By the age of 40 Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) was still living among an extremely backward people who were devoid of any traces of civilization and humanity. These hard conditions severely tormented his pure soul. Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) observed nothing in that society but the darkness of ignorance. He would go to the Kaaba, but instead of witnessing the worship of God, he witnessed, idolatry. He would then leave the Kaaba and go among the people. But there, too, he was troubled by what he p.b.u.h. He was pained by the ugly customs and false thoughts of his people. The pitiable condition of the poor and the destitute caused him great anguish. The deplorable situation of women, who were treated worse than animals, as well as the prevalence of gambling, wine drinking and murder tortured his blessed heart.
When he dealt with people as a merchant, their immoral behaviour gave so severe an emotional shock to him that he had to go to a lonely place where he would not be tormented by people's inhuman behaviour. For these reasons and to find peace of mind, he would go to cave of Hira (Ghare Hira), in the al-Noor mountain near the city of Makkah and there think deeply about the amazing phenomena of nature and the vestiges of God's All-Embracing Compassion. Initially he used to remain in the cave of Hira for a day or two and sometimes even 10 nights or more but the next few years p.b.u.h him spending a whole month in that cave, praying to Allah (SWT) and contemplating guidance for the deviated people.
In short, Prophet of Islam, Muhammad's (p.b.u.h) forty year life period before the appointment was associated with chastity and honesty, trustworthiness and rightness, doing good with the poor and the lower, hatred towards the immoralities within the society along with its custom of idol worshiping. His high moralities and generosity in his behaviors gained the praise of all, to the extent that Allah (SWT) praised him in the Noble Qur'an for his high moralities. Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) was nicknamed as "Al-Amin, the trustworthy" from the beginning of his youth, thus people trusted him to watch over their properties.
Mostly everyone was against his mission as the Prophet, but no one doubted in his trustworthiness and thus he continued to secure their properties. Despite the enmity that existed toward him in the city, no one doubted his honesty.
Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) always named Allah (SWT) before eating, and never ate meat that was not properly slaughtered. Like other prophets, he spent part of his youth as a shepherd. Being a shepherd had great impact on the prophets. It allowed them to separate themselves from the bad deeds of the society; it taught them to endure the difficulties, and it increased their faith in Allah (SWT) as they p.b.u.h the power of Allah (SWT) and the order.
Descent of the first revelation (Wahy) on Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h)
By the time Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) reached the age of 40, he was ready for his divine mission. Finally the day dawned which was to change the history of the world. On 27th of Rajab, in 610CE, Archangel Gabriel [one of the four superior angels who was ordered by Allah (SWT) to convey revelation to prophets] descended to him, while he sat in cave of Hira (Ghare Hira), in the al-Noor mountain near the city of Makkah, Gabriel, the Angel of Revelation, said, 'Recite!' He said in surprise, 'what shall I recite?' Again the divine voice very clearly and openly called out, 'Recite, O Muhammad!'
And a third time angel Gabriel (Jabra'il) repeated, 'Recite in the Name of Your Lord Who created. He created the human being from a clot. Recite and your Lord is Most Honourable, Who taught (to write) with the pen, taught the human being what he knew not' (96:1-5).
With these verses, angel Gabriel (Jabra'il) announced to Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) that Almighty Allah (SWT) had formally chosen (al-Mab'ath) him to be His last and final Messenger to humankind. When Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) was appointed, he had become responsible for a great mission (Risalat and Nabuwat). Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) felt dignity of Almighty Allah (SWT) more than before. An indescribable excitement and eagerness overcame Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h), for he had come into contact with a supreme supernatural world. His high spirit had now found a sacred support and an eternal refuge. He p.b.u.h in himself the power of prophecy. No longer was any worry or agitation to be found in his blessed being. There was now just peace and confidence within him.
The appointment of Muhammad (p.b.u.h), 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 Noble Qur'an began at this time.
Clarification: Messenger of Allah (SWT), he was at his very birth but the prophethood was declared only after forty years. The Noble Qur'an was already there treasured in the blessed heart of Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) at his birth but the divine decree for its revelation/proclamation to the people came 40 years later. As we already know from Noble Qur'an (19:30), Prophet Jesus/Isa (pbuh) brought the book with himself and he was a prophet at his birth. Now if we accept Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) as the prophet only after 40 years then, Prophet Jesus/Isa (pbuh) emerges as a greater Prophet than our Prophet. But this is certainly not the case.
Some great events happened at the time of Prophet of Islam, Muhammad's (p.b.u.h) appointment. For instance, a groan was heard. Imam Ali (as) says about that: "I heard Satan's groan when the first revelation was descended. I asked Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h): "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."
As mentioned before, Imam Ali (as) accompanied Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) in different cases such as his seclusion periods. This narration, written in Nahj al-Balaghah, implies that he was with Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) when revelation was descended for the first time. It is inferred through the history that he was the only person with Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) at that time. Nobody else has claimed to be with Him then.
Prophet of Islam, Muhammad's (p.b.u.h) Method of Propagating Islam
When Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) began descending cave of Hira (Ghare Hira), in the al-Noor mountain to go home, he found that he was in a different mood; in a strange mood; in fact in another world; in a divine atmosphere. He was not a prophet before going to the mountain, but now he was related to the Source of Creation, had communicated with the Divine Origin, with the Divine Authority. He was now witnessing what Bahira, the Christian monk, and others had predicted about him; and he well knew that a momentous task had been laid upon his shoulders. He was deeply absorbed by the task. If he had any worries, it was not because he was unsure of his prophethood. Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) had heard the tidings from such learned people as Bahira, and he had witnessed angel Gabriel (Jabra'il) bringing the good news, 'You are Allah's Messenger'. These were enough to assure him of his divine mission and prophethood.
