From Merchant to Messenger

The Prophet Muhammad's struggle for legitimacy as revealed in the Koran

Death of Muhammad

From Merchant to MessengerNarrated Ubada bin As-Samit:

The Prophet said, "Whoever loves to meet Allah, Allah (too) loves to meet him and whoever hates to meet Allah, Allah (too) hates to meet him."

Aisha, or some of the wives of the Prophet said, "But we dislike death."

He said: “It is not like this, but it is meant that when the time of the death of a believer approaches, he receives the good news of Allah's pleasure with him and His blessings upon him, and so at that time nothing is dearer to him than what is in front of him. He therefore loves the meeting with Allah, and Allah (too) loves the meeting with him. But when the time of the death of a disbeliever approaches, he receives the evil news of Allah's torment and His Requital, whereupon nothing is more hateful to him than what is before him. Therefore, he hates the meeting with Allah, and Allah too, hates the meeting with him."

Bukhari 76.514

The Koran, being a narration by Muhammad, obviously contains nothing of the narrator’s death, except for perhaps the verse Abu Bakr repeated after his passing which none remembered. For information on the death of God’s ultimate spokesman, we must look to the hadiths and what was said by those who were there. Muhammad’s time of death was of his own choosing. In one tradition, he is praying for the dead at a cemetery when he is given the option by God—a choice offered to all prophets—“’the keys of the treasuries of the world and a long life here followed by Paradise’ or the choice to meet the Lord in Paradise at once.”[25] It was after returning from this visit to Medina’s graveyard that he fell deathly ill. Aisha reminds us in a hadith of the choice her husband made:

Narrated Aisha:

When Allah's Apostle was in good health, he used to say, "No prophet's soul is ever captured unless he is shown his place in Paradise and given the option (to die or survive)."

So when the death of the Prophet approached and his head was on my thigh, he became unconscious for a while and then he came to his senses and fixed his eyes on the ceiling and said, "O Allah (with) the highest companions."

I said, "Hence he is not going to choose us."

And I came to know that it was the application of the narration which he (the Prophet) used to narrate to us. And that was the last statement of the Prophet (before his death), i.e. "O Allah! With the highest companions."

Bukhari 76.516

Muhammad spent his last days on Earth in the house of his favourite wife and confidante, his child bride Aisha.

Narrated Aisha:

When the ailment of the Prophet became aggravated and his disease became severe, he asked his wives to permit him to be nursed (treated) in my house. So they gave him the permission. Then the Prophet came (to my house) with the support of two men, and his legs were dragging on the ground, between Abbas, and another man.

Ubaid-Ullah (the sub narrator) said, "I informed Abdullah bin Abbas of what Aisha said.

Ibn Abbas said: 'Do you know who was the other man?'

I replied in the negative.

Ibn Abbas said, 'He was Ali (bin Abi Talib)."

Aisha further said, "When the Prophet came to my house and his sickness became aggravated he ordered us to pour seven skins full of water on him, so that he might give some advice to the people. So he was seated in a Mikhdab (brass tub) belonging to Hafsa, the wife of the Prophet. Then, all of us started pouring water on him from the water skins till he beckoned to us to stop and that we have done (what he wanted us to do). After that he went out to the people."

Bukhari 4:197

 Muhammad disliked taking medicine.

Narrated Aisha:

We poured medicine in one side of the Prophet's mouth during his illness and he started pointing to us, meaning to say, "Don't pour medicine in my mouth."

We said, "(He says so) because a patient dislikes medicines."

When he improved and felt a little better, he said, "Didn't I forbid you to pour medicine in my mouth?"

We said, "(We thought it was because of) the dislike, patients have for medicines."

He said, "Let everyone present in the house be given medicine by pouring it in his mouth while I am looking at him, except Abbas as he has not witnessed you (doing the same to me)."

Bukhari 59.735

During his last days, Muhammad asked Abu Bakr, who would succeed him as leader of the believers, to lead his flock in prayer.

