses he had recited: "By God I swear, no! He is not an oracle. We have seen many oracles, for one thing, and what he says does not sound like the unintelligible murmur of an oracle. Why not call him a lunatic then? By God I swear, no! He is not a lunatic either. We have seen lunacy and we know what it is about. His words are nothing like the confusing mutter of a lunatic. Let's call him a poet. By God I swear, no! He is not a poet either!"

 The Quran tells us that they could not help sneaking out at night without the knowledge of the others to go and listen to the Messenger of Allah recite the Quran.

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Is Interference from the Prophet in Wahy Possible?

The deniers who believed that the Quran was not the word of Allah, but something made up by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), regarded the Holy Book as a human creation that could be altered as one wished and they thought the ayahs they did not like could easily be replaced with ayahs they liked or wanted. In particular, they did not want the Quran to speak of the gods and idols they worshipped and associated as partners in the attributes of Allah. For this reason, some of them asked the Prophet for another sort of Quran or they proposed that he alter the wahy which he had received up until then.

 Upon this request, Allah revealed the following verses: "And when Our clear communications are recited to them, those who hope not for Our meeting say: Bring a Quran other than this or change it. Say: It does not beseem me that I should change it of myself; I follow naught but what is revealed to me; surely I fear, if I disobey my Lord, the punishment of a mighty day."  

For Prophet Muhammad, a man who acted with utmost honor, even the possibility that his sayings could be mistaken for verses from the Quran was a serious concern; he would not have even considered altering a verse or making up one as he wished.

{mospagebreak title=The Relationship between Wahy and The Prophet}

The Relationship between Wahy and The Prophet

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had sound reason, conscience and will when he received the wahy; when it came to the reception of the wahy, he was bound by the will of Allah. His task was merely to be silent and listen to what was read to him. He had no power or preference over the timing, length or subject of the wahy nor did he have any choice about whether or not he was to receive the wahy. It could arrive at a time of war or peace, in the summer or winter, at night or during the day, when he was asleep or awake. In other words, the Prophet could receive wahy anytime, anywhere Allah wished, sometimes in the form of a few verses and other times the ayahs could be the length of several pages. There were times when the Prophet became very distressed if there was great amount of wahy after a period when there had been no wahy, and there were other times when he wished to receive wahy, desperately in need of divine explanation, yet nothing would be revealed for days. In some situations, where no judgment had yet been revealed on a subject, the Prophet could do nothing but wait for wahy from Allah.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had sound reason, conscience and will during receiving wahy, but when it came to the reception ofwahy, he was bound by the will of Allah, he only had to be silent and listen to what was read to him. He had no power or preference over the timing, length or subject of wahy nor did he have anything to do with whether or not he was going to receive wahy. It could be at war or in peace, in summer or winter, at night or during the day, when asleep or awake. In other words, he could receive wahyanytime, anywhere Allah the Almighty wished, sometimes in the form of a few verses and other times the ayahs could be the length of several pages. There were times when the Messenger of Allah got very distressed with frequent wahy after a period of pause of wahy and there were other times when he so wished to receive wahy, desperately needed divine explanation and nothing was revealed for days. And in some situations where there was no judgment yet on a subject, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) could do nothing but wait for wahy from Allah the Almighty.

For the entire text, please see Dr. Zeki Duman, “Vahy Gerçeği (The Reality of Revelation)
 

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