The Myth Of Muhammed Contemplating Suicide

Donate To Discover The Truth

Dr. Muhammad Mohar Ali (Professor Of The History of Islam)

The report ends with the statement that there was a pause in the coming of wahy after the first instalment delivered at Hira. This was only natural; for the first incident must have stirred the Prophet to his very depth and clearly he needed a breathing time to recover from the first shock. At the same time he must have naturally become eager to have a second glimpse of the entity who had communicated the text at Hira and thus be reassured of the reality of what he had experienced. As is natural in such a situation, when a person comes across some unusual sight or has an unexpected experience at any particular spot, he feels tempted to visit it again in the expectation that he might have a similar experience there again.

It is therefore not at all surprising that the sources speak of his having sometimes frequented the mount Hira and the neighbouring hills, undoubtedly in the hope of getting a second glimpse of the angel. And indeed he did have a second glimpse of the angel not long after the first encounter at Hira. This second experience on his part is thus reported by Al-Zuhri as follows:

He says: “’Abu Salamah ibn Abd al-Rahman has informed me that Jabir ibn Abd Allah al-Ansari related, speaking about the pause in the coming of wahy, that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him, said: ‘While I was walking I heard a voice in the sky. I raised my eyes and lo! There was the angel who had come to me at Hira sitting on a chair between the sky and the earth. I was frightened at that and returned (to my family) and said to them: ‘Cover me’. Then Allah sent down on me: ‘O wrapped up in the mantle, rise and warn’ up to ‘and the abomination, shun it.’1 (Surah 74. Ayahs 1-5). After that wahy continued combining regularly and uninterruptedly.” 2 (Bukhari, no. 4. The report is repeated in the chapter on Tafsir (no. 4954).

In one of the place where Bukhari repeats the report about the coming of the first wahy at mount Hira, i.e., in his chapter on ‘Interpretation of dreams’ (Ta’bir), he has an addition to the report of A’ishah (r.a.) noticed above. At this place he also gives two chains of narrators subsequent to Al-Zuhri, namely, (a) Yahya Ibn Bukayr <– Al-Layth <– Uqayl <– Al-Zuhri and (b) Abd Allah ibn Muhammad <– Abd al-Razzaq <– Ma’mar <– Al-Zuhri. The addition runs as follows:

“And then there was a pause in the coming of wahy for such a period that the Prophet, may Allah’s blessings and peace be on him, as we have come to know (…) became so sad that he went on a number of times (…) to throw himself down from the hill-tops.
Thus whenever he went up on to the top of a hill to throw himself down, Jibril appeared before him and said: ‘O Muhammad, you are truly Allah’s Messenger.’ At this the Prophet’s mind would be set at rest and he would be reassured; but when again the pause prolonged he similarly went and as he reached the top of a hill Jibril appeared before him and spoke to him similarly.” 1 (Bukhari, no. 6982.)

This story of extreme frustration on the Prophet’s part on account of the pause in the coming of wahy and, in consequence, of his alleged suicide attempts, is not at all worthy of credence. As Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani points out, the story is only an addition and surmise on Al-Zuhri’s part and no statement of the Prophet himself, nor of A’ishah (r.a.), nor even of Urwah ibn al-Zubayr. 2 (Fath al-Bari, XII, 376.). [1]

This addition has been so mixed up with the text that it APPEARS to be part of the original narration.

That it is Al-Zuhri’s ADDITION is very clear from his qualifying clause,

“as we have come to know”,

With which he introduces this section. Had it been the Prophet’s or A’ishah’s (r.a.) statement, there would have been no need to add this expression, for the chain of narrators had already been given at the beginning of the narration.

The second technical defect in the story has been pointed out by Muhammad Nasir al-Din al-Albani. He states that it is a shadh (… strange or odd) report in that it has come down only once through a chain of narrators subsequent to Al-Zuhri among whom there is Ma’mar, and that in all other forms in which the matter is reported, even though Ma’mar is mentioned as one of the narrators, this addition DOES NOT OCCUR. Nor is this addition found anywhere else with an uninterrupted chain of narrators worthy to be cited as evidence. 3 ( Muhammad Nasir al-Din al-Albani, Difa an al-Hadith al-Nabawiyyah wa al-Sirah, Damascus (1388 H.), p. 40-42).

