May this Ramadan bring you the utmost in peace now and during prosperity. May light triumph over darkness.
Ramadan (Arabic: رمضان Ramaḍān), the ninth month of the Islāmic calendar, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
Though not mentioned in the Quran, but summarized in the famous hadith of Gabriel are the Five Pillars of Islam (arkān-al-Islām أركان الإسلام; also arkān ad-dīn أركان الدين “pillars of the religion”) which are the foundation of Muslim life – five basic acts in Islam, considered obligatory by believers. They are:
Shahadah (belief or confession of faith – Muslim life)
Salat (worship in the form of prayer)
Sawm Ramadan (self purification by fasting during the month of Ramadan)
Zakat (alms or charitable giving or concern for the needy)
Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime)
Annually, Muslims, worldwide, observe self purification by fasting during the month of Ramadan which lasts 29–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon.
The word Ramadan derived from the Arabic root ramiḍa or ar-ramaḍ, means “scorching heat” or “dryness.” It is “obligatory” for adult Muslims to fast, except those who are ill, diabetic, traveling, pregnant, breastfeeding, or during menstrual bleeding.
The Quran states:
The month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was revealed, a guidance to men and clear proofs of the guidance and the distinction; therefore whoever of you is present in the month, he shall fast therein, and whoever is sick or upon a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days; Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty, and (He desires) that you should complete the number and that you should exalt the greatness of Allah for His having guided you and that you may give thanks. [Quran 2:185]
Bowling Green is a small public park in Lower Manhattan at the foot of Broadway next to the site of the original Dutch fort of New Amsterdam. Built in 1733, originally including a bowling green, it is the oldest public park in New York City surrounded by its original 18th-century fence. At its northern end is the Charging Bull sculpture, which is sometimes called the Wall Street Bull or the Bowling Green Bull.
Last year, while my wife and I were in New York, we saw a faithful Muslim in the Bowling Green at 1:23 pm unmindful of the blaring noise surrounding him, perseveringly reciting the Dhuhr (Noon) prayer. We were spellbound by his faith in God and his steadfast adherence to his religious duties.
A few days ago, some friends and me while discussing the Holy Bible unwittingly got divided into three factions. One group claimed the Bible as the world’s best-selling book. Another group upheld it as the world’s most-read books. The third group considered it as the most-printed and most-distributed Book.
Many devout Christians are quick to assert that the Holy Bible is the world’s best-selling book, for all time. They claim that because a great number of people purchased the Bible, it, therefore, has lots of philosophical truth in it.
The Bible, the Quran, and Quotation from Chairman Mao, often reported as the most-printed and most-distributed books worldwide, have hundreds of millions of copies to their credit. Exact print statistics for such books are, in fact, not available, or inaccurate because many unrelated publishers have printed these books over several centuries. Many books such as Don Quixote, The Three Musketeers, Alice in Wonderland, The Adventures of Pinocchio, the individual Harry Potter books and many more generally cited as “best-selling books” do not have dependable sales figures.
Obviously, the mere volume of books sold have no relation to their content. Therefore, the Bible cannot be considered as the best-selling book of all time for several reasons:
Firstly, the Bible in its many versions have been in print for hundreds of years, and their number has not been reliably accounted for. Hence, over such a time, we can only estimate the number of bibles sold. Statistically, such an estimate without a measure of confidence with it is useless.
Secondly, not all copies of the Bible fetch money. In fact, many missionaries hand out enormous numbers of bibles free of charge. These cannot be counted in a bestseller list, not only because they have not been sold, but because the person receiving the book may not actually want it. Compare this to the Harry Potter series, where the numbers given away free dwindles into insignificance.
Thirdly, not all copies of the Bible are read, and almost no one reads them cover to cover. On the other hand, if you consider a modern novel, it would be ludicrous and unthinkable for a person to read only a few pages at random and ignore the rest. Do you know that most copies of the Bible placed in bedside drawers in some hotels across the world are never read, and in many cases rarely even seen by any living creature?
Predictably, it began much before little Rimsha was accused of the incomprehensible – much before torn little pieces of religious paraphernalia were bandied about and their desecration decried.
Venal mullahs, jilted neighbours, greedy influentials – the usual cast of characters that surround most sordid tales of blasphemy are, unsurprisingly, on the set of the Mehrabad miasma also.
But how did a locality that has been home to Christians for over two decades, and where Muslims helped them build a church less than a year ago, turn an unlettered child into a blasphemer and allow her to be banished to solitary confinement for weeks? In one of the few slums in Islamabad where Muslims and Christians have always lived side by side, what compelled a prayer leader to scheme to “get rid of the Christians?”
