The appointment of Muhammad (PBUH&HP), the Prophet of Islam and his selection as the Messenger of Allah (SWT), can be considered the most significant event in the history of Islam. Descent of the Holy Quran began at this time. The word Bi’that means to be chosen and its expressional meaning is “being chosen by the Almighty Allah to guide people”.
It can be concluded from the Islamic and historical texts that the appointment of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) had been stated in divine religions before his birth. Believers of other religions and several Arab pagans had some previous acquaintance with the last prophet. Prophet Jesus (PBUH) has announced and foreshadowed in the New Testament the appearance of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). Even in Old Testament, some of the specialties of the Prophet (PBUH&HP) and his followers had been mentioned. Thus “as the Holy Quran mentions” the scholars of other religions knew the Prophet as well as their closest relatives.
According to history, there were many people who had been waiting for the appointment and appearance of the last prophet. Even some tribes had migrated to the Prophet’s (PBUH&HP) residence. A Christian priest whose name was “Bohayra”, was an example.
The appointment of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) has had a great affect on the human guidance destiny. Due to the significance of this incidence; Allah (SWT) Himself looked after His Messenger and trained him for his difficult future. So, it does not seem strange that he was innocent and infallible before the appointment as a result of such divine training.
Imam Ali (PBUH) said that: “The Allah had His greatest angle train the Prophet during all days and guided him to the ways of moral virtues and greatness.”
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) suffered a lot from the ignorance and corruption in the society at that time, especially in Mecca. In order to meditate and worship in privacy, he also secluded from people to a cave called “Haraa”.
This seclusion was a basis for improving Prophet’s (PBUH&HP) morality, a premise for his appointment (Bi’that) and descent of revelation.
Imam Ali (PBUH), who was brought up by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), accompanied him during these seclusions as other cases in his life. He used to take provisions, water, and food for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP).
When the praying time came up, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) returned to Mecca and circumambulated Kaaba before going home.
It was until he reached forty. At that time the Prophet (PBUH&HP) was the meekest, the most superior and obedient person towards Allah (SWT). Therefore, Allah (SWT) appointed him as a prophet in order to guide human beings to worship Him and not the idols, by means of the Holy Quran.
Descent of the first revelation (Wahy)
Shiites commentators believe that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was appointed on 27th of Rajab, five years after the rehabilitation of Kaaba. He was forty years old at that time.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) had come to Haraa cave as usual to say prayers and meditate. On 27th of Rajab, Gabriel (one of the four superior angels who was ordered by Allah (SWT) to convey revelation to prophets) descended to him. Gabriel shook Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH&HP) arm and said: “O Muhammad! Read!” He replied:” What shall I read?” Gabriel recited the beginning verses of Chapter (Surah) al-Alaq:
“In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful. Read in the name of your Lord who has created. Has created man from a leech [Spermatozoa]. Read and your Lord is the most honorable, who taught (to write) with the pen; taught man what he knew not.”
Some great events happened at the time of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH&HP) appointment. For instance, a groan was heard. Imam Ali (PBUH) says about that: “I heard Satan’s groan when the first revelation was descended. I asked the Prophet: “What was that?” He answered: “it was Satan, who got disappointed by not being obeyed.” He also said: “You hear what I hear and see what ever I see; except you are not a prophet. You are my assistant and you will never leave the right way.”
As mentioned before, Imam Ali (PBUH) accompanied Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) in different cases such as his seclusion periods. This narration, written in Nahj al-Balaghah, implies that he was with Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) when revelation was descended for the first time. It is inferred through the history that he was the only person with Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) at that time. Nobody else has claimed to be with Him then.
Gabriel ascended after conveying revelation and accomplishing his job.
Prophet (PBUH&HP) after receiving the first revelation
Prophet (PBUH&HP) was not an ordinary man; therefore he had experienced some kind of revelations prior to his appointment. However, the subject of the first revelation was completely different from the previous ones. After receiving such revelation the Prophet’s (PBUH&HP) spiritual and physical condition changed. The reason for such changes could be:
1. Prophet felt dignity of Almighty Allah (SWT) more than before.
2. When Prophet (PBUH&HP) was appointed, he had become responsible for a great mission (Risalat). It should be noted that at that time the Arabs were experiencing anarchy. Thus pagans would oppose him. They would deny him and accuse him of improper things.
Nevertheless, Almighty Allah (SWT) verified His Messenger and made Him ready for the great mission (Risalat).
Return from cave Haraa
After this revelation, Prophet (PBUH&HP) returned to His home in Mecca. When he arrived home, he explained the story of his appointment to his wife. Khadijah (PBUH), who had recognized the Prophet’s (PBUH&HP) dignity and truthfulness for years, said: “By God, it is a long time that I have been waiting for this very day; and I was hoping that one day you would become the Leader and the Messenger of these people.”
The descent of Chapter (Surah) al-Muddathir
In the first days of Prophet’s appointment, while he was resting, Gabriel descended and read the first verses of Chapter al-Muddathir.
This Chapter of the Holy Quran contains verses, which say that from then on, the Prophet had to pay all his attention to warn people to obey Allah (SWT). Therefore, the first verses of the Holy book of Islam were revealed to Prophet and he was assigned to be the Messenger of Allah (SWT).
As we said before, the Prophet (PBUH&HP) was always accompanied with Ali (PBUH), because Ali (PBUH) was very close to Him. When the first verses were revealed to Prophet (PBUH&HP) in cave Haraa, Ali (PBUH) was there. He was the first person among all the people, men and women, who believed Prophet (PBUH&HP).
Through his sermons (Khotbe) in Nahj al-Balaghah, he repeated many times:” I was born to worship one Allah and I was the first one who believed.”
The first woman, who converted to Islam, according to what all the Islamic historians say and used to say, was Khadijah (PBUH) because she was the first person whom the Prophet (PBUH&HP) met after the appointment. Moreover, she had confessed His prophecy.
After these two great persons, we can name Aboodhar Ghifaari as one of the first person that converted to Islam.
After the appointment, Gabriel descended. Bringing some water from the heavens, he taught ablution to the Prophet and taught him bending and prostration in prayer. Furthermore, Gabriel descended other commands gradually. The Prophet (PBUH&HP) taught these commands to Muslims and they obeyed him. For example, about prayer, Ali (PBUH) and Khadijah (PBUH) were the first people who said their prayers behind the Prophet (PBUH&HP). They used to read their noon prayer beside Kaaba. However, most of time for safety reasons they had to read it where they could not be observed.
In this period, the Prophet (PBUH&HP) gradually began his secret invitation to Islam. This will be explained more in the following parts.