Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
Just before He left His body, Prophet Muhammad went for the Hag pilgrimage where He delivered what is now known as the Last Sermon or the Final Sermon or the Farewell Sermon in Mecca, in the ‘Uranah valley of Mount Arafat’. He began the sermon in praise and gratitude to Allah, something He always did, all the time. The Prophet always was in a state of surrender and gratitude, a state He believed to be a normal way of living one’s life. He was clearly aware that He would not be able to perform this pilgrimage again and thus He asked all those who were present to pay deep attention to what He spoke and to pass His message forward to all those who were not physically present amongst them.
He preached that just as every Muslim regarded Mecca sacred, He wanted all to regard every body’s life and property as sacred too. Whoever has entrusted us with some-thing that thing should be given back to the rightful owner. He besieged all those present never to hurt anybody so that nobody may want to hurt them.
He reminded all that eventually each one will meet their God and each thought, word and action shall be accounted for. He insisted that to live off interest money was forbidden thus to avoid loaning money to be able to live off the interest and if anybody had indulged in this form of livelihood, then to wave off all the pending interest money; but one could keep the capital sum of that loan with oneself.
He wanted all not to inflict injury on to anybody and also do not suffer anybody inflicting injury on to oneself. A beautiful sentence spoken by The Prophet is that to be aware of Satan, not only for the safety of the religion but also for one’s own safety. Satan amongst the believers has lost the real battle, lost the ability to lead the righteous astray in the real big issues of life but he will and can lead everybody astray in the smaller things in life. So focus not only on the big issues but also the small ones. I guess He meant that we all are going wrong in the smaller issues in life. We may not be stealing or murdering but we all resort to slander, gossip, jealousy, anger, pride etc.
Then The Prophet reminded those who were present that just as a man has certain rights over his women, his women too have certain rights over him. A man has married a woman or women under trust and faith and permission from God, thus a man has certain rights over his wives but the wives have rights too of being treated with kindness and to be taken care of completely, as they are partners and dedicated helpers to the husband too. To the women He cautioned that they should not make friends with anybody not approved of by the husband and should always be chaste. He asked all those present to listen to Him well, that it is a must for each one to worship God, perform the five mandatory daily prayers, fast during the month of Ramadan, perform Hajj if they had the financial and physical capability and also offer Zakat, which is the mandatory payment done on certain property to be used for charitable and religious purposes. Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam.
He reminded all present that every human being has come forth from Adam and Eve and thus an Arab is not superior to a non-Arab and vice versa; a white is not superior to a black and vice versa. Nobody is superior than anybody except those who are pious and live a life of goodness. He emphasized that all Muslims are brothers and thus Muslims constitute one large fraternity of brotherhood. He warned all never to do injustice to each other. He warned all present again that each one will appear before God and be answerable for his and her deeds. So do not ever go astray from the path of righteous even after He was no more in the flesh. He predicted that there would be no Prophet, no Apostle, no new Faith after Him. He was the last in the line of Prophets and Islam was the last religion. He said that all that He left behind was the Holy Quran and His way of life, and if anybody followed these two, they would never go astray. He besieged all those who were present to pass His words to those who were not present and said that maybe the ones who were not present but who were given His message would understand Him better than those who were present. He then looked up to the sky and told Allah to be His witness, that He had conveyed Allah’s message to His people.
Soon after His return to Madina the Prophet fell ill. His health began to decline in a very visible manner. It is said that even through His ill health He first made it a point to go visit the graves of the Uhud martyrs and performed prayers. Then one night He visited the Madina graveyard and besieged Allah to forgive all those buried there. Even though Prophet Muhammad was in the physical body, on and off, there were folks who would proclaim that they were the real Prophets. Thus it is proved that mankind then and now still has remained more or less the same; a bunch of idiots.
His headaches and fever got worse and once He mentioned that His body underwent pain that was intended for two people. Suffering from headaches and high fever, one day He lead the prayers, assisted by those close to Him. Speaking with difficulty He said that ‘a servant has been allowed to choose between this world or His Lord, He chose His Lord’. Some records state that what the Prophet really said was ‘there is a slave among the slaves of Allah to whom God has offered the choice between this world and that which is with Him, and the slave has chosen that which is with God’.
Not many understood the true meaning of this statement but His best friend and closest disciple, Abu Bakr, began to weep, and said, ‘ my mother and father be your ransom, O God’s messenger’. The Prophet was touched by this statement and told Abu Bakr that the latter had pleased Him much. He told all present that the most unselfish of men to Him was Abu Bakr, and if He were to take from mankind a friend with Him, He would take Abu Bakr.
