Third Module – The First Revelation

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Third Module

The First Revelation

The subject matter in this chapter saves no space for the application of logic, it is based on divine selection. Yes, however one can apply one’s mind in giving preference to the different viewpoints or by reconciling between the apparent differences together with going back and referencing original sources.[1]

During my research, I found many differing views with regards to the first revelation, however since most of them hold no weight through authentication and are considered obsolete in contrast to the authentic views, I have not mentioned them here as it would only serve to lengthen the book to no benefit. I will suffice on mentioning two views that are authentic.

The First View

The first revelation was the opening verses of Surah al ‘Alaq:

اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِيْ خَلَقَ

Recite in the name of your Lord who created –

خَلَقَ الْإِنْسَانَ مِنْ عَلَقٍ

Created man from a clinging substance.

اقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ الْأَكْرَمُ

Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous –

الَّذِيْ عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ

Who taught by the pen –

عَلَّمَ الْإِنْسَانَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ

Taught man that which he knew not.[2]

There is consensus that this view is the most authentic. This is due to it being strengthened by many Ahadith. I shall suffice by mentioning the following:

  1. Al Bukhari and Muslim have narrated this hadith from ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha. The wording is of al Bukhari:

أول ما بدئ به رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم من الوحي الرؤيا الصادقة في النوم فكان لا يرى رؤيا إلا جاءت مثل فلق الصبح فكان يأتي حراء فيتحنث فيه وهو التعبد الليالي ذوات العدد ويتزود لذلك ثم يرجع إلى خديجة فتزوده لمثلها حتى فجئه الحق وهو في غار حراء فجاءه الملك فيه فقال اقرأ فقال له النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فقلت ما أنا بقارئ فأخذني فغطني حتى بلغ مني الجهد ثم أرسلني فقال اقرأ فقلت ما أنا بقارئ فأخذني فغطني الثانية حتى بلغ مني الجهد ثم أرسلني فقال اقرأ فقلت ما أنا بقارئ فأخذني فغطني الثالثة حتى بلغ مني الجهد ثم أرسلني فقال اقرأ باسم ربك الذي خلق حتى بلغ علم الإنسان ما لم يعلم فرجع بها ترجف بوادره حتى دخل على خديجة فقال زملوني زملوني فزملوه حتى ذهب عنه الروع فقال يا خديجة ما لي وأخبرها الخبر وقال قد خشيت على نفسي فقالت له كلا أبشر فوالله لا يخزيك الله أبدا إنك لتصل الرحم وتصدق الحديث وتحمل الكل وتقري الضيف وتعين على نوائب الحق

The beginning of the revelation to the Messenger of Allah, salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was in the form of good dreams which came true like bright daylight; 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 continuously for many days. He would take with him food for the stay and then come back to his wife Khadijah radiya Llahu ‘anha to take his food again, until 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, “I do not know how to read.” The Prophet added, “The angel caught me 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: I do not know how to read; thereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time until I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read but I replied: I do not know how to read; 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 everything, who has created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous.” Then Allah’s Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam returned with the Inspiration and with his heart beating severely. Then he went to Khadijah radiya Llahu ‘anha and said, “Cover me! Cover me!” She covered him until his fear subsided and then he told her everything that happened, and he said, “I fear that something may happen to me.” Khadijah radiya Llahu ‘anha replied, “Never! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you. You keep good relations with your family, you help the poor and the destitute, you serve your guests generously, and you assist those afflicted by calamities.”

  1. Al Hakim in his Mustadrak and al Bayhaqi in his Dalail have the narration of ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha thus:

اول سورة نزلت من القران اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ

The first chapter to be revealed was, “Recite in the name of your Lord who created”[3]

  1. Al Tabarani has authenticated the following tradition in his al Kabir with his chain of narration on the authority of Abu Raja al ‘Utaridi (d.105) who says:

كان أبو موسى الأشعري يقرئنا فيجلسنا حلقا، عليه ثوبان أبيضان فإذا تلا هذه السورة اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ قال: هذه أول سورة نزلت على محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم

Abu Musa al Ash’ari (d. 44)[4] would recite to us and we would sit around him. He was wearing two pieces of white cloth when he recited “Recite in the name of your Lord who created”. He then said, “This was the first chapter that was revealed to Muhammad salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.”

