Farewell Sermon

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The Farewell Sermon (خطبة الوداع‎, Khuṭbatu l-Wadāʕ) is purported to be the Prophet Muhammad's final sermon to his followers before his death in 632 CE, 10 H. However like most elements of the Islamic tradition our sources for this are late, with the earliest mention coming from Ibn Isḥāq who was born 70 years after the death of the prophet. The entirety of the supposed speech shows up in Ibn Isḥāq while Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim and Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī report shorter versions. Other sources in Hadith repeat isolated fragments of the speech, one of which reminds men to treat their wives well given that they are prisoners to their husbands. It also echoes Qur'an 4:34 in commanding the beating of women in the case of disobedience. It should be noted that a more recent retelling of the speech which omits this injunction is a recent fabrication and not part of the attested classical tradition.


According to Muslim historians, Muhammad’s Farewell Sermon was delivered on the ninth day of Dhu al-Hijjah (Month of Hajj- Pilgrimage 632 CE) in the valley of mount Arafat. This area located in Saudi Arabia was, and still is, considered holy and even today non-Muslims are forbidden from entering.

The sermon took place ten years after Muhammad’s Hijra (هِجْرَة Migration) to Medina, meaning it was after conquering Mecca.

This event took place following this Qur'anic revelation:

O ye who believe! Truly the Mushrikuns (Pagans and all unbelievers) are unclean; so let them not, after this year of theirs, approach the Sacred Mosque. And if ye fear poverty, soon will Allah enrich you, if He wills, out of His bounty, for Allah is All-knowing, All-wise.

Accordingly, the listeners were all strictly Muslim. Muhammad was addressing his own people, since no others were allowed to enter the area of the Sacred Mosque, which includes the Plain of Arafat.

Sources of the Sermon

The sermon is reported in numerous Hadith sources. Some reports mention the full sermon, while others mention fragments of it.

The earliest account of the full sermon was by Ibn Isḥāq (d.150 H) who reported it on the authority of Abdullāh Bin Abī Nujayḥ (d.131) who was a prominent religious authority in Mecca.[1] Since that he never reported any Hadith directly from a companion of Muhammad[2], this means that the chain of narration of Ibn Isḥāq’s sermon report has two missing links: The sermon witness and the one who heard the witness’s report.

Ibn Isḥāq’s report is found in Ibn Hishām’s (d. 213 H) biography of Muhammad[3] which is a summary of Ibn Isḥāq’s missing work. Ibn Isḥāq’s report is also found in the History of Al-Ṭabarī (d. 310 H).[4]

The second earliest mention of the full sermon after Ibn Isḥāq was by Al-Wāqidī (d. 207 H) who reported it with two chains of narrations: One goes back to Ibn Abbas a cousin of Muhammad, and the other goes back to a witness named ʕamr Bin Yathribī.[5]

Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim reports a shorter version of the sermon in a narration where the great great grandson of Muhammad (The grandson of Ḥusayn) meets Jābir, a companion of Muhammad who lived until the age of 94 (d.78 H). He asked Jābir to tell him about the prophet’s pilgrimage. Jābir proceeded to detail the events of the pilgrimage including the farewell sermon.[6]

Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī reports a short version that lacks the part about women. (see next section)

Text of the Farewell Sermon

Ibn Isḥāq's version which is the earliest report of the sermon:

O people, listen to my words. I do not know whether I shall ever meet you again in this place after this year. O people, your blood and your property are sacrosanct until you meet your Lord, just as this day and this month of yours are sacred. Surely you will meet your Lord and He will question you about your deeds. I have [already] made this known. Let he who has a pledge return it to the one who entrusted him with it; all usury is abolished, but your capital belongs to you. Wrong not and you shall not be wronged. Allah has decreed that there will be no usury, and the usury of Abbas b. Abd al-Muttalib is abolished, all of it. All blood shed in the pre-Islamic days is to be left unavenged. The first such claim I revoke is that of Ibn Rabiah b. al-Harith b. Abd al-Muttalib, who was nursed among the Banu Layth and was slain by the Banu Hudhayl. His is the first blood shed in the pre-Islamic days with which I shall set an example. O people, indeed Satan despairs of ever being worshipped in this land of yours. He will be pleased, however, if he is obeyed in a thing other than that, in matters you minimize. So beware of him in your religion, O people, intercalculating a month is an increase in unbelief whereby the unbelievers go astray; one year they make it profane, and hallow it another [in order] to agree with the number that Allah has hallowed, and so profane what Allah has hallowed, and hallow what Allah has made profane. Time has completed its cycle [and is] as it was on the day that Allah created the heavens and the earth. The number of the months with Allah is twelve; [they were] in the Book of Allah on the day He created the heavens and the earth. Four of them are sacred, the three consecutive [months] and the Rajab [which is the month of] Mudar, which is between Jumada and Sha’ban.

