Chapter Nine 

Capricious Revelation of the Qur’an

The Qur’anic verses were revealed according to the caprices of Muhammad, his companions and his wives.

Muslim scholars believe that knowing the reasons for the revelation of the Qur’anic verses is very important and indispensable in comprehending the verses. The Suyuti wrote a full book concerning this fact. He called it, "The Core of Transmitted Traditions for the Reasons for the Revelations". In the book, "the Itqan" (part I, p. 82), he explains the significance of this matter to the greatest Muslim scholars, as it is the basis for understanding various verses which have been revealed after a certain incident or after a question was directed to Muhammad.

The Suyuti recorded for us several examples to prove that it was impossible to understand some verses unless the reasons for their revelation were known. This fact is confirmed not only by the former scholars but also by the Azhar and contemporary scholars (refer, for example, to Ahmad Shalabi’s book, "The History of Islamic Law" (p. 36) and the "Legal Opinion" of Sheikh Kishk.

In the next few pages, we are going to discuss only two issues. First, we look at how the angel Gabriel used to comply immediately with the wishes of Muhammad’s companions and his wives who used to instruct God and His Angel in what verses He must reveal to Muhammad. ’Umar ibn al-Khattab played an outstanding role in this area.

Secondly, a throng of verses have been revealed for worthless reasons which do not interest anybody.

There is a third issue which we will study in another chapter in which we will see how the angel Gabriel used to comply with Muhammad’s personal desires and fulfill all his wishes even if these wishes did not conform to the simplest principle of chastity, purity, and mercy. Even his wife ’Aisha told him: " I see that your Lord hastes to comply with your passion, O Muhammad," as the Bukhari record in his Sahih, part 6, p. 147.


The Angel Gabriel Complies With The Wishes Of Muhammad’s Companions 

We have already mentioned that ’Umar ibn al-Khattab played a major role in have the revelation which descended upon Muhammad This is the claim of ’Umar and the scholars and not the claim of the author of this book. Whenever ’Umar wanted something Muhammad answered, "Yes, God has already sent Gabriel who revealed to me this matter which ’Umar had requested" Even the inspiration, sometimes, was revealed using the same words and vocabulary of ’Umar. Thus, ibn ’Umar said, as the Suyuti mentioned, "God has placed the truth on Umar’s tongue and on his heart" (The Itqan, part I, p. 99). On the same page, we find a statement which affirms ibn ’Umar’s claim about his father. The Suyuti tells us:

"The Bukhari and others have recorded that ’Umar ibn al-Khattab said, ‘I have concurred with my Lord or My Lord has concurred with me in three (things): I said, O, apostle of God I wish we would take the site of Abraham as a place of prayer! The verse came down: And take ye the site of Abraham as a place of prayer (2:125). Then I said, O, apostle of God: Your women are visited by the righteous and the debauchee. I wish you would command them to stay behind a veil! So the verse of the veil came down. (When) the apostle’s wives joined forces against him, I told them: It may be if he divorced you (all) that Allah will give him in exchange consorts better than you.’ These exact words were bestowed in chapter 66:5." 

It is common knowledge among all Muslims that the above verses which Muslims claim are inspired by God were really uttered by ’Umar. In addition to the Bukhari (Sahih, p. 6, p. 24), other scholars (without exception) confirm that (refer to Baydawi, p. 26; Jalalan, p. 18; Zamakh-shari in the Kash-shaf, part I, p. 310; Sahih al-Musnad, p. 13; and Asbabal-Nuzul by Suyuti, p.24). The Baydawi, for instance tells us on p. 26:

"Musnad took ’Umar’s hand and told him, ‘This is the site of Abraham.’ ’Umar said, ‘Shouldn’t we take it as a place of prayer?’ Muhammad said to him, ‘God has not commanded me to do so.’ But hardly the sun set when the inspired verse was given, ‘And take the site of Abraham as a place of worship."’ 

That is, the wish of ’Umar was immediately fulfilled within a few hours. Muhammad had already commanded his followers to worship toward Jerusalem for the sixteen months before this verse.

