The Mission of Prophet Muhammad ” Bi’tha “

The “Mission” represents a great revolution against ignorance, misguidance, corruption, and decay. It is deserving of God’s grace, embodying wisdom and education. The discussion around it is extensive, deep, and can be examined from various perspectives.

This article endeavors to research these topics in a highly condensed manner:

A – The beginning of the Mission.

B – The first verses revealed.

C – God’s grace for the great blessing of the Mission.

D – The philosophy and objectives of the Mission.

A – The Beginning of the Mission

The history of Islam begins on the day when the Prophet of Islam, peace be upon him and his progeny, in the solitude of a beloved cave on the slopes of a mountain north of Mecca, heard a voice:

Read in the name of your Lord who created. Created man from a clot. Read, and your Lord is the most Generous—Who taught by the pen—taught man that which he knew not.” (1)

Gabriel told the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his progeny:

“God has sent me to you to take you as a messenger.” (3)

The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his progeny, would annually retreat to the Mountain of Hira, engaging in worship, supplication, and contemplation, until one day an angel told him: “O Muhammad, read!” Muhammad, peace be upon him and his progeny, asked, “What shall I read?” The angel recited the opening verses of Surah Al-Alaq to him, and the Prophet read them. (5)

Despite historians’ extensive efforts to record the events of Islamic history, especially the life of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his progeny, detailing his actions, methods, and characteristics, it is regrettable that some essential events, such as his birth, the Mission, the Ascension, the location of Ascension, his death, the change of the Qiblah, and others, have not been precisely recorded, leading to disagreements among historians. These discrepancies may stem from political motives, neglect, personal interpretations, and importantly, turning away from the Prophet’s knowledge and not learning concepts from the pure source of the Ahl al-Bayt, peace be upon them.

When did the Mission of God’s Messenger, peace be upon him and his progeny, begin?

The well-known and agreed-upon date among the Shia Imamiyya is the 27th of Rajab. However, among Sunni scholars, there is significant disagreement on the exact date. Some Sunnis date the Mission in Ramadan, others in Rabi’ al-Awwal, with varying opinions on the exact day:

1- 17th Ramadan: Tabari in his History of Prophets and Kings and Ibn Sa’d in Al-Tabaqat Al-Kubra (6) have mentioned this opinion.

2- 18th Ramadan: Ibn Athir in Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh (7) attributes this view to Abu Qilabah Abdullah bin Zaid al-Jarmi – a Sunni hadith scholar – and Tabari (8) also refers to it.

3- 19th Ramadan: Ibn Athir also mentions this view. (9)

4- 20th Ramadan: Ya’qubi has narrated in his history that ten days before the end of Ramadan, on a Friday, the Prophet, peace be upon him and his progeny, was commissioned. (10)

5- 24th Ramadan: Tabari writes about this: “Others have said: Indeed, it (the Quran) was revealed on the night of the 24th of Ramadan.” (11); Some have said the Quran was revealed on the night of the 24th of Ramadan.

6- 25th Ramadan: Allamah Tabatabai (12) attributes this view to some Sunni scholars and commentators.

The source of confusion in these several views, which consider the beginning of the revelation of the first verses of the Quran to be in the month of Ramadan, is that proponents have conflated the time of the Prophet’s mission (peace be upon him and his progeny) with the time of the Quran’s complete and independent revelation; because they have based the date of the mission on verses referring to the Quran’s revelation during the Night of Decree and in the month of Ramadan. (13) As God states:

“Indeed, We sent it down during the Night of Decree.” (14)

“We have sent it down in the month of Ramadan.” (15)

Therefore, the Quran was revealed on the Night of Decree, which is in the month of Ramadan.

This argument is not correct; these verses refer to the complete and independent revelation of the entire Quran, described as “immediate revelation”; while at the beginning of the mission, only a few verses were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny), (the first five verses of Surah Al-‘Alaq), marking the start of “gradual revelation”. Consequently, the time of the Quran’s revelation differs from the time of its complete and independent revelation as a book.

