Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": MUHAMMAD'S CALL


Ahmad b. 'Uthman, who is known as Abu'l-jawza', has related to me on the authority of Wahb b. Jarir, who heard his father say that he had(, heard from an-Nu'man b. Rashid, on the authority of az-Zuhri from 'Urwa, from 'A'isha, who said: The way revelation (wahy) first began to come to the Apostle of Allah-on whom be Allah's blessing and peace-was by means of true dreams which would come like the morning dawn. Then he came to love solitude, so he used to go off to a cave in Hira 1 where he would practice tahannuth2 certain nights before returning to his family. Then he would come back to his family and take provisions for the like number [of nights] until unexpectedly the truth came to him.

He (i.e., Gabriel) came to him saying: 'O Muhammad, thou art Allah's Apostle (rasul3).' Said the Apostle of Allah-upon whom be Allah's blessing and peace: 'Thereat I fell to my knees where I had been standing, and then with trembling limbs(dragged myself along till I came in to Khadija 4 saying: "Wrap ye me up! Wrap ye me up !5 till the terror passed from me. Then [on another occasion] he came to me again and said: "O Muhammad, thou art Allah's Apostle," [which so disturbed me] that I was about to cast myself down from some high mountain cliff. But he appeared before me as I was about to do this, and said: "O Muhammad, I am Gabriel, and thou art Allah's Apostle." Then he said to me: "Recite!"; but I answered: "What should I recite?"; whereat he seized me and grievously treated me three times, till he wore me out. Then he said: "Recite, in the name of thy Lord who has created" (Sura XCVI, I). So I recited it and then went to Yhadija, to whom I said: "I am worried about myself." Then I told her the whole story. She said: "Rejoice, for by Allah, Allah will never put thee to shame. By Allah, thou art mindful of thy kinsfolk, speakest truthfully, Tenderest what is given thee in trust, bearest burdens, art ever hospitable to the guest, and dost always uphold the right against any wrong." Then she took me to Waraqua b. Naufal b. Asad [to whom] she said: "Give ear to what the son of thy brother [has to report]." So he questioned me, and I told him [the whole] story. Said he: "This is the namus 6 which was sent down upon Moses the son of Amram. Would that I might be a stalwart youth [again to take part] in it. Would that I might still be alive when your people turn you out." "And will they turn me out?" I asked. "Yes," said he, "never yet has a man come with that with which you come but has been turned away. Should I be there when your day comes I will lend you mighty assistance."'


1 A mountain in the environs of Mecca.

2 This is probably intended to represent the Hebrew word tihinnoth 'prayers.'

3 Rasul is literally 'messenger,' but like the New Testament apostolos, as a messenger of God it technically means an Apostle.

4 His first wife, an elderly and wealthy Meccan widow who had married him some years earlier.

5 See Sura LXXIII, 1.

6 This is from the Syriac transliteration of the Greek word names, law,' which is used in the Septuagint and the New Testament for the Mosaic law, i.e., the Torah.

Translation and notes by Arthur Jeffery, Islam. Muhammad and His Religion (New York: Liberal Arts Press, 1958), pp. 15-17; from at-Tabarl, Ta'rikh ar-rusul wa'l-muluk (Leiden, 1881), 1, 1147-52

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