Question: Do we believe that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was a Prophet before receiving a revelation around the age of 40? What types of knowledge did Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)? Did he have access to all knowledge including that of future events?
Thank you for your question.
When did the Prophethood of Allah’s Messenger commence
Imams Ahmad and Hakim narrated from the companion, Irbad ibn Sariya, that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “I was by Allah in the umm al-kitab the seal of Prophets while (Prophet) Adam was still laying on soil (meaning his body was not yet formed).”
In other narrations, he (Allah bless him and give him peace) was asked, when was your Prophethood confirmed? And he (Allah bless him and give him peace) responded, “When (Prophet) Adam was between his body and soul”, meaning that his soul was not yet placed in his body.
In another narration, he (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “I was the first Prophet created, and the last to be sent.”
Imam Subki when commenting on these narrations confirmed that his Prophethood (Allah bless him and give him peace) was confirmed and established at that time, while he (Allah bless him and give him peace) only existed in the form of his soul [Subul al-Huda wa al-Rashad].
The knowledge of Allah’s Messenger
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) spoke of the knowledge that Allah favoured him with, in many narrations. Consider the following:
Muadh ibn Jabal (Allah be pleased with him) narrated that once, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was late for the Fajr prayer. He then arrived and after leading the prayer, he said, “Indeed, I shall inform you what caused my delay today. I stood in prayer at night and did so for as long as Allah wished. During prayer, I felt tired and when I awoke, I was present before my Lord in the best manner. Allah said, “O Muhammad, do you know what the closest angels are arguing about? I said, O my Lord, I do not know. I then saw that Allah placed His hand (of mercy) between my shoulders until I felt its coolness in my chest. Then, everything became clear for me and I knew it” [Musnad Ahmad]. In another narration, he said (Allah bless him and give him peace), “I then knew everything in the heavens and earth.”
Hudhayfa (Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (Allah be please with him) stood amongst us. He spoke and he did not leave out any occurrence till the day of judgment. Whoever remembered it, remembered it and whoever forgot it, forgot it. Whenever I would see something about which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had mentioned that I may have forgotten, I would recall what he said upon seeing it happen [Bukhari].
Based on these narrations, our teacher, Sayyidi al-Habib Umar would often say that only Allah knows the true extent of the knowledge of His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace).
And Allah knows best.
[Shaykh] Abdurragmaan Khan
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Abdurragmaan received ijazah ’ammah from various luminaries, including but not restricted to: Habib Umar ibn Hafiz—a personality who affected him greatly and who has changed his relationship with Allah, Maulana Yusuf Karaan—the former Mufti of Cape Town; Habib ‘Ali al-Mashhur—the current Mufti of Tarim; Habib ‘Umar al-Jaylani—the Shafi‘i Mufti of Makkah; Sayyid Ahmad bin Abi Bakr al-Hibshi; Habib Kadhim as-Saqqaf; Shaykh Mahmud Sa’id Mamduh; Maulana Abdul Hafiz al-Makki; Shaykh Ala ad-Din al-Afghani; Maulana Fazlur Rahman al-Azami and Shaykh Yahya al-Gawthani amongst others.