Salamalaikum, could you please give a layperson like me an understanding of how the hadiths are classed. I see terms like sahih for Bukhari and Muslim, but then there are others that are also considered sahih but are not listed in Bukhari and Muslim. What is hasan? what is daeef(sp?)? and who determines the lesser known hadiths are sahih or hasan? Is that a majority opinion? Jazakallah khairun
Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,
Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim are simply two handbooks written for legal scholars. They bring together authentic hadiths that are useful for a legal scholar to know. They are not meant to be complete encyclopedias of hadith. All hadith scholars are qualified to determine the authenticity of hadiths. Al-Bukhari and Muslim are just better known than the others. Each hadith scholar can make their own sahih collection, for example there is Sahih Ibn Hibban.
The word ṣaḥīḥ refers to a hadith that has a good enough quality (text and chain of narrators) to be considered very likely to be truly from the Prophet PBUH.
The word ḥasan refers to a hadith that is not good enough to be considered ṣaḥīḥ (it may have some half-trustworthy transmitters), but it is considered good enough to be considered possibly authentic.
A ḍaʿīf (”weak”) hadith is one that comes from untrustworthy transmitters so it is considered likely to be false/fabricated.
Salamalaikum, I really appreciate you taking the time to answer the questions posed to you with so much in depth research (my earlier ones included). May Allah reward you. To my questions, what are the signs/indications of magic done on a person or household. And if black magic is something we Muslims believe can happen? If so, is a general dua and asking for Allah's help the prescribed remedy or are there specific surahs? Jazakallah khair
Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,
The most important hadith we have on magic is the following:
Narrated Aisha: that Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) was affected by magic, so much that he used to think that he had done something which in fact, he did not do, and he invoked his Lord (for a remedy). Then (one day) he said, "O Aisha!) Do you know that Allah has advised me as to the problem I consulted Him about?" Aisha said, "O Allah's Messenger (ﷺ)! What's that?" He said, "Two men came to me and one of them sat at my head and the other at my feet, and one of them asked his companion, 'What is wrong with this man?' The latter replied, 'He is under the effect of magic.' The former asked, 'Who has worked magic on him?' The latter replied, 'Labid bin Al-A'sam.' The former asked, 'With what did he work the magic?' The latter replied, 'With a comb and the hair, which are stuck to the comb, and the skin of pollen of a date-palm tree.' The former asked, 'Where is that?' The latter replied, 'It is in Dharwan.' Dharwan was a well in the dwelling place of the (tribe of) Bani Zuraiq. Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) went to that well and returned to Aisha, saying, 'By Allah, the water (of the well) was as red as the infusion of Hinna, (1) and the date-palm trees look like the heads of devils.' Aisha added, Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) came to me and informed me about the well. I asked the Prophet, 'O Allah's Messenger (ﷺ), why didn't you take out the skin of pollen?' He said, 'As for me, Allah has cured me and I hated to draw the attention of the people to such evil (which they might learn and harm others with).' " Narrated Hisham's father: Aisha said, "Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) was bewitched, so he invoked Allah repeatedly requesting Him to cure him from that magic)." Hisham then narrated the above narration. (See Hadith No. 658, Vol. 7)
Sahih al-Bukhari 6391
I conducted a study of all existing versions of this hadith. Below is a diagram of the result:
The result is that this hadith has a 28.3% chance of authenticity which makes it fall between ḥasan and ṣaḥīḥ (ṣaḥīḥ starts at 30%) according to my methodology (which I discuss here). So this hadith has a high chance of being true and authentic, although it is far below 85% which is necessary to establish a hadith beyond doubt (making it mutawātir or widely-transmitted).
So my personal opinion is that this hadith is not strong enough to worry about (too much). But it is strong enough to convince us not to completely discard the possibility that magic may befall a person in this way.
The Quran also alludes to the possibility of being harmed by magic in chapter 113:
1. Say, “I take refuge with the Lord of Daybreak.
2. From the evil of what He created.
3. And from the evil of the darkness as it gathers.
4. And from the evil of those who practice sorcery (literally "those who blow on knots.")
5. And from the evil of an envious one when he envies."
As for signs that show that someone has been harmed by magic–I have not been able to find any hadiths that mention it. Muslims should always seek medical help for their illnesses since we can never be sure that an illness has a mystical or natural basis, and since we have no guidance on how to distinguish between the two, and since we do not have many hadiths or Quranic verses about it, this tells us that magic is not something we should worry about as an everyday thing.
As for protection, the best thing would be to recite the Quran daily and strive to be a good Muslim in order to enjoy God’s protection from all harms.
Islam’s hadith literature (reports about the actions and sayings of the Prophet PBUH) is one of the most problematic aspects of the religion due to the issues concerning the reliability of transmitters. How do we know if a report going back six or seven generations to the Prophet PBUH truly and accurately reports what the Prophet PBUH said or did?
So far the science of hadith has largely limited itself to verifying the authenticity of hadiths by verifying the trustworthiness of each person in a hadith’s chain of narrators. If all the transmitters are trustworthy, the assumption is that the hadith is ṣaḥīḥ (“authentic” or “sound”) unless the hadith reports things that are clearly false or contradictory to other hadith narrations. The problem is that a hadith scholar’s own beliefs and biases can strongly affect whether they consider a strange and rare hadith to be authentic or not. A good example is the following hadith in Imām al-Bukhārīʾs collection:
Narrated Abu 'Amir or Abu Malik Al-Ash'ari that he heard the Prophet (ﷺ) saying, "From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, khazz (a type of clothing), the wearing of silk, the drinking of alcoholic drinks and the use of musical instruments, as lawful. And there will be some people who will stay near the side of a mountain and in the evening their shepherd will come to them with their sheep and ask them for something, but they will say to him, 'Return to us tomorrow.' Allah will destroy them during the night and will let the mountain fall on them, and He will transform the rest of them into monkeys and pigs and they will remain so till the Day of Resurrection."
(Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5590)
A non-scholar who reads this hadith will be greatly troubled by the implication that the use of musical instruments is a characteristic of misguided and impious Muslims. And since the hadith is authentic and present in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, they will face the difficult choice of either believing musical instruments (and hence all music) to be forbidden in Islam, or ignoring the hadith and going with the commonsense and widespread Muslim belief that music is permissible in Islam.
By introducing probability theory into the science of hadith, we gain an extremely powerful tool that enables us to judge just how seriously we should take any particular hadith. This is especially useful in the case of hadiths that seem to be contradicted by other hadiths. For example on the issue of musical instruments we have the following hadith:
Abu Bakr came to my house while two small Ansari girls were singing beside me the stories of the Ansar concerning the Day of Buath. And they were not singers. Abu Bakr said protestingly, "Musical instruments of Satan in the house of Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) !" It happened on the `Id day and Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "O Abu Bakr! There is an `Id for every nation and this is our `Id."
Sahih al-Bukhari 952
An authentic version of this hadith (Sahih Muslim 892 b) tells us that the girls were using the instrument daff (“tambourine”). So here we have the Prophet PBUH approving of the use of musical instruments in his own home, yet the other hadith implies that musical instruments are wicked and unlawful.
Probabilistic hadith criticism helps solve the dilemma of having to choose between two hadiths that are both judged authentic by hadith scholars by telling us which one is stronger.
As it happens, the hadith mentioning the Prophet’s approval of musical instruments is far more “authentic” and believable than the hadith in which he disapproves of them.
In this essay I will use these hadiths on music as an illustration of the probabilistic hadith verification method.
Gathering the hadiths approving of music
The first step in hadith verification is to gather all existing versions of a hadith and their chains and to draw a diagram representing all of its transmitters. Below is a diagram of the version of the “two singing girls” hadiths found in Sahih al-Bukhari:
The blue box is the hadith, and the gray boxes are its transmitters. The first transmitter is Aisha, may God be pleased with her, wife of the Prophet PBUH. The second transmitter is Urwa b. al-Zubayr, her nephew. The third transmitter is Urwa’s son Hisham. The the fourth transmitter is the highly respected hadith scholar Hammad b. Usama b. Zayd. The fifth transmitter is Ubayd b. Ismail, a respected hadith transmitter. This transmitter gave the hadith to Imam al-Bukhari who recorded it.
The second version of the hadith is also in Sahih al-Bukhari:
That once Abu Bakr came to her on the day of `Id-ul-Fitr or `Id ul Adha while the Prophet (ﷺ) was with her and there were two girl singers with her, singing songs of the Ansar about the day of Buath. Abu Bakr said twice. "Musical instrument of Satan!" But the Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Leave them Abu Bakr, for every nation has an `Id (i.e. festival) and this day is our `Id."
Sahih al-Bukhari 3931
Below is a diagram of this hadith’s chain:
You may note that the first three transmitters are the same as those of the previous hadith. So we can join their diagrams into one as follows:
Next is the chain found in Sahih Muslim 892 a:
This chain is exactly the same as the al-Bukhari’s first chain except for the last transmitter. We can therefore join it with the rest as follows:
We now therefore have three chains going back to the same hadith. Imam Muslim mentions two additional chains which we add to the diagram as follows:
We now move on to other collections that mention the same hadith. The first one is a version mentioned in Abu Uwaana’s Mustakhraj, which we add to the diagram as follows:
I have indicated the new chain in green. After further research, I was able to discover a further chain in Sahih al-Bukhari as indicated below:
Al-Bukhari mentions an alternative version of this new chain as indicated below:
The scholar Abu Uwana adds two of his own supporting chains to this version as follows:
We now have a fairly complete picture of all of the different chains of this hadith.
Adding the probabilities
To understand this section, some previous knowledge of probability theory will likely be required.
In order to start, we have to agree on an important assumption. How trustworthy is a single transmitter? This is a matter of intuition. After trying out various probabilities, I have settled on the value of 60%. This means that each trustworthy transmitter in a chain has a 60% chance of truthfully and correctly transmitting the hadith they transmit. This may seem low, but it actually works very well to represent the issues inherent in hadith transmitter verification.
According to probability theory, if you have a witness with 60% probability of truthfulness saying something, and then a second witness also with 60% probability of truthfulness comes along and says the same thing, the probability of both of them saying the truth increases, since we have two witnesses saying the same thing. We calculate this increase by multiplying the falsehood probabilities of the two persons as follows:
Person 1: 60% chance of truth = 40% chance of falsehood
Person 2: 60% chance of truth = 40% chance of falsehood
The chance of falsehood for both = 40% * 40% = 16%
The chance of truth of both = 100% - the chance of falsehood = 100% - 16% = 84%
Below is a diagram of an imaginary chain that represents these facts:
We have two people each of whom say that the Prophet PBUH said something. Each of them has a 60% probability of truthfulness and accuracy, but the two of them together have a 84% probability of truthfulness and accuracy, so the above imaginary hadith has an 84% chance of truthfulness and accuracy.
As we add more transmitters, the probability continually goes up:
Now we have four supporting witnesses, so their probability of truthfulness can be calculated as follows:
What this means is that if you have four Companions transmit the same hadith from the Prophet PBUH, the chance of the hadith being truly and correctly transmitted is 97.44%, which is a very high chance.
In probability theory 1 represents 100% and 0 represents 0. So another way of doing the above calculation is as follows:
0.4 * 0.4 * 0.4 * 0.4 = 0.0256
1 - 0.0256 = 0.9744
The benefits of the 60% assumption will become clear as we go through the verification process of the chains we gathered earlier. We will first deal with the top part of the diagram, which is as follows:
First, we will fill in the original 60% assumption by writing 0.6 in each bubble:
We do not add the 0.6 to the bubbles on the far right because those are written books, so they virtually have a 100% chance of reliability. What concerns us are unwritten, oral transmissions. The first step is to combine the three middle transmitters’ probabilities vertically, as follows:
Above, each of the three transmitters has a 100% – 60%, or 40% likelihood of falsely transmitting the hadith. But in order to get the probability of all of them falsely transmitting the hadith at the same time, we have to multiply these chances together: 40% * 40% * 40% = 6.4%. So the chance of all of them having falsely transmitted the hadith is only 6.4%, meaning that there is a 93.6% chance of them having truly and accurately transmitted this hadith.
