Triviality of this Life
It is reported by Abu Saeed Al-Khudri: “The Prophet came and sat on the pulpit. He said: ‘A certain servant of God was given a choice that he would get whatever he wished of the luxuries and comforts of this world or he would take what was with God”.
The Prophet attained his status of Prophethood, when God chose him to deliver His final message to mankind. Thus, he became a prophet when he received his first revelation which started with the word, “Read.” Shortly afterward, he was given his message to warn people that they must worship God alone, associate no partners with Him and believe in His oneness. The Prophet spent the next 23 years of his life attending to the tasks assigned to him by God, fulfilling his responsibilities to which he dedicated all his time and efforts. When this final divine message was complete, the Prophet’s assignment came to its fullness. His role was over. God gathered his soul to His presence.
His Last Days
The Prophet was ill during his last days. His illness was more severe at times, but he also felt better on occasions and could go out to the mosque and speak to his companions. One of these occasions is reported by Abu Saeed Al-Khudri: “The Prophet came and sat on the pulpit. He said: ‘A certain servant of God was given a choice that he would get whatever he wished of the luxuries and comforts of this world or he would take what was with God. He chose what was with God.’ Abu Bakr was in tears and he said: ‘We sacrifice our parents for your sake, Messenger of God.’
We wondered at his reaction.
Some people said: ‘Look at this old man: the Prophet speaks about a certain person given this choice, and he reacts by saying that we sacrifice our parents for the Prophet’s sake.’ We later came to realize that the Prophet himself was God’s servant who was given that choice, and that Abu Bakr knew him better than we all. The Prophet then said: ‘One of the people who have done me the best favors in their companionship and financial sacrifice is Abu Bakr. If I were to choose a special friend, I would choose Abu Bakr, but I would rather have the brotherhood of Islam.” (Related by Ahmad, Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others)
This highly authentic Hadith speaks of a time when the Prophet was certain that he was about to die. In fact, it is one of the last occasions when the Prophet addressed his companions in the mosque. He gave them a clear hint that he was departing this life, but only Abu Bakr took the hint and realized that the reference was to the Prophet himself. He wept and expressed his feeling that everything could be sacrificed for the Prophet’s sake. Other people did not understand what the Prophet was referring to. They thought that he was speaking in general terms and they were waiting to hear what happened to the man after he made his choice, preferring what was with God.
Service to Islam
The Prophet went on to speak highly of Abu Bakr and his service to Islam and to the Prophet himself. We note that the Prophet did not wish to give a special kind of friendship to anyone, preferring to keep his relation based on faith, even with the one who was closest to him. He, however, gives Abu Bakr a small privilege, which was to keep his private door to the mosque. When the Prophet’s Mosque was built, shortly after the Prophet’s arrival in Madinah, people who lived close to the mosque had their own private openings through which they came into the mosque. The Prophet wanted all these closed, keeping only Abu Bakr’s door. Needless to say that even this one was closed later on.
Farewell to All
As his death approached, the Prophet was keen to make clear that he valued all his companions and he bid farewell to all, without informing them of his approaching departure from this life. He did not know the timing, as this is known only to God. Uqbah ibn Amir Al-Juhani reports: “The Prophet prayed for those killed in the Battle of Uhud eight years after the battle. It was as if he was bidding farewell to the living and the deceased. He then stood on the pulpit and said: ‘I am going ahead of you, and I will be your witness. Our appointment will be the basin (on the Day of Judgment), and I can almost see it while standing here. I do not fear that you may associate partners with God, but I fear that you may vie with one another for the comforts of this life.’ That was the last time I saw God’s Messenger (Pbuh).” (Related by Ahmad, Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
The Battle of Uhud took place eight years earlier and ended in a heavy defeat for the Muslims. The Prophet always remembered those who died in that battle which provided a very important lesson to the Prophet’s companions and to all Muslims in all generations. His prayer for them at this time was a sort of bidding farewell to those whom he knew during his lifetime, whether dead or alive. He then told his companions that he was going ahead of them and that he will be their witness before God. He stressed to them the truth of the Day of Judgment, saying that he could almost see the basin which will be the place where believers will be able to drink. He is thus giving them an appointment to meet them there, implying that they will be among the ones given of its waters. Needless to say, this requires that they maintain their faith and remain true to it.
Indulgence in Luxuries
It is important to note that the Prophet said that he did not fear that his community would revert to associating partners with God. Anyone who realizes the full concept of God’s oneness will never contemplate any thought of attributing partners to Him. Islam is the most monotheistic ideology mankind has ever known. Muslims will never substitute polytheistic creeds for their belief in God’s oneness. However, looking up to the luxuries and comforts of this life may represent a great danger for them, as indulgence in these can take them away from Islamic beliefs and practices. Therefore, they need always to be aware of the triviality of this life and its lack of any real substance or value. Competition for such luxuries can drive people to disobedience of God and His messenger. Should that be the case, they run the risk of incurring God’s punishment on the Day of Judgment. This is something no one should ever willingly risk.