In fact the history of Islam commences basically from the day the Holy Prophet was appointed to the prophetic mission and brings a chain of incidents in its wake. The day the Holy Prophet was entrusted the task of guiding the people and the words "You are the Messenger of Allah" were ringing in his ears, he assumed an onerous responsibility -the same great responsibility which was shouldered by all previous Prophets.
On that day the policy of the 'honest one' of Quraysh became clearly known and his aim became more obvious. Before narrating the first incidents of the Prophethood of Muhammad it is essential that we should explain the following two matters
1. Necessity for the appointment of Prophets.
2. Influence of Prophets on the reformation of society.
The Almighty Allah has infused means of development and perfection in the nature of every being and has equipped it with various facilities for traversing the path to perfection. Just cast a glance at a small plant. A large number of factors are active for its perfection. The roots of the plant operate to the maximum extent to provide it with the nutritious material and meet all its needs, and the various vessels distribute equitably the alimentary juice among all its branches and leaves.
Look at a flower, whose structure is more wonderful than that of other vegetables. The bowl of the flower performs the duty of covering the surface of the buds and of protecting the petals and corolla of the flower.
Similar is the case with the remaining mechanisms of the flower, all of which have been appointed for the nourishment of an animate being and perform their duty in the best possible manner. And if you take a step forward and cast a glance at the astonishing structure of the animal world you will see the factors which make them reach the bounds of perfection exist with them.
If we wish to state this matter in scientific terms we would say that intuition for existence, which is a universal blessing of the mechanism of nature, has been endowed upon all created things. The Holy Qur'an has explained this real guidance in theses words: "He created every being and taught it how to live".
All creatures, right from the atom upto the great galaxies of the universe, have had their share of this common blessing. After taking complete measurement the Almighty has indicated the path of their gradual perfection and development and has specified factors for the training and evolution of everyone. And this is the very 'general guidance for existence' which rules the entire creation of the Universe without any exception.
However, the question arises whether this natural urge for existence is sufficient also for that creature, which is the pick of the basket. Certainly not. The reason for this is that man also possesses, besides his material life, another life which is the very base of his existence. If a man had to live only a material and brainless life, like the fauna and flora, the material factor would have been sufficient for his speed, advancement and perfection. As, however, he happens to have two kinds of life; the secret of his prosperity and exaltation lies in the perfection of both of them.
The first simple human being, who lived in caves and possessed a pure nature, and in whose natural disposition not the least deviation had taken place, did not need as much training as is required by the social man.
However, when man takes a step forward and transforms his life into a collective one and the idea of co-operation is firmly rooted in his life and dominates it, deviations, which are incidental to social collisions and contacts, appear in his soul and bad habits and wrong ideas replace the pivot of natural thinking and upset the equilibrium and balance of the society.
These deviations make the Creator of the world send educators to adjust the society and to reduce the evils which are the direct result of men living collectively, so that they may, with luminous torches and just laws, lead the society to the right path, which ensures all-round prosperity of the people.
It goes without saying that living collectively, notwithstanding its being useful, also carries some evils in its lap and brings about numerous deviations. For this reason the Almighty Allah has sent preceptors so that they may, as far as possible, diminish deviations and perverseness and put the wheels of the society on the right track by introducing clear laws. 1
Usually it is imagined that the Prophets are divine teachers who are appointed to educate the people. People learn in the school of the Prophets and their social ways and manners are directed towards gradual perfection in a direction parallel with the teachings of those noble beings. It is just like a boy who learns a good deal during the course of his studies in the primary school, the middle school, the college and the university and moves forward, day after day, althoough on the first day he did not have the least impression of these teachings on his mind.
Similarly the people receive knowledge from the school of the Prophets, and side by side with their learning from the Prophets, their manners and social ways gain perfection. We, however, feel that the Prophets are the instructors of the people. Their business and duty is to train them and not to educate them and that the basis of their religion and laws vis-a-vis natural perception is not something fresh or a new present. And if nature had not deviated and if ignorance and avarice had not overtaken it, it would have perceived the essence of the Divine law.
