You are on page 1of 4

Typically speaking, seerah finishes not with the death of the prophet PBUH, but

rather with the election of Abu Bukr and the sending of Usama ibn Zaid and his c
aravan to Syria. These two things are immediately related to the death of the pr
ophet PBUH so they should be discussed.
The issue of what happens after the death of the prophet PBUH is extremely contr
averisal between two strands of Islam, sunni and shi'a. You cannot discuss this
issue without mentioning both sides. Today we will discuss one paticular inciden
t which took place in the final days in the life of the prophet PBUH. We skipped
over it intentionally so we can discuss it now. That incident is called 'the in
cident of Thursday' or 'the incident of the Scrolls', the 'qirdaas'. And 'qirdaa
s' is something they would write on i.e. a parchment. This incident involves a v
ery contraversial issue - whether the prophet PBUH intended to specify Ali RA to
be the khalifa. At the end of the day, what happened happened, but still there
is an issue that every single muslim is exposed to, and every person finds some
contraversy in it. Therefore questions arise and so we have to go back to the ve
ry beginning and discuss where the split occured between the sunni and shi'a. We
already discussed the incident of the well of ghadir khum. For the shi'a this i
ncident is considered to be of upmost importance. For us we affirm the incident
100%, but our interpretation is very different. And that is that, simply, the pr
ophet PBUH was defending Ali RA and he said 'who irritates Ali irritates me, who
ever is my mola is also Ali's mola'. So it is very clear the prophet PBUH was cr
iticising those who found fault with Ali, and from our perspective this incident
was never intended to make Ali RA the khalifa. What demonstrates this are many
things, we will mention the main one:
1. The fact that the very last days of his life, he always emphasised Abu Bukr a
nd he insisted Abu Bukr lead the salah. For us this is the decisive issue. Never
has the prophet PBUH commanded anyone to lead the salah when he is alive, and h
e is in the masjid. And he commands and says "Allah and His messenger do not all
ow anyone other than Abu Bukr". And when they could not find Abu Bukr, and inste
ad Umar RA is found, what does the prophet PBUH say? He says "No go and find Abu
Bukr" so Umar breaks the salah and Abu Bukr is put in front. This is extremely
significant.
So in light of all of this, we have to understand this incident of the scrolls w
e will discuss now. And this incident is in Bhukari and Muslim, it is mutafuq al
ahyi (authentically agreed upon). The hadith occurs in bits and peices, that ibn
Abbass narrates "Thursday, and what a Thursday it was. When the pain of the pro
phet PBUH increased, he says 'bring me a book and I will write for you something
that you will never go astray'". And Umar RA said "the prophet PBUH is overcome
by pain, he is clearly suffering, we have the book of Allah, that is sufficient
for us". Some others said (it's not mentioned): "the prophet PBUH is speaking r
andomly because of his fever". Others said "confirm what the prophet PBUH wants"
. So the sahabah differed amongst themselves, and the prophet PBUH then said "st
and away from me, for it is not befitting that any ikhtilaaf goes on in my prese
nce". And then ibn Abbass says "the prophet PBUH advised us three things before
he died:
1. Expel the mushrikoon from jazeeratul Arab.
2. Treat the delegations that come to you in the same manner I treated them.
And one of the sub narrators said 'I forgot what was the third one'. Then ibn Ab
bass said "what a calamity, the biggest calamity was what came between the proph
et PBUH and the writing of that parchment."
Many issues to discuss. Before we get to the contraversy Bhukari mentions 7 diff
erent benefits from this hadith. Of those:
1. The importance of writing down knowledge.

2. Treating delegations that come in a positive and good manner. We should be ho
spitable to them and this was of the last bits of advice the prophet PBUH gave.
3. It is haram to differ in front of the prophet PBUH; and moreoever it is disli
ked in general.
4. We should not sit too long when we visit the sick, because it becomes a nauce
nce for the sick person.
Ibn Hajar compiles other hadith regarding the third point the narrator forgot. H
e says it seems to indicate two things:
1. The third point was to send Usama's army to as-Sham.
2. His grave should not become an idol.
Let's get into the contraversy. According to the non-sunni groups, the prophet P
BUH explicitly intended to write the waseeya for Ali RA. That is the whole contr
aversy. That because of Umar RA according to them, this didn't happen. And Abbas
s is saying "the biggest calamity was the fact that, the prophet PBUH did not ge
t to write down Ali should have been the khalifa". Of course he DID NOT say this
- but this is what the shi'a think he means by 'the biggest calamity'. We will
discuss the contraversy from three questions.
1. How do we understand Umar's stance? Because he said 'the book of Allah is eno
ugh for us' and he diverted the command of the prophet PBUH away.
Our scholars have interpreted this in many different ways. We'll go over these b
reifly.
- Imam al Khatabi said that 'we cannot understand that Umar's statement was mean
t to imply the prophet PBUH was making a mistake. Rather, Umar RA saw the pain t
he prophet PBUH was in. And he feared that he might say something vague and ambi
gious that the munafiqun might take advantage off. Additionally, it is well know
n the sahabaa at the time would negoitate directly with the prophet PBUH, if the
circumstances required such as at Badr and Hudaybiyyah.
- Imam al Maziri who died 453H, an early commentator of Sahih Muslim, said that
'it appears the prophet PBUH is giving a command 'bring me something to write'.
But, there are always signs that could be used to indicate that command is actua
lly a request. And it must be assumed that Umar RA saw something that downgraded
the command to a request, and therefore he wanted to go back and forth. And Uma
r RA made an ijtihad based on his assumptions and he will be rewarded for that'.
- So according al Maziri and also al Qurtubi, the famous scholar from Kardova, w
ho died 670H, he also said the same thing that Umar RA must have seen something
in the context that he felt this was not a command.
- Ibn al Jawzi and ibn Hajar narrated these positions and agreed with them. That
Umar RA out of care and concern saw something and felt now is not the time to g
et involved in a side issue. Rather he felt they should leave the prophet PBUH a
lone to his pain and suffering so he can rest.
- Imam an-Nawawi, 676H, comments and says "scholars have unanimously agreed this
incident shows us the understanding of Umar RA and his excellence, and his far
sightedness for he was fearful of something being written down that they could n
ot perform, and might have been punished for. And he took the generalities of th
e Qur'an, that Allah clearly mentions 'today I have perfected your religion for
you' and realising that the religion was completed, he wanted to protect the pro
phet PBUH and ease matters upon him (meaning his pain). And he wanted to protect
the ummah from misguidance.
- This is also the position of Imam al Bayhaqee, 458H, that Umar RA wanted to ma

