Narrated ‘A’ishah radhiAllahu ‘anha:
The commencement of the Divine Inspiration to Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was in the form of good dreams which came true like bright day light, 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 the journey food for the stay and then come back to (his wife) Khadeejah to take his food like-wise 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 salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam replied,
“I do not know how to read.”
The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam added,
“The angel caught me (forcefully) 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 has created (all that exists) has created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous [al-Alaq 96: 1-3].’”
Then Allah’s Messenger returned with the Inspiration and with his heart beating severely. Then he went to Khadeejah bint Khuwailid and said, “Cover me! Cover me!”
They covered him till his fear was over and after that he told her everything that had happened and said, “I fear that something may happen to me.” Khadeejah replied, “Never! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you. You keep good relations with your kith and kin, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guests generously and assist the deserving calamity-afflicted ones.”
Khadeejah then accompanied him to her cousin Waraqah bin Naufal bin Asad bin ‘Abdul ‘Uzza, who, during the pre-Islamic period became a Christian and used to write the writing with Hebrew letters. He would write from the Gospel in Hebrew as much as Allah wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadeejah said to Waraqah, “Listen to the story of your nephew, O my cousin!” Waraqah asked, “O my nephew! What have you seen?” Allah’s Messenger described whatever he had seen. Waraqah said, “This is the same one who keeps the secrets (Angel Gabriel) whom Allah had sent to Moses. I wish I were young and could live up to the time when your people would turn you out.”
Rasoolullah asked, “Will they drive me out?” Waraqah replied in the affirmative and said, “Anyone (man) who came with something similar to what you have brought was treated with hostility; and if I should remain alive till the day when you will be turned out then I would support you strongly.” But after a few days Waraqah died and the Divine Inspiration was also paused for a while.
[Volume 1, Book 1, Hadeeth # 3]
Answering criticism: This hadeeth is subject to criticism by those who doubt the authenticity of Saheeh Al-Bukhari. The critics say, “How can ‘A’ishah (radhiAllahu ‘anha) narrate an incident that happened before her birth?”
We should remember that ‘A’ishah radhiAllahu ‘anha was a curious lady who asked intelligent questions. We know that the Mothers of the Believers and the Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum were truthful people. They would not narrate any incident out of their own desire. There is a great possibility that she was informed of the incident by the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam himself. It does not befit a believer to accuse the Mothers of the Believers or the Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum of falsehood. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala save us from such an act, aameen.
Through this hadeeth we learn two changes in the life of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam as he neared the time of Prophethood: He desired seclusion, and his dreams came true.
The Love for Seclusion
In our social world, people who desire seclusion are highly criticized. They are forced to join social sites, download social Apps, attend social events, and always be there. The toll that it is has on one’s soul is ignored. When a person is constantly in the company of the people, he does not get a chance to reflect. Prophet Musa ‘alayhi salaam was called to Mount Sinai for forty nights; he was instructed to meet Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala privately.
This part of the hadeeth teaches us that if we want to retain knowledge and reflect on what we are studying then we need to take a break from socialization and seek seclusion. The reason that we are advised to wake up in the middle of the night for Tahajjud is so that we are free from all kinds of distractions and can build a relationship with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. In Ramadan, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would seclude himself in the mosque. Men repeat the Sunnah every Ramadan. If we truly want to benefit from our learning then we must take social breaks and nurture our souls.
Seeing the immoralities that his people were in, Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would leave his city and retreat in the cave of Hira. Alone, free from distractions and noise, he would worship Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. How long can we live without our phones and the Internet connections? We become anxious, if there are no phone calls or messages. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would stay in the cave of Hira for several days. Anyone who has been to Makkah and seen the cave of Hira would know it is not a smooth climb. Some scholars say that this in itself was a sign because this was not possible for an ordinary person to stay in such an isolated place for days. Other scholars say that he was inspired to do this in order to prepare him for the challenges ahead. Again, we learn that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala makes us go through pain and hardship in order to build our character, and sometimes it is the physical strength that needs to be build. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was to be persecuted in the future and participate in battles, he required both the spiritual and physical strength to face his opponents.
