A Critical Analysis of The “First Revelation” Narratives (1/3)

A Critical Analysis of The “First Revelation” Narratives (1/3)


I A Representative Text حدثنا يحيی بن بكير قال حدثنا الليث عن عقيل عنبن شهاب عن عروة بن الزبير عن عائشة أم المؤمنين أنها قالت أول ما بدئ به رسولالله صلی الله عليه وسلم من الوحي الرؤيا الصالحة في النوم فكان لا يرىرؤيا إلا جاءت مثل فلق الصبح ثم حبب إليه الخلاء وكان يخلو بغار حراء فيتحنث فيهوهو التعبد الليالي ذوات العدد قبل أن ينزع إلي أهله ويتزود لذلك ثم يرجع إلیخديجة فيتزود لمثلها حتی جاءه الحق وهو في غار حراء فجاءه الملك فقال اقرأ قال ماأنا بقارئ قال فأخذني فغطني حتي بلغ مني الجهد ثم أرسلني فقال اقرأ قلت ما أنابقارئ فأخذني فغطني الثانية حتی بلغ مني الجهد ثم أرسلني فقال اقرأ فقلت ما أنابقارئ فأخذني فغطني الثالثة ثم أرسلني فقال اِقۡرَاۡ بِاسۡمِ رَبِّکَ الَّذِیۡ خَلَقَ. خَلَقَالۡاِنۡسَانَ مِنۡ عَلَقٍ. اِقۡرَاۡ وَ رَبُّکَ الۡاَکۡرَمُ.فرجع بها رسول الله صلی الله عليهوسلم يرجف فؤاده فدخل علی خديجة بنت خويلدرضي الله عنها فقال زملوني زملوني فزملوه حتی ذهب عنه الروع فقال لخديجة وأخبرهاالخبر لقد خشيت علی نفسي فقالت خديجة كلا والله ما يخزيك الله أبدا إنك لتصل الرحموتحمل الكل وتكسب المعدوم وتقري الضيف وتعين علی نوائب الحق فانطلقت به خديجة حتیأتت به ورقة بن نوفل بن أسد بن عبد العزى بن عم خديجة وكان امرأ تنصر في الجاهليةوكان يكتب الكتاب العبراني فيكتب من الإنجيل بالعبرانية ما شاء الله أن يكتب وكانشيخا كبيرا قد عمي فقالت له خديجة يا بن عم اسمع من بن أخيك فقال له ورقة يا بنأخي ماذا ترى فأخبره رسول الله صلی اللهعليه وسلم خبر ما رأى فقال له ورقة هذاالناموس الذي نزل الله علی موسی يا ليتني فيها جذع ليتني أكون حيا إذ يخرجك قومكفقال رسول الله صلی الله عليه وسلم أو مخرجي هم قال نعم لم يأت رجلٌ قط بمثل ماجئت به إلا عودي وإن يدركني يومك أنصرك نصرا مؤزرا ثم لم ينشب ورقة أن توفي وفترالوحي 'Urwah reports from 'A'ishah that she said: "The commencement of divinerevelation to God's Messenger (sws) was in the form of good dreams which camelike daylight. Then the fondness for seclusion was endeared to him. He wouldstay in seclusion in the cave of Hira'.There, for many days, he would do tahannuth, which means "worship."After that, he would return to his family. He would take with him foodprovisions for the stay and then come back to [his wife] Khadijah totake more food again. This continued till the truth descended upon him while hewas in the cave of Hira'. Thereafter,the angel came to him and said: 'Read.' He replied: 'I do not know how toread.' The Prophet added: 'The angel caught hold of me and pressed me so hardthat I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again said to me:"Read." and I replied: "I do not know how to read." Thereupon he caught hold ofme again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it any more. Hethen released me and again said: "Read." So, again I replied: "I do not knowhow to read." Thereupon, he caught hold of me for the third time and pressedme, and then released me and said: "اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَالذي خَلَقَ خَلَقَ الْإِنْسَانَ من عَلَقٍ اقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ الْأَكْرَمُ (Read, in the name of Your Lord,who created, created man from a clot. Read! And Your Lord is the mostbountiful. Who taught man by the pen – taught him what he knew not.)"' Afterhearing this conversation, the messenger of God returned to his house,trembling. He came over to Khadijah bint Khuwaylid and said: 'Have me covered;have me covered.' So, she had him covered. When his fear subsided, he conversedwith Khadijah and informed her with what happened and said: 'I fear for mylife.' At this, Khadijah replied: 'Certainly not! I swear by God that He willnever humiliate you. You fulfill the rights of your kindred, carry the burdenof the weak, earn for the deprived, are hospitable to guests and help people incalamities.' Then Khadijah took him to Waraqah ibn Nawfal ibn Asad ibn 'Abdal-'Uzza who was her paternal cousin. In the age of jahiliyyah, Waraqahhad become a Christian. He knew how to write Hebrew. He would write from theGospels whatever God willed he should write. At that time, he was very old andhad gone blind. So, Khadijah said to him: 'Listen to what your nephew has tosay.' At this, Waraqah said: 'O Nephew! What is it that you saw?' So, God'sMessenger (sws) informed him what he saw. At this, Waraqah replied: 'This isthe same angel who would come to Moses. Would that I had been a strong youngman; would that I remained alive till that time when your nation will turn youout from your city.' God's messenger then asked: 'Will they turn me out?'Waraqah replied: 'Yes. Whenever a person has brought what you have brought,people have become his enemies. If I remain alive till that day, I shall fullyhelp you.' Then not much time elapsed before Waraqah died and divine revelationceased to come to him."[1] II Critical Analysis There are some questions that arise on thechain and text of narration of this narrative. Both are presented below. Firstthe questions that arise on the chain are taken up because it is essential tofind whether the narrative can be correctly ascribed to the Prophet (sws) ornot. A.Criticism on the Isnad The following are the points of importantcriticism that arise on the isnad or chain of narration of thisnarrative: 1. This narrative isfrom among the marasil of sahabah as it is reported by 'A'ishah(rta) (58 AH) who was not even born (or was perhaps just a child) at the timeof the incident reported in the narrative. Whilepointing to the fact that his narrative is from among the marasil of sahabah,Badr al-Din al-'Ayni (d. 855 AH) says that except for the opinion of Abu Ishaqal-Isfra'ini (d. 406 AH), the opinion of the majority is that such marasilare acceptable.