Calamity of Thursday (Intentions of the Companions)
The following article is a continuation of our previous article on the Calamity of Thursday (Raziyyat Al-Khamees) in which we focused on the content of the will of the Prophet – peace be upon him – . In this article, we will be focusing on the intentions of the Companions and their hesitation. Shias often claim that the Companions intended to prevent the Prophet – peace be upon him – from appointing Ali, and thus, caused the nation to fall into misguidance. The narration is also used to suggest that the Companions disbelieved by accusing the Prophet – peace be upon him – of losing his mind.
These arguments are made with little understanding of the context as we shall soon see.
Note: We would like readers to keep in mind that we have established in the previous article that the content of the will was unknown to the Companions.
The text of the narration:
Ibn Abbas narrated:
When Allah’s Messenger – peace be upon him – was on his death-bed and in the house there were some people among whom was `Umar bin Al-Khattab, the Prophet – peace be upon him – said, “Come, let me write for you a statement after which you will not go astray.” `Umar said, “The Prophet – peace be upon him – is seriously ill and you have the Qur’an; so the Book of Allah is enough for us.” The people present in the house differed and quarreled. Some said “Go near so that the Prophet – peace be upon him – 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 Messenger – peace be upon him – said, “Go away!” Narrated ‘Ubaidullah: Ibn `Abbas used to say, “It was very unfortunate that Allah’s Messenger – peace be upon him – was prevented from writing that statement for them because of their disagreement and noise.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari #4432)
In this topic, we will be taking a deep look at the following aspects and sections of the “Calamity of Thursday”:
- “He is Delirious!”
- “The Book of Allah is Sufficient”
- Omar’s Mistake
- Did the Muslims go astray According to Sunnis?
- Did the Muslims go astray According to the Shias?
“He is Delirious!”
Perhaps the most common claim that Shias raise is that Omar accused the Prophet – peace be upon him – of being delirious. First of all, we do not find this statement being attributed to Omar in any of the narrations. The narration does not determine who made this statement, but only states that some of the Companions did. Moreover, the terms used differ in the narrations. In some narrations, we find them saying, “The Messenger of Allah – peace be upon him – is delirious.” (Al-Bukhari #3053), though in most of the narrations, we find it posed as a question, in which they ask, “Is he delirious?” (Al-Bukhari #3168, #4431, and Muslims #1637).
Even though in the coming centuries it has become accepted among the scholars that it is impossible for the Prophet – peace be upon him – to become delirious, it was not a view that had achieved consensus during the time of the Companions, for they were not exposed to these philosophical discussions. Rather, they understood the religion as it was presented to them and did not partake in such discussions seeing as to how it was unnecessary when they had a prophet from Allah among them.
In other words, those that have uttered those words had no issue with reconciling the idea that the Prophet – peace be upon him – can be delirious, without it contradicting his status as a prophet.
Some Shias like to claim that holding such a view is disbelief. We would like them to provide their proof that one who testifies that “there is no god but Allah and Mohammad is His Messenger” is a disbeliever if they believe in the possibility of a prophet becoming delirious when suffering from an extreme ailment.
It is also important to keep in mind that the specifics of the “Calamity of Thursday” incident have not been narrated in a detailed manner. At face value, one would make the assumption that the statement, “Is he delirious?” was uttered at the mere suggestion of the writing of a will. An assumption like this is due to a shallow reading. The hesitation of the Companions was due to their uncertainty of what the Prophet – peace be upon him – was intending to say due to his fatigue. Readers with relatives that have suffered from terminal illnesses will be able to relate to this. If we keep in mind that the Prophet – peace be upon him – was suffering twice as much as the common man (Saheeh Al-Bukhari #5648 and Saheeh Muslim #2571), it is understandable how his fatigue would affect his speech and how that would cause confusion to the Companions. This is the observation of Omar as well who clearly stated that “the Prophet’s – peace be upon him – pain has overtaken him.” Ibn Abbas himself says in the beginning of the narration that this event took place when the Prophet’s – peace be upon him – pain and suffering had increased. (Al-Bukhari #114)
“The Book of Allah is Sufficient”
Perhaps one of the more confusing statements that were uttered in the gathering was the statement of Omar, “The Book of Allah is sufficient for us.” So, why did Omar say this? The most obvious answer is that it is because this is what the Prophet – peace be upon him – said several weeks ago during the pilgrimage. Jabir narrated (Saheeh Muslim #1218), “You shall not go astray if you hold onto what I have left among you: The Book of Allah.” As we can see, the wordings are extremely similar, and thus, Omar knew that his answer was correct.
