Effects of the Revelations

[2] `Ubadah ibn Samit (ra) reports that the Prophet experienced pain when the Revelation came down,1 and the face underwent a change.2According to another version: He bent down his face and so did his Companions. When the revelation was over, he lifted his head.3

Commentary

1. This was more remarkably noticed during the early years, although not dramatically less throughout the 23 years of revelation. The reason it seems, was his concern about its preservation, lest he should miss anything (Qari). It could be also from the apprehension that a command might come that his Ummah would find hard to bear (Qari from Turbishti).

2. That is, the hue of the face changed. It ashened (Nawawi).

3. Ibn Hajr points out that this was the situation when the angel did not come with the revelation but rather, the revelation came directly to his heart.

[3] Ibn `Abbas reports: The Prophet was the most generous of men; and he was the most generous in Ramadan1 when Jibril met him.2 He used to meet him every night of Ramadan when the two would recite the Qur’an to each other.3 It was then that the Prophet was more generous in spending in good causes than the winds let loose.4 

Commentary

1. Reports elaborate on the Prophet’s generosity by narrating that he freed prisoners in the month of Ramadan, bestowed everyone who asked, etc. And the lesson is that one has to be generous all the time, but more so, in the month of Ramadan, a month of thanks. Further, the Qur’an gave new life to the dead hearts while charity gave new life to the dying earth (Qari, slightly modified).

2. Allah’s generosity towards him of granting him the Qur’an and messengership, had to be matched by the Prophet with his generosity towards his Lord’s creations.

3. This leads us to conclude that recitation of the Qur’an is a more virtuous act than Dhikr.

4. The words, ‘winds let loose,’ are a beautiful way of saying how widely spread benefits of his generosity were and how fast they reached the beneficiaries (Al-Tibi, Qari, Ibn Hajr).

Kinds of Revelations

Several kinds of Revelations that the Prophets, and in particular our Prophet, experienced, have been reported. To mention a few:

1. Direct communication with Allah. Of this kind, we have no example to offer from our own Prophet. Scholars have generally cited the case of Musa (asws) about whom Allah said: “He spoke to Musa, directly” (4: 164). That happened at Mount Tur.

2. Allah speaking from behind a curtain, such as when Allah spoke to the Prophet at the time of the Night Journey and Ascent (Laylatu al Isra’ wa al Mi`raj). Five-time daily Prayers were ordered then, and he was given there the last few verses of Surah al-Baqarah.

3. Allah should speak to the Prophet in his dream. One hadith, known as “Ikhtisam Mala’ al A`la” follows as an example.

4. An angel should come in the form of a human to convey the message in words, e.g. the first revelation in the Hira Cave; and the famous Hadith Jibril which follows.

5. An angel conveying the message into the heart without he taking a human form and without the ear hearing it. Several examples are being offered here.

6. An angel should appear in the very form in which he has been created: this happened twice: once, during the early days of Prophethood and a second time near Sidratu al-Muntaha’.

7. Messages revealed in sleep. For example, Ibrahim being shown in sleep that he is slaughtering Isma`il and our Prophet being told in sleep that he will perform `Umrah, which came true a year later.

All in all, Halimi has said that there are forty-six types of Revelations that Prophets and Messengers received (Safiri). 

Two types of Revelations:

[4] Mother of the believers `Ai’sha1 (ra) narrates that Harith b. Hisham2 (ra) asked the Prophet (saws) saying, “Messenger of Allah. How does the Revelation come to you?” The Prophet answered, “Sometimes it comes to me like the clang3 of a bell – and it is the hardest upon me4 – so that when it draws to a close, I would have conserved whatever he said.5At other times an angel6 appears in the form of a man.7 He speaks to me and I preserve whatever he says.”8`A’isha added, “I have seen him when the Revelation was coming to him on a day of extreme cold. When it ceased, sweat would be streaming forth from his forehead.”9 

Commentary

1.`A’isha used to say, “I am the mother of your males and not your females,” meaning, the Ummhat al-Mu’mineen were mothers (of the males and females of this Ummah) in the sense of deserving respect, reverence and love, and that they could not be taken in marriage after the death of the Prophet, but in matters involving hijab, or journeying together, etc., they were not the mothers of the males of this Ummah as these affairs remained forbidden (Qastalani, reworded).

