Chapter VII: The Final Phase: Victory with Humility
The Compassionate Ruler and Spiritual Leader
The Conquest of Makkah
The final phase of Muhammad's (S) mission started with the conquest of Makkah, and was marked both by a clear sense of fulfillment of the mission and a feeling that it was ending.
During the three short years following Hudaybiyah and preceding the conquest of Makkah, the number of Muslims grew enormously. Muhammad (S) received deputations from the various tribes in and around Arabia and sent out emissaries to neighboring tribes and kingdoms inviting them to study and ponder over the message of Islam. Soon most of the tribes in Arabia had become allies of the Muslims and the Quraysh increasingly were an irrelevant force.
After the nearly bloodless conquest of Makkah, Muhammad's (S) first act upon entering the city was the announcement of a general amnesty. Next, Muhammad (S) and his associates entered the Ka'bah and cleared out its many idols. As the idols toppled he kept repeating the verses:
The truth has come and falsehood has passed away
Verily, falsehood is sure to pass away. (Qur'an 17: 81).
The Messenger of Allah then stood at the door of the Ka'bah and gave a brief speech. "There is no deity but Allah; He has no associate. He has made good and helped his servants. He alone has put the confederates to flight. I abolish every claim of privilege of blood or property, (i.e. the old practice of revenge), except the custody of the temple and providing drinking water to the pilgrims... O Quraysh! Allah has taken from you the haughtiness of paganism and its veneration of ancestors. Man springs from Adam, and Adam sprang from dust."
He then read the following verses:
O mankind! Verily We have created you of a male and a female, and distributed you into tribes and families that ye might recognize one another. Verily, the noblest of you, worthy of honor in the sight of Allah is he who is the most upright in character. Verily Allah is knowing, the Cognizant. (Qur'an 49:13)
He then asked the Quraysh, who were assembled in front of him, "What do you think that I am about to do with you?" When they expressed the hope that he would be good to them, he replied, "Go your way, for you are free." The themes he struck were of compassion, forgiveness, egalitarianism, brotherhood, and the abolition of the cruel pagan cycle of endless revenge.
The Near Defeat at Hunayn
Surprisingly, this magnificent conquest of Makkah did not end the wars for the Muslims. Soon after the triumph over the Quraysh at Makkah, the neighboring tribes of Thaqif and Huwazin decided to attack the Muslims. The conquest of Makkah had the paradoxical effect of making these tribes more hostile and aggressive than before. Muslims reluctantly went out to meet this assault.
(O believers!) This is a fact that Allah hath helped you on many a previous occasion.
And on the day of Hunayn, when your numbers over which you had exulted availed you not,
And the earth with all its vastness had straitened on you, And you had to turn back in flight. It was then that Allah infused into the Prophet and those faithful (to him),
The spirit of steadiness and self-assurance and succored them unseen hosts and defeated the unbelievers;
and that is what the unbelievers deserved. (Qur'an 9: 25, 26)
The above verses refer to the near defeat the Muslims suffered at Hunayn. Unlike the previous battles of Badr, Uhud and Khandaq, the Muslims were in larger numbers than the enemy but they seem to have been overconfident and poorly prepared. Al-Bukhari records that the Muslim army advanced initially, but many Muslims incorrectly assessed that the pagan tribes had been defeated and broke rank to collect the war booty. This act of indiscipline and greed allowed the pagans to regroup and attack. Finally, it was the courage and steadfastness under extreme danger of Muhammad (S) and a few of his companions, reminiscent of the battle of Uhud, which saved the day for the Muslims.
The defeated tribes retreated into the well-fortified city of Ta'if. Muhammad (S) and his army pursued them and laid siege to the town of Ta'if. Three weeks of multiple raids and bombardment of Ta'if proved fruitless. The Muslims decided to abandon the siege and return to Makkah. These pagans dud not pose a significant threat, and Muhammad (S) had many other more important issues to pursue.
The Muslims had captured large amounts of booty, and large numbers of prisoners. When Muhammad (S) distributed the war booty, he appeared to give larger shares to those who had recently accepted Islam. This caused discontent and some unrest among those who had become Muslims earlier, especially the Ansars (Helpers). When Muhammad (S) became aware of this, he gathered everyone together and gave a memorable and emotional speech alluded to earlier in this essay. "Do you think ill of me in your hearts?" he asked. "Did I not come to you when you were errant and Allah guided you; you were poor and Allah made you rich, you were enemies (of truth) and Allah softened your hearts." He continued, "Are you disturbed because of the good things of this life by which I won over a people that they may become Muslims while I entrust you to your Islam? Are you not satisfied that (other) men should take away flocks and herds while you take back with you the Apostle of Allah? By Him in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad (S), but for those who migrated, I should be one of the Ansar myself. If all men went one way and the Ansar another, I should take the way of the Ansar."
Muhammad's (S) Disapproval of Superstitions
Ibrahim, Muhammad's (S) last son, died at one and a half years of age. This tragic event occurred on the day of a solar eclipse, which understandably seemed to justify an old Arab superstition about natural calamities and their effects on human affairs. Realizing this, Muhammad (S) made a remarkable pronouncement, rendering a fatal blow to the old superstitious practices of Arab society. "The sun and the moon", he said, "are signs of Allah's power. The birth or death of humans does not cause any eclipse."
While the Prophet was busy with major battles and affairs of state, there is evidence that jealousy and discord was brewing amongst his wives. Glimpses of this very private and human facet of his life are provided in the Qur'an.
And call to mind the occasion when the Prophet had given in confidence an information to one of his wives, and she had communicated it to another (wife). And when Allah apprised him of this, he spoke of it to her in part and passed over the rest. (Qur'an 66:1-5)
The verses quoted above allude to an incident in which two of the Messenger's wives appear to have conspired with each other against a third wife. The two wives were gently admonished and all the wives were reminded that their status and duties, their rewards and punishments were higher than of any other women amongst Muslims. They were to be examples for the rest of the community. They kept their position by their own free will and could ask for divorce if they so desired. The Qur'an urges the Messenger's wives to aspire for a higher calling and forgo the ultimately trivial material things in life.
O Prophet! Say to thy wives, "If ye desire the life of this world and its fineries (such as do not become the wives of the Prophet). Come, I shall offer you compensation and shall allow you to leave me in a manner agreeable to you". (Qur'an 33: 28)
Even these very private events in his life were public knowledge since they had implications and lessons for all. These events became occasions for revelation (Asbab an-Nuzul) of injunctions against backbiting and conspiring.
It is often unrecognized that gender relationships underwent quite a revolutionary change with the advent of Islam and the Messenger's behavior. Spousal relationships were now based on love and compassion. The Qur'an describes interdependency and love in marriage as follows:
They are garments (adornments) unto you as you are garments (adornments) unto them (Qur'an 2:187)
The relationships are to be full of love and tenderness.
And one of His signs is that He hath created for you mates of your own species that ye may find comfort in their company;
And has put between you love and tenderness. Truly here are signs for those who reflect (Qur'an 30:21)
There was levity and joy between spouses. "The best amongst you" he would often say "are those who are best to your wives". On more than one occasion, much to the consternation, of his fathers-in-law, and companions Abu Bakr, and 'Umar, the Messenger could be heard having an argument with one of his wives. The established cultural tradition of women's inferiority and subservience to men was gone. The Prophet sometimes helped out with household chores. Spouses in Islam were confidants, providers of solace and comfort, and advisors in crucial affairs. At Hudaybiyah he consulted with and took the advice of Umm Salamah, the wife who had accompanied him on the trip.
Mothers, both biological and foster-mothers, were shown great respect. Daughters were loved and were a source of joy and pride. The Prophet would rise and kiss his daughter Fatimah, on the forehead, his face wreathed in smiles, whenever he met her. The false pride (ird), which was partially responsible for female infanticide, disappeared from the society as in the blink of an eye.
Several injunctions about social behavior were promulgated, including modesty in clothing and contact with others. The intent was to encourage interaction between men and women at an intellectual and spiritual level rather than a sensual level. Punishments for adultery and penalties for false accusation against others were formalized. A just and moral society built around personal piety based on the Qur'an was taking shape. The laws and edicts were rapidly changing both the private and public mores in a concrete and tangible form.
The Role And Status Of Women In Early Islam
A review of women's status in Islam reveals the startling fact that the Qur'an recognized them as spiritual equals for the first time in world history. Moreover, for a long time Islam was the only religion that gave them such status with emphasis and clarity.
Indeed for all of them-the men who resign themselves to Allah and the women who resign themselves,
And the believing men and the believing women,
And the devout men and the devout women,
And the truthful men and the truthful women,
And the men who are patient and the women, who are patient,
And the men who are endowed with humility and the women, who are endowed with humility,
And the men who give alms and the women, who give alms,
And the men who observe the prescribed fast and the women, who observe the prescribed fast,
And the men who preserve their chastity and the women, who preserve their chastity,
And the men who oft remember Allah and the women who oft remember Allah,-
For all of these Allah holds out forgiveness and great recompense. (Qur'an 33:35)
In this verse the Qur'an uses ten different adjectives to make its point that men and women are equal spiritually, with similar obligations and duties. I can't recall any other verse where the Qur'an hammers home it's intent with such emphasis. Moreover this is not the only verse, which deals with this issue.
The faithful, men and women, are friends one to the other;
They enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil;
They observe prayer and pay the poor-due and they obey All and his Apostle (in every state).
Soon will Allah have mercy on them.
Verily Allah is the source of Power and Wisdom. (Qur'an 9:71)
The Qur'an with unflinching regularity equates men and women spiritually. With equal unambiguity it recognizes differences in roles and responsibilities. Men are the protectors and solely responsible for the economic needs of the family. Women may earn and keep their income or spend it as they pleased.
The list of reforms Islam brought about is long. A brief catalog of these changes includes the following. Female infanticide was banned, primogeniture was abolished, Zihar the custom I referred to earlier was abrogated, incestuous relationships were made illegal and public indecency was wiped out. Women were given economic security and social privileges, own and dispose of property, with the right to enter contracts and run businesses. Marriage became a contract between two consenting adults that was recorded in the presence of reliable witnesses. Divorce was discouraged, but in irreconcilable situations, it was allowed as a last resort. Women were given the right to initiate divorce proceedings (khul') in case the husband was judged to be cruel or had deserted her. Polygamy was limited and was permitted mainly as a remedy for the vulnerable and exploited situation in which female slaves and orphans found themselves. Women and men were encouraged to become literate. Many women became recognized scholars in the Islamic disciplines.
The intent of the Qur'an was to establish a just society by protecting its most vulnerable members, including the poor, the slaves, and those who were caught in the web of usury.
The Tabuk Expedition
In the ninth year of the Hijrah, Muhammad (S) received reliable information that the Roman army was gathering to attack the Muslims. The Roman emperor Heraclius began to see the Muslims as a threat. According to intelligence information, a well-equipped force of about forty thousand Romans were preparing to invade. The Muslims had no choice but to collect their own force and venture out to confront the enemy forces gathered at the border of Syria. As the Muslims prepared to venture out, they found themselves short of resources and manpower. When the call to arms went out, some came up with excuses, while others were upset that they lacked the means to join the Muslim army. The Qur'an recalls these events in the following verses:
(O Prophet!) Some of the Arab nomads came to you to offer excuses, praying for leave (to stay behind).
While others, having gone back upon their word given to Allah and His apostle sat at home.
So a grievous chastisement shall soon overtake these who have thus broken their pledge.
No blame shall lie on the feeble and the ailing and on those who have not the means to provide themselves
(with war equipment if they should remain at home). Provided that they are sincerely attached to Allah and His Apostle.
No blame shall lie on those who act righteously.
And Allah will cover their weakness and be merciful to them.
