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Prophethood and promulgation of the Religion

Prophethood and promulgation of the Religion

Chapter One
Prophethood and promulgation of the Religion

On the Threshold of Prophethood

The Holy Prophet’s ancestors were all monotheists and his household was pure. Beside the sincerity and purity of his ancestors and household, he enjoyed pure and high education and always stayed away from the unseemliness and abomination of idolatry practiced by the Meccan people.[1] Referring to the period of the Holy Prophet’s training and education, Imam `Al¢ (a.s) states:

From the time of Mu¦ammad's nursing days, God provided him with His most elegant angels to guide him towards the most appropriate virtues.[2]

Imam al-B¡qir (s) has said,

From the time the Holy Prophet stopped suckling, God appointed him an elegant angel to teach and train him good manners and appropriate behavior. It was the same angel who, prior to his prophethood, called him saying “Blessings be to you, Prophet Mu¦ammad, the Messenger of Allah.” However, the Holy Prophet thought that the voice was coming from the stones and the ground; and the more he paid attention the less he could observe anything.[3]

Approaching his prophethood, Mu¦ammad (¥) had reached the highest point in rational thinking; he could not tolerate corrupted surroundings anymore and preferred seclusion.[4]

From the time he was thirty-seven years old, he was dominated by some specific spiritual conditions. He felt there was a window open to him from the unknown world. Whatever he had heard from Ba¦¢r¡, Nus§£r and others was taking place, because he was observing a new light and exposed to some secrets: he repeatedly received some messages from Gabriel, but he could not identify the sender.[5] For a time during his sleep, he was addressed as the Prophet. Once, in the desert surrounding Mecca, he heard someone calling him Messenger of Allah. He asked, “Who are you?” The answer was, “I am Gabriel; God has sent me to tell you that you are His Messenger.” When he told his wife of the content of the message, she became delighted, saying, “I hope it is true.”[6]

During this time, Mu¦ammad (¥) used to resort to °ar¡’ Mount to pray God[7] in seclusion.[8] It was a common practice among the Qurayshi monotheists to stay at °ar¡’ and worship God.[9] The first person to carry out such a practice was `Abd al-Mu§§alib, the Holy Prophet's grandfather, who used to go to °ar¡’ during the months of Rama¤¡n. He used to feed the needy in this month.[10]

The Start of Prophethood

When Mu¦ammad (¥) was at the age of forty, he still attended the °ar¡’ Mount to pray to God where he received the first verses of the Holy Qur’¡n as the first revelations:[11]

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Read in name of your Lord who created. He created man from a clot. Read and your Lord is most honorable, who taught to write with the pen, taught man what he knew not. (96:1-5)[12]

In two places of the Holy Qur’¡n, God has referred to the meeting of Mu¦ammad (¥) with Gabriel.

I swear by the star when it goes down; Your companion (i.e. Mu¦ammad) does not err, nor does he go astray; nor does he speak out of desire. It is naught but revelation that is revealed; the Lord of Mighty Powers has taught him, the Lord of strength; so he attained completion, and he (i.e. the angel) is in the highest part of the horizon. Then he drew near (to Mu¦ammad) then he bowed so he was the measure of two bows or closer still. And He revealed to His servant what he revealed. The heart (of Mu¦ammad) was not untrue, making him see what he saw. (53:1-12)[13]

I swear by the stars, that run their course and hide themselves, and the night when it departs, And the morning when it brightens, Most surely it is the Word of an honored messenger, The possessor of strength, having an honorable place with the Lord of the Dominion, One to abide, and faithful in trust. And Your companion (Mu¦ammad) has not gone mad. And of a truth, he saw himself on the clear horizon. Nor of the unseen has he tenacious concealed. Nor is it the word of the cursed Shaitan, Wither then will you go? (81:15-25)

An Untrue Account of the Start of the Revelation

In some historical books, there is an erroneous and mystical account of the prophethood of Mu¦ammad (¥). This account is widespread; it has found its way into some Persian books as well; therefore, it is better for us to evaluate it critically.

