Understanding ‘Satan Urinates in the Ear’ Hadith

ุจุณู… ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุงู„ุฑุญู…ู† ุงู„ุฑุญูŠู… ุงู„ุญู…ุฏ ู„ู„ู‡ ูˆุญุฏู‡ ูˆ ุงู„ุตู„ุงุฉ ูˆ ุงู„ุณู„ุงู… ุนู„ู‰ ู…ู† ู„ุง ู†ุจูŠ ุจุนุฏู‡ ูˆ ุนู„ู‰ ุขู„ู‡ ูˆ ุฃุตุญุงุจู‡ ุฃุฌู…ุนูŠู†
  Explanation of the Hadith that says Satan urinates in the ear(s) of the one who sleeps till the sunrise missing the obligatory morning (fajr) prayers. Explanation is based on study of related hadith narrations, Arabic literature and comments of the classical Muslim exegetes.

Condemning a person sleeping through the night till the day-break like a dormouse, a hadith tells us that the Prophet- may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- said Satan urinates in his ears. As expected, anti-Islamic polemicists and missionaries take exception to this and dub it as superstitious. Non-conversant with the true significance of the words used, some Muslims also wonder about its real meanings. 

1- Narration:

Here is the narration often quoted.

ุนู† ุนุจุฏ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุฑุถูŠ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุนู†ู‡، ู‚ุงู„: ุฐูƒุฑ ุนู†ุฏ ุงู„ู†ุจูŠ ุตู„ู‰ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุนู„ูŠู‡ ูˆุณู„ู… ุฑุฌู„ ู†ุงู… ู„ูŠู„ู‡ ุญุชู‰ ุฃุตุจุญ، ู‚ุงู„: " ุฐุงูƒ ุฑุฌู„ ุจุงู„ ุงู„ุดูŠุทุงู† ููŠ ุฃุฐู†ูŠู‡، ุฃูˆ ู‚ุงู„: ููŠ ุฃุฐู†ู‡ "

Narrated 'Abdullah: It was mentioned before the Prophet that there was a man who slept the night till morning (after sunrise). The Prophet said, "He is a man in whose ears (or ear) Satan had urinated."[1]

2- Explanation:

2.1 The reasoning for this mention

In another narration there is clear mention of missing the prayers.

ุนู† ุนุจุฏ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุฑุถูŠ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุนู†ู‡، ู‚ุงู„: ุฐูƒุฑ ุนู†ุฏ ุงู„ู†ุจูŠ ุตู„ู‰ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุนู„ูŠู‡ ูˆุณู„ู… ุฑุฌู„، ูู‚ูŠู„: ู…ุง ุฒุงู„ ู†ุงุฆู…ุง ุญุชู‰ ุฃุตุจุญ، ู…ุง ู‚ุงู… ุฅู„ู‰ ุงู„ุตู„ุงุฉ، ูู‚ุงู„: «ุจุงู„ ุงู„ุดูŠุทุงู† ููŠ ุฃุฐู†ู‡»

Narrated 'Abdullah : A person was mentioned before the Prophet -peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- and he was told that he had kept on sleeping till morning and had not got up for the prayer. The Prophet said, "Satan urinated in his ears."[2]

In other reports we have more to help us understand the gravity of the issue addressed in the hadith.

ุนู† ุนุจุฏ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุจู† ู…ุณุนูˆุฏ ุฑุถูŠ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุนู†ู‡، ู‚ุงู„: ุณุฆู„ ุงู„ู†ุจูŠ ุตู„ู‰ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุนู„ูŠู‡ ูˆุณู„ู… ุนู† ุงู„ุฐูŠ ูŠู†ุงู… ู…ู† ุฃูˆู„ ุงู„ู„ูŠู„ ุฅู„ู‰ ุขุฎุฑู‡، ู‚ุงู„: " ุฐุงูƒ ุงู„ุฐูŠ ุจุงู„ ุงู„ุดูŠุทุงู† ููŠ ุฃุฐู†ู‡ "

Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud; The Prophet –peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- was asked about one who slept from the beginning of the night towards its end. He said: “He is the one in whose ear Satan has urinated.”[3]

This narration says the person slept all night and must have missed isha (night) prayers as well in addition to missing the morning prayers.

