Muhammad's Death

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An illustration of Muhammad on his deathbed. Taken from the book Jami' al-Tawarikh (also known as The Universal History or History of the World), by Rashid al-Din, published in Tabriz, Persia, 1307 A.D. Now at the Edinburgh University Library, Scotland.

This article discusses the death of Prophet Muhammad in 632 AD and the circumstances surrounding it. According to traditional accounts in Sunni hadiths, Muhammad's death was attributed to a poisoning that had occurred four years earlier after the battle of Khaybar in 628 CE. Historian Stephen Shoemaker says that "Western scholarship has persistently dismissed this tradition as unhistorical; in particular, the four year interval between the attempted poisoning and Muhammad's sudden, fatal illness renders the story highly unlikely."[1]


Poisoned by a Jewess

According to the hadith, Muhammad was poisoned by a Jewish woman, following the conquest of Khaibar, where he took Safiyah as a wife, and ordered the torture and beheading of her husband Kinana, the chief of the Jews at Khaibar.

Narrated Anas bin Malik: A Jewess brought a poisoned (cooked) sheep for the Prophet who ate from it. She was brought to the Prophet and he was asked, "Shall we kill her?" He said, "No." I continued to see the effect of the poison on the palate of the mouth of Allah's Apostle .
Anas reported that a Jewess came to Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) with poisoned mutton and he took of that what had been brought to him (Allah's Messenger). (When the effect of this poison were felt by him) he called for her and asked her about that, whereupon she said: I had determined to kill you. Thereupon he said: Allah will never give you the power to do it. He (the narrator) said that they (the Companion's of the Holy Prophet) said: Should we not kill her? Thereupon he said: No. He (Anas) said: I felt (the affects of this poison) on the uvula of Allah's Messenger.
....Narrated 'Aisha: The Prophet in his ailment in which he died, used to say, "O 'Aisha! I still feel the pain caused by the food I ate at Khaibar, and at this time, I feel as if my aorta is being cut from that poison."

According to biographies, the reason behind her action was the killing of her people and family by Muhammad.

The apostle of Allah sent for Zaynab and said to her, "What induced you to do what you have done?" She replied, "You have done to my people what you have done. You have killed my father, my uncle and my husband, so I said to myself, "If you are a prophet, the foreleg will inform you; and others have said, "If you are a king we will get rid of you."
Ibn Sa'd p. 252

Ibn Ishaq records that one of Muhammad's companions, Bishr, ate of the poisoned lamb and died immediately whereas Muhammad spat it out, later feeling again the pain from the poison when he eventually became ill and died. He was considered to have died as a martyr:

When the apostle had rested, Zaynab d. al-Harith, the wife of Sallam b. Mishkam prepared for him a roast lamb, having first inquired what joint he preferred. When she learned that it was the shoulder she put a lot of poison in it and poisoned the whole lamb. Then she brought it in and placed it before him. He took hold of the shoulder and chewed a morsel of it, but he did not swallow it. Bishr b. al-Bara b. Ma’rur who was with him took some of it as the apostle had done, but he swallowed it, while the apostle spat it out, saying, ‘This bone tells me that it is poisoned.’ Then he called for the woman and she confessed, and when he asked her what had induced her to do this she answered, ‘You know what you have done to my people. I said to myself, If he is a king I shall ease myself of him and if he is a prophet he will be informed (of what I have done).’ So the apostle let her off. Bishr died from what he had eaten.
Marwan b. 'Ithman b. Abu Sa'id b. al-Mu'alla told me: The apostle had said in his illness of which he was to die when Umm Bishr d. al-Bara' came to visit him, 'O Umm Bishr, 'this is the time in which I feel a deadly pain from what I ate with your brother at Khaybar.' The Muslims considered that the apostle died as a martyr in addition to the prophetic office wiht which God had honoured him.
Muhammad ibn Ishaq. The Life of Muhammad. Translated by Alfred Guillaume (1955). Oxford: Oxford University Press, p.516

It was no secret among the wives, that Aisha was Muhammad's favorite, and he made this clear as death approached.

Narrated 'Aisha: that during his fatal ailment, Allah's Apostle, used to ask his wives, "Where shall I stay tomorrow? Where shall I stay tomorrow?" He was looking forward to Aisha's turn. So all his wives allowed him to stay where he wished....
....He came out with the help of two men and his legs were dragging on the ground. He was between Al-Abbas and another man [Ali Ibn Abi Talib]."....

Died in the Arms of Aisha

Even from his death-bed, Muhammad continued issuing military orders and cursing Christians and Jews.

....Then he [Muhammad] ordered them to do three things. He said, "Turn the pagans out of the 'Arabian Peninsula; respect and give gifts to the foreign delegations as you have seen me dealing with them." (Said bin Jubair, the sub-narrator said that Ibn Abbas kept quiet as rewards the third order, or he said, "I forgot it.")
Narrated 'Aisha and Ibn 'Abbas: On his death-bed Allah's Apostle put a sheet over his-face and when he felt hot, he would remove it from his face. When in that state (of putting and removing the sheet) he said, "May Allah's Curse be on the Jews and the Christians for they build places of worship at the graves of their prophets." (By that) he intended to warn (the Muslim) from what they (i.e. Jews and Christians) had done.

On the 8th of June, 632 AD Aisha watched Muhammad finally die, slumped on her bosom.

Narrated Aisha:....In front of him there was a jug or a tin, (The sub-narrator, 'Umar is in doubt as to which was right) containing water. He started dipping his hand in the water and rubbing his face with it, he said, "None has the right to be worshipped except Allah. Death has its agonies." He then lifted his hands (towards the sky) and started saying, "With the highest companion," till he expired and his hand dropped down.
....'Aisha added: He died on the day of my usual turn at my house. Allah took him unto Him while his head was between my chest and my neck and his saliva was mixed with my saliva.



Ali ibn Abi Ṭalib, the fourth Rightly-guided Caliph of Islam (and also Muhammad's son-in-law and cousin) and some others took charge of washing Muhammad, but unlike others, he was washed with his cloths remaining on his body.

Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin:

By Allah, we did not know whether we should take off the clothes of the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) as we took off the clothes of our dead, or wash him while his clothes were on him. When they (the people) differed among themselves, Allah cast slumber over them until every one of them had put his chin on his chest.

Then a speaker spoke from a side of the house, and they did not know who he was: Wash the Prophet (peace be upon him) while his clothes are on him. So they stood round the Prophet (peace be upon him) and washed him while he had his shirt on him. They poured water on his shirt, and rubbed him with his shirt and not with their hands...

Ibn Hisham observed, “The apostle’s body did not present the appearance of an ordinary corpse.” (pg. 688) Aisha also noted that If she had known beforehand what she found out later, "none would have washed him except his wives".

Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin: [...]Aisha used to say: If I had known beforehand about my affair what I found out later, none would have washed him except his wives.


Tabari notes that Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second Rightly-guided Caliph of Islam, initially refused to believe Muhammad had died.

When the Messenger of God died, 'Umar b. al-Khattab stood up saying, "Some of the hypocrites allege that the Messenger of God is dead. By God, he is not dead, ...

The Burial

Once cleaned, they covered him with triple shrouds.

Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) was shrouded in three garments made in Najran: two garments and one shirt in which he died.

Finally, after a delay, he was buried quietly in the house in which he died, near the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina.

See Also


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External Links

  1. Stephen Shoemaker, "Death of a Prophet", p. 301 footnotes 72 and 75.