When news of the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was known, people were stunned. The believers felt that the whole city of Madinah sank into total darkness. They were like young children losing their parents. They did not know what to do. Despite the repeated hints by the Prophet of his impending death and the fact that the Qur’an mentions that possibility clearly, to lose him was, for his companions, something they could not imagine or visualize. He lived among them as one who was dearer to them than their souls. He was the sun of their lives. His death meant that they had to live in absolute darkness. For the Prophet to be withdrawn from their lives meant to them a vacuum that could never be filled. It was an event, which they could not imagine or comprehend. Some of them were physically paralyzed, others were dumb, and others still made statements, that they could not have thought out properly.

Umar ibn Al-Khattab himself could not make a proper judgment. He stood up to address the people and said: “Some hypocrites are alleging that God’s Messenger has died. God’s Messenger has not died. He has gone to his Lord as Moses (peace be upon him) had done before and was away from his people for 40 nights. He then returned after people had said that he had died. I swear that God’s Messenger shall return and chop off the hands and legs of those who allege that he has died.”

As Umar was making his speech, Abu Bakr arrived. He paid no attention to anything going on around him until he went into the room of his daughter Lady Ayesha, the Prophet’s wife. Abu Bakr went straight to uncover the Prophet’s face, knelt down, and kissed him, saying: “My father and my mother may be sacrificed for your sake. The one death that God has decreed that you shall experience, you have now had. You shall never die again.”

He covered the Prophet’s face and went out to find Umar still speaking to the people. Abu Bakr said to him: “Listen to me.” Abu Bakr began by praising God and thanking Him for His grace. He then said: “People, if any of you has been worshipping Muhammad, let him know that Muhammad is dead. He who worships God knows that God is always alive; He never dies.” He then recited a verse of the Qur’an, which may be translated as follows: “Muhammad is but a messenger before whom other messengers have passed. Should he die or be slain, would you turn back on your heels? He who turns back on his heels shall do God no harm. God shall reward those who give thanks to Him.” (3: 144)

When people heard Abu Bakr reciting that verse of the Qur’an, they seemed as if they had never heard it before. They had indeed heard it repeatedly, and they repeated it then. Umar said: “When I heard Abu Bakr reciting that verse I was stunned and perplexed. I fell down to the ground, feeling that my legs could not support me. I realized, however, that God’s Messenger was dead.”

The next thing to be done was to prepare the Prophet’s body for burial. His body needed to be washed like every dead person. Ali ibn Abu Talib, the Prophet’s cousin, and Al-Abbas’ two sons, Al-Fadl and Qutham, as well as Usamah ibn Zaid and Shaqran, the Prophet’s servant, were given that task. Aws ibn Khawli, a man from the Ansar, appealed to Ali to let him also attend. Ali supported the Prophet’s body on his chest, Al-Abbas and his two sons helped him turn the Prophet’s body while Usamah and Shaqran poured the water and Ali washed him.

Ayesha reports that when they were about to start washing the Prophet’s body, they did not know whether to take off his clothes or to wash him with his clothes on. They were in disagreement when they were overtaken by sleep. All of them sat down and dozed off. They heard a voice telling them to wash the Prophet’s body with his clothes on, so this was how they did it. They poured the water over his shirt and rubbed his body holding his shirt. They did not insert their hands underneath his shirt.

When they had finished washing him, they wrapped him in three robes. There were several suggestions concerning where to bury the Prophet. Some people suggested that he should be buried in his mosque. Others suggested that he should be buried alongside his companions. Abu Bakr, however, told them that he heard the Prophet say: “Every Prophet was buried in the place where he died.” That settled the matter. The bed on which the Prophet died was removed and his grave was dug there.

After the Prophet was wrapped for burial, he was put on his bed. Abu Bakr and Umar entered the room and said: “Peace be upon you, Messenger of God, with God’s mercy and blessing.” A number of the Muhajirin and the Ansar went in with them, as many as the room could accommodate. They spoke the same greetings and stood up in rows to offer the prayer for the deceased, the Janazah prayer. No one led the prayer as an Imam. Abu Bakr and Umar, however, were in the first row next to the Prophet. They said: “Our Lord, we bear witness that he has conveyed to us what has been revealed to him, given good counsel to his nation, struggled for God’s cause until God has given triumph to His religion at his hands, and until God’s words were complete. People believed in Him alone without partners. Our Lord, place us with those who follow the word revealed to him and join us to him so that he recognizes us and You make us known to him. For he was compassionate and merciful to those who believed.

When they had finished they left the room to allow another group of the Muslims to go in and offer the Janazah prayer for the Prophet. They were followed by other groups as the room could accommodate. When all men had offered their prayers, women went in also in groups to do the same. Children then followed in groups. However, there was no congregational prayer for the deceased. Everyone prayed on his own. This took the whole of Tuesday and the Prophet was buried on Wednesday.

Most reports confirm that the Prophet was 63 when he died, although some suggest that he was 65. Normally, prophets start to receive their revelations at the age of 40. The Prophet lived after that for 13 years in Makkah and 10 years in Madinah. That he was 63 is perhaps more accurate.