Sunday, February 5, 2012

Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu 'alayhi wa salam) Attempts to Commit Suicide?


As-Salamo Aleikom Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu


This hadith has been taken by non-Muslims as "proof" that Muhammad (salAllahu 'alayhi wa salam) was a false prophet... So, here is the explanation for it.

The Hadith:

The hadith is from Sahih Bukhari and it is a long one. Its relevant part goes as:

ثُمَّ لَمْ يَنْشَبْ وَرَقَةُ أَنْ تُوُفِّيَ وَفَتَرَ الْوَحْيُ فَتْرَةً حَتَّى حَزِنَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فِيمَا بَلَغَنَا حُزْنًا غَدَا مِنْهُ مِرَارًا كَيْ يَتَرَدَّى مِنْ رُءُوسِ شَوَاهِقِ الْجِبَالِ فَكُلَّمَا أَوْفَى بِذِرْوَةِ جَبَلٍ لِكَيْ يُلْقِيَ مِنْهُ نَفْسَهُ تَبَدَّى لَهُ جِبْرِيلُ فَقَالَ يَا مُحَمَّدُ إِنَّكَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ حَقًّا فَيَسْكُنُ لِذَلِكَ جَأْشُهُ وَتَقِرُّ نَفْسُهُ فَيَرْجِعُ

‘…then after a few days Waraqa died and the Divine Inspiration was also paused for a while and the Prophet became so sad as we have heard that he intended several times to throw himself from the tops of high mountains and every time he went up the top of a mountain in order to throw himself down, Gabriel would appear before him and say, “O Muhammad! You are indeed Allah’s Messenger in truth” whereupon his heart would become quiet and he would calm down and would return home …“ (Sahih Bukhari, Kitabul Ta’beer, Hadith 6467)

Ok. So, only a part of the hadith is indeed authentic. The hadith has its unbroken chain of trustworthy narrators, but the words about suicide are not narrated through the chain rather they are added by Zahri who is one of the narrators.

We clearly see the words:

فِيمَا بَلَغَنَا

‘As we have heard’

This testifies that the words to follow are not reported through the chain mentioned in the beginning and thus for us they are nothing more than mere ‘hearsay’.

Hafiz Ibn Hajr writes:
إِنَّ الْقَائِل فِيمَا بَلَغَنَا هُوَ الزُّهْرِيّ ، وَمَعْنَى الْكَلَام أَنَّ فِي جُمْلَة مَا وَصَلَ إِلَيْنَا مِنْ خَبَر رَسُول اللَّه صَلَّى اللَّه عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فِي هَذِهِ الْقِصَّة وَهُوَ مِنْ بَلَاغَات الزُّهْرِيّ وَلَيْسَ مَوْصُولًا

“The one who says ‘as we have heard’ (fi ma ballaghna) is Al-Zahri. And this means the sentence that has reached us [as if] from the reports about the Prophet, on whom be the peace and blessings of Allah, in this narration is from amongst the un-attributive reports of Zuhri and is not fully linked.” (Fath Al-Bari 19/449, Kitabul Ta’beer)

The narration which is not fully linked and especially the unattributable chains of Al-Zahri have been considered untrustworthy by the Masters of Hadith Sciences (Muhaddithin).

Knowing fully that being ignorant of the subtleties of the Islamic science of narration the non-Muslim readers will find it difficult to agree with the opinions of the Muslim scholars doubting such narration.

Alfred Guilluame, the well known English Arabist writes:
“A word that very frequently precedes a statement is za’ama or za’amu, ‘he (they) alleged’. It carries with it more than a hint that the statement may not be true, though on the other hand it may be sound… Another indication of reserve if not skepticism underlies the expression fi ma dhukira li, as in the story of the jinn who listened to Muhammad as he prayed…An expression of similar import is fi ma balaghani.” (The Life of Muhammad: A translation of Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah with introduction and notes by A. Guilluame Oxford University Press, Karachi, Seventeenth impression, 2004, p. xix)

Thus we find that even a Christian is agreeing that words transmitted using the expression ‘fi ma ballaghna’ are doubtful.

This is even supported by the fact that the same report is found elsewhere in Sahih Bukhari itself (Hadith 3) Sahih Muslim (Hadith 231), Mustadrik Al-Hakim (Hadith 4830), Baihaqi’s Dala’il Al-Nubuwwah (Hadith 445), Musnad Ahmad (Hadith 24681) and also as Ibn Hajr says in the works of Abu Nai’m, Isma’ili and Ibn Mardwiya and not one of them contains the words about alleged suicide attempts.

The reality that the words have reached us in an unattributable way from a person who never met the Prophet (salAllahu 'alayhi wa salam) and the fact that so many other narrations, most of them through the same person - Al-Zahri - do not make any mention of this leave us to safely conclude that there is no authentic report about the alleged attempts of suicide.

Conclusions from this:

1- The narration from Sahih Bukhari from which the issue comes is actually authentic like other Ahadith from this mostly widely acclaimed collection but the words about the alleged suicide attempts are not of the same level but rather doubtful.

2- Not only does a great classical Muslim scholar, but even a Western orientalist testifies that the words reported using the expression ‘fi ma balghni’ are indeed doubtful.

3- The same incident is reported in many other works and not one of them mentions these doubtful words, thus leaving us to conclude that the words are indeed not reliable.


So, this proves that the hadith is still authentic, the chain is unbroken, but one of the narrators added a doubtful piece of information ("as we have heard"). This does not mean in anyway that there is unauthentic hadiths in Al-Bukhari, since a "story" or "hearing from rumors" is not considered a hadith.

Hope it clarifies for further disputes, inshaAllah.

Wa Salam

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2 comments:

Q.S.I said...

JazakÁllah khairan for posting this. :)
It was at the begining of prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). And he did this out of frustration but in no way it proves that his prophet-hood is false. He was a human being and being frustrated isn't prohibited. And Jibril (A) came to him to calm him down. Would Jibril come to an ordinary man if he was frustrated? No! And Allah knows best.

Safyiah said...

@ Q.S.I

Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu 'alayhi wa salam) couldn't have these thoughts even before prophethood because this is usually seen in unbalanced people, not in the perfect example for mankind. Alhamdulilah, we have the science of hadith that can determine small inconsistencies in some hadith we come across. It is reported that the Prophet (salAllahu 'alayhi wa salam) was shaken and afraid of what happened to him when Jibril came to him for the first time. But from this point to thinking of suicide goes a long step and these rumors are totally wrong and put a stain in the Prophet's reputation and personality, so we should reject them.

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