Narrated Al-Aswad:

"We were with Aisha discussing the regularity of offering the prayer and dignifying it. She said, 'When Allah's Apostle fell sick with the fatal illness and when the time of prayer became due and Adhan was pronounced, he said, 'Tell Abu Bakr to lead the people in prayer.'

He was told that Abu Bakr was a soft-hearted man and would not be able to lead the prayer in his place.

The Prophet gave the same order again but he was given the same reply. He gave the order for the third time and said, 'You (women) are the companions of Joseph[26].

Tell Abu Bakr to lead the prayer.'

So Abu Bakr came out to lead the prayer. In the meantime the condition of the Prophet improved a bit and he came out with the help of two men one on each side. As if I was observing his legs dragging on the ground owing to the disease. Abu Bakr wanted to retreat but the Prophet beckoned him to remain at his place and the Prophet was brought till he sat beside Abu Bakr.’"

Al-A'mash was asked, "Was the Prophet praying and Abu Bakr following him, and were the people following Abu Bakr in that prayer?" Al-A'mash replied in the affirmative with a nod of his head.

Abu Muawiya said, "The Prophet was sitting on the left side of Abu Bakr who was praying while standing."

Bukhari 11.633

The last gathering:

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

Once the Prophet ascended the pulpit and it was the last gathering in which he took part. He was covering his shoulder with a big cloak and binding his head with an oily bandage. He glorified and praised Allah and said, "O people! Come to me."

So the people came and gathered around him and he then said, "Amma ba'du." "From now onward the Ansar (Medinan Muslims) will decrease and other people will increase. So anybody who becomes a ruler of the followers of Muhammad and has the power to harm or benefit people then he should accept the good from the benevolent amongst them (Ansar) and overlook the faults of their wrongdoers."

Bukhari 13.49

What may have been the cause of the Muhammad's fatal affliction:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

Allah's Apostle (p.b.u.h) fell down from a horse and his right side was either injured or scratched, so we went to inquire about his health. The time for the prayer became due and he offered the prayer while sitting and we prayed while standing.

He said, "The Imam is to be followed; so if he says Takbir, you should also say Takbir, and if he bows you should also bow; and when he lifts his head you should also do the same and if he says: Sami'a-l-lahu Liman Hamidah (Allah hears whoever sends his praises to Him) you should say: Rabbana walakal-Hamd (O our Lord! All the praises are for You)."

Bukhari 20.215

The last silent action of Muhammad:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

Once Allah's Apostle rode a horse and fell down and the right side (of his body) was injured. He offered one of the prayers while sitting and we also prayed behind him sitting. When he completed the prayer, he said, "The Imam is to be followed. Pray standing if he prays standing and bow when he bows; rise when he rises; and if he says, 'Sami a-l-lahu-liman hamida, say then, 'Rabbana wa Lakal-hamd' and pray standing if he prays standing and pray sitting (all of you) if he prays sitting."

Humaid said: The saying of the Prophet "Pray sitting, if he (Imam) prays sitting" was said in his former illness (during his early life) but the Prophet prayed sitting afterwards (in the last illness) and the people were praying standing behind him and the Prophet did not order them to sit. We should follow the latest actions of the Prophet.

Bukhari 11.657

As his condition deteriorated, Muhammad could only watch the believers in prayer.

Narrated Anas:

The Prophet did not come out for three days. The people stood for the prayer and Abu Bakr went ahead to lead the prayer. (In the meantime) the Prophet caught hold of the curtain and lifted it. When the face of the Prophet appeared we had never seen a scene more pleasing than the face of the Prophet as it appeared then. The Prophet beckoned to Abu Bakr to lead the people in the prayer and then let the curtain fall. We did not see him (again) till he died.

Bukhari 11.649

The last two surahs of the Koran, 113 (see Getting to Know Allah: Allah and Witches, Boreal Books) and 114 (see Chapter "Revelations and Generalization") are known as the Muawidhatan (also spelled Mu’awwidhatayn), the Verses of Refuge. When he feared his time had come, Muhammad repeated over and over these two short surahs.

