The Passing of the Prophet ﷺ

Hajjah Amina bint `Ayesha

The Holy Prophet’s ﷺ Passing & Other Details of His Life

A day or two after returning from the Farewell Pilgrimage, the Prophet ﷺ suffered from a state of great exhaustion. His blessed body was shaken by frequent fits of fever. His temperature rose to such a degree that Abu Said, paying a sick call to the Blessed Prophet ﷺ, withdrew his hand in amazement as soon as he touched him. When he had fallen ill with fever at other times, the Holy Prophet ﷺ had prayed for recovery, but this time he did not do so.
Even while he was so gravely ill, he could not but think about his nation. The Companions were terribly distraught. When his illness seemed to worsen, they gathered around the Holy Prophet’s ﷺ presence. He spoke to them, saying, “Bring me pen and ink, so that I can write my will, that you might not fall into error after I am gone.” But a disagreement arose among the Sahaba. The Bani Hashim and most of the Ansar wished for the pen and ink to be brought, while others said, “What need is there to write down a will or testament?” One of these was ‘Umar who said, “It is not right to rob the Prophet ﷺ of his strength while he is so very weakened by disease.” The Holy Prophet ﷺ requested of them to do their arguing elsewhere, saying, “It is not proper for the Companions to dispute in the presence of their Prophet.” 
He directed them to abandon the writing of a will. Three days before the Prophet’s ﷺ passing, his uncle ‘Abbas bin Abdul-Muttalib who was very keen on the disclosure of the future, met with ‘Ali and suggested to him that he ask the Holy Prophet ﷺ about the question of his succession. ‘Ali replied, “If the Holy Prophet ﷺ does not entrust it to us, he will entrust it to no other,” thus avoiding the question, or rather, not seeing it fit to trouble the Holy Prophet ﷺ once again in a matter the Prophet ﷺ had already pronounced upon.
The Prophet’s ﷺ illness worsened. When he felt unable to lead the prayers in the mosque, he appointed Abu Bakr to be Imam in his stead. The first time Abu Bakr led the Sahaba in prayer was at the ‘Isha’ prayer on Thursday night. When Abu Bakr stood before the Jama’at (congregation), he began to weep. Somewhat later, the Beloved of Allah ﷺ felt slightly better, so that he proceeded to the mosque for the morning prayer, supported by ‘Ali and al-Fadl bin al-’Abbas, and followed Abu Bakr’s lead while sitting down. After the prayer he made supplication for himself, for the whole community and for all of the Prophets. He praised Allah Almighty, and prayed for those who had fallen in His way and he exhorted people to cling to the faith. 
Then he said, “Oh my people, have you heard of the Lord’s servant who was asked by Him, ‘What do you love more, this world or the world to come?’ The man chose the afterlife. The Lord was pleased with him and promised him that He would admit him into His Almighty Presence.’” Nobody understood these words but Abu Bakr as-Siddiq who began to weep. “Oh my Prophet ﷺ,” he said, “may my father and mother be your ransom.” The Prophet ﷺ knew that he had understood and turning to him said, “Oh Abu Bakr, you will be with me in the other world.” And he went on to say, “If I was to take any friend other than Allah Almighty, I would have chosen Abu Bakr as my friend. Nobody has shown me such friendship as he, and no one’s wealth has given me more benefit than his.”
After this he spoke, “Oh my people, you must know that death must be, and that not one living thing can escape from it! But there will come a day after death, which will be the Day of Justice. The great in this world will seek retaliation from the low, and the lowly from the high born, and not one shall be wronged. If there is any one among you who has suffered through me, let him now step forth and make good his claim. If there is any to whom I have spoken a rough word, let him retaliate now with rude speech, so that I might go home to my Lord in a blameless state, and nobody might have a right to claim of me.”
