page 251


Sickness and Death of Mahomet. Mohurram, A.H. XI. June, A.D. 632

Ætat 63.

The principles of Islam required continued prosecution of war

MAHOMET, now sixty-three years of age, was to outward appearance in ordinary health, when on the last Monday of the month Safar (unaware of the storm lowering in the south) he commanded his followers to make themselves ready for an expedition against the Roman border. It was more than a year and a half since any important campaign had been undertaken. The inroad upon Tabak was the last occasion on which Mahomet had called out a general levy of his followers. But he had by no means lost sight of the necessity for maintaining a warlike spirit in his people. It was essential to the permanence of Islam that its aggressive course should be continuously pursued, and that its claim to an universal acceptance, or at the least to an universal supremacy, should be enforced at the point of the sword. Within the limits of Arabia this work appeared now to be accomplished. It remained to gain over the Christian and idolatrous

page 252

tribes of the Syrian desert, and then in the name of the Lord to throw down the gauntlet or war before the empires of Rome and Persia, which, having treated with contempt the summons of the Prophet addressed to them in solemn warning four years ago, were now ripe for chastisement.

Osama, son of Zeid, appointed to the command of the army destined for the Syrian border. 28th Safar, A.H. XI. 28th May A.D. 632.

The present incursion was intended to strike terror into the tribes of the border, and to wipe out the memory of the reverse at Muta, which still rankled in the heart of Mahomet. Accordingly, on the day following the general summons above mentioned it was declared that Osama, the son of Zeid, the beloved friend of Mahomet, who had been slain at Muta, was, notwithstanding his extreme youth, to command the army. Having called him to the Mosque, the Prophet thus addressed him "Lead the army unto the place where thy father was killed, and let them destroy it utterly. Lo! I have made thee commander over this army. Fall suddenly at early dawn upon the people of Obna, and devour them with fire. Hasten thy march so that thine onset may precede the tidings of thee. If the Lord grant thee victory, then shorten thy stay amongst them. Take with thee guides, and send before thee scouts and spies."

Banner presented, and camp formed at Jorf. 1st Mohurram, 27th May

On Wednesday following, Mahomet was seized with a violent headache and fever; but it passed off. The next morning be found himself sufficiently recovered to bind with his own hand upon the flagstaff a banner for the army. He presented it

page 253

to Osama with these words :- "Fight thou beneath this banner in the name of the Lord, and for his cause. Thus shalt thou discomfit and slay the people that disbelieveth in the Lord!" The camp was then formed at Jorf; and the whole body of the fighting men, not excepting even Abu Bakr and Omar, were summoned to join it. The attention of all was soon occupied by a more engrossing subject, which suspended for the time the preparations of Osama's force.

Difficulty in weaving a connected narrative of the Prophet's sickness

The history of Mahomet's sickness, according to the wont of his biographers, is made up of a multitude of distinct and unconnected traditions, often trifling, and sometimes contradictory, from which it is not easy to trace the correct sequence of events, or to weave a continuous and consistent narrative. It will be my endeavour to omit no important incident in relating the story of this interesting period.

Mahomet attributes his illness to the poisoned meat which he ate at Kheibar

Mahomet had not hitherto suffered from any serious illness. About the close of the sixth year of the Hegira, he is said to have ailed temporarily from loss of appetite and a pining depression of health and spirits, ascribed, as we have seen, to the incantations of the Jews.1 Again, in the middle of the seventh year, his system sustained a shock from partaking of poisoned meat at Kheibar, for which he was cupped, and the effects of which he is said

1 See above, p. 80.

page 254

to have complained of periodically ever after. Indeed the present attack was attributed by Mahomet himself directly to this cause. When he had been now for several days sick, the mother of Bishr (who had died from the effects of the same poison,) come to inquire after his health; she condoled with him on the violence of the fever, and remarked that the people said it was the pleurisy. "Nay," answered Mahomet, "the Lord would never permit that sickness to seize his Apostle, for it cometh of Satan. This, verily, is the effect of that which I ate at Kheibar, I and thy son. The artery of my back feeleth as though it would just now burst asunder."

Circumstances which may have affected the strength or his constitution.

Whether his constitution was really impaired by the poison, or whether this was merely the Prophet's fancy, it is certain that the frailties of age were imperceptibly creeping upon him. His vigorous, well-knit frame began to stoop. Though frugal, if not abstemious in his habits, and in all things (the harem excepted) temperate, yet during the last twenty years of his life there had been much to tax his mind and body. At Mecca, hardship, rejection, persecution, confinement, exile ;- at Medina, the anxieties of a cause for some years doubtful, and now the cares of a daily extending dominion,- pressed upon him. Nor must we forget the excitement and agitation (possibly of an epileptic character) which occasionally overpowered him in the moments of so called inspiration and intercourse with unseen visitants. "Ah! thou that art dearer

page 255

to me than father or mother!" exclaimed Abu Bakr, as Mahomet entered one day from his wives' apartments into the Mosque.- "Alas! grey hairs are hastening upon thee!" and the eyes of the Prophet's bosom friend filled with tears as he saw him raise his beard with his hand, and gaze at it.- "Yes," said Mahomet, "it is the travail of inspiration that hath done this. The Suras Hud, and the Inevitable, and the Striking, with their fellows, have made white my hair."1

Notwithstanding increasing infirmity, Mahomet maintains his habits of simplicity

But Mahomet did not yield to the infirmities of old age. To the very last the severe simplicity of robuster years was preserved unaltered., "The people throng about thee in the Mosque," said his uncle Abbas to him ; "what if we make for thee an elevated seat, that they may not trouble thee?" But Mahomet forbade it :- "Surely," he said, "I will not cease from being in the midst of them, dragging my mantle behind me thus,2 and covered with their dust, until that the Lord give me rest from amongst them."3

His anticipation that his and was near

Mahomet himself was latterly not unconscious (if we may believe the traditions of Ayesha) of the premonitions of decay. He used frequently

1 These are called the Terrific Suras. See also vol. ii. ch. iii. p.88. The withering effects there ascribed to the fits of inspiration, if they really at all resembled the description given by tradition, cannot but have told on his constitution.

