The Death of the Prophet
The Prophet then returned to his home, where he remained ill for three days. On Wednesday, he went out to the mosque with his head tightly bandaged with a cloth. He was leaning on 'Ali with his right hand, and on al-Fadl ibn al 'Abbas with the other. He sat on the pulpit and praised Allah repeatedly, then said: "O people, my term among you shall soon come to an end. Let, therefore, anyone who has entrusted me with an object of value, come to me that I may return it to him. Anyone to whom I am in debt, let him come and declare it to me." A man rose up and said: "O Apostle of Allah, you owe me a promise; I married, and you promised me three ounces of precious metal." He said: "Give them to him, O al-Fadl."
He remained thus Wednesday and Thursday, but on Friday, he again sat on the pulpit and spoke to the people. He said: "O people, there is nothing which can stand between Allah and anyone that could benefit a man or ward off evil from him except good deeds. O people, let no ambitious man claim anything, or one full of desires, desire anything! For by Him Who sent me with the truth, only good deeds coupled with Allah's mercy can lead to salvation. Even I, had I rebelled against Allah, would have fallen. O Allah, I have thrice conveyed (that is, Allah's command concerning 'Ali)." He then stepped down and led the people in prayer, then entered his chamber. He was at the time in the house of Umm Salamah. He remained there one or two days; then 'A'ishah came asking him to move to her chamber in order that she might nurse him. He agreed and moved to the house in which 'A'ishah lived. His illness persisted for some days, until he became seriously ill. Bilal then came at the time of the dawn prayers, while the Apostle of Allah was overwhelmed by his illness, and called out: "Time for prayers, may Allah have mercy upon you!" The Prophet answered: "Let one of the men lead the rest in prayers." 'A'ishah added: "Order Abu Bakr (i.e., her father) that he lead the people in prayers!" Hafsah said: "Order 'Umar (i.e., her father)!" The Prophet retorted: "Cease, for you two are like Joseph's little women!" 68 He then rose, even though he was unable to stand because of weakness. He leaned on 'Ali and al-Fadl and went to the mosque dragging his feet because of weakness. When he entered, he found that Abu Bakr had already stood facing the niche. He beckoned to him, and Abu Bakr stepped back. The Messenger of Allah stood up, and uttering the formula of consecration (that is, takbiratu 'l-ihram), he began the prayers. When he had done and returned to his chamber, he called for Abu Bakr and 'Umar along with others who were present and said: "Have I not commanded you to send off Usamah's army?" Abu Bakr replied: "I had already set out, but I returned to see you." 'Umar said: "I did not go because I did not wish to be absent, and thus have to enquire of the caravan to get news about you." He repeated three times: "Send off Usamah's army!"
He then fell into a swoon because of the fatigue which he suffered. He remained thus unconscious for a while, so that the Muslims began to weep and his wives and children began to wail loudly. But he regained consciousness and said: "Bring me a pen and shoulder blade that I may inscribe for you a writ after which you shall never go astray!" Again, he lost consciousness. One of his Companions present was about to go and fetch a pen and shoulder blade, but 'Umar said to him: "Come back, for he is hallucinating!" When the Prophet again regained consciousness, some of his Companions said: "O Apostle of Allah, should we not bring you a pen and shoulder blade?" "No", he said, "not after what you have said! Rather, keep well my memory through kindness to the people of my Household. Treat with kindness the people of dhimmah (that is, Jews and Christians), and feed the poor. Observe regular prayers, and be kind to the women whom your right hands possess."
He continued to repeat these injunctions until he could endure no longer, and turned his face away from the people. Everyone got up and left except al-'Abbas, al-Fadl, 'Ali and others of his close family,. they stayed by his side. al-'Abbas said: "O Apostle of Allah, if this affair (that is, the succession) shall remain forever with us (that is, the tribe of Hashim) after you, then announce to us the good news! If, however, you know that we shall be forced to abandon it against our will, then commend us to the people." He said: "You are those who shall be oppressed after me."
He then fell silent. The people wept as they got up to leave. When they had all gone, he demanded: "Let my brother 'Ali ibn Abi Talib and my uncle return to me!" When they had sat down, the Messenger of Allah said: "O al-'Abbas, uncle of the Apostle of Allah, would you accept to execute my will, carry out my funeral rites and remit my debts?" He replied: "Your uncle is an old man with many dependants, and you are more powerful than a strong gale in generosity and bounteous giving! There are incumbent upon you such expectations, that your uncle shall be unable to fulfill."
