- There are differing opinions about the burial place of the esteemed Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him and his family).
- Sunni Muslims believe that the Prophet was buried in Aisha’s chamber.
- However, some Shia scholars argue that based on credible references from Sunni sources, it’s certain that the Prophet was not buried in Aisha’s chamber. They provide evidence for this, which will be detailed later.
- The remarkable debate between the students of Imam Sadiq’s school and Abu Hanifa, which points to the controversial nature of the burial places of Umar and Abu Bakr.
Details: Concerning the final resting place of the noble Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him and his family):
1. The Sunni Perspective
Sunni tradition largely believes that the Prophet was buried in Aisha’s chamber. To substantiate this belief, they refer to a narration by Aisha recorded in Sahih Bukhari:
“When the Prophet felt severely ill and his pain intensified, he sought permission from his wives to be nursed in my home, and they allowed. He then left, being supported by two men with his feet dragging on the ground, one of them being Abbas and another man.” Abdullah Ibn Abbas states, that when he mentioned this to Ibn Abbas, he inquired, “Do you know who the unnamed man was?” He replied, “No.” Ibn Abbas said, “It was Ali Ibn Abi Talib.” [Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Page 162, Hadith 665]
This narration from Aisha has been repeated in several sections of Sahih Bukhari. Even though it is consistently attributed to Aisha, there are subtle contradictions in the details, which could be perceived as weak points in the narrative, but this is not our primary focus for now.
It’s worth noting Aisha’s reluctance in mentioning the name of Ali Ibn Abi Talib, highlighting the underlying tensions. As Ahmad Ibn Hanbal quotes, “It was indeed Ali, but Aisha did not favor mentioning him.” [Ahmad bin Hanbal’s Musnad, Volume 6, Page 228.]
The person (whom Aisha’s narration does not specify) is Ali bin Abi Talib. However, Aisha was not inclined to speak of him favorably. [At-Tabaqat al-Kabir, Volume 2, Page 232.]
2. The Shia Perspective
Some Shia scholars believe that the Prophet was not buried in Aisha’s chamber due to the following reasons:
Firstly: Whenever terms like “The Prophet’s House,” “The Prophet’s Chamber,” or “The Prophet’s Home” are used, they refer to the Prophet’s exclusive chamber. Otherwise, they specify the name of one of his wives, such as “Aisha’s House” or “Umm Salamah’s House.”
For instance, it’s mentioned: “One night, the Prophet was praying in his chamber. Some people came and started praying behind him. The Prophet then shortened his prayer and entered his house.”[ Musnad Ahmad, Volume 3, Page 13, Hadith 11567]
Rabiah bin Ka’b al-Aslami narrates: “I spent a night in the Prophet’s chamber. I would hear him, during the night, say: ‘Glory be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.’” [Sunan an-Nasa’i, Volume 3, Page 29.]
Secondly: The closest house to the Prophet Muhammad’s (Peace be upon him and his family) residence was that of Imam Ali (Peace be upon him). The entrance to his house was adjacent to the Prophet’s home.
A man came to Ibn Umar and inquired about Uthman. Later, he asked about Ali. Ibn Umar listed the good deeds and virtues of Ali and stated, “Indeed, his house is the most central among the Prophet’s houses.” He then asked, “Perhaps this fact displeases you?” The man replied, “Yes.” Ibn Umar responded, “Despite your inner desires, it remains a fact.” [Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Page 28, Hadith 374.]
Al-‘Ala bin ‘Azar narrates: “I asked Ibn Umar about Ali. He responded, ‘Look at his residence in relation to the Prophet’s. No other house in the mosque is closer than his.'” [Fath al-Bari, Volume 7, Page 59.]
Someone said, “Shall I not inform you about Ali? This is the Prophet’s house in the mosque, and this is Ali’s house.” [Mustadrak Hakim Nishapuri, Volume 3, Page 51.]
From this, it’s derived that the house of Imam Ali (Peace be upon him) and Hazrat Fatimah (Peace be upon her) was the closest to the esteemed residence of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him and his family).
Moreover, for Hazrat Fatimah (Peace be upon her), a distinct chamber existed within the Prophet’s home. This chamber, to this day, remains preserved in the Prophet’s Mosque and is known by her esteemed name.
