Hadith of the pen and paper
The Hadith of the pen and paper refers to an event where the Islamic prophet Muhammad expressed a wish to issue a statement shortly before his death, but was prevented from doing so. The contents of the statement, the manner of the prevention as well as Muhammad's reaction to it are matters of dispute between various sources.
|Hadith of the pen and paper|
|Arabic||رزية يوم الخميس|
|Romanization||Raziyat Yawm al-Khamis|
|Literal meaning||The Calamity of Thursday|
- This is a sub-article to the Succession to Muhammad.
This event is also referred to as "The Calamity of Thursday" (Arabic: Raziyat Yawm al-Khamis).
Muhammad became ill in the year 632 and his health took a serious turn on a Thursday. It is reported that he asked for writing materials so as to issue a statement that would prevent the Muslim nation from "going astray forever". However, those present in the room began to quarrel about whether to comply with this request. According to Ibn Sa'd, who provided multiple versions of the incident, this was due to a person suggesting that Muhammad may be delirious. When the argument began to grow heated, Muhammad ordered the group to leave and subsequently did not write anything. Some reports add that following his failure to give his statement, Muhammad said he will instead issue three recommendations to the community. According to one of Ibn Sa'd's sources, these were:
- To drive away the polytheists from Arabia.
- To accept delegations in the same manner he had done.
The third recommendation is absent, with Ibn Sa'd stating that this was either due to Muhammad not mentioning it or that the source had simply forgotten. Other writers, such as Al-Tabari and Ibn Kathir, also describe the incident in a similar manner. Alternatively, another source states that these recommendations were Salah, Zakat and Ma malakat aymanukum. This version concluded with the actual death of Muhammad, with his final order being the Shahada.
Different iterations also vary with the identities of those present, with figures such as Zaynab bint Jahsh, Umm Salama and Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr being inserted or removed depending on the preference of the narrators. One states that the events occurred while Muhammad was lying with his head in Ali's lap, with the latter being used to convey the request. Others adds that it was Umar who had countermanded it, having argued that no other instruction beyond the Quran was necessary. Differing views on the nature of the silenced order have also been used to further political arguments, in particular regarding the succession to Muhammad. Shia writers, such as Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid, suggest that it would have been a direct appointment of Ali as the new leader, while Sunnis such as Al-Baladhuri state that it was to designate Abu Bakr.
The refusal to Muhammad's request has also been viewed to go against the Quran, which says in Chapter 53, Verses 3 and 4 that "Nor does he (Muhammad) say (anything) of (his own) desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him." Alternatively, the story may suggest that Muhammad accepted and permitted how the Muslim community may act in his absence. It may therefore be linked with the emergence of sayings attributed to Muhammad such as "My ummah will never agree on an error", an idea perpetuated by theologians like Ibn Hazm and Ibn Sayyid al-Nās. Dr Gurdofarid Miskinzoda of the Institute of Ismaili Studies has stated that in her opinion, the true focal point of the story is a question of religious authority, i.e., the permissibility and consequence of external instructions verses what is expressed in the Quran.
- Muhammad al-Tijani al-Samawi, Black Thursday, trans. S. Athar (Qum: Ansarian, n.d.).
- Hayaat al-Qulub, Volume 2. p. 998.
- Sahih al-Bukhari, 7:70:573
- Gurdofarid Miskinzoda, The Story of Pen & Paper and its interpretation in Muslim Literary and Historical Tradition, The Study of Shi‘i Islam: History, Theology and Law (2014)
- Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam and Muslims.