Nor shall blame lie on those who (having no conveyance of their own) came to thee that thou might provide them with a mount;
thou had to say, 'I can find nothing to mount on.' and they had to turn away in anguish, their eyes shedding g tears in profusion for their inability to spend anything in the way of Allah. (Qur'an 9: 90-92)
Muhammad (S) as always, took the lead as the Muslims ventured out to meet the latest potential challenge. He assessed that the expedition was essential and so risks must be taken. The journey toward the enemy forces was long and arduous, with the outcome uncertain. As usual, the Prophet demonstrated a great capacity to motivate, which explains why some of his companions wept because they couldn't accompany him on the expedition.
When the Muslim army reached the town of Tabuk, halfway between Makkah and Damascus, it turned out that the initial reports were only partially true. The Muslim army camped out at Tabuk for about twenty days and then returned to Madinah. In the Prophet's absence, the group labeled the Munafiqun (the hypocrites) of Madinah had constructed a mosque, which had become a center of intrigue and controversy. When this became apparent Muhammad (S) ordered the mosque to be destroyed.
And there are some (from among the hypocrites) who have erected a mosque in sheer mischief and with a view to promoting unbelief. And causing a split among the believers and affording them a base for operation who had in the past warred against Allah and His Apostle. They will surely swear, "Our purpose was naught but good."
But Allah bears out that they are clear liars. (O Prophet!) never step into it.
More worthy for you to enter is that mosque the foundation of which has been laid in piety from its very first day (where you can lead the faithful in prayer) and to which repair those who aspire to unity;
And Allah indeed is pleased with those who purify themselves.
Which of the two is better, he who hath laid the foundation of his edifice on devotion to Allah and desires to please Him, or he who hath raised it on the brink of a crumbling bank which is bound to drag him into the fire of Hell?
Surely, Allah doth not guide those who commit excesses.
This building of theirs which they have built will not cease to cause uneasiness in their hearts until their hearts are torn to pieces. And Allah sure is the Knowing, the Wise. (Qur'an 9: 107-110)
Rationale Behind Muhammad's (S) Battles
The expedition to meet the putative Roman attack was the last of the military engagements during Muhammad's (S) mission. It is worth reviewing this and other military engagements to understand the motivations behind them. It is a common criticism voiced by some writers that the Prophet had changed form a exhorter to a conqueror, from a warner to a warrior, and in the interest of building an empire he had lost his spirituality. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Muslims were permitted to fight, or more accurately fight back, to defend themselves, in the thirteenth year of Muhammad's (S) twenty-three year mission. At that point, the enemies of Islam were threatening to wipe out the Muslims. The permission to fight was limited and conditional.
Fighting is now ordained for you, but this pleaseth you not.
Perchance you dislike a thing though it is good for you;
And perchance you like a thing, which may be bad for you.
Allah knoweth. But ye know not. --And creating disorder (in the land) is, more heinous than manslaughter. (Qur'an 216-217)
Muslims could defend themselves, but they could not wage an aggressive war. When the enemy stopped, they had to stop as well. The pagan practices of revenge killings, mutilation, torture, and disrespect of the dead were banned. Muslims who accidentally killed a non-combatant were reprimanded and asked to pay Qisas (just recompense). The rights of civilians and vulnerable members of the enemy were protected. Prisoners of war were to be treated with dignity and compassion. The Muslims were even prohibited from cutting down trees in enemy territory. The frequently heard adage "all is fair in love and war," clearly did not apply and was, in fact, considered a perverted practice.
Quraysh and other Arab tribes provoked four out of the five major battles, Badr, Uhud, Khandaq, and Hunayn. In many instances, fighting these battles appeared to be an open invitation for Muslims to commit self-annihilation. The courage displayed by the Muslims in these engagements equaled anything displayed at any time in human history. They fought for a cause they believed in, were unflinching in their steadfastness, and in every instance the Prophet was among them fully exposing himself to the same risk he asked his associates to face. The same qualities of extreme resolve and faith in their cause and leadership were displayed at Hudaybiyah.
The fifth war, the invasion of Makkah, followed the breaking of the Hudaybiyah covenant by the Quraysh. To return the Ka'bah to the fold of Islam was an extremely important objective in the minds of Muslims. The invasion of Makkah became inevitable after the brazen flouting of the treaty of Hudaybiyah by the Quraysh and their failure to agree to give restitution. As noted earlier, the conquest of Makkahwas accomplished virtually without bloodshed. It set new and exemplary standards for conquerors. Muhammad (S) entered the conquered city of Makkah, on foot with his head bowed. There was no gloating, only humility and compassion. One of his first acts, after purging the Ka'bah of idols, was to issue a general amnesty. Even the most obnoxious enemies of Islam, who may have asked for clemency out of convenience rather than a change in heart and conviction, were forgiven.
Muhammad (S) was present with his companions at the battlefield, in all five of the major battles. Many a time, his life was in danger and, he was physically injured at least twice. His presence was a constant inspiration to his followers, and as a result in the battles of Uhud and Hunayn, near defeats were turned into victory. These battles were noble in their intent, necessitated by intractable circumstances, and set exemplary standards for compassion and respect for human rights.
So it was that we laid down for the Isra'ilites that if one slayeth another, for other than man-slaughter or for spreading disorder in the land, it shall be as if he has slain all mankind. But if one saveth the life of a single person, it shall be as if he hath saved the life of all mankind. Our Apostles have already come to them with clear proofs (of their mission and tried to dissuade them from their evil behavior), and yet many of them there were who nevertheless went on committing excesses in the land. (Qur'an 5: 32)
The Pilgrimage (Hajj) by the Companions in the 9th year of The Migration
In the ninth year of Hijrah, Muhammad (S) sent three hundred of his companions to perform the Hajj. This was the first pilgrimage performed with the fall of Ibrahamic rituals. Abu Bakr lead the pilgrims; he explained the rituals of the Hajj and Ali read the first forty verses of Surat at-Tawbah.
(O ye believers!) Here is a declaration from Allah and His Prophet to those with who you have been in league till now, from among the (Arab) polytheists (that you are no longer in obligation to fulfill on your part the conditions of the covenant entered into with them). Tell them, 'You are now free to move about in the land as you like for four months.' But bear in mind that you cannot weaken Allah on any account. On the other hand, Allah will put to shame those who believe not in Him.
This is a proclamation on the part of Allah and His Apostle to those who assemble on the great occasion of the pilgrimage (Hajj) to the effect that Allah hath cleared Himself of all obligations to these polytheists even as does His Apostle.
So tell them, "If you turn to Allah even now, it will be better for you; but if ye still decline to do so, make it clear to yourselves that ye shall not weaken Allah." (O Prophet!) Announce to those who are not believers that a great chastisement awaiteth them. (Qur'an 9: 1-3)
The Ka'bah was banned for the polytheists.
It is not for the polytheists to use for habitation the places reserved for the worship of Allah while they continue to be witnesses against themselves of infidelity to Allah. These are the people whose works will come to naught and in Fire shall they abide. He alone has the privilege to attend the places where Allah is worshipped who believes in Allah and the Last Day and observes prayer and pays the poor due and fears none but Allah. These are they of whom it may be expected that they will prove themselves to be rightly guided.
...O ye believers! Surely those who prescribe partners to Allah are an unclean lot. Let them not after this approach the Holy Mosque, and if (due to lack of opportunity to profit by trading with them at the time of Hajj), you apprehend poverty, then (do not lose heart), Allah, if He please, will soon give you riches out of His abundance. Verily, Allah knoweth (your needs), the Wise. (Qur'an 9: 17-18 and 28)
The Struggle (Jihad) Against Economic Oppression
The ninth year after the migration was also the year when directives about usury (Riba) were promulgated. The amount loaned to an individual would double (Riba means doubling) when the duration of the loan expired. This exploitative practice would make it impossible for the individual who had requested the loan to be ever able to return it. Riba, which was practiced widely, forced many people into economic slavery. Banning of Riba was an important part of Islam's fight against oppression. Other important facets of this effort against economic inequity and establishing social justice are compulsory sharing of wealth (Zakah), one of the five pillars of Islam, encouragement of voluntary giving (Sadaqah), strict injunctions against hoarding, and promotion of circulation of wealth in the community by investing in productive ventures.
