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Mysticism and Prophet Muhammad’s First Revelation

Before Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was a prophet, he was a simple man. He was an orphan, raised by his Uncle Abu Talib, and he was known to have lived a pure life with the absence of lies and sin. Muhammad would contemplate life and its mysteries, he would seek answers to questions, and to do this he would go to a cave in a mountainside in Mecca. He’d disappear to this cave for days at a time, and leave his family at home. This was common among those in his tribe. One day, the Prophet Muhammad went to this cave, called Cave of Hirah, to think and philosophize once again. What he saw on this trip startled him to a shiver. The Prophet Muhammad saw what he couldn’t explain. Some claim he perceived the being before him to be a demon or some sort of creature which was bound to kill him. A creature came to him and commanded “READ” Muhammad responded and told the creature “I cannot read”. The creature grabbed Muhammad again forcefully in a way described as a suffocating force, and was told “READ, READ, READ, Read of your Lord who created you and all mankind from blood.” What he saw that day, according to Islam, was the Angel Gabriel. The Angel Gabriel presented himself to Muhammad in a way that would leave any human being astonished and mesmerised. Muhammad, fearful and shocked, ran all the way from Cave Hirah to his wife in Quraish. Once he reached his home, he said to his wife “cover me, cover me” as he trembled.  His wife Khadijah would then be the one to explain to him that he had not seen a demon, but rather an angel, and in this experience Muhammad was chosen as the Prophet of Allah. What would happen from that point on was the beginning of the start of a new religion, a foundation of morals, rules, principles, explanations, perceptions, and most importantly in this matter, spirituality. This event would be the first recorded instance of mysticism, which would lead to interpretations and schools of thought that allowed for less imperative and more interpretive forms Islam.

 

As Muhammad was contemplating in the cave, Angel Gabriel appeared in what seemed to be the first evident occasion of mysticism in Islam. This experience can be addressed in some of the most common important aspects of Mysticism. The Quran records this instant of the meeting of the Prophet Muhammad and Angel Gabriel as one that was incredibly hard to explain by the prophet Muhammad. Muslim scholars believe that the prophet’s first inference was that he was approached by a demon. He became so startled that his body was overtaken and when he finally came back to his wife, he was in critical condition of fear and shock. Prophet Muhammad couldn’t even fully explain what it was that occured, he simply thought it to be supernatural. This is evidence that the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) experience was ineffable. His experience with the angel Gabriel was extremely short and sudden, meaning it was transient. He was helpless in the cave when approached by the angel Gabriel, he had no control over the situation. He was helpless and described the experience as being overtaken, which shows passivity. In this experience, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was given information by the angel Gabriel that he hadn’t known before, and through this we see noetic quality. This experience was hard to explain, short, beyond human control, and revealed some sort of truth overlooked by humans, especially in a time where the once holy land was experiencing a disconnect with religion. This experience is the start to a religion that would one day be the second most predominant religion on Earth.

In the art pieces found in, “From the Literal to the Spiritual:The Development of the Prophet Muhammad’s Portrayal from 13th Century Ilkhanid Miniatures to 17th Century Ottoman Art”, we see that Muslims have a perception of Prophet Muhammad that is beyond mortal but rather metaphysical and spiritual. The prophet is pictured in supernatural images such as standing before a giant angel, surrounded by winged creatures which are also presumably angels. In these pieces of art, we can determine that while these moments pictured were not mentioned historically or evidently in any way, Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has experienced mystical experiences, which shows the mysticism in Islam.

 

The most popular form of mysticism in Islam is known as “Sufism” which is a form of spiritual Islamic practice and spiritual school of thought derived from the first schools of Islam which followed the time of the life of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Many Sufi Muslims argue that prophet Muhammad was a Sufi Muslim himself in the sense that he founded a religion which was then interpreted by Sufis to be spiritual, far more spiritual than the way the average Sunni or Shia Muslim sees Islam. Prophet Muhammad had a mystical experience with the Angel Gabriel, and from then on he would answer the questions of thousands of people, giving lessons on how to live life in a manner right by God and right by humanity, and giving lessons on how to be spiritually connected to God. Prophet Muhammad’s experience with the angel Gabriel was the very first example of this sense of spirituality that would help to establish Islam as a faith similar to Judaism and Christianity, both of which claim to have brought instances of supernatural occurances to humanity.

