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Problematic hadiths and various questions


Following are some explanations from the Ulema of Islam regarding a selection of highly authentic (sahih) hadiths and a couple of Qur'anic questions.

Note: the Siddiqui and Khan translations from Sahih Muslim and Sahih Bukhari respectively are not reliable and need to be double-checked.

Muslim vol.IV,no.5790 concerning the Prophet's birthmark being a sign of his prophethood

The sound hadiths agree on the Seal-mark of Prophetship (1) being thus called and (2) being a hairy lump of flesh on his left shoulder-blade ranging between a dove's egg and a small palm or fistful in size. The Ulema said that this particular physical sign was thus described among the marks of the final Prophet in the revealed Books that preceded Islam.

The Syrian Christian monk Bahira recognized it as such in the famous narration of the trip of Abu Talib with his nephew to Busra, narrated from Abu Musa al-Ash`ari by al-Tirmidhi (hasan), Ibn Abi Shayba, al-Hakim (sahih), Abu Nu`aym in Dala'il al-Nubuwwa (p. 170-172 #109), and al-Bayhaqi in Dala'il al-Nubuwwa as cited in al-Suyuti's al-Khasa'is al-Kubra (1:206), while Ibn Hajar said its chain was strong and its narrators trustworthy in al-Isaba (1:179) and Fath al-Bari (10:345).

Also narrated with a similar wording but weak chain (because of al-Waqidi) in Ibn Sa`d's Tabaqat (1:121), Ibn Hisham's Sira (1:180), Abu Nu`aym in Dala'il al-Nubuwwa (p. 168-170 #108) and al-Bayhaqi in Dala'il al-Nubuwwa as cited in al-Suyuti's al-Khasa'is al-Kubra (1:208).

Some non-sahih narrations also state that the birthmark contained writing that said: "Muhammadun Rasulullah" and "sir fa'innaka mansur" = "Go forth for you shall certainly be granted victory."

Muslim vol. I, no.458 concerning magic spells

Wrong numbering Chapter 5: WHILE CLEANING THE NOSE AND USING OF PEBBLES IN TOILET, THE ODD NUMBER IS PREFERABLE Book 2, Number 0458: Abu Huraira reported Allah's Apostle as saying: When anyone wipes himself with pebbles (after answering the call of nature) he must make use of an odd number and when any one of you performs ablution he must snuff in his nose water and then clean it.

This is the right numbering: Chapter 16: MAGIC AND SPELL Book 26, Number 5428: A'isha reported that a Jew from among the Jews of Banu Zuraiq who was called Labid b. al-A'sam cast spell upon Allah's Messenger with the result that he (under the influence of the spell) felt that he had been doing something whereas in fact he had not been doing that. (This state of affairs lasted) until one day or during one night Allah's Messenger made supplication (to dispel its effects).
He again made a supplication and he again did this and said to 'A'isha: Do you know that Allah has told me what I had asked Him? There came to me two men and one amongst them sat near my head and the other one near my feet and he who sat near my head said to one who sat near my feet or one who sat near my feet said to one who sat near my head: What is the trouble with the man? He said: The spell has affected him. He said: Who has cast that? He (the other one) said: It was Labid b. A'sam (who has done it).
He said: What is the thing by which he transmitted its effect? He said: By the comb and by the hair stuck to the comb and the spathe of the date-palm. He said: Where is that? He replied: In the well of Dhi Arwan. She said: Allah's Messenger sent some of the persons from among his Companions there and then said: 'A'isha! By Allah, its water was yellow like henna and its trees were like heads of the devils. She said that she asked Allah's Messenger as to why he did not burn that. He said: No, Allah has cured me and I do not like that I should induce people to commit any high-handedness in regard (to one another), but I only commanded that it should be buried.

This is also in Bukhari and elsewhere in the Sunan and Musnads. The reality of witchcraft is mentioned in the Qur'an. It can be learned, it has material effects such as separating husband and wife, and practicing it causes disbelief. The Prophet Musa (AS) was its victim at the hands of Pharaoh's magicians but he quickly recovered through the firming of Allah Most High and defeated them.

