Explicitly, according to both Sunni and Shia scholars, and as confessed by the authors of Sahih collections and other Hadith compilers, when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) was on his deathbed, several men, including Umar ibn al-Khattab, were present in his house.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) said, “Bring me [writing materials] so that I may write for you a document after which you will never go astray.” Umar remarked, “He is in pain, and we have the Qur’an with us; the Book of Allah is sufficient for us.” This caused a dispute among those present. When the noise and disagreement escalated in the presence of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny), he told them to leave.
Ibn Abbas would often say that the greatest tragedy was their disruption and noise which prevented the Prophet from writing what he wanted for them.
This hadith is among those where there is no doubt regarding its authenticity.
In truth, they knew that the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) wanted to fortify the covenant of leadership and specifically appoint Imam Ali (peace be upon him) as his successor. Therefore, they tried to prevent him from doing so. Umar ibn Khattab admitted this in a discussion with Ibn Abbas.
If we consider the Hadith of Thaqalayn, where the Prophet said, “I leave among you two precious things, and if you adhere to both of them, you will never go astray after me. They are the Book of Allah and my Progeny,” we realize that both hadiths point to the same intention: The Prophet, during his illness, wanted to detail what he had mentioned in the Hadith of Thaqalayn.
Why did the Prophet refrain from writing then? Seeing the disrespectful arguments in his presence, it was clear that they would not adhere to his will after his passing. Insisting on writing would have led to claims that he was delirious, causing further division among the Muslim community.
What emphasizes the importance of a will for the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) is the Qur’anic instruction which clearly states: “It is prescribed, when death approaches any of you and he is leaving behind wealth, to make a will in favor of parents and close relatives, according to what is reasonable, a duty upon the righteous.” . Numerous traditions validate this, to the extent that the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) said: “It is not appropriate for a Muslim to sleep a night without his will being under his head.”. How can one believe that the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny), regarding something as significant as the leadership after him, left no will behind?
Despite being unlettered, the Prophet was not without means to convey his wishes. While he himself did not write, he imparted some of his bequests during the Farewell Pilgrimage and in his sermon at Ghadir Khumm, stating, “I am leaving among you two precious things: The Book of Allah and my Progeny.”
Furthermore, in other sermons and addresses, he voiced his directives which were then documented by others.
He intended to pen just two words regarding Imam Ali (peace be upon him) at the time of his passing, but Umar intervened. Nevertheless, concerning his family and kin, he had already advised in the language of the Qur’an and Hadith; hence, there was nothing the Prophet held back.
- Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 7, p. 156.
- Al-Muraja’at by Sayyid Sharaf al-Din, translated by Mohammad Ja’far Emami, p. 324.
- Qur’an, Surah Al-Baqarah (2), Verse 176.
- Wasa’il al-Shi’a, Vol. 13.