The First Revelation

During the month of Ramadan, Muhammad frequently visited nearby mountains to spend time in quiet solitude and prayer. He would often retire to a particular cave named Hira', located in the hills not far from Mecca, for worship and contemplation. During one of these retreats in the year 610 C.E., at the age of forty, Muhammad had an extraordinary experience.

A Command to Read

One night toward the end of the month of Ramadan, the angel Gabriel appeared to Muhammad and demanded, “Read!” Muhammad reportedly answered, “I cannot read,” for he was illiterate. The angel repeated the request several times and then relayed the beginnings of a revelation from God: “Read! In the name of your Lord and Cherisher, Who created man from a leechlike clot. Read! And your Lord is Most Bountiful. He, Who taught the use of the pen; taught man that which he knew not” (Qur'an 96:1–5).

When Muhammad began to preach his mission, he first spoke secretly with members of his own family. Then he shared the message with his closest friends and members of his own tribe. Several years after first receiving revelation, he finally reached the point at which he was proclaiming God's message publicly in the city.

Shock and Waiting

Following this incredible experience, Muhammad rushed home and told Khadijah what had happened. She covered him with blankets, consoled him, and reminded him that he had always been a man of charity and honesty, and that God would not lead him astray.

It is reported that Khadijah and Muhammad first approached Khad-ijah's cousin, Waraqa ibn Nawfal, for advice on the experience. Waraqa was a Christian convert and multilingual scholar. Waraqa reportedly told Muhammad that he had been chosen just as Moses was chosen, to receive revelation. He then predicted that Muhammad would be turned away and harassed for preaching the message of God.

After this first encounter, Muhammad experienced a brief pause in revelation. During this time of waiting, he devoted himself more to prayers and spiritual devotion. Then the revelations continued, with the command to “arise and warn” (Qur'an 74:2), “rehearse and proclaim … the bounty of God” (Qur'an 93:11), and to “admonish your nearest kinsmen” (Qur'an 26:214).

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