The caliphs’ tale

Reza Aslan enjoys Barnaby Rogerson’s history of the great Islamic schism, The Heirs of the Prophet Muhammad [And the Roots of the Sunni-Shia Schism].”

From The Guardian:

Prophet_finalOn the morning of his death, the Prophet Muhammad unexpectedly appeared before his followers in the city of Medina as they gathered for prayers in the makeshift mosque that also served as his home. No one had seen him for some time. Rumours were swirling around the city about his ill health. The Messenger of God was dying, people said, perhaps already dead. So when he suddenly turned up on that sunny morning in 632CE, looking stout and rosy if a bit greyer than anyone remembered, the anxiety about his health gave way to shouts of jubilation. A few hours later, when the prayers had ended and the congregation had dispersed, Muhammad slipped back to his room, closed his eyes and quietly breathed his last.

As news of Muhammad’s death spread through Medina, the elation that had accompanied his appearance at the mosque quickly transformed into raw panic. Muhammad had done nothing to prepare his followers for his demise. He had made no official statement about who should replace him, nor had he put into place the mechanism by which a leader could be chosen. It was as though the possibility of his death had not occurred to him.

More here.