Death of the Holy Prophet (s): The Immortal Sorrow:

The Prophet’s death was the greatest of
calamities that the Ahlul Bayt faced
After appointing Imam Ali (a.s.) in Ghadeer
Khum as the caliph over the nation after him,
the Prophet (saws) set out back to Medina.
But, a day after another, his health got worse
and illnesses began attacking him. He suffered
a bad fever for many days that whoever of his
wives or visitors put herhis hand on his (the
Prophet) body, felt its heat.[1] A vessel of cold
water was put beside him in which he put his
hand and put it on his holy face in order to
lessen the heat of the fever. Some sources of
history mention that the Prophet’s illness was
because of a poisonous food offered to him by
a Jewish woman. He often said, “I
am still feeling the pain of the food that I had
eaten in Khaybar. This is the time that I found
my aorta is cut because of that poison.”[2]
When the news of the Prophet’s illness spread
among Muslims, they hurried to visit him while
being so distressed and sad. What made them
more distressed was that the Prophet (saws)
himself confirmed to them his soon death
saying, “O people, I am about to be made die
soon and taken away. I speak to you to be
excused before you; I leave among you the
Book of Allah and my progeny, my family.”
Then, he took the hand of Imam Ali, who was
sitting beside him, and said, “This is Ali; he is
with the Qur’an and the Qur’an is with Ali.
They shall
not separate until they shall come to me at the
pond (in the Paradise).”[3]
In this recommendation, the Prophet (saws)
invited Muslims to keep to the Holy Qur’an
and to his progeny in order not to go astray or
fall into seditions.
The Army of Usamah
The Prophet (saws) saw factionalism among his
companions and he became certain that they
would fulfill their plans to take the caliphate
away from his family, who were the center of
knowledge and wisdom, and especially from his
guardian and successor Imam Ali (a.s.). Hence,
he thought to rescue the situation by sending
all his companions in an army to fight the
Romans so that his capital would be empty of
them and thus Imam Ali (a.s.) would assume
the caliphate after his (the Prophet) death
easily and with no obstacles.
The Prophet (saws) ordered all the notables of
the Muhajireen and the Ansar to join the army
of Usama whom he had appointed as the
leader though he was a very young man.
Among those men there were Abu Bakr, Umar,
Abu Ubaydah bin al-Jarrah, and Basheer bin
Sa’d, and all of them were from the
oppositionist party.[4] The Prophet (saws) said
to Usama, the leader of the army, “March to
the place where your father was killed and
make the horsemen defeat them (the Romans).
I have entrusted you with the leadership of
this army. In the morning, attack the people of
Ubna (in Syria) and meet them with fire. Hurry
up to precede the news. If Allah grants you
victory over them, do not remain there too
long. Take guides with you, and make spies and
pioneers in the front.”
On the twenty-ninth of Safar, the army
mutinied and no one of the notable
companions joined his battalion. The Prophet
(saws) was very angry at that. He went out of
his house in spite of his illness. He encouraged
his companions to join the army. He himself
gave the banner to Usama and said to him,
“March by the name of Allah and for the sake
of Allah. Fight those who disbelieve in Allah.”
Usama marched with his army and camped in
al-Jurf.[5] The famous companions slackened in
joining the camp. They criticized and
disparaged the leader, young Usama. Umar
said to him, “The messenger of Allah dies while
you are an emir over me?!”
This saying was conveyed to the Prophet (saws)
while he was badly ill suffering bad fever and
headache. He became very angry and
distressed. He went out of his house wrapped
with a velvet garment and his head was folded.
He ascended the minbar and showed the
people his anger about not carrying out his
orders. He said,
“O people, what for is the saying of someone
of you that criticizes my appointing Usama as
the emir? You have criticized my appointing
his father as emir before. By Allah, he was
worthy of the emirate and his son after him is
worthy of it…”[6]
He descended the minbar and went into his
house. Then, he recommended people to join
the army of Usama by saying, “Prepare the
army of Usama!”
“Let the army of Usama march!’
“May Allah curse whoever does not join the
army of Usama!”
