The Farewell Sermon of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

The final sermon of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is to many Muslims one of the most inspiring sermons to be read. After fourteen hundred years the contents of the message in it is still powerful and intense. Leaving the listener to think and take time to realise where one has gone wrong. The message sets the priorities of life; showing us what we must understand first, what must be taken care of and what we must at all times steer clear of. It teaches simplicity and humility, equality for all. This final message of the Prophet (pbuh) is relevant today just as much as it was fourteen hundred years ago. It is important to deeply understand its content, what Muhammad (pbuh) was passionately emphasising and how it can help our fragile society today in the 21st century.

What he said in this sermon becomes ever stronger and compelling and heart-warming as his final piece of message, when we realise that this is what he was struggling to achieve for so long. It summed up his mission as a Prophet of God for the last 23 years of his life, where he went through so many hardships and battles, exiles, trails and tribulations. This was not just a simple sermon by the Prophet (pbuh) but a heart felt plea to his people to take heed and believe sincerely in what he stood for. It shows his deep concern and worry for his nation, his followers, and that he was troubled for what the future may hold for Muslims. Therefore he was advising all his followers to firmly hold fast to the way he has shown: the Qur’an and the Sunnah (the way of the Prophet (pbuh).

One who understands Muhammad’s (pbuh) life and his mission as a messenger of God, cannot help but be moved by his loving request in his speech to stay within the boundaries and limits that he has shown by the order of the Creator. One cannot undervalue the message in it. The complete simplicity of the speech can reach the hearts and minds of the listener like no other speech. As it calls everyone to a greater unity as one Muslim nation, equality throughout the entire human race and realisation that there is only one goal and one reality; which is the al-Mighty. And what he spoke was not of his own accord but of his Lord, and this itself makes his sermon much more potent and persuasive to the minds that seek peace and serenity.

Mount Arafat

Muhammad (pbuh) delivered this final sermon on the ninth day of Dhul-Hijjah, 10 A.H. (632AD) in the Uranah valley of Mount Arafat in Mecca. It was the time of the annual rites of Hajj (Pilgrimage to Makkah) which was lead by him. The sermon was delivered to pilgrims numbering between 124,000 and 144,000 according to different narrations. The prophet spoke the sermon in short portions so that his word could be repeated by various men around him, in order to convey the speech to everyone in the valley. So after praising and thanking the Giver of all, the messenger Muhammad (pbuh) started by stating that he did not know whether he would meet the people at the same place next year. So “therefore, listen carefully to what I am saying and take these words to those who could not be present here today”.

The Prophet (pbuh) first reminded the people the sacredness of their lives and their property as sacred as they regarded the place and month they were in[1], “so return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners”. He said “Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you, remember that you will indeed meet your Creator, and that he will indeed reckon your deeds”. Notice how the Prophet emphasises the meeting with God, because we will be present in front of our Lord one day, and He will Judges us by our deeds. Any Muslim who indeed fears his God and loves God has to abide by His command. Anything he does wrong whether openly or secretly, anything he hides wrongfully from another person; his Lord will know. And the final judgement will be upon him for whatever good or bad he has done. It is a call for Muslims to be just and merciful, to be united. Another beautiful statement made here by Muhammad (pbuh) “hurt no one so no one may hurt you”. Do not inflict pain on anyone because you know you wouldn’t like the same to be done to you, physically or verbally. “Do no oppress and do not be oppressed”.

Then he talks about the use of interest now being completely forbidden: “Allah has forbidden you to take usury; therefore all interest obligations shall henceforth be waived. Your capital is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequality. Allah has judged that there shall be no interest and that all interest due to Al Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib be waived”. The messenger (pbuh) of God knew what usury could do to a society therefore making it clear in his final sermon that it is completely abolished amongst Muslims. This is firm advice to take heed of, even in today’s time and situation; the gap between the rich and the poor still grows primarily because of the use of interest. The Prophet (pbuh) said by shunning the use of interest; we neither inflict nor suffer inequality, inequality which interest takes advantage of and causes more and more. Al Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib was an uncle of the Prophet (pbuh), he was a rich man, a wealthy merchant in Makkah. Muhammad (pbuh) saw it so important to cut all obligations of interest due towards his uncle. He also ordered that all blood feuds from the pre-Islamic days be forgotten. Because it was now time to start with a new clean sheet. And forgiveness must be a priority here, without this there would be no peace.

