The Miracle of the Revelation
Undoubtedly, the greatest miracle that was granted to the Prophet Muhammad (saas) was Allah's revelation of the Qur'an to him. The Prophet (saas) was chosen by Allah to impart His message to mankind. This was a great responsibility, as the Qur'an outlines:
You who are enwrapped in your clothing! Stay up at night, except a little, half of it, or a little less, or a little more, and recite the Qur'an distinctly. We will impose a weighty Word upon you. Certainly rising at night has a stronger effect and is more conducive to concentration. In the daytime much of your time is taken up by business matters. Remember the Name of your Lord, and devote yourself to Him completely. (Surat al-Muzzammil: 1-8)
The first revelation came soon after Muhammad (saas) began seeing the true dreams. It was because of these dreams that he had started to retreat to Ghar Hira' (the cave of Hira') on Jabal an-Nur (the Mountain of Light) about twelve kilometres from Makkah. While he was alone in the cave during the month of Ramadan, when the Prophet (saas) was forty years of age, the angel Jibril appeared to him and asked him to recite. These events are fully described in the hadith:
Aisha narrated: The first thing with which the revelation began for the Messenger of Allah (saas) was correct dreams in sleep. He never saw a dream but that it came like the breaking of the dawn. He used to go in seclusion to (the cave of) Hira' where he used to worship (Allah alone) continuously for many nights. He used to take provision with him for that (stay) and then like-wise come back to Khadijah to take his food again for another period. Then suddenly the Truth descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hira'. The angel came to him in it and asked him to read.
The Prophet replied, 'I do not know how to read.' (The Prophet added), 'The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it anymore. He then released me and again asked me to read, and I replied, "I do not know how to read," whereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it anymore. He then released me and asked me again to read, but again I replied, "I do not know how to read (or, what shall I read?)." Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me and then released me and said, "Read: In the Name of your Lord, Who has created. Has created man from a clot. Read and Your Lord is Most Generous … that which he knew not." (Surat al-'Alaq: 1-5)' Then Allah's Messenger returned with it… (Al-Bukhari)
There are also a number of verses in the Qur'an that describe the Prophet (saas)'s encounter with Jibril and the revelation of the Qur'an to him:
Your companion is not misguided or misled; nor does he speak from whim. It is nothing but Revelation revealed, taught him by one immensely strong. Possessing power and splendour. He stood there stationary – there on the highest horizon. Then he drew near and hung suspended. He was two bow-lengths away or even closer. Then He revealed to His slave what He revealed. His heart did not lie about what he saw. What! Do you dispute with him about what he saw? (Surat an-Najm: 2-12)
According to some interpretations of the Qur'an, these verses refer to the revelation of the Qur'an, however, some other interpretations take these verses to refer to the Mi'raj (ascent through the heavens).
Several other verses attest to the fact that it was Jibril who delivered the Qur'an from Allah to the Prophet (saas). In these verses Jibril is also referred to as 'The Purest Ruh' or 'The Faithful Ruh.'
Say: 'Anyone who is the enemy of Jibril should know that it was he who brought it down upon your heart, by Allah's authority, confirming what came before, and as guidance and good news for the believers.' (Surat al-Baqarah: 97)
Say: 'The Purest Ruh has brought it down from your Lord with truth, to make those who have iman firm, and as guidance and good news for the Muslims.' (Surat an-Nahl: 102)
Truly it is revelation sent down by the Lord of all the worlds. The Faithful Ruh brought it down to your heart so you would be one of the Warners. (Surat ash-Shu'ara': 192-194)
This last verse shows that the Qur'an was revealed right to the heart of the Prophet (saas). This was a mercy from Allah to the Prophet (saas) as Allah says in the Qur'an:
But [We allowed the revelation to remain and endure] as a mercy from your Lord. His favour to you is indeed immense. (Surat al-Isra': 87)
You did not expect to be given the Book. It is nothing but a mercy from your Lord… (Surat al-Qasas: 86)
After the first verses were revealed, there is a tradition that the revelations to the Prophet (saas) ceased for a certain time. The hadith tell us that, when the revelations resumed, the next set of verses received were the first verses of Surat al-Muddaththir:
You who are enveloped in your cloak! Arise and warn. Magnify your Lord. (Surat al-Muddaththir: 1-3)
After receiving these verses, the Prophet (saas) obeyed this command from Allah and assumed his responsibility of proclaiming the revelation. The Prophet (saas) continued to receive Divine Revelation from this time until his death, twenty-three years later.
