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Part of a series on the Qur'an Quran cover

Mus'haf

Sura · Ayah

Qur'an reading

Tajwid · Hizb · Tarteel · Qur'anic guardian · Manzil · Qari' · Juz' · Rasm · Ruku' · Sujud ·

Translations

List

Origin and development

Meccan revelations · Medinan revelations

Tafsir

Persons related to verses · Justice · Asbab al-nuzul · Naskh · Biblical narratives · Tahrif · Bakkah · Muqatta'at · Esoteric interpretation

Qur'an and Sunnah

Literalism · Miracles · Science · Women

Views on the Qur'an

Shi'a · Criticism · Desecration · Surah of Wilaya and Nurayn · Tanazzulat · Qisas Al-Anbiya · Beit Al Qur'an


Wahy (Arabic: وحيwaḥy) is the Arabic word for revelation. In Islamic context, it refers to the revelations of God (Arabic: Allah) to his prophets, for all humankind. In Islam, the Qur'an is considered a wahy given to Muhammad.

Awha

The word awha (أوحى awḥá) occurs in a number of shades of meaning in the Qur'an, each of them indicating the main underlying idea of directing or guiding someone. The word 'wahy' (revelation) is derived from awha.

Description of Wahy

Muhammad is reported to have had mysterious seizures at the moments of inspiration. Welch, a scholar of Islamic studies, in Encyclopaedia of Islam states that the graphic descriptions of Muhammad's condition at these moments may be regarded as genuine, since they are unlikely to have been invented by later Muslims. According to Welch, these seizures should have been the most convincing evidence for the superhuman origin of Muhammad's inspirations for people around him. Muhammad's enemies however accused him as one possessed, a soothsayer, or a magician since these experiences made an impression similar to those soothsayer figures well known in ancient Arabia. Welch states it remains uncertain whether Muhammad had such experiences before he began to see himself as a prophet and if so how long did he have such experiences. [1]

Scholarly views

According to Rudi Paret, "The accusation of dishonesty which has been laid down against the Prophet time and again over the centuries up to the most recent times with varying degrees of vehemence is relatively easy to refute." Annemarie Schimmel states that most recent studies of Muhammad indicate that Muhammad devoutly believed that he was God's instrument. William Montgomery Watt argues that only Muhammad's sincerity can explain his "readiness to endure hardship and persecution during the Meccan period when from a secular point of view there was no prospect of success.[2] To carry on in the face of persecution and hostility would have been impossible for him unless he was fully persuaded that God had sent him.[3] "

William Montgomery Watt presents the following possibilities for the sources of Qur'an: [4],

Sometimes he [Muhammad] may have heard the words being spoken to him, but for most part he seems simply to have "found them in his heart". Whatever the precise "manner of revelation"-and several different 'manners' were listed by Muslim scholars- the important point is that the message was not the product of Muhammad's conscious mind. He believed he could easily distinguish between his own thinking and these revelations. His sincerity in this belief must be accepted by the modern historian, for this alone makes credible the development of a great religion. The further question, however, whether the messages came from Muhammad's unconscious, or the collective unconscious functioning in him, or from some divine source, is beyond the competence of the historian.

According to historian Welch,

The really powerful factor in Muḥammad's life and the essential clue to his extraordinary success was his unshakable belief from beginning to end that he had been called by God. A conviction such as this, which, once firmly established, does not admit of the slightest doubt, exercises an incalculable influence on others. The certainty with which he came forward as the executor of God's will gave his words and ordinances an authority that proved finally compelling.[5]

A number of Western historians have addressed the question of whether Muhammad was sincere when he reported receiving revelations. Around a hundred years ago, Thomas Carlyle in his lectures, "On Heroes", vigorously defended Muhammad arguing that one can only accuse him of insincerity if one fails to understand Islam and its worldwide success. [2] Carlyle's view has been increasingly influential ever since and contemporary historians tend to say that as far as can be ascertained Muhammad did believe that he was hearing the word of God. [4][6]

Watt notes that "To say that Muhammad was sincere does not imply that he was correct in his beliefs. A man maybe sincere but mistaken. The modern Westerner has not difficulty in showing how Muhammad may have been mistaken. What seems to a man to come from 'outside himself' may actually come from his unconscious."[7]

Notes

  1. Encyclopedia of Islam online, Muhammad article
  2. 2.0 2.1 Watt, Muhammad the prophet and the statesman, p.232
  3. Watt, Muhammad the prophet and the statesman, p.17
  4. 4.0 4.1 Cambridge History of Islam, p.31
  5. Encyclopedia of Islam, Muhammad
  6. Annemarie Schimmel, Mystische Dimensionen des Islam, München, 1995, pp.51-2.
  7. Watt, Muhammad Prophet and Statesman, p.17

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