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Status of children buried alive in Jahiliyyah

Question

What is the grade of the following Hadith and what does it mean?

 

Sayyiduna Salamah ibn Yazid Al Ju’fi (radiyallahu ‘anhu) said:

‘My brother and I came to the Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and said that our mother had passed away during jahiliyyah, she use to honour her guests, upheld the ties of kinship, and did such and such good, but she had buried alive a sister of ours during jahiliyyah who had not reached the age of puberty.

Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sllam) said:

‘The one who was buried and the one who buried her are in Jahannam, unless Islam reached the one who buried the child alive and she became a Muslim.’

Answer

The above Hadith is recorded in Sunan An Nasai, Musnad Ahmad and Al Mu’jamul Kabir.

(Sunan An Nasai, Hadith: 11585, Musnad Ahmad, vol. 3 pg. 478, and Al Mu’jamul Kabir, Hadith: 6319)

Hafiz Haythami (rahimahullah) has declared the Hadith as authentic.

(Majma’uz Zawaid, vol. 1 pg. 119)

 

Before explaining the above Hadith, it is important to note that numerous Muhaddithun and Fuqaha are of the view that the children of the disbelievers will be in Jannah.

(Fathul Bari, under Hadith: 1385)

 

The following narrations support this view:

1) Sayyiduna Samurah (radiyallahu ‘anhu) reports that Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:

…..As for the tall man in the garden (in Jannah), that was Sayyiduna Ibrahim (‘alayhis salam), and the children around him were those children who passed away on ‘fitrah’ (natural disposition ie. Iman). So some Sahabah asked: ‘O Messenger of Allah, what about the children of the polytheists? Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied, ‘The children of the polytheists as well’ (ie. they too are in Jannah)

(Sahih Bukhari, Hadith: 7047)

 

2) Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is reported to have said:

‘The Ambiya, martyrs, infants, and children who were buried alive will all be in Jannah’

(Sunan Abi Dawud, Hadith: 2521 and Musnad Ahmad, vol. 5 pg. 58 with a sound chain. See Fathul Bari, under Hadith: 1385)

3) Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah (radiyallahu ‘anhu) reports that Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:

‘Every child is born on ‘fitrah’ (the natural inclination to Islam), however the child’s parents make him a Jew or Christian…’

(Sahih Bukhari, Hadith: 1385 and Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 2658)

 

4) Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (radiyallahu ‘anhuma) says:

The children of the polytheists will be in Jannah, whomsoever claims that they will go to Jahannam is mistaken. He then recited the verse ‘ When the child buried alive will be questioned, for which crime were you murdered?’

(Tafsir Ibn Abi Hatim; Tafsir ibn Kathir, Surah: 81 Verses: 8 and 9)

 

The apparent contradiction

The Hadith in question outwardly contradicts the above mentioned narrations, it therefore requires an interpretation:

1) ‘Allamah Munawi (rahimahullah) explains:

‘The Arabic words used in this Hadith are ‘Al waidah’ and ‘Al maw udah’, (which usually  translates as ‘the one who buries’ and ‘the buried’). However, it was customary for the Arabs at that time to dig a hole and appoint a women to stand in the hole when the mother was in labour. If the new born was a female, this woman would bury the child alive. Thus the word ‘Al waidah‘ refers to this woman and ‘Al maw udah‘ refers to the mother, on behalf of whom the child was buried alive’

(Faydul Qadir, vol. 6 pg. 480)

 

2) It is possible that the Hadith in your question refers to that period wherein Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had mentioned his initial view, ie they will be with their parents in Jahannam. Later on, Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) possibly through revelation, changed his view.

Imam ‘Abdur Razzaq As San’ani (rahimahullah) has recorded the following weak narration which supports this explanation:

 

Sayyidatuna ‘Aaishah (radiyallahu ‘anha) reports that Sayyidatuna Khadijah (radiyallahu ‘anha) asked Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) regarding the children of the disbelievers. Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied, ‘They will be with their parents’ (ie. in Jahannam).

After a while she again asked Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) the same question. This time Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied, ‘Allah Knows best what they will do’.

Sayyidatuna Khadijah (radiyallahu ‘anha) further states:

‘After Islam had become strong, and the verse ‘None shall be responsible for the sins of others’ was revealed, I asked the question for a third time, this time Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied, ‘ They are upon ‘fitrah’ (ie. Islam) or Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said ‘They will be in Jannah’.

(Refer: Fathul Bari, under Hadith: 1385)

 

3) Some Commentators have stated that the Hadith in question is specific to that incident and is not the general rule.

(Sharhut Tibi, Mirqat; See footnotes on Sunan Abi Dawud of Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwamah, vol. 5 pg. 301)

 

And Allah Ta’ala Knows best

 

Answered by: Moulana Suhail Motala

 

Approved by: Moulana Muhammad Abasoomar

 

Checked by: Moulana Haroon Abasoomar