When Muhammad first began receiving revelation he thought to be from Allah, it was the angel Gabriel who brought Allah's message to him. Or so at least that's what Muhamamd thought. But was it actually Gabriel?
Let's see what Muhammad's initial encounter with Gabriel was like, and discover what emotional state this encounter left Muhammad. Two traditions (hadith) provide essentially the same story with slight variances.
Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Hadith 301
There came to him the angel and said: Recite, to which he replied: I am not lettered. He took hold of me [the Apostle said] and pressed me, till I was hard pressed; thereafter he let me off and said: Recite. I said: I am not lettered. He then again took hold of me and pressed me for the second time till I was hard pressed and then let me off and said: Recite, to which I replied: I am not lettered. He took hold of me and pressed me for the third time, till I was hard pressed and then let me go and said: Recite in the name of your Lord Who created, created man from a clot of blood. Recite. And your most bountiful Lord is He Who taught the use of pen, taught man what he knew not (al-Qur'an, xcvi. 1-4). Then the Prophet returned therewith, his heart was trembling, and he went to Khadija and said: Wrap me up, wrap me up! So they wrapped him till the fear had left him. He then said to Khadija: O Khadija! what has happened to me? and he informed her of the happening, saying: I fear for myself.
Bukhari, Book 1, Volume 1, Hadith 3
The angel came to him and asked him to read. The Prophet replied, "I do not know how to read.
The Prophet added, "The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read and I replied, 'I do not know how to read.' Thereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read but again I replied, 'I do not know how to read (or what shall I read)?' Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me, and then released me and said, 'Read in the name of your Lord, who has created (all that exists) has created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous." (96.1, 96.2, 96.3) Then Allah's Apostle returned with the Inspiration and with his heart beating severely. Then he went to Khadija bint Khuwailid and said, "Cover me! Cover me!" They covered him till his fear was over and after that he told her everything that had happened and said, "I fear that something may happen to me."
Two questions arise from Muhammad's encounter with Gabriel. Why did a visitation with a messenger from God leave Muhammad in a state of panic and complete fear? Why would a messenger from God physically assault Muhammad?
Let's contrast Muhammad's encounter with Gabriel to biblical encounters with Gabriel to see if there are any similarities or differences.
Daniel had an encounter with Gabriel, who was showing him a vision of end times. In Daniel 8:15-17 we read:
When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.
Notice Daniel was initially frightened and fell on his face. But immediately Gabriel spoke words of comfort to ease Daniel's fears and to help him understand what he was seeing. And Gabriel did not attack Daniel physically in order to make him understand.
We see two encounters with Gabriel in the New Testament. The first is found in Luke 1:13 where Gabriel announces to Zacharias and Elizabeth the coming birth of John the Baptist.
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
Another very similar encounter is documented a few verses later in Luke 1:26-30 when Gabriel announces the coming birth of Jesus to Joseph and Mary.
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.
In both of these encounters recorded in Luke we see something markedly different than the encounter Muhammad experienced. Rather then leaving Elizabeth and Mary in a state of fear, Gabriel assured and comforted them by telling them "Do not be afraid." And again Gabriel did not physically assault either Elizabeth or Mary in order to make his point.
Are we seeing an entirely different Gabriel than the one who visited Muhammad? Or asked another way, did Muhammad actually encounter Gabriel, or was it an imposter posing as Gabriel? What sort of being would instill in Muhammad a feeling of dread and utter fear? What sort of being would assault Muhammad physically?
The answer can be found in the earliest biography of Muhammad, written a mere 130 years after his death.
Ibn Ishaq records Muhammad was concerned he might be demonically possessed. He was so disturbed by this possibility that three times he threatened to commit suicide by jumping off the mountain side, and three times he was stopped by someone claiming to be Gabriel.
So I read it, and he departed from me. And I awoke from my sleep, and it was as though these words were written on my heart. Now none of God's creatures was more hateful to me than an (ecstatic) poet or a man possessed: I could not even look at them. I thought, Woe is me poet or possessed—Never shall Quraysh say this of me! I will go to the top of the mountain and throw myself down that I may kill myself and gain rest. So I went forth to do so and then when I was midway on the mountain, I heard a voice from heaven saying, "O Muhammad! thou art the apostle of God and I am Gabriel." I raised my head towards heaven to see (who was speaking), and lo, Gabriel in the form of a man with feet astride the horizon, saying, "O Muhammad! thou art the apostle of God and I am Gabriel." I stood gazing at him, and that turned me from my purpose moving neither forward nor backward; then I began to turn my face away from him, but towards whatever region of the sky I looked, I saw him as before. And I continued standing there, neither advancing nor turning back, until Khadlja sent her messengers in search of me and they gained the high ground above Mecca and returned to her while I was standing in the same place; then he parted from me and I from him, returning to my family. And I came to Khadija and sat by her thigh and drew close to her. She said, "O Abii'l-Qasim,2 where hast thou been ? By God, I sent my messengers in search of thee, and they reached the high ground above Mecca and returned to me." I said to her, "Woe is me poet or possessed."
Was Muhammad inspired by a demon rather than God?
The Qur'an stands in opposition to nearly every Biblical doctrine. According to the Qur'an, Jesus was not crucified, did not rise from the dead to conquer death, man is saved on the basis of doing more good than bad, Jesus was not God but merely a prophet and not even the most significant prophet, God does not love everyone unconditionally, and the list goes on. Who would have authored a book that stands against everything God said in the Bible?
According to the Bible, it is Satan who stands in opposition to everything God said. In the Garden of Eden, he cause Eve to become confused and succumb to temptation by questioning God: "Has God really said ...". At the start of Jesus' ministry, Satan tempted Jesus in the same way. Satan was cast out of heaven for an issue of pride, wanting to be like God himself. For that rebellion against God, he and a third of the angelic host were cast down to earth, where Satan now tries to mislead as many as possible from following God.
The Qur'an stands in opposition to God. Satan operates in opposition to God. Muhammad thought he might have encountered a demonic spirit. Does anyone notice a connection here?
Yes, I believe Muhammad likely was influenced by demonic forces. I believe the Qur'an is inspired by Satan himself. I do not believe Muhammad was visited by the angel Gabriel of the Bible but by Satan masquerading as Gabriel. The puzzle pieces all fit together. This is the only logical conclusion, given the evidence.
Which brings us to the final question. Muslims friend, what are you going to do? Who are you going to follow? Where will you spend eternity? Are you willing to risk an eternity in hell? You now have the evidence you need to make a wise choice. God will hold you accountable for what you know. You cannot claim ignorance.
Choose today whom you will serve.