Now then, O people, you have a right over your wives and they have a right over you. You have [the right] that they should not cause anyone of whom you dislike to tread on your beds; and that they should not commit any open indecency. If they do, then Allah permits you to shut them in separate rooms and to beat them, but not severely. If they abstain from [evil], they have the right to their food and clothing in accordance with the custom. Treat women well, for they are [like] domestic animals with you and do not possess anything for themselves. You have taken them only as a trust from Allah, and you have made the enjoyment of their persons lawful by the word of Allah, so understand and listen to my words, O people. I have conveyed the Message, and have left you with something which, if you hold fast to it, you will never go astray; that is, the Book of Allah and the sunnah of his Prophet. Listen to my words, O people, for I have conveyed the Message and understand [it]. Know for certain that every Muslim is a brother of another Muslim, and that all Muslims are brethren. It is not lawful for a person [to take] from his brother except that which he has given him willingly, so do not wrong yourselves. O Allah, have I not conveyed the message?
The History of al-Tabari, Volume 9 The Last Years of the Prophet (Translated by Ismail K. Poonawala), pp. 112-113

Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī's verion:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Time has taken its original shape which it had when Allah created the Heavens and the Earth. The year is of twelve months, four of which are sacred, and out of these (four) three are in succession, i.e. Dhul-Qa'da, Dhul-Hijja and Al-Muharram, and the fourth is Rajab which is named after the Mudar tribe, between (the month of) Jumaida (ath-thania) and Sha'ban." Then the Prophet (ﷺ) asked, "Which is this month?" We said, "Allah and His Apostle know better." On that the Prophet (ﷺ) kept quiet so long that we thought that he might name it with another name. Then the Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Isn't it the month of Dhul-Hijja?" We replied, "Yes." Then he said, "Which town is this?" "We replied, "Allah and His Apostle know better." On that he kept quiet so long that we thought that he might name it with another name. Then he said, "Isn't it the town of Mecca?" We replied, "Yes, " Then he said, "Which day is today?" We replied, "Allah and His Apostle know better." He kept quiet so long that we thought that he might name it with another name. Then he said, "Isn't it the day of An- Nahr (i.e. sacrifice)?" We replied, "Yes." He said, "So your blood, your properties, (The sub-narrator Muhammad said, 'I think the Prophet (ﷺ) also said: And your honor..) are sacred to one another like the sanctity of this day of yours, in this city of yours, in this month of yours; and surely, you will meet your Lord, and He will ask you about your deeds. Beware! Do not become infidels after me, cutting the throats of one another. It is incumbent on those who are present to convey this message (of mine) to those who are absent. May be that some of those to whom it will be conveyed will understand it better than those who have actually heard it." (The sub-narrator, Muhammad, on remembering that narration, used to say, "Muhammad spoke the truth!") He (i.e. Prophet) then added twice, "No doubt! Haven't I conveyed (Allah's Message) to you?"
Sahih al-Bukhari » Military Expeditions led by the Prophet (pbuh) (Al-Maghaazi) - كتاب المغازى » Hadith 4406 https://sunnah.com/bukhari:4406

Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim's version:

Verily your blood, your property are as sacred and inviolable as the sacredness of this day of yours, in this month of yours, in this town of yours. Behold! Everything pertaining to the Days of Ignorance is under my feet completely abolished. Abolished are also the blood-revenges of the Days of Ignorance. The first claim of ours on blood-revenge which I abolish is that of the son of Rabi'a b. al-Harith, who was nursed among the tribe of Sa'd and killed by Hudhail. And the usury of she pre-Islamic period is abolished, and the first of our usury I abolish is that of 'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib, for it is all abolished. Fear Allah concerning women! Verily you have taken them on the security of Allah, and intercourse with them has been made lawful unto you by words of Allah. You too have right over them, and that they should not allow anyone to sit on your bed whom you do not like. But if they do that, you can chastise them but not severely. Their rights upon you are that you should provide them with food and clothing in a fitting manner. I have left among you the Book of Allah, and if you hold fast to it, you would never go astray. And you would be asked about me (on the Day of Resurrection), (now tell me) what would you say? They (the audience) said: We will bear witness that you have conveyed (the message), discharged (the ministry of Prophethood) and given wise (sincere) counsel. He (the narrator) said: He (the Holy Prophet) then raised his forefinger towards the sky and pointing it at the people (said):" O Allah, be witness. 0 Allah, be witness," saying it thrice.
Sahih Muslim. The Book of Pilgrimage - كتاب الحج . Hadith 1218 https://sunnah.com/muslim:1218a

Importance of the Sermon

The Hadith corpus mentions many sermons by Muhammad but they are very short and usually each sermon includes a single main point. The farewell sermon is the only reported sermon that is long and includes many different points making it the only one that resembles a full sermon. This sermon is significant to Muslims since Muhammad, in front of thousands of followers, bid farewell to his nation by saying that he might not be here ever again, and he died just three months later. He preached several important lessons in this farewell sermon: The sacredness of Muslims’ blood and properties, the abolition of everything pertaining to the pre-Islamic era, how women should be treated by their husbands, and finally that Muslims will never go astray if they hold fast to the book of Allah.

What adds more significance to the sermon is the reports that the following verse was revealed on that day[7]:

This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.

The sermon has impacted practiced Islam in the following ways:

1-Following in the footsteps of Muhammad, delivering a public sermon by an Imam became a ritual part of the Hajj. This sermon called the sermon of Arafah and it’s delivered in Arafah. In modern times this sermon is delivered by a prominent Imam chosen by the Saudi government. The grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia Abdul Aziz Al-Shikh used to be chosen to deliver the sermon every year for over 3 decades until 2015 when he fell ill[8].  

2-The sermon clarified that the beating mentioned in the Quran as a punishment for wives with ill-conduct shouldn’t be severe. No other Hadith clarified this.

3-The sermon in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim is part of a long report by Jābir where he detailed the events of Muhammad's pilgrimage. This detailed report became an important source for how the Hajj should be conducted.

4-Muhammad ended the sermon by saying “Haven't I conveyed to you? O Allah bear witness”. This expression is sometimes used by religious and public speakers at the end of an important speech.

Although the Hadith corpus is full of reports that are considered misogynistic in modern standards, the farewell sermon is the only Hadith that describes wives as prisoners with their husbands. This description is mentioned in the version by Ibn Isḥāq, Al-Wāqidī and several other sources such as Sunan Ibn Majah[9] and Al-Tirmidhi[10]. But it isn’t mentioned in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim’s version. The version of Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī drops the portion about beating women from the sermon altogether.

Authenticity of the Sermon

Traditional Sunni Islam takes the sermon as authentic especially that large parts of it are reported in Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī and Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim which are deemed by Sunni Muslims as the most authentic collections of Hadith.

From a critical scholarly point of view, though, the narrations have a number of issues: apparent that the sermon includes two fabrications:

1-In many versions of the sermon, including the earliest version by Ibn Isḥāq, Muhammad says “O people! listen to my words. I do not know whether I shall ever meet you again in this place after this year.” The fact that Muhammad died 3 months later turns what he said into a prophecy, which means it was a fabrication as it’s the habit of historians to deem accounts of miracles and prophecies in any tradition as ahistorical. In the sermon's versions reported in Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī and Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, there’s no mention of this prophecy.

2-The sermon as reported by Ibn Isḥāq, Al-Wāqidī, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim and some other sources includes the following line:

“I have left you with something which, if you hold fast to it, you will never go astray; that is, the Book of Allah.“

Ibn Isḥāq’s version adds to it: “and the sunnah of his Prophet.”

The mention of "the Sunnah of the prophet" is clearly apocryphal, as Patricia Crone has shown in God's Caliph, since such a concept did not exist in actual khalifal/Islamic jurisprudence until well into the Abbassid period. Other renditions such as that of Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim don’t mention the Sunnah of the prophet.

The correct translation of ʿawān عوان

The sermon as reported by Ibn Isḥāq and many other sources includes the following portion:

“Treat women well, for they are ʿawān with you”.

All Hadith exegesis and classical Arabic dictionaries agree that ʿawān mentioned in this Hadith means captives or prisoners. Despite this unanimous agreement, the word is mistranslated in some English translations into one of the following:

1-“Domestic animals” which appears in Ismail K. Poonawala’s translation of Al-Ṭabarī’s history.

This mistranslation stems from the existence of two Arabic words identical in pronunciation but different in meaning. One is singular and the other is plural:

The word ʿawān in the Hadith is a plural word since that it’s describing a plural noun (women). The sentence in the Hadith literally means “They are ʿawān at you”. The singular of ʿawān is ʿāniyah عانية which means female captive. It’s derived from the verb ʿanā عنا which means (he) submitted (to). [11]

There’s another ʿawān in Arabic which is a singular word so it cannot be the one meant in the Hadith. This singular ʿawān is listed in Lane’s lexicon which makes it clear the word is singular and has the plural form of ʿūn. Lane lists several meanings for ʿawān including beast or a cow.

2- Rizwi Faizer in her translation of Al-Wāqidī's Life of Muhammad, translated ʿawān as: “for they are bound to you and are dependent on you.”[12] This is an apologetic translation that has no basis whatsoever.

3- Another apologetic translation that appears on many websites such as the international Islamic university in Malysia.[13]

In this popular English translation of the sermon, ʿawān is translated as “partners and helpers” which has no basis whatsoever. It might have originated from the misconception that the word ʿawān is derived from the word ʿawn عون which means help. Whereas all classical sources affirm the word ʿawān is derived from ʿanā which means (he) submitted (to). And not a single classical source says that ʿawān has anything to do with “help”.

Related Text

Note that while translations of the following hadiths of the farewell sermon differ, the same Arabic text occurs in the line about beating without severity. In Arabic, 'beat them, but not severely' is fa-idribuhunna darban ghayra mubarrihin (فَاضْرِبُوهُنَّ ضَرْبًا غَيْرَ مُبَرِّحٍ), which literally translates to mean 'beat them, a beating without violence/severity/sharpness/vehemence[14]'.

[...] Fear Allaah regarding women for you have got them under Allah’s security and have the right to intercourse with them by Allaah’s word. It is a duty from you on them not to allow anyone whom you dislike to lie on your beds but if they do beat them, but not severely. [...]

The version of the farewell sermon in Sunan Abu Dawud was collected also in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim.

[...] Fear Allah concerning women! Verily you have taken them on the security of Allah, and intercourse with them has been made lawful unto you by words of Allah. You too have right over them, and that they should not allow anyone to sit on your bed whom you do not like. But if they do that, you can chastise them but not severely. [...]

The translations of Al-Ṭabarī and Ibn Isḥāq add that the women possess nothing for themselves or lack control over their persons, respectively.

Sulaiman bin Amr bin Al-Ahwas said:

“My father narrated to me that he witnessed the farewell Hajj with the Messenger of Allah. So he thanked and praised Allah and he reminded and gave admonition. He mentioned a story in his narration and he (the Prophet) said: “And indeed I order you to be good to the women, for they are but captives with you over whom you have no power than that, except if they come with manifest Fahishah (evil behavior). If they do that, then abandon their beds and beat them with a beating that is not harmful. And if they obey you then you have no cause against them. Indeed you have rights over your women, and your women have rights over you. As for your rights over your women, then they must not allow anyone whom you dislike to treat on your bedding (furniture), nor to admit anyone in your home that you dislike. And their rights over you are that you treat them well in clothing them and feeding them.”

It was narrated that: Sulaiman bin Amr bin Ahwas said: “My father told me that he was present on the Farewell pilgrimage with the Messenger of Allah. He praised and glorified Allah, and reminder and exhorted (the people). The he said: 'I enjoin good treatment of women, for they are prisoners with you, and you have no right to treat them otherwise, unless they commit clear indecency. If they do that, then forsake them in their beds and hit them, but without causing injury or leaving a mark if they obey you, then do not seek means of annoyance against them. You have rights over your women and you women have rights over you. Your rights over you women are that they are not to allow anyone whom you dislike on treat on your bedding (furniture), not allow anyone whom you dislike to enter your houses. And their right over you are that should treat them kindly with regard to their clothing and food.' ” (Sahih)
You have rights over your wives and they have rights over you. You have the right that they should not defile your bed and that they should not behave with open unseemliness. If they do, God allows you to put them in separate rooms and beat them but not with severity. If they refrain from these things they have the right to their food and clothing with kindness. Lay injunctions on women kindly, for they are prisoners with you having no control of their persons. You have taken them only as a trust from God, and you have the enjoyment of their persons by the words of God, so understand…
Ibn Ishaq. Sirat Rasul Allah. 969. p. 651

These versions of the farewell sermon all allude to a verse in the Quran in which beating of women is mandated in certain situations.

Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.

External Links


  1. Siyar Aʕlām Al-Nubalāʾ by Al-Dhahab. Al-Risālah. Vol.6 p.125 سير أعلام النبلاء للذهبي، ط الرسالة، ج6 ص125 قَالَ ابْنُ عُيَيْنَةَ: هُوَ مُفْتِي أَهْلِ مَكَّةَ بَعْدَ عَمْرِو بنِ دِيْنَارٍ
  2. ibid الذهبي: وَلَمْ أَجِدْ لَهُ شَيْئاً عَنْ أَحَدٍ مِنَ الصَّحَابَةِ
  3. سيرة ابن هشام، تحقيق السقا، ج2 ص603 Sīrat Ibn Hishām. Taḥqīq by Al-Saqqā. Vol.2 p.603
  4. تاريخ الطبري، دار المعارف، ج3 ص150 Tārīkh Al-Ṭabarī. Dār Al-Maʕārif. Vol.3 p.150
  5. مغازي الواقدي، دار الأعلمي، ج3 ص1111 Maghāzī Al-Wāqidī. Dar Al-Aʕlamī. Vol.3 p.1111
  6. صحيح مسلم تحقيق عبد الباقي، ج2 ص886 Sahih Muslim. Tahqiq by Abdul Baqi. Vol.2 p.886
  7. Tafsir of Ibn Kathir. Al-ʕilmiyyah publication. vol.3 p.22
  8. صحيفة سبق الألكترونية، مقالة بقلم فلاح الجوفان بعنوان: 14 في 100 عام عنقود خطباء عرفة<BR> بعد ذلك تم تكليف الشيخ عبدالعزيز بن عبدالله آل الشيخ، حفيد أول خطيب لجامع نمرة (في الدولة السعودية الثالثة)، بالخطابة، واستمر الشيخ عبدالعزيز في الخطابة في منبر مسجد نمرة أطول فترة؛ إذ خطب منذ موسم حج عام 1402هـ حتى موسم حج عام 1436هـ. بعدها اعتذر المفتي عن عدم الخطابة لظروفه الصحية،
  9. Sunan Ibn Majah » The Chapters on Marriage - كتاب النكاح » Hadith 1851 https://sunnah.com/ibnmajah:1851
  10. Jami` at-Tirmidhi » Chapters on Tafsir - كتاب تفسير القرآن عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم » Hadith 3087 https://sunnah.com/tirmidhi:3087
  11. Abū ʿubayd (d. 224 H), Gharīb Al-Ḥadīth, Dāʾirat Al-Maʿārif, vol.2 p.186 ‌‌عَنَّا هدى وَقَالَ أَبُو عبيد: فِي حَدِيث النَّبِي عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام: اتَّقوا اللَّه فِي النِّسَاء فَإِنَّهُنَّ عنْدكُمْ ‌عوانٍ. قَوْله: ‌عوان واحدتها عانية وَهِي الْأَسِيرَة يَقُول: إِنَّمَا هن عنْدكُمْ بِمَنْزِلَة الأسرى وَيُقَال للرجل من ذَلِك: هُوَ عانٍ وَجمعه عناة. وَمِنْه حَدِيث النَّبِي عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام: عَودوا الْمَرِيض وأطعموا الجائع وفكوا العاني. يَعْنِي الْأَسير وَلَا أَظن هَذَا مأخوذا إِلَّا من الذل والخضوع لِأَنَّهُ يُقَال لكل من ذل واستكان: قد عَنَّا يعنو. [و -] قَالَ الله [تبَارك و -] تَعَالَى {وَعَنَتِ الْوُجُوُه لِلْحَيَّ الْقَيُّوم}»
  12. Rizwi Faizer (2011). The Life of Muhammad: Al-Waqidi's Kitab al-Maghazi. Routledge. p. 544
  13. https://www.iium.edu.my/deed/articles/thelastsermon.html
  14. Lane's Lexicon Book I page 182