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Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) – Dead or Alive in the Worldly Sense?

The issue of whether the Messenger of Allāh (peace be upon him) being physically alive or dead in the worldly sense has been discussed by many, but it has to be noted that this is relatively a new thought that developed in the Ummah in recent times. It has led to a number of innovative practices and even matters of Shirk arising. Though the intentions of those doing so are most likely good, but what we fail to grasp is the important notion that for any act of worship to be accepted by Allāh, it has to be proven from the Qur’an or the authentic Ahadeeth. This article will use the aplenty evidences from these two sources to tackle this affair whilst answering the various refutations. Please kindly note, this is not to belittle those who may have a certain mindset, but rather it’s a humble and sincere attempt to bring together all the evidences and hope it becomes a source of guidance for those who are also humble and sincere. For those of you who would like to simply watch and listen to regarding this topic, then please click here.

Now, with any issue within the religion, we are told by Allāh to:

“O you who have believed, obey Allāh and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allāh and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allāh and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result.” [1]

Evidence number 1 – Allāh declarations

If we really contemplate over these two verses with an open mind, then surely we don’t need any other evidences to state the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) died just like every other human would do so. He (peace be upon him) was a mortal, a man from among his own people, a man who was sent like all other Prophets (peace be upon him all) simply as a messenger, a warner and a giver of glad tidings.

“Every soul will taste death” [2]

Did the Prophet (peace be upon him) not have a soul? If we believe in anything else, then we are giving the Prophet (peace be upon him) attributes that doesn’t befit him and are in grave danger of committing acts of kufr (disbelief).

“Verily, you (O Muhammad SAW) will die and verily, they (too) will die.” [3]

Evidence number 2 – The Prophet (peace be upon him)’s final sermon

Alongside the above verse from Allāh, we were further instructed by the man himself, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), just before he died, which in itself was an indication that he (peace be upon him) was stating he would die:

“For indeed, those who will still be alive after me will see many differences; so hold fast to my Sunnah, and to the sunnah of the rightly guided Khalifahs after me, Adhere to and cling tightly to it and beware of newly-invented matters, for every newly-invented matter is an innovation and every innovation is deviation.” [4]

So, when we bring it back to the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet (peace be upon him), the issue becomes clear. In fact, the early generation of Muslims didn’t have an issue in this regards. Unfortunately, today we are faced with Muslims who try and elevate Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) equal to the status of Allāh the Ever-Living and All Knowing and at times even more. Continuously remind ourselves what Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said about how to praise and love him:

“Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the son of Mary, for I am only a Slave. So, call me the Slave of Allah and His Apostle.” [5]

Evidence number 3 – Jibrael (peace be upon him) visiting the Prophet (peace be upon him) twice in a Ramadhan

Before the death of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), there were signs through revelations by frequent visits by Angel Jibreel (peace be upon him). For example, usually Jibrael (peace be upon him) would rehearse the Qur’ān with the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) once every Ramadhan but towards the last period, Jibreel (peace be upon him) did it twice in Ramadhan.

Evidence number 4 – The conquest of Makkah

The Tafsir of Surah An-Nasr as understood by the three best generations of Muslims is a clear evidence as recorded in Sahih Bukhari, Umar (may Allāh be pleased with him) asked Ibn Abbas (may Allāh be pleased with him) the meaning to this Surah and this is what Ibn Abbas (may Allāh be pleased with him) said:

`It was the end of the life of Allāh’s Messenger that Allāh was informing him of. Allāh said:

إِذَا جَآءَ نَصْرُ اللَّهِ وَالْفَتْحُ

“When there comes the help of Allāh and the Conquest.”, which clearly indicates this being a sign of the end of his (peace be upon him) life.’ [6]

Evidence number 5 – The Prophet (peace be upon) last moments with Fatimah (may Allah be pleased with her)

Events that unfolded in the last hours before the demise of Prophet Muhammad (paece be upon him) are further evidences of his physical death. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) called Fatimah (may Allāh be pleased with her) and whispered something to her which made her cry.

Then he (peace be upon him) whispered to her something else which made her laugh. ‘A’ishah (may Allāh be pleased with her) enquired from her after the Prophet (peace be upon him)’s death, as to this weeping and laughing to which Fatimah (may Allāh pleased be with her) replied:

“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.” [7]

Fatima (may Allāh be pleased with her) died four months after the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him), so Fathima (may Allāh be pleased with her) joined him as foretold by her father (peace be upon him).