Another incident in which ’Umar was involved is an anecdote mentioned by most Muslim scholars and recorded for us by Suyuti in his book, "The Reasons For Verses Of Qur’an" (Asbab al-Nuzul, p. 31). The Suyuti says:

"During Ramadan, (the fasting month) Muslim’s were accustomed to eat, drink and have intercourse with women if they are not sleeping. After they sleep and wake up they abstain. ’Umar had an intercourse with (one of his women) after he woke up from his sleep. He went to the prophet and told him what happened to him. God sent down this verse, ‘It is made lawful for you to go unto your wives on the night of the fast"’ (2:187). 

This story is recorded not only by the Suyuti but by all the scholars also (refer, for instance, to the Bukhari, part 6, p. 31; Zamakh-shari in his book al-Kash-Shaf part I, p. 337; the Baydawi, p. 39; the Jalalan p. 26, and the Sahih al-Muswad p. 17).

In this episode, we find ’Umar ibn al-Khattab does not like to refrain from sexual intercourse with his wife during the fasting month and after sleeping. Therefore, after he and other Muslim men violated the commandment, Muhammad found that he did not have a choice but either to punish and to reprove them or to rescind the order by claiming that Gabriel had come down to him with the above mentioned verse. Muhammad chose the latter to appease ’Umar and his friends.

The Suyuti also relates to us another incident about ’Umar. In page 100, part 2 of his book, the Itqan, he says:

"A Jew encountered ’Umar ibn al-Khattab and told him, ‘Gabriel, whom your (prophet) mentions, is our foe.’ ’Umar said, ‘Who is an enemy to Allah and His angels and His messengers, to Gabriel and Michael, to, Allah is an enemy to disbelievers."’ 

This statement was later revealed, word for word, to Muhammad (chapter 2:98) and became a verse in the Qur’an (refer to the Suyuti). Yet these incidents did not involve ’Umar only. Ibn Maktum (for instance) who was a blind man and one of Muhammad’s companions was another person to whom the Bukhari referred. In part 6, p. 227, the Bukhari conveys the following episode:

"When this verse came: ‘Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and are not wounded, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah’ (4:95). Muhammad said: ‘Summon Zayd and let him sit down.’ Then he told him: ‘Write’, and he dictated the above verse to him. ’Umru ibn Maktum who was blind, was sitting behind the prophet. (Ibn Maktum) said: ‘O, apostle of God, I am a blind man! How can I go to fight? I have a handicap.’ Then, the following (phrase) was added to the above mentioned verse: ‘Other than those who have a handicap"’ (Part 6, p. 227). 

It is as if God only realized the illegitimacy of His request after ’Umru ibn Maktum, Muhammad’s friend, pointed it out. Then God revealed the additional phrase. Muhammad asked Zayd to rewrite the verse and to include the addition. This episode has been recorded not only by the Bukhari but by other scholars such as Baydawi (p. 123), Zamakh-shari in the Kash-Shaf (part I, p. 555); Suyuti in the Itqan (p. 98); Asbab al-Nuzul (p. 88); and the Sahih al-Muswad (p. 53). The Baydawi remarks clearly on p. 123:

"Zayd ibn Thabit said: ‘This verse was sent down without the phrase "other than those who have a handicap". Ibn Maktum said: ‘How could that be and I am blind?’ The inspiration came upon the apostle of God in the assembly. His thigh fell on my thigh in such a way that I feared that it would break it. Then, the (inspiration) departed and he said: ‘Zayd, write—other than those who have a handicap."’ 

In my opinion, dear reader, Muhammad did not have to pretend that God had revealed this additional phrase to him because it is not necessary and it is implicitly understood. God, indeed, would not obligate a blind man to go to war, but it seems that Muhammad believed it important to add these words in order to please ibn Maktum. If God had intended these words to be part of the verse, He would have mentioned them from the beginning. God does not need to learn from Muhammad’s friend in order to change His opinion or to alter the verse.

Of Abdullah ibn Sa’d, too, in "Asbab al-Nuzul" (pp. 120-121), the Suyuti writes:

"’Abdul ibn Sa’d used to write for the prophet (like Zayd). When the prophet dictated, ‘God is oft-mighty and oft-wise’, he would write instead, ‘God is oft-forgiving and compassionate.’ Then he would read it to the prophet who would approve it by saying, ‘Yes... they are the same.’ Ibn Sa’d relinquished Islam and returned to Quraysh. He said, ‘If God has inspired Muhammad, He has also inspired me. If God sends down His revelation to him, He also sends it down to me. Muhammad said, "...oft-mighty, oft-wise" and I said, "...oft-forgiving, compassionate".’" 