7- 3rd of Rabi’ al-Awwal: This view is narrated by Halabi. (16)

Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) states:

8- 8th Rabi’ al-Awwal: Ibn Athir quotes Ibn Abd al-Barr stating: The mission of the Messenger of God, peace be upon him and his progeny, was on Monday, the 8th of Rabi’ al-Awwal in the year 41 of the Elephant Year. (17)

9- 10th Rabi’ al-Awwal: Mas’udi writes: When the Messenger of God, peace be upon him and his progeny, reached the age of 40, on Monday, the 10th of Rabi’ al-Awwal, God Almighty commissioned him to all people. (18)

10- 12th Rabi’ al-Awwal: This is the opinion of those (19) who believe the Prophet’s mission, peace be upon him and his progeny, occurred on the day he reached forty years of age. Since, according to the majority view among Sunnis, the Prophet’s birthdate is the 12th of Rabi’ al-Awwal, his mission is also believed to have occurred on this same day.

11- 27th Rajab: This is a well-known Shiite viewpoint, which some scholars (20) claim consensus and agreement among Shiite religious scholars on, and for several reasons, is considered the most accurate. Among these reasons are narrations from the infallible Imams, peace be upon them, regarding this matter, which specifies the date of the mission and recommend commendable acts such as fasting on this day, demonstrating the significance and reverence of this day.

Imam Sadiq, peace be upon him, says:

“Do not neglect fasting on the 27th of Rajab, for it is the day on which prophethood was bestowed upon Muhammad, and the reward for fasting on this day is like that of fasting for sixty months.”(21)

Imam Reza (peace be upon him) says:

“God chose Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) for prophethood as a mercy to the worlds. Whoever fasts on this day will have the reward of fasting for sixty months recorded by God.”(22)

In Al-Wasa’il ash-Shi’a, seven narrations regarding this matter are mentioned.(23)

There are also narrations from Sunni sources that confirm this date. For example, it is reported in Sirah Halabiya from Abu Huraira that anyone who fasts on the 27th of Rajab will have the reward of sixty months of fasting recorded by God. “And it is the day on which Gabriel descended upon the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) with the message, and it was the first day he descended.”(24)

B – The First Verses

The coordination between the beginning of the mission and the revelation of the first verses of the Holy Quran has led historians, exegetes, and scholars of Quranic sciences and hadith to investigate and determine the first verses revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny). The most prominent views are:

  1. The first five verses of Surah Al-‘Alaq.
  2. Surah Al-Fatiha.(25)
  3. Surah Al-Muddaththir.(26)

The first view is the most popular among historians, exegetes, and scholars of Quranic sciences and hadith. Among the historians, Masudi (27), Ibn Hisham (28), Ibn Athir (29), Tabari (30), and Ya’qubi, and among the Shia exegetes, the authors of Tafsir al-Tibyan, Majma’ al-Bayan, Al-Mizan, and Tafsir Nemooneh, and among the Sunni exegetes, the authors of Tafsir Tabari, Durr al-Manthur, Anwar al-Tanzil wa Asrar al-Tawil (known as Tafsir al-Baydawi), and Tafsir al-Quran al-Azim support this view.

Quranic science books such as “Al-Itqan” (31), “Al-Tamhid fi ‘Ulum al-Quran” (32), “Al-Burhan” (33), etc., also mention this.

Moreover, the content of the first verses of Surah Al-‘Alaq supports this view, as the message and prophethood, which are among the greatest divine blessings, begin in this surah with the name of the Lord, discussing creation, knowledge, and the pen, which are among the most important concepts and knowledge.

The most significant evidence is the narrations from the Imams (peace be upon them), which consider the initial verses of Surah Al-‘Alaq as the first verses revealed in the cave of Hira. Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) says, “The first thing revealed to the Messenger of God (peace be upon him and his progeny) was ‘Read in the name of your Lord…'”(34) Imam Hadi (peace be upon him) also stated that Gabriel said to Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny), “Read,” and he replied, “What shall I read?” Gabriel said, “Read in the name of your Lord who created.” (35)

Tabari (36), a Sunni scholar, in his tafsir, and Suyuti (37) list 15 narrations indicating that the first verses of Surah Al-‘Alaq were revealed at the beginning of the mission.

