A short overview
GABRIEL : Arabic: Jibril, Hebrew: Gabriy'el , meaning "warrior of God" or "man of God".
Muhammad's encounter with Gabriel
The angel that Muhammad was supposed to have met in the cave while meditating and who brought down the Qur'an for recitation. In the first encounter, Aisha related that when Muhammad did not recite, Gabriel caught him (forcefully) and pressed him so hard that he could not bear it any more, and this was repeated three times. Gabriel left Muhammad terribly shaken. Muhammad feared that something might have happened to him, returned and asked Khadija to cover him until his fear was gone. Muhammad thought that the spirit was a jinn. (Sahih Bukhari 1.3) He even contemplated commiting suicide by throwing himself down a mountain.
Gabriel's appearance in the Bible
In contrast, the Bible recorded four incidences of Gabriel's appearance to man, two to Daniel:
And I heard a man's voice from the Ulai calling, "Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision." As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. "Son of man," he said to me, "understand that the vision concerns the time of the end." While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet. (Daniel 8:16-18)
While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the LORD my God for his holy hill-- while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. He instructed me and said to me, "Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. (Daniel 9:20-22)
But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard....Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." The angel answered, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. (Luke 1:13,18-19)
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to
We see that in the three incidents that Angel Gabriel first appeared, he sought to allay the fears of those seeing him. He must have been an awesome sight to behold. He touched Daniel and raised him to his feet, and told Zechariah and Mary not to be afraid. Also, Gabriel always made sure that the recipients understood the message he brought. The Angel Gabriel does not leave his recipients in total disarray and confusion. Compare this with the reaction of Muhammad when the spirit appeared to him in the cave. Muhammad was so totally confused and was so fearful that he sought comfort from his wife and even wanted to commit suicide.
What a total contrast!
Testing by Khadija
Ibn Ishaq recorded that when the spirit came another time, Khadija tested him:
Isma`il b. Abu Hakim, a freedman of the family of al-Zubayr, told me on Khadija's authority that she said to the apostle of God, 'O son of my uncle, are you able to tell me about your visitant, when he comes to you?" He replied that he could, and she asked him to tell her when he came. So when Gabriel came to him, as he was wont, the apostle said to Khadija, 'This is Gabriel who has just come to me.' `Get up, O son of my uncle,' she said, `and sit by my left thigh.' The apostle did so, and she said, `Can you see him?' `Yes,' he said. She said, `Then turn around and sit on my right thigh.' He did so, and she said, `Can you see him?' When he said that he could she asked him to move and sit in her lap. When he had done this she again asked if he could see him, and when he said yes, she disclosed her form and cast aside her veil while the apostle was sitting in her lap. Then she said, `Can you see him?' And he replied, `No.' She said, `O son of my uncle, rejoice and be of good heart, by God he is an angel and not a satan.' (Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, tr. Guillaume, 1967, p. 107)
This testing is very interesting and appeared to be a cultural/traditional method of testing spirits. In Chinese culture, however, demons and devils are the ones afraid of female nude appearances, the exact opposite of the test by Khadija.
Is ‘Holy Spirit’ another name for Gabriel?
It is a Muslim belief that Gabriel is identified as the Holy Spirit who strengthened Jesus, al-Baqarah 2:87,253
"The Jalalan, Al-Baidhawi and the Muslim commentators in general, say this Holy Spirit was the angel Gabriel, who sanctioned Jesus and constantly aided Him, and who also brought the Koran down from heaven and revealed it to Muhammad." (Dictionary of Islam, p. 177), compare with Luke 22:43, Mark 1:13.
However, this hypothesis is difficult to maintain when the Biblical and Islamic sources are read carefully. See the next article, Is "the Holy Spirit" only another name for the Angel Gabriel?
Looking at the Qur'an alone, it is not even clear whether Gabriel is an angel at all, see Was Gabriel really an angel?
- has 600 wings, Sahih Bukhari 6.380
- twice seen in a vision by Muhammad, an-Najm 53:6-7,13-18; at-Takwir 81:23
- al-Baqarah 2:97; an-Najm 53:5-7,13-18; at-Tahrim 66:4