The Poisonous Death of the Prophet

The prophet Muhammad may have been poisoned, according to Hela Ouardi, a Tunisian academic. In her book, « The Last Days of Muhammad » (2017), she takes a cautious and documented look at the last hours of the Prophet. He died in a few days from a strange illness. Yet he was a man in his prime, robust and even corpulent.

« Muhammad was a lover of tayyibât, a delicacy celebrated in the Koran: women, perfumes and food.i The prophet is a gourmand, fond of meat, honey and sweetsii. Muslim traditionalists describe the strong appetite of the Prophet in gargantuan scenes such as the one where he is seen swallowing half a sheep aloneiii. »iv

The famous Boukhâri, quite an illustrious authority on Islamic chains of tradition, reports two theories that can explain such a quick death, pleurisy and poisoning.

But pleurisy is excluded from the outset, at least if one believes the words of the Prophet himself. « In his Tabaqat, Ibn Sa’d relates that the mother of Bisht, Muhammad’s companion, visiting the Prophet, said to him: ‘I have never seen anyone suffering from a fever like the one that overwhelms you. – God multiplies suffering to multiply the reward,’ he replies. – People say that you are suffering from pleurisy, » she said, to which he replied: « God will never inflict it on me; it is a satanic disease; in fact I am suffering from this meal I have had with your son and I feel that this dish [of goat] will rupture my aortav. »vi

Muslim tradition reports that « the Prophet’s entourage, convinced that the Prophet was suffering from pleurisy, administered against his will a remedy suspected of being a poison that only accelerated the end; this remedy was given to the Prophet on Sunday, the day before his death.vii»viii

This could all be found in a novel by Agatha Christie. All the more so as the sudden death of the prophet did not fail to redistribute the political cards.

« Two men then played a leading role: Abû Bakr and ‘Umar who had to improvise and set up a new political institution based on the idea of replacing the Prophet: the Caliphate. The Caliphate still nourishes the collective Muslim imagination, which sees it as an infallible political institution. »ix

And Hela Ouardi pushes the point of the argument even further, in a politically sensitive direction: « After the death of the Prophet, Abû Bakr and ‘Umar will thus make a decisive entry on the stage of history. Are they not finally the true founders of a new religion that they must rebuild on the ruins of a primitive belief that suddenly collapsed the moment Muhammad died? »x

These two men will soon be murdered themselves, by the very people on whom they had sought political and religious ascendancy.

Today, Islam is still paying a heavy price for the endless excesses of this original conflict.

iTabaqât 1/410

iiTabaqât 1/391 ; Muslim 4/185. His favourite meal was tharîd, a kind of « ratatouille » with bits of bread (Tabaqât 1/393). Muhammad often compared his wife Aisha to his favourite meal (Bukhâri 3/1252 ; Dârimî Sunan 2/144 ; Muslim 4/1886 ; Ibn Mâjah Sunan 2/1092 ; Tirmidhî 4/275 ; Hâkim Mustadrak 4/129 ; Muttaqî Kanz 12/33)

iiiTabaqât 1/393 ; Ibn Hanbal Musnad 45/172

ivHela Ouardi. Les derniers jours de Muhammad, Ed. Albin Michel, Paris, 2017, p.164

vTabaqât 2/236 ; Balâdhuri Ansâb 2/221

viHela Ouardi. Les derniers jours de Muhammad, Ed. Albin Michel, Paris, 2017, p.171-172

viiWâqidî Maghâzi 3/1119 ; Tabaqât 2/190 ; Bukhâri 5/2159-2160 ; Ibn ‘Asâkir Tarîkh Dimashq 2/56 : Muttaqî Kanz 10/573

viiiHela Ouardi. Les derniers jours de Muhammad, Ed. Albin Michel, Paris, 2017, p.172

ix Hela Ouardi. Les derniers jours de Muhammad, Ed. Albin Michel, Paris, 2017, p.233

x Hela Ouardi. Les derniers jours de Muhammad, Ed. Albin Michel, Paris, 2017, p.233

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