An Incident Related To The Life Of The Prophet (sws)

Question

In April I became a Muslim. I've been attempting to learn as much as I can about this faith. Before I converted, I studied for a few months, but it is impossible to read everything. Recently I've run across something that makes me doubt the truth of Islam, and I would like it cleared up. It is hurting my iman. I have gone through so much to accept this faith, and I don't want to let it go. Please, explain the meaning of this hadith to me. It seems brutal and contrary to everything I believe about Allah and his prophet (sws).

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Abbas:

A blind man had a slave-mother who used to abuse the Prophet (sws) and disparage him. He forbade her but she did not stop. He rebuked her but she did not give up her habit. One night she began to slander the Prophet (sws) and abuse him. So he took a dagger, placed it on her belly, pressed it, and killed her. A child who came between her legs was smeared with the blood that was there. When the morning came, the Prophet (sws) was informed about it. He assembled the people and said: I adjure by Allah the man who has done this action and I adjure him by my right to him that he should stand up. Jumping over the necks of the people and trembling the man stood up. He sat before the Prophet (sws) and said:

Apostle of Allah! I am her master; she used to abuse you and disparage you. I forbade her, but she did not stop, and I rebuked her, but she did not abandon her habit. I have two sons like pearls from her, and she was my companion. Last night she began to abuse and disparage you. So I took a dagger, put it on her belly and pressed it till I killed her. Thereupon the Prophet (sws) said: Oh be witness, no retaliation is payable for her blood.

Here are links to the Hadith:

http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals/hadithsunnah/abudawud/038.sat.html#038.4348

http://www.jannah.com/cgi-bin/library/hadeeth.pl?coll=3&book=38#18571

The USC website is used frequently to quote ahadith on the web. The other, www.jannah.com is also a respected Islamic website. Is this hadith authentic? How do I find out?

Thanks so much for any light you can shed on this subject. Is there any source I can find (other than my own opinion) that can discredit this hadith? If this hadith isn't valid, why is it among the collections of hadith? Why hasn't it been discarded?


Answer

Before dealing with the subject matter of the Hadith you have mentioned, I would like to explain some of the points which need to be appreciated while dealing with the actions and sayings ascribed to the prophet (sws) reported in traditions.

The traditions ascribed to the Holy Prophet (sws) are not the ultimate source of the knowledge about the actions of the prophet (sws) because of their limitation in reliability as well as in the comprehensiveness of the information that they supply. These narratives are limited in reliability because they are reported by individuals who could easily have misunderstood a particular matter or could easily have, intentionally or unintentionally, misreport it. Moreover, these narratives are not always comprehensive in the information that they supply, as many significant and pertinent facts are not always reported in them.

Although the Hadith in consideration, no doubt, is reported with continuity of the chain of narrators who are mostly deemed reliable by the scholars of the science of Hadith yet what makes the Hadith slightly questionable is its single chain of narrators: it is only Abdullah Bin Abbas who told Ikrama who told Uthman al Shahham, who narrated it to only two people. The report remained confined to only a single person in each of the first three generations. An incident, which took place before a gathering of Muslims and a decision, so important was made about an apparently brutal murder; reason demands should have been quoted by a large number of narrators.

Moreover, the narrative does not find mention in any of the more recognized books of Hadith like Mu'atta of Imam Mailk, Sahih of Muslim and Sahih of Bukhari. Only those who are very lenient about the acceptance of traditions have reported it.

Finally, scholars dealing with the personalities of the narrators are not unanimously positive about the personality and reports of Uthman al Shahham. Ya'ya Bin Saeed al-Qattan comments that his traditions are sometimes accepted and sometimes not. (Meezanul-I`tidal vol.5 page 76 CD ed.) Nisaai is reported to have said that he (Uthman-al-Shaham) was not reliable. (Meezanul-I`tidal vol.5 page 76 CD ed.) Bukhari didn't take any report from him and he is dealt with among Zuafaa in Al-kamil-fi-Zuafaa.

Leaving the checks on its narrators and their reliability aside we have enough problems in ascertaining the truth about the matter. Many important facts about the incident remain unanswered. Who was the woman? To which faith did she belong? What made her stick to her habit of slandering the Prophet (sws)? Did the Prophet already know her abusing him? Did he himself try to talk her out of her mischief or did he advise his companion to prevent her from doing that? What was the phase of the prophethood when the incident occurred? With every bit of information supplied the explanation of the act of the prophet may change.

Whatever the situation might have been, we are bound to admit that every action of the Prophet should be in harmony with the moral and legal teaching of the religion. If an act ascribed to the Prophet (sws) does not fit into the moral status of a messenger, we should not hesitate to renounce it. However the tradition under consideration can very conveniently be explained in the light of the religious sources. An explanation follows:

The Qur'an tells us that Muhammad (sws) was not only a Prophet (nabi) but also a messenger (Rasu'l) of Allah. The Qur'an tells us that when Allah sends His messenger in a people, these people are not allowed to live on Allah's earth if they reject the messenger. It tells us that these people are given time in which to make up their minds and to present all their objections against the messenger (Rasu'l). It tells us that when the Al-knowing Allah decides that these people have been given adequate time and that they are now absolutely clear of the truthfulness of the messenger and thus are not left with any excuse for their rejection but still are persistent in their rejection then Allah directs his prophet to migrate from the area and then he destroys all those who have rejected his messenger. The Qur'an refers to the peoples (nations of the messengers of old - Noah, Hood, Lot, Shoaib, Saaleh and Moses (sws)- and narrates the result of their rejection. It declares to the direct addressees of Muhammad (sws) that if they don't accept the message of Allah's messenger (Muhammad) their fate shall be no different from those nations that have gone before them. (Surah al-Qamar the whole Surah especially verse no 43-45)

In short the Qur'an says it is the unalterable law of Allah that when he sends his messenger in a people, these particular people are left with no option but to accept his message or to face the punishment of death and sometimes complete annihilation.

The Qur'an goes further to tell us how this punishment was implemented on the polytheists from among the direct addressees of the Prophet (sws). It tells us that although the previous nations of the messengers of Allah were annihilated because of their rejection through (apparently) natural calamities the companions of Muhammad (sws) because Allah has given them rule in a land (Medina) shall fight the rejecters and through these believers shall Allah implement his punishment (al_Tauba 9:14-16). It directs them that the Mushrikeen should be killed without any exception. They should only be allowed to live if they accept Islam (al-Taubah 9:5). On the other hand, it also directs them that the Jews and the Christians (because they weren't polytheists I.e. Mushrikeen) even if they don't enter the folds of Islam, they may be allowed to live if they accept to live under the Muslim rule and agree to pay the Jizyah (Al-Taubah 9:29). Thus the Prophet (sws) sent his messenger who declared at the time of Hajj that no one from among the rejecting polytheists shall be allowed to live after the prohibited months, if he does not accept Islam. As a result of this declaration, most of the people who previously were polytheists, accepted Islam and thus the punishment of Allah was avoided.

In my opinion, the decision is based on the fact that the murder of the woman is an implementation of the punishment to which all the direct addressees of the prophet would have been subject had they not accepted the faith. It is obvious from the tradition that the incident occurred after the migration to Madina. And migration in the preaching mission of a messenger of God is a phase when all the rejecters of the faith lose the right of being allowed to live on the earth. So did the woman. Now somebody killed her and the person who killed her is acquitted of the crime because he implemented a punishment, to which all the rejecters would have been subjected to, in any case.

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