Thirdly: According to Sunni sources, the death of the Prophet occurred in his specific chamber, located within his house.
The hadith concerning Omar about the location where the Prophet passed away states: “While we were in the house of the Messenger of Allah, a man called from behind the wall, ‘Come out, O Ibn al-Khattab… for the Ansar have gathered at Saqifah of Banu Sa’ida. Join them before something happens…” [Fath al-Bari, Vol. 7, p. 23; History of Damascus, Vol. 3, p. 282; and in the narration of Ibn Hibban, Vol. 2, p. 155.]
Fourthly: Aisha’s acknowledgment indicates that the Prophet’s death did not occur in her chamber: “The verse about stoning and feeding an older child ten times were revealed, and I was keeping it on a paper under my bed. But when the Messenger of Allah died and we were preoccupied with his death, a goat entered and ate it.” [Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol. 1, p. 625; Al-Tabarani’s Al-Awsat, Vol. 8, p. 12; Musnad Abi Ya’la, Vol. 8, p. 64; Al-Muhalla, Vol. 11, p. 236, and others.]
From the text above, it’s implied that if the Prophet’s illness and subsequent death had occurred in Aisha’s chamber, it would not have been possible for a goat to enter her room, filled with people, and eat that piece of paper on the same day.
Fifthly: Various texts testify that the chamber of the Prophet had two doors. When the Muslims wanted to pray over the Prophet’s holy body, they entered in groups through one door and exited through the other. Meanwhile, as will be clarified in the subsequent evidence, Aisha’s house only had one door, and it faced a direction different from the Prophet’s standalone house.
“They asked, ‘How do we pray over him?’ They were told, ‘Enter in batches. So, they entered through this door, prayed over him, then exited through the other door.” [Musnad Ahmad, Vol. 5, p. 81, Hadith 19838; History of Damascus, Vol. 4, p. 296; Asad al-Ghaba, Vol. 5, p. 254.]
Al-Haythami, after citing the tradition, states: ‘ Its narrators are those of the authentic (Sahih).’ [Majma’ al-Zawa’id, Vol. 9, p. 37]
Sixthly: Aisha’s chamber, unlike the house of the Prophet, had one door facing towards Sham (Syria), meaning the door was opposite the direction of Sham. This is equivalent to the southern side of the mosque, with the door opening towards the mosque.
‘I asked him about Aisha’s house. He said: It had only one door, facing Sham… Was it single or double? He replied: A single door. I asked: What was it made of? He replied: Juniper or teak.’ [Al-Adab Al-Mufrad by Al-Bukhari, p. 168, Imta’ Al-Asma’, Vol. 1, p. 92, Subul Al-Huda, Vol. 3, p. 349, and Sumt Al-Nujum Al-Awali, p. 218]
From the above, several conclusions can be drawn:
A) The part of the hadith saying ‘I asked about the location of Aisha’s chamber’ implies the questioner was certain that the place known today as the burial place of the Prophet is not the location of Aisha’s chamber. Hence, the query regarding its location.
B) From the narration, it’s evident that the direction of Sham for the mosque is the mosque’s northern direction.
Seventhly: A report that Bukhari, Ahmad, and Tabqat have narrated from Anas bin Malik, the servant of the Messenger of Allah, describes a feast at the Prophet’s house on the occasion of his marriage to Zainab bint Jahsh. It indicates a significant distance between the place where the Prophet hosted his guests and Aisha’s house, which was outside the mosque. After eating, the Prophet headed towards Aisha’s house, only to realize some guests remained seated in his private chamber. He thus returned, and it was then that the verse about the curtain (hijab) was revealed, guiding believers on etiquette when invited to the Prophet’s house (Al-Ahzab, 33:52).
“The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, walked and I walked with him until he reached the threshold of Aisha’s chamber. Then, the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, assumed they had left and so he turned back, and I turned back with him until he entered upon Zainab. Lo and behold, they were still seated and had not dispersed. The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, then turned back and I turned back with him until he reached the threshold of Aisha’s chamber again. He assumed they had left, so he turned back and I turned back with him. Then, when they had indeed left, the verse of the Hijab (veil) was revealed, and a curtain was placed between me and him.” [Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 6, p. 26, Hadith no. 6238, Musnad Ahmad, Vol. 3, p. 168, and Al-Tabaqat Al-Kubra, Vol. 8, p. 14]
Eighthly: After the death of the Messenger of God, Aisha sold her room to Muawiyah. Therefore, the room where the Prophet was buried cannot be the same room that Aisha sold.
Muawiyah bought the house from Aisha. Some say 180,000 dirhams, others say 200,000 dirhams. It was stipulated that Aisha would live there for the rest of her life. [Al-Tabaqat Al-Kubra, Volume 8, page 165.]
The conclusion is that the residence of the Messenger of God mentioned in the above texts is the same room that was exclusively owned by him and where he passed away. Later on, the regime, just as it took control of the Prophet’s Mosque and laid its hand on it so that the Banu Hashim could not use its shelter to promote their goals, the daughter of the head of the regime (Aisha) claimed ownership and control of the Prophet’s chamber. The regime accepted this, pushing aside the daughter of the Messenger of God and Imam Ali. This was while Aisha’s chamber was in her own private home and in a different direction from the mosque, namely the Qibla side of the mosque.
The reason for Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib’s silence and the silence of the Ahl al-Bayt about rallying people against the regime concerning this matter is precisely the same position they had regarding the principle of the caliphate and rule, which is the command to be patient from the Messenger of God until their progeny, Al-Hujjah ibn al-Hassan, appears to unveil what had befallen their pure ancestors.
Debate between Fazal and Abu Hanifa
Perhaps one can regard the following conversation and debate, which took place between Fazal from the disciples of Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) and Abu Hanifa, as one of the most delicate yet comprehensive words concerning the topic under discussion. The conversation adeptly hints at the usurped nature of the burial places of Umar and Abu Bakr:
It is narrated: Fazal bin al-Hasan bin Fazal al-Kufi encountered Abu Hanifa while he was among a large gathering, dictating some of his jurisprudence and traditions.
Fazal said to his companion, “By Allah, I will not leave until I embarrass Abu Hanifa.” His companion replied, “Abu Hanifa is among those whose reputation and arguments are well-established.”
Fazal remarked, “Shh! Have you ever seen the argument of one in error prevailing over the argument of a believer?!” Then, he approached Abu Hanifa and greeted him. Abu Hanifa and all the people around returned the greetings.
Fazal said, “O Abu Hanifa, I have a brother who claims that after the Messenger of Allah, Ali bin Abi Talib (peace be upon him) is the best of people. However, I say that Abu Bakr is the best followed by Umar. What is your opinion, may Allah have mercy on you?”
After a thoughtful pause, Abu Hanifa raised his head and replied, “The proximity of their graves to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) is honor and pride enough. Aren’t you aware that they are buried next to his grave? What evidence can be clearer than this?”
Fazal responded, “I mentioned this to my brother. He said, ‘By Allah, if the burial place rightfully belonged to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) and not to them, they did an injustice by being buried in a place they had no right to. And if the burial place initially belonged to them and they later granted it to the Prophet, they did wrong and acted inappropriately by reclaiming their gift and breaking their pledge.'”
Abu Hanifa paused for a while and then said, “Neither the place was exclusively for him [the Prophet] nor for them, but they considered the rights of Aisha and Hafsa and hence deserved to be buried in that place due to the rights of their daughters.”
Fazal replied, “I said the same to him, and he replied, ‘You know that the Prophet died leaving nine wives. We calculated, and each of them would get one-ninth of the inheritance. Looking into this one-ninth, it equates to a piece of land measuring one cubit by one cubit. So, how could these two men deserve more than that? Furthermore, how come Aisha and Hafsa inherit from the Messenger of Allah, but Fatima, his daughter, is denied her inheritance?'”
Abu Hanifa exclaimed, “Get this man away from me! He’s a wicked Rafidi (Shiite).” [Al-Fusul al-Mukhtara by Sayyid Murtada, page 74; Kanz al-Fawaid by Abu Al-Futooh Karajaki, page 135; Ihtijaj Tabarsi, Vol 2, page 149, etc.]