As salaam alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh
May the peace, blessings, and mercy of God be upon you.
I hope you have watched our video series up until now. We have several videos about the important events in the life of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, that lead up to the first revelation. The last video in this series concerned the reconstruction of the Ka’ba and how the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alayhi wasallam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), solved the problem of which tribe would set the black stone into the Ka’ba.
And now we come to the next chapter of this blessed life, the moment when Muhammad would become Rasul Allah, the messenger of God, the moment when he would receive the first revelation. After the event with the Ka’ba, the prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasallam retreated to the Cave of Hira on top of Mount Nur to contemplate as this was his habit. It is a steep and scrabbly climb up Mount Nur, the Mountain of Light. And from his vantage point in the cave, Rasul Allah could see the Ka’ba.
It was on a Monday night in the year 610CE, in the month of Ramadan, Rasulallah received a most remarkable visitor to the cave—the Archangel Gabriel or in Arabic, Jabreel. Now, imagine, this must have been quite startling. Think when someone comes upon you quite suddenly, you get startled. Imagine it is dark and you open the door of your house to go out and at the same time someone unexpectedly is coming towards you. You would get startled, even scared at least for a moment. Well, this can hardly compare to the Prophet Muhammad’s situation. He is atop a mountain in a cave which requires a hard climb to the top. It is night time and suddenly the Arch Angel Jabreel appears. It must have been quite startling.
Jabreel embraces and squeezes Muhammad, sallallahu alihi wasallam, and says Iqra! (Read!) Well, as we know, the Prophet did not know how to read or write! He had not received any education thus far. There had been no authority other than this Lord to fill his horizon.
“I do not know how to read,”
the Messenger of Allah responded.
Gabriel came closer and embraced him once again. He squeezed Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, with all his might, and then setting him loose, he said again:
The beloved Messenger, but for whom the earth would not have been created, repeats the same words:
“I do not know how to read!”
It was clear that there was more to this command than what it seemed on the surface. Perhaps, it was not meant in the literal sense of reading words on a page. Gabriel approached him once again, and seizing him by his waist, he squeezed him again. Then releasing him, he repeated:
This time the Prophet said,
“But I do not know how to read! What am I to read?”
And so the angel Jabreel released the Beloved of Allah from his grasp and spoke:
Read in and with the Name of your Lord, Who has created—created human from a clot clinging (to the wall of the womb). Read and your Lord is the All-Munificent, Who has taught (human) by the pen—taught human what he did not know. Thus, Gabriel recited the first ayahs revealed from what would become Surah Al-Alaq (al-Alaq 96:1-5).
Things became clearer now; for when seen in the light of the Name of our gracious Lord, everything one can see or hear was created to be read—read as a sign pointing to its Creator. And man as a creature of comprehension had to read creation in the right way in order to decipher this code of significance. We consider “Read” as a command to understand the Qur’an which would be revealed piece by piece. It had to be read properly with precision and turned towards with sincere intentions. The book would open its doors to the extent of one’s sincere direction towards it and it would offer its pearls in accordance.
This order, “Read!” marked the beginning of the duty that lay ahead for Rasul Allah, the beginning of his mission to invite people to a true way of life. Prophet Muhammad, sallahu alalhi wa salaam, would have to read human nature correctly in his dealings with people, so he would be able to speak in a language they would understand.
Having completed his first duty, the angel Gabriel disappeared immediately. Muhammad Al’Amin, the Trustworthy realized that he was mumbling to himself, mumbling none other than the words that Gabriel had brought to him just now. He realized that the words had taken root in his heart letter by letter and he found himself repeating them. His duty was upon him. The mission of Prophethood, foretold in the Jewish and Christian scriptures and by the priest and rabbis who had settled in the area at that time to await his arrival, the mission had begun, and he descend Mount Nur to begin this noble task.
Prophet Muhammad was excited to the point of rapture after this divine union with the light of heaven in the form of Jabreel meeting with him the light of humanity. His whole body was taken over by the weight of revelation. In this state, he heard a voice echo in the heavens:
“O Muhammad! You are the Messenger of Allah, and I am Gabriel!”
The Prophet Muhammad looked into the sky and saw Gabriel in all his majesty, and Gabriel kept repeating:
“O Muhammad! You are the Messenger of Allah, and I am Gabriel!”
As the Prophet Muhammad looked around, he saw Jabreel. Wherever he turned he saw the same thing! The ArchAngel Gabriel had enveloped the whole sky.
As he descending and made his way home, the Messenger of Allah heard voices saying:
“Let the peace of Allah be upon you O Messenger of Allah.”
He turned to where these voices were coming from, but he could not see anyone. Before long, he understood that the trees and the rocks were saluting him and bearing witness to his Prophethood. He returned home in excitement and said to his devoted wife Khadija
“Cover me, cover me!”
He placed his blessed head on her knees, and she said affectionately:
“O Abu’l Qasim (O Father of the Qasim)! Where were you? I swear I sent my men after you (to look for you). They did not leave a stone unturned in Mecca, but they could not return with news of you!”
The Prophet Muhammad said:
“I am afraid of myself Khadija! I am afraid of harm,”
and his wife once again soothed him, and said,
“Never fear or despair! Allah will not abandon you, He will keep you – for you always care about your relatives, hold the hand of the afflicted and clothe those in need. You always have guests at your house. With all your actions you are always after Truth and you are someone who has devoted himself completely to the path of good.”
Before long, Rasul Allah told her what had happened. Khadija, may Allah be pleased with her, remained calm and said “Rejoice, O son of my uncle! Be resolute and steadfast where you are! I swear by He who holds Khadija’s life in His hand that you are the Messenger whom people have been waiting for.”
Then, she covered the Messenger of Allah and left him alone in their house with his Gracious Lord, to go and knock on another wise door, to share the news with her uncle’s son, Waraqa ibn Nawfal.
So, I leave the story here and ask you to contemplate on the first revelation and what it mean for you today in your daily life. Have you read the signs of creation well? Do they remind you of their Creator? Are you reading well the signs of our time, the people that you interact with, how you should be spending your days? Read, reflect, and until next time:
as salaam alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh
Note. This text was adapted and abridged from The Luminous Life of Our Prophet by Resit Haylamaz, Tughra Books, New Jersey, 2015.