The True Vision
whenever the year revolved and the month of ramadan arrived, muhammad would return to the cave of hira' for meditation with a soul yet more ripe and more concerned. after years of preoccupation with such problems, muhammad began to see in his dream visions of the truth he sought. contrasted with these visions, the illusory character of this life and the vanity of its ornaments became especially apparent. he had become perfectly convinced that his people had gone utterly astray and that their spiritual lives had been corrupted by their idols and the false beliefs associated with them. he was also convinced that neither the jews nor the christians had anything to offer that would save his people from their misguidance. some truth there certainly was in the claims of both judaism and christianity, but there was also a fair measure of falsehood and illusion, of outright paganism, which could not possibly agree with the simple absolute truth beyond all the barren dialectics and futile controversies in which christians as well as jews indulged. this simple absolute truth is god, creator of the universe, other than whom there is no god. the truth is that god is lord of the universe, that he is the compassionate and the merciful, and that men are responsible for their deeds. "whoever will do an atom's weight of good, will be rewarded therefore on the day of judgment; and whoever does an atom's weight of evil, will like-wise be punished therefor” [qur'an, 29:7-8]. the truth is that paradise and hell are true; that those who worship other gods than god shall dwell in hell and suffer eternal punishment.
when muhammad retreated into the cave of hira' as he approached the fortieth year of his age, his soul was fully convinced of the vision of truth he had seen. his mind was cleansed of all illusion and falsehood. his soul was well disciplined by the search for truth and devotion to it. his whole being was now oriented toward the eternal truth, and his whole life was devoted to the pursuit of its path. he had prayed with all his power that god might deliver his people from their misguidance and error. in his retreat he prayed day and night and fasted long periods. he would come down from the cave for a stroll on the desert highway and then return to his retreat, always rethinking, contemplating and reconsidering. this continued for six whole months while muhammad was unable to tear himself away. naturally he was scared, and intimated to his wife, khadijah, the fear that he might even be possessed by an evil spirit. his loving and loyal wife reassured him, reminding that he was al amin" [i.e., the faithful], that evil spirits could not approach him precisely because of his faith and strong morality. it had never occurred to either that god was preparing his chosen one by means of all these spiritual exercises for a truly great day, the day of the great news, the day of the first revelation. it did not occur to them that god was preparing his prophet for prophet hood.