Apart from these technical considerations, the Prophet’s character and personality do not admit of such a conduct on his part. The story is all the more unworthy of credence because it speaks not of one such alleged suicide attempt but of several such attempts; as if the assurance given by Jibril for the second time (i.e., after the first appearance at the cave of Hira) would not have satisfied the Prophet! The story might have originated, as one scholar points out, in someone’s seeing the Prophet frequenting the hills, as he naturally did during the pause in the coming of wahy, and then supposing on the basis of that sight that the Prophet was  about to throw himself down from the top of the hill. 1 (Muhammad Muhammad Abu Shahbah, Al-Sirat al-Nabawiyyah Fi Daw al-Qur’an wa al-Sunnah, I, Damascus, 1409 / 1988, p. 266.)

And once such a surmise was circulated it easily found its place in subsequent reports with further mixing up of the facts and circumstances.

The surmise of the Prophet’s suicide attempts is thus totally GROUNDLESS; but it is a fact that he had a second glimpse of the angel shortly after his receipt of wahy at mount Hira. This fact is stated clearly in the Qur’an as follows:

(a) “And he had indeed seen him (Jibril) in clear horizon.” (81:23) 3(See Ibn Kathir, Tasfir, VIII, 361 – 362.)

(b) “He was taught by the one might in power, endued with wisdom; he appeared in a stately form, while he was in the highest part of the horizon. Then he approached and came closer; and was at a distance of but two bowlengths or even nearer…” (53:5-9) 4 (See ibid, VII, 419-422)

Before proceeding further with the story it would be worthwhile to take into account some other reports concerning the receipt of the first divine communication by the Prophet, especially those given by Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Sa’d (i.e. of Al-Waqidi) and Al-Tabari.

Speaking on the subject Ibn Ishaq first reproduces part of A’ishah’s (r.a.) report as given in Bukhari and as quoted above, saying that at first the Prophet used to see good dreams in sleep which appeared like morning day-light; then seclusion became dear to him so that nothing was dearer to him that to be alone. 5 (Ibn Hisham, I, 234.) At this point Ibn Ishaq leaves the report and inserts another report which he says his informants received from “men of learning”. It mentions some unusual incidents like the trees and stones saluting the Prophet-to-be, etc. 1 (ibid, 234-235.)

Then Ibn Ishaq resumes the story of the coming of wahy on the basis of another report which he got from Wahb-ibn Kaysan (d. 127 H.) who, it is said, heard Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr asking Ubayd ibn Umayr ibn Qatadah al-Lythi 2 (He was a tabi’I. see Tahdhib al-Tahdhib, VII 71 (no. 148); Taqrib al-Tahdhib, I, 544, no. 1516) (d. 68. H.) on the subject whereupon he (Ubayd) stated as follows:

