THE DEATH OF MUHAMMAD
Muhammad died in 632 A.D. He died as a result of being poisoned following his attack upon and conquest of the Jewish settlement of Khaibar. About 2 month before his attack on Khaibar Muhammad failed in an attempt to go to Mecca. This failure resulted in the Treaty of Hudaybiyya with the Meccans. He returned humiliated in the eyes of the Meccans and in the minds of his people. To lift their defeated spirit, Muhammad told his followers that the events at Hudaybiyya were really a victory. In fact, another convenient "revelation" was given to Muhammad as proof that it really was a victory (Sura 48:1). However, Allah was not able to deliver the Meccan's goods as booty, so Muhammad told his followers that they were going to attack and plunder the weaker Jewish settlement of Khaibar.
About 6 weeks later Muhammad led his army and attacked the Jews while they were on their way to work on their date palms. Khaibar was a settlement defended by a number of forts spread apart from each other. One by one Muhammad's army took the forts. Finally, the last few surrendered to him. Muhammad had several of the leaders of the Jewish settlement beheaded, one leader (Kinana) was tortured to reveal where buried treasure was hidden. Then when Kinana was near death, Muhammad commanded that he be beheaded. Many of the women and children were enslaved. Muhammad even took the most beautiful woman for himself and married her (Safiyah).
Some of Khaibar's residents made a deal with Muhammad. Instead of enslaving them, which would leave the rich orchards of Khaibar to go untended and unproductive, the Jews would give Muhammad and the Muslims 1/2 of all of what they produced. Muhammad accepted the deal, with the stipulation that they could be expelled at his slightest whim. Years later, Umar expelled the last remaining Jews from Khaibar.
Immediately following the conquest of Khaibar, a Jewish woman prepared a dinner for Muhammad and some of his men. Unknown to the Muslims was that she had put a poison into the lamb (some say goat) that was served at dinner. Muhammad ate some of the poisoned lamb and died as a result three years later.
PRESENTATION OF ISLAMIC SOURCES
PART A - THE POISONING OF MUHAMMAD
PART B - PREMONITIONS OF HIS DEATH
PART C - MUHAMMAD AND GABRIEL PRAY FOR HEALING
PART D - THE ADVENT OF MUHAMMAD'S DEATH
I will use quotes from 4 highly respected Islamic writings:
1) "Sahih Bukhari”. This Hadith is considered to be the most important Islamic book, after the Quran.
2) Ibn Ishaq's biography, the "Sirat Rasul Allah", (THE LIFE OF THE PROPHET), translated by A. Guillaume as "The Life of Muhammad", is the most authentic Sirat (biographical) literature recognized in Islam.
3) Ibn Sa'd biography, the "Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir" (Book of the Major Classes), Volume 2. Of the three, Ibn Sa'd's Sirat contains the most information relative to Muhammad's death. I will not attempt to cover the spectrum of subjects Ibn Sa'd addresses in his. However, I will cover and present his relevant material.
4) Tabari's "History". Tabari is one of the most highly respected authors in Islamic writings. His "History" is 39 volumes.
5) “Sahih Muslim”. This collection of Hadith is considered to be equal to, or slightly below Bukhari’s collection of Hadith.
NOTE: I have quoted quite a bit of material. Some of it is redundant, but I feel that each quote I present provides an important detail concerning Muhammad's poisoning and death. Please forgive the tedious nature of the quotes; it is essential that I present the source material as accurately as possible.
NOTE: My comments appear in [ ] type brackets. Frequently the authors themselves enclose comments in ( ) type brackets. I will copy them as they appear in the text.
NOTE: In some cases I will leave out the chain of narrators because they are quite long, and not necessary for the context of the story.
Also, I will present quotes from the sources in as much of a chronological sequence as possible.
PART A - THE POISONING OF MUHAMMAD
From Bukhari's Hadith 3.786:
Narrated Anas bin Malik: A Jewess brought a poisoned (cooked) sheep for the Prophet who ate from it. She was brought to the Prophet and he was asked, "Shall we kill her?" He said, "No." I continued to see the effect of the poison on the palate of the mouth of Allah's Apostle.
