The Start of the Disease
On Monday the 29th of Safar in the eleventh year of Hijrah, he participated in funeral rites in al-Baqi’. 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 of fourteen.
The Last Week
When his sickness grew severe he asked his wives: “Where shall I stay tomorrow?” or “Where shall I stay?” They understood what he wanted. So they allowed him to stay wherever he wished. He moved to ‘A’ishah’s room leaning – while he was walking – on al-Fadl ibn al-‘Abbas and ‘Ali ibn 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, ‘A’ishah used to recite al-Mu’awwidhat (Chapters 113 and 114 of the Qur’an) and other supplications which he has already taught her.
Five Days Before Death
On Wednesday, five days before he died the Prophet’s temperature rose so high signalling the severness 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 Allah falls upon the Jews and Christians for they have made their Prophets’ tombs places of worship.” [Sahih al-Bukhari, 1/62; Muwatta’ Imam Malik, p. 360] Then he said: “Do not make my tomb a worshipped idol.” [Muwatta’ 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 sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam 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 frilly acknowledge and appreciate the favour that these benefactors have shown and overlook their faults.”
And said: “Allah, the Great, has given a slave of His the opportunity to make a choice between whatever he desires of Allah’s provisions in this world, and what He keeps for him in the world, but he has opted for the latter.”
Abu Sa’id 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 Allah says about a slave of Allah who was granted the right between the best fortunes of this world and the bounty of Allah 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 Allah 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 Allah said:
“The fellow I feel most secure in his company is Abu Bakr. If I were to make friendship with any other one than Allah, 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.”
Four Days Before His Death
On Thursday, four days before the death of the Messenger of Allah 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 ibn al-Khattab said: “The Prophet of Allah is suffering from acute pain and you have the Qur’an with you; the Book of Allah is sufficient unto you.”Others however wanted the writing to be made. When Muhammad 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:
- Jews, Christians and polytheists should be expelled out of Arabia.
- He recommended that delegations should be honoured and entertained, in a way similar to the one he used to do.
- 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 Usamah’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 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 Allah) sent forth one after another.”
In the evening he grew so sick that he could not overcome the strain of disease or go out to enter the Mosque. ‘A’ishah said: The Prophet 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 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 sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
Three or four times ‘A’ishah talked to the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam 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 sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam 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 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 led the prayer, and Abu Bakr followed him and raised his voice at every ‘Allahu Akbar’ (i.e. Allah is the Greatest) the Prophet 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 sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam 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 ‘A’ishah 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 ibn 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 Allah raising the curtain of ‘A’ishah’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 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 Allah made them a gesture to continue their prayer, went into the room and drew down the curtain.” [ibid. 21640]
The Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did not live for the next prayer time.
When it was daytime, the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam 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. ‘A’ishah 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.”
He gave Fatimah glad tidings that she would become the lady of all women of the world [Rahmatul li’l-Alamin, 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 remarked:
“He will not suffer any more when today is over.”
He asked that al-Hasan and al-Husayn 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 Allah. Pain grew so much severe that the trace of poison he had at Khaybar came to light. It was so sore that he said to ‘A’ishah: “I still feel the painful effect of that food I tasted at Khaybar. 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 sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam Breathes His Last
When the pangs of death started, ‘A’ishah leant him against her. She used to say: One of Allah’s bounties upon me is that the Messenger of Allah died in my house, while I am still alive. He died between my chest and neck while he was leaning against me. Allah 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 Allah 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 Allah. Death is full of agonies.”
As soon as he had finished his Siwak, brushing, he raised his hand or finger up, looked upwards to the ceiling and moved his lips. So ‘A’ishah listened to him. She heard him say: “With those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace with the Prophets and the Truthful (as-Siddiqin), the martyrs and the good doers. O Allah, 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 Allah we turn and to Him we turn back for help and last abode.” This event took place at high morning time on Monday, the 12th of Rabi’ al-Awwal, in the eleventh year of hijrah. He was sixty-three years and four days old when he died.