“The Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him, used to retire (…) at Hira every year for a month, as was the wont of the Quraysh to engage themselves in tahannuth for such a period during the Days of Jahiliyyah…
So the Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s blessings and peace be on him, use to retire there for that month every year, feeding the poor who repaired to him. When the Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s blessings and peace be on him, finished that month-long retirement, the first thing he did before going home, was to go to the Ka’ba and circumambulate it seven times, or as many times as Allah wished him to do. Then he would return to him home. This practice he continued to follow till the month in which Allah willed t honour him, of the year in which He called him to prophethood, and that was the month of Ramadan.
So the Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s blessings and peace be on him, went out to Hira, as he used to do, and his family was with him, till the night arrived in which Allah honoured him with His message and blessed His servants (mankind) thereby. There came to him Jibril, may Allah’s peace be on him, by Allah’s command.
The Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s blessings and peace be on him, said: Jibril came to me, while I was asleep, with a silken casket in which there was a writing, and said to me: ‘Read.’
(The Prophet said) I replied: ‘I do not read’. (The Prophet said) Thereupon he pressed me so hard that I thought I would die. Then he released me and said: ‘Read’. (The Prophet said) I replied: ‘I do not read.’ (The Prophet said) Thereupon he pressed me so had that I thought I would die. Then he released me and said: ‘Read’. (The Prophet said) I said:
‘What shall I read?’ (The Prophet said) Thereupon he pressed me so hard that I thought I would die. Then he released me and said: Read’. (The Prophet said) I said: ‘What shall I read?’ I did not say so except to avoid his doing the same to me as he had done. Then he said: ‘Read in the name of thy Lord Who Created; created man from ‘alaq. Read, and your Lord is the Most Gracious; Who taught by means of the pen; taught man what he knew not.’ The Prophet said: ‘So I read it.’ Then it ended and he left me and I woke up from my sleep; and it was as if a writ was written on my heart. (The Prophet said) Thereafter I came out (of the cave) till I was in the middle of the hill when I heard a voice from the sky saying: ‘O Muhamad, you are the Messenger of Allah, and I am Jibril.
(The Prophet said) I raised my head looking towards the sky and lo! There was Jibril clearly in the shape of a man with his two feet spread in the horizon saying: ‘O Muhammad, you are Allah’s Messenger, and I am Jibril. (The Prophet said) Thereupon I stood looking at him, and I moved neither forward nor backward. I started turning my face from him in the horizon, but in whatever direction of the horizon I looked I saw him in the same position. I remained standing without moving forward or backward till Khadijah sent her men in search of me. They reached Upper Makka and returned to her while I was still standing in that place of mine. Then he (Jibril) left me.’
‘I left the place, returning to my family till I came to Khadijah and sat touching her thigh and leaning towards her. She said: ‘O Abu al-Qasim, where had you been? By Allah I sent my people in search of you till they reached Upper Makka and then returned to me. Then I narrated to her what I had seen. Thereupon she said: ‘Rest assured, O Son of my uncle. By Him in Whose hand is Khadijah’s life, I hope you will become the Prophet of these people.’
‘Then she stood up, put her dress on, and went out to Waraqah ibn Nawfal ibn Asad ibn Abd al-Uzza ibn Qussay. He was her uncle’s son, and had become a Christian, read the Book (Gospels) and had heard from the scholars of the Torah and the Injil. She informed him of what the Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him, had related to her regarding what he had seen and heard. Thereupon Waraqah ibn Nawfal said: ‘Holy, Holy. By Him in Whose hands is the life of Waraqah, if you have spoken the truth, O Khadijah, then indeed the Great Namus (Jibril) who came to Musa, has come to him (the Prophet); verily he is the Prophet of these people. So tell him to rest assured.’ Then Khadijah returned to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s blessings and peace be on him, and told him what Waraqah ibn Nawfal had said. Then when the Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s blessings and peace be on him, ended his retired states (…) and left the place, he did what he used to do, beginning with the Ka’ba and circumambulating it.
There Warqah ibn Nawfal, who was also circumambulating it, met him (the Prophet) and said: ‘O my brother’s son, tell me what you have seen and heard.’ So the Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s blessings and peace be on him, informed him of everything.
Thereupon Waraqah said to him: ‘ By Him in Whose hands is my life, you are indeed the Prophet of these people, and the Great Namus, who came to Musa, has come to you. You will not be believed, you will be put to trouble and you will be driven out and fought with. If I live till that day I will surely help the cause of Allah as He knows.’ Then Waraqah leaned his head towards him (the Prophet) and kissed the middle of his head. Then the Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s blessings and peace be on him, went to his house.’” (Ibn Hisham, volume 1, page 234-237.)

It is obvious that this report differs in many respects from that of A’ishah (r.a.) given in Bukhari and noted earlier. The differences consist in omissions of, additions to and modification of the facts mentioned by the latter. As regards omissions, this report given by Ibn Ishaq does not mention any initial period of good or true dreams preceding the Prophet’s engaging himself in tahannuth at the cave of Hira. Secondly, there is also no indication of panic or bewilderment on the Prophet’s part in consequence of his encounters and experiences with Jibril. Lastly, there is no mention in this report of any pause in the coming of wahy after the receipt of the first instalment at the cave of Hira.

As regards additions, the first noticeable thing is that this report says that the Prophet’s sojourn in the cave of Hira was in accordance with the tradition of Quraysh’s doing similar tahannuth every year during the month of Ramadan. It further says that the Prophet also did so every year. Secondly, it says that while the Prophet was coming down from the cave and was still in the middle of the hill the angel Jibril appeared again in the sky, called the Prophet by his name and assured him that he was indeed Allah’s Messenger. Thirdly, it says that on his return from the hill the first thing the Prophet did was going to the Ka’ba and circumambulating it. Lastly, it says that in addition to hadijah’s meeting Waraqah, the latter met the Prophet at the Ka’ba compound and expressed similar views about him as were earlier expressed to Khadijah (r.a.).

