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Unreliable Hadith about Sunset in the Spring of Warm Water

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم الحمد لله وحده و الصلاة و السلام على من لا نبي بعده و على آله و أصحابه أجمعين

Analysis of the reliability of the alleged report about the sun setting in a spring of warm water according to the Holy Prophet- peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

There is a Hadith from Sunan Abu Dawud that has been brought up by some anti-Islamic polemicists.

The narration:

The narration along with the chain of narrators goes as;

Yazid bin Harun- Sufyan bin Husain- Al-Hakam bin ‘Utaybah- Ibrahim (b. Yazid al-Taymi)- Yazid al-Taymi- Abu Dharr said: I was sitting behind the Apostle of Allah who was riding a donkey while the sun was setting. He asked: Do you know where this sets? I replied: Allah and his Apostle know best. He said: It sets in a spring of warm water. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Hadith 3991)

Related narrations:

In Musnad Ahmad these words are part of a longer narration reported through same chain of narrators;

Abu Dharr narrated, “Once I was with the Prophet riding a donkey on which there was a saddle or a (piece of) velvet. That was at sunset. He said to me, ‘O Abu Dharr, do you know where this (sun) sets?’ I said, ‘Allah and His Messenger know better.’ He said, ‘It sets in a spring of murky water, (then) it goes and prostrates before its Lord, the Exalted in Might and the Ever-Majestic, under the Throne. And when it is time to go out, Allah allows it to go out and thus it rises. But, when He wants to make it rise where it sets, He locks it up. The sun will then say, “O my Lord, I have a long distance to run.” Allah will say, “Rise where you have set.” That (will take place) when no (disbelieving) soul will get any good by believing then.’” (Musnad Ahmad, Hadith 21459 al-Risala ed.)

This narration is quite similar to the narration found in many hadith works including Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim etc. except the words “It sets in a spring of warm water.”

In Sahih Bukhari it goes as;

Sufyan (al-Thawri)- Al-A’mash- Ibrahim (b. Yazid al-Taymi)- Yazid al-Taymi- Narrated Abu Dharr: The Prophet asked me at sunset, "Do you know where the sun goes (at the time of sunset)?" I replied, "Allah and His Messenger 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 is quickly proceeding towards its destination. That is the designing of the All-Mighty, the All-Knowing. " (36.38) (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 54, Hadith 421)

The significant difference is of the words “it sets in a spring of warm/murky water.”

Analysis of the chains of narrators:

From Abu Darr, it both ways i.e. with and without the words under consideration, it narrated by Yazid al-Taymi and from him by his son Ibrahim bin Yazid al-Taymi. From Ibrahim it is narrated by six different narrators;
1- Al-A’mash: And from him at least five people narrate it. See Sahih Bukhari etc.

2- Yunus bin ‘Ubaid: And from him at least three narrators report this narration. See Sahih Muslim etc.

3- Musa bin al-Musayyab al-Thaqafi: From him it is narrated by Abdah bin Sulayman, See Al-‘Uzmah of Abu al-Shaykh al-Asbahani 4/1189
4- Abdul A’la al-Taymi: The narrator down from him is Mis’ar, See Hilyah al-Awliya 5/89

5- Harun bin Sa’d: Abdul Ghaffar bin al-Qasim narrates from him. See Al-‘Uzmah of Abu al-Shaykh al-Asbahani 4/1191 and Al-Tabarani’s Mu’jam Al-Awst, Hadith 4470

6- Al-Hakam bin ‘Utaybah: The sole narrator down from him is Sufyan bin Husain, See Sunan Abu Dawud, Musnad Ahmad, Mustadrak al-Hakim, Musnad al-Bazzar etc.

Of all these various routes from Ibrahim bin Yazid al-Taymi, it is only through Al-Hakam bin ‘Utaybah that these words “It sets in a spring of warm water” are narrated.

In short, there are six narrators reporting the hadith from Ibrahim bin Yazid, and only one of them i.e. Al-Hakam bin ‘Utaybah quotes the particular words. And to add to the trouble there is again only one narrator down from him and he is Sufyan bin Husain whereas parallel to Sufyan there are at least eleven people narrating the hadith without these words on the authority of five different people narrating from Ibrahim bin Yazid.

Following flow diagram for the above detail gives the pictorial display the strangeness of these words. Down from Ibrahim bin Yazid al-Taymi only the narrators with red outline for their names give the words under consideration against loads of other narrators who do not report these words.

The narration is anomalous (shaadh) and defective (mu’allal):

This fact alone is enough to make the narration dubious. No doubt both Al-Hakam and Sufyan are per se trustworthy narrators but because on their respective levels they go against much reliable and numerous narrators. Such a narration reported this way is termed as “shaadh” i.e. anomalous.

Carefully read the definition of anomalous (shaadh) hadith given by Ibn al-Salah (d. 643 A.H.) in his magnus opus, “Kitab Ma’rifat ‘anwa’ ‘ilm al-Hadith” translated under the title “An Introduction to the Science of Hadith”;

“… the anomalous hadith is the one which a reliable transmitter relates and which is in conflict with what other people relate.” (An Introduction to the Science of Hadith, Translated by Dr. Eerik Dickinson, Garnet Publishing Ltd. Berkshire 2006 p.57)

Also see the definition of defective (mu’allal) hadith given by Ibn Salah;

“A defective hadith is one in which a defect impugning its soundness is detected, although it outwardly appears to be free of the defect. That may apply to an isnad made up of reliable transmitters which outwardly seems to fulfill the conditions of soundness. Someone being alone in transmitting the hadith as well as others contradicting him aid in catching the defect.” (An Introduction to the Science of Hadith, p.67)

And when a report or a part of it becomes “shaadh” it ceases to be a sahih (sound) report. For this the definition of a “Sahih hadith” will help.

Hafiz Ibn Salah writes;

“The sahih (sound) hadith is a “supported” hadith (al-hadith al-musnad), the isnad of which coheres continuously through the transmission of one upright and accurate person from another up to its point of termination. The sound hadith can be neither anomalous (shaadh) nor defective (mu’allal), (An Introduction to the Science of Hadith, p.5)

So merely being “sahih al-isnaad” is not enough for the report itself to be sahih.

Therefore, the very fact that Al-Hakam bin ‘Utaybah’s narrates differently from five other narrators reporting it on the authority of Ibrahim bin Yazid al-Taymi, makes the narration “shaadh” (anomalous) which is a kind of weak (da’if) reports.

But the trouble with the narration does not end here. Down from Al-Hakam bin ‘Utaybah, Sufyan bin Husain is also unique in narrating these words whereas the number of narrators down from narrators other than Al-Hakam narrating it from Ibrahim al-Taymi is at least eleven. There is not a single supporting narrator for Sufyan either.

Hafiz Al-Bazzar (d. 292 A.H.) after giving this narration writes;

“We do not know anyone other than Sufyan bin Husain reporting it through the chain: Al-Hakam bin ‘Utayba –Ibrahim- his father- Abu Dharr, while Yunus bin ‘Ubayd, Suleman Al-A’mash and Harun bin Sa’d have also narrated it from Ibrahim.”
(Musnad Al-Bazzar- Bahr al-Zakhkhar, under Hadith 4010)

And this is important, not only because it adds more to the oddity of the narration, but also because Sufyan bin Husain though generally considered authentic was also criticized by few scholars. This criticism does not harm his general narrations but becomes significant when he goes out of the way and narrates what other narrators from the same original source do not.

Muhammad ibn Sa’d said about him: “He was reliable (but) he made many mistakes in his narrations.” (Tabaqat al-Kubra, Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyya, Beirut, 1990, vol.7 p.227 No. 3417)


These details make it quite clear that according to rules of reporting it is not right to attribute these words to the Messenger of Allah- on him be the peace and blessings of Allah.

Apparently, the words from Qur’an 18:86 were confused and appended to the hadith that had no link to the ayah whatsoever. The narrator failed to understand the real significance of the verse and the hadith and for apparent semblance he confused the two.

The verse from the Holy Qur’an i.e. surah 18 ayah 86 is simply about how the sunset appeared to Zulqarnain and even the classical Muslim scholars understood it like that. The detailed explanation of it is found HERE.

As to the meanings of the Hadith of Abu Dharr- may Allah be pleased with him- about the sun prostrating under the Throne (‘arsh) of Allah, visit THIS PAGE for explanation.

So the excitement of the missionaries is in vain. Pity!

Indeed Allah knows the best!

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    1. Excellet ! brother Waqar.

      May Allah bless you for your efforts in the cause of Islam

      Brother i want an article from you on the athar of Ibn Umer who said:

      “None should say that he got the Qur’an in full. He may not know what constitutes the full Qur’an. A considerable part of the Qur’an is gone. Rather he should say: I got therefrom only what appeared”.