In addition, Allah (SWT) has always, through clear proofs and compelling confirmations assured any prophet He has selected for guiding mankind of his prophethood, so he would endeavour to rectify, purify, and educate human beings with the strongest determination.
Therefore, it becomes clear that it is most baseless and wrong to say that Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) did not know that he had become a prophet until his wife Khadijah bint Khuwaylid talked to him and assured him of his prophecy.
Khadijah bint Khuwaylid waiting for Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h)
What happened on the day of the beginning of the Prophet's prophetic mission caused him to return home later than usual. Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, who had never observed her affectionate husband to be late, was worried. Suddenly she p.b.u.h him enter the house but with quite a new expression and in a new mood. Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) was now excited and moved. Khadijah bint Khuwaylid asked him, 'Why are you so late today?'
Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) explained the whole event to her. Khadijah bint Khuwaylid had long been expecting such a blessed day, for she had heard her servant, Mysara, quote from the Christian monk they had met on their journey to Damascus that he, Muhammad (p.b.u.h), is the Prophet of Allah (SWT) to the people.
The Jewish and Christian priests had formerly given her the good tidings that Muhammad (p.b.u.h) was to be a prophet and that he had a supreme status. So she got up and after making the necessary inquiries, contacted Warqa ibn Nawfal, who was a learned Christian person, and told him about the event. Warqa ibn Nawfal said, 'I swear by God that the same great angel Gabriel (Jabra'il) who descended to Prophet Musa / Moses (pbuh), has descended unto him, and no doubt he is the prophet of these people, of this Ummah'.
Khadijah bint Khuwaylid then returned home and after brief consideration, accepted the prophecy of Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h), thus attaining the honour of taking the lead in adopting the supreme faith of Islam among all the women of the world.
Imam Ali (as), the first male who came to believe in the prophet's faith
At a time when a severe famine had broken out in Arabia, Abu Talib ibn Abd Al-Muttalib's financial condition was difficult; indeed unbearable. To reduce his uncle's financial problems, Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) took his son, Imam Ali (as), to his own house and took care of him and raised him like an affectionate father. Imam Ali (as) had great talent and peerless intelligence. He obeyed Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) most sincerely. He soon became quite aware of the Prophet Muhammad's truthfulness, and, so when he was but ten years old, he accepted the Prophet Muhammad's faith with perfect awareness, thus becoming the first male to adopt Islam and to believe in the divine faith of Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h).
Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h): Three years of propagation in practice
For three whole years after the actualization of the prophetic mission of Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h), he propagated his faith in secret because the corrupt environment of Arabia, which had been polluted with idolatry and paganism for centuries, was by no means ready for the open propagation of Islam, which is perfect monotheism and opposed to any kind of polytheism.
In the beginning, Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) was faced with extremely difficult problems and obstacles that seemed to prevent him from achieving his divine goal - the propagation of Islam. Thus Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) praised the One God before the eyes of the idolaters who worshipped numerous gods and whose worshipping assumed the form of whistling and clapping. Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) performed the ritual prayers, which included spiritual discourse and praise of Almighty Allah (SWT), Who has no partner nor any peer. Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h), accompanied by Imam Ali (as) and Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, went to the crowded places like the Masjid al-Haram and Mana and performed the congregational ritual prayers before the eyes of the enemies of Islam and thus, through his practice, fought polytheistic faiths.
Atif, a merchant of that time, has said, 'I had gone to Abbas, the son of Abd al-Muttalib, on business, when suddenly I observed that a man entered the Masjid al-Haram, looked up at the sky and the sun and stood praying in front of the Kaaba. A little later, a woman and a boy came in and accompanied him in his prayer. I asked Abbas ibn Abd Al-Muttalib about that religion of which I had not yet heard! Abbas ibn Abd Al-Muttalib said, "This man is Muhammad, the son of Abdullah. He believes that his God is the Creator of heaven and earth and that God has assigned him to guide people. For the time being his faith has no believer other than these three people. This woman you see is Khadijah, the daughter of Khuwaylid, and this boy is Ali, the son of Abu Talib ibn Abd Al-Muttalib, who have accepted his faith."'
Thus started the beginning of a divine mission, which was destined not only to cleanse the Arabian Peninsula of the filth of polytheism but whose radiance would eventually dispel darkness from all over the world.
"Certainly Allah conferred a benefit upon the believers when He raised among them a Messenger from among themselves, reciting to them His communications and purifying them, and teaching them the Book and the wisdom, although before that they were surely in manifest error." (Noble Qur'an, 3:164)
Indeed! Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) was appointed to recite the divine verses to the people, to teach them the Book and wisdom, and to rescue them from being mislead like their ancestors. However, not all people responded to his invitation equally.
In this way Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) went on with his divine task until gradually the number of Muslims increased and, contrary to the ill-wishes of the opponents of Islam, this faith prevailed. When the atmosphere became suitable for the open propagation of Islam, Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (p.b.u.h) was divinely ordered to act accordingly.