The Hadith of Gabriel

Umar ibn al-Khattab said: One day when we were with God's messenger, a man with very white clothing and very black hair came up to us. No mark of travel was visible on him, and none of us recognized him. Sitting down before the Prophet, leaning his knees against his, and placing his hands on his thighs, he said, "Tell me, Muhammad, about submission."

He replied, 'Submission means that you should bear witness that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is God's messenger, that you should perform the ritual prayer, pay the alms tax, fast during Ramadan, and make the pilgrimage to the House if you are able to go there."

The man said, "You have spoken the truth." We were surprised at his questioning him and then declaring that he had spoken the truth. He said "Now tell me about faith."

He replied, "Faith means that you have faith in God, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day, and that you have faith in the measuring out, both its good and its evil."

Remarking that he had spoken the truth, he then said, "Now tell me about doing what is beautiful."

He replied, "Doing what is beautiful means that you should worship God as if you see Him, for even if you do not see Him, He sees you."

Then the man said, "Tell me about the Hour"

The Prophet replied, "About that he who is questioned knows no more than the questioner."

The man said, "Then tell me about its marks."

He said, "The slave girl will give birth to her mistress, and you will see the barefoot, the naked, the destitute, and the shepherds vying with each other in building."

Then the man went away. After I had waited for a long time, the Prophet said to me, "Do you know who the questioner was, 'Umar?" I replied, "God and His messenger know best. "He said, "He was Gabriel. He came to teach you your religion. "

To begin explaining the meaning of this hadith let us flesh it out by adding some background information that would be obvious to the original listeners but not to a reader situated many centuries and miles away.

Try to imagine the situation. The Messenger of God, at the time the greatest human being on the face of the earth (as far as his companions were concerned - and the historical record bears them out), is sitting at the edge of an oasis in Medina with a group of his companions, that is, people who have accepted that he is the mouthpiece of God. Suddenly a man appears whom no one recognizes.

Medina, at the time, is a tiny community in the midst of the desert (with a population of several hundred or perhaps a few thousand). Everyone knows everyone. If a traveler arrives, it is no small event, given the difficulty of travel and the small population. Everyone learns about new arrivals within hours. The system of personal relationships established by familial, tribal, and other bonds ensures that news is spread around much more efficiently than can ever be accomplished by today's six o'clock news. A man appears whom no one knows, but no one has arrived in town for several days, except the uncle of so and so, whom several of them have already seen.

Not only do the companions fail to recognize the man, but he also shows no signs of travel, which is very strange. If they do not know him, then he must be a newly arrived traveler. Someone would not be able to freshen up that quickly after several days of travel in the desert, even if he had traveled only by night on the back of a camel. (You think you feel bad after six hours in a car-think of six days in the hottest and dustiest environment you can imagine, with no air conditioned rest stops for coffee or soda.)

As soon as the man arrives, everyone is all ears. Who can this person be, and how did he get here without our knowing about it? Next strange fact: The man is obviously on familiar terms with the Prophet of God. He comes right up to him and kneels down in front of him, his knees against the Prophet's knees. Notice that the Prophet himself is kneeling, not in prayer as modern Westerners might kneel, but simply because kneeling is, for most Orientals, the simplest and at the same time the most respectful way to sit. Remember that, even in houses, chairs were unheard of. People sat on the ground, as they still do in much of the world-and this includes some of the richest and most sophisticated parts of the world, such as Japan. For most of the ancient world, chairs were the prerogative of kings.

You would not go right up to a person and kneel with your knees touching his unless he were, for example, your brother or a very close friend. The normal procedure, even if the person sitting there was just an ordinary person, would be to greet him from a respectful distance and keep the distance. But the stranger from the desert obviously knows Muhammad very well. He even places his hands upon Muhammad's thighs, which would be an unheard of piece of effrontery if the man were a stranger. Then the man addresses Muhammad by his name, whereas people always address him by his title, Messenger of God. The man begins talking without introduction as if he had been part of the conversation all along.

Once Muhammad answers the man's first question, the man says, "You have spoken the truth." 'Umar remarks, "We were surprised at his questioning him and then declaring that he had spoken the truth." This is an enormous understatement. More likely, the companions were flabbergasted. What kind of insolence is this? To come up to God's own messenger and begin to grill him, and then to pat him on the head as if he were a school boy! This is inconceivable. But then again, the companions took their clues from Muhammad . He was acting as if all this were perfectly normal and natural. What could they do but follow his example?

After the man leaves, Muhammad waits awhile, allowing his companions to think about this strange event. Finally, he tells them what had happened. They would not soon forget, and you can be sure that by that night, everyone in Medina had heard about Gabriel's appearance. No one was supposed to forget about this visit, for the Prophet had just presented them with their religion in a nutshell. If they ever wanted to know what was essential in Islam, all they had to do was remember the strange events of this day.


Excerpted from the book "The Vision of Islam" by Sachiko Murata and William C. Chttick

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  24 Comments   Comment

  1. Babandi A.Gumel from U.K

    May Allah give us taufiq to reach the perfection of Iman i.e stage of

    Ihsan and have istiqamah in Deen Theory and Practice until death


  2. daniel garcia from california

    this is an exellent part of the hadith of gabriel..............................................................................................................................................;.;..;.;

  3. Adam from London

    It is an excellent piece of Hadith Insha'Allah

    may Allah make us stronger in our Faith.


  4. Olagunju 'Abdur-Razzaq from Nigeria

    it confirms the messengership of the holy prophet Muhammed (saw).

    it also clearly stated the 5 fundamental principles of Islam as well as the articles of faith which every muslims must believe.

    it also informs that one day we will give account of all our deeds.

    it teaches one to be god fearing always as nobody knows when Allah will take one life.



  6. Dr Edriss from US

    sister, you been attacking a nation of Islam of 1400 years and you didn't feel it. when I tried to correct you, you felt attacked. Masha Allah.

    May Allah guides me then. Ameen

  7. Sofia Shums from USA

    As-Salaam Elekum Dr. Edriss!

    Brother, in the English language "we" is used to include the person using it. So, I did not exclude myself from that statement that you have quoted from my response to your article. "We" can be used as a generic term in English.

    Brother, making personal attacks in intellectual discussions is considered inappropriate and in bad taste.

    Some individuals even go so far as to say that the one who makes personal attacks as a response to an idea or an argument that has been presented in a discussion of ideas has really nothing better to offer in response.

    Your response included a personal attack against me, while nothing in my response to your article was an attack against you personally. I do not consider myself smarter than everybody else.

    But I do feel blessed by Allah SWT's Grace, Benevolence, Wisdom and Mercy in my life. I have always experienced His Protection and Help and for that I am grateful to Him. That is not arrogance or pride or a sense of superiority over others.

    I believe deeply that pride, arrogance in a Muslim and Submission to Allah SWT can not mesh/go together. So, your personal attack against me, when seen in this light, becomes a very serious matter.

    And, that is the problem with making personal attacks against someone you do not know at all. You are more likely than not to go wrong in your accusation/assumptions. So, we will let Allah SWT be the Judge in this--your belief in my arrogance.

    By the way, in case you did not notice it, all of the statements that I have made here have been made within tight bounds, keeping in mind the most "fundamental" attitude that a Muslim is supposed to have when he/she wishes to convey ideas/beliefs regarding Islamic discourse--behavior that's also found amongst non-Muslims.

    And, perhaps you need to take a second, in-depth look at the 1,400 years of Islamic history in order to reassess how Islam has been "lived" by us all.


  8. Dr Edriss from US

    Yes sister Salma, you are right there is more than one mistake. I didn't read it carefully at the begining.

    you know it's very hard to find the right words who match the arabic ones.

    the arabic words Islam, Emaan and Ehssaan can be translated respectively as Submition, Faith and Generousity.

    when you look deeply inside the meaning of the English words, you will find out the best translation can be Volunteer Submition, True Faith, Generousity limited by the message of The Almighty.

    since you become moslem by your own free will and not impose on you, it is Volunteered submition to Allah. since there is other people who call whatever they like as Faith, it should be True faith because that's the Only Authentic message remaining From the Almighty. and since the generousity can be in the wrong way: like one person can always provide another person with drugs and still be seen as generous, but he is not generous following the message of Allah.

    thank you sister for your comment. and thank you for the Author for his try. he sounds used just dictionary to translate.

    Translating in the best way is very hard task! and translating the Only Remaining Authentic words of Allah is hard task and responsability.

    May Allah helps us to do what pleases Him.


  9. Mari from USA

    Thank you for the translation and explanation of this hadith. I am thankful to you for elaborating of these beautiful narrative, since it lists and describes the most important aspects of Islam, as well as provides reasoning for understanding the angel's presence on Earth. Thank you again!

  10. Dr Edriss from US

    sister sofia shums, how are you sister? do you believe what you said "Muslims have not as yet figured out how to put the Qur'anic wisdom into action." ???? do you believe 1400 years of people practicing this Deen and no one is smarter than you? :). if you believe it, May Allah guides you.

  11. Salma from Netherlands

    The translation of this article is not correct. The slave girl would bare her master. And also the first question should be about imaan, the second about islam and the latter about faithfullness.

  12. Sofia Shums from USA

    Narratives -- story telling format-- found in all cultures throughout human history, is a powerful tool of communication.

    However, what I find missing from this article(part of a book as the editorial comment states), is the lack of references back to the verses in the Qur'an, for that was the sole purpose of Angel Gabriel's visit and of this narrative.

    I believe that Prophet Mohammed, according to several Hadiths, was concerned that Muslims in the future might focus on him, his life and utterances of daily living, and not on the Revealed Word of Lord Almighty, or that they might create confusion betwen the Quran and the what we now call the "Hadiths".

    In his last sermon, Prophet Mohammed asked his followers if he had conveyed Allah SWT's Message to them and they responded that he had. This testimonial at the end of his Prophethood makes it very clear that his prophesy was about conveying the Messsage of God Almighty to Humanity which he did immaculately during his Prophethood, with Allah SWT's help and guidance.

    This loss of focus away from the Qur'an displays an attitude in the Ummah that has had far-reaching impact on how we practice our Deen. It has led many followers of Islam to lose their bearing and has caused them to wander away from the Right Path which is what Islam is all about.

    We need to change this and put our focus on the Revelation of Allah, Lord of the Universe.

    The Qur'an is the greatest Miracle and Gift that Allah SWT, our Lord and Creator, has given to Humanity. Let us use it to bring Peace, Unity in our lives on Earth. Let us fulfil our roles in this endeavor.

    Muslims have not as yet figured out how to put the Qur'anic wisdom into action. It is still talk, talk and more talk and not enough action to implement the sublime ideals of Islam.

  13. Dr Edriss from US

    Assalam Alaikom,

    that's very good Translation and comment on the Hadith of Gabrial.

    you have done small mistake my brother, it is servant of Allah(or just woman) and not the slave girl. the Arabic word "Abdullah" means slave of Allah or Allah's servant and the Arabic word " Amah "(I wish I wrote it in the way pronouced in arabic) means slave woman of Allah.

    in the hadith, it was mentioned "Amah" and since this word can mean also slave girl, you have done the wrong translation.

    and the meaning of that part is the woman gives birth to her master. can be any woman.

  14. Mustafa Nissar Bankur from Mauritius

    I was impressioned by the tafsir of this hadith. I may even say that this is the best tafsir for this hadith. By reading this tafsir. it is as if i was there. No i'm not exagerating

  15. Omar from Australia

    Interesting article, however, if the aim of the incident was, as the authors surmise, to ensure that no one would forget the message then, sadly, it failed.

    Abu Huraira's version, of the same event, differs from Umar's version.

    1. In the Hadith narrated by Abu Huraira, Gabriel's first question was, "What is faith?" as opposed to Umar's recollection which has that as the second question and has Gabriel first asking, "Tell me, Muhammad, about submission." Some may consider this discrepancy to be trivial, but as sure as Allah SWT has given order to everything, most certainly one of the two accounts is inaccurate. I believe that Gabriel would have presented the message in a logical, orderly manner and so, for that reason alone, I favour Abu Huraira's version of the event. Why? Because faith naturally precedes submission i.e. you don't submit to something unless you first have faith and believe in it.