We will call this “vertical combination”. We vertically combine all of the probabilities of the truthfulness and accuracy of the transmitters to get a single number, in this case 93.6%, which represents the authenticity of all them combined together.
We next have to do a horizontal combination. All three transmitters transmit the hadith from Hammad b. Usama, who also has a 0.6 (60%) chance of authenticity.
In the case of horizontal combination, rather than multiplying falsehood probabilities, we multiply truth probabilities. The reason is that as information passes down through a chain of transmitters each of whom have a 60% chance of authenticity, the chance of the information being correctly passed down decreases. There is more chance for error and fabrication. If you hear a Companion say that the Prophet PBUH said something, that is far more trustworthy than another person saying they heard their father say that their grandfather said that a Companion said that the Prophet PBUH said that.
So we multiply 0.93 by 0.6 to get 0.558, which means 55.8%. We now update the bubble for Hammad b. Usama to represent this new probability:
Hammad b. Usama’s probability went down from 0.6 to 0.558 because we did not hear the hadith directly from him, but from three people who claim to have heard him. Since those three people have a combined probability of 93% truthfulness and accuracy (rather than 100%), this slightly decreases the probability of the truthfulness and accuracy of the information we get from Hammad b. Usama.
We now move on to al-Bukhari’s second chain, which is as follows:
Using horizontal combination:
0.6 * 0.6 * 0.6 = 0.216
So this second chain has only a 21.6% probability of truthfulness and accuracy. The reason is that we do not have any supporting transmitters. We only have Muhammad b. al-Muthanna’s word for it that Muhammad b. Jaafar said that, and we only have Muhammad b. Jaafar’s word for it that Shu`ba said that. The deeper a chain goes back in time, the lower its probability of authenticity and accuracy becomes.
We next deal with two chains from Sahih Muslim:
Using vertical combination for the middle transmitters, we get a probability of 0.84 or 84%. Multiplying that by 0.6, we get 0.504, meaning that Abu Mu`awiyah has a 50.4% probability of authenticity.
Next we have the more interesting task of combining all the chains we examined above. We have to vertically combine the probabilities of Hammad (0.558), Shu`ba (0.216) and Abu Mu`awiyah (0.504):
So the probability of the truth of the information coming from these three transmitters is 82.8%.
Now we horizontally combine this with Hisham b. Urwa’s 0.6 probability, resulting in 0.496873267
We repeat these same steps for the remaining chains, as follows:
And by vertically combining the left-most probabilities (Hisham b. Urwa’s 49.68% and Muhammad b. Abd al-Rahman’s 21.04%), we get 0.602766552, so the information has a 60.27% probability of authenticity at this stage.
We next multiply this 0.602766552 by Urwa b. al-Zubayr’s 0.6 (horizontal combination), resulting in 0.361659931.
In the final step, we multiply this result by Aisha’s 0.6:
The result is 0.216995959. This means that the hadith with all of its chains has a 21.69% chance of authenticity and accuracy. This seems very low, but it is natural for a hadith that comes from a single Companion, through a single transmitter.
In my methodology, a hadith that reaches 20% or higher is ḥasan, a hadith that reaches 30% or higher is ṣaḥīḥ, a hadith that reaches 60% or higher is ṣaḥīḥ al-ṣaḥīḥ (a degree above ṣaḥīḥ), and a hadith that reaches 85% or higher is mutawātir (“widely transmitted”, a degree above ṣaḥīḥ al-ṣaḥīḥ).
Different scholars may prefer different probabilities for what they consider ḥasan or higher. Personally these are the numbers I have settled on that my heart is comfortable with and accepts.
The hadith disapproving of music
We now move on to Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5590, the hadith that says misguided Muslims will approve of musical instruments. Below is a diagram of the hadith’s chain:
The hadith comes from a single chain that does not branch out, meaning it is an extremely questionable chain, which I call a “precarious” chain. To calculate its probability of authenticity, we horizontally combine all the 0.6 probabilities as follows:
Probability of truth = 0.6 * 0.6 * 0.6 *0.6 *0.6 *0.6 = 0.046656
This hadith therefore has a 4.66% chance of authenticity, which is extremely low. In my methodology a hadith between 10% and 20% is munkar (strange and likely to be false), while a hadith below 10% is ḍaʿīf (“weak”, i.e. almost certainly false). As discussed in another article, there is another reason to consider this hadith false: it says misguided Muslims will consider khazz (a type of clothing) lawful. But we know 20 Companions of the Prophet PBUH wore this type of clothing, so this makes the hadith even more dubious.
So this hadith in which the Prophet PBUH says misguided Muslims will consider musical instruments lawful has only a 4.66% chance of authenticity, while the hadith in which the Prophet PBUH approves of musical instruments has a 21.69% chance of authenticity. Thus the hadith in which the Prophet PBUH approves of musical instruments is 4.6 times stronger than the hadith in which he disapproves of them (21.69 ÷ 4.66 = 4.65).
Based on this, we can confidently say that the evidence in support of the lawfulness of musical instruments is far stronger. Therefore approval of musical instruments is a vastly better representation of the Prophet’s sunna (tradition) than disapproval of them.
Defending the assumptions
The assumption that each transmitter has a 60% chance of accurately and truthfully transmitting the information needs to be defended. This assumption makes most ṣaḥīḥ narrations get an authenticity around 30%. If we treat these numbers empirically, it would mean that most authentic narrations are more likely to be false than true. For this reason I have chosen to treat all hadiths that reach 30% or higher as ṣaḥīḥ / authentic despite the fact that empirically they fall beneath the truth threshold of 50%.
My reasoning is that by choosing these assumptions, we create an interface between the empirical research world and the classical hadith studies world. A non-Muslim scholar may choose the 30% verdict on an authentic narration as a cause for skepticism, while a Muslim scholar can continue to make use of probability theory while adopting the traditional view of considering individual, low-truth-probability hadiths as authentic.
Another reason for the 60% assumption is that it gives us a very wide range of results. Some hadiths will reach close to 100%, many others will hover between 50% and 20%. This allows for representing a scholar’s empirical intuitions about these transmitted pieces of information, while also allowing them to remain in the classical hadith criticism world if they wish by choosing lower numbers, such as 30%, to represent full authenticity.
The study of Islam works on the basis of the autonomous consensus of the researchers, a concept I have defended elsewhere.1 Therefore introducing probability theory into hadith criticism will require the involvement of many researchers until a consensus emerges on the best assumptions to be chosen. Therefore my assumptions in this article are merely preliminary suggestions intended to illustrate what a probabilistic study of hadith would look like.
Combining probability theory and hadith criticism can greatly help in resolving issues surrounding contradictory hadith narrations by making it clear which hadiths are superior to which ones. It would be extremely helpful if we could build a new hadith collection that shows the probability of authenticity of each hadith rather than merely saying whether it is authentic or not. But such a work would require many years of work.
There is also the issue of sub-par transmitters. While I have chosen a probability 60% for reliable transmitters, for transmitters who are mudallis, non-qawī, non-ḥujja, or considered weak by some scholars and not others, lower probabilities will have to be used where necessary.
There are also different levels of weak transmitters. Some are considered weak for ideological reasons (because they held beliefs that hadith scholars considered unacceptable), while others are considered weak because they were caught lying or fabricating hadiths. Different probabilities will have to be used for different levels of weakness.
Further applications of the probabilistic method
Below is a list of studies I have conducted on certain topics of hadith criticism where I use the methodology developed in this article:
I looked into Paradise and I saw that the most of its people were the poor; and I looked into the Fire and I saw that most of its people were women.
Sahih al-Bukhari 3241
Note that this hadith does not actually say that the majority of women in Hell are women. It may just mean that the part of Hell that the Prophet PBUH was shown contained many women. None of the versions of the hadith say “the majority of people in Hell are women”. They all mention that when the Prophet saw Hell, he saw that the majority of the people (of the part he saw) were women. It is clear that the Prophet PBUH interpreted this vision as meaning that the majority are women. But since nothing in the Quran or hadith tells us that explicitly, we may consider it to be the Prophet’s own personal conclusion from what he saw.
Various versions of this statement are to be found in all of major hadith collections. I decided to conduct a study of all existing authentic versions of this hadith to find out just how reliable they are.
Below is the version from the Companion ʿImrān b. Ḥuṣayn [ra]:
All of the versions come through the single transmitter Abū Rajāʾ.
Next are the versions coming from the Companion Ibn Abbas [ra]:
The strongest chain comes again through the aforementioned transmitter Abū Rajāʾ. There is however an additional chain (the top one) coming through ʿAṭāʾ b. Yasār, through Zayd b. Aslam.
Next are the other chains coming from four other Companions:
None of these latter four chains are very strong because each comes through a single transmitter, through another single transmitter, before other witnesses come along.
In order to prove a point with reasonable certainty, a hadith should come from a binary tree chain, as follows:
The current hadith falls short of this standard as follows, with the red boxes indicating missing transmitters:
Besides the missing transmitters, the hadith also has the issue of having a duplicate witness (the yellow boxes). So in reality we only have two transmitters’ words for it that the two Companions said that.
However, the four additional chains are supporting evidence in favor of the hadith and cannot be ignored. Using a hadith verification methodology I have developed that uses probability theory to combine the reliability of each transmitter and chain to reach a single number that represents the chance of the hadith being true (see my essay about it), we perform the following calculation to combine all of the probabilities:
So the verdict is that this hadith has a 73.12% probability of being truly from the Prophet PBUH, which is a very high probability for a hadith. In my highly stringent verification methodology, a hadith that reaches 60% or higher is ṣaḥīḥ al-ṣaḥīḥ (a degree above ṣaḥīḥ)
In conclusion, the Prophet PBUH almost certainly said that the majority of the people he saw in Hell were women. Whether this really means the majority are women, or whether only the part that he saw had a lot of women, we cannot say. So the hadith should not be used to imply that women are less pious or more evil than men.
Qadar (divine predestination) is one of the most controversial issues in Islam. Muslim thinkers are generally divided into two groups on this issue. There are the rationalists and semi-rationalists like the Matūrīdīs, Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya and most mainstream intellectuals who try to make room for human choice and free will and do their best to avoid asserting fatalism. Fatalism is the belief that all of humanity is divided into believers and disbelievers from birth–we have absolutely no choice but to live out the lives that are predestined for us even before we were conceived. According to fatalism, whether your destination is Paradise or Hell is something decided by God before your birth and you have absolutely no choice in the matter.
While most mainstream thinkers try to avoid fatalism, its most ardent defenders are the scholars of hadith, who believe that fatalism is proven through numerous narrations and that doubting it is disbelief. While we can believe in qadar (predestination) with or without fatalism, hadith scholars say we must only believe in the fatalistic interpretation of qadar.
The issue is very important because if humanity was really created in a fatalistic manner, it would make the creation of humanity sound rather useless and pointless. Humans would already be divided into the dwellers of Paradise and Hell from before birth and they would have no choice but to end up there. How could any just, wise and sensible God create such a system? Believing that you might end up in Hell because it is “decreed” for you even if you are a believer now (as some hadiths say) leads to a rather depressing and hopeless worldview and has nothing to do with the worldview of the Quran.
Qadar can be interpreted in two ways: the first way is that God decides everything that befalls you without forcing you to choose between good and evil, so that you can choose between a good or evil destiny even if you have no control over what befalls you in life. This is what orthodox rationalists like the Maturīdīs say. The second way to interpret qadar is to say that it means, besides controlling what befalls you, God also controls your choices. You have no choice in whether you end up in Paradise or Hell–it was decreed for you even before birth. This is what the fatalist hadith scholars believe. Which view of qadar is to be preferred?
So far the argument between the rationalists and the fatalists has failed to progress because neither side engages with the other on the other’s terms. The rationalists use rational and Quranic evidence to argue that fatalism is unjustified and senseless–God must give us some choice in the matter of our destiny. The hadith scholars wholly reject rational arguments and say that since hadith “proves” fatalism, there is no room for rational argumentation. The rationalists have often had little interest in or knowledge of hadith and have merely resorted to stating that the Quran and rational arguments should be given preference.
