From his earliest youth Muhammad possessed a sensitive mind and a grave and serene disposition.
He felt keenly the distress of his fellow beings and reacted very sharply to it, affording such relief and assistance as were within his power. That which affected his mind most deeply and painfully, however, was the moral and spiritual decline into which his people had fallen, and from which he could see no way of rescuing them, save through Divine guidance and help.
He himself had never bowed to an idol or indulged in any idolatrous practices. On the physical side, he had preserved complete purity; he had never gambled or taken liquor, and had led an absolutely chaste life. He enjoyed the trust of his fellow townsmen, and was held in respect by them.
Though ever ready to promote justice and orderliness, and to soften, so far as it lay in his power, the hardships of life for those in distress, Muhammad continued to be tormented by the spectacle of the moral and spiritual degradation of his people, and his mind and soul were in constant travail over it.
Tired & disgusted of the mischief, misdeeds and the many vices of the people of Mecca, Muhammad (saw) chose a spot two or three mile away to meditate and call on the one God. This was on top of a hill, a sort of cave shaped out of stone. His wife Khadija (ra) would prepare food enough for several days, and with this he would retire to the cave Hira. In the cave he would worship God day and night. When Prophet Mohammad (saw) was over thirty years of age, love of God and love of His worship began to possess him more and more.
THE PROPHET RECEIVES HIS FIRST REVELATION
The light of dawn was about to manifest itself upon the eastern horizon and the sun that was to illuminate the whole world was about to rise.
Now the Holy Prophet (saw) had reached the age of forty; his disposition had attained maturity for prophethood. Among the last ten days of the blessed month of Ramadan; it was Monday. As usual the Holy Prophet (saw) retreated to the Cave of Hira, to engage himself in the worship of God in a manner of his own. While being engaged in the worship He suddenly shook as an unfamiliar being appeared before him. This divine messenger was none other than Gabriel (as), the angel of God.
He addressed the Holy Prophet (saw) and said: IQRA …which meant ‘to recite and similarly refers ‘to Proclaim’ or ‘to convey’.
The Holy Prophet (saw) responded, “I cannot read” for he was an illiterate.
When the angel heard this reply he took hold of the Holy Prophet (saw) and said again, “read” but the response of the Holy Prophet (saw) replied the same.
Upon this, the divine messenger took hold of the Holy Prophet (saw) a third time and embraced him rather tightly: It was in such a manner as he wanted to leave a lasting impression upon the Prophet’s heart. Having confirmed that the disposition of the Holy Prophet (saw) was now ready to accept this message, he released the Holy Prophet (saw) and said:
Recite! Thou in the name of thy Lord, who created; Created Man from a clot of blood.
Recite! And thy Lord is the Most Bounteous; who taught by the pen, taught man what he knew not. (Surah Al’Alaq)
These were the first verse revealed to the Holy Prophet (saw) in Cave Hira’ on ‘The Night of Destiny’ in the month of Ramadan in 610 A.D.
These verses, the first ever revealed to the Prophet (saw), became part of the Qur’an as did other verses which were revealed later. They have tremendous meaning. They command the Prophet (saw) to stand up and be ready to proclaim the name of the One God, the One Creator to the world of people who were lead into idol-worshipping of more than 360 gods, as one for each day of the Lunar Calendar.
The Prophet was commanded to proclaim the Message of this God to all Mankind, and was promised help and protection by Him in the proclamation of this Message.
The prophecy of Moses:
“I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put My words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto My words which he shall speak in My name, I will require it of him” (Deut. 18:18-19).
It is striking that the first revelation that came to the Prophet commanded him: “Recite in the name of thy Lord.” And Every chapter of the Quran opens with: “In the name of God, Ever Gracious, Most Merciful.”
The door to the Kingdom of Heaven has been opened by the fulfillment of these prophecies. Blessed are those who accept the call of the Lord of the Heaven and the Earth to enter His Kingdom and receive His communion.