How did the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam worship Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala before Islam?
We have no information about how he worshiped Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala before the advent of Islam, however, we do know that not the entire Makkah was into idolatry. There were still some people who called themselves Haneefiyah; they were the followers of Ibraheem ‘alayhi salaam. They worshiped only One God and stayed away from immoralities.
Why true dreams? This was to prepare him for the reception of revelation. That is why when ayaat would be revealed to him, he would clearly see the events without being present there. For example, Surah Ar-Rum.
First Encounter with the Angel
Why did Angel Jibreel [Gabriel] ‘alayhi salaam grab and squeeze him? It seems painful, but it had to be done to make the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam attentive. The physical contact with the angel was to assure him that what was happening was real; he was not imagining it.
Notice, when the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam replies that he cannot read, he is told, “Read! In the Name of your Lord…” meaning you are not capable of reading except by the Will of your Lord. This is a reminder for us to value our reading, writing, and speaking skills and to use them in Allah’s way. We should remember had Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala not willed, we could have been born in a region or to parents who did not had the means to teach us. It also tells us when we are stuck in our studies or at work, we should ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to untie our knots and grant us understanding. People who desire to memorize the Qur’an, and Shaytan discourages them, pay no attention to his whisperings directly ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for strong memory and preservation of what you memorize.
The Etiquette of Appeasing Others
After the encounter with another being, Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam returned home and asked his wife to cover him. Khadeejah radhiAllahu ‘anha, a brave and intelligent woman herself covered him and did not ask any question unless the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was comfortable enough to speak on his own.
What would we have done if someone came to us shivering with fear? We would have almost harassed them to give us the details. Khadeejah radhiAllahu ‘anha waits for the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to be calm and does not nag him with unnecessary questions. And this is why we learn through the Seerah that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam continued to admire his first wife long after she had passed away. This teaches us a lesson that if we ever face a similar situation, we should not harass the other person. Rather, we should appease them and allow them to be stable before they can speak. We should also remember not to welcome anyone in our house (whether it’s a spouse, children or friends) by shooting complaints or questions right away. Let them relax first! We have no idea how strenuous their journey was, how stressful their day was, or what they are going through. We need to become better listeners.
Khadeejah radhiAllahu ‘anha does not only wait for the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to be calm, but when he finally speaks up, she highlights his virtues. How do we speak with people? When someone is sharing their distress with us, how do we respond? Do we say, “See, I told you so!” or “Why did you go there? This is all your fault,” etc. Instead of giving hope to the person we crush their leftover confidence. Empathy is a trait that we need to learn! How Khadeejah radhiAllahu ‘anha speaks to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam displays her character.
Prophet’s Meeting with Waraqah ibn Naufal
To interpret what had happened to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, she took him to Waraqa ibn Naufal. Remember that the Christians of that time were not similar to those of today. Before Islam, the Jews and the Christians believed in Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. There were, however, slight differences. Today, we cannot take our Qur’an or dreams to a Christian priest or a Jewish Rabbi asking them to interpret them for us. If we ever encounter a problem we must only consult a Muslim scholar or a righteous Muslim.
In Waraqah’s character we see humility. He was a knowledgeable person who wrote the Scripture. Unlike many of the students of today, Waraqah was not arrogant. When we saw the truth he accepted it.
Waraqah’s willingness to support the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam indicates that Waraqah believed in him. He passed away before the regular process of revelation began, but it is said that because of his willingness to support he died as a believer. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala knows best!
The Period of Pause in Revelation
Momentarily, the process of revelation was paused in order to give a break to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. We have mentioned in hadeeth # 2 the process of revelation was not easy. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala did not burden him with the entire Qur’an in one go. He gave breaks so that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam could grasp what he was told and then move forward. This is the etiquette of studying and teaching the Qur’an. Instead of hastening to complete the course, we should organize our learning and give it our full attention.