Although Abu Talib did not become a. Muslim, he still protected Muhammad. Not so another uncle, Abu Lahab, who confronted and tormented Mu- hammad.
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Muhammad and Revelation ˝ ssentials Any narrative about the Arabic Qur ˜an must begin in the seventh century, with the life of Muhammad ibn Abdul -lah, the Arab Prophet. ‚ur ˜an was revealed to this Arab merchant/trader through a celestial intermediary, the Archangel Gabriel, in his own language, Arabic. It was in Arabic, and solely in Arabic, that each of the Qur ˜an™s š•š verses a“ chapters was announced to Muham -mad. ﬁ Biography and revelation are intertwined, so even to recount in English the story of the last prophet requires use of Koran translations; several are provided below. ﬂparsest outline of the life of Muhammad would incle dates: Born in ’†E, he married in ’€’ CE, was called to prophesy in Mecca in šE, then leı Mecca for Yathrib/Medina in šE, and aıer sub -duing his enemies, died in Medina in šE at the age of sixty- two. But the impress of the Qur ˜an in Muhammad™s life de -mands more. It requires beginning with his early life. For trst forty years Muhammad was an orphan, raised by
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˝ his uncle, with hrst cousin ˚Ali as a companion. He later became a merchant, traveling beyond Arabia but al -ways returning to Mecca. He only became a messenger under duresssage was not his own, nor did he sesage sought hiled him and trans – formed him, making his life a journey that none, includ -ing he, could have imagined. Before Revelation Muhammad was a successful merchant but a reluctant messenger. His success at the business owned by his wife, Khadija, allowed him time to re¦ect. Like others in his community, he set aside time to go to a mountain, to a mountain cave. Between caravan trips that took him away from home to places near and far, he would stay at home but in a place apart. He would go to this mountain retreat oıen. Sometimes he would go there by himself or with his young cousin. He would sit quietly and ponder what life means. What does it mean that he was born an orphan but found a new family among his close relatives? What does it mean that he had been an honest but poor merchant until a wealthy widow found him, employed him, trusted him, and then married him? Although he felt gratitude for the giıs of family and wealth, he still lacked something. It was that lack that drove him to the mountain retreat, tnd a space within himself and apart from othersŠ except for his young
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Muhammad and Revelation •cousin ˚AliŠ to ponder the mystery of human success and the lessons of human failure. Like many of his tribe, he had acknowledged the power of the rock that marked his home town of Mecca. Ka ˚ba contained that rock, a rock ancient with his -tory. It is linked to an early seeker of Truth, a prophet in his time, named Abraham. It was to this place that Abra -ham sent his concubine Hagar. It is here that Abraham, with divine guidance, made provision for a branch of his family, and its central role has been etched in the Qur ˜an: Our Lord [prayed Abraham] I have settled some of my children in a barren valley near Your Holy House, our Lord, that they may be constant in prayer, making the hearts of some incline to them and providing them with ˛uit, that they may give thanks. “:•† ŽBut the Holy House became a place that Abraham shared with others, with idols that represented local gods and tribal deitiesls were said to possess a power that rivaled the God of Abraham. Some folk who came to Mecca cast doubt on the power of the idols, saying that aıer Abraham came other seekers of Truth, other proph -ets, each proclaiming a god not found in idols. Some op -ponents of the idols were the Jewsr prophet was Moses. Other opponents were the Christians. r
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“ ˝ prophet was Jesus, though some of them went further, claiming that Jesus was more than a prophet. Muhammad also met some Arab opponents of idol worshipy claimed that there was an ancient Arab prophet, Salih by name, and that he too followed the way of Moses and Jesus, looking for the source of all life and all created forms, be -yond idols of any shape or any place. It was Salih who said to his people what was later revealed to Muhammad: O my people, serve God. You have no god except Him. It is He who raised you ˛om the earth and settled you in it. Seek His forgiveness, then turn to Him in repentance. My Lord is Near, Responsive. łMuhammad meditated on these matters when he sat in the cave of Hira during the holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan was the time each year when blood feuds were suspended. It was a time when Meccans who had wealth and free time could retreat to the outskirts of their town, to the hills that enclosed it, and to the caves thared shelter and repose. Revelation Muhammad had been following the practice of retreat and meditation for over a decade. n one night in