[2] Al-Qastalani (d. 923 AH) is of the opinion that since in this case inall probability 'Ai'shah (rta) must have been informed by the Prophet (sws)himself if the words of the narrative are kept in mind hence though it cantechnically be regarded among the marasil but in reality it is not.[3] In the opinion ofthis writer, such marasil are acceptable but not in all cases,especially when it entails that the nature of such narratives is that theyshould have been muttasil narrations from the Prophet (sws) himself.[4] 2. Moreover, the only person to narratefrom 'A'ishah (rta) is 'Urwah ibn al-Zubayr (d. 94 AH), her nephew and the onlyperson to report it from him is Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri (d. 124 AH). In otherwords, one of the most important events of the Prophet's life was reported byonly one person in the first three sections of the chain of narration. It isthus also a gharib narrative 3. The madarof this narrative is al-Zuhri's questionable personality. Though Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Muslim ibn 'Abdullah ibn Shihabal-Zuhri (52-124 AH) has been regarded as an outstanding exponent of Hadith anda thoroughly reliable personality by the scholars of 'ilm al-rijal;however, evidence is found to the contrary as well. For details, see: Appendix A. 4. If we make a list of all variants of this narrative,it can be seen that there are seven students of al-Zuhri who report thisnarrative from him: i. 'Uqayl ibn Khalid[5](d. 142 AH) ii. Yunus ibn Yazid[6](d. 159 AH) iii. Ma'mar ibn Rashid[7] (d. 153 AH) iv. Al-Walid ibn Muhammad[8] v. Salihibn Abi al-Akhdar[9] vi. Muhammad ibn'Abdullah ibn Abi 'Utayq[10] (Ibn Akhi al-Zuhri) vii. Al-Nu'man ibn Rashid[11] All, these chains have some flaw or other. Fordetails, see Appendix B. B. Criticism on the Text 1. The narrative describes how Muhammad(sws) was assigned as a messenger of God. Surely, it can be regarded as one ofthe most important incidents of his life. Such is its significance that itshould have been reported by Muhammad (sws) himself to his companions. Acentral personality in these narratives is the Prophet's wife Khadijah (rta).The same question arises about her: why did not she herself report thisall-important event of the Prophet's life? A similar question arises aboutother close companions of Muhammad (sws) like Abu Bakr (rta), 'Umar (rta),'Uthman (rta) and 'Ali (rta). Such is the importance of this event that thesecompanions should have narrated it from the Prophet (sws). On the other hand, we find a mursalnarrative reporting this incident, as already indicated. 2. The narrative mentions theword يتحنث (yatahannath) which is explained as التَعَبُّدُ (worship). It can besaid with reasonable certainty that in the extant material there is perhapsonly one other narrative in which this word التَعَبُّدُ appears in this meaning in the earliest texts of Arabic:[12] حدثناعبد الله بن محمد حدثنا هشام حدثنا معمر عن الزهري عن عروة عن حكيم بن حزام رضيالله عنه قال يا رسول الله أرأيت أشياء كنت أتحنث بها في الجاهلية من صدقة أوعتاقة وصلة رحم فهل فيها من أجر فقال النبي صلب الله عليه وسلم أسلمت علي ماسلف من خير Hakim ibn Hizamsaid: "O Messenger of God! What is your opinion about things in which I used todo of tahannuth in the times of jahiliyyah as charity,slave-emancipation and fulfilling the rights of the kindred? So, is there anyreward in these?" At this, the Prophet (sws) said: "You have reached Islam byadopting this good [so how can you be deprived of its reward?]"[13] Even after a lot of search, I could not find this word used in thismeaning in classical Arabic. We do find Ibn al-Athir (d. 630 AH) recording thefollowing words while referring to 'Abd al-Muttalib: وهو أول من تحنثبحراء فكان إذا دخل شهر رمضان صعد حراء وأطعم المساكين جميع الشهر (he was first person to do tahannuth at Hira'; when the month ofRamadan arrived he would climb to Hira' and feed the needy throughout themonth).[14] However, this famous historianof the seventh century has not cited any primary source for this. It is evident from the following excerpthow unknown this word was in this meaning to three of the earliest philologicalauthorities of Arabic: Abu 'Amr al-Shaybani(d. 206 AH), al-Farra' (d. 207 AH) and Ibn al-A'rabi (d. 231 AH). While thelatter expressed his total lack of knowledge about it, it clearly seems thatthe former two wanted to make lexical sense out of it after hearing it for thefirst time in this meaning: وقالمحمد بن الجهم حدثنا السكوني أبو أحمد قال فسألت ابن الأعرابي عن يتحنث فقال لاأعرفه قال وسألت أبا عمرو الشيباني وكان خيرا فقال لا أعرف يتحنث وانما هو يتحنفمن الحنيفية أي يتبع دين الحنيفية وهو دين ابراهيم عليه السلام قال الله عز وجلمِلَّةَاِبْراهِيْمَ حَنِيْفًا قال فسألت الفراء ما التحنث فقال أفي شعر وجدته أمفي كلام فذكرت الحديث فقال يتجنب الحنثقال الله عز وجل وَكاَنُوْا يُصِرُّوْنَ عَلی الْحِنْثِ العَظِيْمِ أي الشرك ويقالتأثم الرجل في المأثم واذا