The State of the Prophet (saas) While He was
There are descriptions in the hadith of what it was like for the Prophet (saas) to receive revelation. For example, when the revelations came, those present with the Prophet (saas) report that they heard a sound like the buzzing of bees. Some sources say that there was a sound like a bee buzzing around the Prophet (saas)'s face. A number of hadith describe the state of the Prophet (saas) while he was receiving revelation.
Aisha narrated: Al-Harith ibn Hisham asked the Prophet (saas), 'How does the revelation come to you?' He replied, 'In all of that the angel comes to me, sometimes with a voice that resembles the sound of a ringing bell, and when this state abandons me, I remember what the angel has said, and this type of revelation is the hardest on me; and sometimes the angel comes to me in the shape of a man and talks to me, and I understand and remember what he says.' (Al-Bukhari)
Aisha narrated: 'I saw the Prophet (saas) receiving revelation on a very cold day and noticed the sweat dropping from his forehead.' (Al-Bukhari and At-Tirmidhi)
Zayd ibn Thabit narrated: 'I wrote the revelations from Allah to the Prophet (saas). When the revelation came to him he felt a great weariness and had beads of sweat like pearls. When the state of revelation ended he recited, and I would write.' (At-Tabarani) 1
Abu Hurayrah narrated: 'When the revelation came from Allah to the Prophet (saas) it was as if he had fainted.' (Abu Nu'aym) 2
The Qur'an was Revealed to the Heart of
the Prophet (saas)
Allah revealed the Qur'an in stages over a period of twenty-three years, right to the heart of the Prophet Muhammad (saas):
Those who are kafir say, 'Why was the Qur'an not sent down to him all in one go?' It is so that We can fortify your heart by it. We have recited it distinctly little by little. (Surat al-Furqan: 32)
Throughout the period of revelation, Allah supported His Prophet (saas) and helped him to impart His message correctly to people. Allah advised the Prophet (saas) about how to recite the Qur'an:
Do not move your tongue trying to hasten it. Its collection and recitation are Our affair. So when We recite it, follow its recitation. Then its explanation is Our concern. (Surat al-Qiyamah: 16-19)
High exalted be Allah, the King, the Real! Do not rush ahead with the Qur'an before its revelation to you is complete, and say: 'My Lord, increase me in knowledge.' (Surah Ta Ha: 114)
He also helped the Prophet (saas) to commit the verses to memory:
We will cause you to recite so that you do not forget. (Surat al-A'la: 6)
The ability of the Prophet (saas)'s to learn all the verses of the Qur'an in this way was another miracle that Allah gave to him. It made the da'wah work of the Prophet (saas) easier by his being able to recall the verses when he needed to:
We will ease you to the Easy Way. (Surat al-A'la: 8)
It was also Allah's way of protecting the Qur'an and ensuring that it could not be distorted or forgotten, a miracle that continues down to this day with the enormous numbers of people who commit the Qur'an to memory (huffaz).
Recite what has been revealed to you of your Lord's Book. No one can change His Words. You will never find any safe haven apart from Him. (Surat al-Kahf: 27)
1. As-Suyuti, Tahdhib al-khasa'is al-nabawiyyah al-kubra (The Awesome Characteristics of the Prophet [saas]), Iz Publication, Istanbul, 2003, p. 298
2. Ibid., p. 300