Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Farewell Pilgrimage - Prophet Muhammad's Sermon

Prof. Abdur Raheem Kidwai
Dept.of English, Aligarh University, India
The Prophet  led the Pilgrims from Makkah through the Valley of Mina and up to the Mountain of Arafat and then stopped them in the Valley of Uranah. They stopped them in the Valley of Uranah. They stood in front of him silently as he sat on his camel; he delivered a sermon which was later to be known as the Farewell Sermon just as the pilgrimage itself was called the Farewell Pilgrimage. Although it was his first Pilgrimage, it was also his last and therefore his only pilgrimage. With such a large crowd, his voice could not reach out to all those who were present. He therefore asked Rab'ah Ibn Umayya Ibn Khalaf, who was known to have a loud voice, to repeat the sermon after him, sentence by sentence so that everyone could hear.
Prophet Muhammad's Last Sermon
This sermon was delivered on the Ninth day of Dhul al Hijjah 10 A.H. in the 'Uranah valley of Mount Arafat.
After praising, and thanking God, he said:
"O People, listen well to my words, for I do not know whether, after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and take these words to those who could not be present today.
O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Treat others justly so that no one would be unjust to you. Remember that you will indeed meet your LORD, and that HE will indeed reckon your deeds. God has forbidden you to take usury (riba), therefore all riba obligation shall henceforth be waived. Your capital , however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer inequity. God has judged that there shall be no riba and that all the riba due to `Abbas ibn `Abd al Muttalib shall henceforth be waived.
Every right arising out of homicide in pre-Islamic days is henceforth waived and the first such right that I waive is that arising from the murder of Rabi`ah ibn al Harith ibn `Abd al Muttalib.
O Men, the Unbelievers indulge in tampering with the calendar in order to make permissible that which God forbade, and to forbid that which God has made permissible. With God the months are twelve in number. Four of them are sacred, three of these are successive and one occurs singly between the months of Jumada and Sha`ban. Beware of the devil, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things.
O People, it is true that you have certain rights over your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under God's trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers. It is your right and they do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste...
O People, listen to me in earnest, worship God (The One Creator of the Universe), perform your five daily prayers (Salah), fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your financial obligation (zakah) of your wealth. Perform Hajj if you can afford to.
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 a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. 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. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.
Remember, one day you will appear before God (The Creator) and you will answer for your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.
O People, no prophet or messenger will come after me and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand words which I convey to you. I am leaving you with the Book of God (the Quraan) and my Sunnah (the life style and the behavioral mode of the Prophet), if you follow them you will never go astray.
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. Be my witness O God, that I have conveyed your message to your people.
On being asked to throw light on Prophet Muhammad's  conduct, Aishah, the Prophet's wife, observed that his life and conduct demonstrated practically what the Quran teaches theoretically. This observation is reflected at its sharpest in the historic Sermon, which the Prophet delivered before 120,000 Muslim pilgrims at Arafat on 9 Dhu al-Hijjah as part of his Farewell Pilgrimage. For this captures the essence of the Quranic teachings. It stands out as a summary of the Quranic perspective. Since it was a huge gathering of the Muslim community, the Prophet aptly focused on such elements which are essential for constructing a society and community as sought by the Quran. In other words, his directives addressed directly to the Muslim community reiterate the essential teachings of the Quran on social community life. Little is said in this Sermon on articles of faith, spiritual matters and other aspects of creed.
Throughout the emphasis is on building cordial social relations; between man and wife, between individual members of the community and between all sections and classes of the society. These directives aim at forging a mutually cordial and trustworthy community life, ensuring peaceful co-existence among all the constituents of the society. Social justice is distinctly the unmistakable and overarching tenor of the Sermon. The life-enriching message is indubitably derived from the Quranic worldview which forbids wrong-doing and injustice in all its forms - social, marital and economic in particular. The Sermon is premised on the virtues, which guarantee a happy, peaceful life for everyone. The Sermon opens with a glowing tribute to the majesty and glory of Allah. This readily brings to mind the opening Surah of the Quran al-Fatihah. For without self-surrender to the Will of the Supreme Being and thus for worshipping him alone, man is liable to err in his social dealings. The awareness of His all-presence and the desire to mould one's existence in the light of His awareness, helps man keep on the right track. There is no law or worldly authority that can induce such fear in a man's heart to enable him to withstand all temptations. easy yet unlawful gains, than the awareness of the One to whom man is ultimately responsible. The principles of Life after Death and of the organic consequences of man's action and behavior, in which heart and mind to a way which is branded as "the straight path" (Sirat al-Mustaqeem).
The Prophet's Sermon brings out in full as to what constitutes this straight path. This is followed by a direct address to the audience with an emotionally surcharged note, which was bouynd to strike a chord in every heart present there. As this gathering may be his last it made the audience all the more attentive to his message. It goes without saying that the Prophet's Companions always made it a point to listen to him in rapt attention and deemed it as their highest privilege to comply readily with all that was commanded by him. Those many Muslims who had turned up from distant, remote parts of Arabia it was their first chance to see and hear him, and could be their last chance to listen to him, naturally made them more receptive. It is nonetheless worth-clarifying that the Prophet made no assertion death approaching him definitely that year. For the exact time of one's death is determined only by Allah and he had no access to the realm of al-Ghayb (the domain which lies outside the realm of human perception).
After having secured the audience's full attention with his opening, dramatic remark, he recited before them an immensely significant Quranic verse in which Allah declares:
O men! Behold, we have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of in the sight of God is the one who is deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all knowing, all-aware.[Surah Al-Hujurat 49:13]
This declaration underscoring the unity of mankind and piety as the sole criterion of winning Allah's  blessing is immediately followed by his elucidation that an Arab or a white person enjoys no superiority over a non-Arab or a black person and vice versa. This elaboration of the the Quranic declaration was necessary in view of the mindset and psyche of his immediate addresses. By lining excellence, honour and superioruty with one's good conduct the Prophet gave a new orientation to their perception. It is worth recalling that the truth of the unity of mankind is reiterated at several places in the Quran. Take the following as illustrative:
All mankind was once single community.[Surah Al Baqarah 2:213]
O mankind! Be conscious of your Sustainer, who has created you out of one living entity, and out of its mate, and out of the two spread abroad a multitude of men and women. And remain conscious of God, in whose name you demand [your rights] from one another, and of these ties kinship. Verily, God is ever watchful over you![Surah An-Nisa 4:1]
That all men have originated from the same progenitor - Prophet Adam recurs also in al-Anam 6:98, al-Araf 7.189 and al-Zumar 39.6. It is thus unmistakable that the Prophet's insistence on the unity of mankind reiterates the Quranic stance.
This is followed by his forceful plea for social justice, for peaceful existence and for a tension-free society. The tribal society of Arabia was plagued with feuds and internecine wars. Several Quranic passages preach the lesson of tolerance, forgiveness and cordial relations. The Prophet's directive follows from the same fountain of guidance. The direct address to the members of the Quraysh tribe, to which the Prophet belonged has a very important functional value. Being the temporal religious authority in the pre-Islamic Arabia for centuries, the Quraysh thought very highly of themselves. With the advent of Islam and their familial ties with the Prophet they were prone to suffering from some complex of superiority and immunity against divine punishment. They could easily fall into the error of considering themselves as the chosen people an God's favorites. Some earlier communities has fallen into the same trap. In this public gathering, in which thousands of non Quraysh and non-Arabs were present, the Prophet made absolutely plain that the Quraysh's ties of kinship with him would not avail them even in the least. They would be judged solely on the basis of their deeds. It is high time they should empty their minds of all pride and arrogance. This assertion, once again, stemmed from the Quranic standard of justice and fairness which does away with all false notions of ancestry or kinship.
The Prophet is seen making the most of the sacred day of a sacred month, as was recognized throughout Arabia even in the pre-Islamic period. He dwelt on a related yet far more important issue that human life, property and honour too, are sacred and deserve to be treated so by everyone. He thus established an effective religious and social. This was designed to leave an indelible imprint on the minds of the audience about the inviolability of human life, of the honour and belongings of others. Needless to add, this directive, if followed faithfully, is bound to construct a happy, peaceful society, free from revenge. His other assertions in the Sermon about refraining from killing one another, usurping others belongings and betraying the trusts reposed in them re-echo the following Quranic commands.
But whoever deliberately slays another believer, his requital shall be hell, therein to abide; and God will condemn him, and will reject him, and will prepare for him awesome suffering.[Surah An-Nisa 4:93]
But if you trust one another, then let him who is trusted fulfill his trust, and let him be conscious of God, his Sustainer.[Surah Al-Baqarah 2:283]
And it is not conceivable that a prophet should deceive since he who deceives shall be faced with his deceit on the Day of Resurrection, when every human being shall be repaid in full for whatever he has done, and none shall be wronged.[Surah Al-Imran 3:161]
The next directives, of immediate and immense relevance to the society, consist in his exhortation to treat slaves fairly. Slavery was entrenched deep in the social and economic system of the day for centuries. A sudden, total ban over it would have caused much chaos and destabilized the social order. Islam nonetheless made it a point to urge Muslims to free the slaves and to treat them  well. The same note of well being permeates the Prophet's directive, which is couched in the language of authority. Moreover, the Prophet is found denouncing all the practices of the Jahiliyah period, outlawing these in highly surcharged and dramatically delivered declarative sentences. The intended effect is achieved by setting his own example, by making himself and his kin, subject to the same rule as he has proclaimed for others. These prohibitions are obviously drawn from the Quran, for example, it forbids usury in unequivocal terms:
Those who gorge themselves on usury behave but as he might behave whom Satan has confounded with his touch; for they say, "Buying and selling is but a kind of usury" - while God has made buying and selling lawful and usury unlawful. Hence, whoever becomes aware of his Sustainer's admonition, and thereupon desists [from usury] may keep his past gains, and it will be for God to judge him; but as for those who return to it - they are destined for the fire, therein to abide!.[Surah Al-Baqarah 2:275]
O you who have attained to faith! Remain conscious of God, and give up all outstanding gains from usury, if you are [truly] believer; for if you do it not, then know that you at war with God and His Apostle.[Surah Al-Baqarah 2:278]
The next part of the Sermon aims at reminding everyone of his obligations, especially the ones that he owes to fellow human beings in general and his family members, friends and neighbors in particular. Once again, the address is direct and straightforward. The precepts are articulated in simple, easy to understand language.
