Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Prophet's First Revelation

Prophet ( Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) First Revelation

By Adil Salahi

Description: An Account of How the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  Received His First Revelations from Allāh.

In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-‘ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger

1.Seclusion in The Mountain

There were several aspects of preparation for Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  to receive the Revelation (Wahyu) .

Little is reported about how Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) lived after his marriage, up to the time when he started to receive divine revelations. It is certain, however, that his marriage to Khadijah binti Khuwaylid (radiyallāhu’anha) was a very happy one. Moreover, his marriage provided him with a comfortable life. Although there is no direct reference to the type of work Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did in this period, it is reasonable to assume that he continued to manage his wife's business. Since the work was mainly done through the caravan trade, the work itself was not very demanding.

None of the old biographers of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  mentioned that he traveled on Khadijah's trade missions after their marriage, but, most probably, he spared her the need to attend to the business herself. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) might have selected the men to travel on her behalf and supervised the preparations of the shipment before the caravan set off and the sale of the imported goods when it came back.

Nor are there detailed reports on Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) social activity in Makkah. It is known that the Arabs of Makkah had their meeting places round the Ka’bah where they spent some time in the morning and the afternoon in a pleasant atmosphere.

Although Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had a likeable personality and everyone seemed to enjoy his company, he did not appear to care much for such gatherings, most probably because the chatting would inevitably have turned to the worship of idols and promiscuous pursuits. These were normal topics of conversation, unless something more serious imposed itself on such Meetings. But neither topic interested Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). He had disliked idols since childhood. Moreover, he was protected by Allāh against indulging in wanton pleasures.

Indeed there was clearly a wide intellectual gap between Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  and the people of Makkah. This gap continued to increase as the years went by. It did not deprive him, however, of enjoying his people's respect for his honest, serious and amiable character. (Ibn Hisham)

It was probably because of this gap that Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) began to take himself away from Makkah for a period of total seclusion. In the month of Ramadhān, each year, he went to a particular favorite resort, in a cave name Hira’ up in the Mount An-Nur, two miles away from Makkah. It is a litte cave 4 arms-length by 1.75 arm-lengths wide offered him complete seclusion where Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  stayed for several days at a time. When his provision of food (Saweeq, the barley porridge) and water was exhausted he would return home for a fresh supply and come back for another few days.

When the month was over, Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) went back home, starting with a visit ot the Ka’bah, where he did tawaf, walking around the Ka’bah seven times before he went home to his wife.

2.The Cave Hira’in Mount Nur

To get to the Cave Hira’in Mount Nur, Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had to climb right to the top of the mountain and descend a short distance down the other side. The cave is a small one with an entrance that is wide enough to admit one person comfortable, but does not easily accommodate two people standing to pray.

The entrance narrows at the top and is just about two meters high. Although the ground of the cave is flat, the ceiling slopes down as you go inside until it becomes very low towards the end, where there is a little opening which ensures good ventilation.

There is not much space in the cave altogether. It has just about enough room to accommodate one person to sit, stand or sleep.

What is worth mentioning is that if one stands to offer solāh at the entrance of the cave and looks through the opening at its end, one can see the Ka’bah on the far horizon. Just before the entrance there are two great rocks shielding the cave and giving the place an air of complete isolation.

Alongside it, the great rocks form a little open space looking over an almost vertical side of the mountain. Only mountaineering experts with full equipment can attempt to climb that side. That little space next to the cave must have given Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) all that he needed to be absorbed in contemplating human life nearby and the universal expanse all around him.

3.Contemplation and Worship

Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) spent his days and nights in contemplation and worship. He addressed his worship to the Creator of the universe. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did not follow any particular method of worship because he was not aware of any, but he realized that the beliefs of his people were absurd.

In those days of seclusion, Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) found comfort which lasted him through the rest of the year. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) realized that there is a force of truth beyond this world which must have power and control over the whole universe.

The world around him could not have come into being by coincidence. But how that truth manifested itself, Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) could not tell. (Duwaydar)

It is easy to read too much into Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  period of seclusion and his contemplation. Modern authors and biographers in particular have tried to show him trying to find a way out of the total darkness that enshrouded his people. This may bring us very close to saying that Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  was in search of an idea or a belief.

