The Last Expeditions

The Last Expeditions

The pride of the Byzantine State made it deny Muslims their right to live. The Byzantine arrogance made them even kill those agents of theirs, who embraced Islam. Killing Farwah bin ‘Amr Al-Judhami, who was their agent on Mu’an, was an evidence of their arrogance. Due to that arrogance and presumptuousness of the Byzantines, the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) started to mobilize a great army in Safar in the eleventh year of Al-Hijra and made it under the command of Osamah bin Zaid bin Haritha with orders to have the horses of Muslims tread on the lands bordering Al-Balqa’ and Ad-Darum of Palestine. His aim was to terrorize Byzantines and to implant confidence into the hearts of Arabs who were settled at the borders of the Byzantines. His other purpose was to deliver a message to everybody there, so that no one may dare say that the Church brutality can’t go with impunity; and that Islamization is not synonymous with fear and vulnerability.

The leadership of Osamah was subject to criticism. Because he was still too young, people tarried at joining his expedition. The Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) addressed people saying: 

"No wonder now you contest his leadership, for you have already contested the ex-leadership of his father. Yes, by Allâh, his father, who was one of the most beloved people to me, was quite efficient for leadership; and this son of his is one of the most beloved individuals to me after his father." [Sahih Al-Bukhari 2/612]

So people started tending towards Osamah and joined his army. The number of volunteers in his army was so enormous that they formed such a long queue that they had to descend the escarpment — which was a parasang off Madinah. The anxiety-provoking news about the Messenger of Allâh’s sickness, however, made the expedition tarry again in order to know what Allâh had willed as regards His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace).

It was Allâh’s Will that Osamah’s expedition would be the first one dispatched during the caliphate of the veracious Abu Bakr. [Ibn Hisham 2/560, 606; Sahih Al-Bukhari 2/612]

The Journey to Allâh, the Sublime

Symptoms of Farewell

When the Call to Islam grew complete and the new faith dominated the whole situation. The Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) started to develop certain symptoms that bespoke of leave-taking. They could be perceived through his statements and deeds:

In Ramadan in the tenth year of Al-Hijra he secluded himself for twenty days in contrast to ten, previously.
The archangel Gabriel reviewed the Qur’ân twice with him.
His words in the Farewell Pilgrimage (i.e. Al-Wida‘):

"I do not know whether I will ever meet you at this place once again after this current year."

The revelation of An-Nasr Chapter amid At-Tashreeq Days. So when it was sent down on him, he realized that it was the parting time and that Surah was an announcement of his approaching death.
On the early days of Safar in the eleventh year of Al-Hijra, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) went out to Uhud and observed a farewell prayer to the martyrs. It looked like saying goodbye to both the dead and the living alike. He then ascended the pulpit and addressed the people saying:

"I am to precede you and I have been made witness upon you. By Allâh, you will meet me at the ‘Fountain’ very soon. I have been given the keys of worldly treasures. By Allâh, I do not fear for you that you will turn polytheists after me. But I do fear that acquisition of worldly riches should entice you to strike one another’s neck." [Sahih Al-Bukhari 2/585]

One day, at midnight he went to Al-Baqee‘ cemetry, and implored Allâh to forgive the martyrs of Islam. He said: "Peace be upon you tomb-dwellers! May that morning that dawns upon you be more relieving than that which dawn upon the living. Afflictions are approaching them like cloudy lumps of a dark night — the last of which follows the first. The last one is bearing more evil than the first." He comforted them saying: "We will follow you."

The Start of the Disease

On Monday the twenty-ninth of Safar in the eleventh year of Al-Hijra, he participated in funeral rites in Al-Baqee‘. On the way back he had a headache, his temperature rose so high that the heat effect could be felt over his headband.

He led the Muslims in prayer for eleven days though he was sick. The total number of his sick days were either thirteen or fourteen.

The Last Week

When his sickness grew severe he asked his wives: "Where shall I stay tomorrow?" "Where shall I stay?" They understood what he wanted. So they allowed him to stay wherever he wished. He moved to ‘Aishah’s room leaning — while he was walking — on Al-Fadl bin Al-‘Abbas and ‘Ali bin Abi Talib. Head banded as he was, he dragged his feet till he came into her abode. It was there that he spent the last week of his life.

During that period, ‘Aishah used to recite Al-Mu‘awwidhat (Chapters 113 and 114 of the Qur’ân) and other supplications which he had already taught her.

Five days before death

On Wednesday, five days before he died the Prophet’s temperature rose so high signalling the severeness of his disease. He fainted and suffered from pain. "Pour out on me seven Qirab (water skin pots) of various water wells so that I may go out to meet people and talk to them." So they seated him in a container (usually used for washing) and poured out water on him till he said: "That is enough. That is enough."

