Farewell Sermon

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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.

Introduction

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.

Before we begin our analysis of the Farewell Sermon, we must note that as an event, it 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.

Text of Farewell 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?

Related Text

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[1]'.

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.
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
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

References

  1. Lane's Lexicon Book I page 182