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Muhammad's first revelation

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Title: Muhammad's first revelation  
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Subject: Depictions of Muhammad, Arabian tribes that interacted with Muhammad, Early social changes under Islam, Historicity of Muhammad, Isra and Mi'raj
Collection: Angelic Apparitions, Gabriel, Life of Muhammad
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Muhammad's first revelation

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According to Islam, Muhammad's first revelation was the event in which Muhammad was visited by the Arch-angel Gabriel who revealed to him a verse from the Quran. The event took place in a cave called Hira, located on the mountain called Jabal an-Nour, near Mecca.

According to biographies of Muhammad, while on retreat in a mountain cave (cave of Hira) near Mecca, the Arch-angel Gabriel appears to him and commands him to recite the first lines of chapter 96 of the Quran. Muhammad's experience is mentioned in the Quran 53:4-9:[1]

"It is a revelation which has been revealed to him (4) and taught to him by the great mighty one (5) One strong, then he stood straight (6) and he appeared on the uppermost horizon (7) He then came nearer and nearer (8) until he was as close to him as the distance of two bows, or even less. (9)"


  • Before the revelation 1
  • The first revelation 2
  • After the revelation 3
  • References 4

Before the revelation

Muhammad was born and raised in Mecca. When he was nearly 40, he used to spend many hours alone in prayer and speculating over the aspects of creation.[2] He was concerned with the social unrest, injustice, widespread discrimination (particularly against women), fighting among tribes and abuse of tribal authorities prevalent in pre-Islamic Arabia.[3] The moral degeneration of his fellow people, and his own quest for a true religion further lent fuel to this, with the result that he now began to withdraw periodically to a cave named Mount Hira, three miles north of Mecca, for contemplation and reflection.[4] Islamic tradition holds that Muhammad during this period began to have dreams replete with spiritual significance which were fulfilled according to their true import; and this was the commencement of his divine revelation.[5][2] This created inclination in him to engage himself in solitary worshipping. [6]

The first revelation

According to Islamic tradition, during one such occasion while he was in contemplation, the archangel Gabriel appeared before him in the year 610 CE and said, ‘Recite’, upon which he replied, ‘I am unable to recite’. Thereupon the angel caught hold of him and embraced him heavily. This happened two more times after which the angel commanded Muhammad to recite the following verses :[7][8][9]

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,-
Who taught (the use of) the pen,-
Taught man that which he knew not.
—Quran, sura 96 (Al-Alaq), ayat 1-5[10]

After the revelation

Perplexed by this new experience, Muhammad made his way to home where he was consoled by his wife Khadijah, who also took him to her Ebionite cousin Waraqah ibn Nawfal. Waraqah was familiar with Jewish and Christian scriptures. Islamic tradition holds that Waraqah, upon hearing the description, testified to Muhammad's prophethood,[2][11] and convinced Muhammad that the revelation was from God.[12] Waraqah said: "O my nephew! What did you see?" When Muhammad told him what had happened to him, Waraqah replied: "This is Namus (meaning Gabriel) that Allah sent to Moses. I wish I were younger. I wish I could live up to the time when your people would turn you out." Muhammad asked: "Will they drive me out?" Waraqah answered in the affirmative and said: "Anyone who came with something similar to what you have brought was treated with hostility; and if I should be alive until that day, then I would support you strongly." A few days later Waraqah died.[13]

The initial revelation was followed by a pause and a second encounter with Gabriel when Muhammad heard a voice from the sky and saw the same angel "sitting between the sky and the earth" and the revelations resumed with the first verses of chapter 74.

At-Tabari and Ibn Hisham reported that Muhammad left the cave of Hira after being surprised by the revelation, but later on, returned to the cave and continued his solitude, though subsequently he returned to Mecca. Tabari and Ibn Ishaq write that Muhammad told Zubayr:[13]

"when I was midway on the mountain, I heard a voice from heaven saying "O Muhammad! you are the apostle of Allah and I am Gabriel." I raised my head towards heaven to see who was speaking, and Gabriel in the form of a man with feet astride the horizon, saying, "O Muhammad! you are the apostle of Allah and I am Gabriel." I stood gazing at him moving neither forward nor backward, then I began to turn my face away from him, but towards whatever region of the sky I looked, I saw him as before."

There is doubt about the period of time between Muhammad's first and second experiences of revelation. Ibn Ishaq writes that three years elapsed from the time that Muhammad received the first revelation until he started to preach publicly. Bukhari takes chapter 74 as the second revelation however chapter 68 has strong claims to be the second revelation.[14]


  1. ^ Quran 53:4
  2. ^ a b c Shibli Nomani. Sirat-un-Nabi. Vol 1 Lahore
  3. ^  
  4. ^  
  5. ^ "vol 1". . 
  6. ^ ibid.
  7. ^ Brown (2003), pp. 72–73
  8. ^ Sell (1913), p. 29.
  9. ^ Bukhari volume1, book 1, number 3
  10. ^ Quran 96:1–5
  11. ^ Sell (1913), p. 30.
  12. ^ Juan E. Campo, ed. (2009). Encyclopedia of Islam.  
  13. ^ a b
    • Transated by Alfred Guillaume (1967). The life of Muhammad (sira of ibn ishaq). Oxford University Press.  
    • At-Tabari 2/207
    • The Sealed Nectar
  14. ^ Bennett, Clinton (1998). In search of Muhammad. Cassell. p. 41.  
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