      (Al-Suyuti, Jalal al-Din(2000). Al-Itqan fi Ulum al-Qur’an. Beirut: Darul Kutub al-Ilmiyyah. pp. 48 )

      Brother it is frequently quoted by missionaries to attack Quran an article from you on it will seal there mouths , please do write it .

    2. Assalamu Alaykum brother Waqar,

      Wallahi brother when I saw this hadith without visiting this page I began crying in tears (as a man) worried that all my life I may have (I seek Allah's refuge in saying this) not been following the true deen because of how specific it is and how Al Albaani said that the chain is sahih. However, just because the chain is sahih doesn't mean the exact words are too which is what I discovered on your article. May Allah bless you and give you the highest ranks in Jannah inshallah. Wallahi, when I saw this and understood it, I began smiling and I said May Allah bless the man who wrote this:)

      From your brother in Islam and humanity,
      Omar Wardak

      1. I don't get how one hadees, if it is problematic and yet attributed to the Prophet, could shake a muslim's imaan when there are literally a thousand beyond doubt reasons to believe that Islam is the one true religion. From basic theology to everything else, Islam is perfect.

    3. JazakAllahu khayr for the clarity brother.

    4. Bismillah Salam alaykum. This is a great answer and very well put together. May Allah Ta'ala reward you all with Jennah Firdous.
      At Guide US TV & ShareIslam.com - we receive many emails, texts and calls trying to attack Allah (Subhannah wa Ta'ala), Quran, Muhammad (peace be upon him) and our beautiful deen of Islam.
      I invite you to help us all know more and do more for the sake of Allah.
      Email: contact@guideus.tv
      Phone: (800)971-4383

      Jazakumallahu Khairan was salam alaykum,
      Yusuf Estes

    5. Bismillah Salam alaykum. This is a great answer and very well put together. May Allah Ta'ala reward you all with Jennah Firdous.
      At Guide US TV & ShareIslam.com - we receive many emails, texts and calls trying to attack Allah (Subhannah wa Ta'ala), Quran, Muhammad (peace be upon him) and our beautiful deen of Islam.
      I invite you to help us all know more and do more for the sake of Allah.
      Email: contact@guideus.tv
      Phone: (800)971-4383

      Jazakumallahu Khairan was salam alaykum,
      Yusuf Estes

    6. Jazakallah brother for the clarification Allah knows how many people didn t leave islam because of your clear explanation

    7. Assalamu alaikum Brother,
      Thank you for your detailed explanation.I think there are other ways to refute anti-islamic claims.All the ahadith related to sunset are from abu dharr(RA).He is the only person reported it directly from prophet(pbuh).Now look, the matter is related to sun.We know that the muslims are always observing sun's movement for our daily salah fajr,dhuhr,asr,magrib.We know that all the sahabas are very keen for finding time for salah with sun's movements.If all these hadiths means the real movement of sun then why there is no other hadith regarding the movement of sun? Even exact time of magrib is just after sunset and ahadith says sahabas had been waiting for sunset to offer magrib on time,Why he(Abu dharr(ra)) didn't discussed this hadith among sahabas? Similar the case of moon.Moon phase is the base of our hijri calendar.Prophet(pbuh) and sahabas observed it's phase change deeply .But there is no hadith related to moon rise and moonset why?
      My conclusion is the hadiths of abu dharr (ra) is not describing the real movement of sun related to earth. Then one more point ,sunrise and sunset are also very important times on daytime to notice the sun.Other times are too hot .In hadith prophet(pbuh) asks "Do you know where it is going?" This does not necessarily mean where it is going at the time of sunset. In Quran 55:17 Allah says about two easts and two wests.If sahabas understood the hadiths "sunsetting-prostration-throne" as physical movement of sun they will definitely ask about the above ayah.As I mentioned earlier there was extremely high chance to have another ahadith about sunset from different sahabas,and other sun's movement related hadiths , But we have Nothing like that. Why? Because this hadith says prostration so it is not related to physical observable movement of the sun .All the creations prostrating under Allah's throne (eg trees) But we cannot see,observe that.Similarly Since the hadith says about prostration, it is definitely not about observable physical motion of Sun.

    8. masahallah
      may god bless you for your awesome work

    9. Jazakallah Khair brother, this is was excellent and cleared up my doubt (Astaghferallah for even doubting my religion). Unfortunately, many of our brothers and sisters don't know about this and I pray they find this answer to clear their doubts as well (Inshallah)!

    10. Awesome. this is the best explanation I found so far. Masha Allah