More remarkable, however, are the modifications that appear in this report in the facts stated in A’ishah’s (r.a.) report. In the first place, it is stated that the Prophet took his family with him when he went to Hira for tahannuth. Secondly and more importantly, it is said that the angel Jibril came and delivered the text to the Prophet while he was asleep in the cave of Hira. It is further stated that the angel pressed him four times, instead of the three in the other report; and that twice the Prophet said that he did not know reading and twice he asked what she should read. Thirdly, this report makes Khadijah (r.a.) go alone to Waraqah to seek opinion about her husband, leaving him behind.

It should be noted that the ultimate authority of this report is Ubayd ibn Umayr ibn Qatadah who is a tabi’I and who does not mention the source of his information. The report is thus technically mursal, that is going back only to the second generation after the Prophet. It is a recognized principle of interpretation that if a mursal report differs from one that goes back with reliable and uninterrupted isnad to the Prophet (mawsul, marfu), the latter prevails over the former.

Hence that part of Ubayd ibn Umayr’s report produced by Ibn Ishaq which is at variance with the report given in Bukhari must yield place to the latter. In any case the statement that the Prophet received the revelation at the cave of Hira while he was asleep, that is in a state of dreaming, it is unacceptable in view of the clear statement in A’ishah’s (r.a.) report in the Prophet’s wakefulness and full consciousness.

Some commentators have of course attempted to reconcile the two statements by saying that the text of the revelation was first received in dream and then again in wakefulness. This explanation, though somewhat in line with the fact of a period of good dreams preceding the coming of revelation at Hira, ignores the fact that Ubayd ibn Umayr makes this dream happen at the cave of Hira itself.

In fact the report under consideration appears to have mixed up the fact of the initial period of good dreams with the second stage of solitary prayer and contemplation (tahannuth) and the receipt of the first text of revelation at Hira in the state of the Prophet’s wakefulness and full consciousness. This mixing up is all the more obvious from another aspect of the report which makes the Prophet see Jibril in the sky immediately after having come out of the cave after his alleged dream and while still in the middle of the mountain, and not after a pause in the coming of wahy as narrated in some other reports.

Also, it does not appear to be correct that the Quraysh used to engage themselves in tahannuth each year for the month of Ramadan and that the Prophet betook himself to the cave of Hira in imitation of that custom.

Again, the statement that he took his family there is inconsistent with the concept of seclusion and solitary prayer which was the sole objective of tahannuth. It is also inconsistent with the other statement that Khadijah (r.a.) sent her men in search of the Prophet as he stood in the middle of the mountain gazing at Jibril in the sky. The account gives the impression that while the Prophet was staying in the cave, his family was staying at another spot at the mountain, a situation which is warranted neither by the extent and shape of the mountain nor by the purpose, if at all, of dragging them out to the bleak mountains. Even then it is quite unlikely that Khadijah, if she had at all gone to the mountain, would have been unaware of the Prophet’s whereabouts. Clearly there is here a mixing up of an incident which took place on another occasion, most probably when the Prophet used to go to the mountain during the pause in the coming of wahy.

Despite these anomalies and confusions in the report, it corroborates in general the solid core of facts given in A’ishah’s (r.a.) report, namely, (a) that the Prophet received the first text of the revelation at Hira from the angel Jibril; (b) that at a subsequent stage the Prophet saw the angel appearing in the sky, introducing himself as Jibril and assuring Muhammad that he was indeed God’s Messenger; and (c) that Waraqah ibn Nawfal, when he heard the account of the incident at Hira, expressed his view that it was the very angel (Namus) who used to come to Musa with God’s revelation and that Muhammad had received such a commission from God.

III. THE REPORTS GIVEN BY AL-WAQIDI

The next account in point of time is that of Al-Waqidi (Muhammad ibn Umar, 120-207 H.) coming through his scribe Muhammad ibn Sa’d (168-239 H.).