Visits to Mehrabad reveal that the locality has been long scarred by mounting schisms – a confluence of personal, economic and political factors – that made Rimsha’s fate almost inevitable.
The most defining division affecting the Rimsha case is between the area’s landed Maliks and its clerics – a schism that predates the present controversy.
Malik Amjad’s family, the owners of Rimsha’s home, and other Maliks of the area, rent hundreds of run-down shacks to various Christian families. When the Christians first bolted from Mehrabad fearing violence after Rimsha was arrested, economic interests, above all, compelled the Muslim landlords to go after the fleeing Christian community and lure them back. For someone like Amjad, who makes about Rs300,000 a month just from rent, an exodus would spell nothing short of disaster. Amjad also runs what he calls a ‘servant provision agency’ through which he gets his Christian tenants work in Muslim homes and offices for a small commission. Ever since August 16, his phones have never stopped ringing, anxious clients calling to complain that their servants haven’t shown up to work.
In fact, so disturbed was Amjad by the idea of a mass Christian exodus that he brought up during the Friday sermon on August 24 a controversial case from last year when an Muslim boy “behaved inappropriately” with a younger Christian boy. “I’m asking them why, when that happened, we didn’t ask the whole Muslim community to leave for the unfortunate actions of one person,” Amjad said, the stress lines on his forehead deepening.
There’s yet another reason the Muslim landlords are even willing to stand up against the clerics to ‘protect’ their Christian lodgers: the downtrodden community makes for docile tenants. They’re quiet, they don’t complain, they do what they’re told. In fact, they even complied when asked not to hold church services except on Sundays. “Imagine if they were replaced by Pathan tenants. Rooz ka aazaab bun jaye ga (That would be everyday punishment),” Amjad sniggered.
But if the Muslim Maliks have spoken up for the Christians and against the clergy for reasons of economics, what compelled local prayer leader Khalid Chishti to do the opposite: intensify his efforts to expel the minority community from the area?
The clergy in Mehrabad, just like in other localities and religions, have much the same economic interests as their non-ecclesiastical counterparts. As producers of spiritual goods – as performers of marriage ceremonies, as whisperers of azaan in the ears of infants, as ministers of last rites, as preachers of sermons, and as expounders not only of theology but also of society’s basic political and legal doctrines – the clergy always needs constituents.
Imagine, then, the frustration of an Imam Chishti stuck in a predominantly Christian neighbourhood; imagine his prospects if the infidels could be expelled and replaced by a larger number of Muslims to do his bidding, to donate to his mosque, to help expand it, to consider him a spiritual leader?
So when all else failed – when complaints about Christians disrupting the Muslims’ prayers by playing music didn’t work and the committee formed to expel the community from the area didn’t find much support on the ground – what was Imam Chishti to do?
Plant burnt pages of the Quran in the bag of an unlettered, unsuspecting Christian child and cry ‘Islam in danger?’
Given that many of Mehrabad’s residents are migrants from Gojra, and have relatives there, no one was surprised when Christian families fled their homes the very night the accusations against Rimsha surfaced. Too close are Mehrabad’s Christians to the memory of the 2009 Gojra riots when a mere rumour of blasphemy led to over 40 Christian houses burnt and seven dead. Imam Chishti couldn’t have found better victims of a blasphemy-related fear campaign.
These starkest of juxtapositions – of Christian against Muslim, of the landed against the clergy, of the landed Muslim against the non-landed Muslim willing to side with the mullahs to break the power of the landed – only highlight in their desolate extremity what is commonplace everywhere: that economics and power, more than religious sentiment, may be behind campaigns of death and hate. In many ways, Mehrabad may just be microcosm of modern inequality, with all the pluses and injustices it bestows on those on different sides of the divide.
Two weeks ago, when Malik Amjad told me Chishti may have fabricated the entire case against Rimsha, I urged him to go on record with the information. But he said it was not yet time: “Let the issue be handled quietly. It will be better for everybody.”
Today, the Imam is in police custody for very same charge he levelled on Rimsha: blasphemy.
Hammad, Amjad’s nephew and the original complaint and accuser, has disappeared. And there’s another story there.
Some residents claim Rimsha’s older sister was proposed to by a neighbour – a Muslim. She turned him down. Weeks later, Rimsha was arrested for burning the holy pages.