2.2 Reference to Satan

Explaining the Satan’s likeness for yawning Ibn Battal (d. 449 A.H.) writes;

ูˆูƒุฐู„ูƒ ูƒู„ ู…ุง ุฌุงุก ู…ู† ุงู„ุฃูุนุงู„ ุงู„ู…ู†ุณูˆุจุฉ ุฅู„ู‰ ุงู„ุดูŠุทุงู† ูุฅู†ู‡ุง ุนู„ู‰ ู…ุนู†ูŠูŠู† ุฅู…ุง ุฅุถุงูุฉ ุฑุถู‰ ูˆุฅุฑุงุฏุฉ ุฃูˆ ุฅุถุงูุฉ ุจู…ุนู†ู‰ ุงู„ูˆุณูˆุณุฉ ูู‰ ุงู„ุตุฏุฑ ูˆุงู„ุชุฒูŠูŠู†

 And similar is the case for all the activities ascribed to the Devil and they have two meanings; [it is] either by the way of [Satan’s] pleasure and will or by the way of whispering in the heart and making something adorable.”[4]

Most certainly Satan wants a person to sleep for long hours, become lazy, fail to discharge his duties towards Allah and fellow humans and miss the obligatory prayers and blessings from Allah. And once a person gives in to devil for once he becomes a rather easy prey for good unless he puts in special effort to control and recover from the loss.

2.3 Reference to ear(s)

Ears representing the faculty of listening stand for ability to reason. Its relation to tight sleep and disconnection from the world is obvious. A related use is in Qur’an 18:10.

2.4 The mention of urination

Being the most important point in the narration it requires good knowledge of the Arabic language to understand this.

Mention of urination is actually to denote the worst overpowering of sleep that pleases Satan.

Ibn Hajr (d. 852 A.H.) writes:

ู‡ูˆ ู…ุซู„ ู…ุถุฑูˆุจ ู„ู„ุบุงูู„ ุนู† ุงู„ู‚ูŠุงู… ุจุซู‚ู„ ุงู„ู†ูˆู… ูƒู…ู† ูˆู‚ุน ุงู„ุจูˆู„ ููŠ ุฃุฐู†ู‡ ูุซู‚ู„ ุฃุฐู†ู‡ ูˆุฃูุณุฏ ุญุณู‡ ูˆุงู„ุนุฑุจ ุชูƒู†ูŠ ุนู† ุงู„ูุณุงุฏ ุจุงู„ุจูˆู„

“It is an example used for the one who is negligent of prayers due to heavy sleep as if he has got his ear filled with urine till it became weighed down and his senses got corrupted. Arabs have used urination as a metaphor for corruption.”[5]

Likewise al-Nawawi (d. 676 A.H.) says;

ู…ุนู†ุงู‡ ุงุณุชุฎู ุจู‡ ูˆุงุญุชู‚ุฑู‡ ูˆุงุณุชุนู„ู‰ ุนู„ูŠู‡ ูŠู‚ุงู„ ู„ู…ู† ุงุณุชุฎู ุจุฅู†ุณุงู† ูˆุฎุฏุนู‡ ุจุงู„ ููŠ ุฃุฐู†ู‡ ูˆุฃุตู„ ุฐู„ูƒ ููŠ ุฏุงุจุฉ ุชูุนู„ ุฐู„ูƒ ุจุงู„ุฃุณุฏ ุฅุฐู„ุงู„ุง ู„ู‡ ูˆู‚ุงู„ ุงู„ุญุฑุจูŠ ู…ุนู†ุงู‡ ุธู‡ุฑ ุนู„ูŠู‡ ูˆุณุฎุฑ ู…ู†ู‡

“And its meaning is to scoff at, deride and belittle. It is said for the one who scorns a human and deceives him that he urinated in his ear. The origin of this term came from an animal doing it to a [sleeping] lion as an act of humiliation. Al-Harbi said, 'It means he became victorious over him and is ridiculing him.'”[6]

Further it is actually a proverbial use denoting the spoilt. A poet said;

ุจุงู„ ุณู‡ูŠู„ ููŠ ุงู„ูุถูŠุฎ ููุณุฏ

Literally it would be,  
“Canopus urinated in the beverage and it was spoiled.”
However it means; “… that when Canopus rises [aurorally, which it does, in central Arabia, early in August, the making of that beverage is stopped, for] the season of unripe dates has passed, and they have become ripe.”[7]

Ibn Battal points to a verse of Al-Farazdaq in which there is a link of urine with corruption and trouble. He said;

ูˆุฅู† ุงู„ุฐู‰ ูŠุณุนู‰ ู„ูŠูุณุฏ ุฒูˆุฌุชู‰
 ูƒุณุงุนٍ ุฅู„ู‰ ุฃุณุฏ ุงู„ุดุฑู‰ ูŠุณุชุจูŠู„ู‡ุง

“And verily he who strives to corrupt my wife is like one betaking himself to the lions of Esh-Shara’ (a certain road abounding with those animals) to receive their urine in his hand.”[8]

We can see urine represents changing the condition, perversion and trouble. Therefore, urination in the hadith under consideration is about evil due to negligence from the duties prescribed by Allah- something Satan loves so much!