The effect of witchcraft on the Prophet was in a worldly matter, not Divine revelation nor lawgiving, and it was temporary - a couple of days. In no way does it affect his status as Prophet or his immunity from error and sin, all of which are solidly established by innumerable proofs.

The wisdom of this incident is to show us (1) another of the marks of Prophetship, namely his being told by the angel of the harm done to him; (2) the reality of witchcraft and its place within Divinely-ordained material causes and effects; (3) the protection against it afforded by du`a; (4) the ultimate immunity of the believers against it although they may be tried by it; (5) the need to take precautions against it through certain daily recitations - as revealed in other narrations - such as Surat al-Baqara, or Ayat al-Kursi, or its last two verses; (6) the forgiving character of the Prophet who did not seek any revenge against the Jew nor even spoke to him; (7) the most effective cure against a spell is the physical removal of the object with which it was cast as shown by other narrations of the above which state that "the Prophet seemed as if to arise from somnolence when it was brought to him."

Muslim vol. II,no.2912 concerning kissing the black stone

Chapter 39: EXCELLENCE OF KISSING THE BLACK STONE WHILE CIRCUMAMBULATING. Found in Hadeeth: Book 7, Number 2912: Salim narrated on the authority of his father (Allah be pleased with him) that 'Umar b. al-Khattib (Allah be pleased with him) kissed (the Black Stone) and then said: By Allah, I know that you are a stone and if I were not to see Allah's Messenger kissing you, I would not have kissed you. Harun said in his narration: A hadith like this has been transmitted to me by Zaid b. Aslam on the authority of his father Aslam.

"The Black Stone is the right hand of Allah Most High." Ibn Qutayba in Ta' wil Mukhtalif al-Hadith (1972 ed. p. 215=1995 ed. p. 198, 262) said that it was a saying of Ibn 'Abbas and relates a saying of 'A'isha that the Black Stone is the depository of the covenant of human souls with Allah on the Day of Promise (alastu bi rabbikum). He interprets the Black Stone as representing the place where one declares one's pledge of fidelity to the Sovereign. Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari (1959 ed. 3:463 #1520) cites al-Khattabi's and al-Muhibb al-Tabari's similar interpretations. Al-Qurtubi said in al-Asna fi Sharh Asma' Allah al-Husna (2:90-91): "It means that the Black Stone has the standing (manzila) of the Right Hand of Allah. metaphorically speaking."

Ibn 'Abd al-Salam in The Belief of the People of Truth said: "Note that it is obligatory to hold the tablets and pages [of the Qur'an] in the utmost respect as they point to the Essence (dhât) of Allah, just as it is obligatory to hold His Names in the utmost respect because they point to His Essence. It is a right due to every thing that points to Allah or relates to Him that it be held in great reverence and that its sanctity (hurma) be kept. Hence it is obligatory to revere the Ka'ba, the Prophets, the devout (al-'ubbâd), and the scholars of knowledge (al-'ulamâ'). [Citing poetry:]

"I pass by the houses - Layla's houses -
"Kissing this wall, and that;
"It is not the love of houses that has obsessed my heart
"But the love of those who have dwelled in them.
"Because of something similar to this we kiss the Black Stone."

See also on this Shaykh Hisham Kabbani's article on the Ka`ba in the early Pilgrimage Issue of The Muslim Magazine.

Muslim vol. I, no. 552; vol.II,nos.3803,3829 concerning dogs and in particular black dogs

The command to kill dogs was abrogated and its reason in the first place is given further below.

In Sahih Muslim, Book 4, Number 1032:

Abd Allah ibn al-Samit said: Abu Dharr said: The Messenger of Allah said: "When one of you stands in prayer, what definitely constitutes a barrier for him is an object placed in front of him of the same height as the back of a camel-saddle. If it is not in front of him and of the same height as the back of a camel-saddle, then some [stray] donkey, or some woman passing, or some black dog will cut off his prayer." I said: "O Abu Dharr! What is it that makes a black dog different from a red or yellow dog?" He replied: "O dear cousin! I asked the Messenger of Allah the exact same question. He said that the black dog is a devil."