Was Hammad that jilted neighbour? Some neighbours think so. Others say it may be the boy who runs the shop opposite Rimsha’s house, ‘Sharjeel CD and Video Point.’ As each day in the Rimsha saga brings new information and new scandal, perhaps this twist too will be confirmed in the days to come. We may also get clearer answers to why senior Muslim clerics like Tahir Ashrafi have spoken up for Rimsha. Some suggest Ashrafi has a child with Down’s Syndrome – a condition that has become attached to Rimsha’s very name.
For now, the nightmarish thought that Rimsha may be killed in prison is never far.
A young Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy has to wait until Monday, September 3, 2012, to know whether she will be given bail, after a judge adjourned her case on Saturday, September 1, 2012. The case has focused attention on Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws that can result in prison or even death for insulting Islam. Human rights activists have long criticized the laws that help to persecute non-Muslims and settle personal scores.
On September 2, the arrest of an Imam named Khalid Chishti, in Islamabad, provided a new twist to the blasphemy case involving Rimsha Masih, a minor Christian girl.
The Imam, prayer leader of the Jamia Aminia mosque in the Mehria Jaffar neighborhood of Islamabad, was arrested on Saturday night after a person named Hafiz Muhammad Zubair, recorded a statement against the cleric before a magistrate. Zubair testified that he saw the cleric stuffing pages of the Quran in the bag of the Christian girl and implicated her under the contentious blasphemy law.
Police arrested Chishti based on this statement and produced him before a judicial magistrate, and then remanded in Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi for 14 days.
Earlier, Zubair told the media that the incident took place while he and some other men were in ‘aitekaf‘ (seclusion) in the mosque during the holy Islāmic month of Ramzan. He said, “The bag brought to the mosque, had nothing in it. When he (Chishti) was given the bag, he went inside the mosque and pulled out two or three pages and added them to the bag. I told him what he was doing was wrong. He told me that it was evidence against the Christians, and a way to get them removed from the area.”
Zubair said that Malik Hammad, a local, handed the bag with the pages of the Quran over to the police. On August 16, when an angry mob surrounded the police station and demanded that action be taken against the Christian girl the police arrested Rimsha. She is being held at the high-security Adiala Jail, and her judicial remand extended by 14 days last week.Malik Hammad, ourt to take suo motu notice of the incident and take action against those who had really desecrated the Quran. He blamed the Christian girl for the incident.
An official medical board concluded that Rimsha was 14 years of age, and her mental development did not correspond to her age. Last week, Rao Abdul Raheem, the lawyer of Rimsha’s accuser, challenged the findings.
Khalid Chishti in a television interview last week accepted that he had, during a recent sermon, called for the eviction of all Christians from the neighbourhood if they did not stop their prayer services because “Pakistan is an Islāmic country given by Allah.”
The new evidence against the cleric could help defuse the blasphemy case against the Christian girl.
A comparison of how Jesus is described in the New Testament and in the Qur’an in order to determine which is more reliable.
Jesus of Nazareth is the most influential person who ever lived. Twenty centuries after his death, he continues to exert his power of fascination over the minds of thinking men and women. Peter Jennings’ television special “In Search of Jesus” attracted some 16 million viewers across the country. Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” grossed 370 million dollars. Dan Brown’s book The DaVinci Code has been a runaway best seller, exceeding the 100 million mark in some 40 languages. People obviously continue to be fascinated by Jesus.
But who is Jesus really? Is he, as the Bible says, the divine Son of God? Or was he merely a human prophet, as Muslims have been taught to believe? Who is the real Jesus?
I propose to answer that question as a historian. I shall look at the New Testament and the Qur’an as the historian looks at any other sources for ancient history. I shall not treat them as inspired or holy books. Accordingly, I shall not require them to be inerrant or infallible in order to be valuable historical sources. By taking this historical approach, we prevent the discussion from degenerating into arguments over Bible difficulties or Qur’anic inconsistencies. The question is not whether the sources are inerrant but whether they allow us to discover who the historical Jesus really was.
Now in order to determine who the historical Jesus really was, we need to have some objective criteria for assessing our sources. Prof. John Meier, an eminent New Testament historian, lists the following four criteria: 1
1. Multiple, independent sources. Events which are reported by independent, and especially early, sources are likely to be historical.
2. Dissimilarity. If a saying or event is different from prior Judaism and also from later Christianity, then it probably doesn’t derive from either one and so belongs to the historical Jesus.
3. Embarrassment. Sayings or events that would have been embarrassing or difficult for the Christian church are unlikely to have been invented and so are likely historical.
4. Rejection and execution. Jesus’ crucifixion is so indisputably established as an anchor point in history that words and deeds of Jesus must be assessed in terms of their likelihood of leading to his execution as “King of the Jews.” A bland Jesus who just preached monotheism would never have provoked such opposition.