Of course, what has been said above has been based on the words of the great leaders of Islam. Imam Ali, the Commander of the Faithful says thus in Nahjul Balaghah about the aim of the Prophets: "He selected Prophets from amongst the descendants of Adam and obtained a promise from them to convey the revelations to the people and to spread the mission with which they had been entrusted. He sent them to demand from the people to fulfil their natural promise and recollect the forgotten blessings. Moreover, by their preachings they (the Prophets) should present the people with an ultimatum and to ask them to extract the gems of wisdom which have remained hidden in the treasures of their nature".
When we assert that the duty performed by the Prophets in the matter of training and reformation of the people is the same as performed by the gardener with regard to the rearing of a plant or when we say that for guiding the people and opening their natural perceptions, the Prophets are like a minerologist who extracts precious minerals from the core of the mountains, we do not say something extravagant.
It may be explained in this way: From the very first stage of the formation of its nucleus a plant possesses every kind of capacity for development, growth and maturity. As soon as this plant begins to become active with the strengthening of its roots, the operation of different pharmaceutical mechanisms in open air and the acquisition of sufficient light, a movement appears in its entire being. At this stage the gardener is required to do two things.
Firstly he has to make necessary conditions available for the strengthening of roots so that the latent vigour of the plant should develop. Secondly he has to restrain the deviations, so that as and when the internal energy of the plant takes a step, which prevents its thriving he should clip it. Hence it is not for the gardener to cause the plant to grow. On the contrary his duty is to provide and ensure necessary conditions so that the plant should divulge its latent perfection.
The Creator or the Universe created man and endowed him with numerous innate energies and tendencies. He moulded his (man's) natural disposition with the light of monotheism and the worship of the Almighty as well as with the sense of equity, justice and compassion and the instinct of work and effort. These seeds begin growing automatically in the heart of man.
However, his social life brings about deviations in him. The instinct of work and effort assumes the shape of greed and avarice, the love for prosperity and life appears in the guise of selfishness and ambition, and the light of monotheism and His worship assumes the garb of idolatry.
In such circumstances the Messengers of Allah provide man with the light of revelation and the programme containing true conditions for growth and development, and balance the deviations and transgressions of instincts.
As you have observed, the Commander of the Faithful has said "At the time of the commencement of creation the Creator obtained a promise which is called the 'promise of creation' or the 'testament of creation and nature'.
What is the object of this promise of creation? Its object is that the Almighty Allah, after giving the people hundreds of useful instincts and by mixing with their disposition scores of decent manners, took a natural promise from them that they would follow good instincts and morals.For example, His giving the eyes to man amounts to a sort of taking promise from him that he would not fall in a well.
Similarly giving the sense of recognition of Allah and that of doing justice etc. amounts to obtaining a promise from him that he would be pious and just. The duty of the Prophets is that they should persuade the people to act according to the testament of existence and to tear asunder the inauspicious veil which is put over his nature. It is for this reason that it is said that the foundation of heavenly religions is shaped by natural matters.
You might say that man is like a mountain which has precious stones and gold atoms hidden in it, just as virtues, knowledge and morals are hidden in human nature in different shapes. When the Prophets and the spiritualists look minutely into the mountain of our soul they find that it has been kneaded into a number of high qualities and pure mentality and sentiments.
Then they turn it back to the exigencies of nature by means of their teachings and programmes. They remind it the commandments of nature and conscience. They invite the attention of man to the qualities and the personality which is hidden within himself.
The Hira mountain is situated in the north of Makkah and one can reach its summit within half an hour. The surface at this mountain consists of slabs of black stone and no signs of life are found in it. In its northern point there is a cave which can be approached by man after crossing the stones. Its height is about as much as the stature of a man. Sunlight penetrates into a part of this cave and its remaining part is always dark.
However. this very cave is a witness to such incidents about its close friend that even today people hasten to it with an ardent desire to hear about these incidents from its mute language and to reach its threshold, after undergoing many hardships, so as to enquire from it about the incident of 'revelation', as well as about a part of the life history of that great benefactor of mankind. And the cave also replies in its mute language:
"This is the place of worship by the honourable one of Quraish. Before he attained to the office of prophethood he spent here many days and many nights. He had selected this spot, which was away from uproar, for the purpose of prayers and worship. He spent the entire month of Ramadan here, and at other times also he took asylum in this locality every now and then. So much so that his dear wife knew that as and when he did not come home he must be busy in prayers on the mountain of Hira. And when she sent people after him they found him meditating and praying at this place".