تجنبه فكذلك تحنث فيحتمل الوجهين قال ابن الأنباريالقول عندنا ما قال الفراء وحكی لنا أبو عمر عن أحمد بن يحيی ثعلب أنه قال فلانيتحنث اذا تعبد بأشياء تخرجه من الحنث قال ومنه قولهم كان يتحنث بحراء أي يتعبدويقال فلان يتحنث أي يحنث كثيرا ويتعمد ذلك فكأنه عنده من الأضداد Abu Ahmad al-Sakuni said: "I asked Ibn al-A'rabi about يتحنث. He replied:'I am not aware of it.' I then asked Abu 'Amr al-Shaybani about it and he wasmore informed. He replied: 'I am not aware of يتحنث. It can only be from يتحنف from the word الحنيفية ie. to followthe religion of hanifiyyah which is the religion of Abraham (sws) [inaccordance with the verse:] مِلَّةَ اِبْراهِيْمَ حَنِيْفًا.' I then askedal-Farra': 'What is التحنث?' At this, he replied: 'Did you find it in a couplet or in apassage of prose?' So, I mentioned the Hadith. At this, he replied: 'To refrain from الحنث. TheAlmighty has said: وَكاَنُوْا يُصِرُّوْنَ عَلی الْحِنْثِ العَظِيْمِ. Ie., it means polytheism. It is said تأثمالرجل في المأثم when a person restrains himself from sins. Similar isthe case with تحنث.It has both aspects [of meaning].' Ibn al-Anbari said: 'What al-Farra' hasopined is the accepted view to us. Abu 'Amr has narrated to us from Ahmad ibnYahya Tha'lab [d. 291 AH] that he said: فلان يتحنث which means heundertook worship rituals that led him out of sin. Of the same meaning aretheir words: كان يتحنث بحراء ie [Muhammad] worshipped in Hira', and it is said: فلان يتحنث ie ويتعمد ذلك كثيرا يحنث (he woulddeliberately break oaths a lot.) [So, it can be said that] it may be fromthe addad [words having opposite meanings].'"[15] Later philologists like Ibn Sidah (d.458 AH) and Ibn Manzur (d. 711 AH) follow suit in trying to justify the word.They say that it was actually يتحنفand its ف has been changed by ث.[16] Years before them, Ibn Hisham (d. 218 AH)had already stated what these philologists had recorded: قالابن هشام تقول العرب التحنث والتحنف يريدون الحنيفية فيبدلون الفاء من الثاء كماقالوا جدف وجدث يريدون القبر قال رؤبة بن العجاج لو كان أحجاري مع الأجداف يريد الأجداث... وحدثني أبو عبيدة ان العرب تقول فم في موضع ثميبدلون الفاء من الثاء Ibn Hisham said: "The Arabs say التحنث and التحنف. They replace ف with ث as they do inجدف and جدث implying 'grave.' Ru'bah ibn al-'Ujajsays: لو كان أحجاري مع الأجداف (Would that my stones were withthe grave) ie. He uses the word الأجداف for الأجداث ... Abu'Ubaydah narrated to me that Arabs say فم in place of ثم replacing الفاء with الثاء."[17] It may be of interest to note that it is claimed by some that the text of the narrativerecorded by Ibn Hisham[18]actually has the word يَتَحَنَّفُ though extant versions are devoid of it. It can thus be seen that philologists have been occupied in finding aanalogical basis for the existence of the word التحنث because it has occurred in this Hadith ina meaning not known to them. They do not have any parallel that they can quotefor it in favour of the meaning of worship from classical Arabic literature. 3. The narrativeshows that the Prophet (sws) was struck with immense anxiety and greatconsternation when Gabriel came to him and did not know what was going on. Hefeared for his life and thought that something bad had happened to him. Some variants saythat such was the extent of his disturbance that the Prophet (sws) wanted to throw himselfdown from a mountain peak and commit suicide.[19] Khadijah (rta) hadto assure him through various examples that God would never disgrace him. On the other hand,the Qur'an has described in detail that when prophethood is given to a person: i. he is absolutelysure about the event; he does not need any external corroboration from others. ii. he is neverovercome with any fear even though it happens suddenly and unexpectedly. iii. this status isnever the result of any meditation or spiritual exercise. All this can be seenfrom instances in which the Qur'an refers in detail[20] to the incident when Moses(sws) was given prophethood. A comparison between the two brings out starkdifferences and incongruities. The Qur'an clearly brings out the fact thatprophethood was neither given to Moses (sws) on his desire nor any meditationor any spiritual exercise. It was purely God's choice. After tending to theherds of this father in law in Madyan for many years, when Moses (sws) wasgoing to Egyptwith his family, he was suddenly made a prophet. In the chill of the dark nightwhen they had lost their way in the wilderness, he saw flames of fire from faroff and thought that he would go there to find the way and also bring back someembers for the family to protect them from the cold. It was then that God,suddenly, called him to prophethoood and gave him the miracle of the staff.Also, when at that instant, he expressed fear on seeing the staff turn into asnake, he was immediately assured by the Almighty that he had nothing to fearin God's presence. He did not need to go to his wife and family to seekassurance: اِذۡ قَالَ مُوۡسٰی لِاَہۡلِہٖۤ اِنِّیۡۤ اٰنَسۡتُ نَارًا ؕ سَاٰتِیۡکُمۡ مِّنۡہَا بِخَبَرٍ اَوۡ اٰتِیۡکُمۡبِشِہَابٍ قَبَسٍ لَّعَلَّکُمۡ تَصۡطَلُوۡنَ فَلَمَّا جَآءَہَا نُوۡدِیَ اَنۡۢبُوۡرِکَ مَنۡ فِی النَّارِ وَ مَنۡ حَوۡلَہَا ؕ وَ سُبۡحٰنَ اللّٰہِ رَبِّ الۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ یٰمُوۡسٰۤی اِنَّہٗۤ اَنَا اللّٰہُالۡعَزِیۡزُ الۡحَکِیۡمُ ۙ وَ اَلۡقِ عَصَاکَ ؕفَلَمَّا رَاٰہَا تَہۡتَزُّ کَاَنَّہَاجَآنٌّ وَّلّٰی مُدۡبِرًا وَّ لَمۡ یُعَقِّبۡ ؕ یٰمُوۡسٰی لَا تَخَفۡ ۟ اِنِّیۡ لَا یَخَافُ لَدَیَّ الۡمُرۡسَلُوۡنَ Bear in mind whenMoses said to his family: "I have seen some fire. I will bring either some newsfrom there or some embers of fire so that you can be warm." So, when he camethere, he heard a voice: "Blessed is He Who is in this Fire and around it. Andexalted is God, Lord of the worlds. Moses! It is Me, the powerful and wise God.Throw down your staff." So when he saw it moving as if it was a snake, he turnedback and did not even look behind. God said: "There is nothing to fear formessengers in My presence." (27:7-10) If we compare thesedetails of the first contact of Moses (sws) with the divine with those of thefirst alleged contact of Muhammad (sws) with the divine as found in thenarrative under discussion, it can clearly be seen from the former that Godmakes sure that His envoys are not in any fear or in any doubt about who hascontacted them. Similarly, prophethood is never the result of meditation orspiritual exercises. It is purely God's selection. On the other hand, thisnarrative gives a completely opposite picture. Furthermore, the Qur'anrefers to two instances in which Gabriel came to meet the Prophet (sws) inperson to deliver divine revelation. On both occasions, the meeting between thetwo was clear and distinct – and the Prophet (sws) knew what was happening.Gabriel was instructing him and delivering divine revelation to him in a veryprofound manner. The Prophet (sws) was not overcome by fright and panic nor washe unsure that he was being communicated divine revelations. Regarding thefirst meeting, the Qur'an states: عَلَّمَہٗ شَدِیۡدُ الۡقُوٰی ذُوۡمِرَّۃٍ ؕ فَاسۡتَوٰی وَ ہُوَ بِالۡاُفُقِ الۡاَعۡلٰی ثُمَّ دَنَا فَتَدَلّٰی ۙ فَکَانَ قَابَ قَوۡسَیۡنِ اَوۡ اَدۡنٰی ۚفَاَوۡحٰۤی اِلٰی عَبۡدِہٖ مَاۤ اَوۡحٰی مَا کَذَبَالۡفُؤَادُ مَا رَاٰی اَفَتُمٰرُوۡنَہٗ عَلٰی مَا یَرٰی (53: 5۔11) Hehas been taught by an angel mighty in power, towering in character and enduedwith wisdom. Thus, he appeared such that he was on the higher horizon. Then hedrew near and bent down within two bows' length or even closer [to theProphet]. The Almighty then revealed to His servant that which He revealed.Whatever he saw was not his heart's delusion. So, will you then quarrel withhim over what he is seeing? (53:5-11) Whileexplaining the above verses, Amin Ahsan Islahi writes: Gabriel instructed the Prophet (sws) in a very painstaking way and with great affectionand attention taught him the divine revelation which was revealed to him byGod. The ف in the word فَاسْتَوَى is for description: initially, he appearedin his original form and stood straight. The place of his appearance was on thehigher horizon of the heavens. Higher horizon refers to the one found right ontop of one's head. If something appears from this horizon, it will look asclear, sharp and unambiguous as the full moon or the midday sun. On the otherhand, if something appears from the eastern, western, northern or southernhorizon it will be vague and indistinct just like the new moon on the firstday. The purpose of this explanation is that Gabriel appeared before theProphet (sws) from the higher horizon, and the Prophet (sws) was able to fullyobserve him with his eyes. The word تَدَلَّي means "to bend" or "to hang." This describes the fact thatGabriel in order to teach the Prophet (sws) came near him and just as anaffectionate and elderly teacher bends over his dear student with greatfondness, he too bent over the Prophet (sws). In other words, it was not thathe taught the Prophet (sws) from a distance without caring whether he had fullyheard him or not and if he did, was able to understand it or not; on thecontrary, with full attention and focus, he delivered the words in a mannerthat he be able to fully hear and understand them.[21] The last verse مَا کَذَبَ الۡفُؤَادُ مَا رَاٰی (53: 11)(his heart did not deny his vision, (53:11)),is an attestation by God regarding the Prophet's distinct contact with thedivine. It clearly dispels any notion that this observation was his flight offancy or a delusion. The above quoted verses are immediately followed byverses which depict the second meeting: وَلَقَدۡ رَاٰہُ نَزۡلَۃً اُخۡرٰی عِنۡدَ سِدۡرَۃِ الۡمُنۡتَہٰی عِنۡدَہَا جَنَّۃُ الۡمَاۡوٰی اِذۡ یَغۡشَی السِّدۡرَۃَ مَا یَغۡشٰی مَا زَاغَ الۡبَصَرُ وَ مَا طَغٰی And he beheld him a second time again descendingnear the farthest lote-tree, close to which is the Paradise of Repose, when thelote-tree was being covered with that which was covering it. His sight did notfalter nor lost its poise. (53:13-17) While explaining thelast of the above verses, AminAhsan Islahi writes: Just as earlier on, the words were: مَا کَذَبَ الۡفُؤَادُ مَا رَاٰی. (53: 11) (hisheart did not deny his vision, (53:11)), it is stated that at the instance ofthis second observation his sight did not falter nor lose its poise; whateverhe observed was observed with full concentration and attention. The word زَيْغْ means "to bend or to distort" something.The implication is that the Prophet's sight did not bend from its correct anglein the observation of a divine manifestation; on the contrary, he observedeverything from a correct angle. The word طَغَى means "to lose poise and balance." Theimplication of the word is that though so numerous were the divine manifestationsthat words are unable to express them, yet his sight did not lose control theslightest. In fact, he deeply and fully observed everything.