In this essay I will perform the unique task of engaging with the issue of fatalism and free will using the hadith scholars’ own terms and methods. I decided that this study was necessary because I am working on synthesizing Matūrīdī theology with Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya’s theology in order to reconcile free will and predestination in an orthodox and coherent manner. But the biggest hurdle I have faced in this task are the fatalistic hadith narrations that seem to contradict divine justice and wisdom and that make it impossible to build a satisfactory and complete Islamic theological theory.
As I will show in this essay, despite what hadith scholars believe, the evidence for fatalism is not really that strong. In fact, one major characteristic that becomes clear throughout this study is the unusual level of weakness and doubtfulness associated with most fatalistic narrations, which in itself is a strong argument against fatalism. If fatalism was such a crucial aspect of Islam, why did the Prophet PBUH fail to clearly state it enough times for us to get just one single hadith that is corroborated by four or more Companions? In fact, even if lower our standard to requiring only two Companions’ witnessing to a fatalistic hadith coming through two transmitters and so on, we have no hadiths that reach even this level.
Ideally we should have four or more Companions narrate the same hadith (each through four transmitters and so on) in order to prove a point beyond doubt in theology. Singular (aḥād) narrations that come only from one or two Companions do not prove anything beyond doubt when it comes to matters of uṣūl (fundamentals). It is perfectly fine to accept a narration from a single Companion on secondary (furūʿ) matters, such as the Prophetic way to use the miswāk (a type of toothbrush made from an Arabian tree). But when it comes to crucial matters that completely change the nature of our religion, we should require a much higher standard of evidence. Islam requires four witnesses to prove a case of fornication. Shouldn’t we at least require the same standard of evidence on crucial issues of our faith? This is especially necessary when hadiths conflict with the Quran, reason and with other narrations that support the opposing case.
I have based this study mainly on Kitāb al-Qaḍāʾ wa-l-Qadar (The Book of Predestination) by the hadith scholar Imam al-Bayhaqī (d. 1066 CE), may God have mercy on him. This book tries to bring together all existing hadith narrations on the issue of qadar and tries to prove fatalism in the strongest terms. I only dealt with hadiths that are authentic or may be considered to have a chance of authenticity, or may be of doubtful authenticity. I have skipped the ones that are judged by most hadith scholars to be fabricated and unauthentic since there is no point in dealing with them.
To find additional evidence for and against fatalism, I have surveyed the entirety of the two volumes of Ṣaḥīḥ Jāmiʿ al-Ṣaghīr wa-Ziyādatuh by Imam Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Albānī (d. 1999, may God have mercy on him). This book attempts to bring together almost all existing authentic Prophetic statements from the hadith literature from dozens of sources. It is a good resource for finding Prophetic information on any chosen topic.
I did not merely do a keyword search for words having to do with qadar since many Prophetic statements on qadar do not actually mention the word or anything close to it. It was therefore necessary to read the entire book.
As will be shown below, there is only one wholly authentic narration that comes from multiple Companions that affirms fatalism (that humans are divided into believers and disbelievers before birth and their fate never changes). There are also three other narrations, each coming from a single Companion, that affirm fatalism.
As mentioned, we must require four Companions’ hadiths to prove theological points. However, since the three-Companion hadith is the most significant fatalistic hadith in existence, I will deal it with specifically.
I will mention Anas’s version since all three Companions’ hadiths agree on its meaning:
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "At every womb Allah appoints an angel who says, 'O Lord! A drop of semen, O Lord! A clot. O Lord! A little lump of flesh." Then if Allah wishes (to complete) its creation, the angel asks, (O Lord!) Will it be a male or female, a wretched or a blessed, and how much will his provision be? And what will his age be?' So all that is written while the child is still in the mother's womb."
Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 318
This hadith is fatalistic because it implies that wretchedness and blessedness in the afterlife is decided for the person from their mother’s womb. This hadith is actually not very well-attested. Here is a diagram of the narrations coming from Anas:
The hadith only comes through Ḥammād b. Zayd, through ʿUbaydallāh, so we have to trust that these individuals correctly understood and transmitted the hadith. Thus we have no second opinion on Anas having said this. And here is a diagram of the narrations from Ibn Masʿūd:
This hadith too comes only through single individuals; al-Aʿmash, through Zayd b. Wahb. The other attesting chains of Salama b. Kuhayl and Abū Ṭufayl are not fully reliable and can be ignored. The version from the third Companion Ḥudhayfa b. Usayd is as follows (right to left):
It comes only through Abū al-Ṭufayl through various badly-attested chains.
This is the most important fatalistic hadith. In order to accept it, we have to trust that Ibn Masʿūd correctly understood the Prophet PBUH, that Zayd b. Wahb correctly understood Ibn Masʿūd, and that al-Aʿmash correctly understood Zayd. The same applies to the other Companions’ hadiths. This is an extremely precarious structure to rely on for something so important, especially something that is not found in the Quran and that appears to contradict its wisdom and plain meaning.
Another reason to doubt it is that we have a non-fatalistic version of the hadith coming from Ḥudhayfa b. Usayd, from an authentic chain except for one individual who is trusted by some and not others (Abū al-Zubayr al-Makkī):
ʿĀmir b. Wāthila said that he heard 'Abdullah b. Mas'ud say that wretched one is the one who is wretched in the womb of his mother and the happy one is he who takes a lesson from the (fate of) others. The narrator came to a person from amongst the Companions of Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) who was called Ḥudhayfa b. Usayd al-Ghifārī and said: How can a person be an evil one without (committing an evil) deed? Thereupon the person said to him: You are surprised at this, whereas I have heard Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: When forty-two nights pass after the semen gets into the womb, Allah sends the angel and gives him shape. Then he creates his sense of hearing, sense of sight, his skin, his flesh, his bones, and then says: My Lord, would he be male or female? And your Lord decides as He desires and the angel then puts down that also and then says: My Lord, what about his age? And your Lord decides as He likes it and the angel puts it down. Then he says: My Lord, what about his livelihood? And then the Lord decides as He likes and the angel writes it down, and then the angel gets out with his scroll of destiny in his hand and nothing is added to it and nothing is subtracted from it.
Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2645 a
Notice that above, it is Ibn Masʿūd himself who makes the fatalistic statement. The actual Prophetic hadith narrated by Ḥudhayfa b. Usayd completely lacks all fatalism. It merely says that a person’s death-timing, livelihood and sex is determined in the womb. There is no mention of a person’s deeds or fate in the afterlife being written there.
Ibn Masʿūd himself appears to have been a fatalist. His statement that people are differentiated into Hell-dwellers and Paradise-dwellers from the womb is attested from authentic chains. It seems quite possible that Ibn Masʿūd’s opinion became mixed up with the content of the Prophetic statement so that Ibn Masʿūd’s fatalistic interpretation of it became a part of it in people’s minds. Later people may have “corrected” the hadith by adding the fatalism to it that seemed obvious to them. We can therefore conclude that the hadith in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2645 a is likely to be the original and authentic version.
The fatalistic narrations are countered by an authentic narration that affirms the changeability of qadar, thus wholly contradicting fatalism. There are also a number of other authentic narrations that only make sense if the world is not fatalistic but dynamic and changeable.
What we have, therefore, are a number of authentic narrations and the entirety of the Quran, all of which go against fatalism, and a few other narrations that assert fatalism, the most important of which is not worth relying on in this matter since it is refuted by another version of itself that lacks fatalism. If the fatalistic version had come through four Companions, each of whom said it to four trustworthy people, and so on until it reached us, we would have had no choice but to consider it true. But as it is, it seems justified to prefer the Quran and the non-fatalistic version to it.
The correct and just attitude, therefore, is to acknowledge the inconclusive and contradictory nature of the hadith evidence and to acknowledge that many different interpretations are possible. The hadith scholars’ insistence on fatalism seems unjustified.
Since our sense of justice and wisdom is repulsed by fatalism, and since it demolishes much of the beauty and sense of the Quran’s statements, I think we are justified in taking the below hadith’s advice regarding this issue by doubting fatalism and considering the non-fatalistic interpretation of qadar of scholars like Ibn Taymiyya to be the likely correct one.
Narrated by the Companions Abū Ḥumayd and Abū Usayd:
If you hear hadith from me and your heart knows it, and your feelings and good cheer lean toward it, and you consider it close to you, then I am closer to it than you. And if you hear hadith from me hadith that your hearts do not know, and your feelings and good cheer are repulsed by it, and you consider it distant from you, then I am more distant from it than you.
Musnad Aḥmad 15808, a very similar version is considered hasan by al-Albānī
The above hadith comes from wholly trusted and reliable transmitters.
We are in charge of whether we will be happy or wretched in the afterlife through choosing to accept God’s guidance or rejecting His guidance. As the Quran states, all humans attested to God’s oneness before they were born:
And when Your Lord summoned the descendants of Adam, and made them testify about themselves. “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we testify.” Thus you cannot say on the Day of Resurrection, “We were unaware of this.”
The Quran, verse 7:172
This is the fiṭra (pristine original state of humanity) that all humans are born with, as the following hadith affirms:
Every child is born on the fiṭra but his parents convert him to Judaism, Christianity or Magainism...
Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 1359, a similar version in Ṣaḥīh Muslim 2658 d
All human souls attested to God’s oneness before they were born, and they are born in that state, ready to either become believers or disbelievers as they age. God guides them to Himself through various means throughout life until they become convinced of the truth of His prophets:
We will show them Our signs on the horizons, and in their very souls, until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. Is it not sufficient that your Lord is witness over everything?
The Quran, verse 41:53
Once they reach that conviction, they either choose guidance and God increases them in guidance and rewards them with Paradise, or they constantly choose disbelief and God causes them to be misguided and rewards them with Hell. This is the picture that the Quran and numerous hadiths draw for us and it is preferable to the fatalistic understanding of Islam that implies that people are needlessly thrown into Paradise or Hell without having any say in the matter.
I have used most existing books on the criticism of hadith transmitters in judging the trustworthiness of a transmitter. However, I have been more strict in my judgments than is typical of hadith scholars. If 10 scholars consider someone trustworthy but two respected ones consider them weak, then I have gone with the weak judgment. I have also seriously taken into account the statements of scholars that a person is trustworthy but cannot be relied on in legal judgments.
My strictness seems justified because when it comes to such a crucial and fundamental matter, it seems only right to only trust the transmitters with impeccable or nearly-impeccable reputations.
Fatalistic Hadith Narrations
There are so many fatalistic hadiths in this section that, from the face of it, it appears that they prove fatalism. But the section against fatalism later will also be supported by numerous hadiths.
Narrated Abū Hurayra:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Moses argued with Adam and said to him (Adam), 'You are the one who got the people out of Paradise by your sin, and thus made them miserable." Adam replied, 'O Moses! You are the one whom Allah selected for His Message and for His direct talk. Yet you blame me for a thing which Allah had ordained for me before He created me?" Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) further said, "So Adam overcame Moses by this Argument."
Sahih al-Bukhari Vol. 6, Book 60, Hadith 262
This hadith comes from a single Companion. It does not have to be interpreted fatalistically; perhaps Adam was specially destined to make his error. That does not prove the same applies to all human choices. There is a weaker version of this hadith from ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb.
The following narration is from ʿAlī b. Abū Ṭālib:
We were accompanying a funeral procession in Baqi Al-Gharqad (graveyard in Al-Madinah) when the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) proceeded towards us and sat down. We sat around him. He had a small stick in his hand. He was bending down his head and scraping the ground with the stick. He said, "There is none among you but has a place assigned for him either in Paradise or in Hell." The Companions said: "O Messenger of Allah, should we not depend upon what has been written for us (and give up doing good deeds)?'' The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, "Carry on doing good deeds. Every one will find it easy to do such deeds (as will lead him to his destined place) for which he has been created."
Al-Bukhari and Muslim, mentioned in Riyad as-Salihin Book 7, Hadith 945
This hadith only comes from ʿAlī. As other narrations will show later, even if someone is destined for Paradise or Hell, that does not mean this destiny cannot change. Therefore even if our place in Paradise or Hell is decided right now, if we choose to be good or evil later on, that place may change. This hadith therefore does not necessarily imply fatalism.
The next hadith is from ʿImrān b. Ḥuṣayn:
Has there been drawn a distinction between the people of Paradise and the denizens of hell? [The Prophet PBUH] said: Yes. It was again said: (If it is so), then what is the use of doing good deeds? Thereupon he said: Everyone is facilitated in what has been created for him.
Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2649 a
This hadith, despite being in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim (a shorter version is also in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 7551) has Yazīd b. Shurayk al-Ẓubbaʿī in all of its chains of transmitters, who was considered weak by Yaḥyā b. Muʿīn according to Ibn ʿUlayya and as being below the degree of authenticity by Abū Aḥmad al-Ḥākim. Below is a diagram of all existing chains of this hadith:
This hadith only comes from one Companion through a precarious chain. We have to take Muʿtarrif b. ʿAbdallah’s word for it that ʿImrān b. Ḥuṣayn really said that, and we have to take Yazīd b. Shurayk al-Ẓubbaʿī’s word for it that Muʿtarrif b. ʿAbdallah said that.
The Prophet PBUH said: "There is not a soul except that God has written for it its entrance and exit and what he will face." So a man from al-Ansar said: "So what is the purpose of deeds O Messenger of God?" He said, "Do [good] deeds for each person is eased [toward their destiny]. Whoever is of the people of Paradise is eased toward the deeds of its people, and whoever is of the people of Hell is eased toward the deeds of its people." So the man from al-Ansar said, "Now deeds have become obligatory [i.e. now the truth of the need to do good deeds has been shown]."
Al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 39
This hadith has Aḥmad b. Rusta in its chain, who is unknown.
We were told about this religion of ours as if had been created for it this hour. "Do we work for something whose measures/predestination has come to be and from which the pens have dried, or do we [work for] something to be looked forward to [in the future]?" [the Prophet PBUH] said, "No, rather for something that whose measure/predestination has come to be and from which the pens have dried." He said, "So what are deeds for?" He said, "Do good deeds, because everyone is eased toward that which he has been created for." Then he recited the verse, "As for him who gives, fears God and affirms the truth of the good..." to the end of the verse.
Al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 40
This hadith has Abū al-Zubayr Muḥammad b. Muslim in its chain, who is considered a non-hujja by Abū Ḥatim al-Rāzī, meaning his hadiths are not reliable enough to be used as proof-texts in legal debates. Sufyān b. ʿUyayna also appears to consider him weak.
Al-Bayhaqī in al-Qadar 390 mentions a similar narration that has ʿAṭṭāf b. Khālid in its chain who is considered weak by al-Dāraquṭnī. It also has an unknown person in its chain called Ṭalḥa b. ʿAbdallah b. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān. It also has Muḥammad b. Aḥmad b. Saʿīd al-Rāzī who is unknown and considered weak by al-Dāraquṭnī.
Next is the following strange hadith from ʿAbdallah b. ʿAmr:
The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) came out to us with two books in hand. And he said: "Do you know what these two books are?" We said: "No, O Messenger of Allah! Unless you inform us." He said about the one that was in his right hand: "This is a book from the Lord of the worlds, in it are the names of the people of Paradise, and the name of their fathers and their tribes. Then there is a summary at the end of them, there being no addition to them nor deduction from them forever." Then he said about the one that was in his left: "This is a book from the Lord of the worlds, in it are the names of the people of Fire, and the name of their fathers and their tribes. Then there is a summary at the end of them, there being no addition to them nor deduction from them forever.' The companions said: 'So why work O Messenger of Allah! Since the matter is already decided (and over)?' He said: 'Seek to do what is right and draw nearer, for indeed the inhabitant of Paradise, shall have his work sealed off with the deeds of the people of Paradise, whichever deeds he did. And indeed the inhabitant of Fire, shall have his work sealed off with the deeds of the people of Fire, whichever deeds he did.' Then the Messenger of Allah motioned with his hands, casting them down and said: 'Your Lord finished with the slaves, a group in Paradise, and a group in the Blazing Fire."
Al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 41, Al-Tirmidhī Vol. 4, Book 6, Hadith 2141
This hadith has Abū Qābil Ḥuyay b. Hāniʾ in its chain who is considered weak by multiple scholars. Another version comes from Saʿīd b. Sinān who is also weak.
I entered upon ʿAbdallah b. ʿAmr b. al-ʿĀṣ while he was in a garden of his in al-Ṭāʾif, so he mentioned a long hadith. He said, "And I heard the Prophet PBUH say, 'God, Mighty and High is He, created His creation in darkness. Then He threw on them from His light. So whoever was struck by any of that light then he is guided. And whoever it missed became misguided. So that is why I said, 'The pen has dried upon God's knowledge.'"
Al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 43
This hadith comes entirely from trustworthy transmitters, but it comes only from one Companion, through a single transmitter ʿAbdullah b. Fayrūz al-Daylamī. In another hadith from the same transmitter as above, this same Companion denies that he has said a person is either wretched or blessed from his mother’s womb:
I said to ʿAbdallah b. ʿAmr that I have heard you say that a person is wretched who is wretched from his mothers womb. He said, "I do not allow anyone to make up lies in my name. I heard the Prophet PBUH said, 'God, Mighty and High is He, created His creation in darkness. Then He threw on them from His light. So whoever was struck by any of that light then he is guided. And whoever it missed became misguided.'"
Musnad al-Ṭayālisī 2394
It appears that ʿAbdallah b. ʿAmr is only denying having said that without denying its meaning, since what he says above is still fatalistic. Since both fatalistic hadiths come only from one Companion, only through ʿAbdullah b. Fayrūz al-Daylamī, they are not strong enough to be used as conclusive proofs.
Next is a hadith that comes from many Companions:
On the day He created Adam, God grabbed his offspring in two handfuls. All good ones fell into His right hand and all evil ones into His other hand. He then said, "Those who are the companions of the right and I do not care. They will enter Paradise. And those are the companions of the Hellfire."
However, none of the versions are actually very authentic:
The version from the Companion Abū Mūsa al-Ashʿarī has Yazīd al-Raqāshī in its chain of transmitter who is a weak transmitter. (Al-Ṭabarāni, al-Muʿjam al-Awṣat 11431)
The version from the Companion Abū al-Dardāʾ has Abū al-Rabīʿ Sulaymān b. ʿUtba who was considered weak by Yaḥya b. Muʿīn. (Musnad Aḥmad 26870)
The version from the Companion Muʿādh b. Jabal has the weak transmitter Barāʾ al-Ghanawī. (Musnad Aḥmad 21597)
The version from ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Qatāda al-Sulamī has Rāshid b. Saʿd who was considered weak by Ibn Ḥazm. (Ṣaḥīh Ibn Ḥibbān 339)
The versions from Anas has al-Ḥakam b. Sinān who is a weak narrator. (Musnad Abī Yaʿlā 3359, 3328)
The version from Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq has Fiṭr b. Khalīfa who was considered weak by Abū Dawūd and al-Juzjāni. (Al-Jāmiʿ li-Muʿammar b. Rāshid 701; al-Bayhaqi, al-Qadar 391)
The version from ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb has Muslim b. Yasār in it, who is unknown.
The version from Hishām b. al-Ḥakīm was transmitted by Rāshid b. Saʿd, who was considered weak by Ibn Ḥazm. It also has ʿAbdallāh b. Ṣāliḥ who was severely criticized and considered untrustworthy by many scholars (Al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 226). Another version of it comes through Baqīya b. al-Walīd who was considered a performer of tadl$is from weak narrators (he heard something from a weak narrator then said he heard it from a trustworthy person). Al-Bayhaqī himself says he is not a ḥujja (his hadiths are not strong enough to be used as proof-texts in legal debates). (Al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 227) Another version of it comes through Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm b. al-ʿUlāʾ who was considered unreliable by al-Nasāʾī and Abū Dawūd.
The next hadith is from ʿĀʾisha:
ʿĀʾisha, the mother of the believers, said that Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) was called to lead the funeral prayer of a child of the Ansar. I said: Allah's Messenger, there is happiness for this child who is a bird from the birds of Paradise for it committed no sin nor has he reached the age when one can commit sin. He said: ʿĀʾisha, per perhaps it may be otherwise, because God created for Paradise those who are fit for it while they were yet in their father's loins and created for Hell those who are to go to Hell. He created them for Hell while they were yet in their father's loins.
Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2662 c
This hadith only comes to us through Ṭalḥa b. Yaḥyā, who is described by al-Bukhārī as munkar al-ḥadīth, meaning he narrates unique narrations that contain information not corroborated by any other hadiths, which is a cause for doubting his authenticity. Al-Qaṭṭān and al-Sājī described him as laysa bi-l-qawī (“not strong”), meaning that his hadiths are not of the highest quality (i.e. not saḥīḥ).
Next is a hadith that seems to completely contradict divine wisdom and justice:
The Prophet said, "[God said], 'Those are for Paradise and I do not care. And those are for the Fire and I do not care.'"
Al-Bayhaqi, al-Qadar, 54
This hadith has various versions and mentions that right after the creation of Adam, all of his offspring were brought forth and God divided them into the dwellers of Paradise and Hell before they were even born. The one above is transmitted by Naṣr b. Aḥmad b. Abī Ṣura al-Marwazī who is unknown and therefore cannot be relied on.
There is another version from Abū al-Dardāʾ’ (Musnad Aḥmad 26870) which has Abū al-Rabīʿ Sulaymān b. ʿUtba in its chain who was unknown and considered unreliable by Yaḥyā b. Muʿīn.
Another version mentioned a Companion named Abū ʿAbdallāh (Musnad Aḥmad 17250) which contains Abū Naḍra Mundhir b. Mālik who is known to have become unreliable in his memory in his old age. The hadith is strange in that it does not mention who heard the Prophet PBUH say his statement to Abū ʿAbdallāh, as if there is an anonymous hearer involved, which suggests that Abū Naḍra heard it from some anonymous source.
Another version from Muʿādh b. Jabal has the weak transmitter Barāʾ b. ʿAbdallāh al-Ghanawī (Musnad Aḥmad 21597).
The version from ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Qatāda al-Sulāmī has Muʿawiya b. Ṣaliḥ, who was considered not reliable enough for his narrations to be used as proof-texts by Abū Ḥatim al-Rāzī while Qaṭṭān and Yaḥyā b. Muʿīn considered his narrations unacceptable. It also has Rashīd b. Saʿd who was considered unreliable by Ibn Ḥazm.
The version from Abū Musā al-Ashʿarī has Yazīd b. Abān al-Raqāshī, who was considered matrūk (so unreliable that his hadiths should be abandoned) by al-Nasāʾī and Abū Aḥmad al-Ḥākim al-Kabīr (al-Ṭabarānī, al-Muʿjam al-Awsaṭ 11431)
The version from Anas has al-Ḥakam b. Sinān who is a weak transmitter. (Musnad Abū Yaʿlā al-Mawṣlī, 3359)
The version from Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq has Fiṭr b. Khalīfa who was considered weak by Abū Dawūd and Abū Saʿīd b. Yūnus al-Miṣrī. (Muʿammar b. al-Rāshid, al-Jāmiʿ 701)
Another version simply says:
Those are for that and those are for that. Then the people divided into groups, but they do not differ in predestination (qadar).
Al-Bayhaqi, al-Qadar, 53
This version has Muḥammad b. ʿAbdallāh b. al-Zubayr who is known to make errors in his transmissions from Sufyān al-Thawrī, and this hadith happens to be a transmission from Sufyān al-Thawrī.