And the Prophet (pbuh) warned the people that those who seek mischief will try to allow what is wrong and forbid what is right in Islam. And that they may tamper with the calendar which God has ordained right. So Muhammad (pbuh) taught: “Know that with your God the months are twelve in number. Four of them are holy; they are successive, except one occurs singly between the months of Jumada and Shaban (meaning Rajab)”[2]. In these holy months all war and feuds are forbidden, to help peaces prevail and to allow the rites of major and minor pilgrimages to be carried out kindly.

“Beware of Satan! For the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will be able to lead you astray in major things so beware of following him in small things”. The Messenger (pbuh) did not forget to caution the people against Satan, who is a sworn enemy. Even though Muhammad (pbuh) had taught the Muslims to successfully recognise Satan, he was still worried that he may lose some through minor actions which they may have thought were just simple innocent deeds. This piece of advice is most relevant today where all sorts of things are cause of distraction from the reality of the world and the One. “O People! Listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, say your five daily prayers, fast during month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in Zakat. Perform Hajj if you can afford it”, being steadfast in worshipping God and following His commands is the only way one can escape the whispers of Satan.

Next the Prophet (pbuh) expresses the rights of women. Saying that it is true that Men have rights over their wives, but also that wives have their rights over their husbands. He reminds the men that they have taken them as their wives “only under Allah’s trust and with His permission”, swearing that they will take care of them and protect them. We can understand from this statement of Muhammad (pbuh) that: to be unfair to our wives is also injustice towards God and His commandments and His trust. “So if they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers”. Here mentioned by the Messenger (pbuh) a very important role of women as wives in Islam, that they are partners to their husbands, not only as wives but as companions and friends. They can know their men better than anyone, so they are the fittest to stand by for help, advice and comfort. They are ‘committed’ helpers, because they love their husbands, their help is invaluable, and can go a very long way. Every man longs for such a wife and such a wife has the utmost right to be sheltered, clothed and protected with kindness by her husband. “And it is your (the husband’s) right that they (the wives) do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well never to be unchaste”. This is not only a right of the husband but also of the wife as well, as and the Prophet (pbuh) said “women also have rights over their husbands”. A husband also may not make friends with whoever the wife disapproves of as well as being chaste, and other matters in which the husband or the wife may rightly disagree of.

 “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a White has no superiority over a Black nor does a Black have any superiority over a White except by piety and good action.” Muhammad (pbuh) could not be more clear and explicit on the matter of race and colour. That every single person on this world is descended from Adam (pbuh) and Adam is from dust. Whether black or white, an Arab or an Englishman, no one has the right to treat someone unfairly on the bases of race, colour or language, because ultimately we all came from dust. One should humble him/herself because God judges by piety and good actions. “And learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly”.

And then it is said the he quoted a verse from the Qur’an: “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)”[3].  This verse is profound and extremely relevant even for our times. It speaks of recognising each other for who we are, we are different so we may know one another not that we should fight, hate or destroy one another.

Nearing the end of his sermon, Muhammad (pbuh) reminded that there will be no more prophets to come after him and no new revelation or religion. “So Reason well, therefore O People, and understand the words that I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Quran and the Sunnah and if you follow these you will never go astray”. He warns us of false prophets and religions and to be united as one Muslim nation holding fast to the Qur’an and his way (Sunnah). The Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) complete the religion of Islam for the entire Muslim community, providing knowledge on major and minor aspects in life, for a Muslim this is total guidance and correctness. And without these a Muslim would fall off course from the teachings of Islam.

He was not only concerned for the Muslims present but also for those who weren’t present as well, such as future generations. So he said: “All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly”, making it an obligation to those present to pass the message on to those who weren’t present. This is how much the Prophet (pbuh) worried for his nation.

Now ending the speech he spoke “O Allah, be my witness, that I have conveyed your message to Your people”.

