Angel Gabriel Reveals Himself
Muhammad was never among those who worshipped the stone idols. He followed his grandfather's example, believing that the real Creator must be out there somewhere. He spent time in nature and frequently meditated. When revelation came to him, he reacted as any human would: with fear and confusion. The encounter with an apparition not from our world left him shaken, but the Prophet soon got back on his feet, recognizing the mission that had been divinely assigned to him.
The Cave Refuge
In the far outskirts of Mecca stands a mountain called Mount Hira. In his attempts to escape the corruption of Quraish, Muhammad often retreated to one of Mount Hira's caves. He was appalled at his tribe's religious rituals. The stone idols were scattered in and around the Kaaba, which was supposed to be the house of the Creator alone. Unable to endure such contempt, he sought the peace and tranquility of the cave to think and wonder about the Creator.
Muhammad made it a custom to retreat to the cave at Mount Hira, particularly during the month of Ramadan. He spent hours meditating—his chosen way of worshipping the Creator. His retreats would last so long that he sometimes carried food to keep him from starving. Khadija supported her husband, sending him extra supplies when she suspected that his provisions had run out.
A Light from the Heavens
On the twenty-seventh day of Ramadan in the year that he turned forty, Muhammad sat meditating in the cave of Mount Hira. Night had fallen and he sat consumed in his thoughts, when he heard a voice that shook him to the core. The apparition that appeared took his breath away with its size and brightness that filled the sky. When it spoke, it said to him, “Read!”
Muhammad was eloquent, having been educated in spoken language and poetry in his younger years, but he never learned to read or write. Anxiously but respectfully, he answered, “I cannot read.” Again, the apparition ordered him to read. Muhammad's answer was the same. Then the apparition said, “Read: In the name of your Lord who created; created man from a clot. Read: And your Lord is the Most Bounteous; Who taught by the pen; taught man that which he knew not” (96:1–5).
The words found their way directly to Muhammad's mind and heart. The apparition departed, and Muhammad set off down the mountainside in haste. Khadija, who was climbing up with fresh provisions, met him halfway. He ran to her, frantically calling out, “Cover me! Cover me!” And he told her what he had just experienced.
His First Night as Prophet
Muhammad feared that the apparition he saw was an evil spirit or jinn. Khadija managed to calm him down and took him to a relative of hers who was well versed with the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. The man, named Waraqah, had lost his sight with advancing age, but his memory and studies of the ancient Scriptures were clear.
Muhammad and Khadija consulted Waraqah, asking his expert opinion on the encounter. Enthusiastically, Waraqah replied that the time had come for the last prophet of Allah to be sent to the people. He reminded them that all previous prophets, including Adam, Noah, Moses, Abraham, Joseph, and Jesus, were visited by the same apparition that had visited Muhammad that night. Waraqah told them that the apparition was the angel of highest stature in the Heavens, Angel Gabriel.
To further explain himself to the confused couple, Waraqah quoted verses from the Gospel and Torah that indicate there will be a prophet to come who will restore order and guide the people once again to Allah. Waraqah told Muhammad he must be that prophet. Dazed by the ordeal, Muhammad and Khadija returned home. By then, Muhammad's faith and belief in Allah had solidified and he embraced his duty as His messenger.
Islamic records state that Angel Gabriel visited Prophet Adam 12 times, Prophet Noah 50 times, Prophet Moses 400 times, Prophet Jesus 10 times, and Prophet Muhammad at least 23,000 times. It was during these visits to Muhammad that he delivered the 6,236 verses of the Koran.