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The Farewell Sermon

June 8, 2009
Qur'an (handwrite)

Image by ozgurmulazimoglu via Flickr

The The Farewell Sermon (Arabic: خطبة الوداع‎, Khuṭbatu l-Wadā’), also known as the Prophet’s final sermon or The Last Sermon is a famous sermon by Muhammad delivered before his death, on the ninth day of Dhu al-Hijjah, 10 A.H. (632 CE), at the end of his final pilgrimage.[citation needed]

The Farewell Sermon is mentioned in almost all books of Hadith. Sahih Al-Bukhari refers to the sermon and quotes part of it. Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal has given the longest and perhaps the most complete version of this sermon in his Musnad. Ahmad al-Tabarsi and Sayyid ibn Tawus mention the Shia versions of the sermon, which are narrated through Muhammad al-Baqir.

The Sermon

According to Islamic sources, Muhammad led the Pilgrims from Makkah through the Valley of Mina and up to the Mountain of Arafat, and then stopped them in the Valley of Uranah. They stood in front of him silently as he sat on his camel and delivered this sermon. With a crowd of over 120000 pilgrims, his voice could not reach out to all those who were present. He therefore asked Rab’ah Ibn Umayya Ibn Khalaf, who was known to have a loud voice, to repeat the sermon after him, sentence by sentence so that everyone could hear.

Both versions of the sermon can be found at wikisource.

Differences

Hadiths report at least three different versions of the same sermon. The most notable difference is near the end of the sermon, where Muhammad states that he leaves behind two things. One version, for instance, has the statement: "I leave with you Qur’an and Sunnah." The other version has the statement: "I leave with you Qur’an and Ahl al-bayt" (the family of Muhammad). The third version has the statement: "I leave for you the Qur’an, you shall uphold it."

These differences have theological significance for Sunni and Shi’a Muslims. Sunnis hold themselves as the followers of the sunnah or practice of Muhammad as related by his companions, the Sahaba. Sunnis also maintain that the Islamic community, or ummah, as a whole will always be guided.

The Shi’ites hold the second version of the sermon as the correct one. According to Shi’a belief, the only legitimate leadership rested in the lineage of Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib. The Shi’ites believe that the rest of the Muslim community committed a grave error by electing Abu Bakr and his two successors as leaders.

Those who reject the entire hadith as guidance and advocate the Qur’an alone point out the inconsistencies in Hadith by referring to these differences.

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