Before he attained to the office of prophethood he used to reflect much upon two matters:
1. He studied thoroughly the book of existence and observed the luminositv, power and workmanship of Allah in the features of every existing thing. By conducting deep study of the skies and the stars and prudently considering the creatures on earth he was approaching nearer to his target day after day.
2. He meditated upon the onerous responsibility which, he knew, he had to shoulder. With all the corruption and deterioration of the human society of the that day, he did not consider its reformation to be something impossible. However, the enforcement of reformatory programme, too, was not devoid of difficulties and hardship. Hence, he observed the tumultuous life of the Makkans and the voluptuousness of Quraysh and reflected upon the ways and means of their reformation.
He wondered at the people worshipping the lifeless and ineffective idols and showing humility before them and signs of discomfort appeared in his face. However, as he had not been ordained to mention the realities, he refrained from pointing them out to those people.
An angel was appointed by Allah to recite a few verses to the 'honest one' of Quraysh by way of prelude and introduction to the Book of guidance and welfare, so as to bestow honour upon him by providing him with the garment of prophethood. The angel was the Archangel Jibreel himself and the particular day was the day of Muhammad's appointment to the office of prophethood. We shall speak about the determination of that day later.
There is no doubt about the fact that to confront an angel requires special preparedness. Unless the soul of a person is great and strong, he cannot bear the burden of prophethood, nor can he endure a meeting with an angel. The 'honest one' of Quraysh had acquired such preparedness by means of prolonged prayers, excessive meditations and the blessings of Allah, and as stated by numerous writers of 'Seerah', the Prophet saw, even before his appointment to the prophetic mission, dreams and visions, which were really as clear as daylight.
After some time the most delightful hours for him were those during which he prayed in seclusion. His days were passing in this manner till, on the particular day, an angel paced a tablet by his side and said: 'Recite'. And the Prophet on account of the fact that he was unlettered and had not learnt to read and write, replied that he was unable to read. The Archangel Jibreel pressed him severely and then asked him to recite.
However, he repeated the same reply. The angel again pressed him severely. This action was repeated thrice and after the third pressure he suddenly felt within himself that he could read the writing on the tablet held by the angel. He then read the following verses which are infact reckoned to be the introduction of the Book of human welfare:
Recite in the name of your Lord who created (all things).
He created man from a clot of blood! Recite, your Lord is the Most Bountiful One, Who by the pen taught man what he did not know. (Surah al-Alaq, 96 1- 5 )
Archangel Jibreel accomplished his assignment and after the revelation the Prophet also descended the mountain of Hira and proceeded towards Khadijah's house. 2
The above verses clearly indicate the programme of the Holy Prophet in a nutshell, and tell in obvious terms that the foundation of his religion is provided by recitation and reading, learning and wisdom and use of pen.
The ever-increasing development of natural sciences has taken away from many scholars the power of going deep into some spiritual matters which are beyond the limits of the pen and the natural sciences and has bounded the light of their thinking. They imagine that this material world is the only world and anything other than matter is nothing. According to them everything not linked with material laws is fictitious and false.
It goes without saying that these scholars do not possess the least evidence about the non-existence of the other work from which revelation and inspiration emanate. All that they say is this "Experimentation, perception and natural science, do not guide us to this (i.e., the other world) and do not provide us with information about its existence.
For example, while denying the existence of the abstract soul, they say "Such a being is not seen under the knife of our own analysis and the trace of such beings is not found in our laboratories under the microscope and consequently, as our present tools do not guide us to them, they must not necessarily have an external existence "
This way of thinking is very limited, defective and mixed with vanity, whereby 'non-existence' has been concluded or account of 'lack of consciousness' and, as the tools available with the materialists do not extend to the realities in which those scholars believe who worship Allah, they (materialists) infer that they are all baseless.