2 i.e. hurrying along and being jostled by the crowd.

3 K. Wackidi, 159.

page 256

to repeat the hundred and tenth Sura, as follows :-

"When the help or God shall come, and the Victory, And thou shalt see men entering the Religion of God in troops; Then celebrate the praises of thy Lord, and ask pardon of him, for he is merciful."1

These expressions he would refer to the multitudes now flocking to the faith in Yemen and the farther coasts of Arabia. He would further declare that the sign received from the Lord of the completion of his work was thus fulfilled, and that it remained for him now only "to busy himself in the praises of his Lord and to seek for pardon."2

1 The period when this was revealed is doubtful. In the Appendix to vol. ii. I have placed it in the third Meccan stage; but it may have been later.

2 The reader must bear in mind that all traditions of sayings by Mahomet, thus directly anticipatory of his decease, are suspicious. They are just the kind of stories that would grow up amongst his loving and superstitions followers, in conversations which continued unrecorded for many years. There is nothing improbable In what I have placed in the text; still I cannot vouch for it.

Of the manifest fabrications, similar in tendency, take the following as a specimen. When the CXth Sura was revealed, Mahomet called Fatima, and said,- "My daughter! I have received intimation of my approaching end." Fatima burst into tears. "Why weepest thou my child?" continued the Prophet; "be comforted, for verily thou art the first of my people that shall rejoin me." Whereupon Fatima dried her tears and smiled pleasantly." K. Wackidi 139,151. As Fatima died within six months after her father, it is easy to see how this tale grew up. Similar are all the traditions in glorification of Fatima: e.g. where Mahomet calls her "the Queen of all the females of Paradise after Mary the Mother of Jesus." Ibid. So with all the traditions predicting divisions, sects, intestine war, &c. A shade of

page 257

He visits the burying ground

When attacked by his last illness, Mahomet, though probably feeling it to be serious, did not at the first succumb; for a day or two be still maintained the custom he had prescribed to himself of visiting his wives' apartments in rotation. One night lying restless on his bed, he arose softly, cast his clothes about him, and followed by a servant, walked to the burial ground, Backi al Gharcad. There he waited long absorbed in meditation. At last winding up his thoughts, he prayed aloud for those who were buried there, apostrophizing thus :- "Verily, ye and I have both received the fulfilment of that which our Lord did promise us. Blessed are ye! for ye, enjoy a lot far preferable to the lot of those who are left behind. Temptation and trial approach like portions of a dark night following rapidly one upon another, each portion darker than those preceding. O Lord! grant pardon unto them that are buried here!" Then he turned and departed to his house. By the way, he told his attendant that he too was hastening to the grave:- The choice hath verily been offered me of continuance in this life, with Paradise thereafter, or to meet my Lord at once; and I have chosen to meet my Lord.1 the same tendency will be observed in the prayer quoted below, at the burial ground, which, notwithstanding, I have given entire.

1 For this latter saying, repeated again, see note below. By continuance in this life is probably meant only a longer life. We have now reached a point in Mahomet's biography which has become the arena for the contending traditions of party and faction.

Ayesha's raillery when he seeks her commiseration. page 258

In the morning, passing by the door of Ayesha, who was suffering from a severe headache, he heard her moaning: "My head! -- oh, my head!" 1 He

First, Ayesha, who had the closest opportunities by far of all others for watching the last moments of Mahomet, has made the most of her position; throughout her statements there is a patent endeavour to exclude even the mention of Ali and his partisans. There is, secondly, the party of Ali, who (with the view of strengthening their dogma that the divine right or succession was vested in their hero and his posterity) would attribute to him every important part in the scene. And, tautly, there are the Abbassides (holding the right of succession to reside in the near relatives of the Prophet and their heirs), whose tendency is to magnify Abbas and his family. Every tradition is coloured by these factions; and it is necessary to steer very cautiously among them. Compare vol.i. introd. pp. xxxvil.-xli.

For the scene In the text, we have the following variations :- I. Ayesha perceiving Mahomet go forth, sent her maid Barida to watch where he went: this Barida did, and managed to get back before her master. II. Ayesha herself followed Mahomet, who reproved her at the grave-yard for her curiosity. III. Ayesha says that he frequently visited the grave-yard at night. IV. A fourth tradition from Ayesha says that his servant Abu Rafi accompanied Mahomet on the occasion. V. A tradition from another source makes Fadhala (alias Abu Muweihiba, a Yemen slave of his) to have gone with the prophet The two last traditions are otherwise very similar with the tenor of the text. K. Wackidi, 141 1/2. Hishami gives only the last: p. 465.

The probability seems to be that there was only one night- visit to the grave-yard; and that the several parties desirous of the honour of being associated with so remarkable a scene invented the other occasions.

There are other traditions which say that after his illness commenced, Mahomet went also to pray at Ohod for those who fell there. But this is evidently unfounded. K. Wackidi, 142.

