`Abd al-Husayn Rejects the Hadith of Nabi Musa `alayh al-Salam Being Reprimanded for Burning an Army of Ants after One of them Pinched Him.

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`Abd al-Husayn Objects to the Hadith, ‘Locusts of Gold Rained Down upon the Nabi of Allah, Ayyub’
December 4, 2015

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‘Abdul Hussain Rejects the Hadith of Prophet Musa ‘alayh al Salam Being Reprimanded for Burning an Army of Ants after One of them Pinched Him.


On page 91, ‘Abdul Hussain quotes the hadith, “Musa being reprimanded for burning an army of ants after one of them pinched him.” Al Bukhari and Muslim report on the authority of Abu Hurairah that the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:


قرصت نملة نبيا من الأنبياء- وهو موسى بن عمران فيما نص عليه الترمذي –  فأمر بقرية النمل فأحرقت فأوحى الله إليه أن قرصتك نملة أحرقت أمة من الأمم  تسبح الله

An ant pinched one of the Prophets (Musa ibn ‘Imran—as stated in al Tirmidhi). Thereafter, upon his instruction, an entire village of ants were burnt. Thus, Allah revealed to him, “One ant pinched you and you burned an entire nation of Ours that would glorify Allah.”[1]


‘Abdul Hussain then begins his task saying:


إن أبا هريرة مولع بالأنبياء عليهم السلام هائم بكل مصيبة غريبة تقذى بها الأبصار وتصتك منها المسامع وأن أنبياء الله لأعظم صبرا وأوسع صدرا وأعلى قدرا، مما يحدث عنهم المخرفون – إلى أن قال- وما أدري والله ماذا يقول مصححو هذا الحديث فيما فعله هذا النبي من تعذيب النمل بالنار ؟ من قول رسول الله: لا يعذب بالنار إلا الله وقد أجمعوا على أنه لا يجوز الاحراق بالنار للحيوان مطلقاً إلا إذا أحرق انسان انسانا فمات بالإحراق فلوليه الاقتصاص باحراق الجاني وسواء في منع الاحراق بالنار النمل وغيره من سائر الحيوانات للحديث المشهورلا يعذب بالنار إلا الله

Indeed, Abu Hurairah is filled with ill-feelings towards the Prophets. He produces all types of perplexing narrations which hurt the eyes and scare the ears. The Prophets had much more perseverance, forbearance and were way above all that which the lowly ones narrate regarding them. 

By the oath of Allah, I do not know what those who accept this hadith will say regarding the action of this Prophet, who punished ants by burning them. How will they explain it in the light of the hadith of the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, “None should punish using fire, except Allah.” There is consensus that it is impermissible to burn any animals. The only case in which it will be permissible is when the guardians of a person wish to avenge the death of one who was burnt to death. The impermissibility of using fire to punish includes ants as well as all other creatures. This is on the basis of the famous hadith, “None should punish by using fire, except Allah.”


Our comment: The pride of your scholars, al Majlisi[2], in his Bihar[3], under “the book of the sky and universe” titled a chapter, “the chapter of the honeybee, ant, and all those whose killing has been prohibited”. Under this chapter, he reports this hadith, which you have rejected, from Abu Hurairah radiya Llahu ‘anhu.

Also, al Saduq reports from Aban ibn Taghlib via ‘Ikrimah from Ibn ‘Abbas who said:


قال عزير: يارب إني نظرت في جميع أمورك وإحكامها فعرفت عدلك بعقلي ، وبقي باب لم أعرفه: إنك تسخط على أهل البلية فتعمهم بعذابك وفيهم الأطفال فأمره الله تعالى أن يخرج إلى البرية وكان الحر شديداً ، فرأى شجرة فاستظل بها ونام ، فجاءت نملة فقرصته فدلك الأرض برجله فقتل من النمل كثيراً، فعرف أنه مثل ضرب ، فقيل له : يا عزير إن القوم إذا استحقوا عذابي قدرت نزوله عند انقضاء آجال الاطفال فماتوا أولئك بآجالهم وهلك هؤلاء بعذابي

‘Uzayr said, “O my Rabb, I have pondered over all your matters and their stability. Hence, I recognised Your justice by means of my intelligence. There is only one chapter that I have not understood, viz. When You are angered by a nation, you punish all of them even though there are children amongst them.”

Allah ordered him to go out to an open land. The heat was intensive and as soon as he seen a tree, he took shelter in its shade and slept. An ant came by and pinched him. He rubbed his foot on the ground, killing many ants. He immediately realised that this was a lesson for him.