Prophet Mohammad was always very worried that His followers would begin to follow Gods beside Allah and He feared that greed for worldly gains would get the better of most of His followers.
He also told all present that they should act in unison and be of help to each other. He then announced that all those who had rights over Him to come and ask of their rights. He said. ‘I praise God, the One other than whom there is no deity. If I have ever beaten any of you on his back, let him come and avenge himself by beating me on my back. If I ever abused anyone, let him come and abuse me. To dispute is not part of my nature, nor does it appeal to me. The one of you who is dearest to me is the one who has a right against me and claims it. By doing so, he releases me, and I will be able to meet God with nothing held against me by any person’.
Prophet Muhammad had led a very simple life and when He left His physical body all He owned was a white mule, a few weapons, and a little land. He made sure that the income from this land, some went to His family and the remaining was to be handed over to the public treasury to assist the poor. He had seven dirham coins and He said He would be ashamed to face Allah knowing He had this amount, and thus He made it clear that the money would be given to the poor and to those in need. He had a suit of armor that was given to a Jew from whom money had been borrowed.
As the Prophet’s illness progressed He started spending more time indoors at the home of His youngest wife A’ishah/A’isha. She was His youngest wife. Some say she was six when they got married, some claim that she was sixteen. But all agree that she was very close to Him though He was atleast thirty five years elder to her.
It was apparent that the Prophet was not well and that He suffered a lot and those around Him and those close to Him, suffered too seeing their beloved Master suffer in such a way, but most of them believed that the Prophet would heal and there would be a miracle and that He would remain with them for a long period of time. A mistake most of the inner circle make with their Master.
One day He entered the mosque to meet and speak to His people. He had a cloth band around His head to contain the pain that He was suffering from. He would speak to one and all and guide one and all to be able to live a better life, with honesty, kindness and dignity. When His situation got worse, He asked His friend Abu to lead the prayers. For those few days the Prophet was truly unwell and thus He could not lead the prayers, but when He felt a little better with the fever abating a little, He with assistance from His close disciples went to the mosque, where His friend Abu Bakr was leading the prayer. Abu saw His friend and Master approach and he stepped aside but the Prophet pressed Abu’s shoulder indicating that he should continue to lead the prayer. Those present were overjoyed assuming the Prophet to have recovered and many claim that nobody had seen the Prophet’s face as beautiful at that time ever.
The Prophet all through His illness was worried that His followers would fall prey to greed, envy, and treating others with disrespect. He was of the firm belief that those who treated others with disrespect would eventually disregard their prayers and would treat others, especially the poor, the servants, slaves and those who they employed with contempt and disregard. He believed that those who led a life of contempt for fellow beings created a nation where there was much suffering and such a nation eventually would be disregarded by Allah and His wrath would ensue on such a nation. A nation where fellow beings treat others with love and respect can only flourish and prosper. The Prophet all the time emphasized on the need and importance of prayers and treating others with love and respect, especially those who were poor, needy and the slaves. He would often say, ‘attend to prayers; attend to prayers. Do not charge those whom your right hand possess with what they cannot bear. Fear God in your treatment of women’. Thus, the need for prayers, treating the poor and the slaves well and giving respect to women were teachings He emphasized on till His last breath.
His last will to His daughter Fatima, whom He clearly loved the most and His dear aunt Safiyya also brings home this very point. ‘Perform acts of goodness valuable in the eyes of God. Otherwise, I cannot save you from God’s holding you to account in the Hereafter in matters of the permissible and the prohibited.’
It is said that the prayer meet, conducted by Abu Bakr was the Prophet’s last prayer meet with His followers. He passed away after the next morning prayer. According to A’ishah, before He left His body Prophet Muhammad said softly, ‘there is no God but God, how difficult it is to surrender the soul!’ and passed away in her arms, with the words, ‘Rafiq al-A’la! (the Highest Abode)’ while there is another story that claims otherwise.
The other story goes somewhat like this. When it became apparent that Prophet Muhammad was very ill, all gathered outside the house of A’ishah. Everybody prayed for a miracle and for many the miracle was just moments away. The Prophet was so ill that most of those desirous to see Him could not. He lay on the cot surrounded by close family members. The Prophet’s daughter Fatimah was by His side, along with His aunt. Fatimah wiped the perspiration that gathered on the Prophet’s forehead. She prayed and the Prophet opened His eyes and softly whispered that it would be best if she prayed the following verse from the Holy Quran. ‘Muhammad is but a messenger. The messengers have already passed away before Him…’
It is said that the Prophet loved His only child dearly. Before every journey He met His child and after He returned from any journey He first went and met Fatimah. He would often say, ‘Fatimah is a part of my body. Her pleasure is my pleasure and her anger is my anger.’