1 In another tradition, Ayesha says :-" As often as Mahomet passed my door, he would speak a word to me, which the Lord used to bless to my good. Now for two days he passed by and

page 259

entered and said: "Nay, Ayesha, it is rather I that have need to cry my head, my head!" Then in a tender strain : - "But wouldst thou not desire to be taken whilst I am yet alive; so that I might pray over thee, and wrapping thee, Ayesha, in thy winding sheet, thus commit thee to the grave?" "That happen to another," exclaimed Ayesha, "and not to me!" archly adding :- "Ah, that is what thou art desirous of! Truly, I can fancy thee, after having done all this, return straightway to my house, and spend that very evening sporting in my place with another wife!" The Prophet smiled at Ayesha's raillery, but his sickness pressed on him too heavily to admit of a rejoinder in the same strain; and so again with a sad complaint of the grievous ailment in his head, he returned to the apartment of Meimuna, whose day it was. 1

Mahomet retires to Ayesha's house

Mahomet had not been long there before the fever returned upon him with increasing violence. So calling his wives around him, he said: "Ye see that I lie very sick: I am not able to visit your houses in turn; if it be pleasing to you, I will remain in the house of Ayesha." All agreed to

did not say a word. So I made my maid place my pillow at the door, and I reclined there with my head bound round with a napkin; when the Prophet passed by, he asked me what ailed me. I replied, "My head pains me," and so on as in the text. K. Wackidi, 147 1/2.

1 Hishami, 455; K. Wackidi, 142,146. The tradition in the latter authority ends with a fabricated passage intended to support the claim of Abu Bakr, as against Ali, to the Caliphate.

page 260

the proposal. His clothes having been wrapped loosely around him, and his mend bound about with a napkin, the Prophet walked with the support of Ali and Abbas to the apartment of Ayesha. 1 Though not yet twenty years of age, and although she had never before waited upon any one in sickness, Ayesha watched with the utmost solicitude and tenderness over the death-bed of her aged husband.

He addresses murmurs against Osama's appointment

For seven or eight days, the fever, although unchecked, did not confine Mahomet entirely to the house. He was able to move into the Mosque (the door of his apartment opening into its courts) and lead, though feebly, the public prayers. He had been ill about a week, 2 when perceiving that the sickness gained ground, and was aggravated by occasional fits of swooning, he resolved upon an effort to address the people, whose murmurs at the appointment of the youth Osama to the command of the Syrian army had reached his ears. 3

1 K. Wackidi, 147 1/2; Hishami, 456. Ayesha does not name Ali. Some mention Fadhl in place of his father Abbas.

2 The dates are to some degree conjectural. I suppose this to have happened about Wednesday or Thursday, the 8th or 9th Mohurram (4th or 5th June); after which Abu Bakr was appointed to lead the public prayers. The Secretary speaks or it as occurring on the Saturday, i.e. ten or eleven days after he was seized by the fever; but in another place he mentions the address as being delivered fire days before his death, which would bring it to either Wednesday or Thursday: p. 138 1/2. Hishami says it occurred after he had once swooned away.

3 "And the people spake, saying, 'He hath put this stripling in command over the chiefest of the Refugees.' The Prophet

page 261

"Fetch me," he said, "seven skins of water from as many different wells, that I may bathe and then go forth unto them." They procured the water, and seating him in Haphsa's bathing vessel, poured it upon him from the skins till he held up his hand and cried "enough!" Meanwhile the people, both men and women, had assembled in the Mosque ; it was told the Prophet that they had come together, and that many wept. Being now refreshed by the bath, he went forth to them with his head bandaged, a sheet being drawn loosely round him, and seated himself in the pulpit. After prayer, and certain introductory phrases in the usual style, he proceeded : - "Ye people! What is this which hath readied me, that some amongst you murmur against my appointment of Osama to command the Syrian army? Now, if ye blame my appointment of Osama, verily heretofore ye blamed likewise my appointment of his father Zeid before him. And I swear by the Lord, that he verily was well fitted for the command, and that his son after him is well fitted also. Truly Osama is one or the men most dearly beloved by me, even as his father was. Wherefore, do ye treat him well, for he is one of the best amongst you."

Announcing his conviction that the disease was his last, he directs

After a pause he continued : - "Verily, the Lord hath offered unto one of his servants the choice betwixt this life and that which is nigh unto himself;

heard of this, and was very wroth. Then he came forth with his head bandaged," &C K. Wackidi, 138 1/2.

page 262

the private doors leading into the Mosque to be closed.

and the servant hath chosen that which is nigh unto his Lord?" Mahomet by this saying intended to communicate by way of euphemism to the people, his anticipation that the illness would prove his last. But they were slow of apprehension. Abu Bakr alone perceived his meaning, and burst into tears. Mahomet, in accents of affection, desired him not to weep. Then turning to the people, he said,- "Verily the chiefest among you all for love and devotion to me is Abu Bakr. If I were to choose a bosom friend it would be he: but Islam hath made a closer brotherhood amongst us all. Now let every door that leadeth into the Mosque be closed, excepting only the door of Abu Bakr." Accordingly the relatives of Mahomet and the chief men, whose houses skirted the quadrangle of the Mosque, closed their doors, that of Abu Bakr alone remaining open. 1 Thus the busy hum and tread

1 K. Wackidi, 139 1/2, 146 1/2; Hishami, 457. Each reader must judge for himself whether there is not too much of anticipation in this scene to be consistent with its reality; I see no ground for not regarding it as natural. The same remark applies to the following paragraph.

It is likely that the expression used by Mahomet regarding the choice of death or life was of a more general nature, such as "that he preferred to depart and be near his Lord," (something, perhaps, in the manner of Paul's words, Phil. i. 21) ; - which tradition would easily and naturally convert into the mysterious phrase "that he had made election of Paradise." Against the text it might be urged that after such a declaration the people ought to have been more prepared for the Prophet's death when it did happen. But the scene after his death was justified by the circumstances, as will be seen below, and is to my apprehension

page 263

were hushed, as became the precincts of death, and the courts of the Mosque were frequented only by worshipers at the hour of prayer, and by knots of whispering followers, inquiring anxiously after the Prophet's health.