From Bukhari's Hadith 4.394: Narrated Abu Huraira: When Khaibar was conquered, a roasted poisoned sheep was presented to the Prophet as a gift (by the Jews). The Prophet ordered, "Let all the Jews who have been here, be assembled before me." The Jews were collected and the Prophet said (to them), "I am going to ask you a question. Will you tell the truth?" They said, "Yes." The Prophet asked, "Who is your father?" They replied, "So-and-so." He said, "You have told a lie; your father is so-and-so." They said, "You are right." He said, "Will you now tell me the truth, if I ask you about something?" They replied, "Yes, O Abu Al-Qasim; and if we should tell a lie, you can realize our lie as you have done regarding our father." On that he asked, "Who are the people of the (Hell) Fire?" They said, "We shall remain in the (Hell) Fire for a short period, and after that you will replace us." The Prophet said, "You may be cursed and humiliated in it! By Allah, we shall never replace you in it." Then he asked, "Will you now tell me the truth if I ask you a question?" They said, "Yes, O Abu Al-Qasim." He asked, "Have you poisoned this sheep?" They said, "Yes." He asked, "What made you do so?" They said, "We wanted to know if you were a liar in which case we would get rid of you, and if you are a prophet then the poison would not harm you."
From Ibn Sa'd page 249:
Verily a Jewish woman presented poisoned (meat of) a she goat to the apostle of Allah. He took a piece form it, put it into his mouth, chewed it and threw it away. Then he said to the Companions: "Halt! Verily, its leg tells me that it is poisoned." Then he sent for the Jewish woman and asked her; "What induced you to do what you have done?" She replied, "I wanted to know if you are true; in that case Allah will surely inform you, and if you are a liar I shall relieve the people of you."
From Ibn Sa'd page 249: [different narrator]
The apostle of Allah and his companions ate from it. It (goat) said: "I am poisoned." He [Muhammad] said to his Companions, "Hold you hands! because it has informed me that it is poisoned!" They withdrew their hands, but Bishr Ibn al-Bara expired. The apostle of Allah sent for her (Jewess) and asked her, "What induced you to do what you have done?" She replied, "I wanted to know if you are a prophet, in that case it will not harm you and if you are a king, I shall relieve the people of you. He gave orders and she was put to death. [SEE NOTE 1]
From Ibn Sa'd page 250: [different narrator]
Verily a woman of the Jews of Khaibar presented poisoned (meat of) goat to the apostle of Allah. The he recognized that it was poisoned, so he sent for her and asked her, "What induced you to do what you have done?" She replied, "I thought if you are a prophet, Allah will inform you, and if you are a pretender, I shall relieve people of you. When the apostle of Allah felt sick, he got himself "cupped". [SEE NOTE 2]
From Ibn Sa'd pages 251, 252: [different narrator]
....When the apostle of Allah conquered Khaibar and he had peace of mind, Zaynab Bint al-Harith the brother of Marhab, who was the spouse of Sallam Ibn Mishkam, inquired, "Which part of the goat is liked by Muhammad?" They said, "The foreleg." Then she slaughtered one from her goats and roasted it (the meat). Then she wanted a poison which could not fail. .... The apostle of Allah took the foreleg, a piece of which he put into his mouth. Bishr took another bone and put it into his mouth. When the apostle of Allah ate one morsel of it Bishr ate his and other people also ate from it. Then the apostle of Allah said, "Hold back your hands! because this foreleg; ...informed me that it is poisoned. Thereupon Bishr said, "By Him who has made you great! I discovered it from the morsel I took. Nothing prevented me from emitting it out, but the idea that I did not like to make your food unrelishing. When you had eaten what was in your mouth I did not like to save my life after yours, and I also thought you would not have eaten it if there was something wrong.
Bishr did not rise form his seat but his color changed to that of "taylsan" (a green cloth)..........The apostle of Allah sent for Zaynab and said to her, "What induced you to do what you have done?" She replied, "You have done to my people what you have done. You have killed my father, my uncle and my husband, so I said to myself, "If you are a prophet, the foreleg will inform you; and others have said, "If you are a king we will get rid of you.""......
The apostle of Allah lived after this three years till in consequence of his pain he passed away. During his illness he used to say, "I did not cease to find the effect of the (poisoned) morsel, I took at Khaibar and I suffered several times (from its effect) but now I feel the hour has come of the cutting of my jugular vein."