Evidence number 6 – The Prophet (peace be upon him) making Dua for his life in the hereafter

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) looked upwards towards the ceiling and moved his blessed lips. So ‘A’ishah (may Allāh be pleased with her) listened to him. She heard him (peace be upon him) say:

“With those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace with the Prophets and the Truthful (as-Siddiqin), the martyrs and the good doers. O Allāh, forgive me and have mercy upon me and join me to the Companionship on high.” [8]

Then, at intervals he (peace be upon him) uttered these words:

“The most exalted Companionship on high. To Allāh we turn and to Him we turn back for help and last abode.” [9]

Evidence number 7 – Anas ibn Malik (may Allāh be pleased with him)’s darkest day

Anas ibn Malik (may Allāh be pleased with him), who served as a helper to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

“I have never witnessed a day better or brighter than that day on which the Messenger of Allāh (peace be upon him) came to us; and I have never witnessed a more awful or darker day than that one on which the Messenger of Allāh died on.” [10]

Evidence number 8 – The Prophet (peace be upon him)’s daughter Fatima declaration

Fatimah (may Allāh be pleased with her) said:

“O Father, whom his Lord responded to his supplication! O Father, whose abode is Paradise. O Father, whom I announce his death to Gabriel.” [11]

Evidence number 9 – Abu Bakr, Umar ibn Khattab and the rest of the companions response at the Prophet (peace be upon him)’s death

Abu Bakr (may Allāh be pleased with him) left his house at as-Sunh and came forth to the Mosque on a mare-back. At the Mosque, he dismounted and entered. He talked to nobody but went on till he entered ‘A’ishah’s abode, and went directly to where the Messenger of Allāh (peace be upon him) was. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was covered with a Yemeni mantle. He uncovered his (peace be upon him)’s face and tended down, kissed him and cried. Abu Bakr (may Allāh be pleased with him) then said:

“I sacrifice my father and mother for your sake. Allāh, verily, will not cause you to die twice. You have just experienced the death that Allāh had ordained.”

Then he went out and found ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allāh be pleased with him) talking to people. Abu Bakr (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: “‘Umar, be seated.” ‘Umar (may Allāh be pleased with him) refused to do so. People parted ‘Umar (may Allāh be pleased with him) came towards Abu Bakr (may Allāh be pleased with him), who started a speech saying:

“And now, he who worships Muhammad, Muhammad is dead now. But he who worships Allāh, He is Ever Living and He never dies. Allāh says: ‘Muhammad 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 Allāh, and Allāh will give reward to those who are grateful.'” [12]

Ibn ‘Abbas said: “By Allāh it sounded as if people had never heard such a Qur’anic verse till Abu Bakr recited it as a reminder. So people started reciting it till there was no man who did not recite it.”

Ibn al-Musayyab said that ‘Umar had said:

“By Allah as soon as I heard Abu Bakr say it, I fell down to the ground. I felt as if my legs had been unable to carry me so I collapsed when I heard him say it. Only then did I realize that Muhammad sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had really died.” [13]

A whole body of authentic ahadith narrated by many of his companions confirmed the physical demise of the Prophet (peace be upon him) without a doubt.

Evidence number 10 – The burial process of the Prophet (peace be upon him)’s blessed body

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) choose to be with Allāh whenever he was asked by his companions. The physical body of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was given all the rites of the Janaza (funeral) by more than one companion, his physical body was buried where his soul departed.

‘A’ishah (may Allāh be pleased with her) said:

“We did not know that the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was being buried till we heard the sound of tools digging the ground at the depth of Wednesday night.” [14]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) died on 12th Rabee’ al-Awwal 11 AH, after the sun had passed its zenith, and he was buried on the Tuesday night, after all the people of Madeenah had offered the funeral prayer for him, as Abu Bakr (may Allāh be pleased with him) said:

“Some people came in and said takbeer and offered the (funeral) prayer and said du’aa’, then they left; then others came in and said takbeer and offered the (funeral) prayer and said du’aa’, then they left, until all the people had come in.” [15]

Evidence number 11 – The appointment of a caliph

Abu Bakr (may Allāh be pleased with him) was chosen as the khalifah before the physical body of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was buried.