Then he felt well enough to enter the Mosque. He entered it band-headed, sat on the pulpit and made a speech to the people who were gathering together around him. He said:

"The curse of Allâh falls upon the Jews and Christians for they have made their Prophets’ tombs places of worship." [Sahih Al-Bukhari 1/62; Mustta' Imam Malik p.360]

Then he said:

"Do not make my tomb a worshipped idol." [Muatta' Imam Malik p.65]

Then he offered himself and invited the people to repay any injuries he might have inflicted on them, saying:

"He whom I have ever lashed his back, I offer him my back so that he may avenge himself on me. He whom I have ever blasphemed his honour, here I am offering my honour so that he may avenge himself."

Then he descended, and performed the noon prayer. Again he returned to the pulpit and sat on it. He resumed his first speech about enmity and some other things.

A man then said: "You owe me three Dirhams." The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: "Fadl, pay him the money." He went on saying:

"I admonish you to be good to Al-Ansar (the Helpers). They are my family and with them I found shelter. They have acquitted themselves credibly of the responsibility that fell upon them and now there remains what you have to do. You should fully acknowledge and appreciate the favour that they have shown, and should overlook their faults."

In another version:

"The number of believers would increase, but the number of Helpers would decrease to the extent that they would be among men as salt in the food. So he who from among you occupies a position of responsibility and is powerful enough to do harm or good to the people, he should fully acknowledge and appreciate the favour that these benefactors have shown and overlook their faults." [Sahih Al-Bukhari 1/536]

And said:

"Allâh, the Great, has given a slave of His the opportunity to make a choice between whatever he desires of Allâh’s provisions in this world, and what He keeps for him in the world, but he has opted for the latter."

Abu Sa‘îd Al-Khudri said: "Upon hearing that, Abu Bakr cried and said: ‘We sacrifice our fathers and mothers for your sake.’ We wondered why Abu Bakr said such a thing. People said: ‘Look at that old man! The Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) says about a slave of Allâh who was granted the right between the best fortunes of this world and the bounty of Allâh in the Hereafter, but he says: We sacrifice our fathers and mothers for your sake!’ It was later on that we realized what he had aimed at. The Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) was the slave informed to choose. We also acknowledged that Abu Bakr was the most learned among us." [Mishkat Al-Masabih 2/546]

Then the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:

"The fellow I feel most secure in his company is Abu Bakr. If I were to make friendship with any other one than Allâh, I would have Abu Bakr a bosom friend of mine. For him I feel affection and brotherhood of Islam. No gate shall be kept open in the Mosque except that of Abu Bakr’s." [Sahih Al-Bukhari 1/22, 429, 449, 2/638; Mishkat Al-Masabih 2/548]

Four days before his death

On Thursday, four days before the death of the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace), he said to people — though he was suffering from a severe pain: "Come here. I will cause you to write something so that you will never fall into error." Upon this ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab said: "The Prophet of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) is suffering from acute pain and you have the Qur’ân with you; the Book of Allâh is sufficient unto you." Others however wanted the writing to be made. When Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) heard them debating over it, he ordered them to go away and leave him alone. [Sahih Al-Bukhari 2/637]

That day he recommended three things:

  1. Jews, Christians and polytheists should be expelled out of Arabia.
  2. He recommended that delegations should be honoured and entertained, in a way similar to the one he used to do.
  3. As for the third — the narrator said that he had forgotten it. It could have been adherence to the Holy Book and the Sunnah. It was likely to be the accomplishment and the mobilization of Osamah’s army, or it could have been performance of prayers and being attentive to slaves.

In spite of the strain of disease and suffering from pain, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to lead all the prayers till that Thursday — four days before he died. On that day he led the sunset prayer and recited:

"By the winds (or angels or the Messengers of Allâh) sent forth one after another." [Al-Qur'an 77:1] [Mishkat Al-Masabih 1/102]

In the evening he grew so sick that he could not overcome the strain of disease or go out to enter the Mosque. ‘Aishah said: The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) asked: "Have the people performed the prayer?" "No. They haven’t. They are waiting for you." "Put some water in the washing pot." Said he. We did what he ordered. So he washed and wanted to stand up, but he fainted. When he came round he asked again "Have the people prayed?" Then the same sequence of events took place again and again for the second and the third times from the time he washed to the time he fainted after his attempts to stand up. Therefore he sent to Abu Bakr to lead the prayer himself. Abu Bakr then led the prayer during those days. [Sahih Al-Bukhari 1/99] They were seventeen prayers in the lifetime of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace).