Following comment by the great hadith scholar and a wonderful jurist, Abu Ja’far al-Tahawi (d. 321 A.H.) explains it very well;

ูˆูƒุงู† ุงู„ู†ูˆู… ุงู„ู…ุฐูƒูˆุฑ ููŠ ุงู„ุญุฏูŠุซ ... ู†ูˆู…ุง ูƒุงู† ู…ู† ู†ุงุฆู…ู‡ ุชุถูŠูŠุนู‡ ูุฑุถ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุนุฒ ูˆุฌู„ ููŠ ุงู„ุนุดุงุก، ุซู… ุฎู„ุงูู‡ ู„ู…ุง ูƒุฑู‡ู‡ ู„ู‡ ู†ุจูŠู‡ ุตู„ู‰ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุนู„ูŠู‡ ูˆุณู„ู… ู…ู† ุงู„ู†ูˆู… ู‚ุจู„ู‡ุง ุงู„ุฐูŠ ูƒุงู† ุณุจุจุง ู„ุชุถูŠูŠุนู‡ุง، ูˆู„ุชุฑูƒ ุฃุฏุงุก ูุฑุถู‡ุง ููŠ ุงู„ูˆู‚ุช ุงู„ุฐูŠ ุฃูˆุฌุจ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุนุฒ ูˆุฌู„ ุนู„ูŠู‡ ุฃุฏุงุกู‡ ููŠู‡، ููƒุงู† ููŠ ุฐู„ูƒ ู…ุฎุงู„ูุง ู„ุฑุจู‡ ุนุฒ ูˆุฌู„، ู…ุทูŠุนุง ู„ู„ุดูŠุทุงู† ููŠู…ุง ูŠุฑูŠุฏู‡ ู…ู†ู‡، ูุถุฑุจ ุนู„ู‰ ุฃุฐู†ูŠู‡ ุจุฐู„ูƒ ุงู„ู†ูˆู…، ูˆู‡ูˆ ู…ุง ุฃู„ู‚ูŠ ููŠู‡ู…ุง ู…ู† ุซู‚ู„ ุงู„ู†ูˆู…، ูˆุงู„ุนุฑุจ ุชุณู…ูŠ ู…ุซู„ ุฐู„ูƒ ุถุฑุจุง ุนู„ู‰ ุงู„ุฃุฐู† ูˆู…ู†ู‡ ู‚ูˆู„ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุนุฒ ูˆุฌู„ ููŠ ุฃู‡ู„ ุงู„ูƒู‡ู: {ูุถุฑุจู†ุง ุนู„ู‰ ุขุฐุงู†ู‡ู… ููŠ ุงู„ูƒู‡ู ุณู†ูŠู† ุนุฏุฏุง} [ุงู„ูƒู‡ู: 11] ، ูˆุฃุถูŠู ุฐู„ูƒ ุงู„ูุนู„ ุจู‡ ุฅู„ู‰ ุงู„ุดูŠุทุงู†، ู„ุฃู†ู‡ ู…ู…ุง ูŠุฑุถุงู‡ ุงู„ุดูŠุทุงู† ู…ู†ู‡، ูˆุฐูƒุฑ ููŠู‡ ุจูˆู„ ุงู„ุดูŠุทุงู† ููŠ ุฃุฐู†ู‡، ุฃูŠ: ูุนู„ ุจู‡ ุฃู‚ุจุญ ู…ุง ูŠูุนู„ ุจุงู„ู†ูˆุงู… ูˆู„ูŠุณ ุฐู„ูƒ ุนู„ู‰ ุญู‚ูŠู‚ุฉ ุงู„ุจูˆู„ ู…ู†ู‡ ููŠ ุฃุฐู†ู‡، ูˆู„ูƒู† ุนู„ู‰ ุงู„ู…ุซู„ ูˆุงู„ุงุณุชุนุงุฑุฉ ููŠ ุงู„ู…ุนู†ู‰

