(وحي ) is the Arabic word for revelation
. In Islamic
context, it refers to the revelations and inspirations of God (Arabic: Allah
) to his prophets, for all humankind. In Islam, the Qur'an
is considered a Wahy given to Muhammad
. It is a higher form of revelation than Ilhaam & Wahi
. Wahy, unlike the lesser forms of revelation, is considered flawless.
The word awha
(أوحى ) occurs in a number of shades of meaning in the Qur'an, each of them indicating the main underlying idea of inspiration directing or guiding someone. The word 'wahy' (revelation) is derived from awha
Description of Wahy
Muhammad is reported to have had mysterious seizures at the moments of inspiration. Welch, a scholar of Islamic studies, in Encyclopedia of Islam
states that the graphic descriptions of Muhammad's condition at these moments may be regarded as genuine, since they are unlikely to have been invented by later Muslims. According to Welch, these seizures should have been the most convincing evidence for the superhuman origin of Muhammad's inspirations for people around him. Muhammad's enemies however accused him as one possessed, a soothsayer, or a magician since these experiences made an impression similar to those soothsayer figures well known in ancient Arabia. Welch states it remains uncertain whether Muhammad had such experiences before he began to see himself as a prophet and if so how long did he have such experiences.
According to Rudi Paret
, "The accusation of dishonesty which has been laid down against the Prophet time and again over the centuries up to the most recent times with varying degrees of vehemence is relatively easy to refute." Annemarie Schimmel
states that most recent studies of Muhammad indicate that Muhammad devoutly believed that he was God's instrument. William Montgomery Watt
argues that only Muhammad's sincerity can explain his "readiness to endure hardship and persecution during the Meccan period when from a secular point of view there was no prospect of success. To carry on in the face of persecution and hostility would have been impossible for him unless he was fully persuaded that God had sent him. "
William Montgomery Watt presents the following possibilities for the sources of Qur'an: ,
Sometimes he [Muhammad] may have heard the words being spoken to him, but for most part he seems simply to have "found them in his heart". Whatever the precise "manner of revelation"-and several different 'manners' were listed by Muslim scholars- the important point is that the message was not the product of Muhammad's conscious mind. He believed he could easily distinguish between his own thinking and these revelations. His sincerity in this belief must be accepted by the modern historian, for this alone makes credible the development of a great religion. The further question, however, whether the messages came from Muhammad's unconscious, or the collective unconscious functioning in him, or from some divine source, is beyond the competence of the historian.
According to historian Welch,
The really powerful factor in Muḥammad's life and the essential clue to his extraordinary success was his unshakable belief from beginning to end that he had been called by God. A conviction such as this, which, once firmly established, does not admit of the slightest doubt, exercises an incalculable influence on others. The certainty with which he came forward as the executor of God's will gave his words and ordinances an authority that proved finally compelling.
A number of Western historians have addressed the question of whether Muhammad was sincere when he reported receiving revelations. Around a hundred years ago, Thomas Carlyle in his lectures On Heroes vigorously alleged that Muhammad was "an impostor, who to satisfy his ambition and his lust propagated religious teachings which he himself knew to be false." The contemporary historians reject this view and say that as far as can be ascertained Muhammad did believe that he was hearing the word of God.
Watt notes that "To say that Muhammad was sincere does not imply that he was correct in his beliefs. A man maybe sincere but mistaken. The modern Westerner has not difficulty in showing how Muhammad may have been mistaken. What seems to a man to come from 'outside himself' may actually come from his unconscious.