This is true only in as much as it means that Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) all beliefs which were known to him and were practiced in Makkan society. Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) certainly did not aspire to the role that was later assigned to him.

4.Preparing for the eventual Revelation (Wahyu)

Addressing  Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), Allāh Almighty says in the Qur’ān: “You had not entertained any hope that Scriptures would be given you, but this was an act of grace by Your Lord.” [Al-Qasas 28:86]

Nevertheless, this regular period of seclusion helped to prepare the for receiving Allāh’s revelations.

There were other aspects of preparation for Revelation. It was necessary that Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) should understand and realize that the unique relationship which was soon to be established between him and the Angel Gabriel is both real and truthful.

Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was soon to realize that every dream in his sleep was soon to come true exactly. When he was alone, he might see a light or hear a sound, someone invisible might address him by his name. Yet these matters did not worry him much. When Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) felt such worry, he told his wife Khadijah binti Khuwaylid (radiyallāhu’anha), expressing his concerns to her. She would reassure him and say that Allāh Almighty would not allow anything evil to happen to him.

Khadijah binti Khuwaylid (radiyallāhu’anha)  said "By God!,You are faithful to your trust, kind to your kinsfolk and you always tell the truth."

Khadijah binti Khuwaylid (radiyallāhu’anha), however, went to her cousin, Waraqah bin Nawfal bin Asad bin 'Abdul 'Uzza, the old Christian scholar, asking him about what Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) saw and heard. Waraqah ibn Nawfal, also reassured her and sent Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) words telling him to be reassured.

5.The First Revelation (Wahyu)

Some scholars think of the first encounter between Prophet Muhammad  (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and Angel Gabriel as the missing piece in the story of the revelation.

The moment had to come. It was the night known to Muslims as “Laylat-ul-Qadr, the Night of Decree” believed to be Monday 21st. in the sacred month of Ramadhān; August 10th in the year 610 C.E with Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) exactly 40 lunar years, 6 months and 12 days of age; or  39 Gregorian years 3 months and 22 days, spending the month in the Cave of Hira’in Mount Nur, as had been his habit for several years.

Suddenly, Prophet Muhammad  (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) has a most fascinating experience.

5.1. An account of which is given on the authority by his wife, ‘Aishah (radiyallahu’anha):

The first aspect of revelation (wahyu) to Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was that his dreams came true. Whatever vision he might have had in his sleep would occur as he had seen.

Then, Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) began to enjoy seclusion. He used to retreat  alone into the Cave Hira’in Mount Nur, where he would spend several days in devotion before going back to his family.

Prophet Muhammad  (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to take some food and water with him, and when he came back he would take a fresh supply for another period. He continued to do so until he received the truth while in the Cave Hira’in Mount Nur.

The angel came to him and said: "Read". He replied: "I am not a reader." Prophet Muhammad  (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) says: "He held me and pressed hard until I was exhausted, then he released me and said: "Read", and I replied: "I am not a reader." So he held me and pressed me hard a second time until I was exhausted, then he released me and said: "Read". I replied: "I am not a reader." He then held me and pressed hard for a third time. Then he said:"Read, in the name of Your Lord Who created. It is He who created man from clots of blood. Read! Your Lord is the most bounteous, Who has taught the use of the pen. He has taught man what he did not know.'" (Al-‘Alaq,96:1-5)

Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) returned home to his wife Khadijah (radiyallahu’anha), trembling, and said: "Wrap me! Wrap me!" They wrapped him and his fear subsided. He turned to Khadijah (radiyallahu’anha) and exclaimed: "What has happened to me?" Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) related to her what happened and said: "I fear for myself." And Khadijah (radiyallahu’anha) replied: "You have nothing to fear; be calm and relax. Allāh will not let you suffer humiliation, because you are kind to your relatives, you speak the truth, you assist anyone in need, you are hospitable to your guest and you help in every just cause."