From Tabari Volume 8, page 123, 124:
When the messenger of God rested from his labor, Zaynab bt. al-Harith, the wife of Sallam b. Mishkam, served him a roast sheep. She had asked what part of the sheep the messenger of God liked best and was told that it was the foreleg. So she loaded that part with poison, and she poisoned the rest of the sheep too. Then she brought it. When she set it before the messenger of God, he took the foreleg and chewed a bit of it, but he did not swallow it. With him was Bishr b. al-Bara b. Marur, who, like the messenger of God, took some of it; Bishr, however, swallowed it, while the messenger of God spat it out saying, "This bone informs me that it has been poisoned." He asked, "What led you to do this?" She said: "How you have afflicted my people is not hidden from you. So I said, "If he is a prophet, he will be informed; but if he is a king, I shall be rid of him"". The prophet forgave her. Bishr died of the food he had eaten.
From Tabari Volume 8, page 124: [different narrator]
The messenger of God said during the illness from which he died - the mother of Bishr had come in to visit him - "Umm Bishr, at this very moment I feel my aorta being severed because of the food I ate with your son at Khaybar." [See NOTE 3]
NOTE 1: There is disagreement over whether of not Muhammad had the women who poisoned him put to death. In short, he had her put to death for the death of the other Muslim - Bishr, who quickly died from the poisoning. See the reports by Ibn Sa'd, p. 250.
NOTE 2: Cupping is essentially drawing a small amount of blood from your body. Muhammad believed that bleeding oneself was "the best of medicines".
NOTE 3: The note on quote A8 states that the expression, "it severed his aorta" need not be taken literally; it is used metaphorically for extreme pain.
PART B - PREMONITIONS OF HIS DEATH
From Bukhari's Hadith 5.713:
Narrated Ibn Abbas:
'Umar bin Al-Khattab used to let Ibn Abbas sit beside him, so 'AbdurRahman bin 'Auf said to 'Umar, "We have sons similar to him." 'Umar replied, "(I respect him) because of his status that you know." 'Umar then asked Ibn 'Abbas about the meaning of this Holy Verse:-- "When comes the help of Allah and the conquest of Mecca . . ." (110.1)
Ibn 'Abbas replied, "That indicated the death of Allah's Apostle which Allah informed him of." 'Umar said, "I do not understand of it except what you understand."
Narrated 'Aisha: The Prophet in his ailment in which he died, used to say, "O
'Aisha! I still feel the pain caused by the food I ate at Khaibar, and at this
time, I feel as if my aorta is being cut from that poison."
From Ibn Sa'd page 244:
... and there has been no prophet but he has lived half the life of the prophet preceding him. Jesus the son of Mary lived for one hundred and twenty five years, and this is the sixty second year of my life. He (prophet) died half the year after this.
From Ibn Sa'd page 239:
The appointed hour (of death) of the apostle of Allah came near and he was ordered to recite repeatedly "tasbih" (lit. glorification) and ask for His forgiveness.
From Ibn Sa'd page 240:
When (the Surah) Allah's succor and the triumph comes; was revealed he (prophet) said: (It signifies) call from Allah and departure from the world.
From Tabari Volume 9 page 108:
When the prophet returned to Medina after performing the Pilgrimage of Completion, he began to have a complaint of illness. As travel was allowed (after the pilgrimage), the news of the prophet's illness spread......Then in Muharram the prophet complained of the pain from which he died.
PART C - MUHAMMAD AND GABRIEL PRAY FOR HEALING
NOTE: It was already quoted from Ibn Sa'd above (page 250 that Muhammad tried to get himself healed of the poisoning.
From Ibn Sa'd page 263
Verily during his illness the prophet recited "al-Mu'awwadhatayn" [Sura 113, and 114], and blow his breath upon his body while rubbing his face. [This was done in an effort to be healed].
From Sahih Muslim volume 3, # 5440
Aisha reported that when Allah’s Messenger fell ill, he recited over his body Mu’awwidhatan and blew over him and when his sickness was aggravated I used to recite over him and rub him with his hand with the hope that it was more blessed. Also ref. Hadith # 5441.
From Ibn Sa'd page 265
The apostle of Allah fell ill and he i.e. Gabriel, chanted on him, saying, "In the name of Allah I chant on to ward off from you every thing that harms you and (to ward off you) against every envier and from every evil eye and Allah will heal you."
From Ibn Sa'd page 265 [Different narrator]
Aisha, the wife of the prophet used to say, "When the apostle of Allah fell ill, Gabriel chanted on him saying, "In the name of Allah Who will cure you and Who will heal you from every malady (and will ward off) the evil of envier who envies and from smite of the evil eye.""
From Ibn Sa'd page 322
Verily, whenever the apostle of Allah fell ill, he asked for recovery, from Allah. But in the illness as a result of which he died, he did not pray for recovery; he used to say, "O soul! What has happened to thee that thou are seeking refuge in every place of refuge?"
PART D - THE ADVENT OF MUHAMMAD'S DEATH
D1 [again quoting from Bukhari's Hadith 5.713:]
The Prophet in his ailment in which he died, used to say, "O 'Aisha! I still feel the pain caused by the food I ate at Khaibar, and at this time, I feel as if my aorta is being cut from that poison."
From Ibn Hisham page 678:
While matters were thus the apostle began to suffer from the illness by which God took him to what honor and compassion He intended for him shortly before the end of Safar or in the beginning of Rabi'ul-awwal. It began, so I have been told, when he went to Baqi'u'l-Gharqad in the middle of the night and prayed for the dead. Then he returned to his family and in the morning his sufferings began.
From Ibn Hisham page 679:
Then the apostle's illness worsened and he suffered much pain. He said, "Pour seven skins of water from different wells over me so that I may go out to the men and instruct them." We made him sit down in a tub belonging to Hafsa d. Umar and we poured water over him until he cried, "Enough, enough!"
....then he [Muhammad] said, "God has given one of his servants the choice between this world and that which is with God and he has chosen the latter."
From Ibn Hisham page 680:
Then some of his wives gathered to him.... while his uncle Abbas was with him, and they agreed to force him to take medicine. Abbas said, "Let me force him," but they did it. When he recovered he asked who had treated him thus. When they told him it was his uncle he said, "This is a medicine which women have brought from that country," and he pointed in the direction of Abyssinia [Ethiopia]. When he asked why they had done that his uncle said, "We were afraid that you would get pleurisy;" he replied, "That is a disease which God would not afflict me with. Let no one stop in the house until they have been forced to take this medicine, except my uncle." Maymuna [one of Muhammad's wives] was forced to take it although she was fasting because of the apostle's oath, as a punishment for what they had done to him.
From Ibn Sa'd page 294
Umm Bishr [the mother of the Muslim man who also died eating poison], came to the prophet during his illness and said, "O apostle of Allah! I never saw fever like it in any one." The prophet said to her, "Our trial is double and so our reward [in heaven], is double. What do the people say about it [his illness]?" She said, "They say it is pleurisy." Thereupon the apostle said, "Allah will not like to make His apostle suffer from it (pleurisy) because it indicates the possession of Satan, but (my disease is the result of) the morsel that I had taken along your son. It has cut my jugular vein."
SEE NOTE 3
From Ibn Hisham page 682:
....that he heard Aisha [one of Muhammad's wives] say: "The apostle died in my bosom during my turn: [the night Muhammad was to spend sleeping with her] I had wronged none in regard to him. It was due to my ignorance and extreme youth that the apostle died in my arms."
From Ibn Sa'd page 322:
When the last moment of the prophet was near, he used to draw a sheet over his face; but when he felt uneasy, he removed it from his face and said: "Allah's damnation be on the Jews and the Christians who made the graves of their prophets objects of worship."
NOTE 3: Pleurisy is an infection of a lung membrane. It is painful. I don't know why Muhammad considered this infection to be from Satan, but poisoning would not be from Satan.
SUMMARY OF THE SOURCES
Muhammad attacked Khaibar. He destroyed, tortured, murdered, plundered, and enslaved many people (ref Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, volume 2, page 134, 136, 137). They were not preparing to attack him. A Jewish woman, whose family had been wiped out by Muhammad, put poison into a lamb and fed it to Muhammad and the other Muslims. Muhammad ingested some of the poisoned lamb and began to feel it's effects. He died three years later as a result of the poisoning.
What needs to be investigated here are the circumstances of Muhammad's death. The Jews were planning to murder him. The Jews believed that a real prophet would be forewarned of their deed but an impostor wouldn't be warned by God. The Muslims also believed this; the other Muslim who died said that he didn't think Muhammad would eat of something that was poisoned (see quote in A6).
The Jews were right, Muhammad did eat of the poison, and did die from it. They proved, according to their test, that Muhammad was not a prophet. As they said (quote A2):
"We wanted to know if you were a liar in which case we would get rid of you, and if you are a prophet then the poison would not harm you."
