The hadith, speech or tradition, record the Sunnah (“practice”), the Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and actions, which Muslims believe were memorized and recorded by his companions and handed down from generation to generation. Many hadith are found in the biography (sira) of Muhammad. The historical tradition of hadith literature (sing. hadith, pl. hadith [collective sense] or hadiths, Arabic ahadith) includes procedures for comparative assessment among various reporters intended to identify lines of transmission and to differentiate genuine hadith from weak or fabricated ones. While the legal content of the Quran [q.v.] is very limited, the hadith establish precedents for regulating nearly every aspect of life. Unlike the Quran, which is believed to be the word of Allah revealed to Muhammad during his prophetic life, the hadith are not considered infallible; however, followers of Islam consider them to be genuine records of Muhammad’s sayings and actions, and regard them as indispensable and as a source almost as fundamental as the Quran. Sunni and Shi’a Muslims recognize different hadith canon collections, for which authentication is based on differing methodologies of evaluation and analysis of the chains of transmission. Western scholarship beginning in the 19th century tended to argue that many of the hadith accounts are not always actual reports of Muhammad’s sayings but instead represent opinions of the early generations of Muslim thinkers, subsequently attributed to the Prophet during the long period of oral transmission spanning some 200 years following Muhammad’s death, but the compilers did place great stress on the reliability of the chain of transmission. The hadith were finally collected, selected, and published in six standard editions between the 9th and 11th centuries.
The six compilers of hadith include Muhammad ibn Isma`il al-Bukhari (810–870) and Muslim al-Hajjaj (817/821–875). Both Bukhari and Muslim were traditionists, and both were the sons of traditionists, themselves collectors and memorizers of sayings of the Prophet. Bukhari is said to have begun to study traditions at the age of ten and to have spent 40 years traveling the Muslim world collecting hadith from every learned man; he claimed to have “heard traditions from over 1,000 shaykhs.” Muslim inherited a large fortune from his father and travelled widely in order to learn hadith. Of the hadith presented here, some are voiced by Bukhari, some by Muslim, and some agreed on by both. Hadith narrated by Ad-Dahhak, Abu Huraira, and Sahl As-Sa`idi are also included. Bukhari is said to be the most reliable of all the compilers; it is said that he selected 7,397, or 2,762 without repetitions, out of 600,000 traditions and memorized 220,000 of them; he recorded each after ablution and prayer, and carefully scrutinized them for consistency with other narrators. Later in life, Bukhari was expelled by the governor of the region for refusing to give the governor’s children preferential treatment by educating them at home; in the wake of this hostility, Bukhari is said to have been overheard praying one night that God might take him, and he died within the month.
The Quran itself does not contain an explicit, incontrovertible prohibition of suicide. The hadith, however, do; both Bukhari and Muslim make fully explicit the unlawfulness of suicide. As Franz Rosenthal pointed out, by the time of Muhammad, both Judaism and Christianity had developed negative attitudes toward suicide, and it is likely that Muhammad would have shared these. Bukhari reports a saying of Muhammad’s that the person who commits suicide is punished eternally by a perpetual, forced repetition of the act of self-killing. Suicide is equated in severity with the sin of murder. Muslim gives an account of self-mutilation resulting in death. No distinction is made between suicide associated with what would now be recognized as mental illness and suicide associated with principle, religious zeal, military self-sacrifice, jihad, or the like. These hadith are the clearest canonical sources for the Islamic belief that suicide is a violation of divine law.
Hadith, Al-Bukhari, Vol. 2, Book 23, nos. 445, 446; Vol. 4, Book 52, no. 297; Vol. 5, Book 59, nos. 514, 515, 518; Vol. 8, Book 73, nos. 73, 126; Book 76, no. 500; Book 77, nos. 603, 604; Book 78, no. 647; see e.g. Sunnah.com. Muslim, from Mishkat-ul-masabih, Vol. II, ch. 25, section 6, paragraph 1178, tr. al-Haj Maulana Fazlul Karim, Lahore, Pakistan: Law Publishing Company, 1938, material in bibliographic note, pp. 18–19. Some modifications in translation. See also Franz Rosenthal, “On Suicide in Islam,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 66 (1946): 239–259, p. 240.
from HADITH: THE SAYINGS OF MUHAMMAD
The Holy Prophet said: Whoso kills himself with a thing will be punished on the Resurrection day therewith—24:5. From this as well from the traditions of this section, it appears that the sin of suicide is not less than that of murder. He will permanently reside in Hell, as he killed a soul which remembered Allah, or which, if alive, would have remembered Him. Suicide is the result of pangs and overwhelming anxieties which are in turn so many boons for leading a man to Paradise.
Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Whoso hurls himself down from a mountain and thus kills himself will be in Hell hurling himself down therein, abiding therein and being accommodated therein for ever; whoso takes poison and thus kills himself, his poison will be in his hand; he will be tasting it in Hell, always abiding therein, and being accommodated therein forever; and whoso kills himself with gun [lit., “piece of iron”], his gun will be in his hand; he will be shooting himself therewith against his belly in Hell, abiding therein and being accommodated therein forever.
Same reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Whoso strangles himself to death, will strangle it in Hell; and whoso shoots it, will shoot it in Hell.
Jundub-b-Abdullah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: There was a man among those who were before you who received an wound. It became unbearable. Then he took a knife and cut off his hand therewith. Whereupon blood began to ooze out, so much so that he died. The Almighty Allah said: My servant hastened himself to Me and so I made Paradise unlawful for him.
Jaber reported that Tofail-b-Amer and al-Dausi migrated to the Messenger of Allah when he had migrated to Medina. A man of his tribe also migrated with him. Then he fell ill and became exasperated. He took a scissor of his and cut off therewith his hand-joints. His hands bled till he died. Tofail-b-Amer saw him in his dream. He was handsome in appearance, but he found him with his hands covered. He asked him: What did your Lord do with you? He said: He has forgiven me owing to my migration to His Prophet. He asked: What is with me that I see your hands covered? He said: It was said to me: What you yourself destroyed will not be cured for you. Tofail narrated it to the Messenger of Allah who said: O Allah, forgive his two hands.
Volume 2, Book 23, Number 445:
Narrated Thabit bin Ad-Dahhak:
The Prophet said, “Whoever intentionally swears falsely by a religion other than Islam, then he is what he has said, (e.g. if he says, ‘If such thing is not true then I am a Jew,’ he is really a Jew). And whoever commits suicide with piece of iron will be punished with the same piece of iron in the Hell Fire.” Narrated Jundab the Prophet said, “A man was inflicted with wounds and he committed suicide, and so Allah said: My slave has caused death on himself hurriedly, so I forbid Paradise for him.”
Volume 2, Book 23, Number 446:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, “He who commits suicide by throttling shall keep on throttling himself in the Hell Fire (forever) and he who commits suicide by stabbing himself shall keep on stabbing himself in the Hell-Fire.”
Fighting for the Cause of Allah
Volume 4, Book 52, Number 297:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
We were in the company of Allah’s Apostle in a Ghazwa, and he remarked about a man who claimed to be a Muslim, saying, “This (man) is from the people of the (Hell) Fire.” When the battle started, the man fought violently till he got wounded. Somebody said, “O Allah’s Apostle! The man whom you described as being from the people of the (Hell) Fire fought violently today and died.” The Prophet said, “He will go to the (Hell) Fire.” Some people were on the point of doubting (the truth of what the Prophet had said) while they were in this state, suddenly someone said that he was still alive but severely wounded. When night fell, he lost patience and committed suicide. The Prophet was informed of that, and he said, “Allah is Greater! I testify that I am Allah’s Slave and His Apostle.” Then he ordered Bilal to announce amongst the people: ‘None will enter Paradise but a Muslim, and Allah may support this religion (i.e. Islam) even with a disobedient man.’
