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Sucking the tongues of children?

March 10, 2016

Dry desert drought hadith

Question:

Some anti-Muslim websites cite a narration that the Prophet sucked the tongue of a child. What is the real story?

Answer:

In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful

If we read a narration that we do not understand at first, we need to examine the context before coming to a conclusion. You should also be aware that these sites are notorious for mistranslating prophetic traditions and citing them out of context.

In this case, it was the practice of Arabs who lived in the dry desert climate to moisten the lips and mouth of a child who was suffering from thirst. If a child had parched lips or dry mouth and water was scarce, they could be relieved by sharing saliva. This was something practical and necessary in the tough climate in which they lived.

The following narration makes this context clear:

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, heard Hasan and Hussein crying while they were with their mother, so he hurried to them and he said:

مَا شَأْنُ ابْنَيَّ

What is the matter with my boys?

Their mother said:

الْعَطَشُ

It is thirst.

The Prophet went to the source of water but at that time water was scarce. The Prophet called out:

هَلْ أَحَدٌ مِنْكُمْ مَعَهُ مَاءٌ

Does anyone have any water?

But no one had any water, so the Prophet said to their mother:

نَاوِلِينِي أَحَدَهُمَا

Bring me one of them.

Abu Huraira said:

فَأَدْلَعَ لَهُ لِسَانَهُ فَجَعَلَ يَمُصُّهُ حَتَّى هَدَأَ أَوْ سَكَنَ

He massaged his tongue and moistened it until he calmed down.

Source: al-Mu’jam al-Kabīr 2588, Grade: Hasan

This tradition was declared reliable by Al-Haythami in Majma’ al-Zawā’id 9/183 and by Ash-Shawkani in Darr al-Saḥābah 242.

Al-Qadi Iyad comments on this tradition, saying:

وَأَعْطَى الْحَسَنَ وَالْحُسَيْنَ لِسَانَهُ فَمَصَّاهُ وَكَانَ يَبْكِيَانِ عَطَشًا فَسَكَتَا

The Prophet gave Hasan and Hussein his tongue and he moistened it as they were crying from thirst, then they calmed down.

Source: Kitāb al-Shifā 1/326

As we can see, the Prophet was sharing saliva with his two young grandsons because they were suffering from thirst and there was no water available. This was an act of kindness and good parenting in a difficult environment. It does not mean what these anti-Muslim websites have claimed.

These anti-Muslim websites have a tendency to interpret verses and traditions in the worst possible way, to fit a predetermined image of Islam as a false religion. As Muslims, our method is to interpret the scriptures of Islam in the best way, specifically the stories about the Prophet and his companions.

Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said:

إِذَا حَدَّثْتُكُمْ عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ حَدِيثًا فَظُنُّوا بِهِ الَّذِي هُوَ أَهْنَاهُ وَأَهْدَاهُ وَأَتْقَاهُ

When I relate a story to you about the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, you should think of him as being the best, the most guided, and the most righteous.

Source: Sunan Ibn Majāh 20, Grade: Sahih

If we applied this principle and remained patient as we investigate narrations we may not understand at first, then we would not be confused by those who try to slander the name of Islam.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.