WAHY – الوحي
Literally: A word. A book. A sign. A sending. An inspiration. An explaining. A command. A making known by letter to letter. A delivering for some special purpose.
Delivering a haqiqah or an idea to a Prophet by Allah (‘Azza wa jalla).
As a term of Sharî’ah: The sending and explaining of the ordinances, mysteries and the haqiqahs, which Allah wishes through sending Malâikah, dreams, inspirations or books from Allah (‘Azza wa Jalla).
“True ilham indeed resembles wahy in some respects and is a mode of Rabbânî speech. There are however two differences:
THE FIRST: Wahy, which is much higher than ilham, generally comes by the medium of the malâikah, whereas ilham generally comes directly.
Just like a sultân has two modes of speech and command. The first consists of his sending to a governor one of his lieutenants with respect of the grandeur of monarchy and the splendour of sovereignty. Sometimes, in order to demonstrate the splendour of his sovereignty and the importance of his command, he may meet with the intermediary, and then the decree will be issued.
The second consists of his speaking not with the title of the monarch or in the name of being sultân, but privately in his own person and concerning some private matter, some petty affair, using for this purpose a trusted servant, some ordinary subject, or his private telephone.
In the same way, the Pre-Eternal Monarch may either, in the name of Ar-Rabb of All the ‘âlams, and with the title of Khâliq of the Universe, speak with wahy or the comprehensive ilham that performs the function of wahy, or He may speak in a different and private fashion, as Ar-Rabb and Khâliq of each animate being, but behind veils, in a way suited to the recipient.
THE SECOND DIFFERENCE: Wahy is without shadow, pure, and reserved for the khawass. ilham, by contrast, has shadow, colours intermingle with it, and it is general. There are numerous different kinds of ilham, such as the ilham of Malâikah, the ilham of humans, and the ilham of animals; ilham thus forms a field for the multiplication of the kalimât of Rabb, that are as numerous as the drops in the ocean. Our traveller understood that this matter is, indeed, a tafsir one aspect of the âyah, لَوْ كَانَ الْبَحْرُ مِدَادًا لِكَلِمَاتِ رَبِّى لَنَفِدَ الْبَحْرُ قَبْلَ اَنْ تَنْفَدَ كَلِمَاتُ رَبِّى 1 ” The Rays (148 )
“Ar-Rasûl Al-Akram ‘Alayhissalâtu Wassalâm was a human being; hence he acted like a human being. He was also a Rasûl, and with regard to his messengership, he was an interpreter and an envoy of Janâb-i Haqq. His messengership was based upon wahy, which is of two kinds:
The First is al-wahy as-sarîh (explicit wahy). In this case, Ar-Rasûl Al-Akram ‘Alayhissalâtu Wassalâm is merely an interpreter and announcer, with no share in the content. The Qur'an and some Sacred Hadith are included in this kind of wahy.
The Second is al-wahy al-dhimnî (implicit wahy). The essence and summary of this sort are also based on wahy or ilham, but its explanation and description were left to Ar-Rasûl Al-Akram ‘Alayhissalâtu Wassalâm. When he explained and described such wahy, sometimes Ahmad ‘Alayhissalâtu Wassalâm again relied on wahy, or on ilham, or sometimes he declared with his own farâsah. And, when he resorted to his own ijtihad, he declared on account of his prophetic mission with elevated, sacred quwwa, or he declared on account of his humanity with common usage, custom and the level of common comprehension.
Thus, all the details of every Hadith are not necessarily derived from pure wahy, nor should the lofty marks of messengership be sought in such thoughts and transactions of his as are required by his participation in the human state. Since some events came to him by wahy in a brief and unconditional form, and he himself described them with his own farâsah and according to common comprehension, the mutashabihât in his descriptions sometimes may need tafsir or even interpretation. There are, indeed, some haqiqahs that the human mind can grasp only by way of comparison. For example, once in the presence of the Prophet, a loud noise was heard. The Prophet said, "This is the noise of a rock that has been rolling down for seventy years and has now reached the lowest depths of Jahannam." An hour later the news came that a famous munâfiq who had recently turned seventy years old had died and gone to Jahannam, thus explaining the event Ahmad ‘Alayhissalâtu Wassalâm had described by means of an eloquent comparison.” The Letters (123-124 )
1 (Were the sea to become ink for the words of my Rabb, verily the sea would be exhausted before the kalimât of my Rabb.)