However, we do not believe that this was what the Prophet – peace be upon him – intended to dictate, for he had already stated this in front of a hundred thousand pilgrims a few weeks before. There was no need to have it written down.
So even though we do believe that Omar’s answer was the correct one, we do believe that his other assumption was incorrect, which was that the Prophet – peace be upon him – would get better, which leads us to our next point.
A point that many people overlook is that Omar had no idea that the Prophet – peace be upon him – was going to pass away. The most obvious evidence for this is his extreme denial upon hearing the news. He shouted, “By Allah, the Messenger of Allah – peace be upon him – did not die!” (Al-Bukhari #3667)
Not only did Omar have no idea, but Ali was oblivious as well (Al-Bukhari #4447):
`Ali bin Abi Talib came out of the house of Allah’s Messenger – peace be upon him – during his fatal illness. The people asked, “O Abu Hasan (i.e. `Ali)! How is the health of Allah’s Messenger – peace be upon him – this morning?” `Ali replied, “He has recovered with the Grace of Allah.” `Abbas bin `Abdul Muttalib held him by the hand and said to him, “In three days you, by Allah, will be ruled (by somebody else ), And by Allah, I feel that Allah’s Apostle will die from this ailment of his, for I know how the faces of the offspring of `Abdul Muttalib look at the time of their death.
With the above in mind, we come to the conclusion that those that opposed the writing of the will did not do so because they had an issue with the content, but rather, had an issue with the circumstances. In other words, they would have been all for the writing of the will as soon as the Prophet – peace be upon him – got better. Little did they know that his health would not improve and that he would pass away a few days later.
Omar’s mistake was not that he believed that “the Qur’an is sufficient,” since those are the words of the Prophet – peace be upon him – . Omar’s mistake is that he believed that the Prophet – peace be upon him – would dictate the teachings after he got better.
Did the Muslims go astray According to Sunnis?
No. According to the Sunni view, the Muslims did not go astray. The Prophet – peace be upon him – was referring to the Muslims in a general sense, and the majority of the Muslims, from his time to modern times, are upon the correct path.
The Muslims held onto the Book of Allah, which kept them on the right path. As we have mentioned above, the Prophet – peace be upon him – himself said that holding onto it will cause one to not go astray.
As for the will, even though it wasn’t written, the majority of the Muslims followed it as we have pointed out in our previous article on the subject of the “Calamity of Thursday.”
Did the Muslims go astray According to the Shias?
Yes. According to the Shia view, the majority of Muslims went astray because the Prophet – peace be upon him – was not “allowed” to write his will. The actions of a small group of people that could barely fit into his humble abode, caused the whole Islamic system to collapse, since Ali’s name couldn’t be written down on paper, even though a public declaration of his appointment allegedly took place a few weeks ago in front of ten thousand. That is the Shia view.
Like in our previous article, the misconceptions that surround the topic are due to the preconceptions of Shias, may Allah guide them. The preconceptions in the “Calamity of Thursday” event are that the Companions knew the content of the will, as we have debunked in the previous article, and that they purposefully attempted to neutralize the attempt to write it down. By the grace of Allah, we have proven that both preconceptions are baseless in the light of the historical context.
We would like to remind readers again that the event cannot be found in authentic Shia literature, yet, their bias allows them to accept this as an absolute historical fact because it appeals to their views.