“And this sleep (mentioned in the hadith being discussed) … is a sleep in which a person misses the obligation towards Allah at night (i.e. obligatory prayers). Moreover it is also for sleeping before isha prayers disliked by the Prophet- peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- which causes the missing (of isha prayers) and also delaying it from the time prescribed by Allah; in all this he goes against the commandment of his Almighty Lord while showing obedience to Satan in what he wants from him. So a covering is put over his ears due to this sleep, and it is from the affliction of sleep in his ears. Arabs termed such a thing as covering over the ears as is the word of Allah regarding the people of the Cave, “Therefore we put a covering over their years for a number of years.(Qur’an 18:10) And this act is attributed to Satan for it pleases Satan. And the mention of urination of Satan in his ear means it is worse than what happens in sleep (ordinarily). It is not urination in the ear in the real sense; rather it is by the way of simile and allusion.”[9]

5- Summary

Context of the hadith narrations is inordinate sleep leading to missing ritual obligatory prayers.

Mention of Satan is for the fact that missing the prayers pleases him and that he actually whispers to man and allures him into negligence.

Reference to urination is actually an Arabic proverb suggesting the change in condition. 

There is nothing of superstition or absurdity in this hadith. It is all about established facts put in a peculiar literary style involving metaphors to make the expression forceful.

Indeed Allah knows the best!

-- by Waqar Akbar Cheema 

[1] Sahih Bukhari, Book 54, Hadith 492
[2] Sahih Bukhari, Book 21, Hadith 245
[3] Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, Al-Resala publications, Beirut, 1994 vol.10 Hadith 4020
[4] Sharh Sahih Bukhari, Maktaba Al-Rushd, Riyadh, 2003 vol.9 p.370
[5] Fath al-Bari, Dar al-Ma’rifa, Beirut 1379 A.H. vol.3 pp.28-29
[6] Sharh Sahih Muslim, Dar Ahya al-Turath al-‘Arabi, Beirut 1392 A.H. vol.6 p.64
[7] Edward William Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon, Book I, pp.276-277 entry ุจูˆู„
[8] Sharh Sahih Bukhari, vol.3 p.136
Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon, Book I, p.277
[9] Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, vol.10 pp.193-194

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    1. MashaAllah brother Waqar ! brilliant and spot on !!

      Previously i was a sort of Quran only Muslim but your articles have definetly changed me . God bless you .

      Brother i will be very thankful if you write articles on these topics

      1) Prophet said to 'bite the penis of ones father if we boast about our lineage '

      2) About the verse where God says that in heaven virgins with swollen breast will be given as reward, these 2 are frequently brought by Sam Shamoun .

      3) The Hadith of 'pen and paper ' this Hadith is frequently brought by few Shia Muslims and i have also seen few missionaries bringing to show that Prophet wanted to write something which would have prevented Muslims from getting misguided but Omer(r.a) prevented him , so Muslims do not have complete message from the prophet.

      Please respond to it akhi.

      1. Wa alaikum assalam wr wb brother

        jazak'Allahu khair. may Allah help us all and keep us steadfast on true Islam.

        I am already working on a few issues. i will in-sha'Allah address these topics after finishing what all is in the pipeline.

        For the topics you think need to be addressed please always leave an email at letmeturnthetables@gmail.com instead of saying it in comments.

        jazak'Allahu khair


    2. @ali khanNovember 26, 2012 1:03 PM

      About your question number 3. It's actually simple, if you pay attention Prophet (PBUH) asked for pen and paper to write (himself) something which will keep Ummah from going astray. As we all know that Prophet (PBUH) was not able to read or write.

      Let suppose if pen and paper was given to Prophet (PBUH) and he did write something, than can you tell me what was the problem in that ? Those who are saying the message is not complete, would be saying that it's written by Prophet (PBUH) himself and it's not divine. As they (non-muslims) anyway try to give this impression that Quran is not divine word but writings of Prophet Mohd (PBUH).

      And as for why Prophet (PBUH) said that, well that show's the mercy and care of our Prophet (PBUH) that even on his deathbed only thing on his mind was the betterment for the Ummah.

      Sadly but true, if we look our deeds and actions today, it really dishonors the teaching of our beloved Prophet (PBUH) and should make us think, that whose Ummah are we and whom we represent by such actions and deeds. While our Prophet (PBUH) was thinking of us even on his deathbed and we are completely ignorant of his teaching and sayings and completely immerse in this world.

    3. Correction: verse is 18:11 and not 18:10