Proponents of the second view are few, with the most explicit being Zamakhshari in his tafsir “Kashshaf,” (38) stating that most exegetes believe Surah Al-Fatiha was the first revelation.

Although most exegetes accept the first view, attributing this statement to most of them seems incorrect.

The third view is a narration from Jabir (39). While each of these views may have a few supporters, in the face of a plethora of opinions from historians, exegetes, scholars of Quranic sciences, and numerous narrations mentioned, as well as claims of consensus among the Muslim community (40) on the first view, it cannot be easily dismissed.

A more detailed analysis might suggest that these views do not contradict each other and can be reconciled: the first verses of Surah Al-‘Alaq were the first revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny), Surah Al-Fatiha was the first complete surah revealed after that, and Surah Al-Muddaththir was the first surah revealed after a period of revelation pause.

C – The Mission and God’s Favor

Within the human soul lie various needs and instincts, all seeking satisfaction and proper guidance. The Almighty God has provided the best tools and numerous facilities to humans, enabling them to fulfill their desires while also controlling and regulating their inner urges. To distinguish truth from falsehood, humans are endowed with two guides: one internal, the intellect – though external tools like senses and sensory organs also play a role in this guidance – and the other, divine prophets, sent through revelation to teach all manners of conduct and clarify their boundaries, as intellect alone is prone to error. The ultimate guide is one who is infallible and connected to revelation; the only path to this is through the mission (bi’tha). Thus, the mission is God’s greatest blessing to humanity, worthy of God’s boasting and showcasing this grace and kindness, as He says:

“Indeed, Allah conferred a great favor on the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from among themselves, reciting unto them His Verses, and purifying them, and instructing them in the Book (the Quran) and wisdom, while before that they had been in manifest error.” (41)

In the above verse, God bestows His favor upon the believers for sending the Prophet of Islam, peace be upon him and his progeny, highlighting this great and spiritual blessing.

One might wonder why it is appropriate for God to bestow His favor in this context. What makes the mission so special, and what is its purpose?

The term “favor” (منه) comes from “من,” meaning something used for weighing (a weight), and also signifies a significant and magnificent blessing. Thus, any substantial and valuable blessing can be considered a favor. The use of this term can be verbal or through deeds (42).

If someone provides a significant blessing to another through actions, this is a practical favor, often found in educational, guiding, and spiritual contexts, considered praiseworthy and valuable. Some say this type of favor is exclusive to the Almighty. If someone tries to magnify their minor deed verbally, it is considered highly inappropriate, typical of human favors. Therefore, bestowing favor for granting significant blessings, including the blessing of prophethood, is a beautiful act, and “من الله” means God has granted a great blessing and made it available to the believers. Similarly, God bestows His favor for guiding humans to faith. “Rather, Allah is the One who has favored you by guiding you to faith” (43).

Even if Muslims have endured hardships and losses for embracing Islam, they must not forget that God has bestowed upon them the greatest blessing by sending a prophet to educate and guide them away from misguidance. Thus, any effort and price paid to preserve this great blessing is insignificant in comparison (44).

Therefore, favors can be categorized as either commendable or reprehensible. Commendable favors include the one discussed in the verse, as well as God’s favor in guiding believers to faith (Surah Hujurat, Verse 17), and His favors to Moses and Aaron (Surah As-Saffat, Verse 114) for their prophethood, mission, and salvation, and God’s favor to Prophet Joseph for his governance (Surah Yusuf, Verse 90). Reprehensible favors include boasting about charity, which nullifies the act (Surah Al-Baqarah, Verse 262), and boasting about Islam and faith in God, the Prophet, or others (Surah Hujurat, Verse 17).

Since human actions are insignificant compared to God’s greatness, any favor humans bestow upon each other or upon God is considered reprehensible. “O Allah, let people do good deeds through me but do not nullify them by boasting” (45).