He was then told, “O ‘Uzayr, when a nation deserves my punishment, I have the ability to send it upon them when the lifespans of the children come to an end. Thus, they die at their appointed times and the others die as a result of my punishment.”[4]


In La’ali al Akhbar he says:


قال النبي نزل نبي من الأنبياء تحت شجرة فلذعته نملة فأمر بجهازه فأخرج من تحتها وأمر بها فأحرقت بالنار فأوحى الله تعالى إليه هلا نملة واحدة

The Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “One of the Prophets sat below a tree and an ant pinched him. He commanded that its house should be destroyed. Therefore, it was dug up. Then, upon his order, it was burnt with fire so Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala revealed to him, ‘Why (did you) not (suffice upon punishing) one ant?’”[5]


When this is narrated by their Imams then why is such a fuss made regarding Abu Hurairah radiya Llahu ‘anhu?

‘Ali ibn Jafar reports from his brother who said:


سألته عن قتل النملة قال:لا تقتلها إلا أن تؤذيك!

I asked him about killing ants.

He replied, “Do not kill them unless they hurt you.”[6]


Mas’adah ibn Ziyad says that Jafar ibn Muhammad rahimahu Llah was asked regarding the killing of snakes and ants in the house when they cause inconvenience. He replied:


لا بأس بقتلهن وإحراقهن إذا آذين !

It is completely fine to kill them and burn them if they cause inconvenience.[7]


Ibn Sinan narrates that Abu ‘Abdullah said:


لا بأس بقتل النمل آذتك أولم تؤذك !!

There is no prohibition in killing ants, whether they inconvenience you or not.[8]


Our comment: If it was not permissible to burn any living beings due to the famous hadith, then why did the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam intend burning those who were performing salah in their homes? This is also established from the narrations of the Imams of the Ahlul Bayt. Ibn Sinan reports from Abu ‘Abdullah:


إن أناس كانوا على عهد رسول الله ابطئوا عن الصلاة في المسجد فقال رسول الله ليوشك قوم يدعون الصلاة في المسجد أن نأمر بحطب فيوضع على أبوابهم فتوقد عليه نارا فتحرق عليهم بيوتهم

During the time of the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam some people were negligent concerning performing salah in the masjid. The Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam commented, “Very soon we will instruct that firewood should be placed at the doorstep of those who have abandoned salah in the masjid. It will be lit and their houses will burn down upon them.”[9]


Al Tahdhib reports from Abu Ya’fur who narrates from Abu ‘Abdullah:


هم رسول الله بإحراق  قوم في منازلهم كانوا يصلون في منازلهم ولا يصلون الجماعة …

The Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam intended to burn some people in their houses as they would perform salah in their houses and they would miss the congregation (in the Masjid).[10]


Al Majlisi says in his Bihar al Anwar under the biography of our Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, in the chapter of the great Battle of Badr:


قال البلاذري: روي أن هبار بن الأسود كان ممن عرض لزينب بنت رسول الله حين حملت من مكة إلى المدينة، فكان رسول الله يأمر سراياه إن ظفروا به أن يحرقوه بالنار، ثم قال: “لا يعذب بالنار إلا رب النار “ وأمرهم إن ظفروا به أن يقطعوا يديه ورجليه ويقتلوه …

Al Baladhuri says: It is narrated that Hubar ibn al Aswad was amongst those who interfered with Zainab, the daughter of the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, when she journeyed from Makkah to al Madinah. Thus, the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would instruct his raiding parties that if they managed to capture him, they should burn him. Thereafter he said, “Only the Rabb of fire is allowed to punish by means of it.” He then instructed them that if they capture him, they should cut off his hands and legs and then they should kill him.[11]


‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu himself burnt a group the Saba’iyyah saying:


لما رأيت الأمر أمر منكرا        أوقدة نارى ودعوت قنبرا

When I saw an evil act being carried out, I lit a fire and called upon Qambar.[12]


What is the opinion of ‘Abdul Hussain, who claims to have done extensive research, regarding these narrations?


[1]Sahih al Bukhari, al Jihad, al Siyar, and Bad’ al Khalq; Sahih Muslim, al Salam.

[2]  This hadith from Abu Hurairah has also been verified by their great scholar Mirza Habib Allah al Khu’i in his book Minhaj al Bara’ah fi Sharh Nahj al Balaghah, 11/35, under the chapter, The Ant and it peculiarities

[3] Bihar al Anwar, 64/242.

[4]Bihar al Anwar, 5/286, Kitab al ‘Adl wa l-Ma’ad; al Jaza’iri; Qisas al Ambiya’, pg. 482.

[5] La’ali al Akhbar, 5/326, chapter of the qualities of ants.

[6]Bihar al Anwar, 64/264, 269; Qurb al Isnad, pg. 121.

[7]Bihar al Anwar, 64/271.

[8]Bihar al Anwar, 64/268.

[9]Al Tahdhib, 3/25; al Anwar al No’maniyyah, 1/358; Rawdat al Wa’izin, 2/334.

[10] Al Tahdhib, 3/266.

[11] Bihar al Anwar, 19/352.

[12]Rijal al Kashshi, pg. 67, # 21, under the biography of Qambar.

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