Wahi and Waswasa: Explaining two important meanings in the holy Quran

By Syed Sharfuddin


The root word وحى and its derivatives اوحى and اوحينا have been used in the holy Quran in a number of verses. The word wahi has various meanings. It is used as a sign, a signal, an inspiration, an awakening or a biblical commandment from the Lord Almighty.

Allah Tabarak wa Taala has the sole discretion to send wahi on anyone He wills. The recipient of wahi is not necessarily a prophet or religious leader. It could be an ordinary person. Or it may not even be a human being. Having said this, the prophets of Allah were the largest recipients of wahi. Islam was completed and fully established during the period of the revelation of the holy Quran. Declaration if completion of deen closed the door for any further prophet to come after Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. In Surah verse 3 Allah has declared:
الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الإِسْلاَمَ دِينًا فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ فِي مَخْمَصَةٍ غَيْرَ مُتَجَانِفٍ لِّإِثْمٍ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

Wahi or inspiration is one of the three ways through which Allah communicates with humans. The other two ways are through revelation or from behind a curtain or that Allah sends a messenger angel) to reveal His word to prophets. (As Shura: 51). No man has ever been able to speak to Allah directly. This will however, happen in the afterlife when men will long to see Allah and speak to him with His permission. “The Day [when] it comes no soul will speak except by His permission. And among them will be the wretched and the prosperous.” (Hud: 105).

Wahi is sent on the following:

1) Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and other prophets before him such as Noah, Abraham, Ismail, Issac, Moses, Aron, Job, Yunus, David, Solomon, Joseph, Jesus.

2) Wahi was sent from Allah to the companions of Jesus who were ordinary people, not prophets (Al-Maeda: 111).

3) Wahi was also sent to women such as the mother of Moses (Al-Qasas: 7 & Ta-ha: 38) and Mary, mother of Jesus. These women are mentioned in the holy Quran as good women who will inherit Paradise but they were not prophets.

4) The bee is inspired by Allah to find its food on mountains and orchards and produce honey and wax  (Al Nahl: 68).  Bee is only an insect, not even a mammal, let alone human.

5) Sky and universe. These cosmic bodies were ordered by the Creator to settle down and take a form in space as we find in our universe. (Fussilat: 13).

6). The Earth, when it will receive the command to shake up at the coming of the Last hour (Zalzala:5)

Examples of Allah speaking to man from behind the curtain are when Moses received his commandments on Mount Sinai. Mary, mother of Jesus, received wahi about obtaining sustenance when she gave birth to Jesus all by herself with no help from any man. Prophet Yahya received the good tidings in wahi that he will sire a son even through he was very old.

Examples of angels speaking to prophets and non-prophets are visits paid by angels to the homes of Abraham and Lut. In the Quran we learn that an angel visited Mary to inform her that she will give birth to a boy (Jesus) without her meeting any man.

Wahi can also come on an ordinary person but it does not make him a prophet. An example of this is Khizr whose story is narrated in Surah Kahaf. Quran called Khizr as a servant of Allah. Wahi can also come in the form of a dream such as the dream of Abraham and Joseph.

People can receive wahi which is meant to guide them in their lives. Istikhara is a weak form of wahi where a prayer is done by a needy person seeking Allah’s guidance for a certain thing he/she wants to do provided it is permissible in Islam and resourced through Halal means. But anyone who proclaims that he receives whai in order to make money or achieve fame or acquire a leadership role in the community is a false prophet no matter what name he uses to promote his fake trade. Fake prophets will face severe punishment (Al-Anaam: 93) in the hereafrter. This self-proclaimed fake wahi is the work of Shaitan and is called waswasa.


Wahi is from Allah. Waswasa is from Shaitan. With waswasa, Shaitan scares man about poverty and lures him toward lewdness. “الشيطان يعدكم الفقر و يامركم بالفحشاء”
When combined, these two factors make a devastating impact on human society. The fear of penury, i.e. losing wealth and possessions, prevents man from spending for good causes by forsaking his own greed and ambition for the benefit of others. We all know how economies nose dive when unstable stock markets due to loss of business confidence causes recession in the economy, which in turn results in massive unemployment and bankruptcies. In a recession, people lose their businesses and homes by not being able to keep the cash flow going. To end recession governments start quantitative easing (money printing) and cut interests rates to encourage people to start spending. Subhan Allah, the negation of interest and encouragement to spend is Islam’s fiscal solution for the economic development of societies and countries.

The second evil propagated by Shaitan is lewdness. Shameful acts cause divorces, abortions, out of wedlock children and place extraordinary social burden on the society or state’s health and housing resources. The moral decay and ethical dystrophy in human relationships cause severe disruption in social services and place extra burden on authorities whose mandate is to meet the expectations of its citizens. The harmful effects of socio-economic decline due to lack of fiscal spending and family disintegration and immorality are too serious to be ignored even from the point of view of maintaining family values, crime prevention and protecting women and children from rape, forced prostitution and other forms of gender exploitation in society.

The way Shaitan works waswasa in the hearts of humans is by taking a disguise and appearing as a well-wisher and friend of man. و قاسمها انى لكما لمن الناصحين ) [Al-Araaf : 152]. Shaitan used this trick on Adam and Eve to lure them into eating the forbidden tree’s fruit. He attacked them where man is most vulnerable to fall: the desire to live forever in luxury.

Waswasa can be best avoided by being aware that Shaitan is man’s sworn enemy and that nothing good can come from him. We are taught by Allah Subhanuhu wa Taala to seek His protection from the deception of Shaitan. استعذ بالله. Those who unfortunately fall prey to Shaitan end up becoming apostates, hypocrites or false prophets.

Waswasa is of two types. There is a waswasa, which creates doubt in the hearts of man toward the fundamentals of his faith leading to uncertainty and weakness of conviction. You will find many people who come from established families where religious values were upheld and practiced, but they themselves are not practicing believers. They agree there is a cosmic force responsible for running this whole universe in an orderly fashion, but they are not sure if God is that power. This is how Shaitan creates doubt in the hearts of people to take them away from God.

There is also another type of waswasa, which makes man conceited and proud. The pious and virtuous feel they are above other human beings in knowledge and good deeds and that God will declare them winners over others. This conceit creates unfathomable distance between the victim and other men and eventually between the victim and his Creator. In his unholy mission Shaitan is helped by his tribe, which are unseen to man. He also works through his disciples among the humans who are among us and engage with us in pursuit of their evil desire to take us away from our Lord.

May Allah give us the understanding to see the difference between wahi and waswasa and engage in activities which bring us closer to Allah and His creation instead of taking us away from the right path, led by our arch enemy Shaitan.






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