The Deep Love of the Sahaba
Hearing these words, the people began to weep aloud and they cried, “Oh Rasulullah ﷺ, whoever has any right over you, let him now give up all claim!” But ‘Ukkasha bin Mihsan rose to his feet and said, “Oh Rasulullah ﷺ! In a certain raid, I drove my camel alongside yours. You raised your whip to strike your camel and in doing so, you hit me and caused me great pain. For this I have a right of retaliation over you.” The Holy Prophet ﷺ answered, “Come, if you like, you may hit me now.” ‘Ukkasha replied, “Yes, I wish to do so.” Now the Prophet ﷺ had a whip and he ordered Bilal to go and fetch it, saying, “Go get the whip, but don’t let my daughter Fatima know about it, for she won’t be able to bear it.”
The Companions all reproached ‘Ukkasha bitterly, saying, “Are you not ashamed, do you not fear Allah? Will you not forego this matter of retaliation?” But the Prophet ﷺ said, “Leave him, it is his right.” ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan spoke up and said, “Oh ‘Ukkasha, I will give you one hundred camels instead of this reprisal.” ‘Abd-ur-Rahman bin ‘Awf made a similar offer, and all the Companions one by one offered to pay something to allay his claims, but ‘Ukkasha accepted none of it. Finally, the whip was brought. ‘Ali sprang to his feet and said, “ ‘Ukkasha, the Holy Prophet ﷺ is ill and cannot bear such severe pain. If you really wish to strike, deal me a hundred lashes in his stead, if you have the strength.” But ‘Ukkasha would accept none of this; he rose and took the whip from the Prophet’s ﷺ hand. 
The Prophet ﷺ said to him, “Come closer,” and when he drew near him, he said, “Do not strike me too hard, for I no longer have the strength to withstand a violent blow.” Hearing these words, his companions feared for him and began to weep. ‘Ukkasha said, “Oh Rasulullah ﷺ, the day you struck me with your whip, my back was bare, while you are now covered with your mantle.” The Holy Prophet ﷺ immediately threw off his cloak. 
Then ‘Ukkasha laid the whip aside, knelt down by Muhammad’s side and rubbed his face against the Prophet’s ﷺ blessed skin, weeping loudly. Tears came to the Holy Prophet’s ﷺ eyes, all the people wept and the mosque sighed and moaned, and such sounds rose to the heavens that all thought it must be an earthquake. For some time ‘Ukkasha would not lift his face from the Holy Prophet’s blessed person. Finally, the Prophet ﷺ asked him, “Oh ‘Ukkasha, why have you done this?” ‘Ukkasha answered, “I was afraid that I and these people might not see you again after this day, and I therefore wished to rub my face against your blessed person, so that Allah might spare me the fires of Hell.” The Holy Prophet ﷺ then said, “He has made Hell forbidden to you,” and he repeated it thrice.
After this, one person got up and said, “Oh my Prophet ﷺ, one day a poor dervish came to you, asking something of you and you turned to me, saying, ‘Give him whatever you have on you, until I repay you for it.’ That day I had on me three silver coins and I gave them to the poor man. I ask now you to pray to the Lord for me that He might grant me the reward for this, and place it in the balance of my good deeds.” The Holy Prophet ﷺ replied, “Those three coins are a debt that I owe you, and the reward for that gift of sadaqa is mine.” He ordered Fadl bin al-’Abbas to give this man three silver coins, saying, “Now you may give these coins to a dervish and the reward will be yours.”
Another person rose, saying, “Oh Rasulullah ﷺ, in a certain battle, I stole three silver coins of the booty; what am I to do now?” The Prophet ﷺ replied, “Take those three coins and place them in the public treasury (Bayt-al-Mal).” Yet another man rose, saying, “I am a liar, and my tongue is abominably wicked, please pray for me.” The Prophet ﷺ prayed for him. Then ‘Umar bin al-Khattab said to the man, “Oh fellow, why have you disgraced yourself before all the people!” But the Prophet ﷺ said to him, “Oh ‘Umar, disgrace in this world is better than disgrace in the next.” ‘Umar then said, “I have no doubt that this man is not a hypocrite, for had he been one, he would have hidden his defect and not feared Allah and placed his hopes in the Prophet’s ﷺ prayer.” To that the Prophet ﷺ said, “That is certainly true.” Of ‘Umar, the Holy Prophet ﷺ said, “‘Umar is always with the Truth, and the Truth is always with him, wherever he may be.”

Advice of the Prophet ﷺ

After this the Holy Prophet ﷺ repaired to his rooms, and the people saw him no more after this. His illness grew more severe and on the third day it became grave. When people asked ‘Ali about the Prophet’s ﷺ state, he would reply, “He is well.” “Then show him to us,” they demanded. A group of Muhajirin and Ansar entered Aisha’s room. The Holy Prophet ﷺ looked up at them, his eyes brimming with tears and he had not the strength any more to sit up. He asked al-Fadl bin al-’Abbas to lift him and prop him up against a cushion. The Prophet ﷺ gazed at his beloved companions and wished to address them, but he could not. He only made supplication for them, saying: 
“You have taken the trouble and come here to me, may Allah reward you for your kindness. May Allah help you and grant you high stations of Paradise. May He keep you on the straight path and keep you out of harm’s way. May He give you eminence and draw you nigh to His Mercy. I urge you earnestly to fear God, for I am come to you both as a warner and a messenger of glad tidings. Do not seek quarrel with the Lord, and destroy not the cities and countries and peoples of the earth, for Allah says in His Holy Book:
That is the Last Abode, We appoint it for those who desire not exorbitance in the earth, nor corruption. The issue ultimate is to the Godfearing. (The Story, 83)
“I exhort you to keep away from rebellion and worshipping other than Allah, and to remain steadfast in the religion as you have been commanded, to and keep all its commandments. And expel the idolaters from Arabia. I have left you two things that you may hold on to firmly after I have gone. If you do so, you will not go astray. One of these is the Quran, the other my beloved friends. And be good to the Ansar, for they, too, are my beloved friends and they are venerable companions, so give them proper respect and honor, for you will hear wise counsel from them in their houses. Dwell not on their shortcomings, but be generous with their mistakes. For I entreat the Lord Almighty for Mercy on myself and on my Beloved Companions.”
When he had finished speaking, he sank back and his head fell upon his cushion. His Companions asked him, “Oh Prophet of Allah ﷺ! When you have passed away, who shall wash you, and who shall lay you in your grave?” To both questions the Prophet ﷺ answered, “He who is the closest to me.” Then they asked, “What shall we use as a winding sheet?” and he replied, “That which I am wearing.” “And who shall conduct the funeral prayer for you?” He ﷺ replied: 
“May the Almighty forgive you and grant you great reward in the path of His revealed religion, for that you suffer so much with me. Wash my body and wind it in its winding sheet and place it in its grave. First of all, Jibra’il will come and pray over me, then Israfil, the Mikha’il and finally Azra’il. After that it is your turn to come and pray for me, one group after the other, men and women, let them all come and pray over me and then go home. My greetings of peace upon you all, and peace and blessings on all those who follow my way and religion up to the Day of Judgment. I will be waiting for you by the side of the Bridge of Sirat for all my nation to cross over, entreating my Lord for forgiveness and mercy, and interceding on behalf of my entire nation.”
When she came to see him in his room, his daughter Fatima’s eyes overflowed with tears. He spoke to her and said, “Why are you aggrieved? Of all the people of my household you are to be the first to follow me, and it will be quite soon.” And he gave ‘Ali certain instructions.
When the Companions had all left his side, the Prophet’s ﷺ wives entered the apartment. His blessed tongue had grown heavy and his eyes began to turn inward. The wives remarked that he was exhausted from his pain and thinking that medicine might benefit him, Asma with her own hand dropped some drops of a potion into his blessed nostril. When the Holy Prophet ﷺ recovered his senses he asked, “Who did this?” and the wives grew fearful and shy of saying, “We did it,” so instead they said, “It was ‘Abbas.” The Holy Prophet ﷺ then called for ‘Abbas and asked him, “Oh my uncle, why have you done this?” ‘Abbas replied, “Oh my Prophet ﷺ, I did not do this, it was the women.” Then the wives confessed, saying, “We were worried about you, for your illness had overwhelmed you and you had passed from your senses.” The Prophet ﷺ then said, “Whoever was in the house, let them all take this medicine, all except my uncle ‘Abbas, so that they might remember never to do such a thing again.” And it was done as he bade them.
