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Bowing down before the truth

The Companions were grief-stricken when they heard of the Prophet’s death. One of the Prophet’s senior Companions, Umar ibn al-Khattab, found it hard even to believe the news. Taking his sword, he stood up in the Prophet’s mosque. “Some hypocrites think that the Prophet has died,” he said. “It is not so: he has gone to visit his Lord, as the Prophet Moses visited the Lord on Mount Sinai. When he stayed away from his people for forty days, some said that he had died. By God, the Prophet will return to us, as Moses returned to his people, and he will punish those who thought that he had died.”

Then, another senior and trusted Companion of the Prophet, Abu Bakr, arrived on the scene. He told Umar to be quiet, but Umar continued to address the people. Seeing Umar’s refusal to accede to his request, Abu Bakr himself began to address the congre­gation.

“Whoever worshipped Muhammad,” he said, “should know that Muhammad has died. But as for those who worshipped God: God is alive, and will never die.” Abu Bakr then raised his voice, and recited this verse of the Quran:

“Muhammad is only a messenger. Messengers have passed away before him. If he should die, or be killed, will you turn back on your heels? Those who turn on their heels do not harm the Lord in the least. God will reward the grateful.” (3:144)

Umar later recalled his reaction to hearing this verse: “I was just stunned when I heard Abu Bakr recite this verse. My legs could not carry me, and I fell to the ground. I realised that the Prophet had indeed died.” (Seerat Ibn Hisham).

God does not want a person to be stubborn and arrogant when confronted with truth. Forgetting his power of refusal, he should act as if he has no power. That was how Umar reacted when faced with truth.


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