[22] It can thus be seen from the way the Qur'an has described both theseincidents[23] how sure and certain a prophetof God is when he is in touch with the divine. It is neither a matter of fearfrom him nor of any doubt. 4. A deeper look at the initial verses of Surah al-Najm including the onescited earlier shows that the whole incident of Gabriel's meeting with theProphet (sws) has been cited by the Qur'an as an argument in favour of hispropethood. The initial verses read: وَ النَّجۡمِ اِذَا ہَوٰی ۙمَا ضَلَّ صَاحِبُکُمۡ وَ مَا غَوٰی ۚ وَ مَا یَنۡطِقُعَنِ الۡہَوٰی ؕاِنۡ ہُوَ اِلَّا وَحۡیٌ یُّوۡحٰی (53: 1-4) Thestars, when they fall, bear witness that your companion is neither lost nor hashe gone astray. He does not speak out of his fancy. It is but a revelation sentdown to him. (53:1-4) In order to undertand the nature ofthis reasoning, some background is in order: it is mentioned in Surah Mulk thatthe stars have been made a bombardment for the devils, (67:6) (رُجُوۡمًا لِّلشَّیٰطِیۡنِ). In Surah Saffat, it is stated that thesestars are pelted on any jinn or evil spirit which tries to eavesdrop on divinerevelation when it is sent down to God's messenger. This phenomenon appears tous in the form of falling or shooting stars. These verses read: اِنَّا زَیَّنَّاالسَّمَآءَ الدُّنۡیَا بِزِیۡنَۃِۣالۡکَوَاکِبِ ۙ وَ حِفۡظًا مِّنۡ کُلِّ شَیۡطٰنٍ مَّارِدٍ ۚ لَا یَسَّمَّعُوۡنَ اِلَی الۡمَلَاِ الۡاَعۡلٰی وَ یُقۡذَفُوۡنَمِنۡ کُلِّ جَانِبٍ ٭ۖ دُحُوۡرًا وَّ لَہُمۡ عَذَابٌ وَّاصِبٌ ۙ اِلَّا مَنۡ خَطِفَالۡخَطۡفَۃَ فَاَتۡبَعَہٗ شِہَابٌ ثَاقِبٌ ) 37: 6-10) Indeed, We have decked the lower heaven with theadornment of stars and have fully protected it from the incursion of allrebellious devils. And they are not able to overhear from the High Realm andthey are pushed from all sides, to drive them away and for them is an eternaltorment except that if someone suddenly eavesdrops on something a dazzlingflame pursues him. (37:6-10) Now, comingto the nature of reasoning: the premise on which this witness is presented inthe opening verse of Surah al-Najm is that Muhammad (sws) is a messenger ofGod. In other words, this phenomenon of falling stars in which they areshowered on eveasdroppers bears witness that neither has God's messenger goneastray nor does he speak of his own fancy. What he says in matters of religionis nothing but divine inspiration. It may further be noted that Muhammad(sws) is addressed by the word صَاحِبُکُمۡ (your companion). This word actuallyproffers an argument. Amin Ahsan Islahi writes: The word صَاحِب here is used for Muhammad (sws) and theaddressed pronoun is for the Quraysh. They are told that he is their very closecompanion and not a stranger to them. They very well know his past and presentas well as his character and conduct and his tastes and inclinations. Have theyever seen any urge in him that could raise the doubt in their mind that he hasa proclivity for astrology and soothsaying? If a person has such a proclivity,it does not remain hidden from close companions for the whole of his life.However, it is very strange that what they have never witnessed in him for sucha long time, they now blame him for once he has expressed his claim to be aprophet of God. The fact of the matter is that his whole life and his wordsbear witness to the fact that he has never been besmeared by any error that isthe result of forgetfulness, base desires, intentional or unintentionalplanning.[24] Now, if these verses present an argument in favour of theprophethood of Muhammad (sws), then, as argued by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi,[25] the subsequent verses ofSurah Najm (5-11), already cited earlier, in fact portray the first meeting ofGabriel with Muhammad (sws) or to be precise they present the first instance ofdivine revelation being received by him. Otherwise it would have to be believedthat the meeting in the narrative under discussion took place earlier and therewould have been some time in which Muhammad (sws) remained in a state ofuncertainty and doubt. This is against what these verses of Surah Najm say:they say that Muhammad (sws) was fully poised and sure upon receiving divinerevelation. Never for a moment was he alarmed or in any doubt about what wasgoing on. In other words, the nature ofcontact between an angel and a messenger is very explicit, definite andunambiguous. On other hand, the narrative under discussion gives an oppositepicture and also shows that Muhammad (sws) hardly an idea that he was meetingGabriel. 