Notes on the legal rulings based on this hadith and its meaning:

The passing of the above-mentioned in front of the person at prayer does not invalidate his prayer according to the vast majority of the Imams of Law, Salaf and Khalaf (early and late authorities) who concur that the meaning of "will cut off his prayer" is not literal but means: "will make his prayer imperfect" due to the distraction they will cause in people's hearts, while Imam Ahmad considered that only the passing of a black dog actually invalidates it. This was mentioned by Imam al-Nawawi in Sharh Sahih Muslim and al-Mubarakfuri in Tuhfa al-Ahwadhi.

Some of the narrations mention "the dog that bites indiscriminately" (al-kalb al-`aqur). Others: "The jet-black dog" (al-kalb al-aswad al-bahim). The gist of the reference seems to be that a wild-looking dog, or one known to be dangerous, has the greatest potential for distracting attention. The black dog is a devil either literally, i.e. a favored form for a devil to take among animals, or figuratively with respect to its negative aspects whatever these may be; and Allah knows best.

Here is another answer concerning dogs in general:

"Regarding killing dogs, the Hadith is authentic and quoted in numerous books of Ahaadith. In the pre-Islamic era, dogs were an inseparable part of the Arabs. The negative instincts of dogs have crept into their lives. Rasulullah came to reform them and in order to achieve that, he had to separate them from the inseparable, that is, dogs. He had to create a resentment of dogs in their hearts by emphasising in strongest terms like killing. He also ordered to wash the utensils seven times from which a dog drank.

"After the Sahaaba (Radhiallaahu ?nhu) understood the order and resented dogs, separated them from their daily activities, he said [= he made it understood], 'I have no problem with dogs'. He granted leniency in washing the utensils from 7 times to 3 times. After all, using hunting dogs is permissible and [dogs are] mentioned in the Qurân.

And Allah Taâla Knows Best.

Was salaam

Mufti Ebrahim Desai FATWA DEPT.

Regarding the mention of women among the causes for the invalidation of Salat in the above narration of Sahih Muslim:

In Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 9, Number 493 (Book of Salat, Ar. # 478):

`A'isha said: "Are you [the narrator of that hadith] equating us [women] with dogs and donkeys? It happened to me more than once that I was lying down in bed, and the Prophet would come in, the bed being between us, and pray. Disliking to stand up in his face, I would slink down towards the bottom of the bed until I cleared my bedcover."

Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari mentioned that al-Bukhari adduced this hadith to show that the fact that a man at prayer faces a woman does not necessarily distract him.

Among the benefits of `A'isha's narration of the Prophet's behavior are the following:

1. An important elaboration on the general legal rulings inferred from the previous hadith, specifying that distraction is not an inevitable fact for all people. This is confirmed by another narration from `A'isha in Bukhari states that at other times she would continue to sleep, and that the Prophet would touch her lightly upon prostrating so that she would withdraw her legs to make way for him, then she would stretch them again when he got up.

2. The clarification that women are less likely to cause distraction because they can take care to avoid whatever causes it, especially a spouse, as this situation is the likeliest to occur frequently in the life of Muslims.

3. The teaching that one should not mindlessly equate women with animals in the course of relating this authentic hadith.

Muslim vol. I,no. 462 concerning Satan living in one's nose

Chapter 5: WHILE CLEANING THE NOSE AND USING OF PEBBLES IN TOILET, THE ODD NUMBER IS PREFERABLE. Found in Hadeeth: Book 2, Number 0462: Abu Huraira reported: The Apostle of Allah said. When any one of you awakes up from sleep and performs ablution, he must clean his nose three times, for the devil spends the night in the interior of his nose.

