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#17: The Cave of Hira: The Prelude to Prophethood

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بِسْمِ اللّٰهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم
الحمد لله رب العالمين الذي منّ علی المؤمنين اذ بعث فيهم رسولا من انفسهم يتلوا عليهم ايته و يزكيهم و يعلمهم الكتاب و الحكمة و ان كانوا من قبلُ لفي ضلال مّبين

After the rebuilding of the Blessed Kaa’bah, the people of Makkah had rejoiced and upgraded their preparations for pilgrims, traders and tourists alike. The newly restored structure of the Kaa’bah was perceived as a great new milestone for Makkah and a historic moment to rejoice. However, the immediate ground surrounding the Kaa’bah was still pierced by nails of stone in the form of idols. The blessed precincts of the Haram had become a home for the “Daar Al-Nadwah”, a parliamentary-house wherein the corrupt leaders of Makkah would meet, plot and discuss matters of their concern. The marketplaces were still stocked with deceit and exploitation. The cold, rough streets had become bedding for the impoverished, whilst the houses of the elite had become taverns and brothels of immorality. The walls of the Kaa’bah may have been damaged and renewed, but the very soul and essence of Makkah was in even greater disrepair, and desperately in need of restoration.

The Pinnacle Age

Two years had now passed since the rebuilding of the Kaa’bah, and the Prophet ﷺ was now thirty-seven years old. He ﷺ was now approaching the age of peak-human form, wherein a person’s physical and mental faculties reach their pinnacle:

حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُۥ وَبَلَغَ أَرْبَعِينَ سَنَةًۭ

“…till when he attains full strength and reaches forty years…” (Surah Al-Ahqaaf 46:15)

For almost four decades, he ﷺ would have to bear the constant rush of voices chanting statements of Shirk (Paganism), the sinister laughter of corrupt leaders, the cries of the weak and impoverished, and the screams of tortured slaves that endlessly reverberated throughout Makkah.

As he ﷺ grew older, these evil and unlawful practices became severer in his sight, and more intolerable to his pure heart. Such practices are constricting upon the heart and burdening upon the soul. Imaan (Faith) expands one’s heart in the vastness of Allah’s remembrance and worship, whilst Shirk (Paganism), Kufr (Disbelief) and Maa’siyah (Disobedience) burden the heart with darkness. Thus, a heart filled with Imaan feels free amidst the remembrance of Allahسبحانه و تعالی, and feels uncomfortable amidst idols and the mention of false-deities. It feels expanded in the presence of good deeds, and constricted in the presence of sin. Thus, the Prophet ﷺ taught us in a hadith:

الْبِرُّ مَا اطْمَأَنَّتْ إِلَيْهِ النَّفْسُ وَاطْمَأَنَّ إِلَيْهِ الْقَلْبُ وَالْإِثْمُ مَا حَاكَ فِي النَّفْسِ وَتَرَدَّدَ فِي الصَّدْرِ وَإِنْ أَفْتَاكَ النَّاسُ

“Piety is that with which the soul is tranquil and the heart is tranquil, but sin is that which rouses suspicion in the soul and is perplexing in the chest, even if people give you a decision in its favour.” (Musnad Ahmad)

Furthermore, the feeling of such repulsion in the presence of evil is the baseline of Imaan, as the Prophet ﷺ is reported to have said:

مَنْ رَأَى مِنْكُمْ مُنْكَرًا فَلْيُغَيِّرْهُ بِيَدِهِ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِلِسَانِهِ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِقَلْبِهِ وَذَلِكَ أَضْعَفُ الإِيمَانِ ‏

”Whoever amongst you sees something evil should rectify it by his hand; and if he is unable to do so, , then with his tongue, and if he is unable to do so, then he should (abhor it) from his heart, and that is the weakest (degree) of faith.” (Sahih Muslim)

The Prelude to Prophethood

In addition to this, an unstoppable force was illuminating his heart, a force that could not yet be qualified or understood, but was a prelude to an imminent realisation that would soon transpire. As this luminous force within him collided against the dark forces of Jaahiliyyah (Ignorance) around him, his heart felt increasingly constricted.

This led the Prophet ﷺ to an increasingly deep state of contemplation. He ﷺ was now entering in to the first prelude of Nuboowwah (Prophethood), just as the prophets before him had experienced. He ﷺ found himself in the same position as Sayyidinaa Ibraahim علیه السلام, whose search to decode the luminous force within his heart led him atop a mountain, as he sat in contemplation, gazing upon the vastness of the Universe.