5. Most variants[26] of the narrative mention thatthe first five verses of Surah al-'Alaq were revealed at this instance. Now, itcan be seen that all the verses of Surah al-'Alaq are so closely knitthat the first five verses cannot be separated from the rest. The tone of this surahis so harsh and stern that it cannot be regarded as the first revelation. TheQuraysh are severely rebuked for their attitude. However, if it is acceptedthat only the first five verses were revealed first, then though this objectionmay not arise but the sixth verse is so closely knit with the previous onesthat it cannot be regarded as the beginning of a new episode of revelation. Itbegins with the particle: كَلاَّ (kalla) which means"certainly not." It is very unlikely that a set of verses that begin with thisword be revealed since this word requires something pre-posed to it, which itnegates. In other words, a sentence which begins with "certainly not," isextremely unlikely to form the beginning of a new revelation. Moreover,a narrative says that the first revelation was that of Surah Muddaththir andnot these initial verses of Surah 'Alaq: حدثناإسحاق بن منصورٍ حدثنا عبد الصمد حدثنا حرب حدثنا يحيي قال سألت أبا سلمة أيالقرآن أنزل أول فقال يا أَيُّهَا الْمُدَّثِّرُ فقلت أنبئت أنه اِقۡرَاۡ بِاسۡمِرَبِّکَ الَّذِیۡ خَلَقَ فقال أبو سلمة سألت جابر بن عبد الله أي القرآن أنزل أولفقال يا أَيُّهَا الْمُدَّثِّرُ فقلت أنبئت أنه اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ فقال لا أخبركإلا بما قال رسول الله صلی الله عليهوسلم قال رسول الله صلی الله عليه وسلم جاورت في حراء فلما قضيت جواري هبطت فاستبطنتالوادي فنوديت فنظرت أمامي وخلفي وعن يميني وعن شمالي فإذا هو جالس علی عرش بينالسماء والأرض فأتيت خديجة فقلت دثروني وصبوا علي ماء باردا وأنزل علي يا أَيُّهَاالْمُدَّثِّرُ قُمْ فَأَنْذِرْ وَرَبَّكَ فَكَبِّرْ Yahya ibn Abi Kathir said: "I asked Abu Salamah: 'Which part of the Qur'anwas revealed the foremost?' He replied: 'يا أَيُّهَا الْمُدَّثِّر.' At this, I replied: 'I have been informedthat it was: "اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الذي خَلَقَ." Abu Salamah thensaid: 'I asked Jabir ibn 'Abdullah: "Which part of the Qur'an was revealed theforemost?" He replied: "يا أَيُّهَا الْمُدَّثِّر." At this, I said: "I have been informedthat it was: "اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الذي خَلَقَ." Jabir then said: "Should I not informyou what God's Messenger said? He said: 'I went to stay at Hira'. When I endedmy stay, I came down and reached the valley. I was then called upon. So, Ilooked in front of me and behind me and to my right and to my left whensuddenly he was sitting on a throne between the heavens and the earth. I thencame to Khadijah and asked her: "Have me covered and pour cold water on mebecause it has been revealed to me: يا أَيُّهَا الْمُدَّثِّرُقُمْ فَأَنْذِرْ وَرَبَّكَ فَكَبِّر."'"[27] 6. The narrativesays that Gabriel asked the Prophet (sws) to read (إِقْرَأ). In the absence of any written thing[28]being brought, this can only mean that he asked the Prophet (sws) to repeat thewords he was about to utter. Now, if this is so, then why did the Prophet replythat he cannot read? After all, he was capable of repeating words recited tohim. 7. If verses of theQur'an were revealed at this instance, why did not the Prophet (sws) reportthem to Khadijah (rta)? He only mentioned his extreme fear and anxiety.[29] Was not reporting the content ofthe divine revelation of any significance to him? Should it not have foundmention by the Prophet (sws)? 8. What was the need to go to Waraqah ibnNawfal?[30]If the verses of the Qur'an were revealed, was this not sign enough for Prophet(sws) that he had started to receive divine revelations?[31]Does a prophet of God need the help of a human being to be identified as anenvoy of God? Examples of divine revelation to prophets of God show that theyare absolutely sure about the source of their divine contact and are fullyaware that they are in touch with God. (See point 3 above) 9. Perhaps the most appropriate place forthe Prophet (sws) to remain in seclusion and devotion was the House of God. Whydid he choose to go to a far off place leaving aside the most accessible andplausible place for the purpose he had in mind? 10. It may be noted that some mursalnarratives reported by Ibn Ishaq's students[32] statethat the whole incident of the first revelation took place in a dream of theProphet (sws) and hence contradict this narrative in which the incident of thefirst revelation took place in real life.[33] ________ [1]. Abu 'Abdullah Muhammad ibn Isma'il al-Bukhari, Al-Jami' al-sahih,3rd ed., vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar Ibn Kathir, 1987), 4, (no. 3). Seealso: Ibid., vol. 4, 1894, (no. 4670); Ibid., vol. 6, 2561, (no. 6581); Abu al-Husayn Muslim ibn al-Hajjajal-Qushayri, Al-Jami' al-sahih, vol 1 (Beirut: Dar ihya'al-turath al-'arabi, n.d.), 139, (no. 160); Ibid., vol. 1, 141, (no. 160);Ibid., vol. 1, 142, (no. 160); Abu 'Abdullah Muhammad ibn 'Abdullah al-Hakim, Al-Mustadrak'ala al-sahihayn, 1st ed., vol. 3 (Beirut: Dar al-kutubal-'ilmiyyah, 1990), 202, (no. 4843); Abu Nu'aym Ahmad ibn Abdullah al-Asbahani, Al-Musnadal-mustakhraj 'ala Sahih Muslim, 1st ed., vol. 1 (Beirut: Daral-kutub al-'ilmiyyah, 1996), 224, (no. 405); AbuHatim Muhammad ibn Hibban al-Busti, Sahih, 2nd ed., vol. 1(Beirut: Mu'assasah al-risalah, 1993), 216, (no. 33); Abu BakrAhmad ibn al-Husayn al-Bayhaqi, Al-Sunan al-kubra,vol. 9 (Makkah: Maktabah dar al-Baz, 1994), 5, (no. 17499); Abu 'Awanah Ya'qub ibn Ishaq, Musnad,vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar al-ma'rifah, n.d.), 102, (no. 328); 'Abdal-Razzaq ibn Hammam al-San'ani, Musannaf, vol. 5 (Beirut: Al-Maktab al-islami, 1403 AH), 321, (no. 9719); Ishaq ibn