The audience is instructed particularly in discharging the trusts reposed in one as a responsible member of the society and as a good citizen.
With such conditioning of the mind which trains everyone to perform his obligations cheerfully and in the spirit of doing something which would earn him immense rewards in the next, external life every member of the community is bound to contribute to collective happiness, peace and order. Mention is made first, in this context, of observing faithfully the law of inheritance prescribed by Allah. For any unfairness in the distribution of inheritance could vitiate relations within the family and engender bad blood, vendetta and injustice.
Equally sensitive is the issue of paternity. Any doubts aired about the legitimacy of a baby may devastate the entire family and neighborhood ties. It is therefore strictly maintained that no aspersions be cast on this count. However, an open case of adultery, as established by a court of law, is to be treated in accordance with the prescribed course of action and the severe penalty of stoning to death. This deterrent punishment for sexual relations outside marriage, as laid down by Islam, is once again, designed to protect healthy sexual mores and reinforce the honor and sanctity of family life and moral ambience in the community life. The instructions about debts, gifts and surely also to seek to promote cordial, friendly social relations, ruling out any cause of conflict and dents in social life. Throughout the emphasis is on respecting others rights and discharging ones obligations to them willingly and generously. Mutual trust is encouraged which is conducive to creating an amicable, caring and stable society.
Therefore, family is the nucleus of a society and a happy marital partnership is essential for family life and concomitant values and relationships. In Islam much attention is focused on ensuring a stable, happy family and more particularly on warm, strong matrimonial relations permeated with love, understanding, sympathy and concern.
Islam, no doubt, takes marriage as a contract between two consenting adults with their own specific sets of obligations and role-play. In the then Arabian society and even in our times, the wife being physically and financially weaker, has not been treated fairly.
The Prophet , being alive to the problems plaguing the society, displays his remarkable sensitivity and concern in his emphatic and strongly worded advice in this Sermon, urging men to be kind and considerate towards their wives. In so doing, he reminds them of their duty of behaving decently towards them and to be lenient even in the case of the recalcitrant ones.
On the one hand, he tells men to exercise their authority in ensuring unblemished conduct on the part of the their wives. To press home the point further, he invoking Almighty Allah. Therefore they should be more particular and cautious in the treatment of their wives. For any misconduct on their part would not escape Allah's punishment.
It is understood that no stable society can be constructed without this realisation that marriage partners should enjoy each other's total confidence, trust and love. As in the case of other pieces of advice contained in this Sermon, the above guidance to both husbands and wives for discharging their mutual obligations is culled from the Quran
And consort with your wives in a godly manner; for if you dislike them, it may be that you dislike something which God might yet make a source of abundant good.[Surah An-Nisa 4:19]
And the righteous women are the truly devout ones, who guard the intimacy which God has [ordained to be] guarded.[Surah An-Nisa 4:34]
And among His wonders is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you might incline towards them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you: in this behold, there are messages indeed for people who think![Surah Ar-Rum 30:21]
These specific instructions, mostly related to good social relations, are followed by a general directive of abiding value that the Quran being the infallible Word of God for all persons of all times and places must be taken as the source of guidance. Furthermore, utmost caution must be exercised in regard to Satan, the sworn enemy of mankind. All evil, however minor it might be, must be resisted and repulsed. Likewise, no effort must be spared in performing the prescribed religious duties - of five daily prayers, one month fasting, paying Zakah annually and pilgrimage to the House of Allah once in life, if one has the means to do so. This constant remembrance of Allah, which is the objective of the religious duties at regular intervals would help keep one on the straight path - of piety, of good morals and manners and of contributing to the maintenance of healthy, positively oriented and cordial social relations.
For achieving the maximum effect of receptivity the Sermon is interfaced at the end with an emotionally charged, dramatic dialogue in which the Prophet asked those present to testify that he had carried out his assignment of conveying divine guidance to them. When they affirmed unanimously, he directed them to transmit this message to others who were not present there and by implication to the subsequent generations. As the Final Messenger of God for the entire mankind until the end of time he arranged for the spread of his message for all times. The Hajj performed every year since then by millions and millions of people serves as the perfect occasion for bringing to mind the Prophet's Sermon which, as discussed above, stands out as a historic charter of social justice. It is high time to enforce this charter in full, to both individual and collective, for the benefit of mankind.

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