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Hadith Section > A Manual of Hadith > Chapter 01: How Divine Revelation came to the Holy Prophet (Hadith -- The Traditions)

Chapter 01:
How Divine Revelation came to the Holy Prophet (Hadith -- The Traditions):


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(Note: The superscript-numbers [e.g., intention2] that appear in the text [in pink] refer to the numbers of the explanatory footnotes that appear at the end of each Hadith [Tradition].)

11 `Umar ibn al-Khattab said,
I heard the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, say:

"Actions shall be judged only by intention2, and a man shall have what he intends; so whoever flies from his home3 for the sake of Allah and His Messenger, his flight shall be accounted for the sake of Allah and His Messenger, and whoever flies from his home for the sake of worldly gain which he aims to attain or a woman whom he wants to marry, his flight shall be accounted for that for which he flies." (B. 83 : 23; 1 : 1)

1 Bukhari opens his Jami' with the hadith that follows here, and it is the first hadith of the chapter entitled The Beginning of Revelation. But, as the subject matter of the hadith shows, it does not really relate to this chapter; it is in fact a sort of introduction to the Collection itself. It is a very appropriate introduction indeed, for it shows not only the sincerity of purpose of the author but also warns the reader that the good and noble deeds to which he is guided by the sayings and deeds of the Prophet, will prosper only if there is sincerity of purpose beneath them.

2 By a`mal (pl. of `amal) are meant the good and noble deeds to which the Holy Prophet invited. The best of deeds would be worthless if the motives were not sincere. Sincerity thus occupies the first place in the moral development of a Muslim.

3 The original word is hijrah which literally means forsaking someone or flying from a place or giving up low desires, evil tendencies or bad morals, and is specially used of the historic flight of the Holy Prophet from Makkah to Madinah, which has become the starting-point of the Muslim era. The Muslim had to fly from Makkah because they did not enjoy freedom of conscience there and were persecuted on account of their religious convictions. Hijrah has thus become synonymous with the forsaking of worldly relations, comforts and possessions and undergoing the severest hardships for the sake of one's convictions.

2 `A'ishah said:
The first revelation that was granted to the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, was the true dream in a state of sleep,
4 so that he never dreamed a dream but the truth of it shone forth like the dawn of the morning. Then solitude became dear to him and he used to seclude himself in the cave of Hira',5 and therein he devoted himself to Divine worship for several nights before he came back to his family and took provisions for this (retirement); then he would return to Khadijah6 and take (more) provisions for a similar (period), until the Truth7 came to him while he was in the cave of Hira'; so the angel (Gabriel) came to him and said, Read. He (the Prophet) said, "I said I am not one who can read." And he continued : "Then he (the angel) took hold of me and he pressed me so hard that I could not bear it any more, and then he let me go and said, Read. I said, I am not one who can read. Then he took hold me and pressed me a second time so hard that I could not bear it any more, then he let me go again and said, Read. I said, "I am mot one who can read." (The Prophet) continued : "Then he took hole of me and pressed me hard for a third time, then he let me go and said, `Read in the name of thy Lord Who created--He created man from a clot--Read and thy Lord is most Honourable.'"8 The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, returned with this (message) while his heart trembled and he came to Khadijah, daughter of Khuwailid, and said, "Wrap me up, wrap me up," and she wrapped him up until the awe left him.9 Then he said to Khadijah' while he related to her what had happened : "I fear for myself."10 Khadijah said, Nay, By Allah, Allah will never bring thee to disgrace, for thou unitest the ties of relationship and bearest the burden of the weak and earnest for the destitute and honourest the guest and helpest in real distress.

Then Khadijah went with him until she brought him to Waraqah ibn Naufal ibn Asad ibn `Abd al-`Uzza, Khadijah's uncle's son, and he was a man who had become a Christian in the time of Ignorance,11 and he used to write the Hebrew script, and he wrote from the Gospel in Hebrew what it pleased Allah that he should write, and he was a very old man who had turned blind. Khadijah said to him, O uncle's son! Listen to thy brother's son. Waraqah said to him, My brother's son! What hast thou seen? So the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, related to him what he had seen. Waraqah said to him, This is the angel Gabriel whom Allah sent to Moses;12 would that I were a young man at this time--would that I were alive when thy people would expel thee! The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, said, "Would they expel me?" He said, Yes; never has a man appeared with the like of that which thou hast brought but he has been held in enmity; and if thy time finds me (alive) I shall help thee with the fullest help. After that not much time had passed that Waraqah died, and the revelation broke off temporarily.13 (B. 1 : 1.)

4 A true dream is thus a kind of Divine revelation (wahy). According to another hadith al-ru'ya al-salihah (the true vision) is a part of prophethood : "The Messenger of Allah said, `nothing has remained of prophethood except mubashshirat' (lit. good news). (The companions) asked, 'And what is meant by mubashshirat?' He said, 'The true dream'" (B. 92 : 5). The dream of the believer is expressly called a part of prophethood in B. 92 : 26. In the Holy Qur'an also al-bushra or true visions are promised to believers (10 : 64). Prophethood and revelation are not therefore synonymous terms, and while prophethood has terminated, revelation of the first two kinds (42 : 51) will continue for ever.