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Muhammad and Revelation ’Ramadan št a stirring inside him. He loved the nighttime in this special month; it drew him deep into himself and allowed him to resist those impulses that pulled him back to the world, to concerns with family or with business or travel. He was alert to repel those im -pulsesy clouded his vision, they denied him peace of mind, but above all, they blocked his search for the Truth. But this was a drent stirring. It was deep, it was arrest -ing. It overpowered him, and then it produced words, words that were not his. He listened: ŁRecite!Ÿ And he was shown a piece of silk with words on it. He did not know how to read. ŁWhat shall I recite?Ÿ he asked. ŁRecite!Ÿ came the command, and again the brocade was thrust before him. He stammered: ŁBut what shall I recite?Ÿ He became like the Prophet Jeremiah who was told by the Lord of Israel to speak when he was a child and he could not. Unlike Jeremiah, Muhammad could speak but he could not read. All those who accompanied him on caravan trips, whether to Egypt or Syria, to Yemen or Ab -yssinia, knew that he could read symbols but not words. It was they who handled the few documents of exchange that required reading or signing. When Muhammad had to sign, he would ask others to read aloud what was writ -ten, then he would sign by pressing the palm of his hand to the paper. Why then did this voice ask him to recite? Even as he was thinking these thoughts, for the third time, the voice commanded him:
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š ˝ ŁRecite!Ÿ ŁBut what, what shall I recite?Ÿ No sooner had he spoken than the words appeared: Recite in the name of your Lord who created Created man ˛om blood coagulated Recite for your Lord is Most Generous Who taught by the pen Taught what they did not know unto men Q € ’žords became part of him. He recited them without reading them. But why did they invoke the Lord as His Lord? And why did they rhyme? ŁCreatedŸ rhymed with ŁcoagulatedŸ in trst two lines, and then ŁpenŸ with ŁmenŸ in the fourth ah lines. Since Mu- hammad could not read the words, he was puzzled, dis – mayed. Had it been his secret impulses that had pro -duced these verses? Had he become a man possessed, an ecstatic poet such as his clansmen distrusted, even de -spised? Was his pursuit of the Truth forfeited by a single moment of self- deceit? Scarcely had he absorbed the experience when his whole body began to trembn the voice spoke again. It addressed him by name: ŁO Muhammad!Ÿ ŁMuham -mad,Ÿ it continued, Łyou cannot protect yourself from the Evil One. Only the One who hears all and knows all can protect you. Invoke God but before you mention God by His loıiest name, say œI seek refuge from Satan, the Ac – cursed, in the name of the One who hears all and knows all.™ Before you repeat the words I have just given you from
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‘ ˝ rebel. Muhammad had never seen himself in this role. Nothing in his life had prepared him for the period of trial that now beset him. His wife and also his young cousin came to view him in a drent light. He was still their close companion, but now they saw him as one sep -arate, apart, more respected than loved, though always cared for, his words and wishes heeded. Yet others were less kind, even rude, oıen taunting him for his ŁpoeticŸ outbursts, his ŁpretendedŸ inspiration. And so Muhammad had to wrestle with a double doubt. Could he be worthy of this high calling? And if he were, then why did this voice that came to him not come more oıen and more insistently? He had long periods when there would be no inner voice. Whenever he did hear that voice, he would repeat what he heard so that others could remember the exact words. Above all, he de -pended on his beloved and trusting wife, Khadija. She became the rst Muslim, a woman to honor all women and to make them companion believers with men. And aıer her came his young cousin, that boy ˚Ali, who was so quick and constant in hction for Muhammad. ight Journey most di¨cult time happened in š†. He had re -ceived many communications from beyond. Although the fear of being a possessed seer or ecstatic poet had passed, he lived every hour in the shadow of that protec – tive phrase known as the basmala : ŁIn the Name of God,