Fatimah was the daughter of the Prophet from His dearest wife Khadijah, who had passed over, and it is said that Khadijah was a truly pious and kind woman who went through great hardship and spent her great wealth to help the Prophet walk the path of Prophet hood.
Thus, the Prophet lay on His bed and then He motioned Fatimah to listen to His words carefully. He spoke something to her that nobody could hear. Fatimah after a while began to weep. Then the Prophet again motioned her to listen to Him and this time when He spoke to Fatimah she smiled. It was only after the passing over of the Prophet, on the insistence of A’ishah/A’isha, Fatimah revealed that when the Prophet spoke for the first time He informed His daughter of His physical death and that He would not recover from His illness. Thus Fatimah began to cry bitterly. But the second time when He spoke to her He told Fatimah that after He left His physical body, it was Fatimah amongst His closest who would join Him first in the Spirit World, the true world of Allah. And this is exactly what transpired. Prophet Muhammad left His physical body soon thereafter and six months later Fatimah joined her dearest father in the other world.
Even while on His death bed, the Prophet would keep reminding all to pray and pray and pray. He would ask all present to treat those under them with dignity and respect and to go about life with a sense of dignity.
There are also two versions of His physical death. Some claim that the Prophet held His youngest and dearest wife A’ishah and passed away resting His head on her bosoms. Some claim that He passed away in the arms of Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, and the Prophet’s last words were while His head was on Ali’s shoulder, He guided Ali the following; “Prayers. Prayers. This has been the way of the previous Prophets also”.
The version where the Prophet passes over resting on the shoulder of Ali goes like this. Just before He passed away, the Prophet said softly, to call for His brother. Everybody present understood that the Prophet meant Ali. Ali arrived and in a matter of a short while he realised that the Prophet wanted to sit up and Ali helped the Prophet to sit up and lean against Ali’s chest. The Prophet soon whispered to Ali the importance of prayers and breathed His last. Thus there are two versions of the Prophet’s passing over.
Imam Ali himself has said, ‘The Prophet breathed His last when his head was on my chest. I bathed His body while the Angels were assisting me’.
Scholars insist that the last sentence which the Prophet spoke was, ‘No, with the Divine Companion’. Initially not many understood this statement but scholars have divined that seconds before the Prophet left His body, Arch Angel Gabriel or Jibreel once again came down to the Prophet and gave the option to the Prophet as to whether He would like to continue to live in the physical body fully recovered or accompany the Angel of Death to the world beyond and the Prophet said, ‘No. With the Divine Companion’.
Thus the Prophet left His physical body on Monday, 8th June, 632 A.D. at the age of sixty two. It is said that a Yemen sheet was spread over His body and then family and close disciples offered their prayers. Only Ali bathed the Prophet’s body as the Prophet had made it clear that only the one nearest Him could bathe His body and then it seems Ali looked at the Prophet and wept and with tears streaming down his face he said, “O Prophet of Allah! I love you more than I have loved my parents. Your death put an end to the Prophet hood, to revelation, and to the messengers from the Lord. While death of other Prophets had not resulted in this way. Your death caused a grief that every other grief was forgotten. The grief of your separation became common sorrow and everybody felt it. If you had not ordered us to be patient and not to lament and bemoan loudly, we would have kept weeping and lamenting ceaselessly, though all this lamenting could not have compared with the actual loss of your separation. But death is an inevitable event, nobody can turn death back and nobody can stop it from coming. Please remember us before Allah”. (Nahjul Balaghah, Sermon No. 23).
Imam Ali thus first offered prayers, followed by family and close companions and this went on till Tuesday after noon and it was decided that the house of A’ishah in which the Prophet breathed His last would be the place where the Prophet’s body would be buried.
Prophet Muhammad was first and foremost known to be the most Just human being amongst all those who knew Him. He was also a judge, an administrator, a military visionary, a true friend, a guide, a teacher and one who all His life lived a life according respect to the poorest of the poor, a friend to the damned and the discarded. He fought for the rights of the people; He stood up against tyranny; fought for equality for all and insisted on slaves being treated with dignity and women to be accorded their rights and to be treated with respect and love.
In a time of warfare He stood out as a beacon of light, hope, mercy, tenderness and dignity.
He lived a life as He had often said that all that He left behind was the Holy Quran and His way of life, and if anybody followed these two, they would never go astray. All those following Him but who do not follow His preaching, that of the Holy Quran and His way of life, have truly gone astray.
Be blessed always.
Dr Casim Avcı http://www.lastprophet.info/Ur- sula Lindsey
https: – //islamichistory.org
Adil Salahi https://aboutislam.net/
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha