The Calamity on Thursday
By: Allamah Sayyid 'Abd al-Husayn Sharaf al-Din al-Musawi
1) The incidents in which they did not follow the texts of hadith are innumerable. Take, for example, the calamity on Thursday, which is the most famous of such incidents and the most abominable among them. It is narrated by all authors of sahihs and sunan, and it was documented by all traditionists and historians. Suffices you what al-Bukhari, in his section dealing with the statement of the ailing Messenger (pbuh): "Get away from me," on page 5, Vol. 4, of his Sahih, where the author relies on the authority of `Ubaydullah ibn Abdullah ibn `Utbah ibn Mas`ud who quotes Ibn `Abbas saying that when death approached the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny, his house was full of men including `Umer ibn al-Khattab. The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny, said: "Let me write you something that will forever protect you against straying after me." `Umer said: "The Prophet is under the influence of pain, and you have with you the Qur'an; so, the Book of Allah suffices us." Those who were present there argued among themselves, and their argument developed into a dispute. Some of them said: "Come close to the Prophet so that he may write something for you that will safeguard you against straying after him," while others repeated what `Umer had said. When the argument and dispute intensified in the presence of the Prophet, the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny, said to them: "Get away from me." Ibn `Abbas used to say: "The calamity, the real calamity, is what caused the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) to desist from writing what he wished to write, due to their argument and dispute."
There is no dispute regarding the authenticity of this hadith nor the occasion whereupon it was invoked. Al-Bukhari quotes it in his treatise on knowledge on page 22, Vol. 1, of his work, and it exists in many other places with which the researchers are familiar. He quotes it in several places of his Sahih. Muslim, too, quotes it at the conclusion of the Prophet's will in his Sahih on page 14, Vol. 2. Ahmed narrates Ibn `Abbas's hadith in his own Musnad. Refer to page 325 of its first volume. It is narrated by all authors of traditions and books of history, each writer editing it yet retaining its gist, reiterating the fact that the Prophet (pbuh) was described as "hallucinating," or "delirious." But they also mentioned that `Umer had said: "The Prophet (pbuh) has been overcome by pain" just to sanitize the statement and undermine the sentiments of those who found it abominable. Supporting this fact is what Abu Bakr Ahmed ibn `Abdul-`Aziz al-Jawhari has said in his book titled Al-Saqifah, relying on the authority of Ibn `Abbas and quoting him saying, "When death approached the Messenger of Allah, there were men present at his house among whom `Umer ibn al-Khattab was one. The Messenger of Allah said: `Bring me ink and a tablet so that I may write you something that will safeguard you against straying after me.' Those present at his house differed among themselves and disputed, some saying `Come close and watch the Prophet write you something,' while others repeated what `Umer had said. When the argument and dispute increased, the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny, became angry and said: `Get away from me," as stated on page 20, Vol. 2, of Sharh Nahjul Balaghah by the Mu`azilite scholar [Ibn Abul Hadid].
As you notice from this narrative, it is explicit in indicating that some individuals reported `Umer's opposition in meaning, not verbatim. This also proves that the traditionists who did not wish to state the name of the person who opposed had nontheless quoted his statement verbatim. In a chapter on rewarding the envoys, in his book Al-Jihad wal Siyar, page 118, Vol. 2, al-Bukhari states: "Qabsah narrated a tradition to us from Ibn `Ayinah, Salman al-Ahwal, and Sa`id ibn Jubayr, all consecutively quoting Ibn `Abbas saying: `On a Thursday - what a day that Thursday was...,' and he burst sobbing till his tears drenched the stones, then he went on to say, "...the pain of the Messenger of Allah intensified on a Thursday; so, he ordered us to bring him some writing material so that he might write us something whereby we would be protected against straying after him, but people disputed, knowing that nobody should dispute in the presence of any Prophet, and they said: `The Messenger of Allah is delirious.' He, peace be upon him and his progeny, then said: `Leave me, for the pain which I am suffering is more tolerable than what you are attributing to me,' and he left in his will prior to his demise three items: to get the polytheists out of the Arab land, to reward the envoys the same way he (pbuh) used to reward them,' and I forgot the third one."
The same hadith is narrated also by Muslim at the conclusion of a chapter dealing with the will in his Sahih, and by Ahmed in Ibn `Abbas's ahadith on page 222, Vol. 1, of his work, and by all other traditionists. In his chapter on the will, in his Sahih, Muslim quotes Sa`id ibn Jubayr in one place, and Ibn `Abbas in another, saying, "That Thursday, O what a day that Thursday was...," and his tears kept pouring down till they looked like pearls arrayed in a formation, then he continued to say: "The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny, said: `Bring me a tablet and an ink-pot,' or a plate and some ink, `so that I may write you something whereby you shall never be misguided;' so, some people said: `The Messenger of Allah is delirious.'"
