Seerah – Life of the Prophet: Pause and Continuation of Revelation
Episode 29: Pause and Continuation of Revelation
Welcome to Seerah Pearls, which aims to highlight some tantalising learning points from each episode of the Seerah- Life of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).
The next major stage was the pause in revelation. However, some accounts report that the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) received a second revelation straight after the first. These are reported to be the first few verses of Surah Qalam (68): some say the first 2 verses, others the first 4-5 verses.
Nun. By the pen and what they inscribe,
You are not, [O Muhammad], by the favor of your Lord, a madman.
And indeed, for you is a reward uninterrupted.
And indeed, you are of a great moral character.
Some reports say there was a third revelation to provide the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) recourse to cope with what was happening: Surah 73 (Al-Muzzammil).
O you who wraps himself [in clothing],
Arise [to pray] the night, except for a little –
Half of it – or subtract from it a little
Or add to it, and recite the Qur’an with measured recitation.
Indeed, We will cast upon you a heavy word.
Indeed, the hours of the night are more effective for concurrence [of heart and tongue] and more suitable for words.
Indeed, for you by day is prolonged occupation.
This revelation was to emphasise to the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) that he would only be as solid as his night prayer to ‘charge his batteries’. Surprisingly, Allah is not telling him to rest at night, but to stand and pray and use this time to converse and connect with Allah.
Then, there was a pause in the revelation. The duration is not explicitly mentioned from the hadith, the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) himself, or the people around him. Some scholars have tried to conclude the duration of the pause, with estimates ranging from a few days and weeks, to as long as 3 years: Allah knows best.Why the pause? It was to give the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) time to acclimate to the unusual experience. Also, once he became comfortable with the situation, it was for him to develop longing and anticipation for further revelation.
During this time, the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) became worried, in case he had displeased Allah. It is said he went up a mountain and if Allah was upset with him, he would throw himself off the mountain. However, the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) did not want to kill himself. Some explanations for this action include:
1) There is always the possibility that this was a figure of speech e.g. like ‘screaming from the rooftop’.
2) If taken literally, emotional expressions are very specific to time and culture. If you look at ancient societies, they were comfortable with powerful emotional expressions e.g. if there was a tragedy, a man would come to a public area, rip his shirt, pulling his hair and screaming. In today’s times, we would think of this behaviour as a sign of a psychological disorder. Also, there are some studies of science within the Islamic worldview that can never be reconciled with modern frames of scientific reference, as they are coming from a completely secular perspective.
3) The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) was willing to do anything to please his Lord.
In this situation, Jibreel (alayhi as-salaam) would appear and say ‘You most definitely are the Messenger of Allah and this is the truth’. His words would calm the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and he would descend again.
Finally, the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) was walking through the marketplace in Makkah and he heard a sound from above. There, he saw Jibreel (alayhi as-salaam) for the second time in his true form. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said it was even more overwhelming than the first time, with the angel sitting on a throne. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) was shaken to the core and he felt like he could not walk. Thus, he sat down where he was. Managing to return home, he said, ‘Wrap me up in a blanket’. His wife did so, and he was sent the revelation of Surah 74: Al-Muddaththir.From this point on, the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) was a man with a mission.
O you who covers himself [with a garment],
Arise and warn
And your Lord glorify
And your clothing purify
And uncleanliness avoid
There are some accounts that the first revelation after the pause was Surah Duhaa (93). However, authentic narrations do not say this. Bukhari and Muslim report that this event occurred when the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) became ill and was in bed for 2-3 nights, and the revelation ceased. A lady came and mocked him, sarcastically saying that it looked like Allah had abandoned him. In response, Allah sent down Surah Duhaa:
By the morning brightness
And [by] the night when it covers with darkness,
Your Lord has not taken leave of you, [O Muhammad], nor has He detested [you].