Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat is asked about the last words of a Muslim and those of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him.
Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.
I pray this finds you well.
When I was growing up, and recently as well, I heard that the last words should be tahlil. But I recently learned from reading a Sira that the last words were al-Rafiq al-‘Ala.
Can you please comment on why there is a discrepancy?
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.
I pray you are well.
Famous Last Words
Yes, you are correct is stating that we are encouraged to to say the tahlil (la ilaha illa Allah – There is no god but Allah) just before death, and to encourage those dying in our presence to do the same. This is because of the hadith narrated Muʿadh ibn Jabal, “Whoever’s last words are ‘There is no god but Allah’ will enter the garden.” (Abu Dawud).
This is taken as a good indication for the person who is blessed with ability to say it, that he will enter the Garden without punishment. This is the hope we have for ourselves and all of the believers, because we simply do not know where we will end up. All believers will enter Paradise eventually, but we want to be of those who enter it without any sort of difficulty or punishment on the Day of Judgement.
The Passing of Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and grant him peace, was with him saying “al-Rafiq al-Aʿla” – The Highest Company. This was because he was given a choice to stay on earth or to be in the presence of the Highest Company. He chose the latter, which some scholars say means the Archangels and other special servants of Allah; others hold it to mean the company of Allah Almighty Himself, which seems more fitting here.
Had he not been given this choice, he would have, undoubtedly, said the tahlil. However, His ultimate fate was know to him and us, as many verses in the Qurʾan point to the great felicity that will come to him, Allah bless him and give him peace. Therefore, he was beyond the need of trying to end his life with these blessed words.
I noticed in your question that you abbreviated the written blessings on the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, to “saw.” Regardless of the fiqhi discussion on it, it is always superior to write it out fully in Arabic or another language. Doing so consciously is an active expression of the veneration the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, deserves. The righteous also tell us that the more veneration we have in our heart for him when sending blessings on him, the greater our blessings are, and the more we receive in return.
The same also applies when saying it verbally. Some people mumble the blessings such that it sounds like “sal-sallam” which, in all honesty, has no meaning. This is usually a bad habit picked up from others, and some active attention is enough to rectify this.
One of the greatest scholars of Tafsir is sayyid Mahmud al-Alusi, may Allah be well pleased with him. His great love for Allah and His Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, is clear from his great work. Something of note is that he always writes out the blessings on the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, whenever he is mentioned – even if it a pronoun in a word which refers to him, Allah bless him and give him peace. May Allah grant us the kind of deep love he had for Allah and His Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace.
The Fruit of Service to Allah and His Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace
Imam Abu Zurʿa al-Razi, a revered authority in hadith, and the teacher of the illustrious Imam Muslim, was on his deathbed. His students, unwilling to command him to say the tahlil started to ask one another about the hadith mentioned above as a hint to their teacher. In his dying moments he started narrating the hadith with all the narrators until he got to “…that Muʿadh ibn Jabal narrated that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Whoever’s last words are “There is no god but Allah…’”
At that point he passed away without completing the narration. What a beautiful end!
May Allah make us all of those who He grants entry into the highest stations of Paradise, in the company of His loved ones, without any trial or reckoning out of His infinite mercy. Amin.
(Muhammad Abu Shahba, al-Sira al-Nabawiyya; Nabahani, Saʿadatu al-Darayn; Alusi, Ruh al-Maʿani)
Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.