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
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.