The Baydawi and the Imam Tabari agree with the Suyuti and both of them record the same episode (refer to the Tabari, p. 152, and his comment on chapter 6:93).

It is very important to state here that this verse (6:93) which was given to Muhammad without any justification proves that Abdulla was right in his claim. This verse reveals the truth about Muhammad and his claim concerning revelations from God.

Don’t you see that ’Abdulla was right? If Muhammad himself approved the change which ’Abdulla made in the verse, why should Gabriel become angry at ’Abdulla and accuse him in another verse? Muhammad used to say "oft-mighty, wise", and he would write "oft-forgiving, compassionate", then he would show it to Muhammad who would approve it. Therefore he was right when he said, "If God inspires Muhammad, he inspires me also." Still, when ’Abdulla disclosed the matter, relinquished Islam and departed, Muhammad uttered this verse (6:93) to curse him, and issued ’Abdulla’s death warrant.

Concerning this matter, Qadi (Judge) ’Ayyad, in his famous book, "The Healing" (Shifa) remarks,

"’Abdulla ibn Sa’d said, ‘I used to divert Muhammad the way I wanted. He used to dictate to me "...oft-mighty, wise" and I would say "oft-knowing, compassionate" Then he would say, "Yes... It is correct". At the end, he said to me, "Write as you wish!"’" 

On page 184, the Imam Baydawi records another incident in which ’Abdulla ibn Sa’d was involved. We quote it as it is record- ed. The Baydawi says (p. 184),

" ’Abdulla ibn Sa’d was one of the prophet’s scribes when the verse, ‘We have created man from scion of mud’ was revealed, and Muhammad continued until he uttered, ‘...and then we made a different creature.’ ’Abdulla said with wonder, ‘May God be blessed. Who is the best creator.’ Muhammad said, ‘Write it, this is how it was given to me.’ ’Abdulla became suspicious and said, ‘If Muhammad is true, then I receive the inspiration as he receives it, and if he is false, then I say as he says."’ 

Thus, we have the verse recorded in chapter (Sura), "The Believers" (23:14), "This is how it has been inspired to Abdulla, not Muhammad! !"

Sa’d Ibn Moaz in the book, the Itqan (part I, p. 100), the Suyuti says,

"When Sa’d ibn Ma’adh heard what was said against Aisha, he said, ‘Glory to Allah! This is a serious slander!’ (Sura 24:16). It was set down as such in the Qur’an." 

This verse was not revealed by Gabriel but was uttered by Sa’d ibn Moaz when some of Muhammad’s companions accused Aisha (Muhammad’s wife) of adultery, among them Muhammad’s cousin who was the sister of Zaynab one of his other wives. On the same page, the Suyuti records verse 3:140 which was uttered by a woman, as well as verse 3:144 which was spoken by Mas’ab ibn al-Zubayr in the war of ’Uhud.

Women...Muhammad’s wives 

How Muhammad (I mean Gabriel) used to fulfill the desires of Muhammad’s wives! In part I, p. 97, the Suyuti indicates in the Itqan that,

"Um Salma, Muhammad’s wife said to him, ‘O, apostle of God, I do not hear that God has mentioned anything for the immigrant women.’ Then God sent down, ‘And their Lord has accepted of them and answered them, "Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you"’ (Sura 3:195).’ Um Salma also said, ‘O apostle of God, you always mention men and ignore women.’ Then the verse was sent down, ‘For Muslim men and Muslim women....’ (33:35)." 

The Baydawi (pp. 100 and 558), the Zamakh-shari in the Kash-shaf (part I, p. 490), the Jalalan (p. 353) on the authority of Um ’Amara, and the Sahih al-Musnad (p. 120), confirm the exposition of these verses as they were interpreted by the Suyuti. On page 558, the Baydawi says,

"The prophet’s wives told him, ‘O apostle of God, God has mentioned men with good things, do not we women have anything good in us to be mentioned?’ Then the verse in the chapter of Parties was sent down—the above mentioned verse." 

The same text is recorded in Asbab al-Nuzul by the Suyuti (pp. 69 and 219). There is a very significant question which we cannot ignore, neglect or avoid, "Did not God know that mentioning women in the Qur’an is very important until Muhammad’s wives such as Um Salma and Um ’Amara complained? Why did Gabriel reveal these verses only after the women complained and after Muhammad’s wives expressed the necessity for them?"