(1) Al-Waqidi first quotes the initial part of A’ishah’s (r.a.) report as given in Bukhari but through a different isnad, namely, through Ma’mar ibn Rashid and Muhammad ibn Abd Allah. In effect, however, this part of the report is the same as that in Bukhari, saying that the Prophet first used to see good (or true) dreams for sometime, after which seclusion became dear to him so that nothing was dearer to him than that, that he next retired to the cave of Hira for engaging himself in tahannuth consecutively for several days and coming back to his family from time to time to take provisions for that sort of stay on the mountain, till “the truth” came to him. 1 (Ibn Sa’d, I, 194)

(2) At this point Al-Waqidi introduces another report which he recived through Ibrahim ibn Isma’il, from Da’ud ibn al-Husayn, from Ikrima, from Ibn Abbas. It is said that Ibn Abbas stated that when the Prophet was in that state (i.e., presumably, after the receipt of ‘the truth’ …) at Ajyad he saw an angel sitting cross-legged in the sky at the horizon, calling him (the Prophet) by name and introducing himself as Jibril. At this sight the Prophet was terrified and started looking in other directions of the sky, but to whatever direction he turned his eyes he saw the angel. Hence the Prophet hurried back home, went to Khadijah (r.a.) and expressed his fear that he might turn a soothsayer though he detested it the most. She comforted him by mentioning the qualities of his head and heart. Then she went to Waraqah and related to him the story.
The latter said that it was the Great Namus who had appeared to her husband and that it indicated the beginning of prophethood, adding that he should not therefore think anything but good for himself. 1 (ibid, 194-195.)

(3) Al-Waqidi next produces two other reports, one after another, received through different chains of narrators and both saying that the Prophet sometimes saw light and heard sounds and expressed his fears to his wife saying that he would probably turn a soothsayer. Khadijah (r.a.) would comfort him by mentioning his noble qualities. One of these reports says that the Prophhet also expressed his fears that he might even go mad and that at this Khadijah (r.a.) went to Waraqah who opined that it was the Namus who had appeared to her husband, that he would be a Prophet and that Waraqah would help him if he lived till that time. 2 (ibid, 195)

(4) Next Al-Waqidi reproduces three different reports form three different sources. Two of these reports say that the first thing which was revealed to the Prophet was the five initial ayahs of surat al-alaq. Al-Waqidi notes that this happened on “the day of Hira’”. 3 (ibid, 196) The third report was received from Da’ud ibn al-Husayn who had it from Ghatfan ibn Tarif who, in his turn, had it from Ibn Abbas. It says that after the revelation which came at Hira the Prophet did not see Jibril for “several days”. Hence he became sad and started frequenting the Thabir and Hira mountains in order to throw himself from them. Once while he was thus going to one of those mountains he heard a voice from the sky and as he turned his eyes upwards he saw Jibril sitting cross-legged on a chair and calling him and saying “Muhammad, you are truly Allah’s Messenger, and I am Jibril.” The Prophet then left the place, his mind set at rest. Thereafter wahy came regularly and without interruption. 4 (ibid.)

Now, the authorities rating of Al-Waqidi’s CREDIBILITY IS VERY LOW; but apart from that question, the points illustrated by the reports produced by him may be tabulated as follows. In the first place, it is stated that there was an initial period of “true” dreams which was followed by the Prophet’s love for solitary retirement. Second, it is stated that the Prophet used to retire at the cave of Hira where he remained consecutively for several days before returning to his family to take provisions for the purpose. There is no mention in these reports that such tahannuth on the Prophet’s part was in imitation of the custom of the Quraysh; nor is there any suggestion that the Prophet’s family went with him to the hills. Third, it is clearly stated that it was at the cave of Hira that the first revelation was received and that it consisted of the first five ayahs of surat al-Alaq. The details of how the angel appeared and delivered the text are not mentioned. At the same time there is no indication whatsoever that the incident took place while the Prophet was asleep (i.e., in dream). Forth, as regards the seeing of angel Jibril in the horizon one of Al-Waqidi’s reports says that this happened at Ajyad, while another of his reports says that this happened when the Prophet frequented the Thabir and Hira mountains in consequence of the angel’s not appearing to him for “several days” after the first revelation. This information corroborates the fact of a pause in the coming of wahy. Fifth, as regards the alleged intention on the Prophet’s part to throw himself from the mountain tops, it appears unmistakably that it is only a guess one the narrator’s part, in this instance on the part of either Ibn Abbas or some other narrator subsequent to him. Sixth, as regards the consultation with Waraqah one of Al-Waqidi’s reports makes the even happen after the seeing of the angel reportedly at Ajyad; while the other reports makes it happen after the Prophet had sometimes seen light and heard sounds, etc. Excepting these two last mentioned points (fifth and sixth), thus, the facts presented by Al-Waqidi are in accord with those given in A’ishah’s (r.a.) report and recorded in Bukhari.