When we apply such criteria to the New Testament, we’re able to establish a good deal about the historical Jesus. Let me discuss just three of the facts that emerge about this remarkable man.
1. Jesus’s Radical Self-Concept. The Qur’an says that Jesus thought of himself as no more than a human prophet who told people to worship the one, true God. However, on the basis of the criteria, it can be shown that among the historically authentic words of Jesus are claims which reveal his divine self-understanding.
Take, for example, Jesus’ claim to be the Son of Man. The criteria of multiple sources and dissimilarity show it belongs to the historical Jesus. Now most laymen probably think that this title refers to Jesus’ humanity, just as the title “Son of God” refers to his deity. But that’s a mistake. It fails to take into account the Jewish background of the expression. In the Old Testament book of Daniel, chapter 7, Daniel sees a vision of a divine-human figure coming on the clouds of heaven to whom God will give everlasting authority, glory, and dominion. No mere human being could be accorded such status, for this would be to commit the sin which Muslims call shirk, giving something which properly belongs to God alone to someone else. Yet this is the status which Jesus claimed for himself. Probably the most famous “Son of Man” saying by Jesus comes at his trial before the Jewish high priest. I quote:
Then the high priest stood up . . . and asked Jesus, . . . ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’
‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’
The high priest tore his clothes. . . . ‘You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?’ They all condemned him as worthy of death. (Mark 14:60-64 NIV)
Every Muslim would have to agree with the high priest and the Council that Jesus is a blasphemer who is worthy of death because he had made himself equal to God.
Not only did Jesus claim to be the Son of Man, but he also thought of himself as the unique Son of God. Jesus’ self-understanding as God’s special Son comes to expression in his parable of the wicked tenants of the vineyard, which even the radical, sceptical critics in the so-called Jesus Seminar recognize as authentic. In this parable, the vineyard symbolizes Israel, the owner of the vineyard is God, the tenants are the Jewish religious leaders, and the servants are the prophets send by God. In Mark 12.1-9 we read:
‘A man planted a vineyard . . . [and] rented [it] to some farmers. . . . At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him, and sent him away empty handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.
‘He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, “They will respect my son.” But the tenants said to one another, “This is the heir. . . . let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” So they took him and killed him. . . .’ (Mark 12:1-9 NIV)
Now what does this parable tell us about Jesus’ self-understanding? It tells us that Jesus thought of himself as God’s only, beloved son, distinct from all the prophets, God’s final messenger, and even the heir to Israel. He did not think of himself as merely another human prophet.
Jesus’s self-concept as God’s special Son comes to explicit expression in Matthew 11.27: “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” It is unlikely the church invented this saying because it says that the Son is unknowable–”no one knows the Son except the Father”–, but for the post-Easter church we can know the Son. So by the criterion of dissimilarity this saying is authentic. What does this saying then tell us about Jesus’ self-concept? It tells us that he thought of himself as the exclusive Son of God and the only revelation of God to mankind!
This is really incredible! Yet this is what the historical Jesus believed. C. S. Lewis was right when he said,
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said . . . would either be a lunatic–on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. . . . You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.2
2. Jesus’s Trial and Crucifixion. According to the Gospels Jesus was condemned by the Jewish high court on the charge of blasphemy and then delivered to the Romans for execution for treason for claiming to be King of the Jews. Not only are these facts confirmed by independent biblical sources like Paul and the Acts of the Apostles, but they are also confirmed by extra-biblical sources. From the Jewish historian Josephus and the Syrian writer Mara bar Serapion we learn that the Jewish leaders made a formal accusation against Jesus and participated in events leading up to his crucifixion. From the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a, we learn that Jewish involvement in the trial was explained as a proper undertaking against a heretic. And from Josephus and the Roman historian Tacitus, we learn that Jesus was crucified by Roman authority under the sentence of Pontius Pilate. According to L. T. Johnson, a New Testament historian at Emory University, “The support for the mode of his death, its agents, and perhaps its co-agents, is overwhelming: Jesus faced a trial before his death, was condemned and executed by crucifixion.”3
Perhaps the single most egregious historical error found in the Qur’an is its claim that Jesus was not in fact crucified. Not only is there not a single shred of evidence in favor of this remarkable hypothesis, but the evidence supporting Jesus’ crucifixion is, as Johnson says, “overwhelming.” Those of you who are Muslims need to appreciate that no one who is not already a Muslim believes that the historical Jesus was not crucified. The crucifixion of Jesus is recognized even by the sceptical critics in the Jesus Seminar as–to quote Robert Funk–”one indisputable fact.4 Indeed, Paula Frederickson, whose book From Jesus to Christ inspired the PBS special by the same name, declares roundly, “The crucifixion is the strongest single fact we have about Jesus.5
3. Jesus’ Resurrection. What happened to Jesus after his crucifixion? The majority of scholars who have written on this subject agree that three things happened:
First, on the Sunday morning following the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.
