Delivered on March 9, 632AD the Last Sermon of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was a universal speech directed not just at Muslims but all of mankind and urged people to follow the way of the one true God. He repeatedly referred not just to “Muslims” but to the “people” and urged his followers to peacefully spread the word of the one true God and to lead by example. By following the word of God, Muslims could lead a pious life.
Interestingly, though the Prophet appeared to be in full health and was months away from his death from a sudden illness, he seemed to know of his impending departure from this world. Muhammad proclaimed that he was not sure if he would be on the Earth after the end of the year and that this would be his last, or one of his last messages. This prior knowledge of his own impending death is further proof the Prophet Muhammad’s position as a messenger of God.
Accordingly, Muhammad made his speech general and to address the general state of the world and Islam. The Prophet Muhammad urged equality, quoting “an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab.” This strong proclamation of equality was centuries ahead of race relations and equality movements in Europe and other places. Islam has a long history of respect people regardless of the color of their skin, instead measuring their merit by how hard they strive to follow the word of God.
Muhammad was also quoted urging the respect of women and the brotherhood of Islam. The one true God would tolerate no transgressions or people who willingly flaunted the laws of God. Muhammad also made it known that there would be no further Prophets or religions from the one true God, that he was the final Prophet and the Quran was the final, unadulterated word of God.
Importantly Muhammad also reiterated and outlined the five “pillars” that form the foundation of Islam:
- There is only one God and that God is Allah (Arabic for “God”) and Muhammad was his Messenger
- Muslims are to perform five prayers per day
- Muslims should fast through the month of Ramadan
- Muslims should give Zakat, in other words the rich should give to the poor
- If one is able, they should travel to Mecca once in their lifetime (called the Haj)
These five rules form the basics of practicing the Islamic faith. Of course their implementations are far greater and more expansive than the short statements above. As Muhammad is the messenger of God and he has laid out the word of God, than these words must be followed in earnest. For example, the Quran proclaims that innocent lives should not be taken, and as the word of God, violating this is a serious transgression.
Muhammad would also abolish economic exploitation. This did not mean that people could not make money or profit from business dealings, but that these activities could not be exploitive. This outlawed “usury” or the practice of charging interest on loans.