Allah the Creator has not only brought about the creation, but continues to sustain and direct it, in the way that He has created us and all that is around us. He has provided many forms of guidance, indeed, a system of guiding principles, of which the laws of 'nature' are a part.
But Allah has also granted a special form of guidance for mankind from the outset of its occupancy of the earth. He promised to Adam and his descendants: 'Get ye down all from here; and if, as is sure, there comes to you guidance from Me, whosoever follows guidance, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve' (2: 38).' (13) This guidance comes through the prophets, whom Allah continuously sent to mankind, until the last messenger, Muhammad received His final guidance.Guidance through Revelation
We call a man to whom God in his own way communicates His guidance, a prophet or messenger (nabi, rasul). Prophets receive the word of God through revelation and then com- municate it to their fellow human beings:
'We have sent thee INSPIRATION, as We sent it to Noah and the messengers after him: We sent INSPIRATION to Abra- ham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob and the tribes, to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Harun and Solomon, and to David We gave the Psalms. Of some apostles, We have already told the story, of others We have not - and to Moses God spoke direct - apostles who gave good news as well as warning, that mankind after (the coming) of the apostles should have no plea against God: for God is exalted in power and ways' (4: 163-5).
The two words italicised (capitalized) in the above translation are both derived from the Arabic root 'wahy'.
The Meaning of 'Wahy'
The word awha, from which 'wahy' (revelation) is derived, occurs in a number of shades of meaning in the Qur'an, each of them indicating the main underlying idea of inspiration directing or guiding someone. In each example below, the italicised words in the translation are forms of the root word wahy in the original text of the Qur'an:
- Guidance in natural intuition: 'so we sent this inspiration to the mother of Moses . . .' (28: 7). - Guidance in natural instinct: 'and thy Lord taught the bee to build its cells in hills, on trees and in (man's) habitations' (16: 68). - Guidance by signs: 'So Zakaria came out to his people from his chamber: he told them by signs to celebrate God's praises in the morn- ing and in the evening' (19: 11). - Guidance from evil: 'Likewise did we make for every messenger an enemy- evil ones among men and jinns, inspiring each other with flowery discourses by way of deception ...' (6: 112). - Guidance from God: 'Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message) ...' (8: 12).
Means of Revelation
Wahy in the sense of 'revelation' is guidance from God for His creation, brought by the Prophets, who received the word from God through one of the means mentioned in the follow- ing Qur'anic verse:
'It is not fitting for a man that God should speak to him except by inspiration, or from behind a veil, or by sending of a messenger to reveal with God's permission what God wills: for He is Most High, Most Wise' (42: 51).
Means of revelation are:
- Inspiration, e.g. in a dream (see 37: 102, where it is related that Ibrahim receives guidance in a vision, while asleep, to sacrifice his son).
- Speech hidden away (see 27: 8, where it is related that God spoke to Musa from the fire).
- Words (speech) sent through a special messenger from God (see 2:97, where it is related that God sent the Angel Gabriel as the messenger to Muhammad to reveal His message).
THE QUR'AN REVEALED TO PROHET MUHAMMAD (s)
Prophet Muhammad, the last of God's messengers, received the revelation of the Qur'an through a special messenger sent by God for this purpose: the Angel Gabriel, who recited to him God's words exactly.
The Descent of the Qur'an
According to Suyuti' (14) on the basis of three reports from 'Abdullah Ibn 'Abbas, in Hakim, Baihaqi and Nasa'i, the Qur'an descended in two stages:
- From the Lawh al-Mahfuz, the 'well-preserved tablet', to the lowest of the heavens (bait al-'izza or bait al-ma`moor) of the world, all together, in the Lailat al-Qadr.
- From the heavens to earth in stages throughout the twenty-three years of Muhammad's prophethood, and first in the Lailat al-Qadr of Ramadan, through the Angel Gabriel.
This second descent from the heaven to the heart of the Prophet (s) is referred to in Sura al-Isra' (17) and Sura al-Furqan (25).
The Beginning of Revelation
The revelation of the Qur'an began in the lailat al-qadr of Ramadan (the 27th night or one of the odd nights after the 21st) after the Prophet Muhammad (s) had passed the fortieth year of his life (that is around the year 610), during his seclusion in the cave of Hira' on a mountain near Makka.
Bukhari's Account (15)
This is the account, as reported in the Sahih of Bukharl:
Narrated Aisha the mother of the faithful believers: The commencement of the divine inspiration to Allah's apostle was in the form of good dreams which came like bright daylight (i.e. true) and then the love of seclusion was bestowed upon him.