Why did God specifically mention “upon the believers” when the Prophet’s mission aims to guide all of humanity? Perhaps because the prophets’ guidance effectively benefits only the believers who benefit from and claim this great blessing for themselves (46).

D – The Philosophy and Objectives of the Mission

After centuries of religious inquiry, many mysteries remain unveiled, including those of prophethood and the mission. Though the Quran’s verses suggest that the divine prophets’ mission, especially that of the Prophet of Islam, peace be upon him and his progeny, aims to achieve specific goals, only in the discussed verse where God bestows His favor upon the believers are three of the most important programs mentioned:

“He recites unto them His Verses, purifies them, and teaches them the Book and wisdom.”

1- Recitation of Divine Verses: The term “recites” (يتلو) comes from “recitation” (تلاوه), meaning to bring forth in succession, follow, and read in an orderly manner (47), encompassing the following of decrees and the orderly recitation of divine verses with contemplation. It’s as if the reciter follows the verses or places the letters and words one after another. The Prophet of Islam, peace be upon him and his progeny, prepares people for education by reciting the verses of the Lord and familiarizing the hearts and minds of people with these verses, which is a precursor to teaching and education.

2- Purification and Education: One of the Prophet of Islam’s most important programs is the education and purification of humans. Education means creating conditions and factors for actualizing and flourishing human potential toward desirable goals (48). He must prepare the ground for the flourishing of potentials to become the vicegerent of Allah, encompassing various dimensions. He prepares humans to have the best practical relationship with their God (worship), their kind (contracts and declarations), social laws and regulations (governance and politics), their family (family rights), and themselves (ethics and self-discipline), so they can become worthy of angels’ prostration. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his progeny, is the savior of humanity. A French scholar says, “The greatest law of reform, education, and cultivation are the truths that have been revealed part by part to Muhammad, peace be upon him and his progeny, and today are known among people as the Quran.” (49)

In a short time, the Prophet of Islam, peace be upon him and his progeny, educated great individuals like Ali, Fatimah al-Zahra, Salman Mohammadi, Abu Dharr, Miqdad, etc. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his progeny, was the discoverer of humanity’s hidden mines. As it’s said, “People are mines like those of gold and silver.”

Humans possess hidden potentials that need to be discovered for proper utilization to achieve their true value.

The word “purifies them” (يزكيهم) from “zakah” means growth and increase (50), implying education and purification, including being cleansed from ideological, moral, and behavioral impurities. While the term education from “ربو” also implies growth and development, in the Quran, the concept of self-discipline is conveyed through the term “purification”:

“Successful indeed is the one who purifies it (the soul),” (51)

“Successful indeed is the one who purifies himself,” (52)

highlighting the spiritual and moral aspects. The term education in the Quran is used in physical and material contexts, like:

“Did We not nurture you among us as a child?” (53)

which is Pharaoh’s claim of nurturing Moses, meaning he raised him in terms of physical and material support. The importance of ethics and self-purification is undeniable. Societies need them as the only way to escape misguidance, corruption, ignorance, war, and bloodshed lies in proper morals and adorning oneself with ethical values and virtues. The Prophet of Islam, peace be upon him and his progeny, stated the purpose of his mission as perfecting noble morals:

“I was sent to perfect noble character.” (54)

A French scholar remarked, “O Muhammad! O Bringer of the Quran! Where are you? Come, take our hand, and lead us to the garden, the desert, the meadow, or wherever you wish. If you lead us into the sea, we will follow, for you are knowledgeable of our life and living!” (55)

References:

