Answered by: Maulana Muhammad Afzal Hussain
Why did Angel Jibreel squeeze the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)? And also, why was he commanded to “read” when he was illiterate?
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
The commencement of the Divine Inspiration to Allah’s Apostle was in the form of good dreams which came true like bright daylight, 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, “I do not know how to read. The Prophet added, “The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it anymore.
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 till I could not bear it anymore. He then released me and again asked me to read but again I replied, ‘I do not know how to read (or what shall I 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 (all that exists) has created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous.” (96.1, 96.2, 96.3) 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 the writing 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.” (Bukhari:3)
Concerning ‘the angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it anymore’: Allah and His Messenger did not explain why Jibreel squeezed the Prophet. However, the scholars of Islam have mentioned some wisdom behind the squeeze:
Prophet would be free from worldly thoughts and notions.
It was a warning for Him that he is going to receive a huge task and heavy words were going to be revealed upon Him.
To show that He is a dependent, cannot say anything from himself.
The ability of reading comes from Allah. You cannot read without being given the ability by Allah.
The difficulties you are having are not your mere thoughts nor whisperings nor illusions it is something else. [See for more details: Kashful Bari by Shaykhul Hadeeth Saleem Ullah Khan, vol: 1, page: 353-354, publisher: Maktabah Faruqiyyah Karachi]
Concerning the commandment of reading: Allama Teebi mentioned in his commentary of Mishkat that: “In the 1st five Ayaths of Sura al-Alaq, an answer has been pointed to the doubt that cast in the heart of the Messenger of Allah. When it is said to Him to read, He replied I cannot read. In those of five Ayaths Allah informed, though you are illiterate, with Allah’s countless mercy, read in His name you will have a solution to all problems. There are two ways Allah bestows knowledge. (1) By book and pen. Which is known ‘Ilm-e-Kitabi’ (knowledge by book and pen)? Allah said: ‘Who has taught by the pen (Quran: 4:96).’ (2) Without any medium which is called ‘Ilm-e-Ladunni’. Allah said: ‘He has taught man that which he knew not (Quran: 5:9).’ Allah is almighty. He can grant knowledge to an illiterate man without any medium. So He would grant you a treasure of knowledge, as He said: ‘. . . . and taught you that you knew not. And ever great is the grace of Allah to you (O Muhammad) (Quran: 113:4)’.“ [See: Seerat-e-Mustafa by Idris Kandalavi, page: 117]
Imam Ibn Hajar mentioned, “Concerning His repeating ‘Ma Ana bi-qari’ (I am not a reader) (Bukhari: 3) The ‘bi’ here an addition meant to strengthen the negation; thus the sentence means ‘I do not read well.’ After He had said this three times, he was told: ‘Read in the name of your Lord’; that is ‘Do not read with your own power or your own knowledge, but with the power and aid of your Lord; for He will teach you just as He created you, and just as He removed the clot of blood and Satan’s touch from you in your childhood, and taught your community so that they came to write with the pen after having been unlettered.” [See: Fathul Bari, Commentary on Hadeeth number: 3]
Only Allah Knows Best
Written by Maulana Muhammad Afzal Hussain
Checked and approved by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham