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The Farewell Sermon (خطبة الوداع, Khuṭbatu l-Wadā') is purported to be the Prophet Muhammad's final sermon to his followers before his death in 632 CE. However like most elements of the Islamic tradition our sources for this are extremely late, in this case At-Tabari writing in the late 800's CE about an event which is purported to have taken place in 632 CE. The mention of "the Sunnah of the prophet" is clearly apycrophal, 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. The entirety of the supposed speech shows up in Tabari, but other sources in the hadith repeat what appear to be its most salient point, reminding men to treat their wives well (like their pack animals) but echoing Qur'an 4:34 in commanding their forceful separation and beating in the case of disobedience. The command to beat disobedient wives appeared to be the main classical take-away from the speech, and 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 (خطبة الوداع, Khuṭbatu l-Wadā') 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 and wiping the infidels from the land.
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.
Text of Farewell Sermon
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?
Note that while translations of the following hadiths 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, which literally translates to mean 'beat them, a beating without violence/severity/sharpness/vehemence'.
“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.”"
- Muhammad's Last Sermon - Staring At The View (archived), http://staringattheview.blogspot.com/2013/07/muhammads-last-sermon.html
- The Farewell Sermon - Blog post discussing the "sources" provided for this alternative Farewell Sermon (archived), http://bjhollingum.blogspot.com/2010/05/farewell-sermon.html
- Fraudulent Translation of Muhammad's 'Last Sermon' to Make It Egalitarian - T. Omar Moros, Islam-Watch, August 18, 2009 (archived), http://www.islam-watch.org/authors/89-other-authors/134-fraudulent-translation-of-muhammad-last-sermon-egalitarian.html
- Lane's Lexicon Book I page 182