These Jews were convinced that a real prophet would know what was going on. In this case Muhammad didn't know. Only after Muhammad ate from the lamb did the lamb "talk to him". I don't think that that was anything miraculous in itself; even the other Muslim knew it was bad before Muhammad ate from it. Most adults know when they are eating something that is bad. So for Muhammad to say the sheep "talked" to him is not prophetic at all. Even a child spits out bad tasting food.
Many times previously, Muhammad claimed to have had "revelations" that warned him of danger. He even used one of these convenient "revelations" as grounds to attack the Jewish settlement of Banu Nadhir. Yet at Khaibar the revelation came too late: too late to save his own life, too late to save Bishr's life.
As his illness wore on, Muhammad began to pray for healing – he even rubbed his “healing” hand upon himself. Gabriel also got into the act and prayed for his healing (see quotes C2 & C3). Muhammad even got himself "cupped" (the best of all medicines!), (quote A5). Obviously, at this point in time, Muhammad wanted to be healed.
But it didn't help. As it progressively got worse, Muhammad realized that he was dying, ceased praying for healing (quote C4), and claimed that Allah had given him a choice to going to Paradise, or living on earth. Muhammad said he then wanted to go to Paradise. Knowing the game was up, he made the best out of a failed situation.
Muhammad's earlier premonitions of his deaths read more like the cosmic words of a mystic. Nothing definite is ever said about them until after his approaching death. Perhaps he had seen this type of death before and knew the outcome. It doesn't take a prophet or a "revelation" to know that death is near.
My basic point is this: the Jews proved that Muhammad was not a real prophet. He ingested the poison, so did at least one of his followers. He attempted to be healed, he tried his medicine, and his form of “laying on of hands”, his prayer, Aisha’s prayer, and even Gabriel’s prayer, but in the end, he died from the poison.
1) If Muhammad were a real prophet of God, why didn't he catch the poison before he ate it?
2) If you believe that it was God's will for Muhammad to have eaten the poison, along with Bishr, why then did Muhammad try to get well? Even Gabriel prayed for Muhammad to get better, but Allah didn't answer that prayer either.
3) Why did Gabriel not know the will of Allah? Why would Gabriel pray if Allah had decided death?
4) Why did Muhammad force the other Muslims to drink the medicine he was given? One of them was one of his wives, and she was fasting. He forced her to break her fast and drink the medicine as well. Doesn't this sound vindictive and petty?
5) Why, when just before his death, did Muhammad have to utter a curse upon the Christians and the Jews? Wouldn't it have been better for Muhammad to pray for guidance for them? This also sounds like a jealous, bitter prayer to Allah. Muhammad prayed for and uttered curses instead of asking Allah to guide people.
6) Why would pleurisy, which is a normal infection of the lung membrane, be considered to be from Satan, but being poisoned would not be from Satan?
Muhammad was not a real prophet, he was a false prophet. He died as a result of eating poison that he didn't know about. The poisoned lamb "spoke" to him too late. Only when he realized he was dying did Muhammad "spiritualize" his suffering and coming death. Prior to that he tried to get well.
Moses knew about his coming death (Deut 34:1-5). Jesus also knew of His future death (Mark 8:32, 32). Yet Muhammad was in the dark until he himself realized he was going to die.
Paul the apostle was bitten by a poisonous snake (Acts 28:1-6), but Paul suffered no ill effects from the bite. God had his hand of protection on Paul, to finish the work laid out for him. Muhammad died so suddenly that there was confusion as to would be the next ruler of the Islamic state. To this day, part of that confusion remains. The Islamic world is divided in part because of this issue (Shia vs. Sunni). Wouldn't Allah, who abhors division within the Ummah have protected Muhammad long enough to insure that his state remain unified, and a clearly defined successor be named?
Jesus predicted false prophets would come into the world and mislead many (Matthew 24:24). Muhammad was such a false prophet. Both Jesus and Moses knew God face to face, Muhammad only had a spirit or angel he called "Gabriel" speaking to him. In the end, even this angel's prayers were not answered by Allah. Could it be that this "Gabriel" was preaching a false religion (Galatians 1:8) to Muhammad? Could Gabriel have been a deceptive demon or Satan himself?
Rev A 3-11-98, Rev B: 9/3/01, Rev C: 11/28/02
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