Second, on multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.
And third, the disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their every predisposition to the contrary.
I think that the best explanation of these three facts is that the disciples were right: God had raised Jesus from the dead. This has enormous theological significance. For as the German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg explains,
The resurrection of Jesus acquires such decisive meaning, not merely because someone or anyone has been raised from the dead, but because it is Jesus of Nazareth, whose execution was instigated. . . because he had blasphemed against God. If this man was raised from the dead, then that plainly means that the God whom he had supposedly blasphemed has committed Himself to him.6
In summary, on purely historical grounds, we have seen (1) that Jesus of Nazareth possessed a radical self-concept as the unique Son of God and the Son of Man, (2) that he was tried, condemned, and crucified for his allegedly blasphemous claims, and (3) that God raised him from the dead in vindication of those claims.
All this is in contradiction to the Qur’an’s claims that Jesus thought of himself as a mere prophet preaching a blasé monotheism, that he was not crucified, and that he did not rise from the dead.
When you think about it, however, this situation isn’t really surprising. I mean, which would you trust: documents written down within the first generation of the events they record, while the eyewitnesses were still alive, or a book written over 600 years after the events with no independent, historical source of information? Why, even to ask the question is to answer it!
In fact, the Qur’an contains demonstrably legendary stories about Jesus which evolved during the centuries after his death. I’m referring to stories about Jesus which are found in the so-called apocryphal gospels–these are forgeries which appeared in the second and third centuries after Christ–and which the Qur’an unwittingly repeats as facts. For example, the Qur’an mentions the story–borrowed from the legendary forgery entitled The Infancy Gospel of Thomas–of how the boy Jesus made a bird out of clay and then made it come to life (III.70, V.100-110). Such stories are fictional. Thus, the Qur’an offers us no independent historical source for Jesus.
Historically speaking, then, the answer to the question before us seems clear: the real Jesus is the person described in the New Testament, not the legendary fabrication we read about in the Qur’an.
1 John Meier, A Marginal Jew, vol.: 1: The Roots of the problem and the Person, Anchor Bible Reference Library (New York: Doubleday, 1991), pp. 168-177.
2 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952), p. 56.
3 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996), p. 125.
4 Jesus Seminar videotape.
5 Paula Frederickson, remark during discussion at the meeting of “The Historical Jesus” section at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, November 22, 1999.
6 Wolfhart Pannenberg, “Jesu Geschichte und unsere Geschichte,” in Glaube und Wirklichkeit (München: Chr. Kaiser, 1975), p. 92.
In the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 1 is devoted to the story of Archangel Gabriel announcing the birth of John (the Baptist) to aged Zechariah and the birth of Jesus to virgin Mary.
In Abrahamic religions, Gabriel (Hebrew: גַּבְרִיאֵל, Arabic: جبريل, Jibrīl or جبرائيل Jibrāʾīl) meaning “God is my strength” is an Archangel who typically serves as a messenger to humans from God.
The first appearance of Gabriel is in chapter 9 in the Book of Daniel, delivering explanations of Daniel’s visions.
In the Gospel of Luke Gabriel foretells the births of both John the Baptist and of Jesus. Catholic traditions refer to him as Gabriel the Archangel.
Gabriel is referred to as “he” in the Bible, and in Daniel 9:21 he is explicitly called “the man Gabriel”:
I was still praying, when the man, Gabriel, whom I had seen in vision before, came to me in flight at the time of the evening offering. (Daniel 9:21)
Some moderns, especially New Age exponents, portray Gabriel as female or androgynous.
Androgyny is a term derived from Greek referring to the combination of masculine and feminine characteristics.
In Latter-day Saint theology, Gabriel is believed to have lived a mortal life as the prophet Noah. So, according to them Archangel Gabriel and prophet Noah are regarded as the same person; Noah being his mortal name and Gabriel being his heavenly name.
In Islam there are four archangels: Jibrāʾīl (Gabriel), Mika’el (Michael), Israfil (Raphael) and Malak al-Maut (The Angel of Death).
Although some islamic texts claim the Angel of Death’s real name is Izrael (Azrael), this is not confirmed in the Qur’an or hadith.
