There are many discussions and arguments thrown back and forth when it comes to the popular narration of the pen and paper event (Hadith-ul-Qirtaas) that happened in the last days of the Prophet’s (saw) life. While we believe that the traditional arguments of Ahlul-Sunnah are solid and that the opponents have nothing to cling to except evil thoughts and malicious interpretations, yet we think that this debate can be settled in a quicker way so as to avoid baseless arguing and repetition.
First of all, let us quote the narration just for reference:
[`Abdullah ibn `Abbas narrated: When Allah’s Apostle was on his death-bed and in the house there were some people among whom was `Umar bin Al-Khattab, the Prophet said, “Come, let me write for you a statement after which you will not go astray.” Thereupon`Umar said, “Verily Allah’s messenger (peace be upon him) is seriously ill and you have the Qur’an; the Book of Allah is sufficient for us.” The household differed and quarreled. Some said “Go near so that the Prophet may write for you a statement after which you will not go astray,” while the others said as `Umar said. When they caused a hue and cry before the Prophet, Allah’s Apostle said, “Go away!” Narrated `Ubaydullah: Ibn `Abbas used to say, “It was very unfortunate that Allah’s Apostle was prevented from writing that statement for them because of their disagreement and noise.”]
Source: Sahih Muslim.
When a Sunni and a Shia debate about this incident online, their arguments are usually as follows:
1- Sunni understanding: `Umar saw that Rasul-Allah (saw) was overcome by pain due to his illness. He knew that Rasul-Allah (saw) put all of his effort into teaching the nation and instructing them on all means of guidance throughout his life. `Umar could not handle seeing the Prophet (saw) continue teaching and lecturing while he is in such a serious medical condition, he wished for the Prophet (saw) to rest and recover because he feared that exhaustion could terribly affect his health or even lead to his death.
2- Shia understanding: The nation is now misguided due to `Umar forcefully preventing Rasul-Allah (saw) from writing that document. The document contained vital information possibly in connection with Ali’s superiority and his role as guide and successor to the Prophet (saw). `Umar brought a gang of his supporters and prevented the writing due to political reasons, mainly because they had planned to usurp the leadership after the passing of Muhammad (saw).
As the reader can see, the two views are completely at odds and this is what leads to long debates between the two sides. If the Sunni understanding is correct, then the Prophet (saw) would have been pleased with `Umar after this incident occurred. Whereas, if the Shia understanding is correct, then the Prophet (saw) should have cursed `Umar and became angry at him after this incident.
The thing is, neither the Sunnies nor the Shias were present at that incident to be able to judge the situation. This narration only reaches us through a young `Abdullah ibn `Abbas who was an eye witness, he was present in the house since he is a close family member. `Abdullah ibn `Abbas is therefore the only person who can make that judgement for us and settle the matter.
We read the words `Abdullah ibn Abbas spoke to `Umar bin al-Khattab when the latter was laying on his deathbed after being fatally wounded:
يا أمير المؤمنين، ولئن كان ذلك لقد صحبت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فأحسنت صحبته، ثم فارقته وهو عنك راضٍ
[O Ameer-ul-Mu’mineen, if this (wound) should lead to your death (then know that) you have been a good companion of Rasul-Allah (saw) and he departed (from this world) while being pleased with you.]
Source: Sahih al-Bukhari.
Conclusion, it is established without doubt that the Sunni understanding is the correct understanding because the Prophet (saw) was pleased with `Umar until the end and this would not be possible if the Shia scenario had even a hint of truth to it.