Hadith of the pen and paper

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This is a sub-article to the Succession to Muhammad.

The Hadith of the pen and paper is a hadith in Islam about an event when the Islamic prophet Muhammad expressed a wish to write something down. The hadith is referenced in both Shia and Sunni traditions.[1]

Shias also refer to it as "The Calamity of Thursday" (Arabic Raziyat Yawm al-Khamis).[2]


Muhammad became ill in the year 632 and his health took a serious turn on a Thursday. It is reported that Muhammad asked for writing materials to write a statement that would prevent the Muslim nation from going astray forever. The first person to reply was Umar, answering that there was no need for the statement, arguing that Muhammad was ill and that the Muslims had The book of Allah "Hasabuna Kitaab Allah (the Book of Allah is enough for us)".[3]

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas:

When Allah's Apostle was on his death-bed and in the house there were some people among whom was 'Umar bin Al-Khattab, the Prophet said, "Come, let me write for you a statement after which you will not go astray." 'Umar said, "The Prophet is seriously ill and you have the Qur'an; so the Book of Allah is enough for us." The people present in the house differed and quarrelled. Some said "Go near so that the Prophet may write for you a statement after which you will not go astray," while the others said as Umar said. When they caused a hue and cry before the Prophet, Allah's Apostle said, "Go away!" Narrated 'Ubaidullah: Ibn 'Abbas used to say, "It was very unfortunate that Allah's Apostle was prevented from writing that statement for them because of their disagreement and noise."

Sunnis tend to view this as Sahih and have included it in Sahih al-Bukhari.[3]

Sa'id b. Jubair reported from Ibn Abbas that he said: Thursday, and what about Thursday? Then tears began to flow until I saw them on his cheeks as it they were the strings of pearls. He (the narrator) said that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Bring me a shoulder blade and ink-pot (or tablet and inkpot), so that I write for you a document (by following which) you would never go astray. They said: Allah's Messenger (may peace upon him) is in the state of unconsciousness [yahjur, literal translation: "talking nonsense"; obviously, the Prophet was not unconscious since he was speaking].[4]

Sunnis tend to view this as Sahih and have included it in Sahih Muslim.[5]


The primary narrator here (from whom the narration was later related from) is Ibn Abbas, and at that time he was ten to fifteen years old.[6]

Sunni and Shi'i Muslims interpret this event and its significance differently, as explicated in the two sections below.

Sunni view

Sunni Muslims refer to this episode as the "Event of Thursday". It is generally seen as a minor event and a test by Muhammad of the Sahabah (his companions). The companions are considered to have chosen to do the right thing and passed the test, having remained free from criticism by Muhammad for the rest of the days he remained with them. Further Sunni's say it was not a matter of disobedience but rather it was Umar's Ijtihad (independent reasoning) in that situation.[7]

This period (from Thursday to Monday) during which Muhammad remained with the companions after this incident was also not utilized to make a will - which, Sunnis argue, confirms that it was not an important document to be written but rather a simple test to know whether the Ummah is aware of the message of the Quran. The following passage is cited as evidence:

This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.
Quran, sura 5 (Al-Ma'ida), ayah 3[8]

Shia view

Hadith of the pen and paper
Arabic رزية يوم الخميس
Romanization Raziyat Yawm al-Khamis
Literal meaning The Calamity of Thursday

Shias point out that obedience to Muhammad was required from every Muslim at all times. The Quran orders Muslims regarding Muhammad, "So take what the Messenger assigns to you".[9] Therefore it was not the place of anyone to take matters into their own hands.

The idea that Umar disobeyed Muhammad out of love is an unproven assumption and conjecture.

They refer back to the events of Ghadir and Da‘wat dhul-‘Ashīrah which show that Muhammad had already nominated Ali as his successor. On the day of Ghadir, after Muhammad had announced, "Whosoever's master I am, this Ali is his master," the verse of the Quran was revealed "This day I have perfected for you your religion."

Umar ibn Al-Khattab claimed the Quran was sufficient guidance, despite the well-known tradition that Muhammad would be leaving two weighty things, not one. These being the Quran, and the Ahl al-Bayt (the progeny of Muhammad).[10]

Muhammad's own words were that if they followed what he wished to write down, no one would go astray, hence it was a matter of grave importance.

Both the first and second caliphs were able to implement their wills despite being in great pain. Abu Bakr had fainted during dictating his will; and Umar ibn Khattab had multiple stab wounds, yet both considered it necessary to give details regarding their successor.

Shias do not claim that all Sahabah were part of a conspiracy. Only three Muhajirun were present in the hut of Saqifah.citation needed The fact that there was mixed views on Muhammad's deathbed regarding writing his will, shows that Ibn al-Khattab's opinion was not necessarily the best.

Ibn al-Khattab spoke about Muhammad in an irreverent manner, when he said, "He is delirious" (yahjura).

See also


  1. Sunni narrations include Sahih Muslim, Book of Bequests (Kitab al-Wasiyyah), numbers 4014 and 4016 (http://www.usc.edu/org/cmje/religious-texts/hadith/muslim/013-smt.php); Sahih al-Bukhari 9.468 and 7.573.
  2. Muhammad al-Tijani al-Samawi, Black Thursday, trans. S. Athar (Qum: Ansarian, n.d.).
  3. 1 2 3 Sahih al-Bukhari, 7:70:573
  4. Hans Wehr dictionary, meaning of h-j-r
  5. 1 2 Sahih Muslim, 013:4015
  6. Regarding Omar's Refusal to Give the Prophet a Pen to Write his Will!!!
  7. Hadith About the (Non)Incident of the Pen and Paper - A Sunni Perspective Archived February 13, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. Quran 5:3
  9. Quran 59:7
  10. Muslim, Sahih; as-Salihin, Riyad. "The Book of Miscellany".


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