Ibrahim ibn Makhladibn Rahawayh al-Hanzali, Musnad, 1st ed., vol. 2 (Madinah:Maktabah al-iman, 1991), 314, (no. 840); Abu 'Abdullah Ahmad ibn Hanbalal-Shaybani, Musnad,vol. 6 (Cairo: Mu'assasah al-Qurtubah, n.d.), 223, (no. 25907); Ibid., vol.6, 232, (no. 26001); Abu Hilal al-Hasan ibn 'Abdullah ibn Sahl ibn Sa'id ibn Yahyaibn Mihran al-'Askari, Al-Awa'il, 1st ed. (Tanta': Daral-bashir, 1408 AH), 103; Abu Da'ud Sulayman ibn Da'ud al-Tayalisi, Musnad, vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar al-ma'rifah, n.d.), 207, (no, 1468);Ibid., vol. 1, 207, (no. 1469); 'Ala al-Din 'Ali ibn Hussam al-Din al-Muttaqi, Kanz al-'ummal fisunan al-aqwal wa al-af'al, 1st ed., vol. 2 (Beirut: Daral-kutub al-'ilmiyyah, 1998), 7, (no. 2934); Ibid., vol. 12, 200, (no. 35528);Abu al-Walid Muhammad ibn 'Abdullah ibn Ahmad al-Azraqi, Akhbar Makkah wa maja'a fiha min al-athar, vol. 2, (Beirut: Dar undulus li al-nashr, 1996),204; Abu 'Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ishaq ibn al-'Abbas al-Fakihi, Akhbar Makkahfi qadim al-dahr wa hadithihi, 2nd ed., vol. 4 (Beirut: Darkhidr, 1414), 94, (no. 2430); Ibid., vol. 4, 181, (no. 2505); Abu al-QasimHibatullah ibn al-Hasan ibn Mansur al-Lalaka'i, Sharh usul i'tiqad ahlal-sunnah wa al-jama'ah min al-kitab wa al-sunnah wa ijma' al-sahabah, vol.4 (Riyad: Dar taybah, 1402 AH), 756, (no. 1409); Muhammad ibn Ishaq ibn Yahya ibn Mandah, Al-Iman,2nd ed., vol. 2 (Beirut: Mu'assasah al-risalah, 1406 AH), 689, (no.681); Ibid., vol. 2, 689, (no. 682); Ibid., vol. 2, 690,(no. 683); Ibid., vol. 2, 693-694, (no. 685); Muhammad ibn al-Husayn al-Ajurri, Al-Shari'ah,2nd ed., vol. 3 (Riyad: Dar al-watan, 1999), 1437, (no. 969); Ibid., vol. 3, 1436, (no. 968); Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn al-Husaynal-Bayhaqi, Dala'il al-nubuwwah, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (Beirut: Dar al-kutubal-'ilmiyyah, 2002), 135; Yusuf ibn 'Abdullah ibn Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Barr, Al-Durarfi ikhtisar al-maghazi wa al-siyar, 3rd ed. (Cairo: Dar al-ma'arif,1403 AH), 31; Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Tarikh al-rusul wa al-muluk, vol. 1 (Beirut: Daral-kutub al-'ilmiyyah, n.d.), 531; Ibid., vol. 1, 532; Abu al-Faraj 'Abd al-Rahman 'Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al-Jawzi, Al-Muntazam fi tarikhal-muluk wa al-umam, 1sted., vol. 2 (Beirut: Dar sadir, 1358 AH); 349; Jalal al-Din'Abd al-Rahman ibn Kamal al-Din Abi Bakr ibn Muhammad ibn Sabiq al-Din al-Suyuti,Al-Durr al-manthur, vol. 8 (Beirut: Dar al-fikr, 1993), 560-563; Abu Ja'farMuhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Jami' al-bayan 'an ta'wil Ay al-Qur'an, 1sted., vol. 30 (Beirut Dar ihya' al-turath al-'arabi, 2001), 251; Abu Ishaq Ahmadibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Tha'labi, Al-Kashf wa al-bayan, 1st ed., vol. 10 (Beirut: Dar ihya' al-turathal-'arabi, 2002), 242. [2]. Badral-Din Mahmud ibn Ahmad ibn Musa ibn Ahmad al-'Ayni, 'Umdah al-qari sharhSahih al-Bukhari, vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar ihya al-turath al-'arabi, n.d.),47. [3]. Abual-'Abbas Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr ibn 'Abd al-Malik al-Qastalani, Irshadal-Sari li Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, 7th ed., vol. 1 (Egypt:Al-Matba'ah al-kubra al-amiriyyah, 1323 AH), 61. [4]. For details, see the first point of criticismin the next section: "Criticism on the Text." [5]. Al-Bukhari, Al-Jami' al-sahih, vol. 1, 4, (no. 3); Ibid., vol.4, 1894, (no. 4670); Ibid., vol. 6, 2561, (no. 6581); Muslim, Al-Jami' al-sahih,vol 1, 142, (no. 160); Abu 'Awanah, Musnad, vol. 1, 104, (no. 330); Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad,vol. 6, 223, (no. 25907); Ibn Mandah, Al-Iman, vol. 6, 693-694, (no. 685). [6]. Muslim, Al-Jami'al-sahih, vol 1, 139, (no. 160); Abu 'Awanah, Musnad, vol. 1,102, (no. 328);Ibn Mandah, Al-Iman,vol. 6, 689, (no. 681); Al-Bayhaqi, Al-Sunan al-kubra,vol. 9, 5, (no. 17499); Al-Tabari, Tarikhal-rusul wa al-muluk, vol. 1, 532. [7]. Muslim, Al-Jami' al-sahih, vol 1, 142, (no. 160); Al-Hakim, Al-Mustadrak'ala al-sahihayn, vol. 3, 202, (no. 4843); Abu Nu'aym al-Asbahani, Al-Musnad al-mustakhraj 'ala Sahih Muslim,vol. 1, 224,(no. 405); IbnHibban, Sahih, vol. 1, 216, (no. 33); Abu 'Awanah, Musnad, vol. 1, 104, (no. 331); 'Abd al-Razzaq, Musannaf, vol. 5, 321, (no. 9719); Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad,vol. 6, 232, (no. 26001); Abu al-Walid al-Azraqi, Akhbar Makkah, vol. 2,204; Abu 'Abdullah al-Fakihi, Akhbar Makkah, vol. 4, 94, (no. 2430); Abual-Qasim al-Lalaka'i, Sharh usul i'tiqad ahl al-sunnah, vol. 4,756, (no. 1409); Ibn Mandah, Al-Iman, vol. 2, 691, (no. 683); Al-Ajurri, Al-Shari'ah,vol. 3, 1437, (no. 969); Al-Bayhaqi, Dala'il al-nubuwwah,vol. 2, 135; Ibn 'Abd al-Barr, Al-Durar, 31; Ibn al-Jawzi, Al-Muntazam, vol. 2, 349; Al-Tha'labi, Al-Kashf wa al-bayan, vol. 10, 242. [8]. Abu Hilal al-'Askari, Al-Awa'il, 103. [9]. Al-Tayalisi, Musnad, vol. 1, 207, (no, 1468). For its shortened version, see: al-Ajurri, Al-Shari'ah,vol. 3, 1436, (no. 968). [10]. IbnSa'd, Al-Tabaqat al-kubra, vol. 1, 194. [11]. Al-Tabari, Tarikh, vol. 1, 531; Al-Tabari, Tafsir, vol.30, 251. [12]. Keeping in view all extant sources in which