Examples of Fabricated Traditions

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Some examples of fabricated Traditions are the following:

• Abu Hanifa is perhaps the greatest Muslim jurist, and still shines like a sun in the sky of Islamic jurisprudence. But the saying attributed to the Prophet that “Abu Hanifa is the lamp of my nation” [1] is not a hadith. It must have been fabricated for sectarian considerations.

• “Have white cockerels” must have been forged by a white cockerel seller, even though we like white cockerels.

• “Beware of the evil of one to whom you have done good” is another illogical saying wrongly attributed to the Prophet. You can win somebody’s heart by being good to him or her. If it were permissible to attribute a saying to the Prophet, I would say: “Do good to the one whose evil you fear,” for it is said that “people are the slaves of the good done to them.”

• Although rationality is a principle of Islam, Islam does not depend upon rationalism. No one can judge the Qur’an and the Prophet according to the dictates of individual reason. Islam is the collection of principles established by God, the Owner and Giver of all reasoning and intellect. Therefore, the saying: “Discuss among yourselves a saying attributed to me. If it agrees with the truth, confirm it and adopt it as a religious principle. It doesn’t matter whether I have uttered it or not,” is a fabrication.

• Another saying wrongly attributed to the Messenger is: “I was born in the time of the just king.” This was fabricated to exalt the Persian king Anushirwan. No one can confer honor on the Messenger, who himself brought honor to the whole of creation, most particularly to our world.

• Another widespread beautiful saying is also mistakenly thought to be a Tradition: “Cleanliness comes from belief.” The meaning is true, but it was not reported from the Messenger through a sound chain of transmission. Instead, he said: “Purity (in body, mind, and heart) is half of belief, and al-hamdu li-llah (all praise be to God) fills up the balance (where the good deeds will be weighed).” [2]

• Aqiq is a place located between Madina and Makka. During a journey, the Messenger told those traveling with him to: “Set up your tents at Aqiq.” In Arabic, the word translated as set up your tents is takhayyamu. Since diacritical points were not used in writing during the early days of Islam, this word was confused with takhattamu (wear a ring). In addition, aqiq is used for cornelian. All this led to a false Tradition: “Wear a ring of cornelian,” with the addition of “because it removes poverty.” [3]

• “Looking at a beautiful face is an act of worship” is another false Tradition, one plainly slanderous against the Messenger.

• The saying: “Seek knowledge even if it is in China” is another false Tradition. It may have been fabricated to encourage learning. However, the Prophet has many sayings, and the Qur’an urges Muslims to learn or to seek knowledge: Only those of His servants fear God who have knowledge (35:28), and: Say: “Are they equal—those who know and those who don’t know?” (39:9). In addition, the Prophet said: “Angels spread their wings beneath the feet of those who seek knowledge, because they are pleased (with them).” [4]

Some examples of authentic Traditions labelled as fabricated are the following:

• Imam Bukhari relates in his Sahih: This is in the Torah: “O Prophet, We have sent you as a witness, a bringer of good tidings and a warner, and a refuge for the unlettered. You are My servant and Messenger. I named you ‘the one who places his trust in God.’ He is not harsh and rude, nor one who shouts in the streets. He does not repel evil with evil; instead, he pardons and forgives. God will not take his soul until He guides the deviant people to believe that there is no god but God, and thereby opens blind eyes and deaf ears and hardened hearts.” [5]

Orientalists and their Muslim followers criticize this hadith because it was reported by ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘As, who sometimes narrated from Ka’b ibn al-Akhbar. What they neglect to consider is that:

This hadith does not contradict the characteristics of the Messenger described in the Qur’an and other Islamic sources.

Despite their distortions and alterations, the Torah and the Gospels still contain references to the Messenger. The Qur’an points to this in several verses, among them: Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet whom they find written in the Torah and the Gospel with them (7:157); This is their like in the Torah, and their like in the Gospel is this (48:29). Husayn Jisri, who lived during the first half of the twentieth century, found 124 allusions to the Messenger in the Torah and the Gospels. The Gospel of Barnabas explicitly mentions Prophet Muhammad.

Ka’b al-Akhbar was a Jew who accepted Islam. Numerous Christians and Jews embraced Islam, especially during its early spread in Africa and Asia. They brought with them their previous knowledge, but that which was contrary to Islam was either corrected or mostly rejected. Such Companions as ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abbas, Abu Hurayra, Anas ibn Malik, and ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘As listened to Ka’b’s narrations from the Torah. It was impossible for them to accept anything contrary to Islam. ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Amr was an ascetic who was deeply devoted to Islam and the Prophet. Would he would lie or fabricate a Tradition, knowing what the punishment for such an action would be?

• During a severe famine and drought, Caliph ‘Umar held the hand of ‘Abbas, the Prophet’s uncle, and prayed: “O God! While he was alive our Prophet prayed to You for rain, and You sent down rain. Now we take his uncle as the means to pray to You for rain, so send down rain.” [6]

Some criticize this Tradition based on Jahiz’s objection. But Jahiz is not a Traditionist; rather, he sought to deny even the most authentic Traditions. His teacher was Nazzam, a materialist belonging to the Mu’tazila heterodox sect. Jahiz criticizes this Tradition in his Al-Bayan wa al-Tabyin: “In all the Traditions attributed to ‘Umar with regard to praying for rain, there are defects making it difficult for us to accept their authenticity. In some versions, he prayed on the pulpit; in others, in an open area; and still in others, after a prescribed prayer. Such confusions show that those Traditions are not authentic.”

The science of Hadith requires profound speciality. Jahiz is not a specialist. Neither is Ibn Abi al-Dunya, who, although a blessed ascetic, criticizes this Tradition in his book, which contains many mistakes and fabricated Traditions. Imam Ghazali is one of the few great revivers of the Islamic religious sciences and one of our greatest religious guides. Yet if you mention him as a reference in a disputed matter of Hadith, Traditionists will laugh at you. A doctor is not asked about engineering, and no one goes to a chemist for medical information or advice.

Second, using somebody or something as a means to reach God, provided you understand that the means do not affect the outcome, is allowed: O you who believe! Fear God and seek a means to Him (5:35). The Companions usually asked the Messenger to pray on their behalf. Once during a drought, they asked him to pay for rain. He did so, and it rained so heavily that they had to ask him to pray for it to stop. He prayed on the pulpit, and the people went to their houses in sunlight. After this explicit favor of God, the Messenger said: “I bear witness that God is powerful over everything, and that I am His servant and Messenger.” [7]

The Qur’an encouraged the Companions to ask the Messenger to seek God’s forgiveness for them, emphasizing that his praying is a means of peace and tranquility: We never sent any Messenger, but that he should be obeyed, by the leave of God. If, when they wronged themselves, they had come to you, and prayed forgiveness of God, and the Messenger had prayed forgiveness for them, they would have found God All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate (4:64); and: Pray for them; your prayers are a comfort for them (9:103). Once a blind man complained to the Messenger about his blindness. The Messenger advised him to perform wudu’ correctly, pray two rak’as, and say: “O God, I ask You and turn to You for the sake of Your Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet of mercy. O Muhammad, I turn to my Master for your sake for my need to be met. O God, accept his intercession with You on my behalf!” The man did so and recovered his sight. [8]

In conclusion, nothing in the Tradition disqualifies it from being authentic.

• It is reported in almost all of the six most authentic books of Tradition: “If a dog licks your bowl, clean it seven times; the first time with soil, the other six with water.” [9]

Some who are unaware of Hadith principles and medical developments doubt this Hadith’s authenticity, despite its authentic chain of transmission and its being a proof of Muhammad’s Prophethood. Had he not been a Prophet taught by God, how could he have known medical facts discovered only centuries later? We now know that dogs may carry microbes of certain diseases that can be transferred to human beings. Also, their saliva and excrement may contain substances harmful to human health. Moreover, no one in the Propeht’s era knew about disinfection and sterilization. The Messenger, being a Prophet taught by the All-Knowing, recommends soil to clean a bowl licked by a dog. Today we know that soil is a good anstiseptic containing substances like tetracycline.

Some interpret seven times to mean as many times as needed to clean the bowl. So, Hanafi jurists regard it as sufficient to clean the bowl three times.

• Some contemporary critics, including the French convert Maurice Bucaille, were quick to criticize the following Tradition, reported by Abu Hurayra: “When a fly falls into one of your bowls, dip it completely in the food before taking it out, for there is disease in one wing [or side] and a cure in the other.” [10] This Tradition’s narrators are beyond reproach. It was included by Bukhari, Abu Dawud, Nasa’i, Darimi, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal.

Like the previous Tradition, this one contains a proof of Muhammad’s Prophethood. At that time, no one knew that flies carry microbes. Moreover, we now know that when a fly falls into a bowl, it tries to hold one of its wings off the food so that it can take off again. As a result, it leaves its bacteria in the food. But when it is submerged in the food with a slight touch, the tiny bag on the other wing or side (the word janah has both meanings) bursts open and scatters anti-bacteria to kill the germs left on the food.

• Another authentic, but criticized, Tradition mentioned in all the authentic books of Tradition is: “It is not worth setting out to visit [intending to gain spiritual reward] any mosque other than these three: Al-Masjid al-Haram [the Holy Mosque surrounding the Ka’ba], the Mosque of the Prophet [in Madina], and al-Masjid al-Aqsa’ [just south of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem].” [11] This Tradition is criticized for being reported by Companions who narrated from Ka’b al-Akhbar or that it sanctifies Masjid al-Aqsa’. This pretext is completely groundless, for Masjid al-Aqsa’ does not belong to the Jews. Our Prophet turned to it while praying in Makka.

It is also the symbol of Islam’s terrestrial dominion. Our Prophet was first taken to Masjid al-Aqsa’ during his Ascension and led prayer there before the souls of the previous Prophets. God declares that He blessed the vicinities of this mosque (17:1). This blessed land surrounding it was first captured by Prophet Yusha (Joshua) ibn Nun after the death of Moses. After Prophet Muhammad, it was recaptured during ‘Umar’s caliphate. Salah al-Din Ayyubi, one of the greatest Muslim commanders, retook it from the Crusaders. If the Messenger included it among the three mosques most blessed and worthy of visiting, despite difficulties of travel, it is because God sanctified it.

Despite their sanctity, however, it is a mistake to assume a special kind of prayer in those mosques. As reported by Ibn ‘Abbas, a woman promised God that she would pray in Masjid al-Aqsa’ if she recovered from her illness. She recovered and, before setting out, called on Maymuna (one of the Messenger’s wives), who told her: “Stay here, mind your house, and pray in the Mosque of the Prophet. I heard the Messenger say: ‘Prayer performed here is 1,000 times better than that performed in any other mosque, except the Mosque of the Ka’ba.'” [12]

• The Messenger declared: “Among my Community there will always be a group who support the truth, until the Command of God will come [the Last Day]. Those who oppose them will not be able to harm them.” [13]

Despite being recorded in almost all authentic books of Tradition and proved by the long history of Islam, this Tradition has been subjected to unjustifiable criticism. Islam has resisted all attacks. No earthly power has been able to destroy it. Even after the concerted efforts to do so during the last 3 centuries, Islam is the only alternative, stronger and fresher than ever, for true human happiness and prosperity in both worlds. God has preserved Islam through a devoted self-sacrificing community in every period. This community concentrated, in one period, in Damascus, and in another, in Baghdad or Istanbul; once around ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, and then around Imam Ghazali or Imam Rabbani. While concentrating around a particular person in one place, they may have come together, in another, around someone else. Nor will the world be lacking in such groups in the future.

• Another Tradition denied by some is: “When you get up from your bed, don’t put your hand in a bowl [of food or drink] before washing it three times. You don’t know where your hands have been while you were asleep.” [14] Ahmad Amin and Abu Rayya, under the influence of the Orientalist Goldziher, ridicule this Tradition, even though it contains principles of hygiene. People often suffer from allergies or an itch. They might have scratched the affected places while sleeping, thereby accumulating germs, particularly under their fingernails. If such people eat (from communal bowls) without washing their hands, other people may become infected.

The Messenger always depended on Revelation, whether explicit or implicit. His Companions, famous for truthfulness, followed him as closely as possible and narrated whatever they received from him. Meticulous, truth-loving Traditionists collected the Traditions reaching them through reliable, trustworthy, and upright narrators. Some authentic Traditions predict certain future events and scientific developments. Just as none of these have yet proven to be false, so too no one has been able to falsify any other authentic Traditions.

