The Noble Prophet, Muhammad, peace be upon him and his progeny was martyred on Safar 28, 11 AH, in the city of Medina. This significant loss is a tragedy and sorrow for all Muslims that will continue to deepen as time passes. In this article, we will discuss the why and how of the martyrdom of the Prophet (s) and the events before and after his martyrdom.
How Did the Prophet (s) Die?
The Prophet (s) became sick at the beginning of the year 11 AH. Reportedly, he was poisoned and thus martyred. It is indeed possible that his sickness was due to poisoning because he was no more than 63 years old when he passed away. The prophets and imams are healthy people and know what is good and bad for their health thanks to their God-given knowledge. They are infallible and would never eat or drink anything detrimental to their health. Therefore, they live long lives unless they are killed. That is why they say that his enemies poisoned him. Nevertheless, some argue that he died of natural death. However, this is very unlikely for the reasons mentioned above.
What Was the Prophet’s (s) Will Before Dying?
The Prophet (s) invited all Muslims to unity. He said they must follow the Quran and his pure progeny, the Ahlul Bait (a). In a famous narration known as thaqalayn (the two weighty things), the Prophet (s) told his companions to adhere to the Quran and his pure progeny so they would never be misguided. He said that if they cling to these two weighty things, they will never go astray:
إِنِّی تَارِك فِیکمْ أَمْرَینِ إِنْ أَخَذْتُمْ بِهِمَا لَنْ تَضِلُّوا- کتَابَ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ وَ أَهْلَ بَیتِی عِتْرَتِی أَیهَا النَّاسُ اسْمَعُوا وَ قَدْ بَلَّغْتُ إِنَّکمْ سَتَرِدُونَ عَلَی الْحَوْضَ فَأَسْأَلُکمْ عَمَّا فَعَلْتُمْ فِی الثَّقَلَینِ وَ الثَّقَلَانِ کتَابُ اللَّهِ جَلَّ ذِکرُهُ وَ أَهْلُ بَیتِی
“Indeed, I am leaving two things among you, to which if you hold yourself, you will never astray: the book of Allah –who is all mighty and great- and my Ahlul Bait (household), my ‘Itrah (family). O people hear! And I have announced to you that you will enter my presence. I will ask you about what you did to the thaqalayn (two weighty things), and the thaqalayn are the book of Allah and my Ahlul Bait.” (Translation by Wikishia)
Who Buried the Prophet (s)?
Imam Ali (a), the Prophet’s rightful successor, was the one who buried the Prophet (s). He washed (gave him ghusl), shrouded him, and buried him in his house, now known as Masjid al-Nabi. Unfortunately, not many attended his burial procession. While Imam Ali was busy burying the Prophet, a group of Muslims held a meeting to see who should be the Prophet’s successor. Had they forgotten the day of Ghadir when the Prophet (s) appointed Imam Ali as his successor?
The Events After the Martyrdom of the Prophet (s)
In a place called Saqifah, a meeting was held with some of the Prophet’s (s) sahabah (i.e., those who had been in the company of the Prophet [s]). They decided to make Abu Bakr the caliph of Muslims after the Prophet (s). This was totally against what the Prophet (s) had declared at Ghadir Khumm, where he announced Imam Ali (a) as the caliph of Muslims after him. However, the Prophet (s) had told Imam Ali (a) to be patient and not draw his sword to fight for his right so that there would be no bloodshed among Muslims and to avoid discord. The Prophet (s) foretold all the events to Imam Ali (a). He had even told him how his beloved daughter, Fatima (a), would be abused and murdered because of defending his right to the caliphate.
Pledge of Allegiance
Because they announced Abu Bakr as the caliph, they demanded all Muslims to pledge their allegiance to him, willingly or unwillingly. Because Imam Ali (a) refused to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr, they broke into his house, tied his hands, dragged him to the Prophet’s mosque, and forcefully had him pledge his allegiance to Abu Bakr. Lady Fatima al-Zahra (a) strongly defended her husband. She tried to stop them from entering her house. However, they burned her house down and barged into the house while she was behind the door. She was wounded by a nail on the door that went into her chest, making her fall to the ground. Her son Muhsin was miscarried. All along, Imam Ali (a) exercised infinite patience as per the Prophet’s (s) command.
Who Were the True Successors of the Prophet?
The Prophet had foretold who his successors would be based on several narrations. For example, in a hadith known as “Hadith of Jābir,” the Noble Prophet (s) mentions the names of the twelve Imams who would succeed him. The hadith reads:
“After the revelation of Uli l-Amr Verse, Jabir b. ‘Abd Allah al-Ansari asked the Prophet (s): ‘O the messenger of God! We know God and His messenger, but we need to know the Uli l-Amr.’ The Prophet (s) replied: ‘They are my successors and the imams of Muslims after me. The first is Ali b. Abi Talib, and then Hasan, Husayn, Ali b. al-Husayn, and Muhammad b. Ali, known in the Torah as “Baqir,” whom you will see at an old age, and whenever you see him, send my regards to him.
After Muhammad b. Ali, Ja’far b. Muhammad, Musa b. Ja’far, Ali b. Musa, Muhammad b. Ali, Ali b. Muhammad, Hasan b. Ali, and then his son, who is my namesake and has the same kunya as mine. He is the one who will hide from people’s view, and his occultation will be so long that only people with firm beliefs will continue to believe in him.’ “
The martyrdom of the Prophet (s) took place on Safar 28, 11 AH, in the city of Medina. Most historians say that it was likely that he died of being poisoned, while others say he died of old age. The Prophet’s burial procession was disheartening as not many attended it, while a group of people decided who would succeed the Prophet (s). The Prophet (s) had said that Muslims must cling to the Quran and his Ahlul Bait (a). However, certain Muslims did not listen and chose someone other than Imam Ali (a) as the Prophet’s successor. If we want to be true Muslims, we must follow all of the instructions of the Prophet, not just some of them. May Allah have mercy on all of us and unite us with the Prophet (s) on the Day of Judgment.
 Usul al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 294.