The Sunrise of Prophethood – The Seerah of Rasullullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) – Part Twenty-Two

When Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) reached the age of forty, as per his blessed habit, he continued to go to the cave of Hira to worship Allah Ta‘ala in seclusion. One day, while engaged in ibaadah, an angel appeared before him in the form of a human. The angel entered the cave and greeted him with salaam. This angel was none other than Hazrat Jibreel (‘alaihis salaam).

The angel said to him:



Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) replied:

مَا أَنَا بِقَارِئٍ

“I am unable to read!”

Explaining the incident, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) mentioned, “The angel embraced me so forcefully that there was no limit to my pain and difficulty. The angel then released me saying, “Read!” Yet again, I responded, “I am unable to read!”

Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) mentioned that Hazrat Jibreel (‘alaihis salaam) then embraced him a second time and asked him to read, upon which Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) gave the same answer saying, “I am unable to read.”

Hazrat Jibreel (‘alaihis salaam) then embraced him a third time and asked him to read. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) again responded, “I am unable to read!” Hazrat Jibreel (‘alaihis salaam) then recited the following verses, upon which Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) realized that it was these verses that Hazrat Jibreel (‘alaihis salaam) wanted him to read after him.

اِقۡرَاۡ بِاسۡمِ رَبِّکَ الَّذِیۡ خَلَقَ ۚ﴿۱﴾ خَلَقَ الۡاِنۡسَانَ مِنۡ عَلَقٍ ۚ﴿۲﴾ اِقۡرَاۡ وَ رَبُّکَ الۡاَکۡرَمُ ۙ﴿۳﴾ الَّذِیۡ عَلَّمَ بِالۡقَلَمِ ۙ﴿۴﴾ عَلَّمَ الۡاِنۡسَانَ مَا لَمۡ یَعۡلَمۡ ؕ﴿۵﴾

Recite in the name of your Rabb who has created (everything). He has created man from a clot of blood. Recite, and your Rabb is Most Gracious. He who has taught (man) by the means of the pen. He taught man that which he knew not. (Surah Alaq v. 1)

Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) then recited these verses. It was at this time that Hazrat Jibreel (‘alaihis salaam) gave Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) the glad tidings of Allah Ta‘ala divinely choosing him as His messenger.

According to some Muhadditheen, Hazrat Jibreel (‘alaihis salaam) presented a silken cloth upon which the verses of Surah Alaq were written (as established in certain narrations), and he instructed Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) to read those verses. However, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) responded by saying “I am unable to read!”. (Al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah 3/12)

Meaning of the Command “Read!”

At this juncture, the question arises that when Hazrat Jibreel (‘alaihis salaam) was aware that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was unable to read and write, then why did he instruct him to read, especially considering the fact that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was not taught anything of wahi prior to that?

Hazrat Shaikh, Moulana Muhammad Zakariyya (rahimahullah), mentioned that Hazrat Jibreel (‘alaihis salaam) was initiating Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) in the path of learning, like how an ustaad tells the student, “Read,” intending that the student should read after him. However, since Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) thought that Hazrat Jibreel (‘alaihis salaam) wanted him to read something from his side, he responded by saying, “I am unable to read!” (Taqreer-e-Bukhaari 1/89)

It was only after Hazrat Jibreel (‘alaihis salaam) read these verses that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) realized that it was these verses that Hazrat Jibreel (‘alaihis salaam) wanted him to read after him.

In the narration of Imaam Bayhaqi in Dalaa’il-un-Nubuwwah, it is mentioned that Hazrat Jibreel (‘alaihis salaam) appeared before Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), giving him glad tidings of Allah Ta‘ala choosing him as His messenger, it was then that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) felt at ease. Hazrat Jibreel (‘alaihis salaam) then asked him to recite, to which Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) asked, “How should I recite?” Thereafter the above mentioned five verses were revealed upon Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam).

After accepting the message of Allah Ta’ala, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) returned home. When returning home, every tree and stone which he passed by greeted him with “Assalaamu alaika yaa Rasulallah!” Hence, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) had full conviction and certainty that Allah Ta‘ala had conferred upon him the rank of nubuwwah. (Dalaa’il-un-Nubuwwah 2/142)

The Wisdom Behind Hazrat Jibreel (‘alaihis salaam) Embracing Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam)

The Ulama explain that the wisdom behind Hazrat Jibreel (‘alaihis salaam) embracing Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) thrice was in order to transfer his angelic potential and spiritual strength within him. The purpose of this was so that this potential and strength dominates his human strength. This was required in order for the blessed heart of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) to be able to withstand the weight of the wahi which was going to be revealed to him in the form of the aayaat of the Qur’aan Majeed, or in the form of other divine knowledge or hidden mysteries of the unseen. Similarly, this was needed in order to enable Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) to become the medium between the Creator and the creation, and to bless him to be the greatest person of this worldly realm, and a manifestation of the realm of the unseen. (Seeratul Mustafa 1/149)

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