Jahangir Mohammed reflects on the Prophet Muhammad’s farewell sermon in light of the condition of the Muslim Ummah today.
As millions of Muslims gathered on Mount Arafat on Friday, many also spoke of the anguish at the suffering of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and elsewhere Hajj and the suffering of Muslims both occupy an important position in Islam.
Prophet Muhammad’s farewell pilgrimage
In 632 CE, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings on him) returned to Makkah to perform his final pilgrimage. He was to pass away later that year. After completing the Hajj, he gathered with his followers at Mount Arafat, and delivered a farewell message. Over the course of 1,385 years that have followed, many Muslims have also performed the Hajj, and for some, more than once in their life.
Yet, the significance of that final message is seldom reflected on. The Hajj instead has become another individualistic ritual of Islam in which the focus of the acts is oneself.
After thousands of years of revelation, and countless messengers, Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) was about to bring to an end the whole process of divine revelation. From that year onward, the Creator had decided that humanity had reached a stage where no further messengers were required.
Mankind had been provided with sufficient knowledge in the form of the Quran, the Sunnah and the Seerah of the final messenger (peace be upon him), to be able to guide themselves at all times and eras. The scholars in particular, were to inherit the duty of guidance for mankind which has been the duty of Prophets, especially when people were lost or in deviance.
The farewell sermon
So this final sermon assumes even greater importance. It comes at the end of divine revelation, when all but a few verses of the Quran had been revealed, and towards the end of the 23 years of the Prophetic mission.
After delivering 23 years of important instructions and messages, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), carefully selected those messages that are going to be important for future generations to come.
This was the sermon for all times. Yet, how many of us have obeyed what was is widely considered as the the last Prophetic commands?
The sermon is a summary and reminder of key issues which will affect the Ummah throughout time. It is even pointed out that Muslims who come later on may understand the wisdom of his words better than those who had heard them directly on that day. If we reflect on those messages, we begin to understand why.
The ordering of the key messages as conveyed to us by scholars, also perhaps highlights issues that should concern us the most, maybe even in a priority order. A look at the world around us shows us the wisdom of highlighting them.
The message started with praises and gratitude to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), something Muslims should make a habit of, at the beginning and end of all important tasks and speeches.
After this, you would assume that stressing the mandatory pillars of Islam would come next. Yet, it does not, it comes much later on.
Instead, the first issue that it is narrated to have been said is:
“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. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that He will indeed reckon your deeds.”
Hajj is mandatory for those who can afford it. We rightfully treat Makkah, the Kaaba, and the Hajj as sacred. Yet, we are being instructed by the Prophet to treat the life of every Muslim and their property with the exact importance. Why?
State of the Ummah today
Well, look around you, are we as an Ummah doing that? Today, the life of a Muslim has very little value. This is the one issue that causes great pain to the Ummah. All of us want an end to the suffering we read about on the newspapers and see on our television screens and smart phones. It is a logical priority. If your house is on fire you have to put out the fire, and put the house back in order. If life and death is at stake, how can you focus on other aspects of Islam?
Can we see Muslims being treated with the same sanctity as the Kaaba and Hajj? Muslims shed the blood of their fellow Muslims and destroy their property with impunity. Secular nation states claiming to be “Islamic” or “Muslim” bomb and aid the destruction of fellow Muslims and their property. They torture, imprison and kill Muslims without a care in the world. Muslims have allowed non-Muslims to kill their own brethren in the millions, and even worse, they aid them politically, militarily and economically by joining “coalitions” and signing trade deals.
Muslims are handed over to oppressors for torture without due process or the establishment of guilt. Muslim families are harassed, abused and imprisoned for little more than verbal dissent.
Muslim women are raped, tortured, verbally abused and killed with no one to protect them. Muslim majority nation states run secret torture chambers at the behest of the Ummah’s enemies.
Yet, some Muslim scholars will come up with theological and legal justifications for the actions of these regimes. Other scholars and “community leaders” will endlessly condemn political violence committed by Muslims in the West, but will remain silent about the total disregard for Muslim life by rulers, states, or Western governments.
They will repeat the verse from the Quran “If you kill one person it is as if you have killed the whole of humanity” [5:32]. Yet, they fail to apply this same verse to the sanctity of Muslim life.
Little wonder then that despite over two million people gathering for Hajj this year, Muslims around the world remain in anguish and find little solace to celebrate Eid al-Adha as an Ummah?
Another key message
The rest of the farewell sermon is equally as important, and again with hindsight we can see the continuing relevance and priority of those issues.
A world enslaved by the Capitalist usury-based economic system is inflicting such poverty on nations of people. The abuse of women in so many ways, violence, slavery, but also the sexual objectification of women which is at the heart of the capitalist ideology.
Also mentioned is the unity of mankind, which was an outright rejection of racism, nationalism, tribalism and any forms of division of people on these basis. Then a reminder is mentioned to fulfil the obligatory pillars of Islam.
We are then commanded to pass on the Prophet’s message to future generations and then an affirmation of accountability in which those present are asked to testify that a divinely guided Messenger has fulfilled his mission:
“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 listened to me directly. Be my witness, O Allah, that I have conveyed your message to your people.”
Imagine our rulers today turning up at Mount Arafat and asking the people have they performed their duties to Allah and the people? The answer would be a resounding “La” not “Na’m”.
Like many Muslims, this Eid al-Adha in particular, I felt much pain and sorrow at the suffering of the Ummah. I understand now why our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) made the comparison between the Hajj and the sanctity of Muslim life.