26- Last Illness
While the people were thus engaged the last illness
of the apostle began in which Allah took him to Himself, to His mercy and
grace. The malady began thus. He had given orders for an expedition to
set out to the borders of
; that night, his manumitted slave recorded, 'The apostle of Allah awoke
me in the middle of the night and said, "I am commanded to implore
pardon for the dead in the cemetery!" So I went there with him, and
when he stood among the dead, he exclaimed, "Peace be upon you,
tenants of these graves! May the state you are in be better than that
which lies in store for mankind! Rebellions are setting in like waves of
darkness. They will follow each other, and the last will be worse than the
first". Then he turned to me and said, "I have been offered a
choice between the treasures of this world and everlasting life, or
paradise and the meeting with my Lord. I have chosen the second." I
replied, "Thou art my father and my mother; take the treasures of
this world now and paradise afterwards." But he continued, "No.
I have chosen to meet my Lord." After that, the malady of the apostle
began, and Allah took him away.'
According to Aisha, 'The apostle of Allah returned
from the cemetery to me. I had a headache and complained "My head! My
head! " And he replied, "No, Aisha. My head! " Then he
said, "Wouldst thou be distressed to die before me, that I might
stand over thee and enshroud thee, and pray for thee, and bury thee?"
But I exclaimed, "If that were to happen, I can see thee no sooner
bury me than return to my house, to celebrate thy wedding with some other
woman!" The apostle smiled, and, though the malady began to develop,
he continued to make the round of his wives until, in the house of Maymuna,
it overcame him. Then he called his wives to ask their permission to spend
in my house such time as he was ill, and permission was granted to him.'
The total‑number of the apostle's wives
was thirteen. After Khadiia' and Aisha, he married Sauda; then Zaynab, who
had been the wife of his freed slave, Zayd, who divorced her that she
might wed the apostle; and Umm. Salama, to whom he gave as dowry a
mattress stuffed with palm fibres, a cup, a dish, and a handmill. Then he
wed Hafsa; and Umm Habiba, as a compliment to Abyssinia; and Juwayriya
from among the captives of the Banu Mustaliq; and Saflya from among the
captives at Khaybar; and Maymuna, and Zaynab b. Khuzayma, who was called
'Mother of the Poor' because of her compassion and kindliness.
With these eleven wives the apostle consummated his
marriages. Two died before him, namely Khadija and Zaynab, but nine
survived him. With two others he did not consummate marriage: with Asma,
who had the white spots of leprosy and whom he sent back to her family;
and with Amra, who had lately been an Unbeliever and who fled to Allah for
refuge from the apostle of Allah. He said, 'Who flees for refuge to Allah
is well protected', and sent her back to her family.
At the time of his illness, Aisha said, 'The apostle
of Allah came walking between two men, with his head wrapped in a cloth,
and he walked slowly till he entered my house. Then the apostle fainted,
and his malady became worse. He said, "Pour seven leather bags of
cold water from the well over me, that I may go out to the people, and
give them my last injunctions." So we seated him in a tub and poured
water over him till he said, "Enough! Enough!"'
The apostle went out with his head bandaged, and sat
upon the pulpit. The first words he spoke were words of prayer for those
who had fallen at Uhud; for them he implored pardon and again prayed at
some length. Then he said, 'Allah has given one of His servants the choice
between this world and the next, and he has chosen to be with Allah.' Abu
Bakr understood these words and knew that he meant himself; so he wept,
saying, 'Nay. We shall give our own lives and those of our children for
thine.' But the apostle said,'Look to these doors which open into the
mosque, and close them all save those which lead to the house of Abu Bakr,
because I have known no better companion than he.'
While the apostle was sick the people delayed the
expedition he had commanded, but he said, 'Carry out the expedition to the
Syrian border', and the people hastened their preparations.
He commanded the Emigrants to treat the Helpers well,
saying, 'Other groups increase, but the Helpers must remain the same in
number and cannot increase. They were my asylum and gave me shelter. Be
kind to those who are kind to them, and punish those who injure them.'
Then the apostle entered his house, and the sickness overcame him so that
The wives of the apostle gathered to consult, and all
agreed that they ought to pour medicine into his mouth. The uncle of the
apostle, al‑Abbas, offered to pour it himself. When the apostle
recovered from his swoon he asked, 'Who has done this to me?' and they
replied, 'Thy uncle’ He said, 'This is a medicine brought by women
. Why have you done this?' Then his uncle replied, 'We feared thy having
pleurisy', and the apostle said, 'That is a disease with which Allah the
most high and glorious has not afflicted me! Let no one remain in this
house without swallowing some of this medicine, except my uncle.'
Accordingly even Maymuna swallowed some ‑ although she was fasting
at the time ‑ because the apostle swore that all must taste it as a
punishment for what they had done to him.
According to Aisha, 'When the apostle had become very
ill, he said, "Order Abu Bakr to pray with the people!" And I
replied, "Abu Bakr is a tender‑hearted man with a weak voice,
and he weeps much when he reads the Koran." But he said, "Order
him to pray with the people!" I objected only to spare my father,
because I knew the people would never wish another man to stand in the
prophet's place, and would blame my father for any evil which might
On the Monday on which Allah took His apostle he went
out to the people at their morning prayers. The curtain at Aisha's door
was lifted, the door opened, and the apostle of Allah came out and stood
in the doorway. When the Muslims caught sight of him they were almost
diverted from their prayers through joy at his presence. He signalled them
to continue their devotions, and smiled with pleasure as he watched them
pray; never had the watchers seen him wear a more beautiful expression
than then. After the prayers he addressed the people in a voice loud
enough to be heard outside the door of the mosque. He said, 'The fire is
kindled, and confusion descends like darkness. But ye have nothing to
reproach me for. I have allowed only what the Koran allows, and have
forbidden what the Koran forbids.' When the apostle had finished speaking
Abu Bakr said, 'Apostle of Allah! I see thou hast risen this morning, by
the favour and grace of Allah, in the state of health we love to see thee
in!' Then the people went to their homes, satisfied that the apostle was
recovered from his illness.
But al‑Abbas had said that morning to Ali, 'I
swear by Allah that I have seen death in the face of the apostle.' And he
was not mistaken.
Aisha said, 'When the apostle of Allah returned that
morning from the mosque he rested on my lap.' Usama, in command of the
Syrian expedition, had camped outside
, but when he heard the apostle was dangerously ill he went down to
with his army. 'When I went in to the apostle he had already lost the
power of speech and said nothing; but he lifted his hands to heaven and
then again lowered them, and I knew he was praying for me.'
According to Aisha, 'a man of the family of Abu Bakr
happened to enter with a fresh toothpick in his hand and the apostle of
Allah looked at it in such a way that I knew he wanted it. I asked,
"Shall I give thee this toothpick?" and he replied,
"Yes". So I took it and chewed it until it became soft and gave
it to him. He rubbed it against his teeth, more sharply than I had ever
seen him do, and then he laid it down again. Then I found that he was
becoming heavy in my lap, and I looked at him and saw that his eyes were
turned upwards; and he said, "Nay! Rather the companion in
paradise!" I had often heard the apostle say, "Allah takes no
prophet away without giving him a choice", and when he died his last
words were, "Rather the companion in paradise". Then I thought,
"He has not chosen our companionship". And I said to him,
"The choice was thine, and I swear by Him who sent thee that thou
hast chosen what is right." Then the apostle of Allah died, at noon
'The apostle died on my breast, despite my
foolishness and youth. I placed his head on a cushion, and then I rose and
began to strike my face and beat my breast with the other women.'
Now Umar rose before the people and said, 'Some
Hypocrites say that the apostle of Allah is dead! He has not died, but has
departed to his Lord, just as Moses left his people for forty days, and
returned to them when it was rumoured he was dead. By Allah! The apostle
will return just as Moses did, and the hands and feet of the men who have
said that the apostle is dead will be cut off!'
Abu Bakr arrived, and alighted at the door of the
mosque while Umar was talking thus. But he took no notice, and went in to
see the body of the apostle in the house of Aisha. It was laid out and
shrouded with a striped mantle. This he removed from the face of the
apostle and, kissing it, said, 'Thou art to me as my father and mother!
Thou hast tasted the death which Allah decreed for thee; but after it, no
death will ever come to thee again.' Then he covered the face of the
apostle and went out. He went to Umar and said, 'Gently! Listen to me’
but Umar paid no attention, and continued his speech.
When Abu Bakr saw that he would not listen he himself turned to the
people, who left Umar and came to him. Then he gave praise to Allah and
said, 'Let all who adored Muhammad know that Muhammad is dead, and let all
who adore Allah know that Allah is eternal and never dies.' Then he
recited the verse 'Muhammad is but an apostle. Other apostles have passed
away before him. If he die or be slain will ye turn back? He who turns
back does no injury to Allah; and Allah will surely reward those who give
thanks.' And it was as if the people had never heard this verse until Abu
Bakr recited it then.
