31. Happy Happenings and the Saddest of Endings

I forgot to tell you something so important. Remember when the Muslims wanted to go on umra and they were stopped? Well, Prophet Muhammad (s) sent Uthman bin Affan to Mecca then to speak to Quraish. When he didn’t come back, there was a rumor that he was killed and the Prophet (s) had everyone there make a promise to him that they would fight Quraish and not run away. They gave their promise under a tree, and a Quranic aya was revealed saying that Allah was pleased with them – the people of the tree. They were about 1400 men, and as soon as they heard ‘Oh people of the Tree!” they turned and dashed toward the Prophet (s). The Prophet (s) asked al-Abbas to call the Ansar, then again to call the people of Surah al-Baqarah. With each call, people turned their camels around and swiftly made their way back to the Prophet (s), saying, “Labayk, labayk. We are at your service.”

The Muslims won this battle. They gained a lot of animals from Hawazen. Prophet Muhammad (s) gave away most of what was gained to the new Muslims of Quraish, who were still weak in their Islam.

When the Ansar saw that people from Quraish got all the gifts, while they didn’t, they didn’t realize that it was because their faith was still new and that this would help make it stronger and more steadfast. Instead, they thought Prophet Muhammad (s) was favoring the tribe he was from, and that he was homesick and would abandon them. The Ansar were sad. Prophet Muhammad (s) heard of this and quickly met with them without anyone else. He told them that people may walk away with a few extra camels but they would be going back to Medina with him. The Ansar were overjoyed. And so Prophet Muhammad (s) returned to Medina after telling them, “I will stay with you in life and in death.”

So many things happened in the following year and a half. A very important battle was about to take place. The Byzantines from the North prepared a very large army to attack the Muslims and many Arab tribes close to Sham joined. Prophet Muhammad (s) led an army to face them, but when he arrived at Tabook, they had left in fear. 

Back in Medina, tribes from all over the Arab lands started to send delegations to announce their Islam and to learn how to practice. Thaqeef sent a group of people. Do you remember them? They are the tribe of the city of Ta’if who years ago had treated the Prophet (s) so badly when he went there to tell them about Islam. Now, they lived in the masjid for several weeks as the Prophet (s) answered their questions and recited Quran to them. Finally, they announced their Islam. Remember how he said after leaving Ta’if, it was the worst day of his life, but he still declined to let Angel Jibreel have them crushed between two mountains? He had hope that maybe their children would come to Islam – he didn’t even have to wait that long!

Our beloved Messenger (s) continued to send out letters to Kings, and he continued to receive groups and groups of people coming to ask about this new religion and to learn how to practice it.

The following year, Prophet Muhammad announced he was going on Haj. Everyone from all over wanted to join. They wanted the blessing of doing Haj with him, and they wanted to learn how to perform Haj the correct way, too. When Haj was over, he spoke to the people. He told them that this may be the last time he would speak to them all. He explained to them that the life of a human being and his possessions were sacred. He warned them from following shaytan even in small sins. He told them to treat women in the best way. He told them that Muslims were like brothers and sisters, and that they mustn’t harm each other. He told them to hold on to the Quran and his Sunna. Then he said, “You will be asked about me. What will you answer?” They said, “We witness that you gave us the message, taught us, and were sincere to us.”  He replied, “Oh Allah You are witness!” three times  – each time pointing upwards and then to the people.

Shortly after Prophet Muhammad (s) returned to Medina, he got sick. It started with a headache, then a very high fever. The Prophet asked that Abu Bakr lead the people in prayer instead of him. The illness was severe; but one day he felt better enough to stand at the door that opened from his home to the masjid. He looked at the rows of Muslims praying, and he was pleased. Perhaps at that moment he remembered when the Muslims had to hide their belief, when they were so few they fit in al-Arqam’s house. Perhaps he remembered when so many tribes marched armies against him. Perhaps he remembered when some of these very people were his enemies. And so he smiled in thanks to Allah. People almost broke their prayer, they were so happy to realize he was there. He motioned to them to continue their prayer. And when they left that day, they believed that he was getting better. They went home happy. They didn’t realize that actually it was a look of goodbye. Later at home, Aisha cradled his head to her chest. She said that he repeated, “I choose Allah,” several times. Then our beloved Prophet (s) breathed his last.

When the news reached the people, they all rushed to the masjid crying. Muslims were frightened and sad and confused. Umar bin al-Khattab called out angrily, “Let no one dare say, Muhammad is dead! He is with his Lord and will return.” Abu Bakr tried to quiet him, but he wouldn’t listen. So Abu Bakr spoke to the people, “Those of you who worshipped Muhammad, Prophet Muhammad (s) has died. And those of you who worship Allah, indeed Allah is the Living that never dies.” Then he recited the aya, “Muhammad is but a messenger before whom there were messengers, if he dies or is killed will you turn back on your heels?” Umar says it was as though he had never heard that aya before. At that point he knew Prophet Muhammad (s) had truly died, and Umar fell to the ground unconscious.