The Prophet then turned to 'Ali and put to him the same questions. 'Ali replied: "Yes, O Messenger of Allah." "Come close to me", the Prophet said. As 'Ali bent down, he embraced him and, taking his ring from his finger, said: "Take it and put it on your finger!" The Prophet then called for his sword and suit of armor - or according to some reports Gabriel brought them down from heaven - and gave them to the Commander of the Faithful saying: "Receive these during my life!" He also gave him his mule and saddle, and said: "Go to your home with Allah's blessings."
Next morning, he allowed no one to come in to see him because of his grave illness. 'Ali, however, stayed beside him, not leaving him except for necessary errands. As 'Ali left briefly for a special need, the Prophet awoke and said: "Call my friend back to me." He again was overcome by weakness. 'A'ishah said: "Call Abu Bakr." When he came, the Prophet looked at him and turned away his face. He insisted: "Call back for me my brother and friend!" Hafsah said: "Call 'Umar for him!" When he came, the Prophet likewise turned his face away from him. Again he demanded: "Call my brother and friend to me!" Umm Salamah then said: "Call 'Ali for him, for he wants no one else." When 'Ali came close to him, he bent down and the Messenger of Allah spoke to him privately for a long time. 'Ali then went and sat a little to the side. He dozed for a while until the Messenger of Allah fell asleep. He then went out, and the people asked him: "O Abu 'l-Hasan, what did he confide to you?" He said: "The Messenger of Allah instructed me in a thousand branches of knowledge. Each branch opened to. me a thousand other branches. He also charged me with things which I shall, if Allah wills, fulfill."
The condition of the Messenger of Allah became grave, and he was near death. As his soul was about to depart, he said: "O 'Ali, place my head in your lap, for Allah's command is about to be fulfilled. When my soul is released, take it in your hand and rub it on your face. Turn then my face towards the qiblah, prepare me and be the first to offer the funeral prayer over me. Do not leave me until you have put me in my tomb. Seek Allah's help."
'Ali placed the Prophet's head in his lap, whereupon he lost consciousness. Fatimah bent over him, gazing at his face and raising the dirge for him as she cried, and said:
''A radiant face has he, for
which the rain clouds pour down;
The Messenger of Allah opened his eyes and said in a feeble voice: "O daughter, this was the saying of your uncle Abu Talib. Do not repeat it; rather say, 'Muhammad was only an apostle, before whom messengers came. Were he to die or be slain, would you then turn back upon your heels?' " [Qur. 3:144]. She wept bitterly for a long time; then he beckoned to her to come close. When she drew near to him, he whispered secret words in her ears, and her face brightened with a smile.
The Prophet finally breathed his last, while the right hand of the Commander of the Faithful rested beneath his jaw. As his soul flowed forth, 'Ali lifted it up and rubbed his face with it. He then turned him to the qiblah, closed his eyes, spread his garment over him and looked after the rest of the burial preparations. Fatimah was later asked: "What did the Messenger of Allah say to you that you became so happy?" She replied: "He told me that I shall be the first of the people of his Household to follow him, and that in a short time I shall see him. This made me happy."
It is related that Umm Salamah, the Prophet's wife, said: "I placed my hand on the Messenger of Allah's breast on the day he died, and for a long time, even though I ate and performed my ablutions, the fragrance of musk did not leave my hand." It is related on the authority of Anas ibn Malik that Fatimah said: "When the Prophet's condition worsened and .the pain of death had covered his face, I mourned him saying;
'O my father whose death Gabriel has announced (to creation);
O my father whose Lord has taken him close to His presence;
O my father whose abode shall be the gardens of Paradise;
O my father who has answered the summons of the Lord Who called him forth!' "
It is reported on the authority of (the fifth Imam) al-Baqir that when the Messenger of Allah was at the point of death, Gabriel came down to him and asked: "Do you wish to return to this world?" "No", he answered, "I rather wish to be with the Lord Most High." as-Sadiq is said to have reported that Gabriel came down to the Prophet and said: "This is the last time I come down to this world, for you were my only object of interest in it."
It is reported that Fatimah and all the Muslims wailed in a loud voice and threw dust over their heads. The Prophet died two nights before the end of Safar in the tenth year of the his migration. It is also reported that it was on Monday, twelfth of Rabi'u 'l-Awwal.
