Revelation to Companions of the Holy Prophet
Friday Khutba by Dr Zahid Aziz, for Lahore Ahmadiyya UK, 10 March 2023
“Say: This is my way; I call to Allah, with certain knowledge — I and those who follow me. And glory be to Allah! and I am not of those who set up partners (with Allah).” — ch. 12, v. 108
قُلۡ ہٰذِہٖ سَبِیۡلِیۡۤ اَدۡعُوۡۤا اِلَی اللّٰہِ ۟ؔ عَلٰی بَصِیۡرَۃٍ اَنَا وَ مَنِ اتَّبَعَنِیۡ ؕ وَ سُبۡحٰنَ اللّٰہِ وَ مَاۤ اَنَا مِنَ الۡمُشۡرِکِیۡنَ ﴿۱۰۸﴾
In the last Khutba I dealt with the topic of prophecies that are revealed to the saints of Islam. Now I would like to refer to some incidents of revelations to the Companions of the Holy Prophet. This verse tells the Holy Prophet Muhammad to declare to people that he is placing before them his teachings — “This is my way”, the path which I take — and he is calling people to God on the basis of his personal experience of knowledge of God. He is calling people to God into Whom he has personal insight. And it is not only the Holy Prophet who does so, but his followers of the highest stature also call people to God through having experienced God themselves. They have not merely heard about God or read about Him, and are calling others to accept Him; they have certainty and surety in their minds and hearts of the existence of God.
The Companions of the Holy Prophet are described in the Quran as follows: “These are they into whose hearts He has impressed faith, and strengthened them with a Spirit from Himself” (58:22). The first incident I refer to is how the practice of giving the Adhān to call people to prayer started. When Muslims settled in Madinah, they used, at first, to have a time appointed for prayer, at which they all gathered together. This arrangement was unsatisfactory, probably because there was no system of measuring the time of the day it was, nor any devices available to indicate what time it was. So a consultation of the Muslim community was held by the Holy Prophet. Some people suggested ringing a bell as the Christians did, others suggested blowing a horn as the Jews did, and some others suggested lighting a fire at the time of prayer. Hazrat Umar proposed that a man should be appointed who should sound a call for prayer. Then the Holy Prophet ordered Bilal to call Muslims for prayers in the words of Adhān as we now have it.
But where did these words of the Adhān come from? Hadith reports show that several days before this consultation was held, Hazrat Umar had seen in a dream a man who was reciting the words of the Adhān. But at the consultation he did not relate the dream to the Holy Prophet out of humility and respect for his status as Prophet, but he merely suggested that a man should be appointed to call for prayer. Then after the consultation, possibly on the night after it, a Companion of the Holy Prophet, Abdullah ibn Zaid, saw a dream similar to that of Hazrat Umar. He went to the Holy Prophet and he told him about it. The Holy Prophet confirmed that the dream was true. The Holy Prophet himself had already received the same words in revelation. So he ordered Bilal to give the call to prayer in those words. When Hazrat Umar heard the call, he came to the Holy Prophet and said that he had seen the same dream. The Holy Prophet said to him: “Revelation from Allah has preceded this (dream) of yours”, meaning that the revelation had come to the Holy Prophet before Hazrat Umar related his dream to him. Maulana Muhammad Ali writes about this: “It must be remembered that believers other than the Holy Prophet himself may have received suggestions from on High about the institutions of Islam, but these acquired the status of the law of Islam only after confirmation by the Holy Prophet through his revelation of what the others had seen or heard.”
Regarding the extra words in the Adhān for the Fajr prayer, “Prayer is better than sleep” (aṣ-ṣalātu khair-un min-an-naum) it is reported in the Hadith book Ibn Majah that once when Bilal came to the Holy Prophet to call him for the Fajr prayer, he was told that the Holy Prophet was asleep. Bilal then called out these words. So the Holy Prophet ordered him to add these words into the Adhān for the Fajr prayer. (Ibn Majah, Book of Adhān and the Sunnah about it, hadith 716 and 715). Bilal may not have received these words as an actual revelation, but they are so appropriate and concise that they appear to have been inspired by Allah. This could be why the Holy Prophet instructed that they be given a permanent part in the Fajr Adhān.
It is also reported in Hadith: “One day we were saying prayers behind the Prophet. When he raised his head from Rukū‛, he said: Sami‛ Allāhu li-man ḥamidah (‘Allah hears him who praises Him’). A man who was behind him said: Rabba-nā wa la-ka-l-ḥamd, ḥamd-an kathīr-an ṭayyib-an mubārak-an fīhi (‘Our Lord, and Yours is the praise, a praise full of abundance, purity and blessing’). When he (the Holy Prophet) finished (the prayer), he asked: ‘Who said this?’ He (the man) said: ‘I’. He (the Holy Prophet) said: ‘I saw thirty angels, and some more, racing with one another to see who among them would be the first to write it down’.” (Bukhari, hadith 799) Thus it became a permanent part of prayer to say Rabba-nā wa la-ka-l-ḥamd (or its full version) upon hearing: Sami‛ Allāhu li-man ḥamidah. Angels writing it down means that this expression was accepted by God. So we see that what a believer said had God’s approval, and this approval was testified to by the Holy Prophet himself. This means that it may have been inspired by God in that believer’s heart.
