AFTER the conquest of Makkah, when the Kaaba and its surroundings were restored to Prophet Abraham’s legacy, the Prophet (PBUH) decided to go for Haj. This was the only pilgrimage he performed. The rituals that he taught and the travel that he undertook have all become part of the Haj rituals.
He felt that he might not meet his followers again in this manner, so he summarised his teachings in his famous last sermon. On Friday, Zilhij 9, 10AH, (March 6, 632CE), the day of gathering on the plain of Arafat, the Prophet climbed up the hill known as Jabal al-Rehmat, or ‘the hill of mercy’, and addressed the pilgrims who, according to some accounts, were 124,000 in number.
After praising God and declaring the basic creed, ‘There is no deity but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger’, he went on to speak on various topics. Some of these statements have become the fundamental touchstones of the Islamic faith.
He quoted from the Quran: “O people, indeed, We have created you from a male and a female and made you nations and tribes so that you would recognise each other. Indeed, the most honourable of you, in the sight of God, is the most pious” (49: 13). All prejudices of colour, caste, tribe and gender are done away with in this verse.
He went on to say, “Therefore, an Arab is not superior to a non-Arab, nor is a non-Arab superior to an Arab. Neither is a black person superior to a white, nor is a white person superior to a black. All human beings are from Adam, and Adam was created from dust. All claims to preference and superiority, all claims of blood and wealth and all rights of vengeance have been crushed under my feet.”
He said that he would not be able to help them on the Day of Judgment if they had not worked for the Hereafter. He told the Qureish that God had destroyed their false pride and their boasting about the achievements of their ancestors: “O people, your blood and wealth and honour have been made inviolable on each other, forever … for all Muslims are brothers of one another. Take care of your slaves. Yes, take good care of your slaves. Feed them the same food that you eat and clothe them similarly.”
Then he said that all the unjust customs of the days of ignorance had been done away with by him. All the retribution and the interest of the days of ignorance were also declared invalid. Since Allah had given every heir his due share, it was not right for anyone to write a will for their heirs. A child will be attributed to the one on whose bed he is born, he declared.
For the one on whom illicit sex is proved, (with four eyewitnesses), the punishment is stoning. The ultimate judgment will be made by God on the Day of Judgment. He said that loans should be paid off and borrowed things should be returned. Gifts should be given in return for gifts received. One who takes up the responsibility of another, should pay the dues. It is not lawful for anyone to take forcefully from another.
He specifically asked his followers to treat their women well, “…for they are bound to you and cannot do as they please. Fear God in regard to women, for it is in His name that you have acquired them and they have been made lawful for you with God’s permission”.
He preached that men and women had rights over each other: “Your rights over them are that they should not call to them anyone whom you do not approve of. They should not betray your trust. If they indulge in shameless immorality, then you have been given the right to express your displeasure. But if they desist, then you should take good care of their needs, such as clothing and food.”
He said that it was not lawful for a woman to give from her husband’s wealth without his consent. Then, the Prophet (PBUH) said, “I am leaving something with you. If you remain steadfast on it, you will never go astray; that is, the book of God and the practice of His Prophet. And remember, do not exaggerate in the matter of your faith. Those before you were destroyed because of this.”
He said that Satan had lost all hope of being worshipped in that city (Makkah) anymore. But in minor matters they might still follow him, which will satisfy him. “So you must protect your religion and your faith from him.”
He reminded his followers to worship their Lord, say their five-time daily prayers, fast for a month, pay zakat willingly, perform Haj and follow their leaders. Then they would become eligible for paradise.
About accountability, he said, “From now on, the criminal alone will be responsible for his crime. Neither will the son be caught in place of his father, nor will the father be avenged in place of the son.” He asked his followers present there to convey what they had heard to those who were not present, for the latter might be more capable of understanding and preserving it (his words).
Concluding the sermon, the Prophet (PBUH) said, “You will be questioned about me (on the Day of Judgment). What answer will you give?” They replied, “We will bear witness that you conveyed to us what you were entrusted with….” The Prophet (PBUH) then pointed towards the people and said, thrice: “O Lord bear witness!”
The writer specialises in Quranic themes and contemporary issues