The question is very plain and the answer is very clear also! The angel had nothing to do with these matters. Um Salma said to her husband Muhammad, ‘I do not hear any mention of women.’ Muhammad asked Gabriel to let her hear the mention of women, so the verses in Sura of the Parties: 35 and in Sura of the Family of Imran: 195 were given.

Aisha (Muhammad’s most beloved wife whom he married when she was nine years old and he was 54 years old) had an influence on the inspiration of many verses. It is sufficient here to allude to one episode. Muhammad was on his way back from one of his raids accompanied by Aisha. Aisha lost her necklace on the way. Now let Aisha relate the story,

"One of my necklaces fell in the desert while we were entering Medina. The apostle of God halted and made his camel kneel down. He alighted and rested his head on my lap sleeping. Abu Bakr came and kicked me severely and told me, ‘You delayed the people because of a necklace!’ He also said, ‘O daughter, in every journey you cause trouble to people.’ When we woke up in the morning, we could not find water for ablution before the time of prayer. The verse in Sura of the Table was given in which permission was given to wash with sand instead of water when there is no water. Abu Bakr told me, ‘You are a blessed woman.’ Then Usayd ibn Hadir said, ‘O, family of Abu Bakr, God has blessed people through you!"’ 

This episode is mentioned in "Asbab al Zuyul" (p. 101) by Suyuti. It is also recorded by al-Bukhari in his Sahih (part 4, p. 64) and the Commentary of the Jalalan (p. 89). This is a famous story. In order to justify Aisha’s behavior lest her father and the rest of the Muslims become angry because she delayed them in the desert (as well as the lack of water), Muhammad claimed that God told him that they can wash with sand instead of water before they pray. We don’t know what type of ablution is this, when a person performs this ritual by using sand! It is common knowledge that Muhammad himself did this several times, as the Bukhari and the rest of the scholars indicate. The scholars say, "May God bless Aisha because for her sake God allowed Muslims to use sand for ablution before prayer whenever they could not find water."

We would like to conclude this point by conveying a moving story as it is recorded in the "Biography of the Apostle" by ibn Hisham (part III, p. 23) as well as by the rest of the Muslim religious scholars such as al-Jalalan, al-Baydawi, and al-Bukhari. This episode is a famous one and is the reason behind the bestowing of a well-known verse. Ibn Hisham says,

"The (military) company of Abdulla ibn Jahsh and some Muslims who joined him attacked some people from the tribe of Quraysh and killed them. They took their bounties. When they came to Muhammad, he told them, ‘I did not command you to fight during a sacred month,’ and he refused to take from the bounty the fifth of the mules and the two prisoners. Quraysh said, ‘Muhammad and his followers made it lawful for themselves to shed blood and seize properties and capture men during the sacred months.’ (The Arabs had previously agreed to abstain from fighting during certain months. When Muslims expressed their discontent for that, especially when Muhammad himself loathed that disgraceful thing and refused to take from the bounty, God spoke to His apostle saying, ‘They ask you about the sacred month (if) fighting is allowable. Say in it there is a great fight?’ The Muslim invaders rejoiced when this verse was given and Muhammad took the bounty." 

We wonder how this happened. When Muhammad himself conquered Mecca, he commanded the Muslims to kill the infidel if they refused to believe, but only after the elapse of the sacred months (9:5). Yet here, when he saw that his followers were discontent and that might create a certain crisis among them, he was forced to claim that Gabriel had gave him a verse which made war during the sacred months allowable, as if war were a good and necessary matter.


Verses Sent Down For Strange And Trivial Reasons 

A puppy which entered the prophet’s home: This episode is recorded in the Commentary of the Baydawi (p. 802); the "Itqan", by the Suyuti (part I, p. 92), and Asbab al-Nuzul (p. 299). This narrative is related to us because the infidel said that inspiration had departed from Muhammad and his God had deserted him. The Suyuti says,

"Khawla, Muhammad’s servant said, ‘A puppy entered under the bedstead in the prophet’s home and died. For four days the inspiration ceased to descend on Muhammad. He said to me what happened in the house of the apostle of God to make Gabriel cease to come to me?’ I told myself, ‘What if I neatly prepared and swept the house?’ I swept under the bedstead and brought out the puppy. The prophet came in with a trembling beard, for whenever inspiration descends on him he would be taken by a seizure. God sent down at that time five verses from the Surah (chapter) of Duha." 