The twinkling of the stars, the radiance of the moon, and the grandeur of the sun that overpowered it were all signs of majesty that led Sayyidinaa Ibraahim علیه السلام through the path of discovery. Until his heart was opened by the luminous force within him that could no longer be contained. That which was Al-Baatin (Concealed) by these glimpses of majesty had become Al-Zaahir (Manifest) as he recognised the force within his heart was a yearning love for the Lord of the Worlds! He who is Al-Rahmaan (The Most-Gracious), He is Al-Raheem (The Most Merciful), He is Al-Khaaliq (The Creator of All), He is Al-Baatin (The Concealed), He is Al-Zaahir (The Manifest), He is the question and He is the answer. He is Allah! There is no god, no truth, nor reality but Him! (Ibn Katheer, Surah Al-An’aam 6:79)

As Our Beloved Prophet ﷺ entered into this phase, Allah سبحانه و تعالی guided him to depart from the whirlwind of Jaahiliyyah, and come out in search of a station of serenity. This search led the Prophet ﷺ to seek the Cave of Hira…

The Cave of Hira

The Cave of Hira was situated in a mountain on the outskirts of Makkah. It was the cave first deployed by his grandfather – Abdul-Muttalib – as a fortress of solitude against the ills that plagued over the blessed city Makkah. (Ibn Al Atheer)

The Prophet ﷺ – after consultation with his beloved wife and family – began retreating to the Cave of Hira for a number of days at a time. Sayyidah Khadijahرضی الله عنها would stand by his ﷺ side, supporting him through this phase, packing provisions for his stay and regularly checking up on him out of love and care. He ﷺ would also frequent her and his family without ever neglecting them. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Ibn Ishaaq, Ibn Hishaam)

The next three years would see the Prophet ﷺ increase his stay in the cave, as the plague of ignorance hovering over Makkah intensified, all the way until the Prophet ﷺ reached the age of forty.

The Age of Prophecy

As the month of Rabi’ul Awwal, 610 AD came to a close, the Prophet ﷺ was now forty-years old and had reached the age of peak-human condition. He ﷺ continued retreating to the Cave of Hira. Here the Prophet ﷺ – as narrated by Sayyidah Aa’ishah رضی الله عنها – would sit in the serenity of silence – free from the echoes of ignorance – and engage in deep contemplation and reflection. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Ibn Ishaaq, Ibn Hisham)

However, the Prophet ﷺ began experiencing something new, something different, that was extra-ordinary and inexplainable. He ﷺ saw a pattern, where he would witness an incident in a dream, only to experience it in reality. His dreams in the night transpired into a reality amidst broad daylight, just as the crack of dawn undeniably splits through the night and forms the day. (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

The signs of his arrival had now started transpiring through the spiritual realm, and manifesting into our world. A magnitude of positive energies, Noor (Light), Barakah (Blessings) and Rahma (Mercy) were descending from the heavens, permeating the earth’s atmosphere. Both the Malaa’ikah (Angels) and Jinns alike witnessed this, including the Shayaateen (Devils) that were now trembling as they rushed down from the spatial barrier of the first heaven, plummeting down towards earth to warn their soothsayers. (Ibn Ishaaq, Ibn Hisham)

As these signs continued to manifest, the Prophet ﷺ began experiencing another strange phenomenon. The innocent and inanimate creatures of Allah سبحانه و تعالی began rejoicing at the imminent arrival of the Prophet ﷺ. He ﷺ was walking through the valleys of Makkah – en route to the mountain – when the sound of voices arose amidst the serene silence. The Prophet ﷺ would hear the following words echoing around him:

السَّلَامُ عَلَيْكَ يَا رَسُولَ اللّٰهِ

“Peace be upon you! O Messenger of Allah!”

When he ﷺ would look around, he would see nothing besides stones and trees. There would not be a single person present amidst the hosts of voices greeting him. This overwhelming experience continued until the Prophet ﷺ recognised that the stones and trees themselves were greeting him out of love and reverence. Years later, the Prophet ﷺ stated that he ﷺ could recognise those innocent stones that would greet him with Salaam. (Sahih Muslim, Ibn Hishaam, Ibn Ishaaq)

If this is the state of a stone, what rank will a believer’s heart reach when it sincerely sends Salaam to Our Beloved Prophet ﷺ with love and reverence?

صلی الله علیه و سلم

The Night of Power

These phenomena continued to occur and increase in frequency over a period of six months. Until one powerful night – during the month of Ramadhan – the Prophet ﷺ was in the solitude of the cave, when something amazing happened. He ﷺ was in the serenity of silence, when an astonishing sight suddenly flashed before his blessed eyes. The Prophet ﷺ witnessed a totally overwhelming sight, that was about to change his life, forever…

To find out what happens next, join us tomorrow for our next article: “The Arrival of Jibra’eel علیه السلام“

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