`ª’ishah reports: When revelation occurred to Mu¦ammad (¥), its content was right. Any dream that he had previously had come true. Then, he became fond of seclusion; he took refuge in °ar¡’ cave. He used to stay there praying God, then he would return to his family and receive some food from Khad¢jah to return to the cave. When the angel came to him, he was staying at the cave. The angel said, “Read.” The Prophet answered, “I do not know how to read.” The angel took and squeezed him so much that he lost his temper! Then, the angel let go of him, saying, “Read.” The Prophet, once more, answered, “I do not know how to read.” The angel again squeezed and ordered him to read. Once again, the Prophet replied that he could not read. On the third time, the pressure was so great on the Prophet’s body that he could tolerate no more. Then, the angel said, “Read in the name of your Lord Who created.” The Prophet returned home trembling all over. Going directly to Khad¢jah, he asked her to cover him. As she did, his fear and anxiety went away. The Prophet then told Khad¢jah about what had happened and about his anxiety. At that time, she tried to ease him, saying, “I swear to God that He would never humiliate you since you have been kind to everybody; you have been helping the needy and hosting the guests.” Then, Khad¢jah accompanied him to her cousin, Waraqah ibn Nawfal. He was a blind elderly man who had converted to Christianity and translated the Gospel into Hebrew. Khad¢jah said, “It is prophethood, cousin! Listen to what he will tell you.” Waraqah asked Mu¦ammad (¥), “What do you see, my nephew?” The Prophet told him what had happened. Waraqah then said, “This is the same angel who had revealed to Moses. I wish I were young now. I wish I would be alive when your people would expel you.”[14]

[1] Al-°alab¢, al-S¢rah al-°alabiyyah 1:199-204; Ibn al-Ath¢r, al-S¢rah al-Nabawiyyah 1:250.

[2]  Nahj al-Bal¡ghah, Sermon No 192.

[3] Ibn Ab¢’l-°ad¢d, Shar¦ Nahj al-Bal¡ghah 13:207.

[4] Ibn Kath¢r, op cit, 1:389.

[5] °alab¢, op cit, 1:380-381; Ibn Hush¡m, al-S¢rah al-Nabawiyyah 1:250; ±abar¢, T¡r¢kh al-Umam wa’l-Mul£k 2:203-204; Ibn Shahr¡sh£b, Man¡qib 1:43; al-Majlis¢, Bi¦¡r al-Anw¡r 18:84,193; T¡r¢kh al-Ya`q£b¢ 2:17.

[6] Ibn Shahr¡sh£b, op cit, 1:44; al-Majlis¢, op cit, 18:194; ±abars¢, I`l¡m al-War¡, pp. 36.

Concerning these records and documents, Shaykh al-Kulayn¢ states the Mu¦ammad was a prophet but he had not yet been Messenger of God. Al-U¥£l min al-K¡f¢ 1:176.

[7] Mount °ar¡' is situated northeast of Mecca. Because it was the place where the Divine Revelation came to the Holy Prophet for the first time, it was called jabal al-n£r (Mountain of Light). Until several years ago, this mountain was far away from the city of Mecca. However, the city skirts have now reached the foot of this mountain due to modern construction. Because of its situation inside a series of interrelated mountains, Mount °ar¡' is the most handsome and most distinguished. The °ar¡' Cave, which is high in the mountain, is not a cave in reality; rather, it is a huge rock over two other huge rocks, creating a space of one and a half meters high. The entrance is wide enough for people to enter. However, the inner half of it is narrower. Sunlight can penetrate only half of the cave.

[8] Nahj al-Bal¡ghah, Sermon 193; Ibn Hush¡m, op cit, 1:25.

[9] Ibn Hush¡m, op cit, 1:251; ±abar¢, op cit, 2:206; Ibn al-Ath¢r, op cit, 1:390; al-Bul¡dhar¢, Ans¡b al-Ashr¡f 1:105.

[10] °alab¢, op cit, pp. 382.

[11] Ibn Hush¡m, op cit, pp. 249; ±abar¢, op cit, pp. 209; al-Bul¡dhar¢, op cit, pp 114-115; Ibn Sa`d, al-±abaq¡t al-Kubr¡ 1:190; Mas`£d¢, al-Tanb¢h wa’l-Ishr¡f, pp. 198; °alab¢, op cit, pp. 363; al-Majlis¢, op cit, pp. 204.

[12] ±abars¢, Majma` al-Bay¡n 10:514; Mas`£d¢, Mur£j al-Dhahab 2:276.

[13] Muslim scholars ascribe these verses to the prophethood of Mu¦ammad. There are some pieces of evidence which confirm this issue. See al-Majlis¢, Bi¦¡r al-Anw¡r 18:246; Mu¦ammad H¡d¢ Ma`rifat, al-Tamh¢d f¢ `Ul£m al-Qur'¡n 1:35; al-Qas§al¡ni, al-Maw¡hib al-Ludaniyyah 3:88-89. According to other exegeses, these verses are related to the Night Ascension (Mi`r¡j).

[14] ¯a¦¢¦ al-Bukh¡r¢ 1:59-60; ¯a¦¢¦ Muslim 2:197-204.

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