When 'Ali wished to wash the Prophet's body for burial, he called al-Fadl ibn al-'Abbas to pour the water for him, after he had him blindfolded. 'Ali rent the Prophet's shirt from the top to his navel (so as not to expose his nakedness) before he washed, embalmed and shrouded him. Having finished with his washing and other preparations, 'Ali prayed over the Prophet. Aban related on the authority of Abu Ja'far (the fifth Imam al-Baqir) that the people later asked 'Ali, "How should the funeral prayer over the Prophet be performed?" He answered: "The Messenger of Allah was our imam during his life, and he remains our imam after his death. The people, therefore, both young and old, went in groups of ten and prayed over him. This took all day Monday and Tuesday. They all prayed, male and female of the inhabitants of Medina and its neighbouring districts, without an imam.
The Muslims vehemently disputed as to where the Prophet was to be buried. 'Ali then observed: "Allah did not receive the soul of a prophet in any place but that He chose that same place to be the spot of his grave. I shall therefore bury him in the chamber in which he was received. The Muslims all agreed with' this view. After the Muslims had prayed over him, al-'Abbas sent a man to Abu 'Ubaydah al-Jarrah, who used to dig graves with a hollow in the middle (darih) for the people of Mecca. He also sent Zayd ibn Sahl to Abu Talhah, who used to dig graves with a hollow in the side (lahd) for the people of Medina. al-'Abbas prayed: "O Allah, choose which of the two you wish for your Prophet." Abu Talhah was found and was told to dig a grave for the Messenger of Allah. He dug a lahd for him, and the Commander of the Faithful, al-'Abbas, al-Fadl and Usamah ibn Zayd went in to perform the burial rites Of the Messenger of Allah. The Ansar called in from behind the house saying: "O 'Ali, we remind you of Allah and our right to the Messenger of Allah, that it should not be lost today. Let a man of us go in, so that we too may have a share in the burial of the Messenger of Allah." 'Ali answered: "Let Aws ibn Khawli, who was a man of the 'Awf ibn al-Khazraj tribe, come forth. He was one of those who took part in the Battle of Badr. He entered the house, and 'Ali told him to go into the grave. He then placed the Messenger of Allah on the man's arms, who then lowered him into his tomb. 'Ali then asked the man to come out, which he did. 'Ali went down into the grave and uncovered the Prophet's face and placed his cheek on the ground, facing the qiblah, and laid him on his right side. He laid grave slabs and covered the tomb with earth.
The people took advantage of the preoccupation of the sons of Hashim with the Apostle of Allah, and of 'Ali's self-seclusion for mourning, to decide the matter of the Prophet's succession. Abu Bakr won the day because of the disagreement of the Ansar among themselves, and also because the people did not wish to postpone the decision until the men of Banu Hashim had completed all the funeral rites of the Apostle of Allah. Had they done so, the matter would have been decided in the proper manner. However, they gave allegiance (bay'ah) to Abu Bakr because he was present. This book is not the proper place to explain all this; the subject is treated in its proper sources.
It is reported that Abu Sufyan came to the door of the Apostle of Allah and declared in verses:
O Sons of Hashim, Let not
people take advantage of you;
This matter must remain with
you, for with you must be its determination;
Aba Hasan, grasp it with the
hand of a determined man!
He then cried with a loud voice: "O sons of Hashim, sons of 'Abd Manaf, would you accept Abu Fasil (that is, Abu Bakr), a despicable man and son of a despicable man, to rule over you? By Allah, if you so wish, I will fill the place for you with horses and men!" The Commander of the Faithful called out to him: "Go away Abu Sufyan, for by Allah, you do not mean what you say. Rather, you continue to plot against Islam and its people. We are still preoccupied with the Apostle of Allah. To every man shall belong what he has earned, and he alone shall be responsible for what he has done."
It is reported that the people of Quraysh sent for 'Ikrimah ibn Abi Jahl and his uncles al-Harith ibn Hisham and others and appointed them leaders of armies destined for Yemen and Syria, to which they were dispatched on that same night. They likewise sent for Abu Sufyan, whom they silenced by appointing Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan as a provincial governor.
It is reported that when people pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr, he was advised to recall Usamah's army and use it against any of the Arab tribes which might rise up against him. Most of the Immigrants had joined Usamah's army. Usamah asked Abu Bakr. "What would you yourself say?" He answered: "You see what the people have decided! I request that you exempt me and 'Umar." Usamah assented: "I shall exempt you."
It is reported that no sooner had
Usamah reached Syria than Abu Bakr dismissed him and appointed Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan as
leader in his place. Thus only forty days elapsed between Usamah's departure from Medina
and his return to it. When he arrived, he stood at the door of the mosque and declared:
"O Muslims, I marvel at a man over whom the Messenger of Allah had set me as leader,
yet who now sets himself up as commander over me and dismisses me!"
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