We also have this extremely fatalistic hadith from Ibn Masʿūd, dealt with in the summary above:
ʿAbdallāh b. Masʿūd said : The Messenger of Allah (May peace be upon him) who spoke the truth and whose word was belief told us the following : The constituents of one of you are collected for forty days in his mother’s womb, then they become a piece of congealed blood for a similar period, then they become a lump of flesh for a similar period. Then Allah sends to him an angel with four words who records his provision the period of his life, his deeds, and whether he will be miserable or blessed ; thereafter he breathes the spirit into him. One of you will do the deeds of those who go to Paradise so that there will be only a cubit between him and it or will be within a cubit, then what is decreed will overcome him so that he will do the deeds of those who go to Hell and will enter it; and one of you will do the deeds of those who go to hell, so that there will be only a cubit between him and it or will be within a cubit, then what is decreed will overcome him, so that he will do the deeds of those who go to Paradise and will enter it.
Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2645 a, a version is also in al-Bukhārī 7056
Its chain is fully authentic. A shorter version version of it comes from Anas:
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "At every womb Allah appoints an angel who says, 'O Lord! A drop of semen, O Lord! A clot. O Lord! A little lump of flesh." Then if Allah wishes (to complete) its creation, the angel asks, (O Lord!) Will it be a male or female, a wretched or a blessed, and how much will his provision be? And what will his age be?' So all that is written while the child is still in the mother's womb."
Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 318
The chain of this one is also fully authentic.
There is another version from Hudhayfa b. Usayd (al-Albāni, Ṣaḥīh al-Jāmiʿ al-Ṣaghīr wa-Ziyādatuhu 797) that lacks any mention of wretchedness or blessedness, and lacks mention of God determining his actions beforehand. Another version from Hudhayfa b. Usayd (al-Albāni, Ṣaḥīh al-Jāmiʿ al-Ṣaghīr wa-Ziyādatuhu 1984) says at the end “Then God makes him (yajʿaluhu) wretched or blessed”, which leaves room for interpreting it as a reference to divine guidance throughout a person’s life. Another version of his is as fatalistic as Ibn Mas’ud’s:
Hudhayfa b. Usayd reported directly from Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) that he said:
When the drop of (semen) remains in the womb for forty or fifty (days) or forty nights, the angel comes and says: My Lord, will he be good or evil? And both these things would be written. Then the angel says: My Lord, would he be male or female? And both these things are written. And his deeds and actions, his death, his livelihood; these are also recorded. Then his document of destiny is rolled and there is no addition to nor subtraction from it.
Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2644
Hudhayfa b. Usayd’s non-fatalistic version could have been the original statement of the Prophet PBUH that was later enlarged by adding the fatalistic meanings. But I admit that this is one of the strongest pieces of evidence for the fatalistic argument.
Another fatalistic hadith from Abū al-Dardāʾ says:
God has finished [dealing with five things in regards to His servant]: the timing of his death, his work, his provision, his footprint and his place of death. He will never be able to transgress these.
Al-Bayhaqi, al-Qadar, 64
This hadith is authentic but only comes from one Companion, through one transmitter.
The boy who was killed by Khidr had been sealed with disbelief. If he had lived he would have overwhelmed his parents to with oppression and disbelief.
Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2662 a
This hadith comes only from one Companion. It can be given a non-fatalistic interpretation: the boy may have been a few years past puberty (when a person becomes responsible for their deeds) and may have already committed so many evil deeds that his heart had been sealed by God. The Quranic verse, however, suggests that his death was based on a probabilistic judgment of his future evil nature, because it says “we feared”, rather than “we knew”, that he would overwhelm them with oppression and disbelief.
As for the boy, his parents were believers, and we feared he would overwhelm them with oppression and disbelief.
The Quran, verse 18:80
Another version from the same Companion takes away all fatalism:
وَكَانَ يَوْمَ طُبِعَ كَافِرًا
That day he was sealed with disbelief.
Sunan Abi Dawud 4706
Rather than saying he was sealed with disbelief from birth, it says he was sealed with disbelief on that day. This hadith comes from an authentic chain (authenticated by al-Albānī), but it has Isrāʾīl b. Yūnus who was widely considered authentic but considered unauthentic by Ibn Ḥazm and ʿAlī b. al-Madīnī.
God created Pharaoh in his mother's womb as a disbeliever, and He created John son of Zechariah in his mother's womb as a believer.
Al-Bayhaqi, al-Qadar 69
This hadith has Yāhya b. Baṣtam in its chain who was considered unreliable by al-Bukhārī and Ibn Ḥibbān. Another version of it comes through Ayyūb b. Khawṭ in it who is also weak (al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 69). Another version of it comes from Ibn Masʿūd but comes through Naṣr b. Ṭarīf who is weak (al-Bayhaqī,, al-Qadar 70). Another version from Ibn Masʿūd has the weak narrator Abū Umayya b. al-Hābaṭī (al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 71). Another version has ʿUmar b. Ibrāhīm who is not perfectly authentic, it also has Shādh b. Fayyāḍ who is known to transmit munkar (unusual and doubtful) narrations through this type of chain. Another version also has ʿUmar b. Ibrāhīm and his son al-Khalīl b. ʿUmar b. Ibrāhīm whose hadiths from his father are also considered munkar. Another version of this hadith (al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 72) from Ibn Masʿūd comes through Abū Hilāl Muḥammad b. Sulaym al-Rāsī who is considered weak by Daraquṭnī and al-Qaṭṭān.
Another fatalistic hadith from Ibn Masʿūd starts with:
The servant is born a believer, lives as a believer and dies a believer, and the servant is born a disbeliever, lives as a disbeliever, and dies a disbeliever.
Al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 71
This hadith also comes from Shādh b. Fayyāḍ through ʿUmar b. Ibrāhīm, both of whom are of doubtful reliability.
Another fatalistic hadith from Abū Hurayra says:
The happy [in the afterlife] is the one who is happy from his mother's womb.
Al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 74
This hadith is authentic. But this statement only comes only from the two Companions Ibn Masʿūd and Abū Hurayra through questionable chains. Most hadiths attribute the saying to Ibn Masʿūd himself rather than the Prophet PBUH. The version from Abū Hurayra comes from a rather precarious chain:
This hadith only comes through the fourth transmitter above, making it rather doubtful. The version from Ibn Masʿūd is even worse (Ibn Māja 45). Its chain has Abū al-Aḥwaṣ ʿAwf b. Mālik who was a mudallis. The chain also has Abū Isḥāq ʿAmr b. ʿAbdallāh, another mudallis whose memory weakened in old age. It also has a third mudallis Musā b. ʿUqba. It also has the unknown transmitter ʿUbayd b. Maymūn. Both versions are therefore quite unworthy of relying on.
A person performs the deeds of a person of Paradise while he is written in the Book as a person of Hell. Before his death he reverts and performs the deeds of the people of Hell, so when he dies he enters Hell. [And vice versa]
Al-Bayhaqi, al-Qadar 80
This hadith only comes through the little-known narrator Ashʿath b. Hilāl al-Jurjānī and for this reason it is doubtful. Another version of it comes from the weak narrator ʿUbaydallāh b. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Mawhib (al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 79).
The next hadith is from the Companion al-ʿUrs b. ʿUmayra:
I heard the Messenger of God PBUH say, "The servant among the servants of God performs the deeds of the people of Paradise for a period of his lifetime. Then a road of the roads of Hell are presented to him so that he performs acts according to it and dies in that state, and that is because of what has been decreed for him [by God]. [And vice versa]
Al-Bayhaqi, al-Qadar 82
This hadith’s chain has Yūsuf b. Yazīd who is considered to have had a weak memory, to make numerous errors and to have little knowledge of hadith. It also has Saʿīd b. Kathīr b. ʿUfayr who confused and mixed up narrations according to ʿAlī b. al-Madīnī. It also has the little-known transmitter Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Ḥakam b. Yazīd al-Ramlī.
The next hadith is from ʿAbdallāh b. ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb:
The people of Najran came to the Prophet PBUH and said, "The death-timings and the provisions are decreed, but deeds are ours." So God sent down: "The wicked are in confusion and madness." to His saying, "Everything we created with a qadar." to His saying, "And everything, small or great, is written."
Al-Bayhaqi, al-Qadar 113
This hadith comes through al-Hudhayl b. Bilāl al-Madāʾinī, who was considered weak by Yaḥyā b. Muʿīn, Abū Dawūd, al-Nasāʾī and al-Daraquṭnī.
When God, Mighty and He is He, sent down upon His messenger PBUH: "For whoever among you who wishes to be upright", they said, "The matter is [in our hands]. If we wish we will be upright, and if we wish we will not be upright." So God sent down, "You do not will [a thing] except that God, the Lord of the Worlds, wills it."
Al-Bayhaqi, al-Qadar 116
This hadith comes from the transmitter Mālik b. Sulaymān who is considered weak by Abū Dawūd, al-Nasāʾī and al-Daraquṭnī. It also has an incomplete (mursal) chain of narrators since the first transmitter does not mention which Companion he heard it from. The chain also has Baqqiya b. al-Walīd, who is known to perform tadlīs from untrustworthy transmitters (he says he heard something from a trusted person but actually heard an untrustworthy person say that he heard it from a trustworthy person). The chain also has Muhammad b. Muṣaffā who is another performer of tadlīs and who is known to err often.
Narration 128 in al-Bayhaqī’s al-Qadar mentions the angels Gabriel, Michael and Isrāfīl arguing on the issue of qadar leading to a fatalistic conclusion. The hadith is unreliable: it has the transmitter Jaʿfar b. Muḥammad who was considered unreliable by Sufyan b. ʿUyayna and al-Wāqidī. The chain also has Abū Muslim Muḥammad b. al-Zubayr who was mentioned by Sufyan b. ʿUyayna and al-Sakhtiyānī as if they considered him unreliable.
Al-Bayhaqī in hadiths 134, 135 and 139 in his al-Qadar presents authentic narrations all of which say that belief in qadar, “its good and its bad”, is obligatory on a Muslim. The hadiths do not have a fatalistic meaning.
In hadith 149, al-Bayhaqī mentions a long fatalistic hadith that mentions the respected Successor Saʿīd b. al-Musayyab getting angry when someone says humans have free will to do good or evil. He narrates a Prophetic statement that says humans are created either for Paradise or Hell [from birth]. This hadith comes through the unknown transmitter ʿAṭīya b. ʿAṭīya and al-Dhahabī says it is a fabricated hadith.
In al-Qadar 306, al-Bayhaqī mentions a shorter version of this hadith from a different chain. The chain has ʿAmr b. Shuʿayb who is considered to be below the degree of authenticity by Abū Ḥātim al-Rāzī. The hadith also has ʿAbdallah b. Lahīʿa who is widely considered weak.
In al-Qadar 309, al-Bayhaqī mentions a narration from ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb in which he implies that God creates people for Paradise or Hell from birth. Its chain has Khālid b. al-Ḥadhdhāʾ who is considered not reliable enough for his hadiths to be used as proof-texts by Abū Ḥātim al-Rāzī. The chain also has Abū Bakr b. Isḥāq al-Faqīh who is unknown and whose hadiths are munkar (unique and doubtful) according to al-Bukhārī.
The hadith below appears to be fatalistic, but it actually can be used to argue against fatalism:
Narrated Abū Hurayra:
I said, "O Allah's Messenger (ﷺ)! I am a young man and I am afraid that I may commit illegal sexual intercourse and I cannot afford to marry." He kept silent, and then repeated my question once again, but he kept silent. I said the same (for the third time) and he remained silent. Then repeated my question (for the fourth time), and only then the Prophet said, "O Abu Hurayra! The pen has dried after writing what you are going to confront. So (it does not matter whether you) get yourself castrated or not."
Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 5076
The Prophet PBUH says that what Abū Hurayra is going to face in life is already written. Yet he admits that Abū Hurayra has a choice in whether he castrates himself or not. This could actually be an affirmation of his free will. This hadith comes through Yūnus b. Yazīd who erred often in his narrations from al-Zuhrī (this one is such a narration) according to Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal. Another in the chain, ʿAbdallāh b. Wahb, was known to be a performer of tadlīs. This evidence is not sufficient to consider the hadith weak, but its chain is low-quality.
Next is a hadith from Ibn ʿAbbās:
I did not see anything so resembling minor sins as what Abū Hurayra said from the Prophet, who said, "Allah has written for the son of Adam his inevitable share of adultery whether he is aware of it or not: The adultery of the eye is the looking (at something which is sinful to look at), and the adultery of the tongue is to utter (what it is unlawful to utter), and the innerself wishes and longs for (adultery) and the private parts turn that into reality or refrain from submitting to the temptation."
Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6612
This hadith is authentic, but it only comes from Abū Hurayra through a precarious chain:
A version comes directly from Abū Hurayra (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2658 a) but through Suhayl b. Abū Ṣāliḥ who was considered weak by al-Dāraquṭnī.
Narrated Ibn ʿUmar:
The Prophet (ﷺ) forbade vowing and said, "In fact, vowing does not prevent anything, but it makes a miser spend his property."
Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6608
Another version of it comes from Abū Hurayra and explicitly mentions qadar:
Do not take vows, for a vow has no effect against qadar; it is only from the miserly that something is extracted.
Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1640 a
Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī also has a hadith with the same meaning from Abū Hurayra (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6609) with a stronger chain. The authenticity of both hadiths seems established. But since no other Companions mention it, it falls short of the gold-standard of four Companions. And since vowing was very common in Arabia, it is strange that there are not any more hadiths where the Prophet forbids vowing.
However, assuming it is authentic, we can still give it a non-fatalistic interpretation. If we assume the possibility of change in qadar (as the Prophet PBUH affirms in other narrations), the Prophet PBUH is saying we cannot counter God’s qadar with vows. This does not mean that it does not have an influence on what God decrees. It is also likely that the Prophet PBUH was not laying down a theological idea but trying to discourage people from a practice he disliked. The Prophet is saying we cannot force God to do anything through vows (perhaps people assumed vows were binding on God). The Prophet is not necessarily stating that vows cannot have an influence on qadar if and when God chooses.
The next hadith (al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar, 230) is authentic and from Ibn ʿAbbās. He says the Prophet PBUH said nothing will befall him except that which God has written for him, and that “the scrolls have dried and the pens have been lifted.” This hadith sounds fatalistic, but since it only mentions what befalls a person (rather than what they will do in life), it cannot be used to support fatalism with certainty. The Prophet PBUH may also be saying that, at this moment, the scrolls have dried and the pens have been lifted rather than saying there can never be any change in qadar in the future.
Next is a hadith that mentions multiple Companions:
Ibn al-Daylamī said : I went to Ubayy b. Kaʿb and said him : I am confused about qadar, so tell me something by means of which Allah may remove the confusion from my mind. He replied : were Allah to punish everyone in the heavens and in the earth. He would do so without being unjust to them, and were he to show mercy to them his mercy would be much better than their actions merited. Were you to spend in support of Allah’s cause an amount of gold equivalent to Uḥud, Allah would not accept it from you till you believed in divine decree and knew that what has come to you could not miss you and that what has missed you could not come to you. Were you to die believing anything else you would enter Hell. He said : I then went to ʿAbdallāh b. Masʿūd and he said something to the same effect. I next went to Hudhayfa b. al-Yamān and he said something to the same effect. I next went to Zayd b. Thābit who told me something from the Prophet (May peace be upon him) to the same effect.
Sunan Abī Dawūd 4699
This hadith has Muhammad b. Kathīr in its chain, who is considered weak by Yaḥyā b. Muʿīn, al-Jīlī and al-Baghdādī. A different version of it is narrated by al-Bayhaqī in al-Qadar 305. This hadith has Muʿāwiya b. Ṣāliḥ in its chain, whose hadiths cannot be used as proof-texts according to Abū Ḥātim al-Rāzī. It also has his son ʿAbdallāh b. Ṣāliḥ who has a worse reputation than his father. Al-Nasāʾī says he is not trustworthy and Ibn al-Madīnī said he avoids all narrations from him.
This hadith is therefore not high-quality. It also does not actually support fatalism since the Companions only affirm the meaning of qadar that is accepted by both sides. However, their saying that it would be just if God was to punish everyone in the heavens and the earth is strange and questionable. In al-Qadar 414 al-Bayhaqī mentions another version of this hadith with a weaker chain. The chain has Hishām b. Saʿd who was widely considered to be weak. It also has Saʿīd b. Hilāl who was considered below authentic by Ibn Ḥazm.
ʿUbāda b. al-Ṣāmit said to his son : Son! You will not get the taste of the reality of faith until you know that what has come to you could not miss you, and that what has missed you could not come to you. I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say: The first thing Allah created was the pen. He said to it: Write. It asked: What should I write, my Lord? He said: Write what was decreed about everything till the Last Hour comes. Son! I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say : He who dies on something other than this does not belong to me.
Sunan Abi Dawud 4700 (sahih according to al-Albani)
The last transmitter of the above hadith is considered to have erred sometimes. Otherwise the hadith has an authentic chain. It does not have a fatalistic meaning since it does not say that the goodness or wickedness of humans was decreed then. It could be referring only to the decreeing of things that would befall humans.
Nothing increases lifetime except righteousness, and nothing counters qadar except prayer, and a man may be forbidden provision because of a sin he commits.
Sunan Ibn Māja 90, authenticated by al-Albānī, Ibn Ḥibbān and al-Ḥākim al-Nisābūrī
This hadith has entirely reliable transmitters except for ʿAbdalah b. Abī al-Jaʿd, who is little-known but considered trustworthy by Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī. This hadith contradicts all fatalistic narrations that say nothing will ever change in a person’s qadar (“the scroll has dried”, etc.). A different version of the hadith adds the following (said by the Prophet PBUH):
It is written in the Torah: O child of Adam, fear your Lord, be dutiful toward your parents, be dutiful toward your relatives, and I will extend your lifetime, ease for you your ease, and take away from you your difficulty.
Musnad al-Rūyānī, 608
This version also comes from entirely trusted transmitters except for Sālim b. Rāfiʿ who is considered unknown by some and trusted by others. Since the saying is in the context of qadar, the concept of dynamic, changeable qadar is strongly suggested by it. What we choose to do, whether we do good or evil, changes what God causes to befall us. This is the opposite of fatalism.
The Prophet PBUH said, "O Allah, whoever believes in you, and bears witness that I am your messenger, then cause him to love meeting you, and ease your decrees on him, and decrease from him the worldly life. And whoever does not believe in you, and does not bear witness that I am your Messenger, then do not cause him to love meeting you, and do not ease your decree on him, and increase for him of the worldly life."
Ṣaḥīḥ Ibn Ḥibbān 208
This hadith has a wholly authentic chain. In it the Prophet speaks as if God’s decree is changeable, for he prays that it should be eased or not eased. There would be no point in this prayer if qadar was unchangeable.
... and I ask you to make every decree You decree for me to be a good.
Ṣaḥīḥ Ibn Ḥibbān 870; Muṣannaf Abī Shayba 28767
The above hadith comes from two chains from wholly trusted transmitters. The first chain contains one individual whose memory weakened in old age. The second chain does not contain that individual. The Prophet PBUH again speaks as if God’s decrees are changeable. If God’s decrees never changed, the meaning of the prayer would be, “O God do what you would have done anyway.”
... cause me to live while You know life to be better for me, and cause me to die if death is better for me ...
Sahih Ibn Hibban 2005, al-Mustadrak 1878
The above is a quotation from a long hadith in which the Prophet PBUH prays for a number of things. The hadith comes from two chains both of which are wholly authentic except that both contain a trusted individual who occasionally errs. If a person’s death-timing could never change, there would be no point in this prayer. It therefore appears that the Prophet PBUH believed that prayer could change qadar.
Narrated Abū Hurayra:
Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "Every child is born on the fiṭra but his parents convert him to Judaism, Christianity or Magainism, as an animal delivers a perfect baby animal. Do you find it mutilated?" Then Abu Huraira recited the holy verses: "The pure Allah's Islamic nature (true faith of Islam) (i.e. worshipping none but Allah) with which He has created human beings. No change let there be in the religion of Allah (i.e. joining none in worship with Allah). That is the straight religion (Islam) but most of men know, not." (30.30)
Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 1359, a similar version in Ṣaḥīh Muslim 2658 d
The above entirely authentic hadith seems to contradict those hadiths that say humans are divided into the dwellers of Paradise and Hell from before birth. All humans are born on the pure fiṭra (which according to Ibn Taymiyya means belief in a basic form of Islam), but later they become corrupted.
Narrated Abū Huraira:
Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "Allah says, 'If My slave intends to do a bad deed then (O Angels) do not write it unless he does it; if he does it, then write it as it is, but if he refrains from doing it for My Sake, then write it as a good deed (in his account). (On the other hand) if he intends to do a good deed, but does not do it, then write a good deed (in his account), and if he does it, then write it for him (in his account) as ten good deeds up to seven-hundred times.' "
Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 7501
If all human deeds had already been written and the “scrolls” had dried, what is meant by things being recorded and not recorded above? The above hadith suggests a dynamic timeline of life rather a frozen one as fatalism suggests.
Al-Barāʾ b. ʿĀzib reported Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) as saying that Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said:What is your opinion about the delight of a person whose camel loaded with the provisions of food and drink is lost and that moves about with its nosestring trailing upon the waterless desert in which there is neither food nor drink, and lie wanders about in search of that until he is completely exhausted and then accidentally it happens to pass by the trunk of a tree and its nosestring gets entangled in that and he finds it entangled therein? He (in response to the question of the Holy Prophet) said: Allah's Messenger, he would feel highly delighted. Thereupon Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said. By Allah, Allah is more delighted at the repentance of His servant than that person (as he finds his lost) camel.
Ṣaḥīh Muslim 2746, the most authentic chain at Musnad Aḥmad 18206
The above narration comes from entirely trusted transmitters in Aḥmad’s Musnad. It is strange that God would be so happy with a human’s repentance if He had pre-decreed that the person would repent anyway. But it would make perfect sense if the person had a choice between repenting and not repenting.
In the authentic narration below, the Prophet PBUH affirms that he has choice over his actions:
ʿĀʾisha said: "The Messenger of Allah used to divide his time equally among his wives then he would say: 'O Allah, this is what I have done with regard to that over which I have control, so do not blame me for that over which You have control and I do not.'"
Sunan al-Nasāʾī 3943 (authentic)
If the Prophet PBUH had been a fatalist, he would have said that he has no control over how he divides his time, since his choices are in God’s hands anyway.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Allah will say to that person of the (Hell) Fire who will receive the least punishment, 'If you had everything on the earth, would you give it as a ransom to free yourself (i.e. save yourself from this Fire)?' He will say, 'Yes.' Then Allah will say, 'While you were in the backbone of Adam, I asked you much less than this, i.e. not to worship others besides Me, but you insisted on worshiping others besides me.' "
Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 3334, Ṣaḥīh Muslim 2805 a
The above only makes sense if God had not already separated the children of Adam into believers and disbelievers before birth. It is nonsensical that God would decree that some people should enter the Hellfire only to go on to blame them for not worshiping Him.
Below is a narration not from the Prophet but from Ibn ʿAbbās:
"And when your Lord took from the children of Adam"...the rest of the verse. [Ibn ʿAbbās said], "God created Adam and took his oath that He is his Lord. Then He wrote the timing of his death, his provision, and the catastrophes that would be fall him. Then He brought out [his offspring] from his back like dust specks and took their oath that He is their Lord. Then He wrote the timing of their death, their provisions and their catastrophes.
Al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 49
In this entirely authentic narration, there is no fatalism in Ibn ʿAbbās’s interpretation. What befalls humans has been written in their predestiny, but what they will choose in the future is not forced upon them there.
Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said," None of you should long for death because of a calamity that had befallen him, and if he cannot, but long for death, then he should say, 'O Allah! Let me live as long as life is better for me, and take my life if death is better for me.' "
Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 6351
The above prayer would only make sense if qadar was changeable through prayer. Otherwise, if a person’s death-timing could never change, the prayer would mean “O God do what You would do anyway.”
I heard the Messenger of God PBUH saying, "No one enters the Fire except that his seat he would be shown his seat in Paradise had he been a doer of good so that it becomes a cause of regret for him. And no one enters Paradise except that he is shown his station in the Fire had he been wicked so that he would increase in gratitude.
Musnad Aḥmad 10795, considered Ṣaḥīḥ by al-Albānī
This hadith’s chain has Ḥusayn b. Muḥammad b. Bahrām who is unknown. It also has ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Dhakwān who is considered weak by some scholars. I am putting it here to balance out all the low-quality narrations I mentioned in the pro-fatalism section. This hadith suggests that a person has a choice between Paradise and Hell since he has two places prepared for him. If it was decided for him that he would go to Paradise or Hell from before birth, then this hadith wouldn’t make sense.
Narrated Abū Hurayra:
Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "The prayer of anyone of you is granted (by Allah) if he does not show impatience (by saying, "I invoked Allah but my request has not been granted.")
Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 6340
The above hadith has an entirely authentic chain. The plain meaning of the hadith suggests that a person has two choices; either he waits patiently and God changes qadar in his favor, or waits impatiently and God allows qadar to stay unchanged.
Narrated ʿAbdallāh b. Masʿūd:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Paradise. And a man keeps on telling the truth until he becomes a truthful person. Falsehood leads to Al-Fajur (i.e. wickedness, evil-doing), and Al-Fajur (wickedness) leads to the (Hell) Fire, and a man may keep on telling lies till he is written before Allah, a liar."
Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 6094
This hadith comes from a wholly authentic chain. The hadith suggests that a person is not written as a liar to begin with unless they choose to constantly lie.
Narrated ʿAʾisha the mother of the faithful believers:
One night Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) offered the prayer in the Mosque and the people followed him. The next night he also offered the prayer and too many people gathered. On the third and the fourth nights more people gathered, but Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) did not come out to them. In the morning he said, "I saw what you were doing and nothing but the fear that it (i.e. the prayer) might be enjoined on you, stopped me from coming to you." And that happened in the month of Ramadan.
Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 1129
This is another hadith with a wholly authentic chain. If the Prophet PBUH had been a fatalist, he should have believed that God had already decreed what would be obligatory on the Muslims. Here he acts as if he thinks his choices would affect God’s decrees.
Hi! i'm trying to read the quran in my language to understand and apply to my life. but it comes harsh to me. i don't want to be disrespectful to Quran but some things even look ridiculous. same goes for the hadidths and so. the more I try to learn I get distanced. I already believe and I wanna keep believing Allah fully. But I feel like I'm tricking myself to believe because sometimes I'm not persuaded with explanations I find. But I still accept them afraiding that I'm gonna lose my Imaan.
pt.2: and this feels like I’m not a true believer. I act as one on the outside. But I can’t make good decisions according to my Islamic knowledge. I feel so lost. What can I do for understanding and loving Islam more. Without getting distanced?
It is true that some verses sound ridiculous in some Quran translations. Some translations are better than others. Since you speak English, I recommend that you check out Abdel Haleem’s translation which is better than many others. You can also check out the translation at ClearQuran.net, I use this most of the time when I need to quote verses in English because it is simple and modern.
As for hadith narrations, they should be treated with caution. If they say something that sounds illogical or that seems to go against the Quran, then most of the time you can safely ignore them even if they are supposed to be authentic. There is an authentic narration that says women are a “bad omen”. There is another authentic narration in which Aisha (may God be pleased with her) refutes this hadith and says the Prophet (peace be upon him) was actually saying that the pre-Islamic Arabs used to believe that women are a bad omen. You should never take a hadith at face value without researching further.
So I understand the difficulty of trying to remain a good Muslim when there is so much that sounds ridiculous and absurd that is attributed to Islam. In reality once you understand the verses and hadiths in context, then everything makes sense. The Islamic world’s solution to this problem is simple: find intelligent and reasonable scholars and listen to their opinions and read their books. They do the hard work of reading the original sources and making sense of them. A person who speaks Arabic has a great range of intelligent and sensible scholars to choose from, people like Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Muhammad al-Ghazali, Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda and many others.
Unfortunately most of their works are not available in English, and the English-speaking Muslim intellectuals have not yet created a definitive set of works that we can comfortably point people to. But there are still many good books out there which you can check out, by people like Timothy Winter (also known as Shaykh Abd al-Hakeem Murad) and Jonathan Brown. You can also check out lectures on YouTube by Timothy Winter, Hamza Yusuf and Yasir Qadhi. The more you learn about Islam from the available modern sources, the more you will be able to make sense of it.
Start by trying to understand the Quran as best as you can, then use its philosophy to judge everything else that you hear about Islam. If you hear something that sounds ridiculous and that is not in the Quran, you can be skeptical toward it and ignore it even if you cannot say with certainty that it is false.
And remember that Islam is merely a tool that helps us know the best way to understand God and worship Him. The point is God, not Islam. So even if something in Islam does not seem to make sense, this should not affect your relationship with God. You should hold onto God and the Quran and when you hear something that is strange or unsettling, wait patiently until you learn more and can make sense of it.
I’ve always read protection from evil eye, al fatiha and 4kuls over my daughter before she sleeps every night. But every time I post her picture on Instagram and it’s only in stories so it’s not up very long, she soon starts vomiting and more difficult than usual. I don’t understand tho, I’ve read protection over her every night and everyone uploads their children’s pictures and they’re perfectly fine. What am i doing wrong? She’s perfectly pleasant otherwise.
Further to my question about the evil eye, someone recommended to wear gold and diamonds as a cure as women are prone to being frail and weak. It sounded ridiculous to me. Is there any merit to that suggestion?
There are a number of authentic narrations that mention it, but since it is not mentioned in the Quran, I do not consider it important enough to be worth worrying about.
As for the issue of your daughter suffering those symptoms, I cannot say it is not the evil eye because, like I said, it is not proven to be false. But it could also be confirmation bias, which is a well-attested fact of human thinking. If you keep thinking about the evil eye when you upload pictures of your daughter, and if a quarter of the time something bad happens afterwards, you might blame it on the evil eye even though three quarters of the time nothing bad happens. When we are looking for supernatural causes for what happens around us, we tend to find all the evidence we want and ignore the evidence that goes against it.
If you were to keep a diary in which you make a note every time you upload a picture, writing whether something bad happened afterwards or not, you may find out that something bad only happens 10% of the time, nowhere sufficient to prove that it is caused by uploading pictures of your daughter.
There are superstitious people who think the color of their clothing affects what happens to them throughout the day, and just like people who keep track of the evil eye, they too find ample “evidence” that the color of what they wear is causing all kinds of things to happen to them. But if they too were to keep a diary, they will likely find out that what happens to them has no relationship with what they are wearing, it is something that they think is happening because of confirmation bias, because they are only giving weight to the evidence that confirms their beliefs and ignoring the evidence that goes against it.
I have not heard anything about it being recommended to wear gold and diamonds for frailness. It is probably just a folk belief.
There are a group of hadith narrations, not found in al-Bukhārī and Muslim, but found in various other collections, in which the Prophet Muhammad PBUH mentions that the Muslims will divide into 73 groups, 72 of which will enter the Hellfire, meaning that only one among these 73 groups will be saved. This one group is known as al-firqa al-nājiya (“the group that attains salvation”).
These narrations have unfortunately been a favorite polemical tool. Each group can claim to be al-firqa al-nājiya to imply that the members of every other group will enter the Hellfire:
But they tore themselves into sects; each party (self-righteously) happy with what they have.1
The truth of the matter is that these narrations are all likely corrupted or fabricated, and there is no authentic evidence whatsoever for the part that says “all of them will enter the Hellfire except one”.
The Kuwaiti Islamic scholar Dr. Ḥākim al-Muṭayrī (b. 1964, holds PhDs in Islamic studies from Birmingham University and University of al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco) has conducted a study (Arabic PDF – 3 MB) of all of the relevant hadith narrations regarding this issue. He mentions that Ibn Ḥazm rejected the narration, and that al-Shawkani considered the part that says “all of them are doomed save one” a fabrication. In the conclusion, he writes:
وعلى كل فكل طرق هذا الحديث مناكير وغرائب ضعيفة ومنكرة، وأحسنها حالا حديث أبي هريرة وهو حديث حسن، مع تساهل كبير في تحسينه لتفرد محمد بن عمرو به، وهو صدوق له أوهام خاصة في روايته عن أبي سلمة عن أبي هريرة، ولهذا كان القدماء يتقون حديثه كما قال يحيى بن معين.
All of the ṭuruq (the chains of narrators) of this hadith are objectionable and unauthentic. The best of them is the hadith of Abū Hurayra, which is a ḥasan hadith (i.e. not good enough to be considered authentic, but having an acceptable meaning and not clearly fabricated), provided that we extend it great latitude (i.e. lower our standards) for the fact of Muhammad bin ʿAmr being its only transmitter, who is known to be a truthful person who has awhām (plural of wahm, "confusion" or "delusion", meaning he gets confused and mixes up narrations), especially in his narrations from Abū Salama, from Abū Hurayra, and for this reason the early hadith scholars were cautious of his narrations, as Yaḥyā bin Maʿīn has mentioned.
Note that this best hadith that Dr. Muṭayrī refers to does not have the part that says “all of them will enter the Hellfire save one” (see page 24 of the PDF). The most we can learn from these narrations is that the Muslims will possibly divide into 73 sects (which could possibly be a randomly chosen number used to imply “a great many”, as is typical in Arabian usage).
In conclusion, there is no justification whatsoever for using these narrations to imply that Muslims from other groups will enter the Hellfire; anyone who says such a thing has uttered a falsehood, either out ignorance or dishonesty.
Salam. This thing has bugged me for a while and I try to not care but it's an important topic . Basically many scholars, many ahadith, are very sexist. The work of bukhari, ibn abbas, alkatherr , it feels like I can't escape it and no matter how much I try to think that woman have rights in Islam I still feel as if my being is worth noting. I genuinely feel bad. I already deal with misogynism on daily basis in the country im from It's like being a woman is a bad thing.
Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,
It is true that since the beginning of Islam until modern times most men had a low opinion of women. The same is true of non-Muslims throughout history. Women generally had less access to education and fewer interactions with other people, so that they appeared naive and unintelligent to men. Therefore when a historical personality says women are inferior or foolish, for them this seemed to be the truth, since they rarely met intelligent women who could think on the same level as men. For them it was an obvious fact of life that women are unintelligent, and anyone who doubted that could simply go and talk to some women in their society and verify that this was true.
Things only began changing in the past few centuries, when women in both Europe and the Middle East started to be more involved with their societies and started to get an education. Even in the United States, the universities only started admitting female students in the latter part of the 19th century. Cornell admitted its first female student in 1870, and its alumni, who were some of the best educated men in the country, strongly opposed letting in females.1
When it comes to sexism in hadith narrations, you should keep in mind that only a very small subset of hadith narrations reach the authenticity of the Quran. The overwhelming majority belong to a spectrum of authenticity. Some have a 99% likelihood authenticity, some 95%, and so on. Even highly authentic narrations can be rejected if the case can be made that they describe an earlier policy of the Prophet that may have been superseded by his later practice or by a Quranic revelation. For Imam Malik’s rejection of authentic narrations despite admitting their authenticity see Wymann-Landgraf, Mālik and Medina. For the issues surrounding hadith authenticity, see Brown, The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim and idem, Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy, London, 2014.2
The Quran is our only 100% reliable source for God’s opinions, therefore you should base your thinking on it. It nowhere teaches that women are unintelligent and foolish, it rather stresses the equality of the worth of men and women, guarding their dignity and prohibiting various abuses that were common in the pre-Islamic era (such as forced marriages, selling them as slaves, not letting them get a share of inheritance). If you find a hadith or scholarly opinion that teaches to view women as inferior, instead of thinking that this is Islam, you should think the opposite, that this is not Islam, and you should do the research necessary to find out the truth. If one hadith teaches a negative thing about women, you will find others that teach positive things. If one scholar voices a sexist opinion, you will find others who reject it, and in fact there are scholars who can be described as feminist in that they think women are better and more moral humans than men.
Islam is simply a tool for you to know God better and to worship Him in the possible way. This is the purpose of this religion, everything else is a side issue complicated by the vagueness of the Quran, the unreliability of hadith narrations and the sexist cultures of the past. Rather than letting these things color your understanding of Islam, make your own understanding out of the Quran and the best opinions of the people of the past and present.
