Hadith of Dawat and Qirtas

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Ḥadith of Dawāt and Qirṭās (Arabic:حَديث الدَواة و القِرطاس) or the hadith of pen and paper refers to the request of the Holy Prophet (s) in the last days of his life to bring him a pen and a paper to write down an advice to Muslims and prevents them from deviance after him. This request was denied by 'Umar b. al-Khattab and the Prophet's (s) will was left unsaid.

This event is among the most famous events and greatest calamities, the writers of al-Sihah al-Sitta, Sunan and biographies have written about. Although the reports about this event have little differences, but the main story and that 'Umar b. al-Khattab prevented the writing of the will of the Prophet (s) has been also narrated from 'Umar himself.

In the views of Shia, the Prophet's (s) intention has been stressing on the succession of Imam Ali (a) after himself.

The Text and Content of Hadith

According to historical sources, in the last days of his life, when the Prophet (s) was in bed on Safar 25th, 11/632, addressed some of his companions and asked them to bring him ink and paper, "to write for you something, you would never go astray afterwards". 'Umar b. al-Khattab rejected the request of the Prophet (s) and said, "the Prophet (s) is saying nonsense!" and according to some reports, added, "You have the Qur'an and the Book of God suffices us. Then, the companions disputed over it. When the Prophet (s) saw their disputes, asked them to go away from his side.

This story has been narrated with different details and sentences in different sources. Different statements have been reported in different sources as following,

  • "bring me ink and a stone [pen] to write down for you something, after which you never go astray."
  • "Let me write for you something, after which you never go astray."
  • "bring me ink and paper [so that] I write for you something, after which you never go astray."

In some reports, the name of the person who objected has not been mentioned, but other reports have mentioned that it was 'Umar b. al-Khattab. The sentence 'Umar said has also been narrated differently as following,

  • "Surly, the Prophet of God (s) is saying nonsense."
  • "Surly, the messenger of God (s) is saying nonsense."
  • "Surly, this man is saying nonsense."
  • "Did the messenger of God (s) said nonsense?"
  • "What is with him? Did he say nonsense? Ask him!"
  • "Surly, the pain has defeated him and the Qur'an is with you. Suffices us the book of God."

In al-Muraji'at, Sayyid 'Abd al-Husayn Sharaf al-Din mentioned that the phrase, "the pain has defeated him" is an addition of Sunni narrators to decrease the foulness of language. He supports his idea by a report from Abu Bakr Ahmad b. 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Jawhari in al-Saqifa narrated from Ibn 'Abbas that, "then 'Umar said something which meant that the pain has defeated the Prophet (s)."

Sources

Sunni Sources

The hadith of pen and ink has been mentioned in many reliable Sunni sources including,

  • Sahih al-Bukhari, in five places, in two of which the name of 'Umar is mentioned.
  • Sahih al-Muslim, in three places, in one of which the name of 'Umar is mentioned.
  • Musnad Ahmad, in one place, where the name of the speaker is not mentioned.
  • Sunan al-Bayhaqi, in one place, where the name of the speaker is not mentioned.
  • Tabaqat Ibn Sa'd, in eight places, in three of which the name of 'Umar is mentioned.

Shia Sources

Taking Position towards it

Shia's Position

Shia scholars have considered it among greatest calamities because it thwarted the Prophet's (s) will for preventing Muslims' deviance. In some versions of the narration in Sunni sources, it is mentioned that Ibn 'Abbas called prevention of writing the Prophet's (s) will a great calamity and cried.

In al-Muraji'at, Sharaf al-Din al-'Amili mentioned some criticisms for 'Umar b. al-Khattab in this story according to the verses of the Holy Qur'an including the following,

  • Not following the Holy Prophet's (s) order and objecting him.
  • speaking as if he was more knowledgeable than the Prophet (s) about the benefits of the Qur'an
  • Attributing nonsense to the Prophet (s)

In the views of Shia, this reaction of 'Umar b. al-Khattab is against many of the verses of the Qur'an including,

"Take whatever the Apostle gives you, and relinquish whatever he forbids you," (59:7)

"your companion has neither gone astray, nor gone amiss. (1) Nor does he speak out of [his own] desire: (2) it is just a revelation that is revealed [to him], (3) taught him by One of great powers, (5)" (53:2-5)

Sunni Views

Some Sunni scholars have tried to justify this story including,

Some have considered this narration (despite its mentioning in major Sunni sources) weak and unreliable.

Some have interpreted this narration differently; for example, they have interpreted the verb "hijr" as leaving and have said that 'Umar meant that the Prophet (s) is leaving us or he was asking a negative interrogation meaning that the Prophet (s) does not say nonsense.

Or that 'Umar's word about sufficing the Qur'an (and having no need to the will of the Prophet (s)) was a sign of his strong fiqh and accurate view.

In some versions, the speaker of the sentence is not known and it has been mentioned as plural.

The Prophet's (s) Intention

According to Shia scholars, with regards to the text of the hadith in which the Prophet (s) said, "I will write something, after which you would not go astray." and also based on the hadith of Thaqalayn in which the Prophet (s) said, "I leave among you two things, as long as you hold to them, the Book of God and my Ahl al-Bayt (a)." The goal of both hadiths is one, and it has been stressing on the caliphate of Imam Ali (a). Shia scholars believe that the Prophet's (s) goal was to secure Imamate and caliphate for his households (a) and when some of those who were present found it out, prevented it. In a conversation between Ibn 'Abbas and the second caliph, he said that, "when he (s) was sick, the Prophet (s) wanted to mention the name of Ali (a) as the caliph after himself, but I prevented it out of concern about Islam and saving it."

Cause of the Prophet's (s) Withdrawal from Writing

According to some Shia scholars, the Prophet (s) withdrew from writing his will because of what was said after his request, since his word would have no influence anymore but dispute after his demise. Thus, if the Prophet (s) wrote the mentioned will, about which still some would say that it was nonsense.

References

  • The material for this article is mainly taken from حدیث دوات in Farsi WikiShia.