It is well-known that the chapter of Duha is made up of only eleven verses. God sent half of it to assure Muhammad that He had not abandoned him. Infidels claimed that God had deserted Muhammad because inspiration ceased to descend upon him because a puppy entered his home and died under the bedstead. Gabriel, as the Bukhari recorded, had already told Muhammad that he would not enter a house which has a dog or a picture. The Suyuti stated that Muslim religious scholars (among them Abu Hajr) said that the story of Gabriel’s hesitancy to enter Muhammad’s house because of the puppy is very famous.

But the truth of the matter is that it is difficult to comment on these stories which all Muslim scholars confirm. What can a person say about such a story? Would God really delay His revelation to a prophet because of a dead puppy? Besides, did not Muhammad leave his home more than once during this period? Why then God did not give His revelation to Muhammad while he was away from his home?

There are many such stories in the Islamic episodes. I would like to relate to you three more distinctive ones.

The Red Velvet  

In the Asbab-al-Zuyul (p. 65), the Suyuti says,

"Verse 161 of chapter 3, which states, ‘No prophet could ever be false to his trust,’ was given because a red velvet was missed after the War of Badr. Some people said, ‘Maybe the apostle of God took it.’ Thus, God revealed this verse to acquit the apostle... ibn ’Abbas said so." 

The Baydawi in (page 94), the Zamakh-shari in the Kash-shaf (part I, p. 475) agree with the Suyuti and state the same reason. The Zamakh-shari adds,

"Maybe this verse was sent down after the War of Uhud, when some worriers deserted their sites and came to him (Muhammad) requesting their booties. They said, ‘Maybe the apostle would not divide the booties equally as he did in the Day of Badr.’ The apostle told them, ‘Did you think that we could be false to our trust and would not give you your share?"’

The Pretty Women Worshippers 

In the reasons for the revelation of Qur’anic verses (Asbab al-Nuzul) (p. 159), the Suyuti says,

"Ibn ’Abbas said, ‘There was a woman who prayed behind the apostle of God. She was one of the prettiest women, thus some people stepped forward to be in the first row lest they see her; others lingered behind in back rows in order to look at her from under their armpits whenever they prostrated themselves.’ So God sent down verse 24 of chapter 15: ‘And verily we know the eager among you and verily we know the laggards.’ Someone asked Suhayl ibn Hanif about this verse if it was sent down in relation to fighting in the cause of Allah, he said, ‘No, but it was sent down in relation to rows of prayer."’ 

As usual the Baydawi (p. 342) confirms this interpretation and indicates that some Muslims lagged to gaze at the pretty woman, thus this verse was revealed. Also the Zamakh-shari in the Kash-shaf agrees with both the Suyuti and Baydawi. Many other scholars and chroniclers (on the authority of the ibn ’Abbas) such as Tirmadhi, Nisa’i, ibn Maja, and Imam al-Tabari assert this episode (refer to al-Kash-shaf, part 2, p. 576).


Give Room to Others, Says Gabriel!  

On page 265 of Asbab al-Nuzul, the Suyuti says that whenever the Muslims saw a man coming to sit among them in the assembly of the apostle, they kept back their places and refused to make room for him, thus the verse was sent down,

"O, ye who believe! When it is said make room in assemblies, then make room" (58:11). 

Indeed the Baydawi (page 722) along with the Zamakh-shari (part 4, p. 492 of the Kash-shaf) agree with the Suyuti in the interpretation of this verse.

The simple, but essential question which we would like to ask is, "Was it necessary for Gabriel to come down from heaven to reveal to Muhammad so many verses for such trivial things? Was not Muhammad himself able to teach Muslims to be unselfish and to make room for their brothers in the assemblies so they can sit like the rest of them? Could not Muhammad exhort the Muslims not to stand behind pretty woman during the time of prayer to gaze at her? Or could not he say to the woman to go and pray in another place designated for women? Was this such as obtrusive problem that it required Gabriel to descend from heaven bearing a revelation from God?"

Regarding the red velvet which was missed in the day of Badr, couldn’t Muhammad tell the Muslims, "Shame on you! How could you accuse me of stealing and still claim that you believe in God and His apostle?"