These firm orders and insistence of the
Prophet (saws) at his last hours of life did not
move the people’s determination. They
slackened in joining the army and justified
their doing with different excuses, though the
Prophet (saws) did not accept their excuses.
Rather, he showed them his anger and
discontent.
As for the purpose of the Prophet (saws)
behind his appointing of Usama as the leader
of the army though he was too young was as
the following:
First, the Prophet (saws) wanted to refute all
the points of disagreement and criticism
against the appointing of Imam Ali (a.s.) as the
caliph that he was young, for Usama was
younger than him.
Second, to ignore old age and not paying
attention to it in entrusting the high positions
in the state if an old man had no sufficient
abilities and talents, for the managements of
the nation’s affairs must be entrusted to well-
qualified people.
The Prophet (saws) said, “He, who precedes
some men of Muslims while seeing that there
are ones among them better than him, betrays
Allah, His messenger, and the Muslims.”[7]
Islam is totally careful in appointing the best
of people in the posts of the state to sincerely
regard the public interests and be loyal in
serving the people, in collecting taxes, and in
spending the general wealth, and be just in
judging among people. All this has nothing to
do with old age.
Third, appointing young Usama as the leader of
that army refuted all Imam Ali’s opponents
who disliked him to be the caliph justifying
their intention that Imam Ali (a.s.) was a young
man then.
The Calamity of Thursday
The political tendencies and opportunistic
trends which the famous companions adopted
to turn the caliphate away from the Ahlul Bayt
(a.s.) appeared clearly before the Prophet
(saws). Therefore, he saw, in the last hours of
his life, that he should save his nation from
deviation and assure to it happiness and
prosperity. He wanted to confirm the homage
of Ghadeer Khum paid to Imam Ali (a.s.) by
registering it in a document. He asked his
companions, “Bring me a piece of paper and
an inkpot to write you a book by which you
shall not go astray at
all…”
It was the greatest blessing that the Prophet
(saws) wanted to write a book for the nation
by which it would not go astray forever. It was
a very precious opportunity, but,
unfortunately, those companions lost it easily.
And unfortunately, some of the Prophet’s
companions understood that the Prophet
(saws) had intended to write down in that book
the decree of the caliphate to Imam Ali (a.s.)
and that would make their greed go in vain;
therefore, one of them said, “The Book of Allah
is enough to us…”[8]
Undoubtedly, if this sayer knew that the
Prophet (saws) wanted to recommend of
anything else in that book, he would not reply
so impudently, but he understood well that the
Prophet (saws) wanted to announce the caliph
after him.
Anyhow, disputes and disagreements increased
among the attendants that some of them
wanted to carry out the Prophet’s wish and
some others insisted on objection. The women
from behind the curtain denied that impudent
situation towards the Prophet (saws), who was
living his last moments, and they cried out
addressing the Prophet’s companions, “Do you
not hear what the messenger of Allah is
saying? Do you not carry out what the
messenger of Allah wants?”
Umar, who was the head of the oppositionists
then, harshly replied to the women, “You are
the friends of Yousuf (Prophet Joseph). If he
became ill, you would press your eyes (to shed
tears), and if he recovered, you would ride on
his neck.”
The Prophet (saws) looked at him angrily and
said, “Let them alone! They are better than
you.”
A terrible dispute broke out between the men.
The party that wanted to carry out the
Prophet’s order was about to win, but someone
(Umar) shot a bad arrow against the Prophet’s
order by saying harshly and impudently, “The
Prophet is raving!”[9]
How daring he was towards the Prophet (saws)
and how impudent he was before the
messenger of Allah!
These events must be studied thoughtfully and
exactly because they concern the essence of
our Islamic life. They have a clear criticism
against the messenger of Allah, who was
accused of raving whereas Allah has said about
him, (Your companion does not err, nor does
he go astray, nor does he speak out of desire.