He commends the citizens of Medina to the care of his followers

As he was about to re-enter Ayesha's room, Mahomet turned again, and in testimony of his gratitude to the people of Medina, thus addressed the assembly :- "Ye that are refugees from Mecca and other quarters, hearken to me! Ye increase, and throng into the city daily. But the men of Medina do not increase. They will remain ever as they are this day. And verity they; are dear unto me, for among them I found a refuge. Wherefore honour their honourable men, and treat well their excellent ones." Then having urged the early departure of the Syrian expedition, he retired into the room of Ayesha.1

Abu Bakr appointed to lead the public prayers in the absence of Mahomet

The exertion and excitement of delivering this address aggravated the Prophet's sickness. On the following day 1 when the hour of public prayer

quite consistent with even a more explicit statement by Mahomet than this, of his forebodings.

1 K. Wackidi, 151; Hishami, 458.

2 This was probably Friday. I have assumed that the previous scene occurred on Thursday: but it may possibly have been on Friday, Mahomet taking advantage of the congregation usually assembling on that day to make his address; if such were the case (but there is no express tradition to support the supposition) the present scene would be fixed for Saturday.

It is said that Abu Bakr led the prayers for three days before the Prophet's death, which fixes the present incident as occurring

page 264

came round, he called for water to perform the preparatory ablutions ; but on attempting to rise, he found that his strength had failed, so he commanded that Abu Bakr should conduct the prayers in his stead; and having given this order he fell back in a fainting fit. Soon recovering, he inquired whether the commission had been conveyed to his friend. Ayesha replied "O Prophet! Truly Abu Bakr is a man of a tender heart, and weepeth readily. The people would with difficulty hear his voice." "Command that he lead the prayers," repeated Mahomet in a loud and imperative tone. Ayesha, still clinging to the hope that Mahomet would be able himself to perform the duty, began again in a similar strain. Displeased and irritated, Mahomet exclaimed: "Truly, ye resemble the foolish women in the story of Joseph :1 give command forthwith as I desire." The command was given, and Abu Bakr conducted the public

on Friday or on 6aturday, according as Monday is counted in the three days or not. Another tradition makes him to have led the prayers on seventeen occasions, which would be equal to three days and part of a fourth, bringing the date to Friday. K. Wackidi, 145 ½.

In one place it is said that Mahomet, throughout his illness, came out to the prayers whenever he could; and that if he came out late, he made up at the end of the service what he had missed at the beginning of it. K. Wackidi, 145 1/2. But the tradition is unsupported.

1 See Sura, xii. The Commentators refer this expression to the scene in which the women of Egypt cut their hands in astonishment at the beauty of Joseph: v.32.

page 265

prayers during the few remaining days of the Prophet's life.1

Mahomet by this, signified the transfer to him, as his deputy, of the ruling power

The right of presiding at the public prayers was always recognized as the mark of the chief secular power. And there can, I think, be little doubt that Mahomet by his nomination intended to signify the delegation of the supreme authority to Abu Bakr while he was laid aside, if not to mark him as his successor after death. It is related that on one occasion Abu Bakr happened not to be present when the summons to prayer was sounded by Bilal, and that Omar having received, as he erroneously believed, the command of Mahomet to officiate in his room, stood up in the Mosque, and in his powerful

1 K. Wackidi, 144, 145; Hishami, 459. Tradition is quite unanimous as to this scene. The only point on which I have ventured to deviate from it, is the motive of Ayesha. She herself says that she objected simply from the fear that the people would ever after dislike her father for having stood up in the Prophet's place, and would attribute any evil that might happen to ill-luck arising out of his usurpation. This I believe to be an after- thought. Ayesha, was ambitious enough, and no doubt rejoiced greatly at this indication of her father to the chief command. But she was also overcome at the moment by concern for her husband, and could not bear the admission that he was so dangerously ill as the nomination appeared to imply. It seemed to her to be a foreboding of his end: an inauspicious forestalling of the succession. Hence she deprecated the idea.

One set of traditions makes her to propose that Omar should conduct the prayers in her rather's stead. This is unlikely, but supposing it to be true, her proposal may have arisen from the same cause ;- she knew well that Mahomet would not pass over Abu Bakr, and may from false modesty, or it may be real delicacy, have suggested that Omar, and not her father, should be nominated to the invidious post.

page 266

voice commenced the Takbir, "Great is the Lord !" Preparatory to the public service. Mahomet overhearing this from his apartment, called aloud with energy, - " No! No! No! The Lord and the whole body of believers forbid it! Let no one lead the prayers but only Abu Bakr!"1

He urges the despatch or Osama's army and that all embassies should be treated well

While thus unable to leave the room of Ayesha, Mahomet was too weak to attend to any public business. Yet the Syrian expedition weighed upon his mind: he continued saying 2 to those around him, "Send off quickly the army of Osama." He also enjoined that all embassies which might arrive, should be treated with the same consideration, and receive the saute largesses, as he had been wont himself to bestow.

Increase of illness; Saturday night, 11th of 1st Rabi, 6th June.