Umar told thereafter how'When Allah had caused His
apostle to die, the Helpers disagreed with the Emigrants about what should
next be done, and they gathered to discuss it. I said to Abu Baky,
"Let us go to our brethren the Helpers", and we went, and sat
down with them. Then their orator pronounced the Confession of Faith,
uttered due praise to Allah, and said, "We are the Helpers of Allah
and the army of Islam, and you Emigrants are a part of us." And
they intended thus to take dominion away from us. When he ceased to speak
I prepared to reply and had already thought out an oration which pleased
me when Abu Bakr said, "Gently, Umar!" And I was unwilling to
'Then he spoke and he was more learned and dignified
than I. There was not a sentiment I had intended to use which he did not
express in the same or even in a better way than I could have done. He
said, "Whatever good qualities you claim, you are possessed of! But
the Arabs concede supremacy only to us of the Quraysh, who are the centre
of the Arab world by heredity and position. I propose to you one of these
two men as leader and you may pay homage to whichever you prefer!"
Then he took hold of my hand and that of Abu Ubayda. This was the only
sentiment in his speech which displeased me, for I would rather have had
my head struck off than govern over a man so great as Abu Bakr.
'Then a Helper rose and said, "Let there be one
Amir selected from the Helpers, and one from the Emigrants", and many
voices were raised and there was confusion. So, fearing dissension, I
cried to Abu Bakr to stretch out his own hand and I paid him homage. Then
all paid him homage.'
Finally, Abu Bakr spoke again. He said, 'I am
appointed to govern you, although I am not the best of you. If I act well
you must aid me, and if I act unjustly you must correct me. Truth is
faithfulness and falsehood is treachery! No nation has failed to fight for
Allah but Allah has punished it with abasement; nor has wickedness become
widespread without Allah sending calamity. Obey me as long as I obey
Allah and His prophet! But should I rebel against Allah and His prophet
you will owe me no obedience! Rise to your prayers and may Allah have
mercy on you’
On Tuesday, after allegiance had been paid to Abu
Bakr, the people made preparations for the burial of the apostle of Allah.
Ali, al‑Abbas and his sons al‑Fadl and Qutham, with Usama and
Shuqran, took it upon themselves to wash the corpse. Ali leaned the body
against his own breast, while al‑Abbas, al‑Fadl and Qutham
helped to turn him. Usama and Shuqran poured the water whilst Ali washed
him. Ali said, 'Thou art my father and my mother! How beautiful thou art,
alive and dead.' And there was nothing distasteful, as with other dead
bodies, in the corpse of the apostle of Allah.
Aisha said, 'When they were about to wash the
apostle, they disagreed and said, "By Allah! We do not know whether
we ought to strip the apostle of Allah as corpses are usually stripped, or
whether to wash him in his clothes". As they were discussing, Allah
sent sleep upon them so that there was not a man among them who did not
slumber; and they heard a voice which they knew not, saying, "
the prophet in his garments! " They rose and washed the apostle of
Allah in his shirt, pouring water over it, and rubbing it with their
hands, so that the shirt was between their hands and the body.' After the
washing had been completed, the apostle was wrapped in three garments.
When the body had been arranged and laid out on the
couch in his own house the Muslims knew not where to bury him. One said,
'Let us bury him in his mosque.' Another said, 'Let us bury him with his
companions.' And Abu Bakr said, 'I have heard the apostle of Allah say
that every prophet should be buried on the spot where he died.'
Accordingly the bed on which the apostle had been resting was lifted up,
and the grave dug under it. But there was doubt about the form of the
Abu Ubayda was accustomed to dig graves plainly,
according to the fashion of
, but Abu Talha, the grave‑digger of
, dug them in a vaulted shape. Al‑Abbas therefore called two men,
and said to one of them, 'Go to Abu Ubayda', and to the other, 'Go to Abu
Talha.' He added, 'Allah, choose for Thy apostle.' Abu Ubayda could not be
found, but the man who went to Abu Talha found him and brought him; so he
dug the grave of the apostle in the
Then the men entered in throngs to pray for him. When
they had completed their devotions the women came in; and when they had
finished the children came. Yet no one had directed the people to visit
the corpse of the apostle of Allah.
The apostle of Allah was buried in the middle of the
night on Wednesday. Aisha said, 'We knew nothing about the burial of the
apostle until we heard the sound of pickaxes in the middle of the night.'
Those who went down into the grave of the apostle were the same men as
washed the corpse. When the apostle had been laid in the grave and it was
to be built up, his freed slave, Shuqran, took a wrapper which the apostle
had used often and worn out; and, burying it in the grave, he said, 'No
one shall wear it after thee.' It remained interred with the apostle.
According to Aisha, the apostle had said when he was
dying, 'The curse of Allah is on a nation which makes the graves of its
prophets into places of worship', but he knew that his own followers
would do this. And it was true, for when the apostle died a great calamity
befell the Muslims. Aisha, who survived the apostle forty‑seven
years, recorded, 'When the apostle of Allah died many Arabs relapsed into
idolatry; Judaism and Christianity rose again, and Hypocrisy became
common, so that the Muslims seemed like a flock of sheep on a wintry
night, because of the loss of their prophet. Then Allah roused them again
under Abu Bakr.'
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