If we should take it literally, this is a reference to the fact that the nose and ears provide openings to the heart without barrier unlike the other sense organs and thus gateways for Satan. This is confirmed by other authentic narrations such as: "The devil circulates in human beings just like blood," "One who yawns should close up his mouth lest the devil enters it," "The devil cannot open something that has been closed," and similar orders to close doors at night and cover up edibles. And it is possible to take it metaphorically in the sense of accumulated dirt, dust, and mucus since it is established that devils priviledge dirty places, dirty smells, etc. Hence the Sunna in wudu' is not only to snuff water up the nostrils (istinshaq), but to blow one's nose as well (istinthar) in order to expell impurities.

Muslim vol.III,no.5113-5115 regarding intestines of Muslims/non-Muslims

The non-Muslim eats with seven intestines means that he is both (1) ravenous and (2) insatiable in his appetite for the lower world whereas the Muslim takes from the latter only what suffices him. Also, the characteristics Allah Most High gives to food and which we can call its baraka or blessing such as its sating and nutritive powers, wholesomeness, goodness, economy, and other factors, are greatly diminished or not present at all in the disbeliever's regimen, and those who imitate it, and Allah knows best. This is the context of the sayings related from the Prophet that "The home of every ailment is the stomach," "The intestines are the drain of the body and the veins reach it," and "The first thing worms eat at in the grave is the stomach." I.e. they come from it!

Muslim vol. III, nos. 862-863 regarding looking up during prayer supposedly saying that if you do your eyes will be snatched out?

Rather, "their eyesights will assuredly be snatched away" (latukhtafanna absaruhum) as in verse 20 of Surat al-Baqara {yakadu al-barqu yakhtafu absarahum}. The hadith is a hyperbolic threat to instil the absolute obligation of observing khushu` - lowliness - in Salat, which the Prophet defined elsewhere as "looking at one's place of prostration." It could also mean, as in the verse, that they will remain stalled in the dark due to their lack of concentration and humility. Allah knows best.

There is also a statement in his writing that the Prophet allowed no churches or synagogues in Arabia. What are the exact teachings of Islam concerning churches and synagogues and what are some historical examples?

The Prophet at first tolerated non-Muslims in Arabia then became convinced of their unrelenting rejection of the Religion and desired to remove them far from the heartland of Islam. At that time he said: "I shall certainly expel the Christians and Jews from the Arabian peninsula," and he reiterated this command to the Companions during his final illness, which `Umar fulfilled - Allah be well-pleased with him and grant him the highest reward. Malik defined the Arabian peninsula as the area circumscribed by Makka, Madina, al-Yamama, and Yemen.

As for the teachings of Islam concerning churches and synagogues: In Dar al-Islam [the lands under Muslim sovereignty] old non-Muslim temples of worship that fall into ruin may be renovated and restored without (1) enlargement nor (2) relocation, while new ones are not allowed to be built except if special agreement is reached to that effect between the Sultan and the lands conquered peacefully. [Al-Lubab and Mughni al-Muhtaj.]

The best illustration of the historical enforcement of these two laws is the preservation of the ancient churches of Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey.

How do you explain the hadith in which the Mohamad requests something to write with (Bukhari vol. IV, no.393) when he is supposed to be illiterate?

Ummi means "unlettered," which is different, although the majority of the Ulema agree that it also means illiterate in the secondary sense. However, this illiterateness precludes neither the possibility of a miracle (mu`jiza) of the Prophet at that particular event; nor the possibility that he may have learned to read and write certain words in time, among them his own name and the Basmala! Here is the hadith:

