Scientific Absurdities In the Hadith Literature

“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”


The hadith literature is believed by Muslims to comprise the traditions and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions, faithfully transmitted by successive generations of narrators. It is revered as a major source of legal and spiritual guidance in Islam, second only to the Qur’an itself. Many Muslims allow their attitude to everyday life to be determined by these anecdotes: regarding dogs as unclean, for example, on the sole ground that Muhammad is said to have done so. It is thus not trivial that the hadith literature is positively riddled with scientific absurdities, from medicine to astronomy. In this article, we will run through just a handful of them.

When apologists for Islam are confronted with these inconvenient narrations, the standard response is to dismiss them as “unreliable” or “inauthentic”. This is a laughable argument, for by definition, all of the hadith are unreliable. Indeed, we are talking about tens of thousands of chains of hearsay from illiterate 7th century bedouins, compiled and edited by people who died centuries after Muhammad’s death. Thus, if we are going to dismiss one hadith as unreliable, then we should dismiss them all as such. To disqualify only those which portray Muhammad in a negative light reeks of confirmation bias. As the late Christopher Hitchens brilliantly put it:

As one might expect, the six authorized collections of hadith, which pile hearsay upon hearsay through the unwinding of the long spool of isnads (“A told B, who had it from C, who learned it from D”), were put together centuries after the events they purport to describe. One of the most famous of the six compilers, Bukhari, died 238 years after the death of Muhammad. Bukhari is deemed unusually reliable and honest by Muslims, and seems to have deserved his reputation in that, of the three hundred thousand attestations he accumulated in a lifetime devoted to the project, he ruled that two hundred thousand of them were entirely valueless and unsupported. Further exclusion of dubious traditions and questionable isnads reduced his grand total to ten thousand hadith. You are free to believe, if you so choose, that out of this formless mass of illiterate and half-remembered witnessing the pious Bukhari, more than two centuries later, managed to select only the pure and undefiled ones that would bear examination.

Now from an Islamic perspective, certain hadith can be considered more reliable than others; indeed, there are a great many hadith which are technically classified as ‘weak’. However, according to hadith scholars, this classification is not sufficient to dismiss a narration as inauthentic; rather, a hadith can only be known to be forged by the admission of its forger. Before leaping to discredit those narrations which they find embarrassing, da’wah drones should actually study their religion. In his seminal work An Introduction to the Science of the Hadith, the Shafi’i hadith specialist Ibn al-Salah al-Shahrazuri (1181-1245) explains this essential difference:

The forged hadith is the fabricated, made-up hadith. Be aware that the forged hadith is the worst kind of the weak hadith. It is not permissible under any circumstance for someone who is aware that a hadith is forged to relate it, unless coupled with a declaration that it is forged. This is different from the other kinds of weak hadith – which may possibly be fundamentally truthful – in as much as it is permissible to transmit the other kinds of weak hadith to instil virtue and inspire fear… A hadith can be known to be forged only by the acknowledgement of its forger or something equivalent to his acknowledgement.


 1: Adam was a 90 foot giant

Narrated by Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, “Allah created Adam, making him 60 cubits [90 feet] tall. When He created him, He said to him, “Go and greet that group of angels, and listen to their reply, for it will be your salutation and the salutations of your offspring.” So, Adam said to the angels, “As-Salamu Alaikum” (peace be upon you). The angels said, “As-Salamu Alaika wa Rahmatu-l-lahi” (peace and Allah’s Mercy be upon you). Thus the angels added to Adam’s salutation the expression, “Wa Rahmatu-l-lahi”. Any person who will enter Paradise will resemble Adam in appearance and figure. People have been decreasing in stature since Adam’s creation.”

