Sometimes, Prophet Muhammad goes out at Tahajjud time to the home of his daughter Fātimah and his son-in-law `Alī. He calls out to them: “Will you not wake up and pray?” `Alī recalls to us one occasion when this happened:
I called out to him: “O Messenger of Allah, I swear by Allah, we only pray what Allah has prescribed for us. Our souls are in Allah’s hands, and if He wishes to revive us, He does so.”
Allah’s Messenger turned and walked away when I said this to him. He said nothing in reply. Then I heard him from far off slap his thigh and say to himself: “We only pray what Allah has prescribed for us!” Then he recited from the Qur’an: “The human being has ever been, more than anything, argumentative.”
Near the end of his life, the Prophet gets into the habit of visiting the graveyard of Madinah, al-Baqī`. He offers supplications on behalf of the people buried there. `Ā’ishah recalls to us the first time he does so:
It was my night. He prepared to sleep, removing his day clothes and arranging his sandals at the foot of the bed. He laid the edge of his waistcloth on the mattress and laid down. However, he remained like that for only long enough to think that I had fallen asleep. Then he slowly gathered up his clothing and slowly put on his sandals. He opened the door, went outside, and slowly closed the door behind him.
As soon as he left, I got dressed and followed after him. He kept walking until he arrived at the graveyard. Then he stood for a long time. After a while, he raised his hands to the heavens. He did this three times, then he turned back. He hurried back and so did I. He walked almost at a jog, and I had to do so as well in order to get home before he did. I barely managed to lie down before he entered.
He asked me: “What is with you, `Ā’ishah, that you are so out of breath?
“Nothing,” I said.
He said: “Either you will tell me, of the one who is All Aware will tell me.”
I relented, saying: “Messenger of Allah, by my father and mother...” Then I told him everything.
He said: “So you were the dark from I saw in front of me?”
He gently nudged me in the ribs and said: “Did you really think that Allah and His Messenger would do you wrong?”
I said: “Whatever the people conceal, Allah will know it.”
He then explained: “Gabriel came to me when you saw me. He called me and he concealed it from you. I responded to his call, but I too concealed it from you, for he did not come to you, as you were not fully dressed. I thought you were asleep, and I did not want to wake you, because I thought you would get worried.
“Gabriel told me: ‘Your Lord has commanded you to go to the graveyard and seek forgiveness for those who are buried there’.”
I asked: “How should I do so, Messenger of Allah?”
He answered: “Say: Peace be upon you, believing Muslim denizens of the graves. May Allah show mercy on those who have gone ahead of us, and those who will come later on, and we shall, God willing, join you soon.”
Ever since that night, it has remained the Prophet’s habit to go to the graveyard. He leaves home near the end of the night. When he is at the graveyard, he makes the following salutation: “Peace be upon you, believing denizens of the grave. You have received early what has been promised you. We shall, God willing, join you soon. O Allah, forgive the denizens of this graveyard.”
The Prophet gives up the night’s tranquility to visit the graves of his Companions who passed away before they had the chance to see Allah bless the Muslims with success. They never got to see the people entering into Islam in droves. They died when the Muslims were few, bearing great hardships in patience and perseverance.
The Prophet, near the end of his life, is busy. He has to attend to the delegations coming to Madinah from all over Arabia to profess their allegiance. He has to deal with the growing affairs of state as the realm of Islam grows larger. Nevertheless, he sets aside time from his rest to visit their graves. He remembers the blessed time he spent with them and raises his hands in supplication to his Lord on their behalf.
The Prophet knows that his time on Earth is short, and he wishes to say goodbye to both the living and the dead before he departs for the company of his Lord.