Answered by: Shaykh Shafiur Rahman
1) Is it true that the Prophet (saw) thought he was possessed and had met a demon when he first encountered Jibreel (as)? Proponents of Islam quote Ibn Ishaq’s Seerah to say that he thought he had met a demon. How authentic is this incident?
2) Also, how does one respond when they say that he (saw) tried to commit suicide after being terrified by the event?
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Imam Bukhari records in his Sahih (hadith no 6982) from Aisha RA that when the Prophet AS first encountered the Angel Jibreel (AS) in the Hira cave and rushed home his heart was racing and he was somewhat fearful. However it does not say he thought he had ‘met a demon’, rather he was naturally fearful for himself as he had never encountered something like that before. And Khadija RA consoled him and assured him that Allah would take care of him due to his good character and generosity and support for all around him.
Many narrations in the Sirah literature do not meet the hadith criteria of authenticity (sihah)
The allegation that the Prophet AS tried to commit suicide is a reference to some reports that he was extremely sad at the long gap in revelation coming to him after the initial revelation at cave Hira. After which it is reported that he had tried to climb the mountain to throw himself off in despair but when he tried to do that the Angel Jibreel appeared and said “say, O Muhammad! You are indeed Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) in truth” whereupon his heart would become quiet and he would calm down and would return home. This is mentioned as part of the longer hadith (no. 6982) recorded by Bukhari on the authority of Aisha RA in the chapter of Interpretation of Dreams (Kitab al-Ta’bir).
However, this part of the narration which describes the alleged attempted suicide is not actually reported by Aisha as part of her narration. It is one of the narrators (al-Zuhri) who adds this to the hadith text by prefacing it with “according to what has reached us..”(fi ma balaghana). So Zuhri who is a narrator of this hadith of Aisha RA has added this part and has not mentioned the chain of narrators, meaning who he heard this from, he simply says “according to what has reached us” for this part. In other words, he didn’t hear this part from his teacher who narrated the hadith of Aisha RA. As we know when a report is narrated without naming the narrators in the chain then this will not be counted as a sahih narration because the narrators are unknown. Therefore this part of the narration, that alleges the suicide, is weak and not part of the hadith text narrated by Aisha. Zuhri heard this from other teachers and/or narrators whom he hasn’t named.
Imam Bukhari has recorded this hadith in full including Zuhri’s addition because his collection was really for scholars of hadith who would understand and be alerted to this fact. Or he included showing people that this part of Zuhris addition is not part of the main Hadith.
Imam Muslim and others have recorded the same hadith of Aisha RA but without the addition of Zuhri as it is not part of the hadith. Therefore the reports alleging the attempted suicide of the Prophet AS are not sound or true.
Only Allah knows best.
Written by Shaykh Shafiur Rahman
Checked and approved by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham