As he mounted his red camel, named Quswa, the Prophet (peace be upon him) knew he was on his way to the plain of 'Arafaat to deliver perhaps his last address in front of his people. He sat on Quswa, a female camel he had used as a ride even when he delivered his first Friday sermon. Bilal, a former slave who converted to Islam upon hearing the Prophet speak, and the muezzin (prayer call maker), held the nose strap of Quswa and accompanied Muhammad to give what would be written in history as the culmination of his message. At 'Arafaat, approximately 144,000 of his followers, utterly devoted to his message, eagerly awaited his arrival.
"Oh People, I feel we may never meet again in such a gathering," he opened his address. I imagine how stunned and suddenly saddened these men and women must have been to hear him start his speech this way. He meant to do so. He started off by grabbing their attention, for he would need them to understand fully what he was about to tell them. He was loved by them in such a way that we cannot fathom in this day and age. This was the same Prophet who, as he laid his head on Abu Bakr's lap to rest while migrating to Medina, only woke up from a tear that accidentally dropped on his cheek because a scorpion had bit Abu Bakr. Yet, Abu Bakr would not flinch, for fear that the Prophet would wake up. Abu Bakr was the Prophet's most beloved companion, and the first who accepted the message of the Prophet and converted to Islam.
So when he realized he would be speaking to his ummah (the community) for the last time, he made sure his address was cohesive, coherent, and basically a recap of his message. What would you say, if you knew those were the last words you could say to loved ones? Every lesson of life that was important to you, you'd share. This speech, in a nutshell, presents the entire message/teaching of Islam. it encompassess all problems faced by man, and presents soultions for all potential problems. The Prophet left nothing unsaid. It is amazing that this short speech embodies a wealth of knowledge, that if understood, is timeless and philosophical. Moreover, the last ayah (verse) of the Qur'an was revealed shortly after this speech. For a Muslim, this denotes the culmination of his/her faith-- The last words of the Prophet and the last verse of the Qur'an-- there is so much to learn, to gain and to practice from these words. The following article has been broken down by topics within this speech. Notice the Prophet starts with commentary on community and narrows it down to the microcosm of society, which is you.
Coming up: Part 1 of the sermon, the SOCIAL aspect-