Creation still holds some mysteries, and will continue to do so, regardless of human scientific and other progress. Psychic events or supernormal phenomena like telepathy and second sight, necromancy and other transcendental experiences, give clues to the existence of worlds or dimensions different from our own. As it is possible to find references to this in the Qur’an, some Traditions also may be dealt with from this viewpoint.

• As recorded in authentic books of Tradition, Tamim al-Dari, a Christian convert, tells of a hairy creature called “Jassasa” whom he saw in a strange island, and of a gigantic man who lives in a cave and introduces himself as the Dajjal (Anti-Christ). [15] We cannot deny this Tradition on positivistic premises, just as we cannot deny that the breast of our Prophet was burst open.

• Another Tradition that we can deal with partly from the same viewpoint is that God enjoined 50 daily prayers during the Ascension of Prophet Muhammad. On his return, Moses warned him about the difficulty of such an order. After the Prophet’s repeated appeals, God reduced the number to five. [16]

There are delicate points in the hadith. God is All-Forgiving, and although He knows how many prayers a day His servants can endure, He expects them to pray to Him for forgiveness and to realize their goals. Praying or supplicating is a mystery of servanthood to God and the cornerstone of servanthood. When servants perceive their poverty, inadequacy, and impotence, they come to depend on their Master’s absolute and infinite Richness and Power, thereby acquiring immeasurable power and inexhaustible wealth. Servants should be repeatedly reminded of this fundamental point so that they are not left to their carnal, evil-commanding, and self-conceited selves. If they are not so reminded, they are subject to incurable, unrecoverable helplessness and destitution.

As Prophet Muhammad is the last Prophet, he encompasses all aspects and dimensions of Prophethood, and confirms all previous Prophets. If we compare Prophethood to a huge blessed tree with branches spreading throughout the universe, Prophet Muhammad represents all its aspects and dimensions. His Prophethood is rooted deeply in the mission of the previous Prophets. Therefore, it is natural for him to benefit from his roots. Moses preceded him, so desiring ease for his nation in carrying out its religious duties, Prophet Muhammad justifiably followed his advice. Prophet Muhammad, although the greatest Prophet, never allowed his followers to regard the others Prophets as inferior to him.

This matter requires further elaboration, as there is much to be said on it. However, this subject is beyond the scope of this book.


[1] Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa’, 1:33.
[2] Muslim, “Tahara,” 1; Tirmidhi, “Da’awat,” 86.
[3] Ajluni, op. cit., 1:299; Daylami, Musnad al-Firdaws, 56.
[4] Abu Dawud, “‘Ilm,” 1; Tirmidhi, “‘Ilm,” 19.
[5] Bukhari, “Tafsir,” 48/3, “Buyu'”, 50; Darimi, “Muqaddima,” 2.
[6] Bukhari, “Istithqa’,” 3, “Fada’il al-Ashab,” 11.
[7] Bukhari, “Istithqa’,” 14; Abu Dawud, “Istithqa’,” 2; Ibn Ma’ja, “Iqama,” 154.
[8] Ibn Maja, “Iqama,” 189; Tirmidhi, “Da’awat,” 118.
[9] Muslim, “Tahara,” 91; Bukhari, “Wudu’,” 33; Abu Dawud, “Tahara,” 37.
[10] Bukhari, “Tib,” 58; Abu Dawud, “At’ima,” 48; Ibn Ma’ja, “Tib,” 31; Darimi, “At’ima,” 12.
[11] Bukhari, “al-Salat fi Masjid Makka,” 1; Muslim, “Hajj,” 511; Tirmidhi, “Salat,” 126.
[12] Muslim, “Hajj,” 510; Bukhari, “Masjid Makka,” 1; Nasa’i, “Manasik,” 124.
[13] Muslim, “‘Imara,” 170; Bukhari, “I’tisam,” 10; Abu Dawud, “Fitan,” 1.
[14] Abu Dawud, “Tahara,” 50; Bukhari, “Wudu’,” 26; Muslim, “Tahara,” 87–8.
[15] Muslim, “Fitan,” 119; Abu Dawud, “Malahim,” 15; Ibn Ma’ja, “Fitan,” 33.
[16] Bukhari, “Salat,” 1; Nasa’i, “Salat,” 1; Muslim, “Iman,” 263; Ibn Ma’ja, “Iqama,” 194.