The Prophet (saw) was commanded to proclaim the Message of this God, and was promised help and protection by Him in the proclamation of this Message. The verses foretold a time when the world would be taught all manner of knowledge through the instrumentality of the pen, and would be taught things never heard of before. The verses constitute an epitome of the Qur’an.
Whatever the Prophet (saw) was to be taught in later revelations is contained in embryo in these verses. The meaning and explanation of these verses will be found in their place in this Commentary. We refer to them here because their revelation constitutes a great occasion in the life of the Prophet (saw).
After this dialogue, the angel disappeared, but the Holy Prophet (saw) was left in a state of deep anxiety and restlessness. His heart was pounding, for only God knew what this matter was and what was about to take place. In a complete state of natural shock, the Holy Prophet (saw) hurriedly left the Cave of Hira, returned home, and asked his wife Khadijah (ra), “Cover me with a cloth! Cover me with a cloth!” for He was trembling from head to foot. When Hadhrat Khadijah (ra) witnessed the state of her beloved husband, she became worried and quickly covered the Holy Prophet (saw) with a blanket.
When he was calmed enough to be talked He narrated the entire incident to Hadhrat Khadijah (ra) and in the end said, “Weak man that I am, how can I carry the responsibility which God proposes to put on my shoulders”, but Khadijah (ra), who was well acquainted with the nature of the Holy Prophet (saw), said at once:
“Glad tidings be to you. God is witness, He has not sent you this Word that you should fail and prove unworthy, that He should then give you up. By God, He shall never disgrace you. You are kind and considerate to your relations, you treat your kith and kin with love, you help the poor and the forlorn and bear their burdens, you are truthful, and assist others in discharging their responsibilities, and have gathered within yourself lost virtues which had disappeared from our country. You treat guests with honor and help those who are in distress. Can you be subjected by God to any trial? (Bukhari)
Having said this, Khadija (ra) took the Prophet (saw) to her cousin, Waraqa bin Naufal, a Christian who was fairly acquainted with the scriptures of past prophets. When he heard the complete account he said:
The angel who descended on Moses (as), I am sure, has descended on you” (Bukhari).
O would that I had strength. Would that I remain alive until your people banish you from your homeland.”
The Holy Prophet (saw) inquired in amazement, “Will my people banish me?”
“Yes,” responded Waraqah, “No prophet came with whom his people did not harbour enmity but if I remain alive until that time, I shall assist you to the utmost of my ability.”
However, Waraqah could not witness that time, as he passed away shortly afterwards.
The second Revelation and the others:
He was one day walking from Hira to his home when he suddenly heard a voice, as if someone was speaking to him. He looked around him in all directions, but observed no one. He raised his eyes towards heaven and he beheld a grand chair suspended between heaven and earth on which was seated the same presence whom he had seen in the cave. He was greatly upset and hurried home, and arrived there he asked Khadija to cover him up, which she did. As soon as he lay down, he heard a majestic voice addressing him in the following words:
O thou who hast covered thyself with thy cloak
Arise and warn;
And thy Lord do thou Magnify;
and purify those around thee;
And stamp out idolatry…
And for the sake of thy Lord do thou endure trials patiently (74:2-6, 8).
Thereafter he began to receive revelation continuously to the rest of his life. He has described the experience vividly, in this way:
Revelation comes to me in different ways. Sometimes the words strike directly at my heart, like the ringing of a bell, and this is physically hard on me. Sometimes I hear the words as if spoken from behind a veil. Sometimes I see a Presence that speaks the words to me.” This is confirmed by the Quran (42:52-53).
Hazrath Aisha reported:
I saw the Prophet being inspired Divinely on a very cold day and noticed the sweat dropping from his forehead (as the Inspiration was over)”.
He had now been comforted, and he realized that he had been commissioned by God to call people to his Lord.
Accordingly, he began to call people to the Unity of God and to condemn idol-worship. But he did not, at that stage, make any public announcement. He worked silently and confined his message only to those who were his close associates.