Three or four times ‘Aishah talked to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to exempt Abu Bakr from leadership in prayer lest people should despair of him, but he refused and said:

"You (women) are like the women who tried to entice Joseph (Yusuf) into immorality. Convey my request to Abu Bakr to lead the prayer."

A Day or Two prior to Death

On Saturday or on Sunday, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) felt that he was well enough to perform the prayer; so he went out leaning on two men in order to perform the noon prayer. Abu Bakr, who was then about to lead the prayer withdrew when he saw him coming; but the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) made him a gesture to stay where he was and said: "Seat me next to him." They seated him on the left hand side of Abu Bakr. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) led the prayer, and Abu Bakr followed him and raised his voice at every ‘Allâhu Akbar’ (i.e. Allâh is the Greatest) the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, so that the people may hear clearly. [Sahih Al-Bukhari 1/98,99]

A Day before his Death

On Sunday, a day before he died, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) set his slaves free, paid as a charity the seven Dinars he owned and gave his weapons as a present to the Muslims. So when night fell ‘Aishah had to borrow some oil from her neighbour to light her oil-lantern.

Even his armour was mortgaged as a security with a Jew for thirty Sa‘ (a cubic measure) of barley.

The Last Day Alive

In a narration by Anas bin Malik, he said: "While the Muslims were performing the dawn prayer on Monday — led by Abu Bakr, they were surprised to see the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) raising the curtain of ‘Aishah’s room. He looked at them while they were praying aligned properly and smiled cheerfully. Seeing him, Abu Bakr withdrew to join the lines and give way to him to lead the prayer. For he thought that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) wanted to go out and pray." Anas said: "The Muslims, who were praying, were so delighted that they were almost too enraptured at their prayers. The Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) made them a gesture to continue their prayer, went into the room and drew down the curtain." [ibid 2/640]

The Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) did not live for the next prayer time.

When it was daytime, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) called Fatimah and told her something in a secret voice that made her cry. Then he whispered to her something else which made her laugh. ‘Aishah enquired from her after the Prophet’s death, as to this weeping and laughing to which Fatimah replied: "The first time he disclosed to me that he would not recover from his illness and I wept. Then he told me that I would be the first of his family to join him, so I laughed." [Sahih Al-Bukhari 2/638]

He gave Fatimah glad tidings that she would become the lady of all women of the world. [Rahmat-ul-lil'alameen 1/282]

Fatimah witnessed the great pain that afflicted her father. So she said: "What great pain my father is in!". To these words, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) remarked:

"He will not suffer any more when today is over." [Sahih Al-Bukhari 2/641]

He asked that Al-Hasan and Al-Husain be brought to him. He kissed them and recommended that they be looked after. He asked to see his wives. They were brought to him. He preached them and told them to remember Allâh. Pain grew so much severe that the trace of poison he had at Khaibar came to light. It was so sore that he said to ‘Aishah: "I still feel the painful effect of that food I tasted at Khaibar. I feel as if death is approaching." [ibid 2/637] He ordered the people to perform the prayers and be attentive to slaves. He repeated it several times. [ibid 2/637]

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) breathes his Last

When the pangs of death started, ‘Aishah leant him against her. She used to say: One of Allâh’s bounties upon me is that the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) died in my house, while I am still alive. He died between my chest and neck while he was leaning against me. Allâh has mixed his saliva with mine at his death. For ‘Abdur Rahman — the son of Abu Bakr — came in with a Siwak (i.e. the root of a desert plant used for brushing teeth) in his hand, while I was leaning the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) against me. I noticed that he was looking at the Siwak, so I asked him — for I knew that he wanted it — "Would you like me to take it for you?" He nodded in agreement. I took it and gave it to him. As it was too hard for him, I asked him "Shall I soften it for you?" He nodded in agreement. So I softened it with my saliva and he passed it (on his teeth).

In another version it is said: "So he brushed (Istanna) his teeth as nice as he could." There was a water container (Rakwa) available at his hand with some water in. He put his hand in it and wiped his face with it and said:

"There is no god but Allâh. Death is full of agonies." [Sahih Al-Bukhari 2/640]

As soon as he had finished his Siwak brushing, he raised his hand or his finger up, looked upwards to the ceiling and moved his lips. So ‘Aishah listened to him. She heard him say: "With those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace with the Prophets and the Truthful ones (As-Siddeeqeen), the martyrs and the good doers. O Allâh, forgive me and have mercy upon me and join me to the Companionship on high." [ibid 2/638-641] Then at intervals he uttered these words: "The most exalted Companionship on high. To Allâh we turn and to Him we turn back for help and last abode." This event took place at high morning time on Monday, the twelfth of Rabi‘ Al-Awwal, in the eleventh year of Al-Hijrah. He was sixty-three years and four days old when he died.