There is no doubt about the fact that the materialists have not been able to realise the truth of what the religious scholars hold even in regard to the existence of the Creator, not to speak of other metaphysical matters. And it appears that if the two groups undertake discussions in a suitable atmosphere, free from spite and prejudice, the distance between materialism and Divinity will vanish quickly and the differences which have divided the scholars into two groups will disappear.
Those who worship Allah have adduced scores of proofs regarding the existence of the Almighty and have proved that these very natural sciences have guided them towards the Omnipotent and the wonderful system which governs the interior and the exterior of all beings is in itself a clear proof of the existence of its Creator. All things in the Universe, right from the Milky Way upto an atom, are advancing in accordance with a chain of regular laws and it is not at all possible that a blind and deaf nature should originate and establish such a wonderful system.
And it is this very argument of the 'good order of the Universe' which is the basis of scores of books and pamphlets published by the religious scholars. And as this argument is understandable and utilisable by different classes, most of the writings of a general nature have been based on it and everyone has relied on it in one way or the other.
As regards other arguments which are not of a general nature the same have been discussed in detail in philosophical and scholastic treatises. These books contain arguments and narrations regarding the abstract soul and metaphysics. We should like to refer to them in the following lines.
Belief in 'soul' is one of the complicated and difficult problems which have attracted the attention of scholars. Those who want to subject everything to analysis have denied its existence and believe only in that soul which has a material aspect and works under the control of physical laws.
Existence of incorporeal spirit is one of the problems which has been studied minutely by those who worship the Almighty and believe in spiritual matters and they have adduced many proofs about the existence of such a non-material being which, if studied in a proper atmosphere, linked with perfect acquaintance with the principles of Divine reasoning, stand
totally vindicated. And whatever the godly scholars say about the angels, soul, revelation and inspiration is based on cogent and convincing arguments. 3
It is possible that those who wish to understand everything by means of practical testing and experimentation may refer to numerous writings published on the subject of hypnotism. One of the founders of this branch of knowledge was a German physician, Mesmer by name. It was two centuries ago that he originated this art and with the passage of time his views are being confirmed by the scholars.
He trained some such persons as were suited, on account of their temperament and mind, to be hypnotised (to go into a state resembling sleep). He was successful in hypnotising, in the presence of many scholars, the same persons on whom he had conducted experiments previously. He released their souls from their bodies and obtained, through the souls, information about past and future events. After two centuries this art is acquiring gradual perfection in different ways. After many experiments the scholars have concluded as under:
1. Besides the external perception and intellect man has also an internal perception and intellect, which is more extensive than the external one.
2. In the state of artificial sleep both the faculties can hear from afar, see behind a curtain and briefly give information about future events - events of which there is not the slightest outward sign.
3. By applying the laws of hypnotism it is possible to separate the soul of a person from his body so that the soul can see the inanimate body.
4. The system of the soul possesses an independence of a special type.
5. The soul does not cease to exist because of the decomposition and dispersion of different parts of the body.
The scholars have also drawn similar other conclusions. Even it we are not in a position to accept all these verdicts in their entirety, the compendium of these experiments, which have been conducted during the last two centuries and witnessed by many oriental and occidental scholars, confirms the existence genuineness and independence of soul - and that is the real object of this discussion. Those interested may study the details of these experiments in the relevant books.
Belief in inspiration is the foundation of all prophethoods and heavenly religions and it (inspiration) rests on a powerful abstract soul which is capable of receiving Divine knowledge either without any intermediary or through an angel. The sages have spoken thus about inspiration: "Inspiration means that the Almighty shows the true path to one of his chosen servants and imparts to him instruction in different branches of learning. This is, however, done in a mysterious and an unusual manner.
On account of the accomplishments possessed by soul it comes in touch with the spiritual world in different ways. Here we record a resume of what has been narrated on the subject by the leaders of Islam: 4
1. Sometimes the person concerned is informed about the heavenly truths by means of inspiration and whatever is suggested to his mind is tantamount to self-evident sciences wherein no doubt or suspicion is admissible.
2. He hears sentences and words from a corporeal object (i.e. a mountain or a tree), just as Allah spoke to Prophet Musa.
