(This write-up is prepared by the Hadīth Cell of Jāved Ahmad Ghāmidī)
روي أن رجلا سأل رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فقال: يا رسول الله كيف يأتيك الوحي؟ فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: يأتي الملك أحيانا في مثل صلصلة الجرس وهو أشده علي فيفصم عني وقد وعيت عنه ما قال وأحيانا يتمثل لي الملك رجلا فيكلمني فأعي ما يقول وهو أهونه علي. قالت عائشة رضي الله عنها: ولقد رأيته ينزل عليه الوحي في اليوم الشديد البرد فيفصم عنه وإن جبينه ليتفصد عرقا. وقال عبادة بن الصامت: كان نبي الله صلى الله عليه وسلم إذا نزل عليه الوحي كرب لذلك وتربد وجهه. وقال أيضا: إذا أنزل عليه الوحي نكس رأسه ونكس أصحابه رؤوسهم فلما أتلي عنه رفع رأسه.
It is narrated that a man asked the Prophet (sws): "Prophet of God! How does revelation come to you?" The Prophet replied: "Sometimes the angel comes to me with a sound like that of the ringing of bells. This form of revelation is the hardest upon me. Then the angel departs from me, while I have memorized everything that he has said. At other times, the angel appears and talks to me in the form of a man and I memorize every thing that he says. This form of revelation is easiest upon me." 'Āi'shah (rta) says: "I have seen the Prophet, while revelation came to him on an abnormally cold day and then as the angel departed from him, his forehead was pouring with perspiration." 'Ubadah Ibn Sāmit (rta) says: "When revelations came down upon the Prophet (sws), he appeared to be in discomfort because of it and the complexion of his face altered. 'Ubadah Ibn Sāmit has also said: When revelations came down upon the Prophet (sws), he lowered his head and all those sitting in his company would also lower their heads. Then when the revelation would stop, he [the Prophet] would raise his head again."
Notes on the Text of the Narrative
This narrative or a part of it, with minor variations, has been reported in Mālik's Mu'attā (no. 475) Bukhārī (nos. 2 and 3043), Muslim (nos. 2333, 2334 and 2335), Ibn Hibbān(No. 38), Tirmidhī (no. 3634), Nasā'ī(nos. 933 and 934), Nasā'ī'sSunan al-Kubrā(nos. 1005, 1006, 7979 and 11128), Ahmad Ibn Hambal (nos. 7071, 24354, 25291, 25342, 25698, 26241 and 26243), Bayhaqī (no. 13120), Musnad al-Humaydī(no. 256). The preferred text is the one reported in Bukhārī (no. 2), except where otherwise specified.
In some narratives, as in Bukhārī (no. 2), the person, who asked this question is named as Hāris Ibn Hishām.
The sentence: يأتي الملك أحيانا في مثل صلصلة الجرس (the angel comes to me with a sound like that of the ringing of bells) is reported in Bukhārī (no. 3043). In Bukhārī (no. 2), the corresponding sentence has been rendered as يأتيني مثل صلصلة الجرس (he would come to me with a sound like that of the ringing of bells).
In some narratives, as in Nasā'ī (no. 933), the words يتمثل لي الملك رجلا فيكلمني (the angel appears and talks to me in the form of a man) have been rendered as يأتيني في مثل صورة الفتى فينبذه إلي (he would come to me in the form of a young man, then he would transmit it to me). While in Bayhaqī (no. 13120), the word فيكلمني (then he talks to me) is rendered as فيعلمني (then he teaches me).
In some narratives, as in Ahmad Ibn Hambal (no. 7071), the Prophet's answer to the question is reported as: اسمع صلاصل ثم أسكت عند ذلك فما من مرة يوحى إلى الا ظننت ان نفسي تفيض (I hear ringing like sounds, hearing which I stop talking [and become attentive]. Each time a message is revealed to me I feel as if my soul is flowing out).
The sentence وهو أهونه علي (this form of revelation is easiest upon me) is reported in Musnad al-Humaydī (no. 256).
The part وقال عبادة بن الصامت: كان نبي... كرب لذلك وتربد وجهه is reported in Muslim (no. 2334).
The part إذا أنزل... أتلي عنه رفع رأسه is reported in Muslim (no. 2335).