Jibrāʾīl is called the chief of the four favoured angels and the spirit of truth. He is Allah’s messenger to the prophets. At times Jibrāʾīl takes the form of a man. In Islam, he is also called the created Holy Spirit, which is not to be confused with the Holy Spirit of God in Christianity who is revered as God Himself.
Jibrāʾīl is believed by Muslims to have been the angel who revealed the Holy Qur’an to prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).
According to the Holy Qur’an, Archangel Jibrāʾīl appeared to prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) in a cave where he went to pray. Here is the story that I read long ago. If my retelling of this encounter be wrong I stand to be corrected by my muslim bretheren.
Muhammad (s.a.w.) was a young man around forty and a well to do merchant in the city of Mecca. It was his habit to leave the city and walk up to to a cave in Mount Hira, to be alone and ponder over the day’s events and about the world around him. He would spend time there fasting, praying, thinking, and trying to find answers to the meaning of life.
One day towards the end of the month of Ramadan the prophet came back home exasperated and in an agitated state.
His wife Khadija was initially startled when she heard the prophet telling her that he must have gone mad for he had been visited by an angel. The prophet told her that while he was in a trance-like state, the Archangel Jibrāʾīl appeared before him holding a cloth of green brocade with writing embroidered on it.
“Read,” said the angel.
The Prophet was stupefied. He said, “I cannot read!”
The angel squeezed him, and then released him. “Read” the angel said.
“I cannot read” Muhammad said, a little louder this time.
The angel squeezed him again, harder than before, and commanded, “Read.”
“I cannot read?” Muhammad said, even louder.
The angel persisted, and the prophet repeatedly resisted, until the angel finally overwhelmed Muhammad and commanded him:
Read with the name of your Lord Who created, Created man from a clot. Read, and your Lord only is the Most Beneficent, The One Who taught to write with the pen. The One Who taught man all what he did not know. (Qur’an 96:1-5)
The prophet recited the verses after the angel, until he knew it perfectly, word for word.
Then the frightened prophet felt he was alone. The angel and the writing had gone. But the words stayed in his memory, and there was a strange sensation of having been squeezed very hard. Trembling, he stood up, left the cave, and began to walk, shakily, down the mountain path. He was very confused. Then a voice, the same voice, called to him: “Oh Muhammad! Truly you are the messenger of God. And I am his angel, Jibrāʾīl.”
Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) looked up, and saw the angel, who looked like a human, but so enormous that his two feet straddled the horizon. For a moment, the prophet was awe-struck. Then he tried to escape, but no matter which way he turned, the angel was there, filling the sky. The prophet could go neither forwards nor back until Jibrāʾīl had disappeared from the sky as suddenly as he had appeared. As it dawned the prophet made his way back to his home in Mecca.
Muslims also have a high esteem for Jibrāʾīl for a number of historical events predating his first appearance to prophet Mohamed (s.a.w.).
Muslims believe that Jibrāʾīl was the angel who informed two parents – Zakariya (Zachariah) and Maryam (Mary) of the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus. Also, Jibrāʾīl was one of three angels who had earlier informed Ibrāhīm (Abraham) of the birth of Isḥāq (Isaac). These events of Zakariya and Maryam can be found in Chapter 19 – surah Maryam in the Holy Qur’an.
HOLY QURAN – THE TREASURE OF FAITH
Chapter 19 – Surah Maryam (Mary)
(Revealed at Mecca – This Chapter has 98 verses in 6 sections)
Allah – beginning with the name of – the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
[These letters are one of the miracles of the Qur’an, and none but Allah and to whomever He reveals know their precise meanings.]
2. This is the remembrance of the mercy of your Lord upon His bondman Zakaria.
3. When he softly prayed to his Lord.
4. He submitted, “O my Lord – my bones have become weak and old age shines forth from my head, and O my Lord, I have never been disappointed in my prayer to you.”
5. “And I fear my relatives after me and my wife is barren therefore bestow upon me from Yourself one who will take up my work.”
6. “He being my successor and the heir of the Descendants of Yaqub (Jacob); and my Lord, make him a cherished * one.” (* Make him a Prophet among the Descendants of Israel.)
7. “O Zakaria! We give you the glad tidings of a son whose name is Yahya (John) before him, We have not created anyone of this name.”
8. He submitted, “My Lord – how can I have a son since my wife is barren and I have reached infirmity due to old age?”
9. He (the angel) said, “So it is; your Lord says, ‘This is easy for Me – in fact I created you before this, at a time when you did not exist.’ ”
10. He said, “My Lord, give me a sign”; He said, “Your token is that you will not speak to people for three nights, although in proper health.”