Anas bin Malik (may Allāh be pleased with him) said:

That he heard `Umar’s second speech he delivered when he sat on the pulpit on the day following the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him) `Umar recited the Tashahhud while Abu Bakr was silent. `Umar said, “I wish that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) had outlived all of us, i.e., had been the last (to die). But if Muhammad is dead, Allāh nevertheless has kept the light amongst you from which you can receive the same guidance as Allah guided Muhammad with that. And Abu Bakr is the companion of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) He is the second of the two in the cave. He is the most entitled person among the Muslims to manage your affairs. Therefore get up and swear allegiance to him.” Some people had already taken the oath of allegiance to him in the shed of Bani Sa`ida but the oath of allegiance taken by the public was taken at the pulpit. I heard `Umar saying to Abu Bakr on that day. “Please ascend the pulpit,” and kept on urging him till he ascended the pulpit whereupon, all the people swore allegiance to him. [16]

Evidence number 12 – Fatima (may Allāh pleased with her) asking for her inheritance

Fatima (may Allāh be pleased with her) asked Abu Bakr (may Allāh be pleased with him) for her inheritance from her father because she was convinced that he (peace be upon him) had died a physical death, and no one among the Sahaabah (may Allāh be pleased with them all) differed with her concerning that.

Rather Abu Bakr (may Allāh be pleased with him) responded to her request by saying that nothing could be inherited from the Prophets (peace be upon them all).

Further the Qur’an declares the following:

“Whatsoever is on it (the earth) will perish. And the Face of your Lord full of Majesty and Honour will remain forever” [17]

“Verily, you (O Muhammad) will die, and verily, they (too) will die” [18]

Howbeit, there are authentic narrations that some Muslims, without scholarly guidance, jump to conclusions which divides the Ummah.

Refutation attempt number 1 – So, where is the Prophet (peace be upon him)’s soul?

With regard to the soul of the Prophet (peace be upon him), it is in the highest part of ‘Illiyyeen, because he (peace be upon him) was the best of creation, and because Allāh has given him al-waseelah which is the highest position in Paradise.

Refutation attempt number 2 – Aren’t the Prophets (peace be upon all) alive in their graves?

The life of al-barzakh (the life of the grave) is a special life. The Prophets (peace be upon all) and the shuhada’ (martyrs) are indeed alive in al-barzakh as the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“The Prophets are alive and they pray in their graves.” [19]

This prayer is something that only the Prophets of Allāh (peace be upon all) are blessed with just as the people of Paradise are blessed with tasbeeh (glorifying Allāh). If this saying of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was to be used as an evidence to state it is acceptable to make Dua to him, to state he (peace be upon him) is alive in bodily form in the grave or to make him (peace be upon him) as an intermediary between us and Allāh for our supplications, then why don’t we apply the same to all other Prophets (peace be upon all) and even the martyrs?

“And say not of those who are killed in the way of Allāh, ‘They are dead.’ Nay, they are living, but you perceive (it) not” [20]

What the Prophets (peace be upon him) and the martyrs are experiencing in the life of al-barzakh is a special life, the true nature of which is known only to Allāh. It is not like the life of this world in which the soul remains with the body. And indeed it’s not like the life of other souls after death. Please read the tafsir of this verse to get a better understanding.

Refutation attempt number 3 – But, he (peace be upon him) hears and answers our Salaams.

The basic principle concerning the dead is that they do not hear the words of the living sons of Adam, because Allāh has clearly mentioned in the Qur’an that:

“…but you cannot make hear those who are in graves” [21]

Do watch this to understand this better, for there will be people who say that the dead hear the footsteps.

Abu Hurayrah (may Allāh be pleased with him) who said that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“There is no one who sends Salaams upon me but Allāh will restore to me my soul so that I may return his Salaams.” [22]

This does not mean that he (peace be upon him) directly hears the words of the one who sends Salaams. Rather it is possible that he (peace be upon him) comes to know of those Salaams when the angels convey that to him (peace be upon him). Point to note also is in the above hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) says Allah will restore his soul, which again is an indication that the Prophet (peace be upon him)’s soul is in a special state, like other Prophets (peace be upon all).

