By Malika Kahn
Do you ever wonder in which month the Quran was first revealed? Knowing the history of the Quran and the nature of its revelation allows one to appreciate it all the more.
The Quran is the speech of Allah transmitted to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) by the Angel Jibreel in its exact meaning and wording, thereafter transmitted by numerous persons both verbally and in writing. This final revelation from Allah to mankind is inimitable, protected and preserved by Allah Himself as promised in the following verse:
“Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian.” [15:9]
This article explores when the Quran was first revealed and when the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) began to receive his first revelation.
The Month of Revelation
The Quran was first revealed during the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar. This blessed month is known by many Muslims today as the month of Fasting. However, long before fasting became incumbent, it was known by the earliest companions as the month of the Quran.
“Indeed, We revealed [the Quran] during the Night of Decree. And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree? The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter. Peace it is until the emergence of dawn.” [97:1-5]
Significance of Laylat-al-qadr
Laylat-al-qadr, the Night of Power, occurs in the month of Ramadan. It is also known as the Night of Decree as it is stated that on this night the decrees or destinies for the upcoming year are sent down:
“On that night is made distinct every precise matter – Every matter [proceeding] from Us. Indeed, We were to send [a messenger] as mercy from your Lord. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Knowing.” [44:4-6]
The significance of this night is highly emphasized in both Quran and hadith. Not only is it referred to as a blessed night in Surah al-Dukhan, but an entire chapter of the Quran, Surah al-Qadr, is dedicated to it. The Night of Decree is described to be full of virtue, better than a thousand months, and is known as the night on which angels descend the earth – including the angel of revelation, Jibreel himself. Laylat-al-qadr is regarded as a significant opportunity, as believers who spend the night in remembrance and prayer will be rewarded in abundance far greater than on any ordinary night. This night is seen as a blessing and mercy from Allah. According to narration, one of its virtues is that spending this night in prayer out of faith and sincerity will result in all past sins being forgiven.
The exact night on which laylat-al-qadr takes place is unknown, but what is known is that it falls on one of the odd nights in the last ten days of Ramadan. Not knowing the exact date on which the Night of Power occurs does in no way deprive one of receiving its rewards. The wisdom in this knowledge being hidden is so that individuals actively seek it out, aiming to be continuous and vigilant in acts of worship.
Another reason why this night is so important is because on laylat-al-qadr the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) by Angel Jibreel.
“By the clear Book, Indeed, We sent it down during a blessed night. Indeed, We were to warn [mankind].” [44:2-3]
The Quran is referred to as having been revealed in its entirety in the month of Ramadan on the Night of Power. However, it is also said to have been continuously revealed in portions during the lifetime of the Prophet. The majority of scholars agree that the process of revelation occurred in distinct phases involving the Descent of the Qur’an in the heavens and then its Revelation to the Messenger.
Descent of the Quran
The Lawh-al-Mahfoodh is the Well-Preserved Tablet on which all things are written from the beginning of creation until the end of time. This includes even the Qur’an, as described in the Qur’an itself:
“But this is an honored Qur’an, [Inscribed] in a Preserved Slate.” [85:21-22]
From this Muslims understand that the Quran as the speech of Allah was recorded in this tablet; this is regarded as a testament to the Creator’s infinite knowledge and a guarantee of its authenticity. From the Lawh-al-Mahfoodh, Allah caused the Quran to descend from the upper heavens to the lower heavens to a place known as Bayt-al-‘Iizza or the House of Honor. This phase of revelation occurred during Ramadan on the Night of Decree.
“The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion.” [2:185]
Ibn ‘Abbas explained that the descent of the Quran between the heavens was in order to emphasize its high status while announcing to Heavens inhabitants that this was Allah’s final revelation. Therefore, it can be said that the entirety of the Qur’an descended on laylat-al-qadr in Ramadan.
Beginning of Quranic Revelation
From this station in the lower heavens, the Quran was gradually revealed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) over a period of 23 years. Ibn ‘Abbas explained that: “the whole Quran was sent down to the lower heavens on the Night of Decree. Then, whenever Allah wished to inspire something from it he would inspire it”.
Jibreel was the noble angel tasked with bringing the portions of the Quran which Allah commanded him to bring. The way that the transmission of revelation is understood is that Jibreel heard the Quran from Allah and then recited the words to the Messenger (pbuh) as he heard it.
“And indeed, the Quran is the revelation of the Lord of the worlds. The Trustworthy Spirit has brought it down.” [26:192-4]
Revelation from the heavens to the earth began in the month of Ramadan. Scholars such as Suyuti’ and Imam al-Sha’bi mentioned that the first revelation from Jibreel to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) occurred on laylat-al-qadr during the last ten nights of Ramadan.
Prophet Muhammad Receives his First Revelation
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was 40 years old when he received his first revelation of the Qur’an. This phase of revelation of the Qur’an took place while on one of his frequent spiritual retreats in the Cave of Hira. This cave is located on Jabal an-Noor or the Mountain of Light on the outskirts of Makkah. It is described as being quite small, with enough space for only one person in such a manner that one is forced to face the Ka’bah. In Ibn Ishaq it was stated that the Prophet’s grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, had discovered the cave and would sit there to meditate.
In a famous narration in Bukhari, the Prophet’s wife Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, explained how the Divine Inspiration that marked the start of prophethood began. At first, the Prophet (pbuh) would experience true dreams, followed by the desire to retreat away from the idolatry all around him and seek seclusion. In the Cave of Hira, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) spent his time in the worship of Allah and in contemplation. Once supplies ran out he would then return home to deal with family affairs before procuring more items to once again spend his time in seclusion in the cave. This continued until the occurrence of a milestone moment in the history of Islam: Prophet Muhammad’s interaction with Angel Jibreel.
One evening, in the Cave of Hira, the Prophet Muhammad received his first verses of the Quran from Jibreel who suddenly appeared to him in his natural form, reportedly being so large and bright with six hundred wings that filled the horizon. During this interaction, the first few verses of Surah al-‘Alaq was revealed. The experience was so powerful and overwhelming that the Prophet rushed home in a fearful state, relaying the incident to his first wife and supporter, Khadijah, may Allah be pleased with her. Receiving his very first revelation had a great impact on the Messenger such that many years later Aisha could recount the narration in such vivid detail leading to the story we discuss today. When Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) received his first revelation that night in the Cave of Hira, it marked the start of his mission as the final messenger. This night was a turning point in history and a major shift in the Prophet’s life; setting in motion his transformation from believing merchant to Messenger.
In summary, the Quran as we know it existed from eternity and was written in the Protected Tablet. During the month of Ramadan on the Night of Decree, the Qur’an was first revealed, descending to the lower heavens. From there, the angel of revelation, Jibreel, after hearing the Qur’an from Allah, revealed it in piecemeal during the Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime over a span of 23 years.
“And [it is] a Qur’an which We have separated [by intervals] that you might recite it to the people over a prolonged period. And We have sent it down progressively.” [17:106]
What do you think? Share your reflections below!
And we wish you a very blessed Ramadan, from everyone here at Quranic!
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- Denffer, A., 1994. ʼulūm Al-Qurʼān. Leicester: Islamic Foundation.
- Qadhi, Y., 2011. Seerah Of Prophet Muhammed 10 – Zayd B. Harithah & Beginning Of Revelation.