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2: Geocentrism (the sun goes under Allah’s Throne)

Narrated by Abu Dharr:

The Prophet (ﷺ) asked me at sunset, “Do you know where the sun goes (at the time of sunset)?” I replied, “Allah and His Apostle know better.” He said, “It goes (i.e. travels) till it prostrates itself underneath the Throne and takes the permission to rise again, and it is permitted and then (a time will come when) it will be about to prostrate itself but its prostration will not be accepted, and it will ask permission to go on its course but it will not be permitted, but it will be ordered to return whence it has come and so it will rise in the west. And that is the interpretation of the Statement of Allah: “And the sun runs its fixed course for a term (decreed). That is the Decree of (Allah) the Exalted in Might, the All- Knowing.” (36:38)

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3: An eclipse is a tool to scare mankind

Narrated by Abu Bakra:

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: “The sun and the moon are two signs amongst the signs of Allah and they do not eclipse because of the death of someone but Allah frightens His devotees with them.”

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4: Giant goats in space

Narrated by Abbas ibn Abdul-Muttalib:

I was sitting in Al-Batha with a company among whom the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was sitting, when a cloud passed above them. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) looked at it and said: “What do you call this?” They said: “Sahab.” He said: “And muzn?” They said: “And muzn.” He said: “And anan?” They said: “And anan.” Abu Dawud said: “I am not quite confident about the word anan.” He asked: “Do you know the distance between Heaven and Earth?” They replied: “We do not know.” He then said: “The distance between them is seventy-one, seventy-two, or seventy-three years. The heaven which is above it is at a similar distance (going on till he counted seven heavens). Above the seventh heaven there is a sea, the distance between whose surface and bottom is like that between one heaven and the next. Above that there are eight mountain goats the distance between whose hoofs and haunches is like the distance between one heaven and the next. Then Allah, the Blessed and the Exalted, is above that.”

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5: Earth rests on a giant whale (Nũn)

In the Arabic version of Tafsir ibn Kathir, the author comments repeatedly on the Nũn – that is, the giant whale on which the earth is resting. These – ahem – insights are omitted in the English translation, to spare the embarrassment of Muslim propagandists in the West. Commenting on verse 68:1, Ibn Kathir quotes the following hadith narrated by Ibn Abbas:

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “The first thing Allah created was the pen. He ordered it to write. It said: “What shall I write?” He said: “Write the fate.” So it wrote what will happen from that day until the Day of Judgement, then he created the Nũn, then he raised the water and created the heavens with it and laid the earth on the back of the Nũn, the Nũn moved and so did the earth, so it was fixed down with mountains.”

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6: Saying “Allah willing” during sex guarantees a male child

Narrated by Abu Huraira:

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Once Solomon, son of David said, “Tonight I will have sexual intercourse with one hundred (or ninety-nine) women each of whom will give birth to a knight who will fight in Allah’s Cause.” But he did not say, “Allah willing.” Therefore only one of those women conceived and gave birth to a half-man. By Him in Whose Hands Muhammad’s life is, if he had said, “Allah willing”, (he would have begotten sons) all of whom would have been knights striving in Allah’s Cause.”

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7: Black dogs are devils

Narrated by Abdullah bin Samit:

Abu Dharr reports that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “When any one of you stands for prayer and there is a thing before him equal to the back of a saddle that covers him and there is not before him (a thing equal to the back of a saddle), his prayer would be cut off by (the passing of) an ass, a woman and a black dog.” I said, “O Abu Dharr, what feature is there in the black dog which distinguishes it from the red dog and the yellow dog?” He said, “O, son of my brother, I asked the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) as you are asking me, and he said: The black dog is a devil.”

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8: Babies cry at birth because Satan touches them

Narrated by Sa’id bin al-Musaiyab:

Abu Huraira said, “I heard Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) saying, “There is none born among the offspring of Adam, but Satan touches it. A child therefore, cries loudly at the time of birth because of the touch of Satan, except Mary and her child.” Then Abu Huraira recited: “And I seek refuge with You for her and for her offspring from the outcast Satan.” (3:36)

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9: Yawning is from Satan

Yawning occurs when our blood contains increased amounts of carbon dioxide. The following hadith, narrated by Abu Huraira, suggests otherwise:

The Prophet said, “Yawning is from Satan, and if anyone of you yawns, he should curb his yawning as much as possible, for if anyone of you (during the act of yawning) should say ‘Ha’, Satan will laugh at him.”