The Concept of Jihad (The Noble Struggle)
Much has been written about the concept of Jihad and its misunderstanding by non-Muslims as "holy war". It would be useful at this point to discuss the controversy surrounding the use and misuse of this word. For Muslims, the concept is quite straightforward, and can be illustrated by the following anecdote. Once when Muslim soldiers were returning from a military engagement, their commander made the statement that "We are going from a lesser Jihad to a greater Jihad". The soldiers were surprised, I suspect dismayed, and asked which military engagement they were headed for next. The commander replied that by "the greater Jihad" he meant Jihad or struggle against one's inner self (Nafs).
The word Jihad comes from the root letters JHD, which means to struggle or to strive. It is understood as a very positive, noble and laudatory term. That is how most piety minded Muslims understood the word and applied it in their personal, social, political and military lives. The history of the Muslims rulers, on the other hand, gives us examples of those who attempted to sanctify their wars of personal aggrandizement as wars for a noble cause by applying the label Jihad to them. A few even named their war departments as the departments of Jihad. This kind of behavior may be likened to the modern politician's attempt to wrap himself in the flag. It is easy to see through. Such exploitation of the term should not be allowed to corrupt the original or the commonly understood meaning of the word, which is to strive for the highest possible goals, struggle against injustice and practice self denial and self control to achieve the moral purity (Taqwa) to which all piety minded people aspire.
The "holy war" concept, for which many non-Muslims use the word Jihad, is foreign to Islam. Rather, it comes from a concept first used to justify the Crusades by the Christian Church during the Middle Ages. The concept of "holy war" also goes back to the time when the emperor Constantine the Great allegedly saw the vision in the sky with the inscription on the cross, "in hoc signo vinces" (in this sign you will be the victor).
The Arabic words for the term "the holy war" would be al-harab al-muqaddash, which neither appears in the Qur'an or the Hadith. None of Muhammad's (S) wars were fought with the objective and intent of converting people by force. In fact, as discussed earlier, these were defensive wars against groups who sought to eradicate Islam and the Muslims. In spite of that, the Prophet always tried to avoid confrontation. Conversion was never sought by coercion, but by extending the invitation to study and ponder over the message of the Qur'an. He made an appeal to the intellect as well as the deepest instincts of mankind.
It is interesting and useful for social scientists or philologists to study how the meaning and usage of words differ in different communities. Ironically the word "crusade", because of its association with the crusades, should have a pejorative sense to it and yet the word has acquired an ennobled meaning in the West, even though the Church itself, along with most historians, acknowledge the injustice of the Crusades and the atrocities done in the name of faith. On the other hand, the word "Jihad" which means for Muslims, striving for the highest possible goal, for non-Muslims has acquired the negative and unjustified connotation of the holy war. Part of this modern legacy stems from the period of European imperial aggression, in which Muslims defended their homelands in a justified, defensive military response, invoking the term Jihad at times. Many European commentators at the time merely scoffed at their struggle, or met it with multiples of military force, invoking a "civilizing mission" to the benighted. In conclusion, it is important to be aware how both words are used in the original context and meaning.
The Tenth Year of Migration (Hijrah)/The Farewell Pilgrimage
In the last year of his mission, the prophet Muhammad (S) decided to go on the Hajj pilgrimage. When this news became known, such large numbers of people came along that it looked as though the entire Arab nation was accompanying him. It was a climactic, majestic moment in the Prophet's life. The success of the mission that once was in doubt had now been accomplished. As he spoke that day, sitting on his camel at the top of the hill in the plain of 'Arafat, he could see devout Muslims gathered around him all the way to the horizon. What once appeared impossible had come true in most spectacular fashion. The time of troubles was behind him.
The Sermon at the Farewell Pilgrimage
After completing the pilgrimage, the Prophet stood on a small mountain (later called the mount of Mercy or Jabl al-Rahma) in the plain of 'Arafat, and gave a sermon that had an air of finality to it. It was like the period at the end of a sentence, the last chapter of a book, the last act in a play. He spoke in the past tense. "Today, I have completed the Din (complete system of life) for you... and selected for you Islam."