On the night of Saturday, the sickness assumed a very serious aspect. The fever rose to such a pitch that the hand could hardly be kept upon his skin from its burning heat.3 His body was racked with

1 K. Wackidi, 145; Hishami; 459. This tradition is not beyond suspicion; yet I do not see sufficient cause for its rejection. But there is one form of it which may be summarily cast aside: namely, that in which Haphsa gives orders to Bilal to make her father (Omar) conduct the public prayers, thereupon Mahomet chides her, and says that "she resembles the females in the story of Joseph;" adding these words, "Speak to Abu Bakr that he lead the prayers; for verily if I make him not my deputy, the people will not be obedient unto him." K. Wackidi 145 ½ . It is certain that Mahomet never expressed himself in this manner, whatever he may have desired to imply by the order appointing Abu Bakr to the duty.
2 K. Wackidi, 138 ½.
3 Ibid. 142 ½.

page 267

pain; restless and moaning, be tossed about upon his bed. Alarmed at a severe paroxysm of the disease, Omm Salma, one of his wives, screamed aloud. Mahomet rebuked her :- "Quiet!" he said. "No one crieth out thus but an unbeliever." During the night, Ayesha sought to comfort him, and suggested that he should seek for consolation in the same lessons he had so often taught to others when in sickness :- "O Prophet!" she said, "if one of us had moaned thus, thou wouldst surely have found fault with it." "Yes," he replied, "but I burn with the fever-heat of any two of you together." "Then," exclaimed one, "thou shalt surely have a double reward." "Yes," he answered,-" I swear by him in whose hands is my life, that there is not upon the earth a believer afflicted with any calamity or disease, but the Lord thereby causeth his sins to fall from him, even as leaves are shed in autumn from a tree." At another time he said,- "Suffering is an expiation for sin.1 Verily, if the believer suffer but the scratch of a thorn, the Lord raiseth his rank thereby, and wipeth away from him a sin." "Believers," he would affirm, "are tried according to their faith. If a man's faith be strong, so age his sufferings; if he be weak, they are proportioned thereunto. Yet in any case, the suffering shall not be remitted until he walk upon earth without the guilt of a single transgression cleaving unto him."

1 K.Wackidi 142.

page 268

Sayings of Mahomet on his death-bed

Omar, approaching the bed, placed his hand on Mahomet’s forehead, and suddenly withdrew, it from the greatness of the, heat :-"O Prophet!" he said, "how violent is the fever on thee!" "Yea, verily," replied Mahomet, "but I have been during the night season repeating in praise of the Lord seventy Suras, and among them the seven long ones." Omar answered :- "But the Lord hath forgiven thee all thy sins, the former and the latter ; now then, why not rest and take thine ease?" "Nay," replied Mahomet, "for wherefore should I not be a faithful servant unto him?"

An attendant, while Mahomet lay covered up, put his hand below the sheet, and feeling the excessive heat, made a remark similar to that of Omar. Mahomet replied : - "Even as this affliction prevaileth now against me, so shall my reward hereafter be enhanced." "And who are they," asked another, "that suffer the severest trials?" "The Prophets and the righteous," said Mahomet; and then he made mention of one Prophet having been destroyed by lice, and of another who was tried with poverty, so that he had but a rag to cover his nakedness withal: "yet each of them rejoiced exceedingly in his affliction, even as one of you would rejoice in great spoil."1

Osama visits him, Sunday, 12th Rabi, 7th June

On the Sunday, Mahomet lay in a very weak

1 These sayings are all taken from the Secretary, p. 142, et seq. The sufferings of Mahomet may have been magnified, and some of these sayings exaggerated if not entirely fabricated: but they are all truly illustrative, I think, of the death-bed scene.

page 269

and helpless state. Osama, who had delayed his departure to see what the issue of the sickness might be, came in from Jorf to visit him. Removing the clothes from the Prophet's face, he stooped down and kissed him, but there was no audible response. Mahomet only raised his hands to heaven in the attitude of blessing, and then placed them upon Osama. So he returned to the camp.1

Mahomet physicked by his wives

During some part of this day, Mahomet complained of pain in his side, and the suffering became so great, that he fell into a state of unconsciousness. Omm Salma advised that physic should be given him. Asma, the sister of Meimuna, prepared a draught after an Abyssinian recipe, and they forced it into his rnouth.2 Reviving from its effects he felt the unpleasant taste in his mouth, and cried, "What is this that ye have done to me? Ye have even given me physic!" They confessed that they had done so, and enumerated the ingredients of which Asma had compounded it.3 "Out upon you!" he angrily exclaimed; "this is a remedy for the pleurisy, which she hath learned in the land of Abyssinia; but that is not a disease which the Lord will suffer to attack me. Now shall ye all partake

1 K. Wackidi 138 1/2.

2 Her name was Asma bint Oneis; she had emigrated to Abyssinia with her husband Jafar, brother of Ali. After his death, she married Abu Bakr, whose wife she probably at this time was. After Abu Bakr's death, Ali married her. She had issue by all three. See above, p.88, and 101.

3 Indian Wood ; a little wars seed mixed with some drops of olive oil. K. Wackidi, 148 ½.

page 270

of the same dose. Let not one remain in the house without being physicked, even as ye have physicked me, excepting only my uncle Abbas." So all the women arose, and they poured the physic, in presence of the dying Prophet, into each other's mouths.1

Mahomet curses the Jews and Christians.

After this the conversation turning upon Abyssinia, Omm Salma and Omm Habiba, who had both been exiles there, spoke of the beauty of a cathedral in that country, called the church of Maria (St. Mary) and of the wonderful pictures on its walls. Mahomet listened quietly to them, and then said,- "These verily are the people who, when a good man hath lived amongst them, build over his tomb a place of worship, and they adorn it with their pictures. These, in the eyes of the Lord, are the worst part of all the creation." He stopped, and covered himself with the bedclothes; then casting them off in the restlessness,2 and perhaps delirium, of the fever, he said: "The Lord destroy the Jews and Christians!3

1 This scene is well attested by several traditions. How strangely it must have contrasted with the solemnity of the Prophet's death-bed! K. Wackidi, 148; Hishami, 458.