11. He therefore emerged upon his people from the mosque, and told them through gestures, “Keep proclaiming the Purity (of your Lord) morning and evening.”
12. “O Yahya – hold the Book firmly”; and We gave him Prophethood in his infancy. (Prophet Yahya was only 2 years old at that time.)
13. And compassion from Ourselves, and chastity; and he was extremely pious.
14. And was good to his parents and not forceful, nor disobedient.
15. And peace is upon him the day he was born, and the day he will taste death, and the day he will be raised alive.
16. And remember Maryam in the Book; when she went away from her family to a place towards east.
17. So there she screened herself from them; We therefore sent Our Spirit towards her – he appeared before her in the form of a healthy man. (Angel Jibreel – peace be upon him.)
18. She said, “I seek the refuge of the Most Gracious from you – if you fear God.”
19. He said, “I am indeed one sent by your Lord; so that I may give you a chaste son.”
20. She said, “How can I bear a son? No man has ever touched me, nor am I of poor conduct!”
21. He said, “So it is; your Lord has said, ‘This is easy for Me’; and in order that We make him a sign for mankind and a Mercy from Us; and this matter has been decreed.”
22. So she conceived him, and she went away with him to a far place.
23. Then the pangs of childbirth brought her to the base of the palm-tree; she said, “Oh, if only had I died before this and had become forgotten, unremembered.”
24. (The angel) Therefore called her from below her, “Do not grieve – your Lord has made a river flow below you.”
25. “And shake the trunk of the palm-tree towards you – ripe fresh dates will fall upon you.” (This was a miracle – the date palm was dry and it was winter season.)
26. “Therefore eat and drink and appease your eyes; so if you meet any person then say, ‘I have pledged a fast (of silence) to the Most Gracious – I will therefore not speak to any person today.’ ”
27. So carrying him in her arms, she brought him to her people; they said, “O Maryam, you have indeed committed a great evil!”
28. “O sister of Haroon, neither was your father an evil man nor was your mother of poor conduct!”
29. Thereupon she pointed towards the child; they said, “How can we speak to an infant who is in the cradle?”
30. The child proclaimed, “I am Allah’s bondman; He has given me the Book and made me a Herald of the Hidden (a Prophet).”
31. “And He has made me blessed wherever I be; and ordained upon me prayer and charity, as long as I live.”
32. “And has made me good to my mother and not made me forceful, ill-fated.”
33. “And peace is upon me the day I was born, and on the day I shall taste death, and on the day I will be raised alive.”
34. This is Eisa (Jesus), the son of Maryam; a true statement, in which they doubt.
35. It does not befit Allah to appoint someone as His son – Purity is to Him! When He ordains a matter, He just commands it, “Be” – and it thereupon happens.
36. And said Eisa, “Indeed Allah is my Lord and your Lord – therefore worship Him; this is the Straight Path.”
37. Then groups among them differed; so ruin is for the disbelievers from the witnessing of a Great Day.
38. Much will they listen and much will they see, on the Day when they come to Us, but today the unjust are in open error.
39. And warn them of the Day of Regret when the matter will have been decided; and they are in neglect, and they do not accept faith.
40. Indeed We shall inherit the earth and all that is on it, and only towards Us will they return.
41. And remember Ibrahim in the Book; he was very truthful, a Herald of the Hidden (a Prophet).
42. When he said to his father, * “O my father – why do you worship one which neither hears nor sees, and cannot benefit you in any way?” (* His uncle Azar.)
43. “O my father, indeed a knowledge has come to me which did not come to you – therefore follow me, I will show you the Straight Path.”
44. “O my father, do not be a bondman of the devil; indeed the devil is disobedient towards the Most Gracious.”
45. “O my father, I fear that a punishment from the Most Gracious may reach you, so you would become a companion of the devil.”
46. He said, “What! You turn away from my Gods, O Ibrahim? If you do not desist, I will certainly stone you, and keep no relation with me for a long while.”
47. So when he had separated from them and what they worshipped other than Allah, We bestowed him Ishaq and Yaqub; and We made each of them a
Herald of the Hidden.
