The Concept of Revelation
In Arabic, revelation is called wahee (وحي). Linguistic meaning – when you speak to someone in a manner which no one else can hear. It also has the meaning, to show an ishaarah [إشارة] (indication) by a movement, usually considered to be a very quick movement. Therefore it has both meanings of quiet speech and quick movement. Has the connotations of khafaa [خفاء] (hiddenness) and sur‘ah [سرعة] (speed)
There are various different forms of wahee/ ilhaam [إلهام] (inspirations):
There is the natural inspiration that every human has, by which Allaah inspires and encourages someone to do something. For example, it is mentioned in the Qur’aan that Allaah inspired the mother of Musa. This does not mean she is a prophet of Allaah; this is not the wahee we mean regarding revelation. Rather this is the type of ilhaam.
28:7. And We inspired the mother of Musa (Moses), (saying): “Suckle him [Musa (Moses)], but when you fear for him, then cast him into the river and fear not, nor grieve. Verily! We shall bring him back to you, and shall make him one of (Our) Messengers.”
You can find an ilhaam which is found within animals as well, how do animals and creatures know how to live? How do bees know how to produce honey? This is all an inspiration from Allaah.
16:68. And your Lord inspired to the bee, “Take for yourself among the mountains, houses, and among the trees and [in] that which they construct.
The word wahee is also used to refer to indicating, like hand movements, by gesturing.
19:11. So he (Zakariyya) came out to his people from the prayer chamber and signaled to them to exalt [Allaah] in the morning and afternoon.
The meaning of awhaa [أوحى] in this instance is to gesture, to give ishaarah (indication).
The term wahee has also been used for the waswasa of shaytaan. And the way he beautifies and adorns sin.
6:121. Eat not (O believers) of that (meat) on which Allaah’s Name has not been pronounced (at the time of the slaughtering of the animal), for sure it is Fisq (a sin and disobedience of Allaah). and Certainly, the Shayâtin (devils) do inspire their friends (from mankind) to dispute with you, and if you obey them [by making AlMaytatah (a dead animal) legal by eating it], Then you would indeed be Mushrikoon (polytheists) [because they (devils and their friends) made lawful to you to eat that which Allaah has made unlawful to eat and you obeyed them by considering it lawful to eat, and by doing so you worshipped them, and to worship others besides Allaah is polytheism].
Likewise Allaah speaks about how he interacts with the angels. He inspires them through revelation as well.
8:12. [Remember] when your Lord inspired to the angels, “I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.”
These are the various linguistic uses of the word wahee.
As for the way Allaah inspires his Prophets, how do we define this revelation?
The scholars defined the wahee given to the Prophets as being kalaamullaah al-munazzal ‘alaa nabi-in min anbiyaaihi [كلام الله المنزل على نبيين من أنبيائه]. The speech of Allaah which has been sent down to a prophet from His prophets.
What is the kayfiyyah [كيفية] or the mannerisms in which Allaah sends down revelation to his Prophets? Allaah inspires and gives revelation to the angels, and then there is another level of revelation which is to the prophets.
We need to look at how the angels receive the revelation and how the Prophets receive the revelation.
As for the mannerisms, the way in which Allaah reveals to the angels; then it is as follows:
- Allaah speaks to the angels; the angels hear His voice directly. Example in the Qur’aan:
2:30. And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels: “Verily, I am going to place (mankind) generations after generations on earth.” they said: “Will You place therein those who will make mischief therein and shed blood, – while we glorify You with praises and thanks (Exalted be You above All that they associate with You as partners) and sanctify You.” He (Allaah) said: “I know that which You do not know.”
- Likewise the famous hadeeth of An-Nawaas bin Sam’aan which depicts the way in which Allaah speaks to the angels. The Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said, “If Allaah wants to inspire the angels to do something, he will speak with the revelation. Then the entire heavens will shake of hearing the words of Allaah. Or like thunder, out of fear from Allaah. And when the inhabitants of the heavens hear that, they will literally drop dead and they will bow down in prostration to Allaah. And the first angel who will raise his head from prostration will be Jibreel and Allaah will speak to him from the revelation of whatever he wants. Then Jibreel will pass by the various different angels, every time he passes by a different level in the heavens, the angels will ask him – they will say ‘what did our Lord say O Jibreel?’ he will say, ‘Indeed he said the truth and he is the high one and the one with perfect pride – al ‘alii al kabeer.’ Then the angels will repeat the revelation of Allaah in the quraan ‘qaaluu al haqq, wa huwa al-alii al kabeer’ (34:23). Then Jibreel will cont to pass on this revelation as far as Allaah commands him to do so.” [At-Tabaraani]. This shows how Allaah clearly spoke to Jibreel, clearly spoke to the angels such that they could hear.
This is a huge topic which many scholars have written about in detail. This is a matter where there is a lot of deviation. With regards to the speech of Allaah, some say how can you say Allaah speaks? You are likening Him to His creation. It is this attitude that we do not accept. Rather we say Allaah spoke, it is kalaamullaah. Allaah calls the Qur’aan the speech of Allaah. As to the how and the mannerisms in which Allaah speaks, we do not know and do not ask about it and we don’t try and reflect or ponder over it. Rather we accept it the way it is.
- Another way Allaah reveals revelation to the angels is through the sacred tablet – al-lawh al-mahfuudh [اللوح المحفوظ].
85:21. Nay! This is a Glorious Qur’aan,
85:22. (Inscribed) In Al-Lawh Al-Mahfuudh (the preserved Tablet)!
- Allaah sent down the Qur’aan to the bayt ul-‘izza. The tablet is what Allaah commanded everything be written down on, not just revelation but everything that will occur till the end of time. Allaah also wrote down the Qur’aan on a tablet which was sent down the bayt ul-‘izza – this is a house in the lowest heaven. And from there it was sent down to the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wasallam).
As for the bayt al-ma’moor, this is different house, this is on the 7th heaven which is visited by 70,000 angels a day and they worship Allaah in this house. This is what is referred to in 97:1 “Verily We sent it down on laylat ul qadr.” Where was it sent down from? Scholars say from al lawh al mahfuudh, to bayt al ‘izza in Ramadaan. This will be covered in more detail with the tafseer of Surat al Qadr.
The hadeeth of An-Nawwas bin Sam’aan doesn’t mention that when Allaah spoke to Jibreel he spoke to him with Qur’aan. Rather He spoke to him of revelation, which could be of different types. So the scholars differed in regards to the nature of revelation of the Qur’aan from Allaah to Jibreel. The first opinion, which is the strongest opinion, is that Jibreel heard the Qur’aan in particular from Allaah.
The second opinion held by those you find affected by speculative theology, say that Jibreel memorised the Qur’aan from the sacred tablet because they try to flee from the idea that Allaah speaks and that Jibreel can hear the voice of Allaah.
Another interpretation is that Jibreel was inspired by Allaah with the meanings of the Qur’aan – the interpretation of the people of ‘ilm ul kalaam (speculative theology) therefore the wordings of the Qur’aan are either the wordings of Jibreel or Prophet and not the words of Allaah – this is a very weak opinion.
The strongest view without a shadow of a doubt is that he heard it from Allaah. Just because the Qur’aan was recorded in al lawh al mahfuudh doesn’t mean that’s how Jibreel took the Qur’aan from Allaah.
To be continued in shaa Allaah…