Anyone who researches this abominable incident in the sahihs will soon come to find out that the first person who said that the Messenger of Allah was delirious was indeed `Umer, and some of those who were present there and then followed suit. In the first hadith, you have heard Ibn `Abbas saying: "Those present at his house differed among themselves and disputed, some saying `Come close and watch the Prophet writing you something,' while others repeated what `Umer had said," i.e. "The Messenger of Allah is delirious." In another tradition narrated by al-Tabrani, in his Awsat, and on page 138, Vol. 3, of Kanz al-`Ummal, `Umer is quoted saying: "When the Prophet became sick, he said: `Bring me a tablet and an ink-pot, so that I may write you something after which you shall never stray;' so, the women behind the curtain said: `Have you not heard what the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny, is saying?'" `Umer goes on to say: "I said to them: `You are like the women who admired Joseph; when the Messenger of Allah falls sick, you squeeze your eyes, and when he is healthy, you ride his neck!" He also continues to say: "The Messenger of Allah then said: `Leave them, for they are better than you.'"
You can see that they never implemented the spirit of this hadith. Had they done so, they would have been protected against misguidance. We wish they had stopped at just being insubordinate and not answering him by saying: "The Book of Allah suffices us," as if he did not know the status of Allah's Book among them, or that they were more knowledgeable than him about its characteristics and merits. We wish they had been satisfied with all of that rather than surprising him with their rude statement: "The Messenger of Allah is delirious," just when he was suffering the agony of death. What a farewell statement to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh)! They did not follow the Prophet's command due to their being satisfied with the Book of Allah as they claimed, as if they never read the verse: "Whatever the Messenger hands over to you, take it, and whatever he forbids you therefrom, obey him (Qur'an, 59:7)." They said: "The Messenger of Allah is delirious," as if they never read the verse: "It is the speech of an eminent Messenger, empowered by the One with the Throne, peaceful to those who obey Him; verily, your fellow is not possessed (Qur'an, 81:19-22)," and His statement, the Exalted, the omni-Scient, "It is the speech of an eminent Messenger, not of a poet; little do you believe; nor is it the speech of a priest; little do you remember; it is but the Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds (Qur'an, 69:40-43)," and His statement, the Almighty, the Sublime, "Your fellow has neither strayed, nor has he yielded to temptation; he utters nothing out of his own inclination; it is but what is revealed unto him of the Revelation; he is taught by One mighty in powers (Qur'an, 53:2-5)," in addition to many such verses laden with divine wisdom, all testifying to his being divinely protected from delirium.
Yet even reason by itself testifies to the same, but they were aware of the fact that he, the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny, wished to strengthen the covenant of caliphate, and emphasize its being the monopoly of `Ali in particular, and the Imams among his purified progeny in general; so, they stood as a stumbling block in his way to do so, as admitted by none other than the second caliph himself in a private conversation which he held with Ibn `Abbas...! It exists in line 27, page 114, Vol. 3, of Sharh Nahjul Balaghah by Ibn Abul Hadid.
If you consider his statement, peace be upon him and his progeny, "Bring me a tablet and an ink-pot, so that I may write you something whereby you shall never stray after me," and his statement in the hadith of the Two Weighty Things: "I am leaving with you that which, as long as you uphold, will never let you stray: the Book of Allah and my progeny, my Ahl al-Bayt," you will come to know then that the purpose of both traditions is the same, and that he, peace be upon him and his progeny, wished, even while being sick, to write for them the details of the injunctions implied in the hadith of the Two Weighty Things [al thaqalain].
2) He repealed his order to them due to their statement with which they surprised him, forcing him to change his mind, since after uttering it there would be no effect for his writing them anything other than dissension and dispute, leading them to argue be he really delirious - God forbid - or not, just as they did even in his own presence and while he could still see things, so much so that he could not tell them more than to get away, as you have heard. Had he insisted on writing it, they would have resorted to their claim that he had written it in delirium, and many of their followers would have gone to extremes in their attempts to prove that he did so while being delirious - God forbid - and fill their books with such allegations, only to reject his writing and use it as a pretext for not implementing it.
For these reasons, his marvellous wisdom decreed that he, peace be upon him and his progeny, should forget about such writing for fear those opposing his wish and their followers might open a door to casting doubts about Prophethood itself; we seek refuge with Allah, and we pray for His protection. He, peace be upon him and his progeny, saw how `Ali (as) and his followers submitted to the spirit of such writing, whether he had written it down or not, while others would not act upon it anyway even if he had written it. Wisdom, therefore, necessitated abandoning it since it would have no effect at all over the opposition that arose other than dissension, as is obvious, Wassalam.
Any fair-minded person ought to yield to the truth and utter what is right. There are other views regarding the rejection of these arguments which I desired to put forth to you, so that the final judgment will be left entirely to you.
Their first pretext states that he, peace be upon him and his progeny, having ordered them to bring the ink-pot, did not really intend to write something but rather desired to test them, that's all. We say, in addition to what you yourself have stated, that this incident took place shortly before his demise, as the tradition itself suggests; there was simply no time for testing, but there was time for a last minute warning and justifying, time for a will containing a very significant matter, a piece of complete advice for the nation. Anyone who is dying is certainly far from testing or jesting; he would be concerned about his affairs and those of his own kin, especially if he is a Prophet.
If he, as long as he lived, did not have enough time to test them, how could he have found time to do so when he was about to die? His statement, peace be upon him and his progeny, telling them to get away from him when they fussed and argued in his presence, is surely indicative of his disappointment with them. Had those who opposed him been right, he would have appreciated their opposition and expressed his pleasure therewith. Anyone who studies this tradition, especially their saying that the Messenger of Allah was delirious, will be positively sure that they were aware of his intention to do something they hated; so, they surprised him with such a statement, and they persisted fussing, arguing, and disputing, as is quite obvious. Ibn `Abbas's tears, and his labelling the incident a catastrophe disprove this argument.
Those who seek excuses by arguing that `Umer was divinely inspired in assessing the public interest of Muslims, that he was inspired by Allah, are talking nonsense, and their argument is dismissed in such a discussion since it suggests that he, not the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny, was on the right track in this incident, and that his so-called "inspiration" was more accurate than the revelation which he (pbuh), the truthful and trustworthy that he was, uttered.
They say that it was intended to relieve the Prophet, peace be upon him and his progeny, from the burden of writing while feeling sick. You, may Allah support the truth through your person, know that writing such matters would only bring the Prophet peace of mind, tranquility, and the pleasure of his eyes. He would feel happy for ensuring a security for his nation, peace be upon him and his progeny, against misguidance. The commands to be obeyed, the divine will, and the physical presence were all his. He, being more precious than my parents, wished to have access to a sheet of paper and an ink-pot; he issued an order and nobody was supposed to oppose his wish; "Neither a believing man nor a believing woman has any right, when Allah and His Messenger decree a matter, to follow their own views, and whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger is surely in manifest misguidance (Qur'an, 33:36)."
Yet their insubordination in such an extremely significant matter, and their fussing, arguing, and disputing in his presence, were to him more painful than writing what he wished to write in order to protect his nation against misguidance. How can anyone who feels pity for him because of the pain of writing something oppose him and surprise him by saying that he was speaking in delirium?
They say that `Umer thought that not to bring the sheet and the ink-pot was wiser. This is a most odd statement. How can it be wiser while the Prophet himself had ordered that they should be brought forth? Did `Umer think that the Messenger of Allah would order something which would be better left out?
Yet even more strange is their argument that `Umer feared that the Prophet might write things which would be impossible to implement and whose abandoning would require chastisement. How can it thus be feared in spite of the Prophet's statement "... you shall never stray"? Do people who thus argue think that `Umer assesses the consequences more correctly than the Prophet himself, and that he is more cautious about and compassionate to his nation than the Prophet (pbuh)? Certainly not.
They also say that it is possible that `Umer feared the hypocrites might cast doubts about the authenticity of such writing, since it would be written during the Prophet's sickness, and that it would be a cause for dissension. You, may Allah support the truth through your person, know that such an insinuation is impossible since the Prophet, peace be upon him and his progeny, has stated: "... you shall never stray," thus clearly stating that such writing would bring them security against straying; so, how can it be a reason for dissension just because the hypocrites might cast doubts about its authenticity? Had he [`Umer] feared such hypocrites and their casting doubts about the authenticity of what the Prophet wished to write, why did he then plant the seed of such doubts himself when he opposed and objected and even said that the Prophet was delirious?
