Hadith about Israelites changed into rats explained

Islamophobes and Hadith rejecting cultists use a particular narration to malign Islam and to put to doubt the entire Hadith treasure respectively.

The narration:

Narrated Abu Huraira: 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) (Sahih Bukhari, Hadith 3060)

Reality of the matter:

Commenting on the Hadith from Sahih Bukhari Hafiz Ibn Hajr wrote:

“And majority has responded to this saying that the Prophet –may Allah bless him- said this before the revelation came to him about the reality of this matter. And for this reason there is no dogmatic assertion from him on this, but it is there in the denial of this as found in Ibn Mas’ud’s narration.” (Fath al-Bari 11/166)

Towards the end of a long Hadith reported by Ibn Masu’d –may Allah be pleased with them both- we read that the Holy Prophet –may Allah bless him- said: “Verily, Allah did not cause the race of those which suffered metamorphosis to grow or they were not survived by young ones …” (Sahih Muslim, Hadith 4815)

The Missionary haters of Islam will never share this Hadith in its due perspective while discussing this topic.

The case of the Hadith from Sahih Bukhari is very much like the case of narrations about the event of fecundation of palm-trees and the one about al-Ghila. The Prophet –may Allah bless him- said the thing about rats based on his observation that rats did not drink milk of a she-camel as Jews did not deem it lawful for them. So it was just his guess based on an observation as clear even from the tone of the narration.

It’s not the question of contradiction even. We must remember what the Messenger of Allah –may Allah bless him- said:

“So, do not cling to me in my guess. But when I tell you something on behalf of Allah, take it firm, because I shall never tell a lie on behalf of Allah.” (Sahih Muslim, Hadith 4356)

A clarification:

One may however try to contrast the above with the following verses of the Holy Qur’an:

“Nor does he speak out of desire. It is naught but revelation that is revealed,” (53: 3-4)

“The verses tell us that it is absolutely impossible for the Messenger –may Allah bless him- to forge lies and impute them to Allah. Nothing he utters is of his own wish or desire. He only conveys to the people what he was commanded to convey, in its entirety, without additions or deletions.”

Along with the kinds of revelation –i.e. the one included in Qur’an and the one which is not- at times the Prophet –may Allah bless him- made ijtihad (i.e. personal analogy etc.)

“In this there does exist the possibility of mistake of judgment. But it is the characteristic of the Messenger –may Allah bless him- and other Prophets –may Allah bless them all- that if they commit any error of judgment, Allah sends down a revelation to amend it, so that they do not unwittingly persist in their erroneous conclusions.” (Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Shafi’, Ma’arif al-Qur’an, English Translation vol.8 p.202)

For a relatively detailed discussion on Ijtihad of the Holy Prophet –may Allah bless him- see Dr. Muhammad al-Saduqi’s work al-Imam Muhammad bin Hassan al-Shaybani wa Athruhu fil Fiqh al-Islami, Darul Thaqafah, Doha, 1987 pp. 16-20 (Online Source)

Indeed Allah knows the best!

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    1. Its quite funny, you admitted that Muhammad made this remarks, you also pointed out that Muhammad never said anything from himself, yet you have absolutely no problem Muhammad making such claims ?

      Even if It was Muhammad's guess, as you are trying to sell, it does not change the matter. Muhammad himself proved he had absolutely no scientific information let alone common sense. I wonder you can do this experiment today and put milk in front of Rats and see they do what Muhammad claimed they should do ? Can you ?

    2. By the way did Muhammad forget that Allah in Quran mentioned Jews were turned into apes and swine ? He did not mentioned anything about Rats ? why this contradiction or Muhammad got it wrong ?

    3. Waqar Akbar CheemaJune 26, 2011 at 1:03 PM

      Mr. I have explained the whole idea. Do not burn your blood while your point is killed. I have no research about rats but no matter what there is no reason to doubt that rats did not drink camel milk. He made an observation and that lead him to say something, perhaps it might have been something novel even in his observation and so he said what he said which was later corrected by Allah.

      He had known on divine authority that some of the Israelites were punished like that and by that time he did know what became of them. So for theists there is no stumbling block here. For atheists there are more basic points to talk about first.

      As to scientific knowledge. The Prophet -may Allah bless him- never sat in a laboratory to experiment things. He was told thing directly by Allah through revelation. Infact this point proves that with so many scientific facts pointed to in the Qur'an and hadith and with no scientific experiences of the Prophet, there was some Divine Agency telling him things. And this leads one to believe that he was indeed the Messenger of the Lord of the Worlds.

      Allah knows the best!

    4. Waqar Akbar CheemaJune 26, 2011 at 1:11 PM

      lol for what you say about contradiction. It just shows how objectively you are looking for the things. There is no mention of apes and swines in the hadith and it does not say that never happened. The context of the saying is already told. You won't end up anywhere Mr. for you know no objectivity. You are hell bent on finding the troubles while there is none. Trying spit on the moon, it'll fall on your own face.

    5. I wouldn't be surprised if "debatewithimm" was Sly Shamoun. Over here in the comments section:

      Shamoun disguises himself as "Ben Malik" while debating Muslims.

    6. You could also add what at-Tahawi said in his Sharh Mushkil al-Aathaar, Volume 8, pages 321-327.

    7. Jazak Allah Khair for this article! I referenced it in my blog: