Death of the Prophet
Muhammad returned to live in Madinah, where he led the community both materially and spiritually. Throughout this time, he continued to receive revelations from God on matters of faith and social life, and these revelations were written down and compiled into the Qur'an. Now a peaceful neighbor, the city of Mecca was open to Muslims who wanted to travel for the annual pilgrimage. Caravans traveled freely in the region, and the message of Islam began to spread north into Byzantium and Iran and south through the continent of Africa.
In the tenth year after hijrah, Muhammad made his final pilgrimage to Mecca. More than 100,000 Muslims gathered in the valley of Mount Arafat for the final stages of the annual pilgrimage. At the gathering, Muhammad rose to deliver a speech, which lives on as one of the greatest sermons of all time.
O people, lend me an attentive ear, for I do not know whether after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again…. Oh people, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one, so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that He will indeed reckon all of your deeds…. Oh people, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to women, but they also have rights over you…. Do treat women well, and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers…. All mankind is from Adam and Eve; an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab. Also a white person has no superiority over a black person, nor does a black person have any superiority over a white person, except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim, and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood…. Remember, one day you will appear before God and answer for your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone…. Be my witness, God, that I have conveyed Your message to Your people.
Muhammad fell ill within months of his final pilgrimage. Too sick to get out of bed, he appointed Abu Bakr to lead the community prayers. After an illness that lasted about two weeks, Muhammad died at the age of sixty-three. By that time, all of Arabia had been united under Islam, and the faith was gaining footholds in other regions.
When the people learned of Muhammad's death, they reacted in desperation and shock. He was their prophet and leader, and they knew that with his death, revelations from God would come to an end. Many people defiantly denied that he had died. Seeing this, Abu Bakr went to the mosque and called to the people. “Oh people! If Muhammad is the sole object of your adoration, then know that he is dead. But if it is God that you worshiped, then know that He does not die!”
Abu Bakr then recited verse 3:144 of the Qur'an, which was revealed after the battle of Uhud: “Muhammad is no more than an Apostle; many were the Apostles that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, would you then turn back on your heels? If any did turn back, not the least harm would he do to God. But God will swiftly reward those who serve Him with gratitude.” Hearing this, the people were humbled and recognized the truth of Muhammad's death.