"When the Prophet decided to accomplish the Minor Pilgrimage in the month of Dhu al-Qi'da, the Meccans refused to grant him permission to enter Makka until he stipulated to them that he would not stay for more than three days. After they wrote the treaty, they wrote: 'This is what Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, has stipulated.' They said: 'We do not acknowledge that you are so. If we knew that you were the Messenger of Allah, we would not prohibit anything to you. However, you are Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah.' He said: 'I am the Messenger of Allah and Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah.' Then he said to 'Ali ibn Abi Talib - Allah be well-pleased with him: 'Erase {the Messenger of Allah}.' 'Ali said: No, by Allah! I will never ever erase you! (lâ wallâhi lâ amhûka abadâ!)." Whereupon the Messenger of Allah took the treaty - he did not excel at writing (laysa yuhsinu yaktubu) - and wrote: 'This is what Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah has stipulated: He shall not bring any weapon into Makka except sheathed swords; he shall not leave it with any of its dwellers even if they wish to follow him; and he shall not prevent any of his Companions from residing in it if he so wishes.'

Narrated from al-Bara' ibn 'Azib by al-Bukhari, Ahmad, and al-Darimi. Muslim narrates it in shorter form. The words "the Messenger of Allah took the treaty and wrote" have been interpreted by the scholars to mean: "had someone write." Al-Dhahabi considered that he only wrote his name in the above hadith, and mentions that some scholars said that he wrote the entire text as a mu'jiza on his part. Some, like the great Maliki Imam Abu al-Walid al-Baji, considered that the Prophet wrote it himself and defended his view in his book Tahqiq al-Madhhab.

The claim (by Dr. Syed Abdul Latif in his article "Was the Prophet Unlettered?" in The Muslim World published by the late Dato Syed Ibrahim Omar Alsagoff) whereby Anas would take out his note-books and say: "These are the traditions which I had heard from the Prophet and *submitted for his perusal*" is a mistranslation of Anas's related words qara'nâ 'alayh, qara'tu 'alayh, 'aradnâ 'alayh, all of which mean the act of *reading outloud* for those present to hear. See the narrations adduced by al-Khatib in Taqyid al-'Ilm ("The Fettering of Knowledge") (p. 95 lines 9, 17, and 24; p. 96 l. 6) and in al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi's chapter entitled "Writing is the means to fetter knowledge and preserve it from oblivion" in his Nawadir al-Usul (p. 39-41).

As for the difference of opinion among the Companions concerning the Prophet's prohibition or permission of writing other than the Qur'an, the best word is perhaps al-Dhahabi's statement in the chapter of 'Abd Allah ibn 'Amr ibn al-'As in the Siyar (4:258): "He wrote a lot of material with the Prophet's permission and his special dispensation for 'Abd Allah while he generally disliked for the Companions to write other than the Qur'an from him. Later, consensus formed, following the difference of views among the Companions, pertaining to the permissibility and desirability of fettering knowledge with writing."

How do you explain Bukhari vol. IV, no. 543 where it states that Adam was 60 cubits tall?

The more complete wording in al-Bukhari and Muslim adds "in the heaven" (fi al-Sama'), i.e. in an other-worldly context. Similarly, when the Prophet saw Ibrahim (AS) in the heaven he said he was so tall that he could hardly see his head as narrated from Samura ibn Jundub in Sahih al-Bukhari.

Why was chess forbidden? (Muslim vol. IV,no. 5612)

`Ali and Ibn `Umar - Allah be well-pleased with them - detested it because of those who neglected worship due to it and because of the gambling and betting involved. The Faqih of Madina, al-Qasim ibn Muhammad - Allah be well-pleased with him - said: "All that distracts from remembrance of Allah and Salat is dice (maysar)."

Otherwise, al-Nawawi said "In our school it is makruh, not haram, and this is the position reported from a number of the Tabi`in" while al-Qurtubi said in his Tafsir, it is permitted once in a while without being disliked according to the vast majority of the Fuqaha' and despite the misleading words of Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir, "Malik, Abu Hanifa, and Ahmad stipulated that chess is haram while al-Shafi`i disliked it" and the even more misleading prohibition in the unverified editions of al-Dhahabi's al-Kaba'ir presently in circulation.