the variants of this narrativeare mentioned, it is perhaps in the musannaf of 'Abd al-Razzaq (d. 211AH) that this word appears the foremost. See: 'Abd al-Razzaqal-San'ani, Musannaf, vol. 5, 321,(no. 9719). [13]. Al-Bukhari, Al-Jami'al-sahih, vol. 2, 521, (no. 1369). See, for example, also: Ibid., vol. 2,896, (no. 2401); Ibid., vol. 5, 2233, (no. 5646); Muslim, Al-Jami' al-sahih,vol. 1, 113, (no. 123); Ibid., vol. 1, 114, (123); Ibid., vol. 1, 114, (124);Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 3, 402, (no. 15353); Ibid., vol. 3, 402,(no. 15354); Muhammad ibn Sa'd ibn Mani' al-Zuhri, Al-Juz' al-mutammim litabaqat ibn sa'd (al-tabaqah al-rabi'ah), 1st ed.,(Ta'if: Maktabah al-siddiq, 1414 AH), 223. [14]. Abu al-Hasan 'Izz al-Din ibnal-Athir al-Jazari, Al-Kamil fi al-tarikh, 2nded., vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar al-kutub al-'ilmiyyah, 1415 AH), 553. [15]. Abu Ahmad al-Hasan ibn 'Abdullah ibn Sa'id ibnIsma'il, Tashifat al-muhaddithin, 1st ed., vol. 1 (Cairo: Al-Matba'ahal-'arabiyyah al-hadithah, 1402 AH), 298. [16]. See forexample: Muhammad ibn Mukarram ibn Manzur, Lisan al-'arab, 1st ed., vol. 2 (Beirut:Dar sadir, n.d.), 139; Abual-Hasan 'Ali ibn Isma'il ibn Sidah, Al-Muhkam wa al-muhit al-a'zam, 1sted., vol. 3 (Beirut: Dar al-kutub al-'ilmiyyah, 2000), 299. [17]. Abu Muhammad 'Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham ibn Ayyub al-Ansari, Al-Sirahal-nabawiyyah, 1st ed., vol. 2 (Beirut: Dar al-jil, 1411 AH),68-69. [18]. See, for example: Abu al-Fadl Ahmadibn 'Ali ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani, Fath al-Bari, vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar al-ma'rifah, n.d.), 23; Badr al-Din Mahmud ibn Ahmad ibn Musa ibn Ahmadal-'Ayni, 'Umdah al-qari sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 1 (Beirut: Darihya' al-turath al-'arabi, n.d.), 49; Jalal al-Din 'Abdal-Rahman ibn Kamal al-Din Abi Bakr ibn Muhammad ibn Sabiq al-Din al-Suyuti, Al-Dibaj'ala Muslim, vol. 1 (Al-Khubr: Dar Ibn 'Affan, 1416 AH), 188. [19]. See, for example: al-Bukhari, Al-Jami'al-sahih, vol. 4, 1894, (no. 4670); Ibid., vol. 6, 2561, (no. 6581). [20]. See, forexample: 19: 51-53, 20:14-16; 27:7-14. [21]. AminAhsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur'an, 2nd ed., vol. 8 (Lahore:Faran Foundation, 1986), 54-55. [22]. Ibid.,vol. 8, 57. [23]. These two incidents, both of which are mentioned in theQur'an are: how Moses (sws) was given prophethood and how Gabriel delivereddivine revelation Muhammad (sws). [24]. AminAhsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur'an, 8, 53. [25]. For details, see: Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, Al-Bayan,1st ed., vol. 5 (Lahore: TopicalPrinters, 2016), 65. [26]. See, for example: al-Bukhari, Al-Jami' al-sahih,vol. 4, 1894, (no. 4670); Ibid., vol. 6, 2561, (no. 6581); Muslim, Al-Jami' al-sahih,vol 1, 139, (no. 160). [27]. See, for example: al-Bukhari, Al-Jami' al-sahih, vol. 4, 1865, (no. 4640). It may be noted that this narrative is contradicted by another narrativewhich says that Surah Mudaththir was actually revealed after a period ofdiscontinuation after the first wahi of Surah 'Alaq. Hence SurahMudaththir is not the first revelation See:al-Bukhari, Al-Jami'al-sahih, vol. 1, 5, (no. 4). Various efforts have been made to reconcilethese narratives but no satisfactory explanation has been offered. For details,see for example: Jalal al-Din 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Kamal al-Din Abi Bakr ibn Muhammadibn Sabiq al-Din al-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fi 'ulum al-Qur'an, 1sted., vol. 1 (Lebanon: Dar al-fikr, 1996), 75-76. [28]. Some weak narratives do however mention that Gabriel hadbrought the verses in written form. See, for example:al-Tabari, Tarikh, vol. 1, 32. Even if this isaccepted, did not Gabriel know that the Prophet (sws) was not conversant withreading and how could he have read it? [29]. This critique is put forth by Amin AhsanIslahi. See: Amin Ahsan Islahi, Sharh Sahih Bukhari, ed. KhalidMas'ud/Sa'id Ahmad/ Sayyid Ishaq 'Ali, 1st ed. (Lahore: IdaraTadabbur i Qur'an o Hadith, 2002), 30. [30]. Some variant narrativessay that besides Waraqah, Khadijah also went to 'Addas the Christian slave of'Utbah ibn Rabi'ah and to Buhayra, the monk for the same purpose. See: Abu al-Qasim 'Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn'Asakir, Tarikh Madinah Dimashq, vol. 63 (Beirut: Dar al-fikr, 1995), 7-9; Ibid., vol. 63, 17-20. [31]. See: AminAhsan Islahi, Sharh Sahih Bukhari, ed. Khalid Mas'ud/Sa'id Ahmad/ SayyidIshaq 'Ali, 30. [32]. One of them is Salamah ibn al-Fadl al-Abrash (d. after190 AH) and the other is Yunus ibn Bukayr (d. 199 AH). Both accounts are very similar in content. Forthe former, see: Al-Tabari, Tarikh, vol. 1, 532-533, and for the latter, see: Ibn Ishaq, Al-Sirah,vol. 2, 100-103, (no. 140). (fortheir full texts, see Appendix C) [33]. It mayappear harsh to compare a mursal narrative with a muttasil one.However, the critique on the muttasil narrative renders it suspect andbrings it at par with the weakness found in the mursal narrative. Hencethe comparison, in the opinion of this writer, is not unfair. ____________




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