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As the Prophet Passed Away

 Adil Salahi


Arab News

In last week’s article we referred in passing to the reports often mentioned concerning the attitudes adopted by different companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the period that immediately followed his departure from this life. Abu Bakr ibn Al-Arabi, a highly distinguished scholar and judge who lived in the Andalus in the fifth and sixth centuries of the Islamic era, calls such reports qawasim, which is the plural of qasimah, denoting a calamity that breaks a person’s back.

The worst of these is the one speaking about the leading companions of the Prophet and their different attitudes immediately after his death. There are different versions of this report but the short version he includes sums up all the accusations circulated by people who have been intent on marring the history of Islam even in its brightest periods. Unfortunately, even today some people reiterate such reports without stopping to find out the truth. We begin here by looking at these reports and examining them in the light of more authentic Hadiths and reports.

Ibn Al-Arabi begins by quoting God’s words: “This day I have perfected your religion for you and have bestowed on you the full measure of My blessings and have chosen Islam as a religion for you.” (5: 3) He goes on to say that whatever is perfected in this life begins to fall short of its state of perfection, because absolute and unchangeable perfection belongs only to God Almighty. Anas says: “We had hardly shaken the dust off our hands after having buried God’s Messenger when we started to experience strange feelings.” Things were set in confusion, but God saved Islam with the choice of Abu Bakr as ruler.

Thus, the Prophet’s death was the greatest calamity. Ali shut himself up in his home with Fatimah, his wife, while Uthman kept silent. Umar repeated strange statements, saying that “the Prophet did not die, but rather went for an appointment with God, similar to that of Moses, and that he would return and punish some people by cutting off their hands and legs.”

Al-Abbas and Ali were preoccupied with their own interests during the Prophet’s illness. Al-Abbas said to Ali: “I can see the signs of approaching death in the face of any descendent of Abd al-Muttalib (the Prophet’s grandfather). Let us go and ask God’s Messenger so that he would inform us if we are to be the rulers.” Al-Abbas and Ali were also more interested in what the Prophet would leave behind of property in Fadak, Al-Nadir and Khaybar.

The Ansar were thrown in confusion, seeking to be the rulers either by themselves or in partnership with the Muhajirin. As for the army which was about to set out under the leadership of Usamah ibn Zayd, they were shaken at heart.

Ibn Al-Arabi replies to these accusations, stating first that it was in fulfilment of God’s promise that the Prophet had died after the faith of Islam was brought to perfection, even though his death meant a great calamity to the Muslim community. However, the great sorrow then began to disappear like clouds moving away. God saved Islam and the Muslim community by the appointment of Abu Bakr who was at the time of the Prophet’s death at his other home at Al-Sunh.

Muhibb Al-Din Al-Khatib mentions a report given by Ibn Kathir in his history book, Al-Bidayah Wal-Nihayah, which says that Abu Bakr led the Fajr, or dawn, prayer in the Prophet’s mosque that morning, as he was instructed to do by the Prophet who was in his last illness. As the congregation were offering the prayer, the Prophet woke up, experiencing a lull in the pain he was suffering. He removed the curtain separating his rooms from the mosque and looked at his companions praying in congregation led by Abu Bakr. He was pleased to see them like that and he smiled. Some people in the congregation who could see him were so happy that they almost disrupted their prayer. Abu Bakr even wished to stand back to allow the Prophet to come forward, but the Prophet motioned them to continue their prayer and dropped the curtain.

That was the last time the Prophet was seen alive by the Muslim community. When Abu Bakr finished the prayer, he went to see the Prophet in his rooms. He then said to his daughter Aishah, the Prophet’s wife: “I think the Prophet has now overcome his pain. Today is the turn of Bint Kharijah (his second wife who lived at Al-Sunh, one mile to the east of Madinah). He rode there and went to his home, but the Prophet died in mid-morning... Salim ibn Ubayd went to inform Abu Bakr who then immediately returned.”

Ibn Al-Arabi continues his refutation of the false accusations, and says: Abu Bakr came back to his daughter’s home where the Prophet had died, and removed the covering over his head and kissed him, saying: “May both my parents be sacrificed for your sake, Messenger of God. Blessed you are in life and death. God will never let you experience death twice. The one death God has willed, you have now experienced.”

Abu Bakr then went into the mosque where people had assembled and Umar was saying some strange things. Abu Bakr stood at the pulpit, and began by praising God and expressing gratitude to Him. He followed that by saying: “People, listen to me! Whoever worshipped Muhammad let him know that Muhammad has died, but anyone who worships God knows that God is the Eternal who never dies.” He then recited the following Qur’anic verse: “Muhammad is only a messenger: all messengers have passed away before him. If, then, he dies or is slain, will you turn about on your heels? He that turns about on his heels will not harm God in any way. God will reward those who are grateful.” (3: 144) People went out of the mosque repeating this verse as they walked in the streets of Madinah, as though the verse was revealed only that day.

This Hadith is related by Al-Bukhari and recorded in all authentic collections of Hadith, with slightly different wording. These reports of the events of that day all go back to Aishah, the mother of all believers, recording what took place in her own home and in the mosque which her home overlooked. They are highly authentic, leaving no room for entertaining any of the false reports that try to cast doubt on these.

Next week, God willing, we will continue the examination of the false report quoted in this article.




Earth, a planet hungry for peace


The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers (Ran Cohen, pmc, 5/24/03).


The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers in the West Bank (Ran Cohen, pmc, 5/24/03).

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