Meimuna pleaded that she was, in pursuance of an oath by Mahomet, under a vow of fasting, and could not, therefore, allow anything, even medicine, to pass her lips; but the excuse was unavailing. Another tradition represents Mahomet as grounding his displeasure at being forced to take physic, on the fact, that “he was then fasting." He had, probably, made some vow to this effect in reference to his sickness.

2 K. Wackidi, 149. Traditions from Ayesha and the son of Abbas. "He kept drawing the clothes over his face, and then pulling them off again." Ibid. p.155.

3 Some authorities omit the Christians from this tradition. K. Wackidi 149 ½.

page 271

Let his anger be kindled against those that turn the tombs of their Prophets into places of worship. O Lord, let not my tomb be an object of worship!1 Let there not remain any faith but that of Islam throughout the whole land of Arabia! "2

He calls for writing materials

About this time, recognizing Omar, and some other chief men in the room, he called out,- "Bring hither to me ink and paper,3 that I may record for you a writing which shall prevent your going astray for ever." Omar said,- "He wandereth

1 This last clause may be an after-thought.

2 Lit. "Let there not remain two Religions," &c. K Wackidi 149 ½, 152 ½. Vide vol. ii. p.302, note. I have there ventured to doubt that Mahomet gave this command, because the Christians of Najran were not expelled till long after, and then only on a charge of usury. So also the Jews of Kheibar were allowed for several years to remain, and then exiled because or some alleged deeds of violence: see above, p.75.

I think these facts prove that there was no command by the Prophet, recognized by the Moslems, to this effect. Had there been, Abu Bakr and Omar would no doubt have made it one of their first objects to fulfil the order,- existing treaties and engagements notwithstanding. A command of Mahomet was never questioned by them during his life, much less after his death. I conclude that either the sentence is a fabrication, or that having been uttered in delirium, it was not felt to be binding. If uttered at all, even In delirium, it is a significant index of the current of Mahomet's thoughts.

In some traditions the command is connected with a scene in which Mahomet said that he had three injunctions to deliver; one concerned the treatment of the embassies arriving at Medina (see above, p.260); the second directed the ejection of Jews and Christians from Arabia; before he could explain the third, he became unconscious. Other injunctions are given, as being kind to slaves; paying tithes; observing prayer, &c. K. Wackidi, 150, 152; Hishami, 487.

3 One traditi6n has it that he called for "a shoulder blade" to write upon. K. Wackidi, 150.

page 272

in his mind. Is not the Coran sufficient for us?" But the women wished that the writing materials should be brought; and a discussion ensued. There- upon one said,- "What is his condition at this present moment? Come let us see whether he speaketh deliriously or not." So they went and asked him what his wishes were regarding the writing he had spoken of; but he no longer desired to indite it. "Leave me thus alone," he said, "for my present state is better than that ye call me to." 1

He distributes alms

In the course of this day, Mahomet called Ayesha to him, and said,- "Where is that gold which I have unto thee to keep?" On her replying that it was by her; he desired that she should spend it at once in charity. Then he dozed off in a half conscious state; and some time after asked if she had done as he desired her. On her saying that she had not yet done so, he called for the money (which was apparently a portion of the tithe income); site placed it in his hand, and

1 K. Wackidi, 149 ½, 150;- either speaking incoherently, or meaning that he did not feel equal to the task. Abbas is represented as lamenting the irreparable loss sustained by the absence of what Mahomet intended to dictate, and saying that his followers lost it through their quarrelling. But Mahomet was evidently wandering, when he called for the writing materials.

When the women were about to bring the writing materials, Omar chided them:- "Quiet!" he said. "Ye behave as women always do; when your master faileth sick ye burst into tears, and the moment he recovereth a little, ye begin embracing him." Mahomet, jealous even on his death-bed of the good name of his wives, was aroused by these words, and said,- "Verily, they are better than ye are." Ibid. If this tradition be true, it shews that Mahomet was only partially delirious at the moment.

page 273

counted six dinars. He directed that it should be divided among certain indigent families; and then lying down he said,- "Now I am at peace. Verily it would not have become me to meet my Lord, and this gold in my possession."1

Improvement on Monday morning, 13th of 1st Rabi, 8th June.

All Sunday night the illness continued unabated. He was overheard praying one of his ejaculations was to this effect :-- "O my soul! Why seekest thou for refuge elsewhere than in God alone?" 2 The morning brought some measure of relief. The fever and the pain abated; and there was an apparent return of strength.

Mahomet comes out to the morning prayer

The dangerous crisis of the Prophet's sickness on the preceding night having become known throughout the city, the Mosque was crowded in the prayer; morning, at the hour of prayer, by men and women who came seeking anxiously for tidings. Abu Bakr, as usual, led the devotions; as Imam he stood in the place of Mahomet before the congregation, his back turned towards them.3 He had ended the

1 K. Wackidi, 148 ½, 149. The story is told in various ways, but the version in the text is probably correct. Some traditions unite the incident with one of those strange tales of Ayesha which contrast the Prophet's poverty with his benevolence. She was obliged to send (she says) to a neighbour to get oil for her lamp when Mahomet was on his death-bed. See vol.i. Introduction, p. ix. There are many traditions to show Mahomet's unwillingness to retain money in his possession. He used to give every thing away in charity; and did not even like retaining money in his house over the night. All this is probably exaggerated.

2 K. Wackidi, 158. In all his previous illnesses, Mahomet had prayed for his recovery. This prayer, according to tradition, signified that now his expectation was to depart.

