The sermon, which was delivered by Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) at the end of his final pilgrimage to Mecca (March, 632 AD) , on the Day of Arafah and shortly before his death, to more than 100,000 early Muslims, has been considered as the Prophet’s will to his companions and long lasting universal message and teaching to his Ummah (Muslim community).
For those who can drop their 21st century cultural baggage and read this sermon in its own historical context, one can’t help but admire it as one of the earliest declarations of human rights in written history. Almost everything he says in this prophetic sermon was almost unheard of and inconceivable prior to the arrival of Islam.
The prophet of Islam addresses some of the core universal values in a society where those values are long forgotten and violated in a systemic basis. The prophet didn’t only say but transformed his society, in a very short period of time, remarkably in all the values and lessons that he talks about.
All human beings are equal, racial supremacy is unacceptable, women have rights, socio-economic inequality is despicable and should be fought against and so on.
In twenty three years he united a deeply divided and polarised Arabian peninsula, stopped the ongoing bloodshed, restored the dignity of women, minimised the gap between the poor and the rich and more.
In his lifetime former slaves become governors of provinces and generals. Centuries old, deeply rooted primitive patriarchal and oppressive cultural practices were wiped out, racism and tribalism were defeated.
There is hardly any other religious figure who has been as successful both in religious terms as well as in secular terms as Prophet Muhammad.
In this sermon of the holy prophet, Muslims find their deep commitment to the universal human values such as sacredness of life and property, equality, justice, peace and more. Upon these high universal values, the religion of Islam was built.
We still have so much to learn from this 1,400-plus-year-old cry and we are so much in need of this message of prophet Muhammad in our broken time where we continue to struggle with almost identical issues in our global human community.
We need to go back to these core teachings and examples of Islam and similarly strive for achieving an ethical and moral society, wherever we live, where no one inflicts nor suffers inequity, unfairness and injustice.
Peace and blessings be upon Prophet Muhammad and upon all prophets came before him. Here is his sermon:
“O People, listen well to my words, for I do not know whether, after this year, I shall ever be among you again. Therefore, listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and take these words to those who could not be present here today.
O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Treat others justly so that no one would be unjust to you. Remember that you will indeed meet your LORD, and that HE will indeed reckon your deeds. God has forbidden you to take interest (riba), therefore all riba obligation shall henceforth be waived. Your capital, however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer inequity. God has judged that there shall be no riba and that all the riba due to `Abbas ibn `Abd al Muttalib (the prophet’s uncle) shall henceforth be waived.
Beware of the devil (satan), for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things.
O People, it is true that you have certain rights over your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under God’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers...
O People, listen to me in earnest, worship God (The One Creator of the Universe), perform your five daily prayers (Salah), fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your financial obligation (Zakah) of your wealth. Perform pilgrimage (Hajj) if you can afford to.
All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by God-consciousness (Taqwa). Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.
Remember, one day you will appear before God and you will answer for your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.
O People, no prophet or messenger will come after me and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand words, which I convey to you. I am leaving you with the Book of God (the Qur’an) and my Sunnah (the life style and the behavioural mode of the Prophet). If you follow them you will never go astray.
The Prophet ended his sermon by saying:
“Be my witness O Allah, that I have conveyed your message to your people.”
The final verse of the Qur’an was then revealed to him and he recited it to the people:
“This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favour upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.”
The Table spread (Al Ma’idah) Qur’an 5:3
– Excerpts from the article “The Last Sermon of the Prophet Muhammad” (April 4, 2012) by Abdullah Antepli