By the time the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) completed the fortieth year of his life, the world was standing on the brink of an abyss of fire, and the entire human race was at the verge of committing suicide. It was at this darkest moment in the history of mankind, when the first blush of the incense-breathing morn announced a brightening future for humanity. The opening eyelids of Prophethood rang down the curtain on the glooming destiny of the unfortunate, dying world. The settled law of the Merciful God is that when the sable darkness of man’s own doing drives him to despair, a star of hope appears again as the parent of faith, hope and cheerfulness so as to wipe away his tears.
The forces of darkness and ignorance, superstition and paganism had thrown their weight around the world and crushed the soul of man under an iron heel. It was but natural that the emptiness of life and the corrupt faith of the people around the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had made him agitated and restless, and he sought a higher aim, a glimmer of guidance from the Lord, Most High. Furthermore, it seemed as if some celestial voice summoned him to the wakeful nights in preparation for the great responsibility about to be thrust upon him.
Often, he was seen wandering through the countryside, far away from the bustling city of Mecca, lost in introspection and solitude of his own soul, for this imparted him a sense of peace, tranquility and contentment. He also frequently immersed himself to the barren desert and wild mountains that are laden with numerous caverns but devoid of habitation. And when he passed through them he clearly heard the salutation, “Peace unto thee, O Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) of Allah”, but when he turned to his right and left and looked behind him, he saw naught but trees and stones.(11)
IN THE CAVE OF HIRA
Verily, often the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) preferred the solitude of Cave Hira where he remained for as many days as the provision with him required, spending his nights in vigils and prayers, in the manner he thought reminiscent of the way of Ibrahim (‘alayhis salaam).(12)
It was the 17th Ramadan/ 6th August, 610 AD of the year following the fortieth year of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). The Prophet of God (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was wide-awake and fully conscious when the Angel Gabriel came to him and said: “Read.” The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) answered truthfully, “I cannot read.” The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) relates that the Angel took and pressed him until he was distressed, after which he released him and said again, “Read.” The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied for the second time, “I cannot read.” The Angel again pressed him tightly until he felt squeezed and then letting him go, said, “Read.” When the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied once again, “I cannot read,” he took him and pressed tightly a third time in the same manner. He then let the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) go and said:
“Read (O Muhammad) in the name of thy Lord who createth,
Createth man from a clot. Read: and thy Lord is the Most Bounteous,
Who teacheth by the pen, Teacheth man that which he knew not.” [Qur’an 96:1-5] (Ibn Kathir, Vol. I, p. 392)
Dizzy and frightened by the strange experience which had never occurred to him earlier or having not heard of the same prior incident, the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) came back with verses, his heart trembling, and went to Khadijah (radhiallahu ‘anha) and said: “Wrap me up, wrap me up!” for he still felt horrified himself.
Khadijah (radhiallahu ‘anha) asked the reason for the Prophet’s (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) restlessness and the latter told her what had happened. Khadijah (radhiallahu ‘anha) was intelligent and prudent and had heard a great deal about the messengers of God, prophethood and angels from her cousin Waraqa Ibn Naufal (who had embraced Christianity and familiarized the Torah and Gospels). She was herself dissatisfied with the pagan cult of the Meccans like several other enlightened ones who had broken away from the idol worship.
Khadijah (radhiallahu ‘anha) was the wife of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). She had spent many years with him as the closest companion and knew him like she knew herself. By that alliance, Khadijah (radhiallahu ‘anha) became the most reliable and credible testament of the nobility of her husband’s character. Worthiness of his moral fiber had convinced her that succor of the Lord would in any case stand by such a man. She knew in her heart of heart that the good grace of God could never allow one so high-minded, truth-loving, trustworthy and upright man such as her husband, to be possessed by a jinn or a devil. And so she assured him with domineering self-confidence: “By no means; I swear to God that He would never embarrass you. Because you consolidate and salvage relationships, you speak the truth, you bear peoples’ burdens, you help the destitute, you entertain guests and you relieved the pain and grief suffered for the sake of truth.” (Mishkat al-Masabih, Vol. IV, p. 1253)
PREDICTION OF WARAQA IBN NAWFAL
Khadijah (radhiallahu ‘anha) had tried to comfort and encourage her husband on account of what she thought was correct or on the basis of her own knowledge and understanding. But the matter was serious, crucial and imperative. She had no peace of mind until she had consulted someone knowledgeable of the revealed religions, their history and scriptures, as well as the biography of the earlier Prophets of God (‘alayhimus salaam). Khadijah (radhiallahu ‘anha) wished to know for sure what had befallen her husband.
Khadijah (radhiallahu ‘anha) knew that Waraqa Ibn Naufal was the man who could clarify the matter. She took the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) to Waraqa and when the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) told him what he had seen and heard, Waraqa cried out, “Verily by Him in whose hand is Waraqa’s soul, Lo, thou art the Prophet of this people. There hath come unto thee the greatest Namus, (Archangel Gabriel) who came unto Moses at his time. A day will come when thou wilt be called a liar, thy people wilt maltreat thee, cast thee out and fight against thee.”
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was surprised to hear Waraqa’s premonitions for his fellow citizens had always received him with courtesy and esteem. They addressed him as the trustworthy and honest. Holding his breath in amazement, he demanded from Waraqa, “What! Will they expel me?” “Yes.” (replied) Waraqa, “For no man has ever brought anything like what thou hast brought without being opposed and fought by his people, which hath always been so. If I live to see that day, I shall stand by thee.”(13)
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) waited, day after day, but no revelation came for a long time. Then, it trickled again to the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and so the revelation of the Qur’an began to manifest in quick succession and was completed throughout the entire period of twenty-three years.
 Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, pp. 234-5. Sahih Muslim realtes a Tradition of the Prophet which says: “I still recognise a slab of stone in Mecca which used to salute me before the advent of Prophethood.”
 See the tradition related by ‘Aisha, Al-Mishkat at-Masabih, Vol. IV, pp. 1252-3.
 Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, p. 238; Bukhari, (chap. The Commission and the Beginning of the Revelation) on the authority of ‘Aisha.