3 It will be remembered that in Mahometan prayers, the whole

page 274

first Rakaat, or series of prostrations, and the people had stood up again for a second, when the curtain of Ayesha's door (to the left of the audience, and a little way behind Abu Bakr), slowly moved aside, and Mahomet himself appeared. As he entered the assembly, he whispered in the ear of Fadhl son of Abbas, who with a servant1 supported him: "The Lord verily hath granted unto me refreshment 2 in prayer ;" and he looked around with a smile of inexpressible pleasure, which was marked by all who at the moment caught a glimpse of his countenance.3 That smile no doubt was the index of deep emotion in his heart. What doubts or fears may have crossed the mind of Mahomet, as he lay on the bed of death, and felt that the time was drawing nigh when be must render his account to that God whose messenger he professed to be,- tradition affords us no grounds even to conjecture. The rival claims of Aswad and Museilama had perhaps suggested misgivings such as those which long before distracted his soul. What if be too were an impostor, deceiving himself and deceiving others

congregation, the Imam included, look towards Mecca. The people are ranged in rows behind the Imam, and follow his motions.

1 Thouban, a slave from Yemen. Alyite tradition substitutes Ali for him.

2 Lit. "Cooling of the eyes." K.Wackidi 145.

3 That is by the portion of the congregation in a line with the door, who were standing sideways to it, and by all the ranks behind them. Those in front had their backs partly towards him; but some of them also may probably have turned round to see the cause of the general sensation.

page 275

also! If any doubts and questionings of this nature had arisen in his mind, the sight of the great congregation, in attitude devout avid earnest, may have caused comfort and reassurance. That which brings forth good fruit, he would argue, must itself be good. The mission which had transformed gross and debased idolaters into spiritual worshippers such as these, resigning every faculty to the service of the one great God ,- and which, wherever accepted and believed in, was daily producing the same wonderful change, - that mission must be divine, and the voice from within which prompted him to undertake it must have been the voice of the Almighty; revealed through his ministering spirit. Perhaps it was a thought like this which passed at the moment through the mind of the Prophet, and lighted up his countenance with that smile of joy, diffusing gladness over the crowded courts of the Mosque.

and takes his seat beside Abu Bakr

Having paused thus for a moment at the door, and takes his seat beside Mahomet, supported as before, moved on towards the front where Abu Bakr stood. The people made way for him, opening their ranks as he advanced. Abu Bakr heard the rustle (for he never when at prayer turned himself or looked to the right hand or the left), and apprehending the cause which alone at that time could create so great a sensation, stepped backwards to join the congregation, and vacate the place of leader, for the Prophet. But Mahomet motioned him to resume the post, and taking his hand walked on towards the pulpit. There he sat on the ground by the side of Abu

page 276

Bakr, who resumed the service, and finished it in the customary form.

Abu Bakr goes to visit his wife at Al Sunh

When the prayers were ended, Abu Bakr entered into conversation with Mahomet. he rejoiced to find him to all appearance convalescent. "O Prophet," he said,- "I perceive that by the grace of God, thou art better to-day, even as we desire to see thee. Now this day is the turn of my wife, the daughter of Kharija; shall I go and visit her?" 1 Mahomet gave him permission. So he departed to her house at Al Sunh, a suburb of the upper city.

Mahomet speaks with the people around him in the Mosque

Mahomet then sat himself down for a little while near the door of Ayesha's room, and addressed the people, who, overjoyed to find him again in the midst of them, crowded round. He spoke with emotion, and with a voice still so powerful as to reach beyond the outer doors of the Mosque. "By the Lord!" he said, "as for myself, verily, no man can lay hold of me in any matter ; 2 I have not made lawful anything excepting what God hath made lawful; nor have I prohibited aught but that which God in his book hath prohibited." Osama was there; when he came to bid farewell, Mahomet

1 This was the wife whom he had married at Medina, from the Bani Harith ibn al Khazraj: see vol. iii. p.8. The Moslems imitated Mahomet's custom of spending a day in succession with each of their wives.

2 In this expression probably originated the traditions that Mahomet called upon all claimants to advance and state what demands they had against him; some creditors having claims of trifling amount came forward, it is said, and he discharged their debts. The appeal somewhat resembles that of Samuel; 1 Sam. xii.8.

page 277

said to him: "Go forward with the army; and the blessing of the Lord be with thee!" Then turning to the women who sat close by :- "O Fatima!" he exclaimed, "my daughter, and Safia, my aunt! Work ye both that which shall procure you acceptance with the Lord: for verily I have no power with him to save you in anywise." Having said this, he arose and re-entered the room of Ayesha.1

He retires exhausted to Ayesha's room

Mahomet, exhausted by the exertion he had undergone, lay down upon his bed; and Ayesha, seeing him to be very weak, raised his head and placed it on her bosom. At that moment, one of her relatives entered with a green tooth-pick in his hand.2 Ayesha observed that the eye of Mahomet rested on it, and knowing it to be such as he liked, asked whether he wished to have it. He signified assent. Chewing it a little to make it soft and pliable, she placed it in his hand. This pleased him for he took tip the tooth-pick and used it, rubbing his teeth with his ordinary vigour; then he put it down.

The hour of death draw near.