He began the speech by declaring, "All the pagan practices are crushed under my feet. O mankind, your Lord is One. Without doubt, your father Adam is one. No Arab has superiority over a non-Arab or a white over a black, or a black over a white, except on the basis of Taqwa (Allah consciousness). Each Muslim is the brother of another Muslim, and all Muslims are brothers. And as for your slaves, feed them what you eat, and clothe them with what you wear. All revenge from bloodshed during paganism is abolished. First and foremost, I forgive from my family, Rabi'ah bin al- Harith's son's murder. All usury is abolished. And first and foremost, from my family I abolish usury owed to my uncle, 'Abbas ibn 'Abdul Muttalib. Remember Allah in your dealings with women. You have rights over women, and they have rights over you. Your life and property are sacred to you till the Day of Reckoning."
After finishing the sermon, he asked, "When Allah will question you about me, what will you say?" The companions replied, "You delivered the message, you fulfilled your obligation." Muhammad (S) then raised his finger toward the sky and repeated three times, "Allahumma Ashhad" (O Allah, You are the witness). As he surveyed the crowd gathered to listen to him, he must have felt a sense of satisfaction. There are a number of other traditions attributed to this farewell pilgrimage. The four sacred months, in which all conflict was banned, were fixed. The practice of changing the months according to convenience was abolished.
The Final Illness
O men, If you have been worshipping Muhammad (S), then know that Muhammad (S) is dead. But if you have been worshipping Allah, then know that Allah is living and never dies.
The speech, which Muhammad (S) gave at the last pilgrimage and some of his other pronouncements, had the tone of a person who is bidding farewell. He appeared to have a premonition that his mission on this earth was coming to a close. His final illness lasted several days, producing a high fever and severe headaches. Occasionally, he fainted due to the extreme fever. Approximately four days before he died, he gave his last speech. He talked about the "choice" human beings have of striving primarily for success in this life or focusing on the hereafter. He stressed the Qur'anic concept that personal actions determine an individual's rewards. In a poignant Friday sermon he declared; "O Messenger of Allah's daughter, Fatimah, O Messenger of Allah's aunt, Safiyyah ibn 'Abdul Muttalib, perform righteous deeds for Allah, I cannot save you from Allah."
After the sermon (khutbah) he went back to 'A'ishah's chamber. The headache and the fever made him very uncomfortable. 'Aishah reports him as saying, "Jews and Christians have earned Allah's displeasure by turning the graves of their Messengers into temples of worship." He was obviously thinking of his death and was worried that his followers might commit the same fatal error because out of devotion and respect towards him. During the last day or two of his illness, he appeared to slip in and out of consciousness. He passed away in the month of May in the year 632 AD (the eleventh year of the Hijrah, in the Muslim month of Rabi' al-Awwal).
The news of Muhammad's (S) death spread rapidly. Most people were understandably in shock and disbelief. 'Umar was beside himself with grief, threatening to silence those who alleged the Apostle had died. However Abu Bakr maintained his poise. When he returned to the Prophet's house, he went up to the body, uncovered his face, and kissed him. Abu Bakr reportedly said, "... You (Muhammad have tasted death Allah has decreed it. A second death shall never overtake you."
He then went out in the courtyard and spoke these memorable words. "O men, if anyone worships Muhammad (S), Muhammad (S) is dead. If anyone worships Allah, Allah is alive, immortal."
Then he recited the following verse:
Muhammad is no more than an Apostle.
Apostles before him have passed away.
If he dies or is slain, will ye then turn on your heels?
And he who turneth on his heels shall not in the least injure Allah.
And Allah will soon reward the grateful. (Qur'an 3: 144)
Abu Bakr's actions and words at this emotional and critical moment in Muslim history had an impact on the course of Islam that is far more profound than most people realize. It prevented Muslims from succumbing to the very human instinct of deification of the Prophet which people had done to the memory of many other messengers and charismatic leaders in the past.