28-The Prophet's Death
one night, shortly after his return to medinah, the prophet(pbuh) woke up at midnight and asked his servant' abd allah to saddle his mule. they then left the house and went to the baqi al-gharqad, the burial ground of the muslims. there the prophet (pbuh) stood in the front of the graves and, as though he could see the muslims buried in them, spoke to them and prayed over them. later, 'abd allah reported, 'the prophet (pbuh) told me that he was ordered to pray for the dead and that i was to go with him.'
after the prophet (pbuh) had prayed he turned to 'abd allah and said, 'i can choose between all the riches of this world, a long life and then paradise,
or meeting my lord and entering paradise now.' 'abd allah begged him to choose a long, rich life, followed by paradise, but the prophet (pbuh) told him that he had already chosen to meet his lord now rather than remain in the world. the following morning the prophet (pbuh) awoke with a terrible headache, but despite this he had led the prayers at the mosque. from what he said afterwards to the people assembled there, they understood that his death was near. the prophet (pbuh) praised his best friend, abu bakr, who had begun to weep, and told everyone that he knew they would all meet again at a pool in paradise. he added, however that although he was sure they would always worship allah alone, he feared that the pleasures of the world would attract them, and they would begin to compete with one another for material possessions, forgetting spiritual things. soon after the prophet (pbuh) requested that he be moved to the room of a'isha, one of his wives. as the days passed his fever grew worse, until one day he was so ill that he could not even get to the mosque,
which was next to where a'isha lived. the prophet (pbuh) told a'isha to tell the muslims to let abu bakr, her father, lead the prayer, which made them very sad for this was the first time anyone had taken the prophet's place.
later, on the 12th day of rabi al-awal, in the 11th year of islam (june 8th 632 a.d.), the prophet (pbuh) heard the voices of the people in prayer. with great effort he got up and looked from his door at all the muslims who were assembled in rows behind abu bakr; he smiled with great satisfaction. abu bakr saw him and stepped back to give the prophet (pbuh) his place. the muslims were happy, thinking he was going to pray with them as before, but the prophet muhammad (pbuh), who looked radiantly beautiful that day signaled to them to continue on their own. he prayed in a sitting position at the right of abu bakr, after which he went back inside and lay his head on 'a'ishah's lap. he was in such pain that his daughter fatimah cried out in pity.
then the prophet (pbuh) said, 'there is no pain for your father after this day; truly, death has appeared to me. we must all suffer it till the day of judgement.' as he lay there, a'ishah remembered that he had once said, allah never takes a prophet to himself without giving him the choice.' then she heard the prophet (pbuh) speak. his last words were, 'nay, rather the exalted communion of paradise.'
a'ishah then said to herself, 'so, by allah, he is not choosing us!' when the people in the mosque heard that the prophet (pbuh) was dead, they were filled with grief. 'umar could not, and would not, believe it, and exclaimed that it was not true. abu bakr then went out and spoke gently to the people, saying 'all praise belongs to allah! 0 people, whoever worshipped muhammad, muhammad is dead. but for him who worships allah, allah is living and never dies.'
he then recited this verse from the koran which had been revealed after the battle of uhud:
in the name of allah, the beneficent, the merciful
muhammad is but a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) have passed away before him. will it be that, when he dies or is slain, you will turn back on your heels? he who turns back does no hurt to allah, and allah will reward the thankful. no soul can ever die except by allah's permission and at a term appointed.
who so desires the reward of the world, we bestow on him thereof; and whosoever desires the reward of the hereafter, we bestow on him thereof we shall reward the thankful". (koran iii.144-145)
after this the people pledged their loyalty to abu bakr, whom the prophet (pbuh) had chosen to lead the prayer. abu bakr accepted and concluded what he had to say with these words: 'obey me so long as i obey allah and his messenger. but if i disobey allah and his messenger, you owe me no obedience. arise for your prayer, allah have mercy upon you!' the people rose and asked him; 'where will the prophet (pbuh) be buried?' abu bakr remembered that the prophet (pbuh) had said, 'no prophet dies who is not buried on the spot where he died.
and so the prophet (pbuh) was buried in a grave dug in the floor of a'ishah's room, in the house next to the mosque. the spot became known as the haram al-nabawi and muslims from all over the world go there to pray and to give their blessings and greetings of peace the prophet muhammad (pbuh). and lo! thine verily will be a reward unfailing. and lo! thou art of a tremendous nature. (koran lxvii. 3-4)