Prophethood is the selection of an individual for the purpose of communication with the Almighty. The Qur’an has informed man that he has been blessed with this honour in two ways:
Firstly, communication from behind a veil. In this case, a person hears a voice but does not see who is conversing with him. God spoke to Moses (sws) in this way. He started to hear a voice from a tree in the valley of the mount Sinai but there was no one he could see.
Secondly, through wahi. This word is used for revealing something in the heart of someone. This again has two forms: firstly, God directly reveals His message to the heart of a prophet; secondly, He sends an angel and this angel reveals something to the heart of a prophet on behalf of the Almighty. This phenomenon can occur both when a prophet is awake and in a vision while he is asleep. In case of a vision, whatever is communicated is at times in symbolic form. The way revelations would come to Muhammad (sws) is described in various Hadith narratives. It is evident from them that in its most intense form, the sound of a ringing bell would precede the process of revelation. Such was the intensity of the whole process that he would be drenched with sweat even in the coldest of weather. The Qur’an has specified that apart from this observation the nature of wahi is beyond the comprehension of man:
وَيَسْأَلُوْنَكَ عَنِ الرُّوْحِ قُلِ الرُّوْحُ مِنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّيْ وَمَآ أُوتِيْتُمْ مِّنِ الْعِلْمِ إِلاَّ قَلِيْلاً
And they ask you about al-ruh [– ie the wahi –]. Tell them: “This ruh is from among my Lord’s command. Little indeed is the knowledge given to you.” (17:85)
Since revelations come to the prophets without any desire of their own and from the divine part of their soul, they are absolutely sure about their authenticity. However, at various occasions, for their own satisfaction the Almighty shows them extra-ordinary sights and experiences. An example of this is the Prophet’s journey from the Baytullah to the Aqsa mosque that occurred in a vision shown to him. Such experiences also occur in real life. Following is an example of such an experience:
وَلَقَدْ رَآهُ نَزْلَةً أُخْرَى عِندَ سِدْرَةِ الْمُنْتَهَى عِنْدَهَا جَنَّةُ الْمَأْوَى إِذْ يَغْشَى السِّدْرَةَ مَا يَغْشَى مَا زَاغَ الْبَصَرُ وَمَا طَغَى لَقَدْ رَأَى مِنْ آيَاتِ رَبِّهِ الْكُبْرَى
And he beheld him once again at the sidrah tree, beyond which no one can pass near which is the Garden of Repose. At that time, the sidrah tree was covered with that which covered it. [His] sight did not wander, nor did it exceed the limit. [In such a manner] he saw some of his Lord’s greatest signs. (53:13-18)
At one place in the Qur’an, all these ways of communicating with God are mentioned together:
وَمَا كَانَ لِبَشَرٍ أَنْ يُكَلِّمَهُ اللَّهُ إِلَّا وَحْيًا أَوْ مِنْ وَرَاء حِجَابٍ أَوْ يُرْسِلَ رَسُوْلًا فَيُوْحِيَ بِإِذْنِهِ مَا يَشَآء إِنَّهُ عَلِيٌّ حَكِيْمٌ
And it is not the status of any mortal that God should speak to him except by revelation or from behind a veil or he sends a messenger and through His permission, he sends revelation to him of what He wills. Exalted is He, and wise. (42:51)
It is evident from the words of the above verse that divine revelation is not sent to a prophet in the form of an idea or thought; it is in the form of words which he hears, understands and preserves. These words and their style are however something which a prophet is already familiar with so that they are not incomprehensible and alien to him. It is for this very reason that both the words and meanings of a revelation are specific to a prophet depending upon his circumstances and abilities.
(Translated by Mr Shehzad Saleem)
.The Qur’an, 28:29-30.