Funeral of the Prophet and the Companions
Recently, a young man asked me why it happened at the time of the demise of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that the Companions, especially Abu Bakr and Umar, were trying to get the Khilafah instead of worrying about his burial. This question is in fact a whole point of view with many misunderstandings. Many people are influenced by this view on the basis of superficial information. Therefore, this claim needs to be reviewed in light of the facts.
Allah Almighty has decided in the Holy Qur’an about the collective system of Muslims that their affairs are decided by mutual consultation. Allah (SWT) says:
‘Their system is based on mutual consultation’ (Shura 42:38)
The Quran orders landed in the tribal society of Arabia, which did not have a concept of a collective state and history of a supreme leader. Before Islam, each tribe had its own chief, who ran its affairs. There was no formal state in Arabia and no permanent ruler. Even in the central city of ‘Umm al-Qura’, Makkah, there was no ruler. There was hardly a loose collective order in which the tribal chiefs would come together on a collective issue and take a decision together.
This is how Islam emerged. After the migration, the state of Madinah came into being. The Holy Prophet (SAW) was naturally the ruler of this state. Until 8 AH, this state was limited to Madinah and its environs. Then, in just three years after the conquest of Makkah, the kingdom spread throughout Arabia. It was an Arab country where divisive tribes and all kinds of bigotry existed and which for the first time came together under a single ruler. But the people’s faith in the Prophet as a messenger and the Prophet’s connection with the highest tribe, the Quraysh, was what led to this political revolution in Arabia. However, the fact was that the newly converted tribes were not yet accustomed to this whole system.
In his last days, the Holy Prophet was fully aware of this situation. But he did not say anything in this regard because the Muslims had the command of Allah Almighty anyway. Secondly, Prophet knew that if he gave any order to the people on this occasion, it would be the only viable form of the above verse of Surah Ash-Shura till the Day of Judgment. This would have been correct in view of the tribal period of that time but in the coming times by making every other method of electing a ruler un-Islamic, would have become clear proof of the impracticality of Islam. While, in fact, Islam was to become the religion of not only the tribal era but also the information age of today. Therefore, when the Holy Prophet realized that the time for his departure was near, he delivered his last sermon in the Prophet’s Mosque five days before his death. In this sermon, he made last wills to the Muslims but did not give any guidance on the practical method of political rule. However, he pointed to the person who in his eyes was the most deserving of this position. Therefore, on this occasion, he made others count the services of Hazrat Abu Bakr regarding religion and his companionship and ordered that every door in the Prophet’s Mosque should be closed except his door (agreed upon). From the next day onwards, he handed over the Imamate of the Prophet’s Mosque to Hazrat Abu Bakr and made his intention clear to the people.
Four days later, the Holy Prophet passed away before the afternoon prayers on Monday. The Muslims were deeply shocked by the departure of their beloved Prophet. But the other bitter truth was that the new Arab state, full of tribal bigotry, had become vacant and no successor had yet been appointed. So, as expected some Ansar people gathered in Saqifa Bani Sa’ida and started discussing the issue of succession of the Holy Prophet. Hazrat Abu Bakr was undoubtedly the greatest leader of the Muslims at that time. The history of Islam would have finished had he made even slightest of mistakes. In these circumstances, on hearing the news of the demise of Holy prophet, he went straight to the Prophet’s Mosque and encouraged the Muslims with these glorious words: “Whoever worshiped Muhammad (peace be upon him) should know that he has passed away; whoever worships Allah, let him know that Allah lives forever He will never die” (Bukhari 640/2641). At the same time, he had the responsibility to guide the Muslims. So he went to the Ansar with important Quraysh chiefs like Hazrat Umar and Hazrat Abu Ubaidah bin Jarrah and after a long discussion succeeded in convincing the Ansar in the light of some of the instructions of the Holy Prophet that the Caliph should be one of the Quraysh. After that, everyone knew who the greatest leader among the Quraysh Muslims was. So Hazrat Umar suggested his name which was immediately accepted by all. Thus the danger of anarchy in the state of Madinah was averted. But the whole process finished on Monday night. The next day, on Tuesday, the Holy Prophet was bathed by Syedna Ali and other close relatives.
According to the instructions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), his grave was to be built at the place of his death. Therefore, there was no question of going anywhere else for burial and funeral prayers. Therefore, people came in groups and prayed in the same room of Syeda Ayesha where he died. In this process, the whole day of Tuesday passed and in the middle of the night of Wednesday, the burial of the Holy Prophet took place in the room of Hazrat Ayesha.
This is the fact which is tuned to a myth on which some of our Muslim brothers create questions about Islam, its prophet and his best followers that make the new generation disgusted with Islam and gives chance to non-Muslims to ridicule us. However, every scholar knows that in the early days of Hazrat Abu Bakr, despite the establishment of the Khilafah and the full support of the Muhajireen, Ansar and the Quraysh of Makkah, a great uprising took place in Arabia. Imagine what would have happened to the Muslims if Hazrat Abu Bakr and Hazrat Umar had not made an immediate decision at the time of the death of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and ended the dispute at the outset.
What we have written is supported by Syedna Ali’s own conduct. Unaware of the gravity of the situation, he initially complained about why I was not consulted, but when the matter became clear to him, he did not delay swearing allegiance to Abu Bakr. After that, throughout the reigns of Hazrat Abu Bakr and Hazrat Umar, he fully supported them and was always their closest advisor. And they both put the opinion of Hazrat Ali first in every matter.
Undoubtedly, the Companions are the ones who paid homage to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in such a way that the Quran has testified to their sincerity and sacrifices in many places. After this testimony of the Holy Quran, there is no need for any other testimony for the authenticity of these people.