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10: Oversleeping is caused by Satan urinating in your ears

Narrated by ‘Abdullah:

A man was mentioned to the Prophet (peace be upon him) who had kept on sleeping till morning and had not got up for the prayer. The Prophet said, “Satan urinated in his ears.”

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11: A disease in one wing, a cure in the other

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “If a house fly falls in the drink of anyone of you, he should dip it (in the drink) and take it out, for one of its wings has a disease and the other has the cure for the disease.”

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12: Fever is caused by hellfire

Narrated by ‘Aisha:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Fever is from the heat of Hell, so abate fever with water.”

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13: Water is not polluted by dead dogs or menstrual clothes

Narrated by Abu Sa’id al-Khudri:

The people asked the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ): “Can we perform ablution out of the well of Buda’ah, which is a well into which menstrual clothes, dead dogs and stinking things were thrown?” He replied: “Water is pure and is not defiled by anything.”

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14: The crying palm tree

Narrated by Jabir bin ‘Abdullah:

The Prophet (ﷺ) used to stand by a tree or a date-palm on Friday. Then an Ansari woman or man said. “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! Shall we make a pulpit for you?” He replied, “If you wish.” So they made a pulpit for him and when it was Friday, he proceeded towards the pulpit (for delivering the sermon). The date-palm cried like a child! The Prophet (ﷺ) descended (the pulpit) and embraced it while it continued moaning like a child being quietened. The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “It was crying for (missing) what it used to hear of religious knowledge given near to it.”

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15: Camel urine as medicine

Narrated by Anas:

The climate of Medina did not suit some people, so the Prophet (ﷺ) ordered them to follow his shepherd, i.e. his camels, and drink their milk and urine (as a medicine). So they followed the shepherd – that is, the camels – and drank their milk and urine till their bodies became healthy. Then they killed the shepherd and drove away the camels. When the news reached the Prophet (ﷺ) he sent some people in their pursuit. When they were brought, he cut their hands and feet and their eyes were branded with heated pieces of iron.

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16: Eating seven dates can cure poison

Though dates possess certain medicinal properties, curing poison and dispelling magic are not of them. Narrated by Sa’d:

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “He who eats seven ‘Ajwa dates every morning, will not be affected by poison or magic on the day he eats them.”

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17: Drinking honey cures diarrhoea

Narrated by Abu Sa’id:

A man came to the Prophet and said, “My brother has got loose motions.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Let him drink honey.” The man again (came) and said, “I made him drink (honey) but that made him worse.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Allah has said the Truth, and the abdomen of your brother has told a lie.”

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18: Monkeys practice the stoning of adulterers

Narrated by ‘Amr bin Maimun:

The Prophet said: “During the pre-lslamic period of ignorance, I saw a she-monkey surrounded by a number of monkeys. They were all stoning it, because it had committed illegal sexual intercourse. I too, stoned it along with them.”

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What other laws do monkeys follow? Are they required to make the pilgrimage to Mecca? Are they required to read the Qur’an? This is simply a myth. In fact, it is similar to a story found in the Ramayana, an ancient Hindu epic, featuring the monkey Hanuman and others of his kind fighting for control of the monkey kingdom.


19: Animal cries are caused by the sight of angels and demons

Narrated by Abu Huraira:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “When you hear the crowing of cocks, ask for Allah’s Blessings for (their crowing indicates that) they have seen an angel. And when you hear the braying of donkeys, seek Refuge with Allah from Satan for (their braying indicates that) they have seen a Satan.”

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20: Black cumin cures all diseases

Narrated by Abu Huraira:

I heard Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) saying, “There is healing in black cumin for all diseases except death.”

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Support network for Ex-Muslims in Ireland. Empowering apostates from Islam and raising awareness of the jihadist threat. Affiliate of Atheist Alliance International.

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