Tala‘al Badru Alayna

Did the Prophet Know He Was a Prophet before Revelation?

Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch

Question

Is it possible for a Prophet not to know about his own prophethood?

Why do some say that the Prophet feared that he was possessed by a Jinn when he received the first revelation?

How do we understand the Prophet’s behaviour towards Khadija after receiving revelation?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

Did the Prophet know He was a Prophet before Revelation?

The revelation of the initial verses of Sura al-‘Alaq is not seen as the beginning of prophethood. Although it is the first formal Quranic revelation, our Mother Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) narrates that revelation began first with true dreams.  [Bukhari]

True dreams and other pre-prophetic miracles (irhasat) preceded the event at the Cave of Hira in which Jibril first appeared to the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace). [Badr al-Din al-‘Ayni, ‘Umdat al-Qari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari]

Badr al-Din al-‘Ayni explains the wisdom of these dreams and miracles being the Prophet’s first introduction to his nascent mission saying:

“The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) was given true dreams first so that he was not surprised by the coming of the Angel Jibril and with explicit prophethood. This would prove difficult for any human strength to handle. For this reason, he was given the initial qualities of prophethood and enobling glad tidings such as, true dreams, hearing the voices and salutations (salam) of stones and trees (in Mecca) and their declaration to him of his prophecy (“You are the Messenger of Allah”). Thereafter, Allah completed his initiation into prophethood by sending to him an Angel in a wakeful state and unveiled to him the realities as an honor for him.” [Ibid.]

“I Fear for Myself”

In the narration oft-used to describe the story of the first revelation, our Mother ‘Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) quotes the Prophet saying to Khadija, “Indeed, I fear for myself…” [Bukhari]

The scholars have discussed the meaning of this fear. Amongst the opinions a few of them have been categorically deemed incorrect. Amongst these are as follows:

1) That he feared the loss of his sanity or that what he saw was akin to soothsaying.

2) That he feared what he experienced was merely a product of his imagination similar to doubts.

3) That he feared being possessed by a Jinn.

[‘Ayni, ‘Umdat al-Qari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari]

These opinions have all been rejected and considered inconceivable for a Prophet of Allah. [Ibid.]

There are approximately 10 opinions that are deemed sound and possible. Majority of them are centered around the Prophet’s fear of bearing the burden of and fulfilling the rights of prophethood and the consequences that will result from taking on this mission. [Ibid.]

Summary

Despite the popularity of the opinions you quoted, they are not sound and have been rejected by the scholars. This points to the ever increasing importance of seeking Sacred knowledge from authentic scholars who are the inheritors of the Prophets. Many times opinions get passed along despite being incorrect.

Hope this helps

Allah knows best

[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York, where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Qur’an and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic history, and several texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.