Surah 2 (Al-Baqarah / The Cow): 97-98

97. Say: ‘Whoever is an enemy to Jibriel (Gabriel), for indeed he has delivered this (book) to your heart by Allah’s permission, confirming as true what is in between its two hands (i.e. already there), and (it is) guidance and good news for the Believers.

98. Whoever is an enemy to Allah, and His angels and His Messengers and Jibriel and Mikal, then verily, Allah is enemy to the disbelievers.

[‘Qur’an al-Katib’, Kamal Omar, 2003 (Quranicist)]


The traditional Islamic belief is that the words of the Qur’an were conveyed from God to Muhammad through the agency of the angel Gabriel (Jabril). Gabriel appears in the Book of Daniel and in some the non-canonical Jewish literature, such as the books of Enoch 〈14.〉 He is most familiar to Christians through the gospels, where he acts as the messenger angel, sent to first Zechariah to announce the forthcoming birth of John the Baptist (see Luke 1.11-12 , a story told in the Qur’an at {3.37-41}, {19.2-11} and {21.89-90}) and then to Mary to announce her pregnancy with Jesus (Luke 1.26-38 /Qur’an {3.42-47} and {19.16-21}).


In the Qur’an, Angels occur frequently and in a variety of roles 〈14.〉 with Gabriel named in two Qur’an verses: {2.97} (above), and {66.4}, in which he is cited as one of the Prophet’s protectors in a dispute with one of his wives 〈79.〉 For the possible identification of Gabriel as the ‘Trustworthy Spirit’ or ‘God’s Spirit’, see 〈12.〉


On only two occasions does the Qur’an directly refer to the process by which its announcer has received his revelation. In both, a heavenly figure is seen on the horizon, the symbolic meeting place of the heavens and the earth (and for the Qur’an announcer a real, but distant place). The earlier of these is a short account, that seems to relate only a fleeting glimpse of someone in the distance:

{81.22}  Your companion is not possessed,

{81.23}  He surely saw him upon the clear horizon,

{81.24}  And he does not withhold grudgingly the unseen.


{53.4-16} expands upon this first encounter and tells of a second:

{53.4}  It is naught but a revelation revealed,

{53.5}  Taught him by one of awesome power.

{53.6}  Possessed of vigour he stood upright,

{53.7}  When he was upon the highest horizon,

{53.8}  Then he drew nigh and came close,

{53.9}  Till he was within two bow’s lengths or nearer.

{53.10}  Then He revealed to His servant what He revealed,

{53.11}  The heart lied not in what it saw.

{53.12}  Do you then dispute with him as to what he saw?

{53.13}  And indeed he saw him another time,

{53.14}  At the lote tree of the boundary,

{53.15}  By which lies the garden of the refuge,

{53.16}  When there covered the lote tree that which covered.


As the encounter of Surah 81 is developed in Surah 53, it changes from a mere sight of the figure on the horizon to something much more substantial, in which a ‘revelation’ is ‘taught’. Who this mysterious supernatural messenger is intended to be understood as, is not made clear in the verse, but given the fact that {2.97} (above) names Gabriel as the deliverer of something to the heart of the Qur’an announcer, it would have been a small step to conclude that it must have been Gabriel whom the prophet saw first upon the horizon and later at the lote tree.


An account of Muhammad’s first encounter with Gabriel as a stranger who clasps him in a bear-hug is given by Ibn Ishaq 〈31.〉 Also, several hadith account recount Muhammad describing his experience of receiving a revelation, of which the most oft-cited is:

Sometimes it is revealed like the ringing of a bell. This form of inspiration is the hardest of all and this state passes after I have grasped what is inspired. Sometimes the Angel comes in the form of a man and talks to me and I grasp whatever he says.


The external signs that were observed by those with Muhammad, are said to have included Muhammad ‘quickly moving his lips’ and sweating, even on a very cold day, so that he was wrapped in a cloak – possibly making him ‘the enrobed one’ of {73.1} and {74.1}.  However, neither Ibn Ishaq’s account of Muhammad’s first revelation nor the descriptions of his revelations as an internally experienced mystical trance have any obvious connection with the only two meetings of the Qur’an announcer with a supernatural being that are described in the Qur’an itself.