Hadith of the Pen and Paper
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Hadith of the Pen and Paper
This is a sub-article to the Succession to Muhammad.
Hadith of the pen and paper
Arabic? ?
RomanizationHadith el-qalami wal waraqa
Literal meaningThe Hadith of the Pen and the 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.

This event is also referred to as the calamity of Thursday (Arabic: ? ‎, romanizedRaziyat Yawm al-Khamis), without which, the course of history might have been different.[1][2]


Muhammad became ill in 11 AH (632 CE) and his health took a serious turn for the worse on a Thursday, when he asked for writing materials: "I need to write something so that you will not go astray when I am gone."[3][4][5] Omar, a companion of Muhammad, reportedly intervened, telling those present that Muhammad was raving, and adding that, "You have the Quran, the book of God is sufficient for us."[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13] The noise apparently pained Muhammad, who scolded those present by his bedside: "Go away and leave me."[14][15]

Some reports add that Muhammad later left three instructions for Muslims. In his Tabaqat al-Kubra, ibn Sa'd writes that two of these instructions were to drive away the polytheists from Arabia, and to accept delegations in the same manner as he had done. [16] The third recommendation is absent which, according to ibn Sa'd, might had been forgotten by his source. Other writers, such as al-Tabari and ibn Kathir, also describe the incident in a similar manner.[16] Alternatively, another narration in ibn Sa'd's book lists the three instructions as prayer, Zakat and [kindness to] ma malakat aymanukum (slaves). This version concludes with Muhammad's death on Ali's lap.[17] Different narrations of this hadith also differ in the identities of those present, with figures, such as Zaynab bint Jahsh, Umm Salama and Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr, inserted or removed depending on the preference of the narrators.[16]

According to the Shia scholar Tabarsi, the third (missing) instruction was about Ahl al-Bayt (Muhammad's household).[18][19] In Tabarsi's version of the events, when Muhammad was later asked if he wished to write something, he replied:[18][19]

No, not after what you have said! Rather, keep well my memory through kindness to the people of my household. Treat with kindness the people of dhimmah [namely, Jews and Christians], and feed the poor and ma malakat aymanukum [slaves].


Concerns about overstraining the ill Muhammad is often viewed by Sunni scholars as the motive in this incident.[3] Some, such as al-Baladhuri, also claim that Muhammad meant to designate Abu Bakr as his successor.[16] Alternatively, the author L. Hazleton, suggests that Muhammad might had wanted to dictate his will, and "if Ali turned out to be the designated heir, no body in that room wanted it put into writing."[3]

The refusal to fulfill Muhammad's request has been viewed as a violation of the religious teachings of the Quran, which includes passages such as, "Whatsoever that the Messenger [Muhammad] gives you, take it; and whatever he forbids to you, forgo," or, "Your companion [Muhammad] has neither strayed or erred; nor does he speak out of [his own] desire."[20][21][22] Alternatively, according to the author G. Miskinzoda, this event may suggest that Muhammad accepted how the Muslim community may act in his absence.

Miskinzoda also links this event to the emergence of the saying, attributed to Muhammad, that, "My ummah will never agree on an error", an idea perpetuated by theologians like ibn Hazm and ibn Sayyid al-N?s.[16] This modern idea appears to contradict the teachings of the Quran which, for instance, "advices the faithful to settle some matters by consultation, but not the succession of prophets. That, according to the Quran, is settled by divine selection," as observed by W. Madelung.[23]

According to Miskinzoda, the true focal point of the story is a question of Muhammad's religious authority, exemplified by Omar's statement: "You have the Quran, the book of God is sufficient for us."[16] Hazleton, however, refutes this claim and points out that, "[Quran] would not be sufficient," continuing that, "The Quran would be supplemented [after Muhammad's death] by the practice of Muhammad, his example in everything from the greatest events to the smallest details of everyday life, as related by those closest to him."[14]

A well-attested hadith quotes Muhammad that, "I leave among you two weighty things, the book of God and my progeny. The two shall never separate from each other until they return to me by the pool [of Kawthar in the heaven]."[24][25] According to the Shia, this hadith suggests that some of Muhammad's descendants, known as Shia imams, are vested with the divine authority to correctly interpret the Quran. H. Mavani writes that, "He [Shia imam] is the living embodiment of the Quran, its interpreter and its executor."[26] Mahdi, the last of these Shia imams is awaited by the Shia and the Sunni alike to fill the world with justice and peace.[27]

See also


  1. ^ Abbas, Hassan (2021). The prophet's heir: The life of Ali ibn Abi Talib. Yale University Press. p. 89. ISBN 9780300229455.
  2. ^ Muhammad al-Tijani al-Samawi, Black Thursday, trans. S. Athar (Qum: Ansarian, n.d.).
  3. ^ a b c Abbas (2021, p. 89)
  4. ^ Hazleton, Lesley (2009). After the Prophet: The epic story of the Shia-Sunni split in Islam. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p. 48. ISBN 9780385532099.
  5. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 7:70:573
  6. ^ Abbas (2021, p. 89)
  7. ^ Madelung, Wilferd (1997). The succession to Muhammad: A study of the early caliphate. Cambridge University Press. p. 41. ISBN 9780521646963.
  8. ^ Hazleton (2009, p. 50)
  9. ^ ? vol. 1. p. 34.
  10. ^ ? vol. 6. p. 9.
  11. ^ ? vol. 9. p. 111.
  12. ^ ? ? vol. 5. p. 135.
  13. ^ ? vol. 2. p. 188.
  14. ^ a b Hazleton (2009, p. 50)
  15. ^ Miskinzoda, Gurdofarid (2014). Farhad Daftary (ed.). The Story of Pen & Paper and its interpretation in Muslim Literary and Historical Tradition. The Study of Shi'i Islam: History, Theology and Law. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-0-85773-529-4.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Miskinzoda (2014)
  17. ^ Miskinzoda (2014, p. 237)
  18. ^ a b Abbas (2021, p. 89)
  19. ^ a b ?. ?- ? vol. 1. pp. 265, 266.
  20. ^ Abbas (2021, pp. 50, 89)
  21. ^ "Quran 59:7".
  22. ^ "Quran 53:2".
  23. ^ Madelung (1997, p. 17)
  24. ^ Mavani, Hamid (2013). Religious authority and political thought in Twelver Shi'ism: From Ali to post-Khomeini. Routledge. p. 90. ISBN 9781135044732.
  25. ^ Abbas (2021, p. 81)
  26. ^ Mavani (2013, p. 4)
  27. ^ Arjomand, Said Amir (Dec 2007). "Islam in Iran vi., the Concept of Mahdi in Sunni Islam". Encyclopaedia Iranica. XIV (Fasc. 2): 134-136.

External links

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