How Can the Prophet’s Farewell Sermon Have So Many Different Narrations?

Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch


There are three versions of the farewell sermon in the hadith books:

  • First version, “I have left for you what is if you hold on to it that you will never be misguided, the Book of God and my family.” [Tirmidhi]
  • Second version, “I have left for you what is if you hold on to it that you will never be misguided, the Book of God and my Sunnah.” [Muwatta]
  • Third version, “I have left for you, what if you hold on to it that you will never be misguided, the BOOK OF GOD.” [Muslim]

How is that possible? Is it not a contradiction to hand down the last words from the Prophet, but the content differs three times?


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.

There are many reasons for the presence of variant Prophetic narrations (including those of the farewell sermon). The scholars have discussed this issue in detail, and it is the subject matter of an entire science: the Science of Prophetic narrations and their gradation.

Reasons for Variations

Some reasons for these variant narrations, in short, are as follows:

  • Each narration is a partial description of the whole story. Perhaps the Messenger (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said multiple things, and one narrator transmits one, not the other. [Suyuti,Tadrib al-Rawi]
  • One narration is more authentic than the other and, therefore, is given precedence over the other. [Ibid.]
  • One or both narrations were the results of the paraphrasing of the narrator. [Ibid.]
  • One narration comes after the other at the time of its occurrence and is thus considered to abrogate the other. [Ibid.]
  • Some scholars even took the number up to 4 sermons. It is possible that different advices were given in different sermons. [Kandahlawi, Hajjat al-Wada’]
    For example, the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) may have said during the sermon of ‘Arafa, “I am leaving for you the Book of Allah and the Sunna.” and on the Day of Nahr, “I am leaving for you the Book of Allah and my family.” However, the narrators did not specify which sermon they heard that statement in.
  • There are many other aspects that relate to the chain of transmission back to the original narrator, such as the method of transmission, the knowledge of the original narrators, etc… [Ibid.]

Hypothetical Contradictions

Hypothetically speaking, if there were a contradiction between two texts that cannot be resolved, the scholars would either abandon one text and take the more authentic and more likely to be correct, or they will suspend judgment. [Ibid.]

One of the greatest of the scholars of Prophetic narrations, Ibn Khuzayma (Allah have mercy on him), said regarding such contradictory narrations: “I don’t know of two narrations that go against one another, bring them to me, and I will show them how to reconcile between the narrations.” [Ibid.]


Know that variants in some Prophetic narrations are natural. Envision that you attended a lecture with thousands of others, and afterward, each person narrates what they saw and heard.

It is highly unlikely that every person will narrate the exact words verbatim. There will be many variants, and some will be more accurate than others. This is the case with the farewell sermon. Scholars mentioned the number of attendees being above 100,000. With that, the variants in the narrations are minimal. This is because of the amazing precision and cautiousness of the Companions in general, notwithstanding some of them being more precise then others. [‘Amiri, Bahja al-Mahafil]

Due to this, the farewell sermon, in a general sense, is mass transmitted (the highest level of authenticity of narrations). The specifics, however, have slight differences and in most cases these differences can be reconciled in the above ways.

Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Quran and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Quranic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.