The Second View

The first revelation was the opening verses of Surah al Muddathir. The proof used to substantiate this view is the following narration of Sahih al Bukhari and Sahih Muslim on the authority of Abu Salamah ibn ‘Abdul Rahman ibn ‘Awf (d. 104)[5] who states:

سألت جابر بن عبد الله الأنصاري : أي القرآن أنزل قبل ؟ قال : ( ياأيها المدثر ) قال : قلت : أو ( اقرأ باسم ربك ؟ ( قال جابر : أحدثكم ما حدثنا رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – قال رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – : “ إني جاورت بحراء ، فلما قضيت جواري نزلت فاستبطنت بطن الوادي ، فنوديت فنظرت أمامي وخلفي وعن يميني وعن شمالي ، ثم نظرت إلى السماء فإذا جبريل على عرش بين السماء والارض فأخذتني رجفة . فأتيت خديجة فأمرتهم فدثروني ثم صبوا علي الماء ، فأنزل الله – عز وجل – علي : ( ياأيها المدثر قم فأنذر) الي (والرجز فاهجر)

I asked Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah, which portion of the Qur’an was the first to be revealed?

He said, “Surah Al Muddathir.[6]

I asked him, “Was it not Surah al ‘Alaq?”

He replied, “I narrate to you that which I heard Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam saying. The Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, ‘After leaving the cave of Hira I came to the middle of the valley when I suddenly heard a call. I looked in all directions till I raised my head to the sky where I saw Jibril sitting on a throne between heaven and earth. This struck terror in my heart, and reaching home quickly, I said: Cover me up, cover me up. So, they covered me up and splashed water on me. At that time Allah sent down the revelation [the opening verses of Surah Al Muddathir].’”[7]

Looking at this narration in conjunction with the ones mentioned under the first view shows an apparent contradiction. There Surah al ‘Alaq was said to be the first revelation whilst here Surah Al Muddathir is referred to as the first revelation.

Reconciling between the narrations is possible by saying, the very first revelation was the opening verses of Surah al ‘Alaq, whilst the first revelation after the break in revelation (Fatrah al Wahi) took place was the beginning of Surah al Muddathir.

This reconciliation is not farfetched when considering the narration of Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim with the chain of al Zuhri (d. 124)[8] narrating from Abu Salamah ibn ‘Abdul Rahman ibn ‘Awf (d. 104) who narrates from Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah (d. 78). He recounts hearing the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam talking of the break in revelation:

فبينا أنا أمشي سمعت صوتا من السماء فرفعت رأسي فإذا الملك الذي جاءني بحراء جالسا على كرسي بين السماء والأرض فجئثت منه رعبا فرجعت فقلت دثروني دثروني فدثروني فأنزل الله تبارك وتعالى يا أيها المدثر قم فأنذر وربك فكبر وثيابك فطهر والرجز فاهجر قبل أن تفرض الصلاة

Whilst I was walking I heard a voice from the sky and when I looked up I saw that the same Angel who had visited me in the Cave of Hira was sitting on a throne between heaven and earth. This struck terror in my heart This struck terror in my heart, and reaching home quickly, I said, ‘Cover me up, cover me up’. So, they covered me up. Then Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala revealed [the beginning verses of Surah al Muddathir] before salah had become obligatory.[9]

This narration leaves no doubt in my mind that the very first revelation was Surah al ‘Alaq and the first verses to be revealed after the break in revelation was of Surah al Muddathir.

To conclude, Surah al Muddathir is first relative to Surah al ‘Alaq.

NEXT⇒ Fourth Module – The Last Revelation


[1] The likes of, Al Itqan of al Suyuti (d. 911) and Al Burhan of al Zarkashi (d. 794).

[2] Surah al ‘Alaq: 1-5.

[3] ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha meant the opening verses as the rest of the chapter was revealed at a later stage.

[4] His name is ‘Abdullah ibn Qais and is counted amongst the best of the Companions together with being a brave warrior and conqueror. He was one of the delegates that was appointed to negotiate between ‘Ali and Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhuma at the Battle of Siffin. His had a most melodies voice by which he would recite the Qur’an. He passed away in the 44th year. For further reading see, Tabaqat ibn Sa’d, vol. 4 pg. 150; Sifat al Safwah, vol. 1 pg. 225; al Isabah, vol. 2 pg. 359.

[5] His name is Abu Salamah ibn ‘Abdul Rahman ibn ‘Awf al Zuhri. He is from amongst the Tabi’in and has narrated many Ahadith. Some have said his name is ‘Abdullah whilst others have opted for Isma’il. He passed away in the year 104. See, Tahdhib al Tahdhib, vol. 12 pg. 115.

[6] Meaning the opening verses. See, al Itqan, vol. 1 pg. 68; Min ‘Ulum al Qur’an, pg. 19; Ma’a al Qur’an al Karim, pg. 183.

[7] Al Itqan, vol. 1 pgs. 69-70; Min ‘Ulum al Qur’an, pg. 20; Ma’a al Qur’an al Karim, pg. 184.

[8] His full name is Muhammad ibn Muslim ibn ‘Ubaidullah.

[9] Al Itqan, vol. 1 pgs. 69-70; Min ‘Ulum al Qur’an, pg. 20; Ma’a al Qur’an al Karim, pg. 184.