ke things easy. He saw the suffering of the prophet PBUH, the pain, and he simpl
y felt compassion and mercy for him.
The point here is that, we really, and there is no denying this, look at this in
cident and we are bias. Just like the other group is also bias. Our bias is: in
light of the track record of Umar RA, in light of the previous 20 years and all
that he has done, and the next 13 years he will live, we have to understand what
he has done in a positive light. Even if we don't understand the details, we we
re not there so we do not know what Umar RA saw in the prophet PBUH to make his
decision. But there must be a leap of faith and knowing Umars past and future, a
nd all of the ahadith that praise Umar RA: "if there was a nabi after me it woul
d be Umar"; "if shaytan sees Umar coming down a path he will run away"; "if anyo
ne in the future were to be inspired it would be in Umar". In light of all this,
we simply have to have a leap of faith and say 'whatever was his decision, ther
e must have been a good reason'. Obviously the shi'a have a negative view of Uma
r RA from day one. And if you don't have a positive view of someone, and they do
something vague, you will read in and have a bad opinion. The fact of the matte
r is, Umars actions are ambigious - no one was there. What did Umar RA see? What
was the issue that caused Umar RA to not immediately execute the command of the
prophet PBUH? We were not there, but our opinion of Umar RA is that he must hav
e a had a very very good reason. This is therefore a point of theology to make a
jump and believe Umar RA saw something; he was worried for the sickness of the
prophet PBUH, he had compassion and mercy, and didn't want the prophet PBUH to w
rite something the ummah could not follow.
2. What did the prophet PBUH actually want to write?
In one version we learn the three things he wanted to say; and when he couldn't
write it, he simply said it. However another opinion that a number of early scho
lars follow including Suffyan ibn Uyayna who died 198H, that the prophet PBUH wa
nted to write the exact oppisite of what the shi'a say: he wanted to dictate a l
etter that Abu Bukr RA should the khalifa after him. Where is this coming from?
There are authentic narrations in Bhukari and Muslim that before the prophet PBU
H fell that sick (this took place on Thursday), he said to A'isha that "call for
me Abu Bukr and your brother, so that I may write a letter because I am worried
someone may desire or aspire from something (leadership) and say 'I have more r
ight' but Allah and His messenger will refuse anyone other than Abu Bukr". This
hadith is in Bhukari and Muslim but it's not on Thursday, its a few days before.
So one can argue the exact oppisite - and this is also the position of ibn Tamm
iyah. He wrote a 10 volume book 'minhaja sunnatun nabuweya' where he discusses t
hese differences between the two groups. And in this book he clearly mentions th
is letter was a letter in favour of Abu Bukr RA. It was also supported by a numb
er of early scholars; there seems to be far more evidence for this than the prop
het PBUH wanting to say Ali is the next khalifa.
3. Can it be imagined that he wanted to write a waseeya for Ali RA? Is it logica
lly rational?
From our perspective, to claim this is to claim the prophet PBUH failed in his m
ission. Because, regardless of what you want to say about Umar RA, the undeniabl
e fact that both groups affirm is this incident occured on Thursday. He passed a
way on Monday. 4 full days later. And if the matter was of such importance, then
how could he have allowed 4 days to go by without saying anything about it? Why
didn't he do something for 4 days? Who else is visiting him? Fatimah RA is visi
ting him, Ali RA is visiting him. Ibn Hajar points this out aswell: "it is not p
ossible the prophet PBUH would have left this out without saying anything for 4
days". Imam an-Nawawi comments that "we have two options: either Allah told him
to write something down, and it didn't happen as a number of sahaba stopped him
- the only alternative is that the command was abbrogated. Or else you are sayin
g he did not obey Allahs command. OR, it was an ijtihad by himself, and after wh

at happened he changed his mind and said 'no need to write it down'."
So we say the incident of the scrolls, from our perspective, we assume Umar RA m
ust have had reason for his actions. Second, we have evidences what the prophet
PBUH wanted to write is other than what is claimed by the shi'a. It was either t
he three commands he spoke, OR the exact oppisite which is that Abu Bukr RA shou
ld be khalifa. And thirdly, regardless of anything, what will we say to the fact
that for 4 days he didn't say anything else about Ali being the khalifa? This i
s ignoring the fact there is so many other evidences for Abu Bukr. The year the
prophet PBUH could not go on Hajj, he sent Abu Bukr first. And even when Ali RA
was sent, Abu Bukr asked "are you coming as the ameer or ma'moor?" Ali RA said n
o "I am not the ameer". Very explicit. So in Hajj he delegates Abu Bukr. And in
Salah. And so on, so indeed for us it is clear the prophet PBUH intended Abu Buk
r RA to be the khalifa.