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  • 8/30/2005

Appointment of Prophet Mohammad

(610 C.E)

The Beginning of Revelation

One day, while Muhammad was asleep in the cave Hera, an angel approached with a sheet in his hand. The angel said to Muhammad, "Read." Muhammad answered in surprise, "What shall I read?" He felt as if the angel had strangled and then released him and heard once more the command, "Read." Muhammad's reply was, "What shall I read?" Once more he felt the angel strangling and then releasing him, and he heard him repeat the command, "Read." For the third time Muhammad answered, "What shall I read?" fearful that this time the strangling would be stronger. The angel replied, "Read in the name of your Lord, the Creator, Who created man of a clot of blood. Read! Your Lord is most gracious. It is He who taught man by the pen that which he does not know?[Qur'an, 96:1-5.], Muhammad recited these verses, repeating them after the angel who withdrew after they were permanently carved upon his memory. Thus the earliest of the biographies reported, and so did bin Ishaq. Many of the Muhaddithun [i.e., "reporters of the Prophet's tradition"-Tr.] have reported likewise. Some of them have claimed that the beginning of revelation was in the hours of wakefulness, and they mention a hadith to the effect that Gabriel first said words of reassurance to assuage Muhammad's fear at his appearance. In his Al Kamil fi al Tarikh, Bin Kathir gave a quotation from the book, Dala'il al Nubuwwah by Abu Na'im al Isbahani, in which the latter reported that `Alqamah bin Qays had said, "The first revelations come to the prophets in their sleep until their hearts are reassured. Thereafter, revelation comes any time of the day or night." To this report Abu Na'im added, "This report comes to me from `Alqamah bin Qays in person. It is sound and reasonable, and it is corroborated by that which comes before and after it."

Muhammad's Fear

Stricken with panic, Muhammad arose and asked himself, "What did I see? Did possession of the devil which I feared all along come to pass?" Muhammad looked to his right and his left but saw nothing. For a while he stood there trembling with fear and stricken with awe. He feared the cave might be haunted and that he might run away still unable to explain what he saw. He walked in the area around the mountain asking himself who could have commanded him to read. Until that day in his retreat, Muhammad used to have visions of the truth dawning upon him after his meditation and filling his consciousness with great light. In these visions, Muhammad was guided to the truth, his doubts were dissolved, and the darkness which had enveloped the Quraysh in their idol worship was exposed. This light that illuminated the way in front of him was that of the truth which provided him with true guidance. It was the One and only God. But who was this who came to remind Muhammad of Him, that He had created man, and that He was the most gracious who taught man by the pen that which he does not know? Pursued by his own questioning and still trembling in fear of what he had seen and heard in the cave, Muhammad stopped in the middle of the road when the same voice called to him from above. Mesmerized in his place, Muhammad lifted his head toward heaven. He saw the angel in the form of a human giant across the sky. For a moment he sought to escape, but wherever he looked or ran, the angel stood right there before him. In his absence from the cave a messenger from Khadijah looked for him and could not find him. Filled with what he had seen, Muhammad returned home once the angel disappeared. His state was one of extreme dread. He had literally experienced the Mysterium Tremendum et Fascinans.

Khadijah, the Faithful

As Muhammad entered his house he asked Khadijah to wrap him in blankets. She could see that her husband was shivering as if struck with high fever. When he calmed down, he cast toward his wife the glance of a man in need of rescue and said, "O Khadijah, what has happened to me?" He told her of his experience and intimated to her his fear that his mind had finally betrayed him, and that he was becoming a seer or a man possessed. Khadijah was still the same angel of mercy, peace, and reassurance she had always been. As she did on earlier occasions when Muhammad feared possession by the devil, she now stood firm by her husband and devoid of the slightest doubt. Respectfully, indeed reverently, she said to him, "Joy to my cousin! Be firm. By him who dominates Khadijah's soul I pray and hope that you will be the Prophet of this nation. By God, He will not let you down. You will be kind to your kin; your speech will all be true; you will rescue the weary; entertain the guest and help the truth to prevail."

Reassured, Muhammad thanked Khadijah and was grateful for her faith. Exhausted, he fell asleep. This sleep was to be followed by a spiritual life of utmost strength, a life whose sublimity and beauty was to confront each and every mind. His life was to be dedicated purely to God, to truth, and to humanity. He was being commissioned to convey to man the message of His lord. He was to carry out his charge not by force, but by argument yet more gentle, sound and more convincing than any man has known. Despite every unbeliever, the light of God and His guidance will yet fill the world.

Muhammad lapsed into perfect sleep while Khadijah's eyes, full of compassion and hope, were pinned on him. She withdrew from his room pensive and restless at what she had just heard. She looked to the morrow hoping that her husband would become the Prophet of this Arab nation long lost in error. She wished her husband could bring his people to the religion of truth and blaze for them the path of goodness and virtue. But she was very apprehensive of that morrow, fearful for the good of her loving and faithful husband. She reviewed in her mind the events he had reported to her, and imagined the beautiful angel appearing to her husband across the sky after conveying to him the words of His Lord. She tried to imagine the angel perched in the sky so that, following Muhammad's description, wherever one looked one could not lose sight of him, and she recalled the holy words which Muhammad recited to her after they had been carved on his memory. As she reviewed all this she may have at one moment smiled with hope and conviction and later frowned with fear for what might have befallen her husband. She could not bear her solitude long, and the alternation of sweet hope and bitter fear overpowered her. She therefore thought to divulge what she knew to someone sure of insight and wisdom who could give her some advice and good counsel.