The third day of his illness was a Jum’a, and the Prophet’s ﷺ fever kept rising. There was near him a jug that he used to perform his ablutions, and they filled it and placed it by his side. From time to time he dipped his hand into it and cooled his forehead, saying, “Oh Allah, help me!” ‘Abbas came and saw his condition, then he said to ‘Ali, “Oh ‘Ali, I know the signs of death and I can tell when they appear on the face of the sons of Abdul-Muttalib. Our blessed Prophet ﷺ is about to breathe his last. Go then and ask of him who shall succeed him in leadership of the nation, and learn this matter. Let us know if it be one of the Bani Hashim or one of the sons of Abdul-Muttalib, so that we may give him our support; or, if it should be a man of another tribe, that we might know well in advance.” ‘Ali replied, “Oh my uncle, there is no need to ask him this, for the Arabs will never consent to the leadership of a man other than Quraysh.” ‘Abbas then fell silent.
On Monday, the twelfth night of Rabi’ al-Awwal of the eleventh year of the Hijra, the Holy Prophet ﷺ felt a slight improvement and slept till around the time of the night prayer (‘Isha). He opened the door of his room and saw that the people were praying in the mosque, Abu Bakr leading them in the ‘Isha payer. Seeing this, the Prophet ﷺ grew very glad in his heart and gave thanks, saying, “Alhamdulillah! After my time, my nation will go on to preserve my Sunna.” He wished to rise from his bed, but he could not stand, so he sat on the side of his bed. Aisha came and asked, “Oh Rasulullah ﷺ, do you wish for a miswak (tooth-stick)?” The Prophet ﷺ said, “Bring one,” and Aisha gave him the miswak she had in her room after softening it for him. The Prophet ﷺ cleaned his blessed teeth with it, and Aisha said to him, “Oh Prophet of Allah ﷺ, don’t use it so vigorously, so as not to hurt your teeth.” The Prophet ﷺ replied, “Oh Aisha, this is the way it must be done, for it is a part of my Sunna.”
Aisha also said, “The Holy Prophet ﷺ spoke for such a long time about the rights of the neighbor and good neighborliness, that I began to worry that he would make the neighbors to be his heirs, and he spoke with such concern about the slaves that I began to fear that after their master’s death they would be set free.” (In fact, Islam introduced strict guidelines regarding the just and kind treatment of slaves, and elaborated on the merits of setting them free, as a charitable, pious act.)
When Abu Bakr had completed his prayer, they told him, “The Holy Prophet ﷺ has been watching from his room.” Abu Bakr was very happy to hear that the Prophet’s ﷺ condition admitted this, and he immediately came to his side. Seeing him sitting upright, he grew ever more pleased. In his joy, he spoke lightly and pleasantly to his daughter Aisha, and the Prophet ﷺ heard him and was pleased. He even laughed a bit and said jokingly, “Oh Aisha, today Rasulullah ﷺ is in a good state, and today it is the turn for me to go visit my other wives.” Aisha replied, “As long as he is ill, the Prophet ﷺ shall stay in my house; when he is well he may go to his other wives.” Thereupon the Holy Prophet ﷺ laughed, but he gave no reply.
Since the onset of the Holy Prophet’s ﷺ illness, Abu Bakr had been staying in the mosque and had not visited his wife. Aisha then said to him, “Oh my father, for days you have not gone home; tonight the Prophet ﷺ is feeling better, so why do you not go to your home as well?” Abu Bakr then left the mosque and went to see his wife. All the people of Madinah were glad and relieved and gave each other the good news of the improvement. “He was not able to sit up or turn his head, now he is sitting upright and has returned to health,” they said.

