How did the first divine revelation come to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)?

The year was 610 in the Gregorian calendar. The Master of the Universe (pbuh) was forty years old.

He had a regular custom that he had been doing for years. He would spend the month of Ramadan with contemplation, worship, and prayer at the cave at the hill of the Mount of Hira. (1)

It was quiet and serene in there. It was the best place for him to be left alone with his reflection. His blessed soul, which was bored with the corrupt atmosphere of the society he lived in, found tranquility and peace over there. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) worshipped the same manner as his forefather Abraham (pbuh) did, which is called the religion of Haneef.*

One day in the month of Ramadan, he went there again for worship and contemplation. He made his way to the mount of Hira with provisions that his wife Khadija (may Allah be pleased with her) prepared for him.

At that moment, the universe followed the every step that he took with reverence and waited in a profound stillness. Yet that stillness was not in vain. It was full of wisdoms. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) accompanied the stillness with his reflection, which thus brought about some harmony. It was as though the universe whispered to his great soul as saying, The reason for my being created is you. It is you who will explain my meaning best and that I am full of wisdom and lessons. Therefore, I am grateful to you.

The Master of the Universe (peace be upon him) was now in the cave at the hill of the Mount Hira, where he soon was to be worthy of having divine revelation. He was engaged with his worship and contemplation. It was the seventeenth day of the month of Ramadan. It was Monday night.

The mount of Nour and everything around it were covered with a deep and significant quietness to able to hear and listen to what would be said soon. Maybe, out of respect to the ones who would speak and listen to. It was past midnight and almost dawn. The exceptional time when nightingales sing and roses give out pleasant scents with all their beauties.

Gabriel (may Allah be pleased with him), the angel of divine revelation, took the shape of a most beautiful human being and is quite delighted. For he would be addressing the Prophet of Prophets (peace be upon him), and speaking to the Most Beloved One (pbuh), who would deserve it with his faith, worship, contemplation and struggle.

The expected moment finally came. Gabriel (may Allah be pleased with him) appeared before the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in his human form, sending out divine radiance around in the dark night. He spoke to him in a loud but calming voice:

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) answered:
I do not know how to read. What should I read?
Then, Gabriel recited the Surah of Al-Alaq from beginning to the end, which, through Allah Almightys ordering, he was in charge of conveying to the Prophet (pbuh):

Read in the name of your Lord Who created. He created man from a clot. Read: And your Lord is the Most Bounteous, Who taught (to write) with the pen, taught man what he knew not. (Al-Alaq Surah, 96:1-5)

The Master of the Universe (pbuh) was at the heights of excitement and amazement and recited what he heard word by word. The verses that came down became established both in his tongue and in heart. Gabriel, who did his task, disappeared suddenly.

*The term Haneef refers to the way of belief that the Prophet Abraham (pbuh) adopted. The religion of Haneef is also a monotheistic religion like Islam and holds the same views as Islam in its view to God, differs from Islam only in terms of some sort of rituals.

1. Ibni Khisham, Seerah, 1/252

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