Commentary: Saheeh Al-Bukhari: Kitab al-Wahi [the Book of Revelation]
Narrated ‘A’ishah radhiAllahu ‘anha:
Al-Harith bin Hisham asked Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, “O Allah’s Messenger! How is the Divine Inspiration revealed to you?”
Allah’s Messenger 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.”
‘A’ishah radhiAllahu ‘anha added: Verily I saw the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam being inspired Divinely on a very cold day and noticed the sweat dropping from his forehead (as the Inspiration was over).
[Volume 1, Book 1, Hadeeth # 2]
The Companion radhiAllahu ‘anhu asks in this hadeeth the process of Wahi. His questioning was not out of doubt or disbelief but rather to strengthen his emaan. These were the people who had to communicate with others (including the disbelievers), if one is not firm in knowledge how can he teach the right thing to others? It is similar to when Ibraheem ‘alayhi salaam asked Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala how He will give life to the dead on the Day of Resurrection. He certainly had no doubts about Allah’s ability to resurrect but being a prophet he wanted to strengthen his emaan. Similarly, the Sahabah radhiAllahu ‘anhum would ask such questions not to insult the Prophet (a’oothubillah) or doubt the religion but to become firm in knowledge. We have already mentioned in the Tafseer that the Sahabah radhiAllahu ‘anhum only asked a few questions which were always intellectual. Asking unnecessary questions is prohibited in Deen.
In this hadeeth the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam describes two ways in which revelation came to him. However, these were not the only ways.
- Ringing of a bell – the analogy of a bell has been given in order to indicate its strength and clarity. Imagine someone ringing a bell in your ears constantly, how will you feel? You will not be able to pay attention to anything other than the ringing. Likewise, when the revelation came to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam he would disconnect from everything else (while sitting in the midst of the people) and pay attention to the Wahi.
This shows the attention that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam paid to the words of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and how painful the process of revelation was for him.
- Angel Jibreel came in the form of a man – Angel Jibreel [Gabriel] ‘alayhi salaam would take the form of a human being and come to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Once he came in the form of a Bedouin and surprised the Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum. They wondered how a man traveling through the desert could be wearing such clean clothes. Sometimes he would also take the form of one of the Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum. The angel would stay with the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam until he had memorized the words. This shows how committed both the student and communicator were.
Through this hadeeth we learn how severe the process of revelation was for him. We know that once the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was riding a camel and when revelation came to him, the camel sat down. Such a strong animal as a camel could not carry the load of the Wahi. Similarly, we know that once the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was resting one of his knees on a Companion’s thigh when revelation came to him. The Companion felt that as if his bone will break. Imagine the pain the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam endured to communicate Allah’s Message to us. It was not just the bad treatment of the Makkans or the cruelty of the people of Taif but also the process of revelation in itself was excruciating. Many times we ignore his sacrifices or undermine his worship saying: He was the prophet; how many of us could have endured what he went through?
Receiving of hadeeth was a process that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was instructed to be patient. We read in Surah al-Insan ayaat 23 and 24,
“Indeed, it is We who have sent down to you, [O Muhammad], the Qur’an progressively. So be patient for the decision of your Lord and do not obey from among them a sinner or ungrateful [disbeliever].”
From this we learn, a person cannot gain knowledge without enduring pain. You have to exhaust yourself in the pursuit of knowledge to understand the matters of Deen. It also means that Shaytan will try to dissuade us but instead of paying attention to his whisperings we have to remain firm on the path of knowledge. We have discussed in the Tafseer that he who has been inspired by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to understand the matters of Deen, has been willed by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to enter Jannah. Don’t give up! Be patient in the pursuit of knowledge. Like the Sahabah radhiAllahu ‘anhum, we need to gain knowledge in order to strengthen our emaan.
Notice that after the hadeeth about one’s intention, Imam Bukhari chooses this to be the second hadeeth. Why do you think he arranged it in this order? It is so that we too have no doubts about the Qur’an or Wahi. If we have even an atom’s weight of doubt then we need to work on our emaan. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala protect us from having doubts about Him, about the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and everything that he taught us, aameen.