Problems in the Ahadith 


4.6.2 Problems In The Ahadith

by John Thorpe

The Ahadith purport to be reliable accounts of the words and actions of Muhammad and his companions. It is therefore reasonable to look at these accounts and to see what light they throw on the prophet-hood of Muhammad. One test is to compare them against each other, the Qur'an and known fact. When this is done, several problems immediately appear. Here are a few examples from Sahih Bukhari.


According to one hadith in volume 4 (SB 4.55.546), Abdullah bin Salam asked Muhammad to answer three questions in order to prove his prophet-hood. Two of these are inconsequential, but the third was: “Why does a child resemble its father, and why does it resemble its maternal uncle?”. The answer to this question (and the other questions) was claimed by Muhammad to have come from God via the angel Gabriel: Allah‘s Apostle said, “Gabriel has just now told me of their answers.”. The answer given is, however, somewhat unexpected to modern ears: As for the resemblance of the child to its parents: If a man has sexual intercourse with his wife and gets discharge first, the child will resemble the father, and if the woman gets discharge first, the child will resemble her. This is completely contradicted by modern genetics and our knowledge of inheritance, although 'Abdullah bin Salam seems to have found it convincing.

The Height Of Adam

According to SB 4.55.543 Allah created Adam, making him 60 cubits tall. This would be a height of 90 feet (27½ metres). No animal body can function at this height. The highest that the heart could pump blood from the feet would be less than 32 feet (9.81 metres); any greater height than this would cause a vacuum lock to develop in the circulation system. In fact the height at which the circulation system breaks down would be considerably less than this due to friction between the blood and the walls of the blood vessels.

Satan In The Nose

The Prophet said, “If anyone of you rouses from sleep and performs the ablution, he should wash his nose by putting water in it and then blowing it out thrice, because Satan has stayed in the upper part of his nose all the night.” (SB 4.54.516). Does Satan live in people's noses at night? How big is he? How many people's nose does he manage to live in at once?

Rats Are Jewish

The Prophet said, “A group of Israelites were lost. Nobody knows what they did. But I do not see them except that they were cursed and changed into rats, for if you put the milk of a she-camel in front of a rat, it will not drink it, but if the milk of a sheep is put in front of it, it will drink it.” I told this to Ka’b who asked me, “Did you hear it from the Prophet ?” I said, “Yes.” Ka’b asked me the same question several times.; I said to Ka’b. “Do I read the Torah? [i.e. I tell you this from the Prophet.]” (SB 4.54.524). The teaching here is that rats were once Jews and the evidence given is because they will not drink camel's milk. As this is a general argument it must be taken to refer to all rats (possibly Jereboas).

The Wings Of The House Fly

The Prophet said “If a house fly falls in the drink of anyone of you, he should dip it (in the drink), for one of its wings has a disease and the other has the cure for the disease.” (SB 4.54.537). This tells us that disease is spread by house flies because one wing contains poison. The other wing contains the antidote to that poison. This explanation is very poor by modern standards, although it speaks much for the powers of observations of Islamic scholars that they connected disease with house flies.


The Prophet said, “Fever is from the heat of the [Hell] Fire; so abate fever with water.” (SB 4.54.486). A very similar statement is found in SB 4.54.483. Modern medicine has shown that a fever is a defence mechanism against invasion by foreign micro-organisms.


Muhammad had a superstitious fear of dogs: The Prophet said, “Angels do not enter a house which has either a dog or a picture in it.” (SB 4.54.539). Allah’s Apostle ordered that the dogs should be killed. (SB 4.54.540). The next two sections indicate that anyone keeping a dog as a pet will lose some of their reward.



This hadith is from Sahih Muslim, but it is a particularly powerful example: Allah's messenger [peace be upon him] said: A believer eats in one intestine, whereas a non-believer eats in seven intestines (SM 3.22.5118). Modern anatomy shows that this is not true!

Fear Of Wind And Eclipses

SB 2.17.144 tells us that: Whenever a strong wind blew, anxiety appeared on the face of the Prophet [fearing that the wind might be a sign of Allah's wrath]. SB 2.18.167 tells us a similar thing about solar eclipses. The problem here is that a prophet should know the truth about such things, that they are natural phenomena which should not cause fear in the righteous.

Muhammad Under The Influence Of Magic

Even worse, there are several hadith which tell us that Muhammad was sometimes under an enchantment which made him imagine things that were not so and tell untruths. SB 4.53.400 says: Once the prophet was bewitched so that he began to imagine that he had done a thing which in fact he had not done… SB 4.54.490 gives another version of the tradition which starts: Magic was worked on the Prophet so that he began to fancy that he was doing a thing which he was not actually doing. The hadith then goes on to say who bewitched him ('Lubaid bin Al-A'sam) and how Muhammad was cured. A similar account appears in SB 7.71.660. This causes a serious problem for Moslems. If Muhammad sometimes imagined things, then he is of no value as a prophet.

These and other inconsistencies in the Ahadith lead to one of the following conclusions: either even Ahadith with the status Sahih are suspect and never came from Muhammad at all, or Muhammad was no prophet (or both). The idiosyncrasies he showed in terms of dogs, eclipses and wind suggest a man with strange obsessions, and also weaken the case that Muhammad was a prophet; a prophet would know that winds and eclipses are natural phenomena and not signs of God's wrath.

The failure of the Ahadith is a more serious problem than one might, at first, realise. One of the weaknesses of Islam is that there is no direct method of validating the Qur'an. The reason that the Qur'an is taken to contain the words of Muhammad is because there is a witness of tradition that this is the case. This witness should be enshrined in the Ahadith.

If the Ahadith are found to be wanting then the most useful witness to the origin of the Qur'an has failed and there is no reason to treat it as a book written in the early period after the death of Muhammad or to treat it as the unaltered word of God.

If, on the other hand, one can show that the Isnad method of establishing the truth of a hadith is valid, and that the Ahadith in books like Sahih Bukhari really are accurate accounts of the sayings of Muhammad, then we must accept that the sayings above were really made by Muhammad. As some of these sayings are known to be factually incorrect we know that the person who originally made them was not a prophet from God. A belief in the accuracy of the Ahadith must lead one to reject the claim that Muhammad was a prophet.

The tradition that Muhammad was sometimes under a spell during which time he did not speak the truth is a very awkward one for Moslems. If Muhammad sometimes deceived others, how can we trust any of his words? Why should we not believe that part (or all) of the Qur'an was delivered while he was under a delusion?