We have heard the Prophet's biography (seerah) at least once in our Islamic educating phases. He, may Allah's peace be on him, lay in his youngest wife `Aisha's (ra) lap, surrounded by immediate family, accepting his final moments and making a prayer (du`a) for his people, "Ummati, ummati" - my people, my people.
Reading this for the first time however, you cannot but cry, if only a little. Denial. Talking, hearing and reading about this beloved, historic, magnificent yet sweetly humble Prophet, day in and out, you feel he's around. As though he were our Prophet of the 21st century (which he is) and about to visit your town any day. Even though he is not with us, we have enough love to make his words from Allah last to the end of time. `Umar (ra) knew this, but in his human reactions of pain and confusion, he too wished for an eternal leader.
Abu Bakr (ra), wiser and aware, wept. Consoling `Umar (ra) and the people, he said,
"..If anyone amongst you worshipped Muhammad, then know Muhammad has passed away, but if you used to worship Allah, then know Allah is Alive and shall never die..."It's a conflicting position to try to measure someone's adoration of another. To reassure them of something greater, when for the past many years, that person was the greatest they had ever known. What could possibly be greater or take the place of our, of my Prophet ﷺ?
Allah subhanahu wa ta`la said,
"Muhammad ﷺ is not but a messenger. [Other] messengers have passed on before him. So if he was to die or be killed, would you turn back on your heels [to unbelief]? And he who turns back on his heels will never harm Allah at all; but Allah will reward the grateful." (Qur'an, 3:144).Memorise this verse: 3:144.
Having understood the gravity of what had happened, `Umar (ra) spoke,
"By Allah, when I heard Abu Bakr (ra) reciting this, my legs could not support me and I fell down at the very moment of hearing him recite it, declaring that the Prophet ﷺ had (indeed) passed away." (Bukhari, vol 5, bk 59, #733).
Hearing the demise of someone you met perchance brings an utterance of 'inna lillahi...', to Allah we belong (Qur'an, 2:186). Facing the loss of a friend, relative or sibling can break you and make it difficult to live without them for a while. But dealing with the death of a child or parent strikes in the heart. The very chamber that contained the unconditional love, prayers and consideration for an individual so highly respected, can flood open and be difficult to close.
Leaving aside our attitude to dealing with death, we as contemporary Muslims have forgotten our own deaths. Immersed in consumerism, accumulation and modernism, the simple inevitability has flown us by: nothing lasts. When you live with and moreover, accept that mentality, you change. Life changes. You can see through things and an awareness of Allah or piety (ehsaan) seeps through your mind. With death we end. Our opportunity to "do" and see and experience is closed off with no U-turn or second go. That is what scares us. And we are scared of death because our lives are not being directed towards it.
In Islam, we are taught that everything Allah created is designed to end: mosques, holy scriptures and sacred objects (although they resurrect in other forms). Everything you see including the body that defines you will return to its original organic source. Everything ends, except the source - Allah. With Prophet Muhammad's ﷺ arrival came a message of Allah's "oneness" (tawhid), of perfecting character (khuluq) and of a life after death (akhirah).
When Prophet Muhammad ﷺ left us - may Allah send blessings upon him and give him peace - he did leave. Yet as he left, ceased to live and returned to Allah, the Creator, the message did not. Like Allah, the message does not die or cease to be. And like `Umar (ra), we can have our moment of denial, but we will have to accept reality.
One day, you too will return.