    2. In the Hadith narrated by Abu Huraira, the second question that Gabriel asked was, "What is Islam?" The answer given is the same as that given in reply to the first question in Umar's account. In Umar's account, however, the word 'submission' is used instead of 'Islam'. I realise that the word 'Islam' has invariably been translated to mean 'submission' but, quite frankly, it is in my opinion an inadequate translation. We all submit to our need to break wind when necessary, but our submission in this regard is hardly a religion. On the contrary, the word 'Islam' is derived from the word 'salaam' (peace) and is translated to mean, 'the way to peace through submission to the Will of Allah'. As the meaning of the word 'Muslim', as a verb is 'submission to the Will of Allah', the definition of 'Islam' can be further shortened to mean, 'the way to peace through being Muslim'.

    The essential prerequisite to Islam is faith. Anyone can outwardly appear to be adhering to the five pillars of Islam but without the foundation of faith those actions are just for sho

  16. abdullahi jibiya from nigeria

    I have never seen a better tafsir of this hadith. May Allah (SWT) reward the writers with the best of His rewards, amin.

  17. shakheel mousadee from England /mauritius


    jazak'Allahu khairaan

    such a beautiful hadith

    Allahamdulil laa for this deen of ours

  18. Monis Ahmed from India

    Beautiful and the most simple of the Hadiths. Such is the charisma and charm of the prophet that even Angels are his friends ....

  19. Hanan from USA

    Al-hamdullillah, a wonderful hadith to be reminded of in a very engaging manner. We thank Allah (swt) for His Messenger (saws) and for the sahaba who bore witness in their time and blazed the trail of belief for those who submit, truly to this Deen.

  20. Mimi Khan from Canada

    This is a very well known Hadith and quite profound.

    Incidentally, one does not have to appernetly strive to visualise that this must be an authentic Hadith.

  21. NooN from usa

    Is it possible that these "Angels" were from the

    City of Quamran ?? From the Secret Teachers of

    Righeousness that lived in Caves & away from citys.

    Is it possible that Moses & Issiah & Jesus also

    looked for the Teachers of Righteousness & possibly with them for long times or short times.

    It is hypothesized in books about the Dead Sea

    Scrolls from the City of Quamran that there were

    both single & married couples living there in

    different areas.

    They bathed, prayed, ate, worked & study.d.

    They copy.d with pen Words & Thoughts of

    Righteous.ness. Those that left would be

    aware of their desire to be Priests of

    Righteousness of Priests of Evil:who clashed.

    What are the Rules of each Priest? R there any?

    We watch their ACTIONS.

    Does the "Jew / Ju" (from Crucades of JuLeus

    Caesar & JuDa($)Where else could Nu Ju

    come from ?

    Abram bought the land in Hebron by the Well of

    Roi. Let us also remember that Abram had

    3 Wives & 8 Children:

    Hajar : 1 Child

    Sara : 1 Child (Adopted)

    Kedusha : 6 Children

    No Ju there; only Hebron-Hebrew maybe.

    Let us view the Zapporah+Moses situation:

    Zapporah was Ethopian, probably Essene.

    Moses LOVED Zapporah & her family


    Zapporah's father was a Wise Man who

    advised Moses openly & acceptably.

    Moses would not break up with Zapporah

    when Marium & Aaron demanded it,

    "because she was NOT fair like them." Myrium & Aaron were given leprocy & removed form the camp because of their problem making ways. Finally they asked "forgiveness & inn"; whereas

    when they were "clean" they were allowed back in:

    Where they continued watching the gold &

    watching the container where heaven words

    were spoken out loud (was in their physical care).

    As we see the anglo.cain & anglo.americain &

    anglo this &

  22. Adam Ibrahim Muhammad from Nigeria

    Islam in a nutshell indeed.

    One can further go on to ask; had the teaching of "suicide" (as this is its season) ever been hinted in both the statements of the Questioner or the one being questioned?

    Is there any way that the idea of committing suicide can have a base in the teaching of Islam as beautifully summed up by this Hadith? And by the way this Hadith is the MOST authentic hadith ever known by muslims as reported in Bukharis collection.

    Thank you Islamicity for this article I hope it makes lasting impression in all especially the non-muslims who have been brainwashed to have the twisted meaning of Islam and muslims. Gradually the truth will surfaced and Islam will find its true position that of saving the humanity very soon.