  1. Surah Al-‘Alaq, Verses 1-5.
  2. Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 18, p. 206.
  3. Ibid., p. 184.
  4. Hira is a mountain located north of Mecca. At its northern end, there is a cave about the height of a person. Part of the inside of the cave is illuminated by sunlight, while other parts remain in darkness. (Refer to: Excerpts from the History of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH), p. 92).
  5. Summary of Al-Tamhid, Vol. 1, p. 62.
  6. Al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, Vol. 1, p. 192; Tarikh al-Tabari, Vol. 2, p. 44 and Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, Vol. 2, p. 30.
  7. Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, Vol. 2, p. 30.
  8. Tarikh al-Tabari, Vol. 2, p. 44.
  9. Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, Vol. 2, p. 30.
  10. Tarikh al-Ya’qubi, Vol. 2, p. 30.
  11. Tarikh al-Tabari, Vol. 2, p. 22.
  12. Tafsir al-Mizan, Vol. 2, p. 19.
  13. Ibid.; Sirah Nabawiyyah, Vol. 1, p. 239 and Summary of Al-Tamhid, Vol. 1, p. 68.
  14. Surah Al-Qadr, Verse 1.
  15. Surah Al-Baqarah, Verse 185.
  16. Sirah Halabi, Vol. 1, p. 384.
  17. History of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH), Ayati, p. 84.
  18. Ibid., p. 84, quoting “Al-Tanbih wal-Ashraf,” p. 198.
  19. Al-Tamhid, Vol. 1, p. 68, quoting Sirah Halabi, Vol. 1, p. 238.
  20. Including Allama Majlisi in Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 18, p. 190 and among contemporaries: Ayatollah Subhani, Eternal Light, Vol. 1, p. 232 and Ayatollah Ma’rifat in Summary of Al-Tamhid, Vol. 1, p. 66.
  21. Wasa’il al-Shi’a, Vol. 7, p. 329, chapters on recommended fasting, Chapter 15.
  22. Al-Kafi (Furu’), Vol. 4, p. 149.
  23. Wasa’il al-Shi’a, Vol. 7, p. 329. For more information, refer to “Encyclopedia of Islamic History,” Sheikh Mohammad Hadi Yousefi Gharawi, Vol. 1, p. 380.
  24. Sirah Halabi, Vol. 1, p. 384.
  25. Majma’ al-Bayan, Vol. 10, p. 780.
  26. Ibid.
  27. Muruj adh-Dhahab, Vol. 2, p. 282.
  28. Sirah Nabawiyyah, Vol. 1, p. 239.
  29. Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, Vol. 2, p. 32.
  30. Tarikh al-Tabari, Vol. 2, p. 45.
  31. Al-Itqan, Suyuti, Vol. 1, p. 95.
  32. Summary of Al-Tamhid, Vol. 1, p. 84.
  33. Al-Burhan, Badr al-Din al-Zarkashi, Vol. 1, p. 206.
  34. Usul al-Kafi, Vol. 2, p. 628.
  35. Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 2, p. 206.
  36. Jami’ al-Bayan fi Tafsir al-Qur’an (Tafsir al-Tabari), Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Vol. 1, p. 646.
  37. Durr al-Manthur, Suyuti, Vol. 5, p. 562.
  38. Al-Kashshaf, Zamakhshari, Vol. 4, p. 775.
  39. Sahih Muslim, Sharh al-Nawawi, Vol. 2, p. 205.
  40. Summary of Al-Tamhid, Vol. 1, p. 78.
  41. Surah Al-Imran, Verse 164.
  42. Mufradat Raghib, the word “من”.
  43. Surah Al-Hujurat, Verse 17.
  44. Majma’ al-Bayan, Vol. 2, p. 875.

45-46-47. Tafsir Nemooneh, Vol. 3, p. 158; Mafatih al-Jinan, Du’a Makarim al-Akhlaq; Majma’ al-Bayan, Vol. 1, p. 429; Majma’ al-Bayan, Vol. 2, p. 875.

  1. Islamic Education (Foundations and Methods), p. 4.
  2. Dermenghem, the French scholar, quoted from Bank Takbir (Prophetic Mission), p. 283.
  3. Mufradat Raghib, the word “زكا”.
  4. Surah Ash-Shams, Verse 9.
  5. Surah Al-A’la, Verse 14.
  6. Surah Ash-Shu’ara, Verse 18.
  7. Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 70, p. 372.
  8. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the famous French scholar, quoted from Bank Takbir (Prophetic Mission)

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