Revelation in Islam

1. Introduction

Islam, at present, is one of the largest religions. The word ‘islam’ describes a relationship between man and God. “This relationship of submission (islam in Arabic) means that God is Lord of man, and man is the servant of God. The servant is dependent upon his Lord, and is obedient to him: and so the man who has accepted this submission, dependence and obedience is called ‘submitted to God’ (muslim).”[1]

Though it has striking similarities with other religions such as Judaism and Christianity, the origin of this faith is traced back to the mystical experiences that prophet Muhammad was said to have had during the last twenty-two years of his life. Understanding the concept of wahyin Islam and Quran as the principle revelation will give us a glimpse into the concept of revelation enshrined in the principles of Islam.

2. The Concept of “wahy” in Islam

In understanding the Islamic perspective on divine revelation or word of God, it is necessary to become acquainted with the term “wahy”. In Arabic, the term “wahy” literally means giving a message quickly and secretly, whether by gesture, in a written form, or by inspiration. “The author of wahy is not necessarily God. Hence the general meaning of wahycan be a ‘suggestion’, ‘a prompting’, or ‘an inspiration’. The hearers of Muhammad also did not think of any supernatural character for the revelations of Muhammad.”[2] However, slowly Muhammad began to be convinced that he was called by God for a special mission. He was also of the opinion that the Jews and the Christians who did not accept him was unable to understand him as they had corrupted their own scriptures. He felt that every utterance of his whether it was the fruit of an inspiration, dream, etc., or something that he said as a solution to a problem was directly revealed to him by an angel.[3] He was encouraged in this by his wife Khadijah and a Christian kinsman, Waraqah.[4]

3. The Concept of Revelation since Hadith

As the years passed by hadiths (writings dealing with early Islamic history) added another layer of meaning to revelation saying, “revelation is the pure word of God without any admixture.”[5] Hence today the Islamic concept of revelation is thus considerably more rigid than is the Catholic, the Protestant Christian, or even the orthodox Jewish; for it excludes the notion of human, though divinely inspired, authorship of Scripture.[6] We shall have a look at the content of   revelation in Islam and its transmission and purpose as understood by Muslims.

4. Prophet Muhammad: the Recipient of Revelation

The center of Quran is the prophet Muhammad though his name is mentioned only four times in the whole of Quran. Islam teaches that “Gabriel dictated to Muhammad material that was to be put in the Qur’an about Muhammad.”[7]Quran gives Muhammad an incredible status because Allah called him as a prophet. He is called “the seal of the Prophets,” which is mentioned in Surah 33. He is considered as the universal messenger from God, the symbol of Allah’s mercy to the world and inspired by Allah.[8]

5. The Quran: the Content of Revelation

Muslims believe that the origin of Quran lies in the eternal mind of Allah. Angel Gabriel, at the right time, dictated the revelations to Muhammad according to the will of Allah. So it is said that the Quran is on the one hand something written and on the other something read or recited. “The written document however, is in heaven.”[9] The prophet who received the text recited the words to his wife and then to the small group that became his followers. It was these followers who not only memorized but also began to write them down. After the death of Muhammad Islam scholars formed the final edition of the Quran.[10]The Quran contains 114surahs or chapters which make up about six thousand verses. Quran claims that it is incomparable with any other text. Muslims claim that its matchlessness has been almost from beginning its great corroborative miracle. “Bring a surah like it” (2:23, 10: 38).[11]

6. The Purpose of Revelation

The purpose of revelation, according Quran was to invite the people to the knowledge of true religion. Muhammad was told to “adore Allah (96:19), faithfully stick to the message that he is given from God (46:9), follow Allah’s duty for him (30:30), and work hard (66:9).”[12]Allah not only commands him to do all these but also asks him to teach humanity to follow the path that was revealed to him. We shall have an insight into the some striking themes that we notice in the revelation given to Muhammad.