The Friend on High, the Exalted Companion of Paradise 

Aisha held the Prophet ﷺ by the hand and placed his blessed head upon her chest, and for some time he lay there peacefully. Around the time of the forenoon, the agony of death set in, and in accordance with the station of the Beloved of Allah ﷺ it happened with great violence. The elements composing the human body of Muhammad ﷺ could not withstand the unveiled revelation of the Divine. His blessed countenance turned from red to black, while sweat poured from his brow. Those administering to him frequently dipped a rag into a cup of water to wipe his face and cool his brow. Around the noontide of the twelfth day of the month Rabi’ al-Awwal, which was a Monday, he uttered his last words, which were “Rafiq-al-‘a’la, Rafiq-al-‘a’la” (the Friend on High, the Exalted Companion of Paradise) and departed from this world of woe to the world of Celestial Beauty.
‘Ali stepped out of the room, weeping. ‘Umar said to him, “Do not weep, for the hypocrites will believe and say that the Prophet ﷺ has died, whereas he has not died! He has gone to the Presence of the Lord! He will come again, just as Musa used to leave his people for a time to converse with his Lord, and return after some days. Likewise, Rasulullah ﷺ will come back to us.” The Companions were in a state of great confusion and distress. ‘Umar went around with his sword drawn, saying, “Whoever claims that the Holy Prophet ﷺ is dead, I shall strike his head from his neck.”
Abu Bakr came as soon as he heard the news, and he entered the room and found Aisha there in tears. He stepped up to the Holy Prophet ﷺ and pulled back the mantle that covered his blessed face. He gazed upon his beauty that was preserved even in death, bent down and kissed him and replaced the mantle on his face. Then he stepped outside where ‘Umar was still telling the people that the Prophet ﷺ had not really died, but would return to them after a while. Abu Bakr went to him and said to him, “Oh ‘Umar, do not speak thus, for the Lord has revealed this verse concerning the Holy Prophet ﷺ when He says: 
Thou art mortal; and they are mortal… (The Companies, 30)
Such was Abu Bakr’s dignity and authority that ‘Umar quieted down and said, “By Allah, when I heard these verses from Abu Bakr, it was as though I had never heard them before.”
It is related that Abu Bakr stepped out and addressed the people saying, “Oh people, if anyone worships Muhammad, Muhammad is dead; but if anyone worships Allah, He is alive and immortal.” And he recited this verse:
Muhammad is naught but a Messenger; Messengers have passed away before him. Why, if he should die or is slain, will you turn about on your heels? If any man should turn about on his heels, he will not harm God in any way; and God will recompense the thankful. It is not given to any soul to die, save by the leave of God, at an appointed time. Whoso desires the reward of this world, We will give him of this; and whoso desires the reward of the other world, We will give him of that; and We will recompense the thankful.
(The House of Imran: 144, 145)
Then it was that people began to believe that the Prophet ﷺ had truly passed away, and all folk began to weep. They went to the room where he lay and looked at him, then they returned to the mosque and wept. Abu Bakr then addressed them, comforting them and explaining that it was natural for Muhammad ﷺ to pass into the world of the unseen.
Just at that time, Usama had returned with his troops and they were entering the city. Usama planted the banner before the Prophet’s door. Everyone felt greater dismay and dread, for just as the city of Madinah had been drowned in light at the Holy Prophet’s ﷺ coming from the place of his birth, now the opposite effect was manifested: Madinah appeared filled with darkness.
‘Ali and ‘Abbas washed and dressed the blessed body of the Holy Prophet ﷺ, tears flowing down their cheeks. Abu Bakr remained in the Prophet’s ﷺ room. He emerged and offered everyone condolences, explaining that the very form of Muhammad ﷺ was sure to pass into the hidden world. 
Muhammad (s) the Messenger of IslamExcerpted from Muhammad: Messenger of Islam, by Hajjah Amina Adil.