Shortly after Muhammad (pbuh) had given the speech, a verse of the Qur’an was revealed to him: “…This day have I perfected for you, your religion and fulfilled My favour unto you, and it hath been My good pleasure to choose Islam for you as your religion…”[4][5] After this the prophet realised that he had completed the mission ordained on him by his Creator. It took him 23 years of hardship and effort, and thus it was time for the last cycle of his messenger-hood to draw nearer, which was to return to his Lord al-Mighty. And so he asked one of his companions: Rabiah brother of Safwan (ra) to relay the sermon sentence by sentence with his loud voice. The Prophet (pbuh) then finally asked the people “O people, have I faithfully delivered unto you my message (of Islam)?” To which every person present and listening replied “Allahumma na’m” meaning ‘O Allah! Yes!’ and this reply rings around the whole valley so awesome. Muhammad (pbuh) then cried again “O Allah bear witness that I have conveyed your message to your people”.

A few months later Muhammad (pbuh) grew very ill with strong fever and passed away at the age of 63[6]. But his legacy lives on. Never has a man been missed by so many people, longing to have been in his presence just one more time. The world still remembers his works, his mercy and his love for the creation and more so for its Creator. At a time when violence and bloodshed and war were the order of the day, he successfully taught how love and respect the world. He taught us to recognise God and how to worship Him and love Him, the creator. By loving God and by loving His creation we love the holy prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

This final sermon of Muhammad (pbuh) speaks to every age group, teaching us the value of life and to recognise and respect our Creator. And it seems so that it is more relevant today than ever before, for both Muslims and non-Muslims. It reminds us of the greater equality that we all seek to establish, that we are one human race. Every human is the brother of every other human, whatever the colour and whatever the race, whatever the language, whether we are rich or poor, man or a woman, what ever the social or religious status may be; we must unite ourselves and become brothers and sisters in humanity. God only judges by what is inside us, he sees our sincerity and belief, He judges by our actions. It teaches love and appreciation for the creation, to seek peace not war and to be kind and generous to our women. The time of Muhammad (pbuh) was a time when women were thought to be inferior to men. All sorts of unthinkable crimes were committed against women at the time. They were believed to be a curse, a misfortune for families. It was only the rich and protected women that were able to live a decent life, the poor and unfortunate were the ones who had to struggle like this. The Prophet (pbuh) saw to put an end to such mistreatments, and he successfully did by the aid of God, likewise to many other crimes and injustices committed against man during his lifetime.

Notice it was a final message and advice of the Prophet and a summarisation of his prophetic life. Teaching the dire importance of establishing peace and respect in our society by the best means: racial equality, social justice, the rights of women and economic equality, and these are requirements from the al-Mighty. Throughout the speech Muhammad (pbuh) reminds us of our Creator that we will all return to Him and how He judges, that it is God who is the only Legislator. It reminds us that in every aspect of life, be it marriage, financial or social; our foremost obligations belongs to the Creator and Provider. It is a sermon meant not only for Muslims but for the entire world, for every community and nation, and every environment regardless of religious or societal backgrounds. It tackles issues of which every human may face. We must recognise the vital teachings in it.

Muslims are reminded not to forget the obligations to their faith. To always adhere to the holy Qur’an and the Sunnah, to be constant in worshiping and obeying the Creator, to fear and love Him. And to teach everything they learned from Muhammad (pbuh) to others who may not know.

Today we need to make great efforts to establish peace, justice and equality in the social order. To improve our future, the safety of our children, to ensure that society doesn’t fall to the gutters again; we need to make the efforts. The final sermon of Muhammad (pbuh) has advices, lessons and ideas in it which are beneficial for the environment and people all around; to rid of racial and sexual discrimination, to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, to establish social justice in every aspect, and other important issues. I believe that this last sermon of the last and final prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is an effective tool to help liberate our modern society of the injustices and misdeeds which we all bare along with. It shows what we have understood and what we have misunderstood, where we have gained and lost. And most importantly it shows where we have been unsuccessful and where we need to reach.

Read the complete sermon here.

References

[1] Sahih Bukhari: Vol 8, Book 81, Hadith 776 (English Reference)

[2] Sahih Bukhari: Vol 4, Book 54, Hadith 419 (English Reference)

[3] Qur’an 49:13

[4] Qur’an 5:3

[5] Sahih Bukhari: Vol 1, Book 2, Hadith 44 (English Reference)

[6] Sahih Bukhari: Vol 5, Book 58, Hadith 243 (English Reference)

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