It is established that Abu Hurayra (who entered Islam in the year 7 after the Hijra) and others of the pious Salaf played chess - but not as an all-consuming activity. In the final analysis the correct position in the matter seems that of Imam al-Shafi`i - Allah be well-pleased with him - who said: "It is disliked and not forbidden, for a number of the Companions played it and countless of the Tabi`in and those after them" - such as Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib, Sa`id ibn Jubayr, Muhammad ibn Sirin, Muhammad ibn al-Munkadir, `Urwa ibn al-Zubayr and his son Hisham, Sulayman ibn Yasar, Abu Wa'il, al-Sha`bi, al-Hasan al-Basri, `Ali ibn al-Hasan ibn `Ali, Ja`far ibn Muhammad, Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri, Rabi`a, `Ata'... [Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhid (13:181)] - while the Hafiz Ibn Hajar said: "There is not one firmly-established narration to prohibit chess, neither sahih nor hasan." [Fayd al-Qadir.]

Note: The hadith "Whoever plays chess and dice is as one who dipped his hand in swine's blood" is inauthentic. The correct wording does not mention chess but only dice, narrated from Burayda by Imam Muslim in his Sahih.

Regarding the formulation of Quran there was an instance after it had already been compiled when there was a man reciting a verse not included in the Quran (Bukhari vol.IV, no.62). What was done in this case? And how does this relate to the authenticity of the Quran?

These are instances predating the uniformization of the Qur'anic text by Abu Bakr and `Umar followed by `Uthman and `Ali, when some people were unaware of the abrogating and abrogated or the sequence, or the distinction between certain hadith texts and the actual Qur'an. Hence the wisdom of the Prophet's specific instruction to follow the Sunna of his rightly-guided successors after him, in whose time the standardization of the Qur'anic text took place once and for all.

I need someone familiar with Quranic Arabic to help me with the following accusations that there are grammatical errors in Surahs 2:177,192; 3:59; 4:162; 5:69; 7:160; 13:28; 20:66; 63:10 and that it contains foreign (not Arabic) words in Surahs 12:2; 13:37; 16:105; 41:44; 42:7

The proof that the claim that there are grammatical errors is false, is the novelty of that claim. Were there any substance to such a claim the Meccan polytheists and early opponents of Islam would certainly have mentioned it, and there is no comparison between their knowledge of Arabic and that of today's amateur Orientalists including the Egyptian atheist Ta Ha Husayn.

As for the presence of *originally non-Arabic* words in the Qur'an, the Ulema have brought up far more words than those in the verses referred above, as a glance at al-Suyuti's works in that respect will show - namely, the chapter of al-Itqan fi `Ulum al-Qur'an and his detailed epistle, al-Muhadhdhab fima Waqa`a fi al-Qur'an min al-Mu`arrab. The latter, as its title indicates, shows that these purportedly foreign words are MU`ARRAB i.e. Arabized and therefore part of the Arabic lexicon at that time and, as al-Shafi`i said in al-Risala (p. 42): "None possess all-encompassing knowledge of the [Arabic] language except a Prophet." So the viewpoint of the majority of the Ulema is the correct one, as expressed by al-Tabari in the beginning of his Tafsir (1:26), "They were originally foreign but became Arabic."

He says "the claim that the two original Uthman Qurans can be seen at Topkapi, Turkey and in Tashkent, Russia is false. The manuscripts are in the Kufic script which did not exist in the 7th century. They are clearly from the 9th century and are in "landscape" format which was not used in the 7th century." He believes that there is no Quran in existence dating back before the 9th century and thus claims that it is a myth that Uthman compiled the Quran. Can anyone offer some information on this topic?

It doesn't matter what copies exist where, since even if the premise were hypothetically correct that there is no extant mushaf pre-dating the 9th century, it would prove nothing. We do not rely on artefacts, coins, or papyri in the matter, but the mass-transmitted reports of generations of Muslims going back to the first century. It is the Orientalists that will have to catch up to this historical method, not the Muslims that have to modify it for them.

Was-Salam

GF Haddad �
[2000-11-04]

 



 

 

2000-12-25
latest update: Thu, 12 Feb 2009
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