3. Realities are disclosed to him clearly in a state of vision.
4. An angel is commissioned by Allah to convey a particular commandment to him. The Holy Qur'an was communicated to the Holy Prophet in this manner, as it says clearly in chapter al-Shu'ara 26:192 - 195:
The faithful spirit (Jibreel) brought it (the Qur'an) down into your heart, that you might warn mankind in plain Arabic speech.
In order that the future generations may become acquainted with the particulars of the world-wide personalities, the writers as well as the friends and associates of those persons have recorded as far as they could the events of their lives. So much so that in order to complete their writings they also bear the hardships of journeys.
History does not know of any personality whose events of life should have been recorded like those of the Holy Prophet of Islam and whose friends and disciples should have preserved all the minute details of his life.
In the same way our attachment has assisted us in preserving the events and details of the life of the great Prophet of Islam and has been the cause of embellishment of the book of his life. Not to speak of wise enemies, this thing is also done by foolish friends.
Hence it is necessary for a person who writes the biography of a great man that he should observe care in analysing his life and should not ignore strict historical standards in weighing the events.
Now we come to the trail of the event of revelation.
The great soul of the Holy Prophet was illumined with the light of revelation. He recorded in his heart what he had heard from the angel (Jibreel). After this incident the same angel addressed him saying: "O Muhammad! You are the Messenger of Allah and I am Jibreel".
At times it is said that the Holy Prophet heard these words when he had descended the Hira mountain. These two occurrences frightened and agitated him to some extent. The cause of fear and agitation was that a great responsibility had been entrusted to him and he had, on that day, discerned the reality which he had been seeking for a long time.
However, this agitation of mind was natural to some extent and was not inconsistent with his faith about the truth which was communicated to him. Notwithstanding the fact that he was certain that what he had acquired was the message of Allah and he who had brought it was Jibreel, all his agitation was natural to a certain degree and was not out of place.
This is so because however strong a person's soul may be and to whatever extent he may be related to the mechanism of the occult and the spiritual world, when he faces, in the first instance, an angel, whom he has never seen before, and that too on the summit of a mountain, he is liable to experience such agitation, and that is why this agitation vanished later.
Agitation of mind and unusual weariness made him proceed to the house of Khadijah. When he entered the house his dear wife observed signs of deep reflection and anxiety in his face and asked him what the matter was. The Holy Prophet related to Khadijah what had happened and also added the sentence 'I felt afraid of myself'. 5
Khadijah looked at him with respect, prayed for him and comforted him by mentioning some of his good qualities. Amongst other things she said: 'You are kind to your kinsfolk, show hospitality to your guests and you are not afraid of bearing hardships in the right path. Allah will assist you'.
By narrating these qualities of the Holy Prophet Khadijah certainly intended to make him more hopeful about his success and advancement for the achievement of the object for which he had been commissioned. This fact can very well be confirmed by what she said.
Then the Holy Prophet felt fatigued. He, therefore, turned to Khadijah and said, "Cover me". Khadijah covered him and soon afterwards he fell asleep.
We have already referred to Waraqah in the foregoing pages and have mentioned that he was one of the sages of Arabia. It was a long time since he had embraced Christianity after studying the Injeel and was an eminent person in his own field. He was Khadijah's cousin.
The Holy Prophet's dear wife related to Waraqah what she had heard from her honourable husband. Waraqah, after hearing Khadijah, replied to his cousin: "Your cousin (i.e. the Holy Prophet) is a truthful man, and what he has met with is the commencement of prophethood and Jibreel has descended upon him".
The events, which we have so far mentioned, are extracts from historical narratives. These are the facts which have been related by successive writers and are found in all to history books. In the course of these narrations, however, we come across things which do not conform with those standards about Prophets which we have in hand.
Furthermore, they are also not compatible with those events of the life of that great man which we have studied so far. And that which we are going to place before you now should either be treated to be a part of the fiction of history or it must be explained away.
