Thursday, January 30, 2014

Muhammad's First Encounter with Gabriel

Some Muslims get quite upset when I say that Muhammad wasn't actually getting revelations from God through the angel Gabriel. However, when he began receiving verses, Muhammad himself didn't believe they were from God. Why would Muslims get angry with us for taking Muhammad's first impression of his encounter seriously?



Here's the quotation from Ibn Ishaq on Muhammad's first meeting with Gabriel:

When it was the night on which God honoured him with his mission and showed mercy on His servants thereby, Gabriel brought him the command of God. "He came to me," said the apostle of God, "while I was asleep, with a coverlet of brocade whereon was some writing, and said, ‘Read!’ I said, ‘What shall I read?’ He pressed me with it so tightly that I thought it was death; then he let me go and said, ‘Read!’ I said, ‘What shall I read?’ He pressed me with it again so that I thought it was death; then he let me go and said ‘Read!’ I said, ‘What shall I read?’ He pressed me with it the third time so that I thought it was death and said ‘Read!’ I said, ‘What then shall I read?’—and this I said only to deliver myself from him, lest he should do the same to me again. He said:
‘Read in the name of thy Lord who created, Who created man of blood coagulated. Read! Thy Lord is the most beneficent, Who taught by the pen, Taught that which they knew not unto men.’
So I read it, and he departed from me. And I awoke from my sleep, and it was as though these words were written on my heart.

Now none of God’s creatures was more hateful to me than an (ecstatic) poet or a man possessed: I could not even look at them. I thought, Woe is me poet or possessed—Never shall Quraysh say this of me! I will go to the top of the mountain and throw myself down that I may kill myself and gain rest." (Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah, p. 106)

4 comments:

Excalibur said...

Isn't there also another version where Muhammad sees the spirit being floating in the air, seated atop a chair?

Anthony Rogers said...

There is such a story, and according to all kinds of evidence it was originally circulated as an appearance of Allah. It was later changed to one of the two times Gabriel appears to Muhammad in his "true" form.

Quran is Corrupt said...

The reason Kadijah and her cousin told Muhammad was seeing an angel instead of being demon possessed was to stop him for despairing ad trying to kill himself.

Royal Son said...

The account in sirat al rasul Allah as posted makes it quite clear that this was not a live encounter but a dream. It reads: "He came to me," said the apostle of God, "while I was asleep, with a coverlet of brocade whereon was some writing, and said, ‘Read!’

Then after the encounter, it reads: So I read it, and he departed from me. And I awoke from my sleep

Muhammad also stated that if anyone has a dream which they do not like, then it is from Satan.(Bukhari vol 9 book 87 number 114)

Narrated by Abu Sa'id Al-Khudri

The Prophet said, "If anyone of you sees a dream that he likes, then it is from Allah, and he should thank Allah for it and narrate it to others; but if he sees something else, i.e., a dream that he dislikes, then it is from Satan, and he should seek refuge with Allah from its evil, and he should not mention it to anybody, for it will not harm him."

We know Muhammad did not like this dream, thinking he was demon possessed and that something terrible would happen to him. Therefore, such a dream, but Muhammad's own criteria was from Satan.

One another quick sidenote, Ishaq's biography (as quoted above) tells us that a coverlet of brocade with writing on it was brought to Muhammad and He was told to READ. This alone makes it quite emphatic that the rendering of Iqra here must indeed be READ and not RECITE since it is the writing which is brought to him and he's told to IQRA it.

This entity is obviously not from God, otherwise he wouldn't be asking an illiterate man to read. But perhaps we shouldn't be "shooting the messenger" since he was sent by Allah, who must have been equally unaware that this 2-right hand-picked prophet was a very poor choice.