As regarding their interpretation of verses cited in support of `Umer's statement: "The Book of Allah suffices us," such as the verse: "We have left nothing unexplained in the Book (Qur'an, 6:38)," and "Today have I completed for you your religion (Qur'an, 5:4)," it is erroneous, for neither verse suggests a security against misguidance, nor do both verses guarantee guidance for people; so, how can relying on these verses justify abandoning the implementation of the texts whose writing the Prophet wished to record? Had the presence of the dear Qur'an been to bring security against misguidance, then neither misguidance nor dissension, the removal of which is as hopeless as can be, would have ever taken place.
In their final argument, they say that `Umer did not understand the tradition to imply that such writing would be a cause for protecting each and every member of his nation from misguidance; and that rather he understood that it would, after its writing, safeguard them against erring in their consensus. They claim that `Umer, may Allah be pleased with him, knew that the error in their consensus would never occur, albeit if such writing had taken place or not, and that for this reason he opposed its writing thus.
Besides what you have said, we may add that `Umer did not lack such a degree of understanding, and he was not blind to the implication of the tradition which became obvious to all people. Urban residents as well as bedouins understood the intention of the Prophet (pbuh) that it would be a complete prescription for the protection of every individual against misguidance... only had it been written. This is the meaning which anyone can comprehend of this tradition. `Umer knew for sure that the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny, was not worried about his nation making an error in its consensus views, since he, may Allah be pleased with him, had heard him, peace be upon him and his progeny, saying: "The consensus of my nation shall never be in misguidance nor in error," and his statement: "One group from my nation shall always stand opposing what is just," and he was aware of the verse saying: "Allah has promised those who believe among you and do good deeds that He will let them inherit the earth just as He let those before them be the successors, and He will firmly set the roots of the faith which He has approved, and He will exchange their fear with security; they shall worship Me, without associating anything with Me (Qur'an, 24:55)," in addition to many such texts in both the Book and the Sunnah. They all are clear in implying that NOT the entire nation shall err in its consensus views; so, it is not feasible, in spite of all this, that `Umer or anyone else would conceive that when the Prophet, peace be upon him and his progeny, asked for a blank sheet of paper and an ink-pot, was worried about his nation erring in its consensus views. What `Umer is liable to have understood of this hadith is what anyone else would, not what is contrary to the authentic Sunnah, nor to the perfect verses of the Qur'an. But the disappointment of the Prophet, peace be upon him and his progeny, was obvious when he told them to get away from him, and it proved that what they had shunned was indeed a sacred obligation. Had `Umer's objection been due to his misunderstanding of this hadith, as they claim, then the Prophet would have helped him remove his misunderstanding, and he would have clarified his objective to him. Nay, even if the Prophet was convinced that he would be able to convince them to carry out his order, he would not have ordered them out. Again, Ibn `Abbas's tears and genuine agony provide the greatest rebuttal to such claims.
Justice refuses to find an excuse for those who had permitted such a calamity to take place. Had it been, as you described, a simple slip like another one before it, and a rare occurrence, the matter would have been a lot more tolerable, but it was the catastrophe of the century that split the nation's spine; so, we are Allah's, and to Him is our return.
 The third is none other than the matter which the Prophet (pbuh) desired to write down in order to protect them from misguidance, but politics forced the traditionists to "forget" it, as the Hanafi mufti of Sur, Hajj Dawud al-Dadah, suggested.
 This hadith is quoted verbatim by Ahmed on page 355, Vol. 1, of his Musnad, in addition to many other reliable authors of books of traditions.
 This is what al-Bukhari has quoted from `Ubaydullah ibn `Abdullah ibn `Utbah ibn Mas`ud from Ibn `Abbas, and it is also quoted by Muslim and others.
 You, may Allah support the truth through your person, know that the Prophet (pbuh) did not say: "I would like to write down the tenets," so that it may be said to him: "Suffices us the Book of Allah, the Exalted One." Even if we suppose that he wished to write down those tenets, it could very possibly be that his own writing thereof would be a cause for security against misguidance; therefore, there is no reason to avoid his text and be satisfied with the Qur'an alone. If the text he wished to write was only to safeguard them against misguidance, it would not be appropriate to leave it, shun it, and rely on the fact that Allah's Book includes everything. You know very well how the Muslim nation has no option besides referring to the sacred Sunnah in spite of the fact that it holds the Book of Allah, the Exalted, as indispensable, and although it is inclusive and is divinely protected, for deriving injunctions from it is not within the reach of every ordinary person. Had the Book of Allah been completely sparing us from referring to its own explanations as put forth by the Prophet (pbuh), then Allah Aighty would not have commanded him to explain it to people when He said: "We have revealed unto you the Book so that you may explain to people what has been revealed for them."