The word revelation is used for the messages sent by Alláh. Two `Arabic words are usually used when revelation is discussed. These are:

Wahyi: This means a command or order from Alláh that is sent to a special person either directly or through an angel.

Ilhám: This means inspiration. It is when a command or information from Alláh is put into the mind of someone.

Ilhám refers to revelation that is not spoken or written while Wahyi refers to revelation that is both spoken and unspoken, written and unwritten.

There are three basic methods used by Alláh to send his message. The Holy Qur’án says:

It is not possible for a man to receive the message of Alláh, except either by inspiration,

or from behind a curtain,

or Alláh sends angels and they bring His message, with his permission (ash-Shúra, 42:51)

The three ways are inspiration, from behind a curtain and through angels.

1. Inspiration

These can come in the form of a dream or as a thought that comes into the mind.

Sometimes the Prophets of Alláh received His orders in a dream. When Prophet Ibráhím (A) saw in a dream that he was sacrificing his son, Prophet Ismá’íl (A), they both knew it was a command of Alláh. The Holy Qur’án says:

He said, "O my son, verily, I saw in a dream that I was sacrificing you. So what is your opinion?"

(The son) said, "Father, do what you have been commanded.

If Alláh wills, you will find me of the patient ones." (as-Sáffát, 37:102)

Our Holy Prophet (S) received messages in his dreams as well as while awake. In fact he never spoke anything except what had been inspired by Alláh. The Holy Qur’án says:

He (the Prophet) does not speak out of his own desire, it is nothing but a revelation revealed. (an-Najm, 53:3,4)

Sometimes Alláh inspires a person who is not a prophet to act in a particular way. An example of this when Prophet Músá’s (A) mother was inspired to put him into a box and cast him onto the river. The Holy Qur’án says:

And we revealed unto the mother of Músá saying, "Feed him, and if you fear for him, launch him on the river" (al-Qasas, 28:7)

Sometimes Alláh also uses the word revelation to mean the instincts he has put into the animals, for example the bee. The Holy Qur’án says:

And your Lord inspired the bee saying, "Make your hives in the mountains and in the trees and in the buildings,

Then eat from all the fruits and follow the way of your Lord submissively."

From their bodies comes a drink of different colours. In it is a medicine for men.

Truly in this is a sign for the people who ponder. (an-Nahl, 16:68,69)

2. From Behind a Curtain

This means that the revelation comes indirectly. These can be low, buzzing or high-pitched sounds which are understood by a Prophet. Sometimes, Alláh causes an object to speak. One of his attributes is Mutakallim, which means he can give speech to any object. In the case of Prophet Músá (A), his first call was through a burning bush. The Holy Qur’án says:

When he saw a fire he said to his family, "Wait here, I see a fire; maybe I can bring back a flame from it or I may find some guidance at the fire." (Tá Há, 20:10)

During his Mi’ráj, the Holy Prophet (S) reached a place where no prophet or angel had ever been. Here he saw a curtain of light, and then heard a voice from it. The Holy Qur’án says:

Then he drew near, and nearer, (Until he) was at a distance of two bows, or nearer still,

Then He revealed to His servant what He revealed. (an-Najm, 53:8-10)

3. Through an Angel

Alláh usually used Jibríl (A) to send His commands to the Prophets (A). Sometimes Jibríl (A) would come in his own image, sometimes he would come as a man. Most of the messages sent through the angels were verbal, but occasionally, as with the Torah, the message was written. The Holy Qur’án says:

And We wrote for him in the tablets lessons of every kind and explanations of all things (al-A`ráf, 7:145)


Holy Qur’án, Tafsír by S V Mir Ahmed Ali

The Qur’an and Hadith, Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi - Pages 1-5