Narrated Aisha:

Whenever Allah's Apostle became ill, he used to recite the Muawidhatan and blow his breath over himself (after their recitation) and rubbed his hands over his body. So when he was afflicted with his fatal illness. I started reciting the Muawidhatan and blowing my breath over him as he used to blow and made the hand of the Prophet pass over his body.

Bukhari 59.723

In Muhammad’s time, witches were thought to blow into knots to cast spells. Another superstition from the Dark Ages that found its way into the Koran and from whom God's spokesperson sought protection on his death bed, along that of “the evil of the slinking whisperer [Satan] (114:5).“ Surah 113, in particular, as a choice for a last appeal to a higher power before the darkness closes in is revealing, not only in testifying to the existence of witches, but in Allah admitting that He is the creator of what is evil, that He is, in essence, the source of all evil.


113 Al-Falaq

In the Name of Allah,

the Compassionate, the Merciful

113:1 Say: “I seek refuge with the Lord of the Daybreak,

113:2 “From the evil of what He has created,

113:3 “And the evil of the darkness when it gathers,

113:4 “And the evil of those who blow into knotted reeds (witches or sorceresses),

113:5 “And from the evil of the envious when he envies.”

Muhammad’s last orders:

Narrated Said bin Jubair:

That he heard Ibn Abbas saying, "Thursday! And you know not what Thursday is?"

After that Ibn Abbas wept till the stones on the ground were soaked with his tears.

On that I asked Ibn Abbas, "What is (about) Thursday?"

He said, "When the condition (i.e. health) of Allah's Apostle deteriorated, he said, 'Bring me a bone of scapula, so that I may write something for you after which you will never go astray.'

The people differed in their opinions although it was improper to differ in front of a prophet, They said, 'What is wrong with him? Do you think he is delirious? Ask him (to understand).’

The Prophet replied, 'Leave me as I am in a better state than what you are asking me to do.'

Then the Prophet ordered them to do three things saying, 'Turn out all the pagans from the Arabian Peninsula, show respect to all foreign delegates by giving them gifts as I used to do.'"

The sub-narrator added, "The third order was something beneficial which either Ibn Abbas did not mention or he mentioned but I forgot."

Bukhari 53.393

 A bad attempt at cheering up a dying man:

Narrated Aisha:

When the Prophet became ill, some of his wives talked about a church which they had seen in Ethiopia and it was called Mariya.

Um Salma and Um Habiba had been to Ethiopia, and both of them narrated its (the Church's) beauty and the pictures it contained.

The Prophet raised his head and said, "Those are the people who, whenever a pious man dies amongst them, make a place of worship at his grave and then they make those pictures in it. Those are the worst creatures in the Sight of Allah."

Bukhari 23.425

The diet of those who attended to Muhammad during his last days included black dates and black water!?

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The family of Muhammad did not eat their fill for three successive days till he died.

Bukhari 65.287

Narrated Aisha:

The Prophet died when we had satisfied our hunger with the two black things, i.e. dates and water.

Bukhari 65.295

When Muhammad died, Aisha's cupboards were bare.

Narrated Aisha:

When the Prophet died, nothing which can be eaten by a living creature was left on my shelf except some barley grain. I ate of it for a period and when I measured it, it finished.

Bukhari 76.458

Before he died, Muhammad wanted to write down his last instructions, which would suggest that he could read and write (an illiterate would have asked for a scribe, not asked for the means to write them himself[27]) but bickering among those around him prevented him from doing so.

Narrated Ubaidullah bin Abdullah:

Ibn Abbas said, "When Allah's Apostle was on his deathbed and there were some men in the house, he said, 'Come near, I will write for you something after which you will not go astray.'

Some of them (i.e. his companions) said, 'Allah's Apostle is seriously ill and you have the (Holy) Quran. Allah's Book is sufficient for us.'

