How did the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) believe that he became a prophet?

The Details of the Question

It is a fact that when somebody comes and tells people that he is a prophet, people naturally expect a miracle from him. If it takes place, they believe. How do prophets believe that they are prophets? An angel appears and conveys revelation to a person. That person has never seen an angel before. How can he be sure that it is an angel? Does he have to believe at that moment? Is he shown a miracle at that moment? Allah does not even show him Himself. How does he believe at that moment that Allah is One and Omnipotent, that Jibril is His angel and that he is a messenger? If he doubts, it means he has doubted the verse revealed to him, which is unthinkable for prophets. How can this be answered? Was he convinced beyond his will? After leaving the cave, the stones and trees greeted him on the way calling him Messenger of Allah; Waraqa approved his prophethood; He saw Jibril sit on a chair between the Earth and the sky; revelation ceased for three years; the angel called Israfil came during this period and taught him something. (What is this teaching?) Can it be said that these events took place to make Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself believe that he was a prophet? Are they enough to make him believe?
After your answer to this question, can the following be said: Yes. Even those prophets were tested related to the issues like the existence and oneness of Allah, His angels, books, and the Day of Judgment. They believed based on their own will and accepted prophethood by showing consent to it?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

We will try to explain the state of the Prophet (pbuh) about the first revelation in a few items:

a) The Prophet (pbuh) underwent a preliminary preparation period and various tests at least in the year before the prophethood for the revelation to come.  

For example, the dreams he had seen in the last six months turned out to be true very clearly. That he retired into seclusion during that period in order to keep away from the world, to find ways to get rid of the wrong religions of that time and to get some signals about the belief of oneness that he felt and wanted with the intuition granted to him, that he climbed up Mount Hira-Nur, which is the highest place in Makkah, to meditate there, and that he was trained so that meeting the angel of revelation, which is a superhuman event, became a normal phenomenon for him strengthened his perseverance in the face of the revelation to come.

b) Before Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) became a prophet, there is sound information that some stones called him a prophet and greeted him and that clouds shaded him to protect him from the sun.

The occurrence of these extraordinary incidents became important signs that he would become a distinguished person and attain a different level.

- For example, according to a narration, the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Now I know a stone that saluted me in Makkah before I became a prophet.” (Muslim, h. no: 2277; Tirmidhi, h. no: 2634)

- According to another narration, Hz. Ali said, “Once, we were walking with the Prophet (pbuh) around Makkah. Every mountain (hill) and every tree he encountered said to him, 'O Messenger of Allah! May Allah bless you!' (see Tirmidhi, h. no: 3626)

- It is understood from those narrations that the information in the question “After leaving the cave, the stones and trees greeted him on the way calling him Messenger of Allah” is not accurate.

c) In addition to “the mind, true news and sound senses” showing the certainty of something, strong intuition called ”hads” is a strong indicator that expresses certainty for its owner.

It is a necessity of eternal mercy and wisdom of Allah, who made Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) a prophet like all the prophets, to give him that intuition, which informs him that the revelation sent to him belongs to Him, and satisfies him fully.

d) On the one hand, a preliminary preparation was made – as it is mentioned above – so that the Prophet would obtain the power and confidence to receive revelation. On the other hand, he went home in fear after the first revelation. The information related to the issue is as follows briefly:

“(After receiving the first revelation), the Messenger of Allah returned in fear and with his heart beating.  Then, he went to his wife Khadija and said, "Cover me! Cover me!" They covered him till his fear was over.

Then, the Prophet told Hz. Khadija everything that had happened and said "I feared that something might happen to me." Hz. Khadija said, "Never! I swear by Allah that Allah will never disgrace you. You keep good relations with your kith and kin, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guests generously and assist the deserving calamity-afflicted ones."

Then, Khadija accompanied him to her cousin Waraqa bin Nawfal bin Asad, who, became a Christian during the Era of Jahiliyya, who could write in Hebrew and who read and wrote from the Gospel in Hebrew. He was an old man who had lost his eyesight then. Khadija said to Waraqa, “O my cousin! Listen to the story of your nephew.” Waraqa asked, "O my nephew! What is the matter?" The Prophet (pbuh) described whatever he had seen. Thereupon, Waraqa said, "This is the same one who keeps the secrets (the angel Gabriel) whom Allah had sent to Moses."” (Bukhari, Bad’ul-Wahy, 1/h. no: 4953, 6982)

e) “And thou hadst not expected that the Book would be sent to thee except as a Mercy from thy Lord…” (al-Qasas, 28/86) The apparent meaning of this verse shows that the Prophet (pbuh) did not receive a signal related to revelation. We have not been able to find sound information regarding the issue in the resources.

However, it can be said that a few points need to be mentioned in order to compromise the panic the Prophet (pbuh) displayed during the first revelation and the confidence caused by the consciousness originating from the pre-prophethood miracles called irhasat included in sound narrations like the stones greeting him and the monk Bahira’s expressing his prophethood beforehand:

1. The extraordinary things seen in the preliminary preparation period may have caused the Prophet to think that he would be a special person and even a prophet like Hz. Ibrahim (Abraham), Hz. Musa (Moses) and Hz. Isa (Jesus), about whom he had heard before. That he kept away from people and retired into seclusion, that he stayed on Mount Hira-Nur for days and meditated on the creator of the universe, that he thought about what the religion of real oneness would be like – since he knew that the religion of polytheism was not right – and that he started to meditate on the principles of belief including the belief of oneness of the religion of Hz. Ibrahim, which had been known by Arabs for a long time, and the way of worshiping might have been as a result of those extraordinary things he had observed. This spiritual revolution gained him the ability to receive the revelation to come.

2. The state of “hesitation and fear” mentioned in Bukhari is a natural reflex he showed as a result of an extraordinary state that he confronted as a human being and that shocked him.

3. Revelation ceased for a while. The Prophet (pbuh) became very sad because of it. “According to the news that reached us, he wanted to commit suicide and throw himself down from the mountain tops”, but each time he saw Jibril, who was sitting on a chair between the Earth and the sky and who said to him ‘You are the true prophet of Allah.’ Thus, he calmed down. (Bukhari, h. no: 6982)

- The statement about committing suicide in quotation marks above was rejected by scholars. For, Zuhri, who narrated this hadith said, “according to the news that reached us” when he narrated this incident, which shows that he did not hear it from Urwa b. Zubayr, who was a Companion, or from Hz. Aisha but from what people talked about.

Accordingly, this part of the narration was added by Zuhri and the part of the narration related to “committing suicide” is weak. (see Ibn Hajar, Fathul-Bari, 12/359-360)

We should also state that the story about “committing suicide” is not in compliance with the conditions of Bukhari.

As a matter of fact, the issue of “committing suicide” is not included in the narration that Ahmad b. Hanbal and Muslim narrated from Jabir. (Ibn Hanbal, 22/368; Muslim, h. no: 255)

To sum up, the hesitation the Prophet (pbuh) showed when he received the first revelation consists of human reflexes he displayed.

This reflex is a human attitude originating from encountering suddenly an angel he had never seen before. Even if he had some doubts at that time, the explanations by Hz. Khadija and Waraqa b. Nawfal satisfied him fully.

As it is stated in the verse when Hz. Ibrahim wanted to see the examples of resurrection, he said, “I have faith but just to reassure my heart”, there is a great difference between knowing something for sure and being satisfied in all aspects.

No matter what the form is, Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) knew that the first revelation had come from Allah that that it was Hz. Jibril who brought it before the second revelation came.

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