Was it appropriate for our Prophet to receive suggestions from Waraqa bin Nawfal after the first revelation?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Some other people have also drawn attention to the points mentioned in the question. However, the following hadith, which is included in a sound (sahih) source like Bukhari and is accepted by all Islamic scholars, does not allow us to ignore the meeting with Waraqa. After giving the translation of that famous hadith that we all know very well, we will try to make an evaluation:

According to what is reported from Aisha (r. anha), the mother of the believers, she said:

“The commencement of the Divine Inspiration to Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) was in the form of good dreams which came true like bright daylight, and then the love of seclusion was bestowed upon him. He used to go in seclusion in the cave of Hira where he used to worship (Allah alone) continuously for many days before his desire to see his family. He used to take with him the journey food for the stay and then come back to (his wife) Khadija to take his food likewise again”

“Finally, the Truth descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hira. The angel came to him and said, ‘Read’. The Prophet (pbuh) replied, ‘I do not know how to read.’ The Prophet (pbuh) said, ‘The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again said, ‘Read’ and I replied, ‘I do not know how to read.’ Thereupon, he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it any more. He then released me and said, ‘Read’ but again I replied, ‘I do not know how to read’ Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me, and then released me and said, ‘Proclaim! (or Read!) In the name of thy Lord and Cherisher Who created, Created man out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood:  Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful He Who taught (the use of) the Pen; Taught man that which he knew not.’(al-Alaq, 96/1-5)

“Then, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) returned with the Inspiration and with his heart beating severely. Then, he went to Khadija bint Khuwaylid and said, ‘Cover me! Cover me!’ They covered him till his fear was over and after that he told her everything that had happened and said, ‘I feared that something might happen to me.’ Khadija replied, ‘Never! By Allah, 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.’

“Khadija then accompanied him to her cousin Waraqa bin Nawfal bin Asad bin Abduluzza, who, during the pre-Islamic Period became a Christian and used to write the writing with Hebrew letters. He would write from the Gospel in Hebrew as much as Allah wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadija said to Waraqa, ‘Listen to the story of your nephew, O my cousin!’ Waraqa asked, ‘O my nephew! What have you seen?’ Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) described whatever he had seen. Thereupon, Waraqa said: ‘This is the same one who keeps the secrets (angel Jibril) whom Allah had sent to Moses. I wish I were young and could live up to the time when your people would turn you out.’

“Thereupon, the Prophet said, ‘Will they drive me out?’ Waraqa replied, ‘Yes, anyone who came with something similar to what you have brought was treated with hostility; and if I should remain alive till the day when you will be turned out then I would support you strongly.’ However, after a few days Waraqa died and the Divine Inspiration was also paused for a while.” (Bukhari, Badul-Wahy, 1).

The phrase “returned from Hira with his heart beating severely” and the expression “I feared that something might happen to me” in the hadith show the effect of the incident on the Prophet (pbuh). That is why he said “Cover me “.

Scholars put forward “twelve different views” about what is meant by the fear mentioned in the hadith. According to Ibn Hajar’s preference, the following three views are the most acceptable ones:

1. Fear of dying from the severity of the shudder.

2. Fear of illness. Ibn Abi Jamra accepts this view.

3. Fear of the continuation of the disease (see Ibn Hajar, the explanation of the hadith in question)

It is possible to consider those three views together because being sick indicates that the disease will continue, and an ongoing illness can bring the anxiety of death.

In that case, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), as a human being, felt a deep uneasiness after meeting with Jibril for the first time because, like every prophet, Muhammad (pbuh) is also a human being; he has human feelings; he has joys, sorrows and fears like other people. After this determination, we can view the following points:

a. In the face of an unseen event that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) encountered for the first time, Allah may have made him forget the wonders called “irhasat”, which he saw before and which showed his prophethood.

b. As stated in the hadith, “Jibril’s pressing him several times so hard that he could not bear it any more” may have shocked him and made him forget about the irhasat he had seen before. These pressings definitely have some reasons. One of them may be to cut off the relation of his human personality from the world with a shock treatment and to do some kind of therapy.

c. Accordingly, it is possible that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was shocked and frightened by such an extraordinary incident in the darkness of that night. It is normal for his heart to beat and for him to panic and say to Khadija (r. anha), “Cover me”; it does not contradict the prophethood.

d. The reason why Khadija (r. anha) took the Prophet (pbuh) to Waraqa b. Nawfal was not to confirm his prophethood, but to alleviate this shock effect, to relieve this human panic and to eliminate his worries. The reason why Khadija preferred him was that he was an old, dignified, literate wise person in that illiterate society, that he was a cultured person who read the Torah and the Bible, along with being a relative of hers. This identity allowed him to interpret events that were mysterious. As a matter of fact, it was immediately understood that it was very appropriate to go to Waraqa b. Nawfal. He said without hesitation that this incident was “a part of prophethood and that unknown person that was seen was Jibril”.

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