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Muhammad and Revelation €Full of Compassion, Ever Compassionate.Ÿ Each time the voice spoke, he repeated these words to make sure that it was indeed the Lord of Life who was speaking to him, not the Accursed one, Satan slinking into his mind, whispering in the garb of God. Yet even the basmala could not overcome the hostility of some in his townt trying experience came in the middle of a night during that year š†. Many of his clansmen and fellow Arabs had come to accept his new status as an apostle among them. Yet the more popular he became, the louder were his detractors. One day he had sured more abuse than even he could bear. At night, in despair he had called out to the voice, and to the Lord of Life. He had begged for some sign that he might endure and, if God willed, that he might prevail against his ad -versaries. What happened next was both vivid and un -speakable. In the words of a poet: He came to me, wrapped in the cloak of night, Approaching with steps of caution and fright. n what happened, happened; to say more fails. Imagine the best; ask not for details. Details cannot convey what did happen on that night. And though some have argued about whether it was a physical or a ŁmereŸ dreamlike experience, the impact was beyond dispute. ¡ It reminded Muhammad of that rst night, the night of Ramadan when Gabriel had come to him as a voice, as a face, as a presence that could not be denied. Later it had been revealed to him that tharst night was to be the Great Sign containing even as it
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˝ unfolded all that followed. It was the Night of Destiny, revealed in the Noble Qur ˜an: We have sent it down in the Night of Destiny What will unmask for you the Night of Destiny? ˚e single Night of Destiny Is better than a thousand months. In it angels and the spirit alight, On every errand by God made right Peace reigns until dawn™s early light. Q €† ¤Seven years later the Night Journey followed that Night of Destiny. Both nights were shrouded in mystery, yet they contain and ne the life of Muhammad more vividly than did any daytime event. It seemed as though a mere instant separated one from the other, or was it per -haps time itself that had been transformed by the Unseen? While the Night of Destiny had brought the ma jesty of heaven to earth and to an unsuspecting messenger, the Night Journey propelled him to another place anally to a celestial destination. Night Journey took Mu -hammad from Mecca to Jerusalem to the highest throne of heavenme voice announced what was to hap -pen. It was the now familiar voice, the voice of Gabriel. It beckoned Muhammad to ascend to the Source of all Truth and Life, the Touchstone of Peace and Justice: By the star when it sets, Your companion neither worries nor ˛ets Nor does he ever speak with regrets.
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Muhammad and Revelation It is only revelation that he begets, It is One mighty in power who projects, And propels him upward to what perfects, Far beyond the horizon where the sun sets, Nearer and nearer to the source he trajects, So close that a mere bowline between them intersects. Q €‚¥With these words from the Star chapter, Muhammad was transported on a winged horse to the rock where Abraham nearly sacred his son Ishmael. It was a great rock in an ancient city, Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the abode of prophets, from Abraham to David to Jesus. And it now hosted another prophet, the Arab prophet, the Prophet Muhammad. Dazzled, he was transported from that rock up to heaven. Heaven had levels. At trst level many angels and the prophet Adam greeted him. At the second level of heaven it was other prophets, Jesus and John the Baptist, who hailed him. At the third level he met still other prophets, Joseph and Solomon, and at the fourth level he encountered Moses along with Mary, the mother of Jesus. Now his glorious steed seemed to fade. Yet he continued to progress upward. ŁIt is One mighty in power who projects.Ÿ Arriving at th level, he met the prophets Ishmael and Isaac, then the prophets Elijah and Noah at the sixth, untnally at the seventh level he was dazzled by yet another chorus of angels. In their midst was the greatest of prophets, the Prophet Abraham. Abraham greeted Muhammad warmly before sending him on to the Divirone.
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