On the passing of the last prophet of Islam – Unity in Islam

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SHAFAQNA – If the last prophet of Islam: Muhammad ibn Abdullah managed through his lifetime to overcome great many enemies and pitfalls … many were those who wished to silence his voice and disappear his message, it is towards the end that his greatest battle would be fought.

I would personally argue that Islam’s deadliest of enemies were never those who wielded the sword, but rather those who worked to strip Islam’s message away from its concept and pervert truths into manipulations.

While Islam was sent as a last reaffirmation and restoration of the Word of God, Islam as a faith never stood immune from the poison of reformation, fabrication, and overall redaction …. And though the Quran remains forever protected in Its text, its interpretation and the application communities have made of its tenets have sadly not. As always, the perfected Word has been played by Tyrants’ hands to fit within their vindictive narrative, thus negating those principles the Prophet Muhammad breathed into existence through his tradition: his Sunna.

It is his Sunna today which remains a matter of deep contention and tension. It is regrettably men’s self-proclaimed righteous interpretation of the prophet Muhammad’s tradition, and their right to interpret it which to this day have torn the fabric of Islam apart and allowed for fanaticism to grab hold.

I will offer this: righteousness is not anyone’s ground to claim – only a virtue to strive for. If we are perfectly honest this old argument over whose and what tradition stands truer to that of the prophet Muhammad’s is often debated not out of concern for one’s piety, but instead one’s arrogant need to be proven right.

If we consider that there is a battle raging within our soul, and bearing in mind what is truly at stake, maybe we ought to consider the nature of our disagreements and realise that if there is indeed an argument to be had it is for our salvation.  Being right is beside the point. Being true however is a virtue of Islam.

Much of Islam’s disagreement lies with the completion of Islam, and what scholars have considered the prophet Muhammad’s testament to be. I am not just referring to the issue of leadership – it is much more complicated than that. By testament I mean the prophet’s religious legacy – Islam as the living manifestation of God’s Will, the embodiment of Divine Command through the act of prophethood and ultimately Custodianship.

Since I am not a scholar of Islam I will refer to History and what History recorded of the last days of the Prophet Muhammad as such a study offers objectivity through factual observation.

It is the year 10 AH[1], and the prophet had just completed what would be his last Hajj pilgrimage. It was then, some twenty years after the first revelation, that Islam was made complete with the following verses: “O Messenger! Deliver what has been revealed to you from your Lord; and if you do it not, then you have not delivered His message, and Allah will protect you from the people; surely Allah will not guide the unbelieving people.” (Quran 5:67)

What was this message of such paramount importance that should the prophet had failed in delivering it Islam would have been negated as a whole?

This message was more than another recitation as it would come as a testimony of allegiance: the Oath of Ghadeer.

Al-Nasa’i in Kitabul Khasa’is narrates a tradition from Zaid ibn al-Arqam on the authority of Abu al-Tufail:

“Returning from the Farewell Pilgrimage, the Prophet camped at Ghadeer Khum. He ordered a pulpit to be made for him. Once the pulpit had been made, he graced it and said, “I have been called back by the Lord, and I have submitted to His orders. Now I leave among you two valuable things, one of them is the Quran and the other is my progeny. These shall not separate from each other till they meet me together at the Kawthar in Heaven; therefore, be careful and guard yourselves in your dealings with the Quran and with my progeny after me.” Then the Prophet added, “Hearken! Allah is my Master, and I am the master of the believers.” Then he raised Ali’s hand and said, “‘Ali is the Master of whoever accepts me as his master. O Lord! Befriend whoever befriends ‘Ali and alienate Yourself from whoever alienates Ali! “”[2]

While there have been many contradictive narrations arguing the factual veracity of the Oath of Ghadeer, history is adamant: it did took place. And though this may upset certain clerics, school of thoughts and interpretations, truth should not be taken as an offense.

Numerous accounts on Ghadeer can be found in the books of Ahle Sunnah.

