Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was in grave condition. Soon after his last sermon, he was so weak that he could not move. He appointed Abu Bakr to lead the prayers in his place (a wise forethought, for Abu Bakr was to become the Caliph after the death of the Prophet.) Although he was dangerously ill, he worried about violating the rights of his wives, for he was required to spend each day in a different wife’s house. However, he gathered them all and requested permission to remain in Aisha’s apartment for the duration of his illness. The respectful and obliging wives that they were, they agreed.
On the 12th of Rabi’ Al-Awwal, the Prophet’s (SAW) fever abated slightly and he went to the mosque for Fajr prayers. Thinking that his fever had passed, the Companions (RAA) were overjoyed, and Anas bin Malik was reported to have said, “I never saw the Prophet’s face more beautiful than it was at that hour.” However, instead of leading prayers, the Prophet (SAW) ordered Abu Bakr to persist in his new role as Imam.
During the daytime, the Prophet (SAW) called for Fatimah, his beloved daughter, and whispered something into her ear that made her cry. Then he added something that made her laugh.
After the Prophet’s (SAW) death, Aisha inquired as to what her husband said, and Fatima related, “The first time he disclosed to me that he would not recover from his illness and I wept. Then he told me that I would be the first of his family to join him, so I laughed.“
Fatimah, along with Aisha, witnessed the pain that the Prophet (SAW) endured, and she remarked, “What great pain my father is in!” The Prophet (SAW) will replied, “He will not suffer any longer when today is over.”
When Sakaratul Mawt (the pangs of death) began, Aisha took the Prophet’s (SAW) head and leaned it between her chest and neck. He cleaned his teeth with a Siwak softened by Aisha’s saliva, and then he raised his finger towards the ceiling; his wife listened carefully to his last words.
“With those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace with the Prophets and the Truthful ones (As-Siddeeqeen), the martyrs and the good doers. O Allâh, forgive me and have mercy upon me and join me to the Companionship on high … The most exalted Companionship on high. To Allâh we turn and to Him we turn back for help and last abode.”
The Prophet (SAW) had chosen his last abode: Paradise. His head became heavy in Aisha’s lap and she rose and told the news to the Companions. Mecca was grief-stricken: the noblest, humblest, greatest man among them and of all time had just passed away. Some were in denial; Umar bin Al-Khattab, who was known amongst his Muslim brothers as a lion heart, almost lost consciousness and then said angrily, “Some of the hypocrites claim that the Messenger of Allâh (SAW) died. The Messenger of Allâh did not die, but went to his Lord in the same way as Moses bin ‘Imran did. He stayed away for forty nights, but finally came back though they said he had been dead. By Allah, the Messenger of Allâh will come back and he will cut off the hands and legs of those who claim his death.”
Abu Bakr, however, though mourning his best friend and Prophet dearly, remained calm (which demonstrated the Prophet’s (SAW) wisdom in choosing him to lead the Muslims after his death.) He said, “And now, he who worships Muhammad (SAW) , Muhammad is dead now. But he who worships Allah, He is Ever Living and He never dies. Allâh says: ‘Muhammad (SAW) is no more than a Messenger, and indeed (many) Messengers have passed away before him. If he dies or is killed, will you then turn back on your heels (as disbelievers)? And he who turns back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allâh, and Allâh will give reward to those who are grateful.’”
It was clear. A glorious age had just ended, but a new era of Islam was about to begin.