Then Khadijah (radiyallahu’anha) took him to Waraqah ibn Nawfal, her paternal cousin who was a Christian convert and a scholar with good knowledge of Arabic, Hebrew and the Bible. Waraqah had lost his eyesight, as he had grown very old.

Khadijah (radiyallahu’anha) said to Waraqah ibn Nawfal: "Cousin, would you like to hear what your nephew has to say?" [Waraqah was not, in fact, the Prophet's uncle. Khadijah's reference to Muhammad as his nephew was in accordance with the standards of politeness which prevailed in Arabia at the time.]

Waraqah said: "Well, nephew, what have you seen?" Prophet Muhammad  (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) related to him what he saw. When he had finished, Waraqah [recognized it from the prophecies of the Bible of the awaited prophet, and confirmed that what had appeared to him in the Cave Hira’ was the indeed the Namus, Angel Gabriel, the Angel of Revelation and]  said:

“This is ‘Namus’ the angel who is the Keeper of Divine Secrets (Gabriel) that Allāh sent to Moses. I wish I were younger. I wish I could live up to the time when your people would turn you out from this city.”

Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) asked: “Will they drive me out?”

Waraqah replied in affirmitive and said: “Anyone who came with something similar to what you have brought was treated with hostility; and if I should be alive till that day, then I would support you strongly”

But Waraqah ibn Nawfal died soon after that.

This hadith is related in both of the two most authentic collections of the Prophet's traditions recorded by Al-Bukhari and Muslim, and also by Imām Ahmad (rahimahumullāh) in thier collection.

5.2. At-Tabari (rahimahullāh) also relates the following hadith, on the authority of ‘Abdullāh ibn Al-Zubayr (radiyallahu’anhu):

Prophet Muhammad  (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “While I was asleep he (Gibreal) came to me carrying a case of a very rich material in which there was a book. He (Gibreal) said: "Read". I replied: "I am not a reader." He pressed me so hard that I felt that I was about to die. Then he released me and said, 'Read'. I asked: 'What shall I read?' (I said this only out of fear that he might repeat what he had done to me before.) He (Gibreal) said: ‘Read: in the name of your Lord who created. It is He who created man from clots of blood. Read! Your Lord is the Most Bounteous, who has taught the use of the pen. He has taught man what he did not know.’ (Al-‘Alaq,96:1-5) I read it. He (Gibreal) stopped. Then he left me and went away. I woke up feeling that it was actually written in my heart.”

Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) went on to say: “No man was ever more loathsome to me than poets or deranged persons. I could not bear even looking at either. I thought: ‘The man [meaning himself] is undoubtedly a poet or deranged. This shall not be said about me amongst the Quraysh. Let me climb higher up the mountain and throw myself down and get rid of it all.’

I went to carry out this intention. When I was halfway up the mountain, I heard a voice coming from the heavens saying: ‘Muhammad ! You are the Messenger of  Allāh and I am Gabriel.’ I raised my head up to the sky and I saw Gabriel in the image of a man with his feet next to one another up on the horizon. He said again: ‘Muhammad ! You are the Messenger of  Allāh and I am Gabriel. I stood in my place looking up at him; he distracted me from my intention. I was standing there unable to move.I tried to turn my face away from him and to look up at the sky, but wherever I looked I saw him in front of me. I stood still, moving neither forward nor backward.

Khadijah (radiyallahu’anha) sent her messengers looking for me and I remained standing in my place all the while until they went back to her. He (Gabriel) then left me and I went back to my family.” (At-Tabari)

6. The Qur’ān or “Recitation”

The angel Gabriel would recite the Qur’ān orally to the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), the Sacred Book is known as Al-Qur’ān, “The Recitation,”

The words brought to Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) from Gabriel are held sacred by the Muslims and are never confused with those which he uttered himself. The former are the Sacred Book, the Qur’ān; the latter the Hadith or Sunnah of the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). Because the angel Gabriel would recite the Qur’ān orally to the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), the Sacred Book is known as Al-Qur’ān, “The Recitation,” the recitation of the man who knew not how to read.

Thus began the magnificent story of Allāh’s final revelation to humanity until the end of times. The encounter of an Arab, fourteen centuries ago, with a being from the realm of the Unseen was an event of such momentous significance that it would move whole peoples across the earth and affect the lives of hundreds of millions of men and women, building great cities and great civilizations, provoking the clash of mighty armies and raising from the dust beauty and splendor unknown previously. It would also bring teeming multitudes to the Gates of Paradise and, beyond, to the virtuos vision. The word Iqra’, not only echoing around the valleys of the Hejaz, broke the mould in which the known world was castled; and the Final Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), took upon his shoulders a burden which echoing around the earth.

7. Did Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) Live Up to the Test?

The revelation through Gabriel stopped for a while but the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was not desperate and knew that Allāh would not fail him.

When Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) reached home after his sojourn in the mountain cave, his wife, Khadijah binti Khuwaylid (radiyallahu’anha) noticed that he was off-color, which was natural after all the excitement of his first encounter with the Angel Gabriel.

Khadijah binti Khuwaylid (radiyallahu’anha)  asked him what was the matter as she started to wipe his face. She asked whether Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had seen or heard anything new. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) told her: “You remember what I told you about my dreams and the voice I used to hear when I awoke, which caused me some fear!  It was Gabriel who appeared and talked to me and made me read words which left me worried. He then told me that I am the Prophet of this nation. As I was coming back, I heard trees and stones saying: “Peace be to you, Messenger of Allāh!”

Khadijah (radiyallahu’anha)  said: "Rejoice! By Allāh, I was certain that Allāh would bring you only what is good. I certainly hope that you are the Prophet of this nation."

Khadijah (radiyallahu’anha) continued to encourage Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) until he relaxed and took his meal. She then went to her cousin, Waraqah ibn Nawfal, who reassured her about the Prophet’s (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) encounter. Waraqah promised her most solemnly that if Muhammad truly the Prophet as mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel, “he calls people to believe in his message while I am still alive, I will do my best in obedience to God's Messenger and will support him to the end.”

There are several reports about the encouragement Waraqah ibn Nawfal gave to Khadijah (radiyallahu’anha)  and the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). If we take them together, there were probably two or three meetings between the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and Waraqah, one of which occurred when they met at the Ka’bah as both of them were doing the tawaf, or the circumambulation around the Ka’bah.

Waraqah ibn Nawfal reassured Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and kissed his head. Then Waraqah died within a few days. The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said of him: “I have seen in my dream the priest wearing silk clothes in heaven, because he believed in me.” (Ibn Hisham)

The first few days must have been full of worry in the prophet's home. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) needed every possible reassurance. It seems that Gabriel appeared to him more than once. His wife Khadijah (radiyallahu’anha) was certain that nothing evil could come to him. Her logical thinking led her to that conclusion. What she knew of the Prophet's character made her absolutely certain that what he saw and heard was genuine and came from a good source.

Khadijah (radiyallahu’anha) thoughtful mind led her to try to get more reassurance. She said to the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam): “Cousin, can you tell me when this companion of yours comes to you next time?" Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) agreed to do so.

Informed of Gabriel's presence on his next visit, Khadijah (radiyallahu’anha) said to the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam): "Cousin, sit on my left thigh." When he did so, she asked him whether he still saw him. The Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: "Yes." She told the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) to move over and sit on her right thigh. As he did so, the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) confirmed that he could still see Gabriel. She asked him to sit on her lap and he did so, again confirming that he could still see him.

Khadijah (radiyallahu’anha) then took off her head-covering, while the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) still sat on her lap. At that moment, Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  told her he could see him no more. She said, "Rejoice, Cousin, and be firm. This is certainly an angel, not a devil." It was her clear thinking that led her to try this method, realizing that an angel would not stay in a room where a man and his wife were in a closely intimate position. (Ibn Hisham 255)

Then followed a period during which the Angel Gabriel stopped coming to the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). It seemed that it all stopped as suddenly as it had started. Now, no more visits by Gabriel and no more revelations. This worried the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and he needed reassurance again.

There are no confirmed reports of the duration of this period during which the Prophet Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) reveived no new revelations. One report puts it at two and a half years, but it is more likely that it was much shorter than that, lasting perhaps about a month or a few weeks. (Ibn Hisham 257)

The purpose was to allow the Prophet Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) to have some time to himself, during which his new experience would sink in and he would be able to evaluate the new situation and its implications for his future role. What he was embarking on was by no means easy. It required strength, fortitude and perseverance. Of all these he had plenty, but his task needed even more.

Moreover, the process of receiving revelation was by no means easy. No human being can tell what it meant, simply because no human being has ever experienced it, apart from those chosen elite whom Allāh has honored so highly to make them prophets.

What is important to remember, however, is that the receipt of revelation was an actual contact between the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), the human being, and an angel Allāh sent specially to him to give him His own words. The process itself took several forms.

From the two hadiths, quoted above in this chapter, relating the first encounter between the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and the Angel Gabriel, one can realize that revelation (wahyu) could be given to the Prophet ( Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) while he was asleep or he was awake. In that particular instance, both types might have occurred, first during the Prophet's sleep, and then confirmed when he was awake.

Alternatively, it could come through direct inspiration. In an authentic hadith, the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is quoted to have said: "The Holy Spirit (Angel Gabriel ) has given me this inspiration that no soul shall die until it has completed its life duration and received all its provisions. Be mindful, therefore, of your duty towards Allāh and maintain propriety when you ask Him for what you want."

Or the revelation could be given to him while a ringing noise was heard. That was the most difficult form. It is suggested that with that ringing sound, his mind was at its most alert.

Or the angel could come to him in human form. In particular, he appeared in the form of one of the Prophet's companions, Dihyah ibn Khalifah (radiyallahu’anhu), who was exceptionally handsome.

Or the Angel Gabriel could appear to Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  in his own shape, as an angel with wings.

Or finally, Allāh could speak to him directly, either when he was awake, as on his Night Journey (Al-Isrā’), or during his sleep as the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  has once reported:

"My Lord appeared to me in the most splendid form, and said: 'Over what do the Supreme Society dispute?'

I said I do not know. He put his palm on my chest and I felt its coolness and knowledge of everything became clear to me.

He said: 'Muhammad, over what do the Supreme Society dispute?'

I said: 'Over atonements.'

He said: 'What are they?'

I said: ‘Ablution (wudhu’) after what is disliked, moving forward to do what is good and watching for the time of solāt, one after the other. If a person does this, he is praised during his life and at his death. His sins will be wiped out and he will be like a newborn child’.” (At-Tirmidzi)

‘Aishah (radiyallahu’anha) reported that when the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) received revelations, he always sweated, even on the coldest of days.

All this meant that the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had to go through a transitional period during which he would taste part of the complete transformation that was going to take place in his life. During this transitional period, there was no need for new revelations (wahyu). Only reassurance was needed that what he had seen and heard was true and real. He was a Final Prophet chosen by Allāh Almighty for a great task that brings blessing to mankind that believes.

When the transitional period was over, revelations (wahyu) resumed. Jabir ibn ‘Abdullāh (radiyallahu’anhu) narrated that the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:

"As I was walking, I heard a voice from heaven. I lifted my eyes to the sky and I saw the angel who had come to me in Hira' sitting on a chair raised between heaven and earth. I sat down in terror and fell. I then rushed home and said to my wife (Khadijah, radiyallahu’anha): 'Wrap me! Wrap me!' Allāh revealed to me: 'O you enfolded [in your coverings] arise and warn…' (Surah Al-Muddathir, 74:1-7)"

From then on, Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was not only a Prophet, he was also a Messenger. From now on, he was to receive revelations (wahyu) without worrying interruptions.  

And Allāh Almighty Knows best.

[Excerpted with modification from
 “Preparing for Revelation",
By Adil Salahi, Researcher and writer , UK , 
Via On Islam Wednesday, 10 October 2007 ]

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