Zia-ud-din Maqbooli, a reputed Sunni scholar said, “If we are not willing to accept the tradition of Ghadeer as established and indisputable, then we’ll have to certainly believe that no other incident has ever transpired in Islam.”[3]

After Ghadeer, the prophet returned to Medina. Soon after he fell ill …

As death drew near, the Prophet Muhammad, tradition reads, called upon his daughter Fatimah to bring the members of the House to his bed.

It is stated in Rawdatul-ahbab that the Prophet said to Fatimah, “Bring your sons to me.” Fatimah brought Hasan and Husain to the Prophet. Both of them greeted the Prophet, sat by his side and wept at witnessing the agony of the Prophet in such a manner that the people who saw them weeping could not hold their tears. Hasan rested his face upon the Prophet’s face and Husain rested his head upon the Prophet’s chest.

The Prophet opened his eyes and kissed his grandsons lovingly, enjoining the people to love and respect them. In another tradition, it is stated that the companions who were present there, having seen Hasan and Husain weep, wept so loudly that the Prophet himself could not hold his tears at their grief. Then he said, “Call my beloved brother ‘Ali to me.” ‘Ali came in and sat near the head of the Prophet. When the Prophet lifted his head, ‘Ali moved to the side and, holding the Prophet’s head, he rested it, on his own lap. The Prophet then said:

“O Ali! I have taken a certain amount from so and so for the expenditure on Usamah’s army. See that you repay it. And, O Ali! You will be the first person to reach me at the heavenly reservoir of al-Kawthar. You will also be given a lot of trouble after my death. You should bear it patiently and when you see that the people prefer the lust of this world, you should prefer the hereafter.”

“O people! There has come to you an admonition from your Lord which is a healing for what is in the breasts, and a guidance and mercy for the believers.” – Quran, 10:57

Why does this matter?

If you consider that everything the prophet did and say was a religious act, then we must consider the religious significance of both Ghadeer and the status AhlulBayt was given upon the prophet’s death.

It is essential we understand also that whatever dispute arose following the death of the Prophet Muhammad was not born from competing political discourses but an imperious need to abide by the prophet’s tradition, the expression of His will.

The Prophet Muhammad was rather clear when he said: “Now I leave among you two valuable things, one of them is the Quran and the other is my progeny. These shall not separate from each other till they meet me together at the Kawthar in Heaven; therefore, be careful and guard yourselves in your dealings with the Quran and with my progeny after me.”

Unity in Islam is in fact in the completion of the tradition of the prophet. Only then can Islam act a rampart against fanaticism, bigotry and falsehood.

In disunity Islam has been used by tyrants and zealots to bring about NOT liberation but slavery and butchery. In disunity Muslims have stood NOT as brothers but sworn enemies. In disunity Islam’s heritage has been claimed by fanaticism and all links to the House of the prophet almost disappeared.

The real question we should consider is therefore: have we hold on to the rope of Allah?

If the prophet of Islam, Muhammad ibn Abdullah passed away he did not leave his community without guidance, he did not, as it has been theorised, omit to carry a will. And though one could always argue that his legacy is that of prophethood it would be denying divine order to imagine Guidance would be offered without Custodianship.

From the first prophet to the last, the Word of God always saw appointed a rightful Guardian of the Tradition. And just as the verses of the Quran cannot be divorced from the entirety of the text – Muhammad ibn Abdullah’s prophethood should not be divorced from that of all prophets.

Today slander has been used as a religious argument – a mean to castigate never to elevate, so that communities would learn to live in distrust and mistrust of one another. Islam surely is worth more than our pettiness.

By Catherine Shakdam for the Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies.

 

 

 

 

[1] AH the Latin for “Anno Hegirae” which means emigration. It is a reference to the first Islamic year beginning in 622 AD. It marks the emigration of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina, known as the Hijra.

[2] The Holy Prophet – By Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi

[3] Al Ghadeer – vol. 1, page 307

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