His strength now rapidly sank. He seemed to be aware that death was drawing near. He called for a pitcher of water, and wetting his face, prayed thus :- "O Lord, I beseech thee assist me in the

1 In this narrative I have followed the Secretary, pp.144,145; and Hishami, p.460.

2 In the east, the fresh and tender wood of trees is used for this purpose, cut into thin and narrow pieces.

page 278

agonies of death!" Then three times he ejaculated earnestly,- "Gabriel, come close unto me!"1

Mahomet dies in the arms of Ayesha

At this time, he began to blow upon himself, perhaps in the half-consciousness of delirium, repeating the while an ejaculatory form which he had been in the habit of praying over those who were very sick. When he ceased, from weakness, Ayesha took tip the task, and continued to blow upon him and recite the same prayer. Then, seeing that he was very low, she seized his right hand and rubbed it (another practice of the Prophet when visiting the sick), repeating all the while the earnest invocation.2 But Mahomet was too far

1 K. Wackidi, 163.

2 A great many traditions are given by the Secretary (p.143), explaining how Mahomet used this form of prayer, accompanied by rubbing or blowing, after the fashion of a charm or incantation. The prayer was, "Take away evil and misfortune, O thou Lord of mankind! Grant a cure, for thou art the Physician. There is no cure besides thine; it leaveth nought of the disease behind."

I have omitted, of course, in the text, all mention of the Incantation which Gabriel is said to have recited over the dying Prophet; the story of the Angel of Death coming to ask permission before he proceeded to exercise his vocation upon him; the voices of unseen visitants wailing, &c. But I may subjoin the following tradition from Jafar ibn Muhammad, as illustrative of Mahometan ideas on the subject:-

"Three days before the death of Mahomet, Gabriel came down to visit him:- 'O Ahmad!' he said, 'the Lord hath deputed me thus as an honour and dignity and a peculiar favour unto thee, that he may inquire of thee concerning that, indeed, which he knoweth better than thou thyself: he asketh, How thou findest thyself this day?' 'O Gabriel!' replied the Prophet, 'I find myself in sore trouble and agony.' The next day, Gabriel again visited Mahomet, and accosted him in the same words; Mahomet replied as before. On the third day, there descended with

page 279

gone to bear even this. He wished now to be in perfect quick :- "Take off thy hand from me," he said; "that cannot benefit me now." After a little he prayed in a whisper, - "Lord grant me pardon and join me to the Companionship on high." Then at intervals : - "Eternity in Paradise! - Pardon!" Yes; the blessed companionship on high!" He stretched himself gently. Then all was still. His

Gabriel the Angel or Death; and there also alighted with him another angel, called Ismail, who inhabiteth the air never ascending up to heaven, and never before having descended to the earth since its creation; and he came in command or 70,000 angels, each one of which was in command of 70,000 more. Gabriel, proceeding in advance or these, addressed Mahomet in the same words as before, and received the same reply. Then said Gabriel, - 'This, O Mahomet! is the Angel of Death. He asketh of thee permission to enter. He hath asked permission of no man before, neither shall he ask permission of any after thee.' Mahomet gave permission; so the Angel of Death entered in, and stood before Mahomet, and said:- 'O Ahmad, Prophet of the Lord! Verily God hath sent me unto thee, and hath commanded me to obey thee in fill that thou mayest direct. Bid me to take thy soul, and I will take it; bid me to leave it, and I will do accordingly.' To which Mahomet replied:- 'Wilt thou, indeed, do so, O Angel of Death! 'The angel protested that his mission was to do only that which Mahomet might command. On this, Gabriel interposed, and said: - 'O Ahmad! verily the Lord is desirous of thy company.' 'Proceed, then,' said Mahomet, addressing the Angel of Death, 'and do thy work, even as thou art commanded.' Gabriel now bade adieu to Mahomet:- 'Peace be on thee,' he said, 'O Prophet or the Lord! This is the last time that I shall tread the earth; with this world I have now concern no longer.'

"So the Prophet died ; and there arose a wailing of celestial voices (the sound was audible, but no form was seen), saying, 'Peace be on you, ye inhabitants of this house, and mercy from the Lord, and his blessing! Every soul shalt taste death,' "-and so on. K.Wackidi, p.158 ½.

page 280

head grew heavy on the breast of Ayesha. The Prophet of Arabia was dead.1

She replaces his head on the pillow and joins in the wailing

Softly removing his head from her bosom, Ayesha placed it on the pillow, and rising up joined other women, beating her face in bitter lamentation.

It was still but a little after mid-day

The sun had but shortly passed the meridian. It was only on hour or two since Mahomet had entered the Mosque cheerful, and seemingly convalescent. He now lay cold in death.2

1 There is a vast concurrence of trustworthy tradition supporting, in one or other point, the narrative I have given. The story that Mahomet died in Ali's lap is an evident fabrication.

I have ventured to bring together the several separate ejaculations which distinct traditions give as his last words. They were probably spoken at short intervals, at represented in the text.

2 The day of Mahomet's death was Monday the 8th June. The popular date assigned is the twelfth of Rabi I. (which, it will be remembered, was also the date of his arrival at Medina); but the date in Rabi I. corresponding with the 8th June, is the thirteenth, which many traditions name as the day of Mahomet's death. The month depending on the moon, any supposed date might often, in popular conversation, be a day on one side or the other of the real date.

There is a great array of authorities fixing the age of Mahomet at sixty-three years. Other traditions give sixty, and some sixty-five years. Wackidi, 163. For the cause of the variation, see vol.i. p. ccvi. note, and p.14, note. There is a curious tradition of a saying by Mahomet, that every prophet exercised his public ministry for a period equal to half his age at the time of assuming the prophetical office. As, at that time, Mahomet was forty years old, he by this calculation lived only sixty years. Jesus, it is added, was eighty years old when he became a prophet, and he finished his ministry at the age of one hundred and twenty years. Another strange conceit is that each prophet exercised his functions for one half only of the term of the prophet's public ministry who preceded him.

The Life of Mahomet, Volume IV [Table of Contents]