50. And We gave them Our mercy, and assigned for them a true and high repute.
51. And remember Moosa in the Book; he was indeed a chosen one, and he was a Noble Messenger, a Herald of the Hidden.
52. We called him from the right side of the mountain Tur, and brought him close to reveal Our secret.
53. And with Our mercy We bestowed upon him his brother Haroon, a Prophet.
54. And remember Ismail in the Book; he was indeed true to his promise and was a Noble Messenger, a Prophet.
55. He used to command his people to offer prayer and give charity, and was liked by his Lord.
56. And remember Idrees in the Book; he was indeed very truthful, a Prophet.
57. And We lifted him to a high position. (Living with soul & body in heaven, after his death.)
58. It is these upon whom Allah has bestowed favour among the Prophets, from the descendants of Adam; and from those whom We boarded along with Nooh; and from the descendants of Ibrahim and Israel; and from those whom We guided and chose; when the verses of the Most Gracious were recited to them, they fell down, prostrating and weeping. (* Command of Prostration # 5.)
59. And after them came the unworthy successors who squandered prayer and pursued their own desires, so they will soon encounter the forest of Gai in hell.
60. Except those who repented and accepted faith and did good deeds – so these will enter heaven, and they will not be deprived * in the least. (* of their due reward.)
61. Everlasting Gardens of Eden, which the Most Gracious has proomised to His bondmen in the unseen; indeed His promise will come.
62. They will not hear any lewd talk in it, but only Peace; and in it for them is sustenance, every morning and evening.
63. It is the Paradise that We will bequeath to those among Our bondmen who remain pious.
64. (Said Angel Jibreel to Prophet Mohammed – peace and blessings be upon them) “And we angels do not come down except by the command of your Lord; to Him only belongs all that is ahead of us and all that is behind us and all that is between them; and your Lord is not forgetful.”
65. Lord of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them – therefore worship Him and be firm in His worship; do you know any other of the same name as His?
66. And says man, “When I am dead, will I soon be brought forth alive?”
67. Does not man remember that We created him before this, and he was non existent?
68. So by your Lord, We shall assemble them and the devils – all of them – and bring them around hell, fallen on their knees.
69. We shall then pick out from every group the one who was most arrogant towards the Most Gracious.
70. Moreover, We well know those who most deserve to be burned in hell.
71. And there is none among you who shall not pass over hell; this is an obligatory affair, binding upon your Lord. (Allah will make everyone pass over the back of hell – on a thin bridge.)
72. We shall then rescue the pious – and leave the unjust in it, fallen on their knees.
73. And when Our clear verses are recited to them, the disbelievers say to the Muslims, “Which group has a better home, and a better alliance?”
74. And many a generation We did destroy before them, who exceeded them in wealth and pomp!
75. Proclaim, “For one in error – so the Most Gracious may give him respite; to the extent that when they see the thing which they are promised – either the punishment or the Last Day; so then they will come to know for whom is the evil rank and whose army is weak.”
76. And Allah will increase the guidance for those who have received guidance; and good deeds that remain have the best reward before your Lord, and the best outcome.
77. So have you seen him who denied Our signs and says, “I shall certainly be given wealth and children?”
78. Has he seen the Hidden, or has he made a pact with the Most Gracious?
79. Never; We shall now record what he says and give him a prolonged punishment.
80. And it is We only Who shall inherit what he says (belongs to him), and he will come to Us, alone.
81. And they have chosen Gods besides Allah, so that they may provide them strength!
82. Never; soon they will deny ever worshipping them, and will turn into their pponents.
83. Did you not see that We sent devils upon the disbelievers, so they excite them abundantly?
84. So do not be impatient for them (O dear Prophet Mohammed – peace and blessings be upon him); We are only completing their number. * (* The number of days left for them or their evil deeds.)
85. On the day when We shall assemble the righteous towards the Most Gracious, as guests.
86. And drive the guilty towards hell, thirsty.
87. People do not own the right to intercede, except those * who have made a covenant with the Most Gracious. (* The Holy Prophets and virtuous people will be given the permission to intercede. Prophet Mohammed – peace and blessings be upon him – will be the first to intercede.)
88. And the disbelievers said, “The Most Gracious has chosen an offspring.”
89. You have indeed brought an extremely grave speech!
90. The heavens are close to being torn apart by it, and the earth being split asunder, and the mountains succumbing and falling down.
91. Due to their ascribing of an offspring to the Most Gracious.
92. And it does not befit the Most Gracious to choose an offspring!
93. All those who are in the heavens and the earth will come to the Most Gracious as His bondmen.
94. He knows their number and has counted each one of them.
95. And each one of them will come before Him on the Day of Resurrection, alone.
96. Indeed those who believed and did good deeds – the Most Gracious will appoint love for them. (In the hearts of other believers.)
97. We have therefore made this Qur’an easy upon your tongue, (O dear Prophet Mohammed – peace and blessings be upon him) for you to announce glad tidings with it to those who fear, and warn those who are quarrelsome.
98. And many a generation We did destroy before them; do you see any one of them or hear their faintest sound?