It is naught but revelation that is revealed. The
Lord of Mighty Power has taught him),[10] and
(Most surely it is the Word of an honored
messenger, the processor of strength, having
an honorable place with the Lord of the
Dominion).[11]
Yes, by Allah! This sayer had heard these verses
that Allah had revealed about His holy
prophet, but the political tendencies and the
greed to authority led him to face the
messenger of Allah with these severe words
that hurt and threw Muslims into seditions,
disasters, and great evils. When Ibn Abbas
remembered this painful event, he wept and
his tears covered his cheeks. He often said,
“Thursday, and what Thursday is! The
messenger of Allah (a.s.) said, ‘Bring me a
piece of paper and an inkpot to write you a
book by which you shall not go astray after me
at all’ and they said, ‘The messenger of Allah is
raving.’”[12]
Ibn Abbas wept because he knew well that the
Prophet (saws) wanted to write down the
decree of Imam Ali’s caliphate after him. But
alas! The companions accused the messenger
of Allah of raving which was a clear criticism
against his personality that had been chosen by
the Lord of the worlds, and that caused him to
refrain from writing down that book in order
to preserve the sacredness of prophethood.
Fatima’s distress
Sorrow and distress filled Fatima’s heart and
pain hurt her too much when she became
certain that her father was going to leave her
for the other world. She sat beside and stared
at him. She heard him saying, “Ah, my
anguish!”
She, shedding tears, said, “Ah, my anguish for
your anguish father!”
The loving father said kindly to his darling
daughter, “There is no anguish for your father
after this day!”[13]
She was very affected by these words because
she became completely certain that her father
would leave her. When the Prophet (saws) saw
her very sad and distressed, he wanted to
delight her. He asked her to come closer to
him. He whispered to her something and her
eyes were filled with tears, and then he
whispered to her another thing and she began
smiling. Aa’isha (the Prophet’s wife) was
astonished at seeing that and she said, “I have
not seen delight that is nearer to sadness like
this of today.”
Aa’isha asked Fatima (a.s.) about what her
father whispered to her but she did not
answer her. When days passed, Fatima (a.s.)
told Aa’isha saying, “He said to me: ‘Gabriel
reviewed the (whole) Qur’an to me once a
year, but this year, he reviewed it to me twice.
I do not think except that my death has
come.’”
This was the cause of her pain and weeping. As
for the cause of her delight, she said, “He said
to me: ‘You are the first one of my family that
shall join me (die). I am the best ancestor to
you. Are you not pleased to be the principal of
the women of this nation?’”[14]
The Prophet (saws) comforted Fatima (a.s.)
saying, “O my daughter, do not weep! When I
die, you say: ‘we are Allah’s and to Him we
shall return’. It has recompense for any dead
one.”
She said, “And for you O messenger of Allah?!”
He said, “Yes, and for me.”[15]
When the Prophet (saws) began suffering more
pain, Fatima (a.s.) began weeping and she said
to him, “By Allah, you are like what some sayer
has said:
“A white one by whose face it is prayed that
clouds may rain; the resort of orphans, the
guard of widows.”’
The Prophet (saws) said to her, “It is the saying
of your uncle Abu Talib.” Then he recited this
Qur’anic verse: (And Muhammad is but a
messenger; the messengers have already
passed away before him. If then he dies or is
killed, will you turn back upon your heels? And
whoever turns back upon his heels, he will by
no means do harm to Allah in the least and
Allah will reward the grateful).[16]
The Prophet recommends of his Family
Anas bin Malik narrated, “Fatima, with al-
Hasan and al-Husayn, came to the Prophet
(saws) in his last illness. She embraced him and
stuck her chest to his while weeping bitterly.
The Prophet (saws) ordered her not to weep
out of pitying her. He said while tears were
falling down over his cheeks, ‘O Allah, these
are my family. I have entrusted them to every
believer…’ He repeated that three times.[17] He
said that because he understood from behind
the unseen that his family would face all kinds
of calamities.
The Prophet’s recommendation about his two
grandsons
Three days before his departure to the better
world, the Prophet (saws) recommended Imam
Ali (a.s.) to care much for his two grandsons
saying to him, “O father of the two darlings, I
recommend you of my two darling grandsons
in all this life. How soon your two supports
will be undermined! May Allah be my guardian
to you…”
When the Prophet (saws) died, Imam Ali (a.s.)
said, “This is one of my two supports that the
messenger of Allah talked about”, and when
Fatima (a.s.) died, he said, “This is the second
support that the messenger of Allah told me
about.”[18]
To the High Paradise
It was time for the Prophet (saws) to leave this
world and join the highest Paradise. The Angel
of Death came down to him asking permission.