There are endless of hadiths that ridicules us woman. That says that we aren't rational, intellectual etc. Many of them are of sahih. For instance the hadith in which asmaa bint Yazid was talking to the prophet sws and he and his companions were amazed that a woman could express herself as she did (which means that they normally doubt woman's intellect). Then you got the straightforward ones that says woman are stupid, inferior etc...
Our conceptualization of Islam comes from the Quran. The Quran is our program and our guide in life, and it doesn’t contain any of the things you describe.
As for hadith, hadith exists on a second tier, it is there to provide us with an example of the Prophet’s efforts to follow the Quran. Everything in hadith is considered z̧anni, meaning of doubtful certitude. Imam Malik and Abu Hanifa recommend skepticism toward hadith, including authentic ones, whenever they deviate from the Quran or from well-established practices of the Sunna. Therefore, for example, Imam Malik refuses to act by various hadith narrations even though they were considered authentic, because the narrations go against the well-established practices of the people of Medina (see The Origins of Islamic Law: The Qur’an, the Muwatta’ and Madinan Amal by Yasin Dutton).
Imam al-Bukhari himself rejects an authentic hadith because it contains a prophesy that does not come true (the Prophet peace be upon him says this thing will happen, but 200 years have passed and it has not happened, so al-Bukhari concludes the hadith is false). For more examples of scholars rejecting authentic narrations see the (freely available) paper How We Know Early Ḥadīth Critics Did Matn Criticism and Why It’s So Hard to Find by Jonathan Brown.
There is an authentic narration (in Sahih Muslim) that says if a woman, black dog or donkey passes in front of a person praying, their prayer is invalidated. In a different narration, also in Sahih Muslim, it is recorded that when Aisha (wife of the Prophet peace be upon him), may God have mercy on her, hears this hadith (this is after the Prophet’s death), she angrily retorts “You have compared us to dogs!” Instead of sitting quietly and accepting the hadith, she challenges it because she finds it ridiculous and insulting.
You can do the same. Instead of submitting to other people’s visions about what Islam should be, do your own research and build your own vision of Islam based on a wide variety of sources. If someone uses some random hadith to belittle you, challenge them using the Quran’s principles, or research the hadith and you will usually find that there are other hadith narrations that contradict it.
You said marriage is not obligated but we're told it's half of the deen
The “half our dīn” saying comes from a group of hadith narrations all of which are of questionable authenticity. One of them comes from al-Bayhaqī’s collection and the chain of narrators includes Yazīd al-Raqāshī, who is untrustworthy according to al-Tirmidhī and Ibn Ḥajar. Another version comes from al-Ḥakām’s collection, and the chain contains ʿAbd al-Raḥmān bin Yazīd, who is also untrustworthy according hadith scholars.
There is another famous saying that says “A woman completes part of a man’s faith”, this is not from the Prophet, but from Ṭawūs ibn Kaysān, it is just a scholar speaking his personal opinion.
The hadith scholar al-Albānī performed a detailed study of these narrations and considers all of the them untrustworthy except one that says “A woman supports a man in part of his dīn, so let him worry about the second part.” This hadith is not authentic due to its chain containing at least one person whose is known to be of arbitrary reliability (he sometimes speaks the truth, sometimes says something completely wrong). Al-Albānī concludes that the hadith has a status of ḥasan, meaning that it is not authentic (ṣaḥīḥ), but that its meaning sounds good and one cannot say with certainty that it is fabricated.
In conclusion, therefore, this “half our dīn” concept is not firmly established and cannot be used as a basis for deriving principles.
So, I am someone who likes using logic and I have defended Islam and my Muslim-ness many times from criticisms, some well-founded, others not so much. How can I defend Mohammad's marriage to a young girl? He was old at the time. I can't imagine being a child and being given away to an older man. Why did he think that was okay? How do you defend that without sounding like a pedophile apologist? -It is an honest question. How do other Muslims deal with this and remain moral?
The matter at issue with Aisha’s age is the validity of the hadith literature. An admission that Aisha’s age at marriage may have been different from 9 would shake the foundations of hadith science since it would imply that there are false statements in Sahih Bukhari and Muslim, therefore the majority of traditionalist scholars are unwilling to go that route. From what I have seen, using traditional methodology, the evidence in support of Aisha being 9 stronger than the evidence against it. Unfortunately I cannot find any source that researches this issue in an unbiased manner; they are either angrily defending the “honor” of al-Bukhari and Muslim (the traditionalist sources), or they mix weak and strong arguments, bad research and a disrespectful attitude toward the scholarly community in supporting a different age.
A minority of prominent modern scholars, such as Ali Gomaa (Egypt’s Grand Mufti from 2003 to 2013) and Taha Jabir Alalwani (an Iraqi scholar who teaches in the United States) believe that Aisha was “in her late teens” at the time of the consummation of her marriage (mentioned in Misquoting Muhammad by Jonathan Brown). So the matter is not very cut-and-dry. The most prominent authority for Aisha’s age is Hisham bin Urwa (her nephew). But this same person is quoted in al-Dhahabi’s Siyar Aʿlām al-Nubalāʾ as saying that Aisha died at the age of 67 in the year 672, which would logically mean she was born around the year 605. Since her marriage was consummated in or around 622, that would make her 17 at the time of consummation.
Before her marriage to the Prophet, there is mention in authentic sources of Abu Bakr having promised to marry off Aisha to a pagan man (Jubayr bin Mutam bin Adi). This promise must have been made before Islam, because it is highly unlikely that Abu Bakr would promise a pagan his daughter after he became Muslim himself. This means that, even if the promise was made when Aisha was an infant, it would have been made on or before 610 CE (the year of revelation), making her at least 12 in 622 CE when her marriage with the Prophet PBUH was consummated. 12 is not much “better” than 9, but the point is that this conflict with the official narrative is sufficient to throw doubt on the whole story. And if we assume she was bigger than an infant, perhaps 3, at the time of the promise, then that would make her 15 in 622 CE at the time of the consummation of her marriage with the Prophet PBUH.
The Syrian hadith scholar Dr. Salah al-Din al-Idlibi, he has taught as a professor at al-Qarawiyyin University in Morocco, Imam Muhammad bin Saud University in Riyadh, College of Islamic and Arabic Studies in Dubai and al-Makkah al-Maftuha University in Jeddah.
Professor Salah al-Din al-Idlibi is the fairest-minded voice on this issue that I have found. He is a not a liberal Muslim who dismisses tradition, he is a hadith expert who works within the tradition and concludes in a 2018 paper that it is most likely Aisha was born about 4 years before the Revelation, making her close to 18 at the time of the consummation of her marriage near the end of the first year of the hijra.1 See my translation of his paper below:
Another aspect of Aisha’s age is that, due to the Hypocrites in Medina, and later some of Shia, claiming that she was unchaste, there was a strong incentive for Muslims to give preference to any evidence that suggested she was extremely young at the time of her marriage while dismissing evidence against it. They did not necessarily fabricate evidence, but it is possible that there were authentic hadith narrations that supported a different age but that were not written down by the hadith scholars in their hadith collections because they preferred the age of 9. We know that hadith scholars refused to write down narrations they considered “absurd”, even if their chain was authentic. (See Jonathan A.C. Brown, “The Rules of Matn Criticism: There Are No Rules.”)
Is music really haram? I'm not talking about the Rihannas "Wild Thoughts" kind of music, more of peaceful piano, flute, violin, ancient music. The kind of music that doesn't give off sexual vibe and stuff, but the music that adheres peace, you know?
[Below is a quick survey of opinions on this matter gleaned from Arabic-language sources. I may eventually write out a full essay on this, although it is not one of my topics of interest, since the permissibility of music is such an obvious thing that it is almost not worth talking about.]
It is mentioned in Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet PBUH tolerated musical instruments played by some girls and did not prohibit them.
Abu Bakr came to my house while two small Ansari girls were singing beside me the stories of the Ansar concerning the Day of Buath. And they were not singers. Abu Bakr said protestingly, "Musical instruments of Satan in the house of Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) !" It happened on the `Id day and Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "O Abu Bakr! There is an `Id for every nation and this is our `Id."
Sahih al-Bukhari 952
The musical instrument referred to here is the daff (tambourine) according to other narrations:
This hadith has been narrated by Hisham with the same chain of transmitters, but there the words are:
" Two girls were playing upon a tambourine."
(Sahih Muslim 892 b)
There is also no evidence from hadith that the Prophet ever issued a statement prohibiting musical instruments. The following hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari has been used to argue that musical instruments are forbidden in Islam:
Narrated Abu 'Amir or Abu Malik Al-Ash'ari:
that he heard the Prophet (ﷺ) saying, "From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, khazz (a type of clothing), the wearing of silk, the drinking of alcoholic drinks and the use of musical instruments, as lawful. And there will be some people who will stay near the side of a mountain and in the evening their shepherd will come to them with their sheep and ask them for something, but they will say to him, 'Return to us tomorrow.' Allah will destroy them during the night and will let the mountain fall on them, and He will transform the rest of them into monkeys and pigs and they will remain so till the Day of Resurrection."
(Sahih al-Bukhari 5590)
That hadith comes from an extremely precarious chain (it has no supporting chains), so it has no power to override other hadiths that mention the Prophet PBUH tolerating musical instruments. This hadith is easily one of the lowest-quality hadiths mentioned in Sahih al-Bukhari. It is strange that Imam al-Bukhari chose to include it. It seems almost certain that he recognized its low quality but included it for polemical reasons (because he himself believed music to be haram).
In order for a hadith to prove a point beyond reasonable doubt, it should come to us in the form of a binary tree chain, as follows:
But al-Bukhari 5590 comes to us like this (the reds indicate missing transmitters, I did not fill in all the missing transmitters because the diagram would have become very large, there are 120 missing transmitters and only 6 existing transmitters):
When the missing transmitters far outnumber the existing transmitters, this is strong reason to doubt the authenticity of a hadith.
Another reason for considering the hadith unreliable is that it mentions khazz (a kind of clothing) among the things that misguided Muslims will consider halal. Imam Abu Dawud says regarding this clothing:
Twenty Companions of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) or more put on khazz. Anas and al-Bara' b. 'Azib were among them. (Sunan Abi Dawud 4039)
This strongly suggests the hadith is fabricated since the evidence from the Companions tells us this clothing is halal, while the hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari says misguided Muslims will wear it.1
All in all, the hadith is unworthy of being in Sahih al-Bukhari and its doubtfulness means that it cannot be used as a basis for any argument against music. The evidence for the Prophet’s toleration of music is much stronger, so that evidence must be given preference over this strange hadith.
Many Islamic scholars reject the idea that music is prohibited. The scholar Ibn Hazm (d. 1064 CE, creator of the “fifth” school of Islamic jurisprudence) considers every hadith that has been used to make music haram fabricated, and considers listening to music the same as taking joy from a nature walk.
The scholar al-Shashi (d. 976 CE) says that Imam Malik permitted music. Imam al-Shafi`i says that there is no clear evidence to prohibit music.
The scholar al-Mawardi (d. 1058 CE) says that Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik and al-Shafi`i did not prohibit music.
The respected theologians Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, Ibn Daqeeq, Izz al-Din ibn Abd al-Salam (famous Shafi`ite scholar, known as the Sultan of Scholars in his time, d. 1262 CE), Abdul Ghani al-Nablusi, Ibn Qutaybah, al-Maqdisi, al-Dhahabi, Abu Talib al-Makki, Ibn al-Arabi al-Maliki and Imam al-Shawkani consider music permissible.
Among modern scholars who reject the prohibition on music are the Azhar scholars Muhammad al-Ghazali and Yusuf al-Qaradhawi, Hasan al-Attar, Mahmud Shaltoot, Ali al-Tantawi and Muhammad Rashid Radha.
For a very detailed discussion of the relevant evidence on both sides of the debate, see the following (Arabic) article:
Certain types of music can be considered forbidden due to things associated with the music, but that is a different matter.