Waraqah ibn Nawfal

Men of Islam

Name:Waraqah ibn Nawfal
Clan/Origin:Banu Quraysh
Birth:ca. bef. 560
Status:Died in early Islam but was not convert. One of the Four Hanafi.
Other:Muhammad’s wife’s paternal cousin

Waraqah was said to be a Nazarene (“Christian’) who had the mystical power of “writing as much of the Gospel that Allah wished him to write.” Guesses that he was Nestorian are almost certainly wrong. He may have received some second-hand knowledge of Christianity through Ebionite heretics, but he did not know Jesus’ name (Yesu’ in Arabic, not Isa) or he would have told Muhammad, and so his identity as something other than a idiosyncratic monotheist who collected whatever sacred texts and stories that he could get his hands on is very much in question.

After Muhammad had his revelation at Hira and returned to Khadija in fright, we get this story from Ibn Sa’d:

Then she rose and gathered her garments about her and set forth to her cousin Waraqa b. Naufal b. Asad b. ‘Abdu’l-Uzza b. Qusayy, who had become a Christian and read the scriptures and learned from those that follow the Torah and the Gospel.

And when she related to him what the apostle of God told her he had seen and heard, Waraqa cried, ‘Holy! Holy! Verily by Him in whose hand is Waraqa’s soul, if thou hast spoken to me the truth, O Khadija, there hath come unto him the greatest [Law that] came to Moses afore-time, and lo, he is the prophet of this people. Bid him be of good heart.’

So Khadija returned to the apostle of God and told him what Waraqa had said. (T. and that calmed his fears somewhat.) And when the apostle of God had finished his period of seclusion and returned (to Mecca), in the
first place he performed the circumambulation of the Ka’ba, as was his

While he was doing it, Waraqa met him and said, ‘O son of my
brother, tell me what thou hast seen and heard.’

The apostle told him, and Waraqa said, ‘Surely, by Him in whose hand is Waraqa’s soul, thou art the prophet of this people. There hath come unto thee the greatest Namus, who came unto Moses. Thou wilt be called a liar, and they will use thee despitefully and cast thee out and fight against thee. Verily, if I live to see that day, I will help God in such wise as He knoweth.’ Then he brought his head near to him and kissed his forehead; and the apostle went to his own house.

Ibn Sa’d

(Waraqah was a distant cousin of Muhammad’s, too.)

Sahih Bukhari reports that he died a short while later. Waraqah seemed convinced that Muhammad was going to prove to be a monotheistic prophet without any idea that Muhammad’s religion would be different from his own, so it is little wonder that he saw no point in conversion. Why would he convert if he thought Muhammad came as a prophet from his own religion?

Islamic sources lean heavily on Waraqah’s authority, sometimes even embroidering his status so that he is the Bishop of Mecca(!), but they do not really know what to do with the fact that he didn’t embrace Islam. They excuse this by saying that Waraqah died before Muhammad had fully come into his prophethood, but he would have died at a time after Khadija and Ali had converted, according to Islamic tradition, so that excuse doesn’t fly. His status in Islam makes no sense unless Muhammad did not himself yet realize that he would not be seen as being essentially in the same religion of the Nazarenes and the Jews, empowered to settled their differences once and for all, as he brought the Arabs into the monotheistic fold in preparation for the Great Day (that is, the Day of Resurrection).

There is a narration that Waraqah is in Paradise:

‘Aishah said:

“The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) was asked about Waraqah. Khadijah said to him: ‘He believed in you, but he died before your advent.’ So the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) said: ‘I saw him in a dream, and upon him were white garments. If he were among the inhabitants of the Fire then he would have been wearing other than that.'”

Jami at-Tirmidhi 4:8:2288

This, of course, would oppose standard Islamic doctrine, so it is deemed to be “weak.”

To read more about him, check out the article on Khadija’s consultation of Waraqah.

Author: Marya Harb