Prophet Muhammad’s meeting with Archangel Gabriel on each night of the month of Ramadan and his reciting the Qur’anic verses revealed up until then is well known. In the tenth year after the Emigration (December 631), Archangel Gabriel made him recite the entire Qur’an twice over. Prophet Muhammad saw this as an indication of his imminent demise and shared this with his daughter Fatima. While the Prophet entered a period of retreat in the mosque (i’tikaf) during the last ten nights of Ramadan each year, he spent twenty days in retreat in what was to be the last Ramadan of his life.
In the same year, the Prophet started preparations for the major pilgrimage and wanted all Muslims to attend. On 26 Dhu al-Qa'dah, 10 /23 February, 632) he set off together with the Muslims who consisted of the Emigrants, the Helpers and members of other tribes coming to Madina, despite having his wives and his daughter Fatima with him. He entered the state of ihram (pilgrim dress) at Dhu’l-Hulayfa. He reached Makka, together with those who joined him along the way, on 4 Dhu'l-Hijjah, despite travelling on his camel named Qaswa. After completing the minor pilgrimage (‘umra), the Prophet stayed in a tent that had been set up for him in the Abtah precinct. He left Makka for Mina on Thursday 8 Dhu'l-Hijjah and spent the night there. After sunrise the following day (Friday, 9 Dhu'l-Hijjah) he set off from ‘Arafat via the road to Muzdalifa and settled in the tent at Namira that he had commanded the erection of. Approaching noon, he addressed the Companions numbering over 120,000 in the valley of ‘Arafat, in a speech that became known as the Farewell Sermon.
After offering praise and gratitude to God, Prophet Muhammad recalled that all people are servants of God, having descended from the same mother and father; he declared that all human beings are equal notwithstanding race, color, language and social status, and that the measure of greatness in the eyes of God was piety and reverence for God. In general focusing on human rights, and stressing the security of life, property and honor, Prophet Muhammad commanded scrupulousness in upholding the rights of others, avoiding oppression and unlawful earnings, fulfilling all trusts, and upholding the mutual rights, duties and obligations between spouses. Stating that all believers are brothers and sisters, he drew attention to the importance of unity and solidarity. Describing the Qur’an and the sunna (the way of the Prophet) as indispensible sources of guidance, Prophet Muhammad enjoined meticulousness in performing such acts of worship as the daily prayers, paying the alms tax, and going on the pilgrimage, as well as thoroughness in abiding by the codes of ethics and morality. Also indicating certain attitudes and customs of the Age of Ignorance, he declared the prohibition of interest and blood feuds, and the abolishment of institutions and practices of the Age of Ignorance such as changing the place of the sacred months (nasi’) in particular, with the exception of the provison of water for pilgrims (sidana), and maintenance and security of the Ka’ba (sidana). Frequently asking his Companions, “Have I conveyed the message?” in order for them to confirm his words, Prophet Muhammad completed his address with the statement, “O God, be witness!, O God, be witness!” The Qur’anic verse that was revealed before the Prophet left ‘Arafat, states explicitly that religion had been perfected and completed and that religion before God was Islam: “This day I have perfected for you your Religion (with all its rules, commandments and universality), completed My favor upon you, and have been pleased to assign for you Islam as religion” (Al-Maida, 5:3)
Despite the fact Usama ibn Zayd was on the pillion of his camel, Prophet Muhammad descended from ‘Arafat. When he reached Muzdalifa, he performed the evening and night prayers therein. After performing the morning prayers here also, he reached Jamratu’l-‘Aqaba, and threw seven pebbles reciting the Declaration of Faith at each throw. He then proceeded to Mina and after addressing his Companions he offered his sacrifice. He then shaved his head, left the state of ihram and returned to the Ka’ba, circumambulating it. Retuning again to Mina, he completed the throwing of pebbles at the stone columns (Jamarat). The following day, he returned to Makka and before sunrise and performed his farewell circumambulation. On the fifth day of ‘Iydu’l-Adha (the Festival of Sacrifice), with the permission of the Prophet, pilgrims coming from outside Makka and Madina set-off on the return journey home. Subsequently, the Prophet retuned to Madina with the Emigrants and Helpers, having fulfilled the major pilgrimage while at the same time, having taught Muslims how to perform this act of worship.
Due to the fact that Prophet Muhammad declared in his address at ‘Arafat, “I know not whether after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again,” and because of his demise a while later this pilgrimage became known as the ‘Farewell Pilgrimage’ and his address as the ‘Farewell Sermon’. It is, however, important to note that the Prophet made more than one address during the duration of this pilgrimage in various places and at different times.