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Muhammad's first revelation

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This is a sub-article to Muhammad before Medina


Muhammad's first revelation is the event in which Muhammad is said to have been visited by the angel Gabriel and revealed to him the Qur'an. It was after this event that Muhammad proclaimed to be a Prophet of Allah.


According to tradition, when Muhammad was nearly 40, he had been prone to spending long hours in retirement meditating and speculating over the aspects of creation around him; this meditative temperament was said to have helped to widen the mental gap between him and his compatriots. He would provide himself with simple food and water, and then head directly for the hills and ravines in the neighborhood of Mecca. One of these in particular was his favorite resort — a cave named Hira, in the Mount An-Nur. Only 2 miles from Mecca, it was a small cave 4 yards long and 1.75 yards wide.

He would always go there and invite wayfarers to share his modest provisions. He used to devote most of his time, and Ramadaan in particular, to ponder on the universe around him. His heart was restless about what he considered to be the moral evils and idolatry that were rampant among his people[1]; he was as yet helpless because no definite course, or specific approach had been available for him to change the practices around him.

The First of the Revelations

He had thus entered himself into a period of privacy which lasted three years during which (while he was 40 years old) he reportedly began to experience visions for six months. In Ramadan, in his third year of solitude in the cave of Hira, the Qur'an began to be revealed to him in several parts.

As for the exact date, careful investigation into circumstantial evidence and relevant clues point directly to Monday, Ramadan 21 at night, that is, August 10, 610 CE, with Prophet Muhammad exactly 40 years, 6 months and 12 days of age, that is, 39 Gregorian years, 3 months and 22 days .

Muhammad's wife Aisha bint Abu Bakr later gave the following narration of that most significant event in the Muhammad's life:

"Forerunners of the Revelation assumed the form of true visions that would strikingly come true all the time. After that, solitude became dear to him and he would go to the cave, Hira, to engage in devotion there for a certain number of nights before returning to his family, and then he would return for provisions for a similar stay. At length, unexpectedly, the Truth (the angel) came to him and said, "Recite." "I cannot recite," he (Muhammad) said.

Muhammad himself described: "Then he took me and squeezed me vehemently and then let me go and repeated the order 'Recite.' 'I cannot recite' said I, and once again he squeezed me and let me till I was exhausted. Then he said, 'Recite.' I said, 'I cannot recite.' He squeezed me for a third time and then let me go and said:

Arabic Text: بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِ
Translation: In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

Arabic Text: اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ
Translation: Read: In the name of thy Lord Who createth Quran: 96:1

Arabic Text: خَلَقَ الْإِنسَانَ مِنْ عَلَقٍ
Translation: Createth man from a clot. Quran: 96:2

Arabic Text: اقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ الْأَكْرَمُ
Translation: Read: And thy Lord is the Most Bounteous, Quran: 96:3

Arabic Text: الَّذِي عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ
Translation: Who teacheth by the pen, Quran: 96:4

Arabic Text: عَلَّمَ الْإِنسَانَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ
Translation: Teacheth man that which he knew not. Quran: 96:5

Cave Hira

The Cave of Hira where Muhammad would meditate

Muhammad repeated these verses, trembling with fear. At this stage, he came back to his wife Khadijah, and said, "Cover me, ... cover me." They covered him until he restored security. He apprised Khadijah of the incident of the cave and added that he was horrified. His wife tried to soothe him and reassured him saying, "Allah will never disgrace you. You unite uterine relations; you bear the burden of the weak; you help the poor and the needy, you entertain the guests and endure hardships in the path of truthfulness."

She set out with Muhammad to her cousin Waraqah ibn Nawfal, who had embraced Christianity in the pre-Islamic period, and used to write the Bible in Hebrew; he was now old and blind. Khadijah said: "My cousin! Listen to your nephew!" Waraqa said: "O my nephew! What did you see?" When Muhammad told him what had happened to him, Waraqa replied: "This is ‘Namus’ i.e. (the angel who is entrusted with Divine Secrets) that Allah sent to Moses. I wish I were younger. I wish I could live up to the time when your people would turn you out." Muhammad asked: "Will they drive me out?" Waraqa answered in the affirmative and said: "Anyone who came with something similar to what you have brought was treated with hostility; and if I should be alive till that day, then I would support you strongly." A few days later Waraqa died, and the revelation also paused for a while.[2]


At-Tabari and Ibn Hisham reported that Muhammad left the cave of Hira after being surprised by the Revelation, but later on, returned to the cave and continued his solitude. Subsequently, he returned to Mecca. At-Tabari reported on this incident, saying:

After mentioning the coming of the Revelation, the Messenger of Allah said: "I have never abhorred anyone more than a poet or a mad man. I can not 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. He went down to Mecca and came back while I was standing in the same place. Gabriel then left, and I went back home. I found Khadijah at home, so I sat very close to her. She asked: ‘Father of Al-Qasim! Where have you been? I sent someone to look for you. He went to Mecca and returned to me.’ I told her of what I had seen. She replied: ‘It is a propitious sign, O my husband. Pull yourself together, I swear by Allah that you are a Messenger for this nation.’ Then she stood up and went to Waraqa and informed him. Waraqa said: ‘I swear by Allah that he has received the same Namus, i.e. angel that was sent to Moses. He is the Prophet of this nation. Tell him to be patient.’ She came back to him and told him of Waraqa’s words. When the Messenger of Allah finished his solitary stay and went down to Makkah, he went to Waraqa, who told him: ‘You are the Prophet of this nation. I swear by Allah that you have received the same angel that was sent to Moses.’"[3][4]


  1. Pre-Islamic Arabia
  2. Sahih Bukhari 1/2,3
  3. At-Tabari 2/207; Ibn Hisham 1/237,238]
  4. The Sealed Nectar

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