I was reading about the life of Prophet Muhammad (p), and it occurred to me, what was the religion of the Prophet (p) before he received the first revelation? What do we say he was? Also, did he become a “Muslim” upon receiving the first revelation, i.e. did he actually read the Shahaadah? Is there any proof of this?
Before the advent of Islam, there was a small group of people, who called themselves the followers of “Deen-e-Haneef”, which was basically a monotheistic creed, ascribing to the belief of “one God” and adhering to the monotheistic practices of the Abrahamic tradition (these practices included: Sala’h (prayer), Sawm (fasting), Hajj (pilgrimage), Tawaaf (circumambulation of the Ka`bah), Ai`tikaaf (confinement to the mosque for concentrated worship) etc.). The Prophet (pbuh), it is generally believed, ascribed to this group. However, there is hardly any authentic information available on this topic in the books of history. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that the Qur’an has clearly stated that before the initiation of revelation, the Prophet (pbuh) was not fully aware of the details of faith and belief and neither of the divine laws (Al-Shooraa 42: 52).
What do we say he was?
In principle, the Prophet (pbuh), even before he received guidance from God, was an adherent of monotheism and of worship of one God only. Nevertheless, as far as the details of God’s guidance (beliefs as well as laws) are concerned, the Qur’an has adequately explained the Prophet’s condition as ‘one searching for the right path’, who was subsequently bestowed the divine guidance to the right path.
Also, did he become a “Muslim” upon receiving the first revelation, i.e. did he actually read the Shahaadah? Is there any proof of this?
The word ‘Muslim’ has two separate connotations. In its general sense, the word is used for the attitude of complete submission to God. In this sense, the Prophet (pbuh) was a ‘Muslim’ since the beginning. In it legal sense, it is used for a person, who believes in one God and recognizes the prophethood of Mohammed (pbuh). In this sense, obviously, no one could have been a ‘Muslim’ before the initiation of revelation or, in other words, before the initiation of Mohammed’s (pbuh) prophethood.
As far as the declaration of Shahadah1 is concerned, it is important to understand that becoming a Muslim and declaring to have become a Muslim are two separate issues. Shahadah is not a requirement of becoming a Muslim but is, in fact, a requirement of the declaration of becoming a Muslim. In other words, the declaration of Shahadah is, in fact, a declaration of belief. The propagation of the whole message of Islam, coming from the Prophet (pbuh), was, in fact, a comprehensive proclamation of Shahadah from the Prophet (pbuh).
November 15, 2000
- The formal declaration of the words “I bear witness that there is no other god besides the one God and that Mohammed (pbuh) is a true messenger of God”. [↩]