5 This cave (6 ft. by 2 ft.) lies to the north-east of Makkah at a distance of about three miles from the city.

6 Khadijah was the Holy Prophet's wife whom he married when he was twenty-five years old while she was forty, and who remained his only wife till her death when he was fifty years of age.

7 By the Truth is meant the Spirit of Truth or the Holy Spirit, i.e., Gabriel. He is called "the Angel" in the words that follow. This first appearance of Gabriel which was the beginning of the highest form of revelation took place according to one report on the 25th of the month of Ramadzan. Others say it was the 17th of Ramadzan which seems to be a mistake for the 27th, for according to the Holy Qur'an, the first revelation came on the lailat al-qadr which occurs on one of the three nights of Ramadzan, 25th, 27th and 29th. According to a report of Ibn `Abbas, the Holy Prophet had then attained the age of forty (B. 63 : 28).

8 These are the first three verses of the 96th chapter of the Holy Qur'an, and the first five verses of this chapter are by consensus of opinion the first Quranic revelation that came to the Holy Prophet. It was after this, as appears from the hadith that follows, that the first verses of ch. 74 were revealed.

9 The awe was due to his first experience of Divine revelation.

10 The fear to which the Prophet gave expression was lest he should be unable to achieve the great task or the reformation of humanity which was imposed upon him. Khadijah's reply clearly shows this to be the import. If any one was equal to that great task, Khadijah comforted him, it was he who had already laid down his life for the service of humanity. This also shows how well the Prophet's life was spent even before prophethood. Neither in this hadith nor in any other is there anything to show that the Prophet feared that he would be killed by the jinn or that he had become insane. The Prophet knew for sure at the first experience that he had been raised to the dignity of prophethood and entrusted with the great task of reforming humanity.

11 Pre-Islam days are called al-Jahiliyyah (Ignorance) or ayyam al Jahiliyyah (Time of Ignorance), as compared with the learning and light which followed in the wake of Islam.

12 Namus means the angel Gabriel (Fr). Namus is the person to whom the king entrusts his secrets and by it is meant (in hadith) the angel Gabriel whom Allah has chosen to communicate His revelations (N). This meaning has also been given by Bukhari himself when repeating this hadith in B. 60 : 22. Waraqah in fact only bore testimony to the truth of what the Holy Prophet had stated; viz., that the Holy Spirit (Gabriel) had come to him with a revelation from on high. He, however, added that it was the very angel that had come to Moses, and this was probably a reference to the Bible prophecy that a prophet "like unto" Moses would be raised among the Ishmaelites (Arabs).

13 The temporary break of revelation was not very long; certainly not longer than six months. Ibn Ishaq's report that it lasted for three years is belied by historical facts. Persecution had begun and a large part of the Holy Qur'an had been revealed, long before the expiry of three years. It is also an established historical fact that on account of persecution which had grown very severe the Holy Prophet was compelled, in the fourth year of the Call, to take shelter in the house of Arqam and there prayers were said in congregation, and it is a fact that the Holy Qur'an was recited in prayers from the first.

3 Jabir said, speaking of the temporary break in the revelation, (The Holy Prophet) said in his narrative:

"Whilst I was walking along, I heard a voice from heaven and I raised up my eyes, and lo! the Angel that had appeared to me in Hira' was sitting on a throne between heaven and earth and I was struck with awe on account of him and returned (home) and said, Wrap me up, wrap me up. Then Allah revealed : `O thou who art clothed! Arise and warn, And thy Lord do magnify, And thy garments do purify, And uncleanness do shun'."14

Then revelation became brisk and came in succession.15 (B. 1 : 1.)

14 While the previous hadith relates the Holy Prophet's first experience of revelation, this one speaks of his second experience. On this occasion the first five verses of ch. 74 were revealed to him. This portion is from the Holy Prophet's own mouth, and therefore not the least doubt can be entertained as to the fact that Gabriel's second visit to him was the occasion mentioned in this hadith. What is, therefore, added by Zuhri in B. 92 : 1 (where h. 2 is repeated) that during the break in revelation the Holy Prophet used to go to the tops of the mountains to throw himself down and Gabriel appeared to him on such occasions and comforted him that he was the true Messenger of Allah cannot be accepted as true. This hadith makes it clear that Gabriel was never seen by the Holy Prophet during the break, and that when he saw him on the second occasion, he was struck with awe as on the first occasion. Zuhri, moreover, gives no authority for his addition in B. 92 : 1.

15 Five short verses of ch. 96 were revealed on the first occasion and five short verses of ch. 74 on the second. After that, it is stated, revelation became plentiful--the Arabic word is hamiya which literally means became hot--and continuous, there being no break like the break between the first two revelations.

4 Ibn `Abbas . . . said,
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, used to exert himself hard in receiving Divine revelation and would on this account move his lips . . . so Allah revealed:

"Move not thy tongue with it to make haste with it. Surely on Us devolves the collecting of it and the reciting of it." (75 : 16, 17.) . . . . So after this when Gabriel came to him the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, would listen attentively, and when Gabriel departed, the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, recited as he (Gabriel) recited it.16 (B. 1 : 1.)

16 This hadith shows that all revelations without any exception were delivered to the Holy Prophet by the angel Gabriel and that the method of their delivery was always the same, viz., that Gabriel first recited the revelation and the Holy Prophet listened to it and then when Gabriel departed the Holy Prophet recited the same words. On the first two occasions, only five short verses were revealed and it was not difficult for the Prophet to repeat them; but after that, as shown in the last hadith, revelation became plentiful, i.e., large portions were revealed at one time, and as Gabriel began to recite, the Holy Prophet made haste to repeat lest any word or sentence might be lost. He was, therefore, told not to make haste with it and to wait until Gabriel had delivered the whole message and then to repeat the same, being assured that it was a Divine arrangement and that nothing would be lost (75 : 16, 17). In another very early chapter he was still more plainly told : "We will make thee recite so thou shalt not forget" (87 : 6). There are chapters--one of these containing over a thirtieth of the Holy Qur'an--that were revealed to him their entirety at one time, yet Gabriel recited them once only and then the Holy Prophet repeated them without omission of a word and ordered them to be written down at once.

It would further appear from this hadith that other people saw the Holy Prophet's lips move when he received the revelation which shows that his reception of the revelation was not subjective but a real and external experience.

5 `A'ishah reported that,
Harith ibn Hisham asked the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, O Messenger of Allah! How does revelation come to thee? The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, said:

"Sometimes it comes to me like the ringing of a bell and that is the hardest on me, then he departs from me and I retain in memory from him what he says; and sometimes the Angel comes to me in the likeness of a man and speaks to me and I retain in memory what he says."17

`A'ishah said, And I saw him when revelation came down upon him on a severely cold day, then it departed from him and his forehead dripped with sweat.18 (B. 1 : 1.)

17 The difference in the two states is one of the form the Angel assumed. In the first case it is not stated what likeness the Angel assumed--it was an angelic form beyond description--and the words came forth with the clear resonant sound of vibrating metal; in the second case the Angel assumed the likeness of a man and the words were uttered as one man talks to another. That words were spoken in both cases is clear enough from the words of the hadith; in both cases we are told : "I retain in memory what he says." In the first case, however, the words `an-hu (i.e., from him) have been added to show that it was the Angel who spoke the words. In both cases the Holy Prophet saw the Angel and heard the words from the Angel and then retained them in memory; the difference was only one of the likeness of the Angel, and consequently, of the tone in which the words were uttered.

18 There are many hadith showing that a real change came over the Holy Prophet when revelation came down upon him. Here it is stated that perspiration ran down his brow on a severely cold day; according to h.6, Zaid felt his thigh being crushed under the Holy Prophet's thigh when revelation came on; h. 7 says that Ya`la saw the Holy Prophet when revelation descended on him and "his face was red"; according to h. 8, when revelation descended on the Holy Prophet, "he appeared distressed and a change came over his face." All these hadith show that whenever revelation came down upon the Holy Prophet, whether he was in public or in private, there was a real change which could not be assumed. It is clear from this that though revelation came to the Holy Prophet in a state of wakefulness, yet there was a transition from the physical environment to the spiritual sphere, the effect of which was witnessed on the body. The new senses which were required to receive the revelation necessitated the coming of a kind of death over the body. The story that "froth appeared before his mouth" is a pure invention and no trace of it is to be met with in any hadith.

6 Zaid ibn Thabit said,
Allah sent down revelation on His Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, and his thigh was upon my thigh and it began to make its weight felt to me so much so that I feared that my thigh might be crushed.
(B. 8 : 12.)

7 Safwan ibn Ya`la reported that,
Ya`la said to `Umar, Show me the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, when revelation is sent down to him. So when the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, was in Ji`ranah
19 and with him a number of his companions. . . . revelation came to him. Thereupon `Umar made a sign to Ya`la; so Ya`la came and over the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, was a garment with which he was covered and he entered his head under the garment), when (he saw that) the face of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, was red and he was snoring;20 then that condition departed from him. (B. 25 : 17.)

19 A place between Makkah and Ta'if.

20 The change was so perfect that it resembled a state of sleep, though as the hadith makes it clear, he was not asleep and was just at that moment talking to his companions.

8 `Ubadah ibn al-Samit said, The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, felt, when the revelation was sent down upon him, like one in grief and a change came over his face.

And according to one report:

He hung down his head, and his companions also hung down their heads,21 and when that state was over, he raised his head. (M-Msh. 27 : 5.)

21 The companions hung down their heads out of respect.


Hadith Section > A Manual of Hadith > Chapter 01: How Divine Revelation came to the Holy Prophet (Hadith -- The Traditions)