The Conversation of Waraqah and Khadijah

Khadijah ran to her cousin Waraqah ibn Nawfal who, as we saw earlier, had already become a Christian and had translated part of the Evangel into Arabic. When she finished telling him what Muhammad had seen and heard and of her compassionate and hopeful response to her husband, Waraqah broke into these words: "Holy, Holy! By Him who dominates Waraqah's soul, if your report is true, O Khadijah, this must be the Great Spirit that spoke to Moses. Muhammad must be the Prophet of this nation. Tell him that he must be firm." Khadijah returned home and found Muhammad still asleep. For a while, she stared at him lovingly, faithfully, and hopefully. Suddenly she noticed that he was shivering, breathing deeply and perspiring. As he opened his eyes, he heard the angel say, "O you who lie wrapped in your mantle. Arise and warn. Glorify your Lord. Purify yourself. Shun uncleanliness. Give not in order to have more in return. For the sake of your Lord endure patiently."[Qur'an, 73:1-7]. Seeing him in this state, Khadijah pleaded that he returns to his bed and resumes his rest. But Muhammad sprang to his feet and said to her, "The time of slumber and rest is past, O Khadijah. Gabriel has commanded me to warn men and to call them to God and to His worship. But whom shall I call? And who will listen to me?" Khadijah tried to appease and reassure him, to encourage him with predictions of success. She told him what she had heard from Waraqah and declared to him her Islam, i.e., her faith in his prophet hood.

It was natural for Khadijah to be the first one to believe in Muhammad. For many long years she had known him to be the examplar of truthfulness, fidelity, honesty, charity, and compassion. In his many retreats during the last few years, she had noticed how he had been constantly preoccupied with the search for the truth, with the truth alone; how he had sought that truth with his heart, mind, and spirit beyond the idolatrous superstitions of the people and their sacrifices, and beyond the deities that are capable of neither good nor evil but which the people venerated without avail. She had witnessed his great doubt and utter perplexity on his return from thecave ofHira' after the first revelation. She asked him to tell her when the angel would come. When he did she seized Muhammad and placed him on her left leg, then on her right leg, then in her lap, always asking him whether he was still seeing the angel and Muhammad answering in the affirmative. She then uncovered herself and threw off her clothes and asked Muhammad whether he still saw the angel, but the angel then disappeared. At this her doubt that the appearance was that of the devil rather than of the angel was dissolved once and for all.

Waraqah and Muhammad

One day Muhammad went to the Ka'bah for circumambulation. He was met by Waraqah bin Nawfal, who asked him about himself. Muhammad related the events as they had happened. When he finished, Waraqah said, "By Him Who dominates my soul I swear that you are the Prophet of this nation. The great spirit that has come to Moses has now come to you. You will be denied and you will be hurt. You will be abused and you will be pursued. If I should ever live to see that day I shall surely help the cause of God. God knows that I will." Waraqah then approached Muhammad, kissed his forehead and went away. Muhammad realized the faithfulness of Waraqah, and at the same time felt the burden weighing on his shoulder. Waraqah's warning that the struggle ahead would be hard only confirmed Muhammad's fears that the Quraysh were so attached to their false beliefs that they would fight to death for them. How could he fight them when they were his very people, his nearest relatives?

Surely the Makkans were mistaken. Just as surely, it was to the truth that Muhammad was now calling them. He was calling them to transcend themselves, to commune with the God Who created them as well as their parents, and to worship Him alone in purity and faith. He called them to bring themselves near to God with good works, to give the neighbor and the wayfarer his due, and to reject the worship of those idols which they had taken as gods who overlooked their vices and immorality, their usury and robbery of orphans. But in doing all this, Muhammad was calling men whose minds and hearts were petrified and hardened beyond the stones to which their idol worship oriented them. Muhammad called men to consider the sky and the earth and all therein which God created, to perceive all this in its sublimity and gravity and grasp the laws by which heaven and earth exist. Muhammad called men to rise, through their worship of the sole Creator of all existence, beyond all that is mean and unworthy, to treat the misguided lovingly and to help him achieve proper guidance, to bring charity and goodness to every orphan, to the weak, the oppressed, and the poor. Yes, to all this did God command Muhammad to call men. But these obstinate souls, these coarse hearts, had committed themselves to remain forever loyal to the religion of the ancestors. Around this religion they had built trade relations which gave Makkahits eminence and centrality as a center of pilgrimage. Would the Makkans abjure the religion of their ancestors and expose their city to loss of prestige, a loss which would surely follow if all idol worship were to stop? Even if such a renunciation were possible, how could their hearts be purified of their chronic passion for every pleasure? How could they be lifted above the animal satisfaction of these passions? Muhammad called men to rise above their passions and above their idols. But what if they didn't respond to his call and refused to believe in him? What would he do?

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