So the people in the house differed and started disputing. Some of them said, 'Give him writing material so that he may write for you something after which you will not go astray.' while the others said the other way round.

So when their talk and differences increased, Allah's Apostle said, 'Get up (out?).'"

Ibn Abbas used to say, "No doubt, it was very unfortunate (a great disaster) that Allah's Apostle was prevented from writing for them that writing because of their differences and noise."

Bukhari 59.717

Perhaps he wanted to make out a will, which the Koran had made mandatory for adult males.

2:180 It is prescribed for you that when death is imminent for one of you and he leaves wealth, he should equitably make a testament in favour of the parents and the near of kin. This in incumbent upon the righteous.

The fact that he ignored this Divine Ordinance surprised some people.

Narrated Talha bin Musarrif:

I asked Abdullah bin Abu Aufa "Did the Prophet make a will?"

He replied, "No."

I asked him, "How is it then that the making of a will has been enjoined on people, (or that they are ordered to make a will)?"

He replied, "The Prophet bequeathed Allah's Book (i.e. quran)."

Bukhari 51.3

What Muhammad was wearing when he passed away.

Narrated Abu Burda:

Aisha brought out to us a Kisa and an Izar and said, "The Prophet died while wearing these two." (Kisa, a square black piece of woolen cloth. Izar, a sheet cloth garment covering the lower half of the body).

Bukhari 72.707

The passing of Muhammad:

Narrated Aisha:

It was one of the favors of Allah towards me that Allah's Apostle expired in my house on the day of my turn while he was leaning against my chest and Allah made my saliva mix with his saliva at his death.

Abdur-Rahman entered upon me with a Siwak in his hand and I was supporting (the back of) Allah's Apostle (against my chest). I saw the Prophet looking at it (i.e. Siwak) and I knew that he loved the Siwak, so I said (to him), "Shall I take it for you?"

He nodded in agreement. So I took it and it was too stiff for him to use, so I said, "Shall I soften it for you?"

He nodded his approval. So I softened it and he cleaned his teeth with it.

In front of him there was a jug or a tin containing water. He started dipping his hand in the water and rubbing his face with it, he said, "None has the right to be worshipped except Allah. Death has its agonies."

He then lifted his hands (towards the sky) and started saying, "With the highest companion," till he expired and his hand dropped down.

Bukhari 59.730

Narrated Aisha:

I heard the Prophet and listened to him before his death while he was lying supported on his back, and he was saying, "O Allah! Forgive me, and bestow Your Mercy on me, and let me meet the (highest) companions (of the Hereafter)."

Bukhari 59.715

Muhammad died a rich man in spite of spending a large part of his wealth in Allah’s Cause, i.e., waging war against the unbelievers. As God’s spokesman, he was not only entitled to 20 percent of whatever was taken by force from the unbelievers, but 100 percent of what he absconded with without a fight, and that included the valuable Jewish farms of Fadak and the property of the Banu Nadir Jews of Medina, whom he forced into exile (see Chapters "Khaybar" and "Massacre of the Jews Medina" in Jihad in the Koran, Boreal Books).

Narrated Umar:

The properties of Bani An-Nadir which Allah had transferred to His Apostle as Fai Booty were not gained by the Muslims with their horses and camels. The properties therefore, belonged especially to Allah's Apostle who used to give his family their yearly expenditure and spend what remained thereof on arms and horses to be used in Allah's Cause.

Bukhari 52.153

Muhammad’s dying curse:

Narrated Aisha and Ibn Abbas:

On his death-bed Allah's Apostle put a sheet over his-face and when he felt hot, he would remove it from his face. When in that state (of putting and removing the sheet) he said, "May Allah's Curse be on the Jews and the Christians for they build places of worship at the graves of their prophets." (By that) he intended to warn (the Muslim) from what they (i.e. Jews and Christians) had done.

Bukhari 56.660

Muhammad's death shroud:

Narrated Aisha:

When Allah's Apostle died, he was covered with a Hibra Burd (green square decorated garment).

Bukhari 72.705

The impact of Muhammad's death on Aisha:

Narrated Aisha:

The Prophet died while he was between my chest and chin, so I never dislike the death agony for anyone after the Prophet.

Bukhari 59.726

And chatter ensued…

Narrated Ibn Umar:

During the lifetime of the Prophet we used to avoid chatting leisurely and freely with our wives lest some Divine inspiration might be revealed concerning us. But when the Prophet had died, we started chatting leisurely and freely (with them).

Bukhari 62.115

Muhammad's age when he died and why this is important.

Narrated Aisha:

The Prophet died when he was sixty-three years old.

Bukhari 56.736

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "Allah will not accept the excuse of any person whose instant of death is delayed till he is sixty years of age."

Bukhari 76.428


[25] Stephen J. Shoemaker, The Death of a Prophet - The End of Muhammad's Life and the Beginnings of Islam, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011, p. 90

[26] This may be a reference to the guile of the women who tried to seduce Joseph, see Shared Prophets: "Joseph, Son of Jacob – The Governor’s Wife," Boreal Books."

[27] For more evidence that Muhammad was not a total illiterate see Jihad in the Koran: "The Treaty of Hudaibiyah," Boreal Books.

The Official Cause of Death

The cause of Muhammad's death offered earlier—that it was the result of a fall from a horse—challenges the official version of which incident led to his demise. As you should be aware, Muhammad’s life's template borrowed heavily from that of the prophets of the Torah and Jesus of the New Testament. In the Gospels, the penultimate Messenger of Allah suffered a gruesome death on the cross because of the Jews. For the arbiters of Islamic dogma, it may have seemed only logical that their savior's passing, like that of Jesus, had been expedited by a Jew, and a female to boot, rather than from injuries sustained by an accomplished rider falling off his mount. In the official version, Muhammad's fate was sealed at Khaybar, a Jewish settlement that he had attacked without provocation (see Jihad in the Koran: "Battle of Khaybar," Boreal Books).

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

Allah's Apostle reached Khaibar in the early morning and the people of Khaibar came out with their spades, and when they saw the Prophet they said, "Muhammad and his army!" and returned hurriedly to take refuge in the fort.

The Prophet raised his hands and said, "Allah is Greater! Khaibar is ruined! If we approach a nation, then miserable is the morning of those who are warned."

Bukhari 56.840

The leadership of the Jews of Khaybar, as well as the male members of their immediate and extended families, were beheaded. One chief who went by the name of Kinana was almost tortured to death in the hope that he would reveal the existence of buried treasures before he, too, was decapitated. A Jewish woman by the name of Zaynab (who may have been Kinana’s daughter) put poison in a carcass of lamb (some say it was goat) that she was told to cook for Muhammad and his cronies after the slaughter of all killable males (those showing any growth of pubic hair) in her household, including her father and her husband. She was brought before God’s spokesman to answer for her cooking. The story as reported by respected Islamic scholar Ibn Sa'd [784-845]:

The apostle of Allah sent for Zaynab and said to her, "What induced you to do what you have done?"

She replied, "You have done to my people what you have done. You have killed my father, my uncle and my husband, so I said to myself, 'If you are a prophet, the foreleg will inform you'; and others have said, 'If you are a king we will get rid of you.'"

A foreleg of the roasted lamb did inform Muhammad that it had been poisoned, but not before he had taken a bite.

Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah:

Ibn Shihab said: Jabir ibn Abdullah used to say that a jewess from the inhabitants of Khaybar poisoned a roasted sheep and presented it to the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) who took its foreleg and ate from it. A group of his companions also ate with him.

The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) then said: Take your hands away (from the food).

The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) then sent someone to the jewess and he called her. He said to her: Have you poisoned this sheep?

The jewess replied: Who has informed you?

He said: This foreleg which I have in my hand has informed me.

She said: Yes.

He said: What did you intend by it?

She said: I thought if you were a prophet, it would not harm you; if you were not a prophet, we should rid ourselves of him (i.e. the Prophet).

The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) then forgave her, and did not punish her. But some of his companions who ate it, died.

The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) had himself cupped on his shoulder on account of that which he had eaten from the sheep. Abu Hind cupped him with the horn and knife. He was a client of Banu Bayadah from the Ansar (Medinan helpers).

Abu Dawud 39.4495

In other hadiths, such as the following, Muhammad had her killed. It may not so much have been the leg of lamb spilling the beans, so to speak, that alerted him that the food was poisoned, but one of his dining companions falling over dead.

Narrated Abu Salamah:

A jewess presented a roasted sheep to the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) at Khaybar. He then mentioned the rest of the tradition like that of Jabir (No. 4495).

He said: Then Bashir ibn al-Bara' ibn Ma'rur al-Ansari died.

He sent someone to call on the jewess, and said to her (when she came): What motivated you to do the work you have done?

He then mentioned the rest of the tradition similar to the one mentioned by Jabir (No. 4495).

The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) then ordered regarding her and she was killed. But he (Abu Salamah) did not mention the matter of cupping.

Abu Dawud 39.4496

Narrated Ali ibn AbuTalib:

A jewess used to abuse the Prophet (peace be upon him) and disparage him. A man strangled her till she died. The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) declared that no recompense was payable for her blood.

Abu Dawud 38.4349

What does the ingestion of a minute amount of poison, not enough to have the desired effect or cause any visible discomfort at the time, have to do with Muhammad’s death years later? It all has to do with something Aisha said her husband uttered before he died.

Narrated Aisha:

The Prophet in his ailment in which he died, used to say, "O Aisha! I still feel the pain caused by the food I ate at Khaibar, and at this time, I feel as if my aorta is being cut from that poison."

Bukhari 59.713

He said something similar after he had ordered the cook to be killed.

Narrated Abu Salamah:

Muhammad ibn Amr said on the authority of Abu Salamah, and he did not mention the name of Abu Hurayrah: The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) used to accept presents but not alms (sadaqah i.e. charity).

This version adds: So a jewess presented him at Khaybar with a roasted sheep which she had poisoned.

The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) ate of it and the people also ate. He then said: Take away your hands (from the food), for it has informed me that it is poisoned.

Bishr ibn al-Bara' ibn Ma'rur al-Ansari died.

So he (the Prophet) sent for the jewess (and said to her): What motivated you to do the work you have done?

She said: If you were a prophet, it would not harm you; but if you were a king, I should rid the people of you.

The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) then ordered regarding her and she was killed. He then said about the pain of which he died: I continued to feel pain from the morsel which I had eaten at Khaybar. This is the time when it has cut off my aorta.

Abu Dawud 39.4498

From credible accounts of a Jewish woman attempting to poison him, Islamic scholars have reached the implausible conclusion that it was this attempt on Muhammad's life that caused his death four years later.

You may want to spare a prayer for Zaynab if she is indeed the jewess being tortured in her grave in the following hadith:

Narrated Aisha:

Once Allah's Apostle passed by (the grave of) a jewess whose relatives were weeping over her. He said, "They are weeping over her and she is being tortured in her grave."

Bukhari 23.376


5:11 O believers, remember Allah’s grace upon you, when certain people intended to reach out to you with their hands but Allah restrained them. Fear Allah and in Allah let the believers put their trust.

Moududi’s commentary on what he claims is a reference to an attempt by the Jews of Medina to do away with Muhammad and his cronies:

This alludes to the incident reported by Ibn 'Abbas when a group of Jews invited the Prophet (peace be on him) and a number of his close Companions to dinner. They had in fact hatched a plot to pounce upon the guests and thus undermine the very foundation of Islam. But by the grace of God the Prophet (peace be on him) came to know of the plot at the eleventh hour and did not go.