The Holy Prophet’s opponents of Makkah used to attack him and Islam in poetry composed in satirical language. A Companion of the Holy Prophet, by the name of Hassān ibn Thābit, who was a poet, went to the Holy Prophet and offered to respond to their satire in poetry. The Holy Prophet had a pulpit set up for him in his mosque in Madinah from where to recite his poetry to answer the Holy Prophet’s critics in the same coin, and to defend and praise the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet said to him: “O Hassān, reply on behalf of the Messenger of Allah. O Allah, help him with the Holy Spirit” (Bukhari, hadith 453). According to some versions of this incident in Bukhari, the Holy Prophet said to him: “Reply, and Jibril is with you” (hadith 3213, 4123, and 6153). The Holy Prophet’s prayer shows that Muslim believers can also receive assistance from the Holy Spirit (Rūḥ al-Qudus), which is the same as the angel Jibril. This indicates that some of Hassān ibn Thābit’s poetry was inspired by Allah.
There is another incident reported in Hadith by Hazrat Aishah relating to what happened upon the death of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. She said that when the Companions wanted to wash his body, or give it ghusl as we call it, they said: “We don’t know whether to remove his clothes as we do for our dead or to give him ghusl with his clothes on.” When they differed over this, Allah caused them to fall asleep, to the extent that everyone of them had his chin resting on his chest. Then the voice of a speaker came from the side of the house, and they did not know who it was. The voice said: “Wash the Prophet with his clothes on.” So they stood around the Prophet and washed him while he had his shirt on. They poured water on his shirt and rubbed him with his shirt and not with their hands (Abu Dawud, hadith 3141). It is quite clear that this was a revelation, heard in sound by the Companions present there, upon whom Allah had sent a state of deep sleep.
I will add here a couple of incidents of Hazrat Umar from the time when he was Khalifa. He had sent an army under the command of a man called Sāriyah to fight a battle against the Persians. The Persians were about to surround the Muslim army and attack them from two sides. At that time Hazrat Umar was hundreds of miles away in Madinah delivering the Friday Khutba. He suddenly stopped his Khutba and shouted three times: “Sāriyah, take to the mountain!” — یا ساری الجبل. The people in the congregation were astounded and couldn’t understand why Umar was shouting this. Afterwards, a Companion went to see him and asked why he had shouted this. Hazrat Umar replied that he saw the army of Sāriyah being attacked from front and behind, and he shouted to them to reach the mountain so that it is behind them to guard them from that direction. Many days later a messenger from the battle-field reached Madinah with news about the battle. He said that they were being defeated by the Persians when they heard a voice crying out three times: “Sāriyah, take to the mountain!” They did what the voice said, placing themselves so that the mountain was behind them. Eventually they won the battle. Hazrat Umar was shown in a vision the critical scene of the battle and his desperate plea reached there. He later related that what he shouted was not in his control. (Tarikh-ul-Khulafa by Jalal-ud-Din Suyuti, English translation by A. Clarke, p. 128–129)
Another incident occurred in Egypt shortly after its conquest by Muslims. The local people came to the Muslim governor at a certain time in their calendar and said to him that the river Nile dries up unless at this time of the year they perform the custom of throwing a young virgin into the river. The governor said that under Islam this could not be allowed. The river then dried up. So he wrote to Hazrat Umar about it. Hazrat Umar wrote back saying: I am sending you a slip of paper, throw that in the Nile. The governor opened the slip and read it. It said: “From Umar, Leader of the Faithful, to the Nile of Egypt. If you used to flow of your own accord, then don’t flow. But if it was Allah Who made you flow then I ask Him to make you flow.” This letter was thrown into the Nile instead of a young virgin, and during the night the level river rose substantially. As a result the custom of throwing a young virgin into the river was permanently abandoned. (Tarikh-ul-Khulafa by Jalal-ud-Din Suyuti, English translation by A. Clarke, p. 129–130)
Finally, a word of caution. The occurrence of such extraordinary feats at someone’s hands is not, on its own, an indicator or criterion that that person is a righteous believer or one who has received God’s approval. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad has cautioned that it should never be a Muslim’s aim, or even his desire, to have revelations or true dreams. His or her only aim should be to obey the teachings of Islam. Then if Allah wills, he may bless someone with spiritual experiences in order to strengthen his faith, and through him the faith of others.
May Allah enable us to pursue the path of moderation, so that we neither deny these occurrences nor give them an exaggerated status, ameen.