Abu Bakr unties the Mourners
As the news of the Prophet’s failing health spread among the Prophet’s Companions, their world darkened, and they were on the verge of losing their senses. No day had been brighter than the day the Prophet came to Madinah, and no day was darker than the twelfth of Rabi’ Al-Awwal, 11 A.H., the day he died.
Meanwhile, Umar was in the Prophet’s Mosque telling the people that the Prophet would not leave this world until Allah had destroyed the Hypocrites. He threatened to kill anyone who claimed the Prophet was dead.
That Monday morning, Abu Bakr noticed that the Prophet’s health seemed to be improving, and he returned home, optimistic that the Prophet would soon recover. When he reached home, however, he heard that the Prophet had passed away. He mounted his horse and galloped back to the Prophet’s Mosque. He entered without saying a word to anyone and walked into the Prophet’s house, where the Prophet lay, a Yemenite sheet covering his body. Abu Bakr uncovered the Prophet’s face, kissed him and wept. “May my mother and father be your ransom,” Abu Bakr said. “You have tasted the death that Allah has decreed for you. There is no death after this one.”
Conscious that the people needed to be addressed, Abu Bakr went into the Prophet’s Mosque where Umar stood fiercely denying the news of the Prophet’s death. Abu Bakr asked Umar to sit down, but he refused. Abu Bakr then went to the Prophet’s pulpit and praised Allah. He looked at the anxious faces before him and addressed them thus.
“O men, if anyone worships Muhammad, let him know that Muhammad is dead. But if anyone worships Allah, then know that Allah is alive and will never die. Allah says in the Qur’an: “Muhammad is but a messenger, and many other messengers have passed away before him. If he dies or is killed, will you return to disbelief? Truly, those who abandon belief do not hurt Allah. Indeed, Allah rewards those who are grateful.” (3: 144).
No one had ever reflected on the significance of the verse Abu Bakr recited during his address. It was inconceivable to most of the Companions that the Prophet would pass away before they did. Abbas relates; when Abu Bakr read this verse to us, it was as if Allah had never revealed it until that moment.
Umar was especially devastated by the news. Later, he was to describe his reaction in the following words: “By Allah, when I heard Abu Bakr reciting the verse, I was taken aback and fell down as it I did not have any legs. It was at that moment that I comprehended that the Prophet had died.”