TOWARDS UNDERSTANDING “REVELATION”
وَمَا كَانَ لِبَشَرٍ أَن يُكَلِّمَهُ ٱللَّهُ إِلاَّ وَحْياً أَوْ مِن وَرَآءِ حِجَابٍ أَوْ يُرْسِلَ رَسُولاً فَيُوحِيَ بِإِذْنِهِ مَا يَشَآءُ إِنَّهُ عَلِيٌّ حَكِيم
“It is not given to any human being that Allah should speak to him unless (it be) by Inspiration, or from behind a veil, or (that) He sends a Messenger to reveal what He wills by His Leave. Verily, He is Most High, Most Wise.
This verse clearly indicates that Allah Ta Aala communicates with his Prophets in 3 ways:-
- A) Inspiration (Wahy)
- B) Behind a Veil
- C) Via the Mediation of a sent Messenger (Jibreel)
- A) Inspiration: – Refers to Revelation unto the heart through inspiration.(Wahyul Qalb) In this form of communication NO words are spoken.  Allah Ta Aala places “Al-ilmul Yaqeen” (Definite Knowledge) to ensure that His Messenger has no doubt about the command.
- B) Behind a veil: – In this form of communication, words are exchanged but only a voice is heard. Allah Ta Aala remains veiled.
- C) Via the Mediation of a sent Messenger:- in this form of communication Allah Ta Aala reveals his message unto the Angel and then the message is brought to his Prophets via this Angel. (Jibreel alayhis salaam)
How does Allah Ta Aala communicate with his Angels?
He engages them with direct speech as seen in the following verse of the Qur’an:
“And when your Lord said unto the angels: Lo! I am about to place a viceroy in the earth, they said: Will You place therein one who will do harm therein and will shed blood, while we, we hymn Your praise and sanctify You? He said: Surely I know that which ye know not.” 
The above verse fulfills the necessary requirements for a dialogue. Allah Ta Aala speaks. His words are heard by the Angels who not only listen, but also understand. Thereafter they respond to Allah Almighty.
Giving a more descriptive view on the exchanges by Allah Ta Aala and His Angels, Hadhrath Nawaas bin Sam’aan (radhiyallahu anhu) explains that Rasoolullah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) has stated:
“When Allah wishes to reveal something He speaks the revelation. The Heavens begin to tremble from the fear of Allah. When the dwellers of the Heavens hear this, they fall in prostration to Allah and fall unconscious. The first to raise his head is Jibreel.” 
Thereafter Jibreel (alayhis salaam) takes the message to the rest of the angels or to the Messengers of Allah. The above verse and hadith shows that the Angels hear the message and command of Allah and have the ability to respond.
Qur’an during the Prophetic Era
There are many authentic narrations which prove that Rasoolullah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) did receive some signs of revelation prior to the incident at the cave of Hira. The Beloved Messenger (peace be upon him) would see true dreams. Historians are in agreement that the first verses revealed were the famous words of “Iqra”.  Rasoolullah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) was 40years old at the time. He was requested to read, upon which his response was, “maa ana bi qaari” (I am not of the reciters). The Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) then hurried home to his wife Sayyidah Khadeejah (radhiyallahu anhaa) who wrapped him up in a blanket and took care of him. She took him to her cousin Waraqah bin Naufal who deduced from this incident that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was visited by the very angel  who had previously visited the past Messengers (peace be upon them all). Thereafter revelation had come to a pause. This pause or interval between revelations is known as fatratul wahi.
The following hadith explains this event in more detail:
Narrated by ‘Aisha: (the mother of the faithful believers) The commencement of the Divine Inspiration to Allah’s Apostle was in the form of good dreams which came true like bright day light, 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 like-wise again till suddenly the Truth descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hira. The angel came to him and asked him to read. The Prophet replied, “Maa ana bi Qari”. The Prophet added, “The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read and I replied, Maa ana bi Qari.’ Thereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read but again I replied, ‘Maa ana bi Qari’ Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me, and then released me and said, ‘Read in the name of your Lord, who has created (all that exists) has created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous.” Then Allah’s Apostle returned with the Inspiration and with his heart beating severely. Then he went to Khadija bint Khuwailid 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 fear that something may 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 Naufal bin Asad bin ‘Abdul ‘Uzza, who, during the Pre-Islamic Period became a Christian and used to write 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 Apostle described whatever he had seen. Waraqa said, “This is the same one who keeps the secrets (angel Gabriel) 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.” Allah’s Apostle asked, “Will they drive me out?” Waraqa replied in the affirmative and said, “Anyone (man) 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.” But after a few days Waraqa died and the Divine Inspiration was also paused for a while. Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah Al-Ansari while talking about the period of pause in revelation reporting the speech of the Prophet “While I was walking, all of a sudden I heard a voice from the sky. I looked up and saw the same angel who had visited me at the cave of Hira’ sitting on a chair between the sky and the earth. I got afraid of him and came back home and said, ‘Wrap me (in blankets).’ And then Allah revealed the following Holy Verses (of Quran): ‘O you (i.e. Muhammad)! wrapped up in garments!’ Arise and warn (the people against Allah’s Punishment),… up to ‘and desert the idols.’ (74.1-5) After this the revelation started coming strongly, frequently and regularly.” 
The above hadith explains that Rasoolullah’s (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) first type of inspiration came in the form of true dreams. It also makes mention of the pause in revelation. The majority of historians are of the opinion that the gap between the revelation of Surah Alaq and the opening verses of Surah Mudathir was around 3 years. 
This is believed to be the longest gap between revelations. It was only when the opening verses of Surah Mudathir were revealed that Rasoolullah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) began to preach Islam publicly.
Describing his experience at the time of revelation, Sayyidah Ayeshah (radhiyallahu anha) narrates;
“Al-Harith bin Hisham asked Allah’s Apostle “O Allah’s Apostle! How is the Divine Inspiration revealed to you?” Allah’s Apostle replied, “Sometimes it is (revealed) like the ringing of a bell, this form of Inspiration is the hardest of all and then this state passes off after I have grasped what is inspired. Sometimes the Angel comes in the form of a man and talks to me and I grasp whatever he says.” ‘Aisha added: Verily I saw the Prophet being inspired Divinely on a very cold day and noticed the sweat dropping from his forehead (as the Inspiration was over). 
 Surah Shoora V.51
 Surah Saaffaat,V.102- Prophet Ebrahim (alayhis salaam) who received his command to sacrifice via a dream
 Surah Taahaa V.11-14- Prophet Moosa (alayhis salaam) hears the voice of Allah Ta Aala but doesn’t see Him.
 Surah Baqarah,V.30
 Tabrani, Bayhaqi, Baghawi,Asbahani, Ibn Jareer Tabri, Ibn Khuzaymah, Ibn Katheer (from various chains)
 Surah Alaq
 Jibreel (alayhis salaam)
 Sahih Bukhari, Book of Revelation, Hadith no.3
 Fathul Baari by Allaamah ibn Hajr Asqalani (rahimahollah)
 Sahih Bukhari, Book of Revelation, Hadith no.2
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