The Companions’ concern over the Prophet’s Death

The great (loss) news was soon known by everybody in Madinah. Dark grief spread on all areas and horizons of Madinah. Anas said:

"I have never witnessed a day better or brighter than that day on which the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) came to us; and I have never witnessed a more awful or darker day than that one on which the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) died on." [Mishkat-ul-Masabih 2/547]

When he died, Fatimah said: "O Father, whom his Lord responded to his supplication! O Father, whose abode is Paradise. O Father, whom I announce his death to Gabriel." [Sahih Al-Bukhari 2/641]

‘Umar’s Attitude

‘Umar, who was so stunned that he almost lost consciousness and stood before people addressing them: "Some of the hypocrites claim that the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) died. The Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) did not die, but went to his Lord in the same way as Moses bin ‘Imran did. He stayed away for forty nights, but finally came back though they said he had been dead. By Allâh, the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) will come back and he will cut off the hands and legs of those who claim his death." [Ibn Hisham 2/655]

Abu Bakr’s Attitude

Abu Bakr left his house at As-Sunh and came forth to the Mosque on a mare-back. At the Mosque, he dismounted and entered. He talked to nobody but went on till he entered ‘Aishah’s abode, and went directly to where the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) was. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was covered with a Yemeni mantle. He uncovered his face and tended down, kissed him and cried. Then he said: "I sacrifice my father and mother for your sake. Allâh, verily, will not cause you to die twice. You have just experienced the death that Allâh had ordained."

Then he went out and found ‘Umar talking to people. He said: "‘Umar, be seated." ‘Umar refused to do so. People parted ‘Umar and came towards Abu Bakr, who started a speech saying:

"And now, he who worships Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). Muhammad is dead now. But he who worships Allâh, He is Ever Living and He never dies. Allâh says:

‘Muhammad ((Allah bless him and give him peace))is no more than a Messenger, and indeed (many) Messengers have passed away before him. If he dies or is killed, will you then turn back on your heels (as disbelievers)? And he who turns back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allâh, and Allâh will give reward to those who are grateful.’" [Al-Qur'an 3:144]

Ibn ‘Abbas said: "By Allâh, it sounded as if people had never heard such a Qur’ânic verse till Abu Bakr recited it as a reminder. So people started reciting it till there was no man who did not recite it."

Ibn Al-Musaiyab said that ‘Umar had said: "By Allâh, as soon as I heard Abu Bakr say it, I fell down to the ground. I felt as if my legs had been unable to carry me so I collapsed when I heard him say it. Only then did I realize that Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) had really died." [Sahih Al-Bukhari 2/640,641]

Burial and Farewell Preparations to his Honourable Body

Dispute about who would succeed him (Allah bless him and give him peace) broke out even before having the Messenger of Allâh’s body prepared for burial. Lots of arguments, discussions, dialogues took place between the Helpers and Emigrants in the roofed passage (portico) of Bani Sa‘ida. Finally they acknowledged Abu Bakr [R]e as a caliph. They spent the whole Monday there till it was night. People were so busy with their arguments that it was late night — just about dawn of Tuesday — yet his blessed body was still lying on his bed covered with an inked-garment. He was locked in the room.

On Tuesday, his body was washed with his clothes on. He was washed by Al-‘Abbas, ‘Ali, Al-Fadl and Qathm — the two sons of Al-‘Abbas, as well as Shaqran — the Messenger’s freed slave, Osamah bin Zaid and Aws bin Khauli. Al-‘Abbas, Al-Fadl and Qathm turned his body round, whereas Osamah and Shaqran poured out water. ‘Ali washed him and Aws leant him against his chest.

They shrouded him in three white Sahooli cotton cloth which had neither a headcloth [Sahih Al-Bukhari 1/169; Sahih Muslim 1/306] nor a casing and inserted him in.

A sort of disagreement arose with regard to a burial place. Abu Bakr said: "I heard the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) say: ‘A dead Prophet is buried where he dies.’ So Abu Talhah lifted the bed on which he died, dug underneath and cut the ground to make the tomb.

People entered the room ten by ten. They prayed for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). The first to pray for him were people of his clan. Then the Emigrants, then the Helpers. Women prayed for him after men. The young were the last to pray.

This process took Tuesday long and Wednesday night (i.e. the night which precedes Wednesday morning). ‘Aishah said: "We did not know that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was being buried till we heard the sound of tools digging the ground at the depth of Wednesday night." [Mukhtasar Seerat Ar-Rasool p.471; Ibn Hisham 2/649-665; Talqeeh Fuhoom Ahl Al-Athar p.38, 39; Rahmat-ul-lil'alameen 1/277-286]