Fatima (a.s.) said to the angel, “He (the
Prophet) is busy with himself.” The Angel of
Death left and came back later asking
permission. The Prophet (saws) woke up and
said to his daughter, “Do you know him?”
She said, “No, O messenger of Allah.”
The Prophet (saws) said, “He is the establisher
of graves, destroyer of houses (families), and
separator of gatherings.”
Fatima (a.s.) was shocked and sorrows attacked
her. She said sadly, “O Father! To the death of
the last of prophets (he has come)? Alas! To
the death of the best of the pious and to the
end of the master of choices? Alas! To the
cease of the Revelation from the Heaven? After
today, I shall be prevented from talking with
you.”
The Prophet (saws) pitied his darling daughter
and said to her, “Do not weep! You will be the
first one to join me…”[19]
Then, the Prophet (saws) permitted the Angel
of Death to come in to him. When he came in,
he said, “O messenger of Allah, Allah has sent
me to you and ordered me to obey you in
whatever you order me to do. If you order me
to take your soul, I shall do, and if you order
me to leave it, I shall do.”
The Prophet (saws) was astonished at the
Angel’s courtesy. He said, “O Angel of Death,
would you do that?”
The Angel said, “I have been ordered to obey
you in whatever you order me to do.”
No one of Allah’s prophets and messengers had
ever got such preference as Prophet
Muhammad (a.s.) had. Allah had ordered the
Angel of Death to ask permission before
coming in to him and to obey him in
everything.
Then Gabriel came down saying to the Prophet
(saws), “O Ahmed, Allah is longing for you.”
The Prophet (saws) chose to be near his Lord,
for the afterlife would be better to him than
this life. He permitted the Angel of Death to
take his holy soul.
Then he said to Imam Ali (a.s.), “Put my head
in your lap, for the decree of Allah has come.
When my soul comes out, take it and rub your
face with it, and then direct me towards the
qibla, prepare me, offer the prayer on me, and
do not leave me until you burry me in my
grave. Seek help from Allah the Almighty.”
Imam Ali (a.s.) put the Prophet’s head in his
lap and put his (imam Ali) right hand under his
(the Prophet) chin. When the Prophet’s holy
soul left his pure body, Imam Ali rubbed his
holy face with it.[20]
Mankind was afflicted with a great calamity;
the leader, teacher, and educator died, and
that light, which lit this world with the divine
teachings, high morals, and noble manners,
went to the other world.
Muslims were shocked by the disaster and they
lost their minds. The Prophet’s wives…began
beating their chests. The women of the Ansar
beat their faces, and their throats were
harmed because of crying.[21]
As for Fatima (a.s.), she fell over the pure
body of her father saying, “O father! O
prophet of mercy! Now, the Revelation does
not come. Now, Gabriel ceases coming to us. O
Allah, let my soul join his (the Prophet) soul,
and have mercy on me by looking at his face,
and do not prevent me from his reward and
intercession on the Day of Resurrection.”[22]
Then she mourned for him saying, “O Father,
to Gabriel I mourn you! O father, the Paradise
is your abode! O father, you responded to the
Lord Who has invited you!”[23]
Preparing the Holy Corpse for Burial
Imam Ali (a.s.), alone, washed (ritually) and
prepared the Prophet’s corpse for burial due
to his (the Prophet) own order. While washing
the Prophet’s body, Imam Ali (a.s.) sorrowfully
said, “May my father and mother be sacrificed
for you O messenger of Allah! By your death,
something has ceased that it has not ceased by
the death of any other than you; prophethood,
revelation, and the news of the Heaven. You
have been particular until you sufficed away
from anyone other than you, and you have
been popular until people were the same in
you. If
you had not enjoined on patience and
forbidden from impatience, we would have
exhausted our tears for you, and disease would
have lasted long, and distress would have
endured forever.”[24]
Imam Ali (a.s.) talked about this ghusl (ritual
washing) saying, “I undertook his ghusl while
the angels were my assistants. The house and
the yards were full of clamor. Angels were
coming down and angels were going up. Their
whisperings did not leave my hearing. They
were praying Allah for him.”