Aws ibn Aws (may Allāh be pleased with him) said:

“Among the most excellent of your days is Friday; on it Adam was created, on it he died, on it the last trumpet will be blown, and on it the shout will be made, so invoke more blessings on me that day, for your blessings will be submitted to me.” The people asked: “O Messenger of Allah, how can it be that our blessings will be submitted to you while your body is decayed?” He replied: “Allah, the Exalted, has prohibited the earth from consuming the bodies of Prophets.” [23]

Furthermore, if we assume that he (peace be upon him) hears the words of the one who sends Salaams, this is an exception from the general rule, as in the case of the dead hearing the footsteps of those who carry his bier, and as in the case of the slain kuffaar in the well at Badr who heard the call of the Messenger of Allāh (peace be upon him) when he said to them:

“Have you found your Lord’s promise to be true? For we have found our Lord’s promise to be true.” [24]

Below are some more of the authentic ahadeeth mentioning how the Salaams are conveyed to the Prophet (peace be upon him).

‘Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allāh (peace be upon him) said:

“Allāh has angels who go around on earth, conveying to me the Salaam of my Ummah.” [25]

It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allāh be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allāh (peace be upon him) said:

“There is no one who sends Salaam’s upon me, but Allāh will restore to me my soul so that I may return his Salaams.” [26]

After our physical death, our souls enter into a completely different realm. Thus do the people of Paradise enjoy the goodness of Paradise and the people of Hell-Fire meet their destructive end.

Conclusion

To sum up, from the ample evidences and answers to the refutation attempts, we can drive the following conclusions regarding Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon)’s condition right now:

1. He (peace be upon him) is dead in the bodily and this worldly sense.
2. He (peace be upon him) cannot hear from us, rather the Salaams are conveyed to him by the angels.
3. He (peace be upon him) is not one to whom we should ever supplicate to, for the one who does so is committing the unforgivable sin of Shirk.
4. He (peace be upon him) should not be made as an intermediary for our supplications and prayers, since this status will only be given to him by the permission of Allāh on the day of judgement.
5. He (peace be upon him)’s death was indeed the biggest calamity to befall upon the Ummah, and we should remember our own death regularly whilst striving to abide to the teachings he has left behind.

Any errors in this piece are from the writers alone and any goodness that comes out of this is all thanks and praise to Allāh alone.

___________________________________________

References

[1] Al-Qur’an 4:59
[2] Al-Qur’an 3:185
[3] Al-Qur’an 39:30
[4] Narrated by several scholars including At-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud in their Sunan. At-Tirmidhi said: Hadith hasan sahih.
[5] Narrated by Sahih al-Bukhari 3445
[6] Al-Qur’an, 110:1
[7] Narrated by Sahih Al-Bukhari, 2:638
[8] Al-Qur’an, 4:69
[9] Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 4463 and Muslim, 2444
[10] Narrated in Mishkat al-Masabih, 2:547
[11] Narrated by Sahih al-Bukhari, 2:641
[12] Narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari 1241, 1242 and Al-Qur’an 3:144
[13] Narrated by Sahih al-Bukhari, 2:640 & 641
[14] Narrated in Mukhtasar Sirat ar-Rasul, p.471; Ibn Hisham, 2/649-665; Talqih Fuhum Ahlul-Athar, p.38, 39; Rahmatul li’l-Alamin 1/277-286
[15] Narrated by al-Tirmidhi in al-Shamaa’il (p. 338) and classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in his review.
[16] Narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari 7219
[17] Al-Qur’an 55:26-27
[18] Al-Qur’an 39:30
[19] Al-Mundhiri and al-Bayhaqi who classed it as saheeh because of corroborating reports in al-Saheehayn.
[20] Al-Qur’an 2:154
[21] Al-Qur’an 35:22
[22] Narrated by Abu Dawood, 2041
[23] Narrated in Sunan of Abu-Dawood, 1042
[24] See Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 1/313, 318, 321
[25] Narrated by al-Nasaa’i, 1282; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1664.
[26] Narrated in Saheeh Sunan Abi Dawood, 1795

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Written by Adeel Malik

Born in Hong Kong, grew up in Scotland and ethnically Pakistani, Adeel primes himself to be a multicultural individual who is an advent social media user for the purpose of learning and propagating Islam while is also a sports fan. Being an English teacher himself, he envisions a bright future for Muslims which he strongly believes can only be done with education.

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