We are most surprised at the writing of Dr Haikal, the profound scholar of Egypt, who, inspite of the lengthy foreword penned by him in the introduction of his book wherein he has said that a group of persons have, on account of enmity or attachment, introduced falsehoods in the biography of the Holy Prophet, has also himself recorded matters which are decidedly incorrect, although some Shi'ah scholars, like the late Tabarsi, had given useful warnings in this regard. 6
We reproduce here some of these false stories (though it would not at all have been necessary to mention them if the ignorant friends or the cunning enemies had not published them in their books)
When the Holy Prophet entered Khadijah's house he was thinking that possibly his eyes had made a mistake or that he had become a soothsayer! Khadijah, however, dispelled his misgivings by saying that he was helpful to the orphans and kind to his kinsfolk! Then the Holy Prophet glanced at her gratefully and asked her to bring a blanket and cover him. 7
2. Tabari and other historians have written: "When he heard the words, "You are the Messenger of Allah", his entire frame began to tremble and he decided to throw himself down the mountain. In the meantime, however, the angel appeared and dissuaded him from doing so. 8
3. Afterwards Muhammad went for the circumambulation of the Ka'bah. There he met Waraqah bin Nawfal and narrated his story to him. Waraqah said: "By Allah! You are the Prophet of these people and the Archangel who used to come to Musa has descended upon you. Some of your people will refuse to admit your claim and will do you harm. They will turn you out of your city and will be at war with you". Muhammad felt that what Waraqah had said was correct! 9
We feel that all these stories are a part of the Israelite programme and have been coined by the Jews and introduced into history and Tafsir (exegesis).
Firstly, in order to evaluate these statements, we should look into the biographies of the previous Prophets. The Holy Qur'an has mentioned their activities, and detailed narratives have also come down regarding the events of their lives. We do not, however, come across a similar repulsive event in the life of anyone of them. The Holy Qur'an has narrated fully the story of the commencement of revelation to Prophet Musa and has clearly stated all the particulars of that event.
Nevertheless, it has not attributed such a fear, trembling and agitation of mind to him that, on hearing the Voice, he should become inclined to flinging himself down the mountain, although the possibility for Musa becoming afraid was more plausible, because he had heard a voice from a tree in the desert during a dark night and was thereby informed about his appointment to the office of Prophet.
As explained by the Holy Qur'an, Musa remained quite calm at that moment. And when the Almighty asked him to throw away his rod and he did so at once, his fear was only on account of the rod, which had turned into a dangerous animal. Can it be said that Musa was peaceful and calm at the time of the commencement of revelation whereas the greatest of the Prophets became so much aghast at hearing the words of the angel that he wished to throw himself down the summit of the mountain? Would it be wise to say so?
It is an admitted fact that so long as the soul of a person is not ready in all respects to receive the Divine secrets (i.e. Prophethood) the Wise Lord does not elevate him to the office of Prophet, because the object of raising Prophets is that they should guide mankind.
How can a person impress the people when his sense of security and serenity is so limited that he should be ready to commit suicide on hearing the revelation or when it is broken or ceases. The scholars of 'Kalam' (scholastic theology) are unanimous that a Prophet should be free from all those things which become the cause of people remaining at a distance from him. In the circumstances can we accept these statements, which are by no means applicable to the greatest leader of mankind?
Secondly how did it happen that on hearing the Divine voice Musa became fully satisfied that it was from Allah and at once prayed to Allah that Harun might be appointed as his companion and helper, as he could speak more eloquently, but the chief of the Prophets remained in doubt for quite some time till Waraqah removed the doubt and indecision from his mind?
Thirdly it is an admitted fact that Waraqah was a Christian. However, when he wished to remove the agitation of mind and hesitation of the Holy Prophet he mentioned the name of Musa son of Imran only: "It is the very office to which Musa son of Imran was appointed''.10
Does this fact not itself testify that the hand of the Israelite story-tellers has been at work and they have concocted this story without paying any heed to the religion of its hero (Waraqah).
Besides all this, it may be said that such matters are not at all in conformity with the greatness and excellence of the Holy Prophet of Islam, of which we are aware. The writer of the book 'Hayat-i Muhammad' has been aware, to some extent, about the concoction of these stories. For this reason, therefore, he has at times quoted the above-mentioned matters with the preceding words: 'As it is said'.
The late Tabarsi, the great Shi 'ah scholar, had done justice to these matters in his Tafsir. 11 For further information, therefore, reference may be made to that book.