2. He was Abu Jahl’s brother who became Muslim at the fall of Makkah in 8th year after Hijrah. The Prophet gave him 100 camels after the Hunayn battle. He died a martyr during the Syrian campaigns in 15 AH (Qari, Qastalani).

3. The textual salsalah is the noise obtained when iron is clanged, for example, when an iron chain is rattled. Linguists have explained that it alludes to any rattling noise produced by iron, brass, or even hardened mud pot and the like. It has also been suggested that the allusion could be to the flapping of the angel’s wings. Some other versions mention the words, “like a clang against a rock.” The Prophet has similarly described the reaction of the angles in a hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah: “When Allah (swt) proclaims an affair in the heavens the angels flap their wings – scared from His Words – like chains’ beat on a rock (Ibn Hajr, Qari and others).

As to the question how the Prophet likened the coming of Revelation with the ringing of a bell which he disapproved, even if hung by the necks of camels, the answer is, he never used the word ‘ringing’ but rather clang. The allusion was to strength and not the music. And, it appears the strange sound was to gather together the entire attention of the Prophet so that he could listen in full attention (Ibn Hajr, paraphrased). The sound freed his ears and heart from paying attention to any other sound (Ibn Battal).

To paraphrase what Mulla `Ali Qari wrote: In sum it might be said that the actual experience of receiving the Revelation, being something that involved body and soul, was far from easy to detail out for a seeker. The Prophet was on a high level of spiritual realization, aware of many matters hidden from ordinary folk, filled with the knowledge of  ‘the Book,’ and cognizant of many things unknown to others, and so, opened up to the Ummah what was within reach of their understanding, such as, comparing the coming of the Revelation to the clangs of a bell that makes a lot of sound but conveys no meaning, (although it does create a mild sense of awe and expectation which can, sometimes, tremble the soul – Au.). Otherwise, a proper communication requires parity between student and tutor, which was to remain lacking.

4. That is, this kind of Revelation was hardest upon him (Qari). It can be deduced that the Revelations were not easy for him to receive, in simpler words, not enjoyable moments (Au.).

5. That is, ‘when it terminated, and the hard effect was gone, and I was by myself, I found that my heart and mind had preserved the words and sentences that were revealed.’

Nonetheless, another suggested meaning, in the light of another versions is: (it is not when Revelation ‘ceases,’ but rather), “when the pain of revelation leaves me.” Alternatively, “when the angel had left me…” (Qari)

6. The angel of mention here was Jibril. It was he alone who used to bring Revelations to the Prophet. It was him, he saw in the chair covering the horizon. Israfil, on the other hand, as mentioned in a report of Ahmed, had contacts with the Prophet during the first three years, speaking to him a word or two but never revealing. Subsequently, Jibril took over (Qari, Ibn Hajr and others).

7. Quite often the angel adopted the form of Dihya al Kalbi, a handsome Companion of the Prophet. He used to avoid women seeing him from fear they fall into obsession with him (Au).

As regards how an angel, being entirely spiritual, could personify in a human form, one might try to understand by imagining tufts of cotton spread over a large area gathered together and compressed (Ibn Hajr, reworded).

8. It may be noticed that at this time the Prophet spoke of only two types of Revelations, perhaps because these were the most frequent types, more important ones, and specific to him while other types of Revelations – e.g. true dreams – are shared by others.

9. The textual “jabeen” refers to the left and right side of the forehead (Qari). In that situation the Prophet was closer to the spiritual state in which angels are, having dissolved his physical being into the new state, which caused him great physical stress resulting in the profuse sweating that has been reported (ShamsuddinSafiri).

Profuse sweating again demonstrates that receiving theRevelation involved physical, mental and spiritual exertions – in contrast to poetical trances, which are entirely enjoyable, even as poetical lines ease out; and, as Qastalani adds, it explains why the Revelation came down in parts and pieces (Au.).