IV. AL-TABARI’S ACCOUNT

Writing more than a hundred years after Al-Waqidi, Al-Tabari (224 – 310 H.) reproduces Ibn Ishaq’s report, as mentioned above, with minor alternations in wording and slight omisions and additions in the text, but otherwise mentioning him by name and keeping as close to his text as possible. 1

Before reproducing his version of Ibn Ishaq’s report, however, Al-Tabari puts in another report of the event which he says he received from Ahmad ibn Uthman (Abu Jawra) who had it from Wahb ibn Jarir, who, from his father (i.e. Jarir), the latter from Al-Nu’man ibn Rashid, he from Al-Zuhri, from Urwah, from A’ishah (r.a.). This report is distinguished from that given in Ibn Ishaq by the fact that whereas the latter’s report goes back, as noted above, only to Ubayd ibn Umayr and is as such mursal, Al-Tabari’s report goes back to A’ishah (r.a.) through Al-Zuhri and Urwah. The salient features of this report are as follows:

(a) In the first part of the report the facts are exactly the same as they are related in the report in Bukhari, namely, the initial period of “true” or “good” dreams, followed by the Prophet’s love for seclusion, his solitary prayer and stay at the cave of Hira consecutively for a number of days, his returning to his family from time to time to take provisions for a similar stay, till the “truth” came to him. From this point the report differs from that in Bukhari and runs as follows:

The Prophet is said to have related:

(b) “ So he [the angel] came to me and said: ‘O Muhammad, you are the Messenger of Allah.’ The Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s blessings and peace be on him, said: ‘At this I fell on my knees, though I was standing. Then I returned (to my family), my heart throbbing. Then I went to Khadijah and said to her: ‘Cover me, cover me.’ (I remained so) till my panic went away. Then he [the angel] came to me and said: ‘O Muhammad, You are Allah’s Messenger.’ The Prophet said: ‘At this I thought of throwing myself from the top of a mountain, and when I intended doing so he appeared before me and said: ‘’O Muhammad, I am Jibril, and you are Allah’s Messenger.’ Then he said: ‘Read in the name of your Lord Who created.’ So I read. Then I came to Khadijah and said: ‘I am afraid about my life. She said…”

(c) From this point the account is again the same as in Bukhari, i.e., Khadijah’s words of consolation to the Prophet, their going to Waraqah, the latter’s opinion that the angel Jibril (Namus) had come with God’s revelation, that the Prophet’s people would turn against him, etc., ending with Waraqah’s remarks that if he lived till that day he would render all possible help to the Prophet.

This report, though it traces its origin to A’ishah (r.a.) through Al-Zuhri and Urwah, differs from that in Bukhari in the following essential respects:

(1) It says that the first thing the angel told the Prophet in the cave was that he was Allah’s Messenger.

(2) That after the Prophet had come home from the cave the angel appeared again and told him that he was Allah’s Messenger.

(3) That after this second appearance of the angel and also after the Prophet had been told for the second time that he was Allah’s Messenger, he contemplated throwing himself from a hill-top.

(4) That when he was about to so throw himself from a hill-top the angel appeared for the third time, introduced himself as Jibril, assured the Prophet that he was Allah’s Messenger and delivered to him the first ayah of surat al-Alaq.

(5) There is no mention of the Prophet’s first expressing his inability to read.

(6) There is also no mention about the pause in the coming of wahy.

Now, it is obvious that neither A’ishah (r.a.) nor, for that matter, Al-Zuhri, could have given two essentially different accounts of the same event. If the facts stated here were true but were somehow omitted or skipped over by them the narrators subsequent to them should have mentioned the sources of their information. But nothing of the sort is indicated here or elsewhere. Even with regard to the ALLEGED suicide attempt which finds mention in Bukhari as Al-Zuhri’s surmise, it is given here in a quite different form. Thus while Al-Zuhri would have it that the Prophet ALLEGEDLY intended to throw himself from a hill-top because of the pause in the coming of wahy and only desisted from doing so when the angel Jibril reappeared and assured him that he was Allah’s Messenger; the present report, on the other hand, not only does not make any mention of the pause in the coming of wahy but also would have us believe that the Prophet mediated suicide because the angel Jibril appeared for the second time and also assured the Prophet for the second time that he was Allah’s Messenger. Apart from the utter unreasonableness of the statement, it is obvious that Al-Zuhri himself could not have given such divergent and diametrically opposite accounts about the cause and sequence of the event.