Military Expeditions Led By The Prophet
Volume 5, Book 59, Number 514:
Narrated Sahl bin Sad As Saidi:
Allah’s Apostle (and his army) encountered the pagans and the two armies fought and then Allah’s Apostle returned to his army camps and the others (i.e. the enemy) returned to their army camps. Amongst the companions of the Prophet there was a man who could not help pursuing any single isolated pagan to strike him with his sword. Somebody said, “None has benefited the Muslims today more than so-and-so.” On that Allah’s Apostle said, “He is from the people of the Hell-Fire certainly.” A man amongst the people (i.e. Muslims) said, “I will accompany him (to know the fact).” So he went along with him, and whenever he stopped he stopped with him, and whenever he hastened, he hastened with him. The (brave) man then got wounded severely, and seeking to die at once, he planted his sword into the ground and put its point against his chest in between his breasts, and then threw himself on it and committed suicide. On that the person (who was accompanying the deceased all the time) came to Allah’s Apostle and said, “I testify that you are the Apostle of Allah.” The Prophet said, “Why is that (what makes you say so)?” He said “It is concerning the man whom you have already mentioned as one of the dwellers of the Hell-Fire. The people were surprised by your statement, and I said to them, “I will try to find out the truth about him for you.” So I went out after him and he was then inflicted with a severe wound and because of that, he hurried to bring death upon himself by planting the handle of his sword into the ground and directing its tip towards his chest between his breasts, and then he threw himself over it and committed suicide.” Allah’s Apostle then said, “A man may do what seem to the people as the deeds of the dwellers of Paradise but he is from the dwellers of the Hell-Fire and another may do what seem to the people as the deeds of the dwellers of the Hell-Fire, but he is from the dwellers of Paradise.”
Volume 5, Book 59, Number 515:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
We witnessed (the battle of) Khaibar. Allah’s Apostle said about one of those who were with him and who claimed to be a Muslim, “This (man) is from the dwellers of the Hell-Fire.” When the battle started, that fellow fought so violently and bravely that he received plenty of wounds. Some of the people were about to doubt (the Prophet’s statement), but the man, feeling the pain of his wounds, put his hand into his quiver and took out of it, some arrows with which he slaughtered himself (i.e. committed suicide). Then some men amongst the Muslims came hurriedly and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Allah has made your statement true so-and-so has committed suicide.” The Prophet said, “O so-and-so! Get up and make an announcement that none but a believer will enter Paradise and that Allah may support the religion with an unchaste (evil) wicked man.”
Volume 5, Book 59, Number 518:
During one of his Ghazawat, the Prophet encountered the pagans, and the two armies fought, and then each of them returned to their army camps. Amongst the (army of the) Muslims there was a man who would follow every pagan separated from the army and strike him with his sword. It was said, “O Allah’s Apostle! None has fought so satisfactorily as so-and-so (namely, that brave Muslim).” The Prophet said, “He is from the dwellers of the Hell-Fire.” The people said, “Who amongst us will be of the dwellers of Paradise if this (man) is from the dwellers of the Hell-Fire?” Then a man from amongst the people said, “I will follow him and accompany him in his fast and slow movements.” The (brave) man got wounded, and wanting to die at once, he put the handle of his sword on the ground and its tip in between his breasts, and then threw himself over it, committing suicide. Then the man (who had watched the deceased) returned to the Prophet and said, “I testify that you are Apostle of Allah.” The Prophet said, “What is this?” The man told him the whole story. The Prophet said, “A man may do what may seem to the people as the deeds of the dwellers of Paradise, but he is of the dwellers of the Hell-Fire and a man may do what may seem to the people as the deeds of the dwellers of the Hell-Fire, but he is from the dwellers of Paradise.”
Good Manners and Form
Volume 8, Book 73, Number 73:
Narrated Thabit bin Ad-Dahhak:
(who was one of the companions who gave the pledge of allegiance to the Prophet underneath the tree (Al-Hudaibiya)) Allah’s Apostle said, “Whoever swears by a religion other than Islam (i.e. if somebody swears by saying that he is a non-Muslim e.g., a Jew or a Christian, etc.) in case he is telling a lie, he is really so if his oath is false, and a person is not bound to fulfill a vow about a thing which he does not possess. And if somebody commits suicide with anything in this world, he will be tortured with that very thing on the Day of Resurrection; and if somebody curses a believer, then his sin will be as if he murdered him; And whoever accuses a believer of Kufr (disbelief), then it is as if he killed him.”
Volume 8, Book 73, Number 126:
Narrated Thabit bin Ad-Dahhak:
The Prophet said, “Whoever swears by a religion other than Islam (i.e. if he swears by saying that he is a non-Muslim in case he is telling a lie), then he is as he says if his oath is false and whoever commits suicide with something, will be punished with the same thing in the (Hell) fire, and cursing a believer is like murdering him, and whoever accuses a believer of disbelief, then it is as if he had killed him.”
To Make the Heart Tender
Volume 8, Book 76, Number 500:
Narrated Sa’d bin Sahl As-Sa’idi:
The Prophet looked at a man fighting against the pagans and he was one of the most competent persons fighting on behalf of the Muslims. The Prophet said, “Let him who wants to look at a man from the dwellers of the (Hell) Fire, look at this (man).” Another man followed him and kept on following him till he (the fighter) was injured and, seeking to die quickly, he placed the blade tip of his sword between his breasts and leaned over it till it passed through his shoulders (i.e., committed suicide). The Prophet added, “A person may do deeds that seem to the people as the deeds of the people of Paradise while in fact, he is from the dwellers of the (Hell) Fire: and similarly a person may do deeds that seem to the people as the deeds of the people of the (Hell) Fire while in fact, he is from the dwellers of Paradise. Verily, the (results of) deeds done, depend upon the last actions.”
Volume 8, Book 77, Number 603:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
We witnessed along with Allah’s Apostle the Khaibar (campaign). Allah’s Apostle told his companions about a man who claimed to be a Muslim, “This man is from the people of the Fire.” When the battle started, the man fought very bravely and received a great number of wounds and got crippled. On that, a man from among the companions of the Prophet came and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Do you know what the man you described as of the people of the Fire has done? He has fought very bravely for Allah’s Cause and he has received many wounds.” The Prophet said, “But he is indeed one of the people of the Fire.” Some of the Muslims were about to have some doubt about that statement. So while the man was in that state, the pain caused by the wounds troubled him so much that he put his hand into his quiver and took out an arrow and committed suicide with it. Off went some men from among the Muslims to Allah’s Apostle and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Allah has made your statement true. So-and-so has committed suicide.” Allah’s Apostle said, “O Bilal! Get up and announce in public: None will enter Paradise but a believer, and Allah may support this religion (Islam) with a wicked man.”
Volume 8, Book 77, Number 604:
Narrated Sahl bin Sa’d:
There was a man who fought most bravely of all the Muslims on behalf of the Muslims in a battle (Ghazwa) in the company of the Prophet. The Prophet looked at him and said, “If anyone would like to see a man from the people of the Fire, let him look at this (brave man).” On that, a man from the People (Muslims) followed him, and he was in that state i.e., fighting fiercely against the pagans till he was wounded, and then he hastened to end his life by placing his sword between his breasts (and pressed it with great force) till it came out between his shoulders. Then the man (who was watching that person) went quickly to the Prophet and said, “I testify that you are Allah’s Apostle!” The Prophet asked him, “Why do you say that?” He said, “You said about so-and-so, ‘If anyone would like to see a man from the people of the Fire, he should look at him.’ He fought most bravely of all of us on behalf of the Muslims and I knew that he would not die as a Muslim (Martyr). So when he got wounded, he hastened to die and committed suicide.” There-upon the Prophet said, “A man may do the deeds of the people of the Fire while in fact he is one of the people of Paradise, and he may do the deeds of the people of Paradise while in fact he belongs to the people of Fire, and verily, (the rewards of) the deeds are decided by the last actions (deeds).”
Oaths and Vows
Volume 8, Book 78, Number 647:
Narrated Thabit bin Ad-Dahhak:
The Prophet said, “Whoever swears by a religion other than Islam, is, as he says; and whoever commits suicide with something, will be punished with the same thing in the (Hell) Fire; and cursing a believer is like murdering him; and whoever accuses a believer of disbelief, then it is as if he had killed him.”