He used to go in seclusion in the Cave of Hira', where he used to worship (Allah alone) continuously for many days before his desire to see his family. He used to take with him food for the stay and then come back to (his wife) Khadija to take his food likewise again, till suddenly the truth descended upon him while he was in the Cave of Hira'.
The angel came to him and asked him to read. the Prophet (s) replied 'I do not know how to read'. the Prophet (s) added, 'The angel caught me (forcibly) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read and I replied, "I do not know how to read". Thereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read, but again I replied, "I do not know how to read" (or what shall I read?). Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me, and then released me and said: "Read, in the name of Your Lord, who created, created man from a clot. Read! And Your Lord is the most bountiful" ... (16)
The narration goes on to tell us that the Prophet (s) went back to his wife Khadija and recounted to her his dreadful experi- ence. She comforted him and both of them consulted Waraqa, Khadlja's relative and a learned Christian, about it. Waraqa told Muhammad that he had encountered the one 'whom Allah had sent to Moses' and that he would be driven out by his people.How Revelation came
Narrated Aisha, the mother of the faithful believers: Al-Harith bin Hisham asked Allah's apostle: 'O Allah's apostle. How is the divine inspiration revealed to you?' Allah's apostle replied, 'Sometimes it is "revealed" like the ringing of a bell, this form of inspiration is the hardest of all and then this state passes off after I have grasped what is inspired. Sometimes the Angel comes in the form of a man and talks to me and I grasp whatever he says'. (17)
The First Revelation' (18)
The first revelation that the Prophet Muhammad (s) received is in the first verses from Sura al-'alaq (96:1-3, according to others 1-5):
'Read in the name of your Lord, who created, created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is most bountiful. (He who taught) the use of the pen taught man which he knew not.'
The remainder of Sura 96, which now has 19 ayat, was revealed on a later occasion.
The Pause (fatra)
After the first message thus received, revelation ceased for a certain period (calledfatra) and then resumed:
Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah Al-Ansari while talking about the period of pause in revelation reporting the speech of the Prophet (s), 'While I was walking, all of a sudden I heard a voice from the heaven. I looked up and saw the same angel who had visited me at the Cave of Hira' sitting on a chair between the sky and the earth. I got afraid of him and came back home and said "Wrap me (in blankets)" and then Allah revealed the following holy verses (of the Qur'an): O you covered in your cloak, arise and warn (the people against Allah's punishment) ... up to "and all pollution shun".'
After this revelation came strongly and regularly. (19)
The Second Revelation
The second portion of the Qur'an revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (s) was the beginning of Sura al-muddaththir (74: 1- 5). It now consists of 56 verses, the rest revealed later, and begins as follows: 'O you, covered in your cloak, arise and warn, thy Lord magnify, thy raiment purify, pollution shun ...'
Other Early Revelations
Many hold that Sura al-Muzzammil (73) was the next revelation.
According to others, Sura al-Fatiha (1) was the third sura to be revealed. (20)
Among other early revelations, which the Prophet (s) declared in Makka, are, according to some reports, Sura 111, Sura 81, Sura 87, Sura 92, Sura 89, etc. Then revelation continued, 'mentioning Paradise and Hell, and until mankind turned to Islam, then came revelation about halal and haram ... ' (21)
Revelation came to the Prophet (s) throughout his lifetime, both in Makka and Madina, i.e. over a period of approximately 23 years, until shortly before his death in the year 10 after Hijra (632).
The Last Revelation
Many Muslim scholars agree that the last revelation was Sura 2, verse 281:
'And fear the day when ye shall be brought back to God. Then shall every soul be paid what it earned and none shall be dealt with unjustly.'
Some also say that it was 2:282 or 2:278. (22)
It has also been suggested that all three verses were revealed on one occasion. the Prophet (s) died nine nights after the last revelation.
Others hold that Sura 5:4 was the last to be revealed:
'This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.'
The opinion that this verse was the last revelation is not sound according to many scholars, since it was revealed during the last pilgrimage of the Prophet (s). This information is based upon a hadith from 'Umar. Suyuti explains concerning the verse in Sura 5 that after it nothing concerning ahkam and hal'al and haram was revealed, and in this sense it is the 'completion' of religion. However, revelation reminding man of the coming day of judgement continued and the last such revelation is the above verse. (23)
REASONS WHY QUR'AN WAS REVEALED IN STAGES
The Qur'an was revealed in stages over a period of 23 years, and not as a complete book in one single act of revelation. There are a number of reasons for this; most important are the following:
- To strengthen the heart of the Prophet (s) by addressing him continuously and whenever the need for guidance arose. - Out of consideration for the Prophet (s) since revelation was a very difficult experience for him. - To gradually implement the laws of God. - To make understanding, application and memorisation of the revelation easier for the believers.