It is thus clear that the narrators subsequent to Al-Zuhri or at least some of them through whom the account reached Al-Tabari mixed up not only Al-Zuhri’s own statement but also the original report with other matters. In fact authoritative opinions are not quite at one about some of these narrators. For instance Nu’man ibn Rashid, who is stated to have received the report from Al-Zuhri, is regarded by a number of competent authorities as “very weak”, “confused”, profuse in making mistakes and even BASELESS surmises. It is even stated that he made reprehensible and worthless reports and should therefore be AVOIDED. 1 (Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Tahdhib al-Tahdhib, X, Hyderabad, 1277 H., p. 152, no. 819.). [2]

Similarly Jarir (Ibn Hazim Ibn Abd Allah Ibn Shuja al-Azdi), who is stated to have received the report from Al-Nu’man ibn Rashid, is considered to be profuse in errors, mixing up his surmises with the reports he transmitted, changing the sequence of events and even making reprehensible reports. 1 (ibid, II, 77-72. No. 111.)

Also his son Wahb, who received the report under reference from him, used to commit mistakes. He is even stated to have attributed his reports to persons from whom he had not received them. Thus he transmitted about four thousand reports (from Shu’ba”, but those were really reports of Abd al-Rahman al-Rassaki. 2 (ibid., II XI, 161-162, No. 273.)

Obviously, reports coming through such narrators need to be taken with CAUTION and cannot be, according to the accepted rules if interpretation, given precedence over those on the same subject emanating from narrators of unimpeachable veracity.

It is not necessary to follow the accounts found in works later than Al-Tabar’s; for they do not really add anything new or authentic to the story. On the whole the most authentic account of the coming of the first revelation to the Prophet is that given by A’ishah (r.a.) and contained in Bukhari. This report and the other reports noticed above, excluding the points on which they disagree, bring out the following facts:

(i) That on the eve of his call the Prophet experienced an initial period of “good” dreams which appeared to him like the morning day-light.

(ii) That after this he began to love seclusion and spent a period of time in solitary prayer and contemplation at the cave on top of Mount Hira.

(iii) That it was at the cave of Hira that the angel Jibril appeared to him and delivered to him the first text of the revelation.

(iv) That shortly after this first encounter at the cave of Hira the Prophet saw Jabril again in the sky, addressing him by name disclosing his own identity and confirming that he (the Prophet) was Allah’s Messenger.

(v) That what the Prophet received was something extraneous to him. It was a distinct text received from an external source, and not the result of his own contemplation and thinking. The experience at Hira was also no psychological phenomenon for him.

(vi) That the immediate reaction of the Prophet to the receipt of Divine communication was that of a person who never expected such a development, that initially he was not quite sure of his new status and that it was only after the reassurance given by the angel Jibril (under Divine direction) and after consultation with Waraqah ibn Nawfal that his (the Prophet’s) mind was set at rest;

(vii) That therefore previous to his receipt of the Divine communication the Prophet did not plan and design to play the role of a Prophet; and

(viii) That there was a short pause in the coming of revelation after the receipt of the first text at Hira. This was in the nature of a breathing time enabling the Prophet to recover from the first shock of the extraordinary experience.

This full article was taken from the book, “Sirat Al-Nabi And The Orientalists, With special reference to the writings of William Muir, D. S. Margoliouth And W. Montgomery Watt. From the background to the beginning of the Prophet’s Mission, [King Fahd Complex For the printing of the Holy Quran, Madinah, First Edition, 1417 AH / 1997 CE] by Muhammad Mohar Ali (Professor Of The History of Islam, centre for the service of Sunnah And Sirah, Islamic University, Madinah), Vol. I A (volume 1 A), page 373 – 386”

References:

[1] Ibn Hajar’s words on this:
ibn-hajar
[2] Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Tahdhib al-Tahdhib, X, Hyderabad, 1277 H., p. 152, no. 819. Part of the criticism are as follows:
ibn-hajar-1

Advertisements

Tagged as: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Twitter

%d bloggers like this: