Journey or Martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)!!
There are compelling reasons to believe that the passing of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) resulted from ingesting poison. These arguments and narratives hold significant weight and continuity, leading to the conclusion that the Prophet’s departure was indeed a martyrdom.
The Prophetic Foretelling of His Own Departure
A month prior to his passing, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) declared, “The end is near, and the return to the Lord is imminent. Soon I will answer the call of truth. I leave among you two precious things: the Book of Allah and my progeny. These two shall never separate until they meet me at the fountain of Kauthar. Reflect upon how you will uphold them.”
During his farewell pilgrimage, while at the stone-throwing ritual, he announced, “Learn the rites of Hajj from me, for perhaps I may not perform Hajj after this year, and you may never see me at this place again.”
One day, upon hearing the people’s sorrow over the anticipated demise of their Prophet, and leaning on both Fadl bin Abbas and Ali bin Abi Talib (AS), he walked to the mosque. After praising the Almighty, he proclaimed, “You are apprehensive about the death of your Prophet. Was there ever a prophet before me who lived forever? Know that I will join the mercy of my Lord, and you too shall join His mercy.”
On another occasion, with the assistance of Ali (AS) and a group of his companions, the Prophet (PBUH) visited the Baqi graveyard, praying for the departed souls. Turning to Ali (AS), he remarked, “The keys to the eternal treasures of this life and the next have been given to me. I’ve been given a choice between worldly life and meeting the Lord; I prefer the latter.”
In his last few days, after the dawn prayers in the mosque, he advised, “O people! The flames of discord are blazing, and tribulations are emerging like dark night waves. On the Day of Resurrection, I will be ahead of you, and you will come to me at the fountain of Kauthar. Reflect upon how you will act after my departure, especially concerning the two weighty things [the Quran and my progeny], as I’ve been informed they won’t separate until they meet me. I entrust these two to you. Do not surpass them, lest you deviate, and do not fall short in upholding them, lest you perish.” As he slowly made his way home, tearful eyes bade farewell to the last divine messenger.
Discrepancies in the Date of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) Demise
There isn’t a unanimous agreement between Shia and Sunni scholars regarding the exact date of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) demise. Shia historians and biographers, following the narratives from the Ahl al-Bayt (the Prophet’s family), believe that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) passed away on Tuesday, the 28th of Safar in the 11th year of the Hijri lunar calendar. On the other hand, Sunni scholars mention his passing in the month of Rabi’ al-Awwal, but disagree on the specific day. Some claim it was the first day, others say the second, many suggest the twelfth, and there are also varied opinions for other days within the month. Sheikh Abbas Qumi states that the majority of Sunni scholars agree on the twelfth of Rabi’ al-Awwal. Notably, Waqidi is among those who believe that the Prophet’s departure occurred on Tuesday, the twelfth of Rabi’ al-Awwal.
Final Moments Before the Demise of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
In the last days preceding his demise, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) entrusted Ali (PBUH) with the responsibility of performing his ritual purification (ghusl) and shrouding (kafn) after his passing, and leading the funeral prayer over him. Ali (PBUH), deeply attached to the Prophet, replied, “O Messenger of Allah, I fear I may not have the strength to undertake this task.” Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) then drew Ali (PBUH) close to himself. Subsequently, he handed over his ring to him. Afterward, he requested his sword, armor, and other military equipment and entrusted them all to Ali. The next day, the Prophet’s illness became more severe. Yet even in this state, he was advising those around him about the rights of people and the importance of being attentive to their needs. He then said to those present, “Ask my brother and my friend to come here.” Umm Salamah, one of the Prophet’s wives, remarked, “Call Ali; for the Prophet means no one but him.” When Ali (PBUH) arrived, the Prophet gestured for him to come closer. He then embraced Ali (PBUH) and whispered to him for an extended period until he lost consciousness. Witnessing this, the Prophet’s grandsons, Hasan and Husain (PBUT), were deeply distressed and laid themselves on the Prophet’s body. Ali (PBUH) tried to separate them, but when the Prophet regained consciousness, he said, “Let them be, Ali. Let me smell them, and let them smell me. They derive benefit from me, and I derive benefit from them.” Ultimately, while resting his head on Ali’s (PBUH) lap, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) surrendered his soul to the Creator.
Cause of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) Demise:
There is significant evidence suggesting that Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) passing was a result of poisoning. These narrations and reasons hold strong merit and, when considered collectively, confirm the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Narration One: In the most esteemed book of Sunni tradition, it is reported that during the illness leading to his demise, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said to his wife Aisha: “I have always felt the pain of the poisoned food that I consumed in Khaybar. Now, it feels as if that poison wants to claim my life.” This incident is also mentioned in Sunan Darimi. Furthermore, this book refers to the martyrdom of some of the Prophet’s companions due to consuming that poisoned food.
Narration Two: Ahmad bin Hanbal in his Musnad relates a story where a woman named Umm Mubashir, whose son had been martyred due to consuming the poisoned food alongside the Prophet (PBUH), visited the Prophet during his illness. She expressed her strong suspicion that his illness might be a consequence of the same poisoned food that took her son’s life. Responding, the Prophet (PBUH) stated that he saw no other reason for his ailment other than the poisoning and felt it was soon to claim him. The late scholar, Majlisi, also narrated a similar account, suggesting that Muslims believe the Prophet (PBUH), besides the honor of prophethood bestowed upon him, was also blessed with the honor of martyrdom.
Narration Three: Muhammad bin Saad, one of the earliest Muslim historians, narrates the poisoning of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as follows: After the Prophet (PBUH) conquered Khaybar and peace was restored, a Jewish woman named Zainab, who was a relative of Marhab (killed in the Battle of Khaybar), inquired about which part of the sheep was the Prophet’s favorite. Learning it was the shoulder, she slaughtered a sheep, and poisoned its parts, particularly the shoulder, after consulting with Jews about the deadliest poisons. As the sun was setting and the Prophet (PBUH) led the Maghrib prayer, on his return, he saw the Jewish woman still waiting. Upon inquiring, she presented the food as a gift. The Prophet (PBUH) and his companions began to eat. After some time, the Prophet (PBUH) instructed everyone to stop, sensing the sheep was poisoned. The author concludes that the Prophet’s martyrdom was a consequence of this incident.
Narration One: Imam Sadiq (AS) states: “Since Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) loved the shoulder of the sheep, a Jewish woman, aware of this preference, poisoned him using this part of the sheep.” In this narration, it is emphasized that the Prophet (PBUH) was poisoned. However, it doesn’t specify whether he was martyred due to this poison or not.
Narration Two: Imam Sadiq (AS) stated: “The Holy Prophet (PBUH) was poisoned during the Battle of Khaybar. At the time of his passing, he mentioned that the bite he consumed that day in Khaybar has now decayed his body’s organs. And there is no prophet or successor of a prophet except that they depart this world as martyrs. None of them die a natural death!” This narration not only emphasizes the Prophet’s poisoning and his martyrdom resulting from it but also touches upon a general principle: All prophets and their successors depart this world as martyrs and none face a natural death.
Many Shia scholars, relying on this general principle, don’t feel the need to investigate the specifics regarding the martyrdom of each of the infallibles (AS). On this basis, even if a definitive reason for Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) martyrdom isn’t presented, it is still believed that his passing wasn’t natural!
From the total narrations mentioned in both Sunni and Shia sources, the theory of the Prophet’s (PBUH) martyrdom due to poisoning can be strengthened. Almost all of these narrations consistently state that the Prophet’s poisoning occurred around the time of the Battle of Khaybar and was carried out by a Jewish woman.
However, it must be noted that the matter of the Prophet’s (PBUH) martyrdom is not among the foundational principles or axioms of the religion. Belief or disbelief in it isn’t obligatory and its denial doesn’t result in apostasy. For this reason, a small number of Muslims have expressed doubt regarding the Prophet’s martyrdom. They believe that his demise resulted from natural causes, such as a severe chest or rib ailment, or an intense fever. This is despite the Prophet’s own emphasis that he would never be afflicted by some of these diseases.