6.1 Muhammad as the Final Prophet

Quran teaches that Muhammad’s prophetic work was predicted by both Moses and by Jesus. Islam claims that it originated “with creation and that Allah revealed himself to Jews and Christians, though both groups altered their Scriptures.”[13]They say that Muhammad was the last of a line of prophets through whom God spoke. Jesus, according to them, was the prophet who preceded Muhammad. Jesus is treated with great respect in Quran. It mentions that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. He was a great sign form Allah and his prophesies fulfilled with coming of Muhammad whom Muslim consider to be the final prophet.

6.2  Revelation of the Right Path

Many verses in Quran deal with the behavior that is expected from true believers. It shows “the path that is right and the path that is wrong.”[14] A Muslim is expected to be a person of prayer and contemplation, peaceful, faithful, humble, and forgiving. Muslims are to be united in faith and live a life remembering the rewards of heaven and the pains of hell.[15] At the same time Quran poses very strong words to those who reject its message. “Those who reject Allah’s message are deaf, blind, and full of disease. They are arrogant, foolish, hate the truth, live in delusion, and their prayers are in vain. The unbeliever is a liar, a coward, vain, and a deceiver.”[16]

6.3  Response to Revelation in view of Life after Death

Quran speaks elaborately of the life that is to come. “There are hundreds of verses about paradise, the pains of hell, and the reality of a final judgment by God… Heaven is pictured as a garden paradise with mansions, fountains, food and drink, and sexual pleasure, where believers are full of happiness, peace, and joy in the presence of God.”[17]

Quran also depicts hell as a blazing eternal fire. The unbelievers will suffer in the fluids of hell, with their faces covered with flames. “They will wear garments of fire, will live in eternal regret at the folly of their rebellion against Allah, and will beg for destruction.”[18] We can see that Quran gives absolute certainty to life after death which includes theday of judgmentand reward and punishments according to the life that each one has lived on earth.

7. Transmission of Revelation

As we had already seen Muhammad recited the words of revelation to his wife and to a group of followers. It was his followers who began to write them down as they also memorized them at the same time. Quran is said to have been written down in its entirety

during the time of the prophet but had not been brought together to a single place. However, the gathering of Quran into one collection was completed a few years after his death.

Islamic Scholars claim there has been uniformity since the very beginning till the present with regard to the text of Quran. This uniformity does not only pertain to the written text but also to the oral transmission of Quran before it was written down.

8. Conclusion

In the course of history of mankind there have been many prophets to whom God sent His wahy. The first prophet was Adam and the last was Muhammad. Therefore, Islamic beliefs also confirm other Divine books, such as the Torah, the Gospel and the Psalm of Prophet David, that are other examples of this connection between the Divinity and mankind. We had, however, looked into the concept of revelation in Islam specifically through prophet Muhammad. The Prophet was fully convinced of the divine communication to him. The reception of wahy was of the kind that the Prophet never doubted about the veracity of what has been revealed to him.

[1]John B. Taylor, Thinking about Islam (Guildford and London: Lutterworth Educational, 1971) p. 9.

[2]Victor Edwin, “A Little-Known Islamologist of India: Victor Courtois’ Understanding of Revelation in Islam,” in Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection, 79, 3 (March 2015) p. 184.

[3] Cf. Edwin, “A Little-Known Islamologist of India,” p. 185.

[4]Cf. Taylor, Thinking about Islam, p. 15.

[5]Edwin, “A Little-Known Islamologist of India,” p. 185.

[6] J. Kritzeck Wilde, “Islam,” New Catholic Encyclopaedia, vol. 7 (Washington DC: Gale, 20032) p. 606

[7] James A. Beverly, Illustrated Guide to Religions: A Comprehensive Introduction to the Religions of the World (Mexico: Thomas Nelson, 2009) p. 244.

[8] Cf. Ibid.

[9] A. Mingana, “Qur’an,” in The Muslim: Encyclopaedia of Islam (ed.) SubodhKapoor (New Delhi: Cosmo Publication, 2005) p. 2989.

[10] Beverly, Illustrated Guide to Religions, p. 240.

[11] Kenneth Cragg, The Event of the Quran: Islam in its Scripture (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1971) pp. 41-42.

[12]Ibid., p. 244.

[13]Ibid., p. 246.


[15]Ibid., pp. 246-247.

[16]Ibid., p. 247.


[18]Ibid., p. 248.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s