Thursday, May 17, 2012

Muhammad The Intelligent Prophet: The Apprehension of His Mission

When the Archangel Gabriel (Jibril) visited Muhammad the first time in the Cave of Hira, he did not know what had happened.  Awfully confused and terrified, he rushed back to his house.  Shaken, he asked his wife to wrap a blanket over him.  His facial expression was like someone who had just seen a ghost, a terrible ghost we may add. 
After he managed to compose himself, he said: “What is wrong with me.”

His loving wife asked him to relate what had happened.  When he had finished relating the "terrifying" experience, he said: “I fear that something may happen to me.”

His wife Khadija did not know any better what had struck his beloved husband.  But as someone who knew her husband inside out, she remained composed and said:  “Never! But have the glad tidings, for by Allah, Allah will never disgrace you as you keep good reactions with your Kith and kin, speak the truth, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guest generously and assist the deserving, calamity-afflicted ones.”

To find out what had happened, she brought her husband to see her cousin, Waraqa bin Nawfal.  We have related the story of Waraqa in our series, The Story of Four Hunafa

After listening to the story, Waraqa said, "This is the same Namus (i.e., 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."

Surprised at the answer, Muhammad asked, "Will they turn me out?"

Waraqa replied in the affirmative and said: "Never did a man come with something similar to what you have brought but was treated with hostility. If I should remain alive till the day when you will be turned out then I would support you strongly."

The story as we narrate above, taken from Sahih Bukhari Volume 9, Book 87, Number 111, continues:

But after a few days Waraqa died and the Divine Inspiration was also paused for a while and the Prophet became so sad as we have heard that he intended several times to throw himself from the tops of high mountains and every time he went up the top of a mountain in order to throw himself down, Gabriel would appear before him and say, "O Muhammad! You are indeed Allah's Apostle in truth" whereupon his heart would become quiet and he would calm down and would return home. 

Along the same domain, the famous Tabari narrated that, at the beginning of revelation, Muhammad the Prophet used to say:

"I have never abhorred anyone more than a poet or a mad man. I cannot stand looking at either of them. I will never tell anyone of Quraish of my Revelation. I will climb a mountain and throw myself down and die. That will relieve me. I went to do that but halfway up the mountain, I heard a voice from the sky saying ‘O Muhammad! You are the Messenger of Allah and I am Gabriel.’ I looked upwards and saw Gabriel in the form of a man putting his legs on the horizon. He said: ‘O Muhammad You are the Messenger of Allah and I am Gabriel.’ I stopped and looked at him. His sight distracted my attention from what I had intended to do. I stood in my place transfixed. I tried to shift my eyes away from him. He was in every direction I looked at. I stopped in my place without any movement until Khadijah sent someone to look for me. 

The enemies of Islam, especially among the Christians, have a field day over this story.  They posited that Muhammad had attempted suicide and therefore not fit to be a prophet.  To them, Muhammad was therefore no more than an impostor as foretold by Jesus.

Now, if you like to waste your time,  you may want to read what they write online, such as this one.

I personally don’t find it necessary to entertain the nonsense from the enemies of Islam.  But if you like, here is what one of our Muslim brothers responded to these nonsense.

The site given at the end of quotation attributed to Tabari is also useful for those who are interested in the issue.

Since the purpose of this series is to highlight some of the examples concerning the Prophet’s mandatory attributes, especially on his intelligence, as I have done in the previous two entries, it is from this angle that I would like to proceed.

As we know, Muhammad is known as al Ummi.  By that, it means that he is unlettered.  He is not illiterate as some people put it.  Unlettered simply means he cannot read and write, which is common to the Arabs during his time.  Illiterate, however, carries with it the connotation of being ignorant and uncultured.

Far from being ignorant and uncultured, Muhammad the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, is intelligent, wise, enlighten and highly cultured.  Even the enemies of Islam, or at least most of them, would vouch for that.  We need not say any further on this score.

As an intelligent, wise and enlighten individual, Muhammad comprehended the meaning of what had befallen on him in no time.  He was no doubt terrified and confused the first time the Archangel Gabriel came to him, but after the meeting with Waraqa, and upon contemplating the meaning of the event, understanding quickly dawn upon him.  With that understanding, came fear, especially since the second revelation did not come quickly.

Throughout his life thus far, he was known as al Amin, the Trustworthy.  People respected him highly.  No one talked ill of him.  But with the mission he was about to carry, people would fight him tooth and nail.  He would be accused as the trouble maker, the one who broke the ties among the community members.  He would be regarded as heretic, the one who tried to destroy what his community held dear.  He would be accused as a madman.

That prospect was not appealing for a man like him.  He did not like the kind of life his people were living, the idols they worshipped, the treatment of the elites upon the poor.  But Muhammad did not imagine himself to be the social reformer either.  Not until Archangel Gabriel came to him.  That realization gave him uneasy feeling, to put it very mildly. 

At the same time, after the first encounter with Gabriel, the revelation ceased to come, which compounded his uneasy feeling even further.  Waraqa had told him that he would be the much awaited Prophet, but the old cousin of Khadija died soon after.  He was beginning to believe what Waraqa had told him, but the second confirmation was not forthcoming.

The Archangel Gabriel had come to him, but other than asking him to recite a few verses, which says that Allah has created mankind from the blood clot, there was hardly anything else given to him.  Gabriel did not even tell him that he would be appointed as the Prophet.

What would his mission be?  How would he start it?  What shall he tell people?  What should he answer when they question him, or worse, accuse him of madness?  How should he react when they fight him tooth and nail?  These and many other troubling questions must have spun in his head.

As an intelligent, wise and enlighten man, he could see the trouble ahead.  How would he carry the monumental task if no guidance comes forth?

It was for this reason that he kept going to the same mountain, looking for confirmation.  He needed to feel reassured.  If ever he thought of throwing himself down the cliff, that would have been no more than a fleeting thought.  In a fleeting moment or two, he might have thought that such would be an easy way out.  By doing that, he would be rid of the great trouble laying ahead.

But a fleeting thought is not an indication of his weaknesses.  After all, like other human beings, Muhammad too is human, who will cry when overtaken by sadness, or angry when insulted, or feel the pain when beaten.

But to suggest that he went to the mountain to really commit suicide is above him.  He is too honorable and too pure to do such a thing. 

If truly Allah has selected him to be the Prophet with the mission that he did not seem to fancy in the first place, then he wanted to be at least assured of that.  He has yet to know the detail of his mission, or how he should go about it, but he could see that it is going to be monumental.   Waraqa had told him, but he needed an assurance from the Archangel Gabriel himself.

Comprehending the enormity of his mission, Muhammad went looking for the guidance at the place where the first revelation came to him.

It is from this angle that the story of his first revelation, and the subsequent events occurred to him, has to be understood. 

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