Al-Abbas, the Prophet’s uncle and Usama gave
Imam Ali (a.s.) water from behind a curtain.
[25] Good scent came out of the Prophet’s
body. Imam Ali (a.s.) said, “May my father and
mother be sacrificed for you O messenger of
Allah! You are good scented alive and dead.
”[26] The water, which the Prophet’s corpse
was washed with, was from a well called al-
Ghars that the Prophet (saws) used to drink
from.[27] Finishing the ritual washing, Imam
Ali (a.s.) enshrouded the holy corpse and put
it on a bed.
The Prayer over the Holy Corpse
The first who offered the prayer on the great
corpse was Allah from above His Throne, then
Gabriel, Israfel, and then the angels groups by
groups.[28] And then, Imam Ali (a.s.) offered
the prayer on him.
When Muslims came to offer the prayer on the
Prophet’s corpse, Imam Ali (a.s.) said to them,
“No one of you is to be an imam (in the
prayer). He (the Prophet) is your imam alive
and when dead.”
So, Muslims came group by group to offer the
prayer of the dead in lines with no imam.
Imam Ali (a.s.) was standing beside the
Prophet’s corpse and saying, “Peace be on you,
O prophet, and Allah’s mercy and blessings. O
Allah, we bear witness that he has informed of
what has been revealed to him, been loyal to
his nation, and struggled in the way of Allah
until Allah glorified His religion and perfected
His word. O Allah, make us from those who
follow what has been revealed to him, and fix
us (on that) after him, and gather us with him.”
People said, “Amen.”[29]
The masses of Muslims passed by the Prophet’s
pure body to see him off while overcome by
sorrow and distress, because their savior,
liberator, and teacher, who had established to
them a great civilization and state that
prevailed the world and had lit to them the life
after their ignorance and deviation, died.
The Burial
After the rituals of prayer on the holy corpse
finished, Imam Ali (a.s.) dug the tomb and
buried the sacred body in the last abode. He
stood beside the tomb and said, “Patience is
nice except for you, and impatience is ugly
except for you. The calamity of your death is
so great, and it is so great before and after
you.”[30]
It was a very terrible day for all Muslims. The
loss of their prophet was so great affliction to
them that they could not bear. The Light of
Allah and His great mercy that they used to
see every moment was no longer among them
since that moment. Sorrows and weeping filled
every house everywhere.
But as for the pure progeny of the Prophet
(saws), they were so terrified after his death.
They feared that the Arabs, and especially the
tribe of Quraysh, might revolt to avenge on
the Prophet’s family, because the Prophet
(saws) had killed their men for the sake of
Islam. The tendency of avenging was deep-
rooted in the Arabs, and it was Imam Ali (a.s.)
who had killed their men and heroes, and so
they were eager to avenge. Imam as-Sadiq
(a.s.) said,
“When the messenger of Allah (a.s.) died, his
family spent the longest night and they thought
that there would be no sky to shade and no
earth to carry them, because the messenger of
Allah had afflicted the near and the far (for
the sake of Allah).”[31]
Anyhow, the Prophet’s death was the greatest
of calamities that the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) faced. It
was the beginning of the terrible calamities
that they suffered later on. Quraysh avenged
and announced openly that, “Prophethood and
caliphate should not gather together in one
house.” And indeed it was so! The Ahlul Bayt
(a.s.) were deprived of their rights and kept
away from what Allah and His messenger had
intended for them. After fifty years, the
Prophet’s progeny were killed in the desert of
Kerbala, their heads were carried on spears,
and their women and children were taken
prisoners and made to go from place to
another unveiled before all classes of people
who looked at their faces that were unveiled
unwillingly and by force though they were the
Prophet’s daughters! We are Allah’s and to Him
we shall return.

Source: The Life of Muhammad (s) by Allama
Baqir Shareef al-Qurashi