 

We cannot prove nor disprove the Prophet Muhammad’s first revelation, but what we can say is that this experience set a basis for a faith, which means Islam, similarly to the first revelation, cannot be disproved, but rather must be followed by belief without evidence. This establishes the basis for religion, and is truthfully the first example of spirituality and mysticism.

 

Waheed. “Sufism (Part 1 of 2).” Sufism (All Parts) – The Religion of Islam, 20 Apr. 2008, www.islamreligion.com/articles/1388/viewall/sufism/.

 

Author and researcher Abdurrahman Murad, describes and informs his audience of Islam and Sufism and how they correlate. Murad does this by giving descriptions of Sufism, its origins, Islam and sufism and how they relate, and aspects of the faith of Islam. His purpose in this piece is to connect Islam with Sufism and describe Muslim Sufism and connect the unique school of religious though called Sufism, and the religion of Islam. The author’s intended audience is those who are trying to develop an understanding of Islam and this unique school of thought and religious philosophical ideology, Sufism. Those who are trying to practice the Sufi way of Islam would be interested in this piece, as well as those trying to find the connection and/or difference between Sufism and Islam.

 

Shrader, Douglas W. “Seven Characteristics of Mystical Experiences.” 2008.

 

Distinguished Professor and Philosophy Chairman Douglas W. Shrader, explains the essence of mysticism in his piece “Seven Characteristics of Mystical Experiences”. He does this by giving a lsit of the charactaristics and their meanings, then furthers his explanations by describing each of the seven characteristics and how they impact mysticism. Shrader’s purpose is to try and inform the readers of mysticism, which is important to understand, especially in the discussion regarding religious practices and religious diversity. The intended audeince for this piece is those who are interested in learning of a deeper and spiritual aspects to religion. Students of religious courses and those who intend to go about follwoing religion in a more spiritual rather than literal way would find this piece interesting and useful.

 

“The Birth of Islam and the Proclamation by Muhammad of His Mission.” Al-Islam.org, www.al-islam.org/restatement-history-islam-and-muslims-sayyid-ali-ashgar-razwy/birth-islam-and-proclamation-muhammad.

 

In “The birth of Islam and the Proclamation by Muhammad of His Mission”, Al-Islam.org informs the reader of a brief history of Islam. The author’s purpose is to explain to the readers of how significant events in Islam happened, as well as give a historical summary with slight detail of the times of Islam. The author does this by giving time aproximations, and by describing different events that occured in the history of Islam, then the author discusses the significance of these events. The audience for this informational piece is most likely researches and scholars of religious studies and Islam. Someone who would be interested in this poiece could be a student of a religious studies class, or a course on the history of Islam, but the audience ranges in the sense that even a Muslim or Christian interested in understanding more about his/her religion or his/her neighbor’s relgion, could find this piece useful.

 

Work Cited

“The Birth of Islam and the Proclamation by Muhammad of His Mission.” Al-Islam.org,

www.al-islam.org/restatement-history-islam-and-muslims-sayyid-ali-ashgar-razwy/birth-islam-and-proclamation-muhammad.

 

Shrader, Douglas W. “Seven Characteristics of Mystical Experiences.” 2008.

 

Waheed. “Sufism (Part 1 of 2).” Sufism (All Parts) – The Religion of Islam, 20 Apr. 2008,

www.islamreligion.com/articles/1388/viewall/sufism/.

 

Ali, Wijdan, ‘ From the Literal to the Spiritual: The Development of the Prophet Muhammad’s Portrayal from

13th Century Ilkhanid Miniatures to 17th Century Ottoman Art, Proceedings of the 11th International Congress of Turkish Art, Utrecht – The Netherlands, August 23-28, 1999, No. 7, 1-24.

 

Melchert, Christopher. “Origins and Early Sufism.” The Cambridge Companion to Sufism, pp. 3–23.,

doi:10.1017/cco9781139087599.003.

 

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