A Hadeeth in Translation

Suroor, Jamila, and some others have been discussing a rather controversial hadeeth attributed to the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. This hadeeth among others and the behavior of some Muslims have caused people considering Islam to turn away from it and have caused others to leave the religion. Although, one can say that such a person never had strong belief and faith to begin with…but perhaps that is a discussion for another time.

Yaser Birjas and Gyasi McKensie discussed this hadeeth in an AlMaghrib Institute seminar entitled Fiqh of Love: Marriage in Islam because it is often misunderstood, unfairly used to put-down women, and can cause a person to question his or her faith.

If the class comes to you area or its supplement Love Notes, don’t miss it. Someone has posted the extended course and student outline over here. And ibnAlHyderabadee posted pictures for the double weekend seminar CD set that is now available for purchase.

From our notebook:

Abi Said al-Khudri radiyaAllahu anhu narrates that the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said: (reading Arabic on a Mac or in WordPress can be painful and hurts my eyes so let me know if you see any mistakes)

حديث أبي سعيد: “ما رأيت من ناقصات عقل ودين أذهب للب الرجل الحازم منكن. قلن وما نقصان ديننا وعقلنا يا رسول الله؟ قال: أليس شهادة المرأة مثل نصف شهادة الرجل؟ قلن: بلى. قال فذلك نقصان عقلها. أليس إذا حاضت لم تصل ولم تصم؟ قلن: بلى, قال: فذلك من نقصان دينها.” البخاري ومسلم


In the translation of the abridged Sahih Bukhari:

“I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray (I say: lose his firmness) by some of you. The women asked: O Messenger of Allah! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion? He said: Is not the witness of two women equal to the witness of one man? They replied in the affirmative. He said: this is the deficiency in your intelligence. Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses? The women replied in the affirmative. He said: this is the deficiency in your religion.”

Re-phrasing the translation:

“I have not seen anyone (over controlled-over influenced) more diminished (decreased) in perception and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could lose his firmness and determination by some of you. The women asked: O Messenger of Allah! What is diminished (decreased) in our perception and religion? He said: Is not the witness of two women equal to the witness of one man? They replied in the affirmative. He said: this is the diminution (decrease) in perception. Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses? The women replied in the affirmative. He said: this is the diminution in your religion.”

Just a bit of an AlMaghrib Institute promo and teaser, notes to follow in sha Allah and anyone else can feel free to post their notes…give me a couple of days to mourn. Three people I had some connection with died in the last 4 days and I accidentally killed someone’s cat with my car tonight. SubhanAllah, it’s amazing how we can go on for years without losing anyone that close to us and then it can all change in an instant.


  1. ah so this is the hadith.

    Remember when br. Nouman mentioned in class the problems with literal, or not so good translations of the Qur’an and hadith…subhanAllah one more hadith to add.

    SubhanAllah, I really don’t understand the controversy behind it. Did this cause the sahabiyaat and umm al-mu’mineen to turn back on Islam? They were certainly better than us; if they say ‘sami’na wa ata’na’ then so should we.
    Remember what Abu Bakr as-Sideeq said when the mushrikoon of Makkah came and told him that ‘his companion’ (rasul Allah salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) had said he went to Jerusalem and back in one night? What was his reply? He said, ‘if Muhammad has said it, then it is the truth’.
    If we don’t comprehend an ayah or hadith, its because of our lack of understanding; something is wrong with us, not the ayah or hadith. Don’t crtitique the Words of Allah, or His messenger’s salAllahu alayhi wa sallam. ‘If people have taqwaa, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will open a door to understanding for them.’

    There are a lot of ayat and hadith that fall under this category…’misunderstood’ etc, wa na’audubillah. Like the one mentioned in class, ‘cut his tongue’…so I can see where damage can be caused with NONmuslims, inshaAllah its our responsibility to explain.

    “It is not for any believer, man or woman, when Allah and
    His Messenger have decreed a matter, to have the
    choice in their affair. And whosoever disobeys Allah and
    His Messenger he has gone astray into manifest
    error.” [Al-Ahzab: 36].

  2. One point that some scholars have mentioned about this hadith is that the context it was used in was one of rebuke for coming up short in recommended acts, much like any teacher who sees a capable student faltering would mention to that student something that would jump start his drive to do better, like “if you keep this up you’ll fail” etc etc.

    Scholars also differed as to the meaning of ‘Aql in the hadith: is it intellect, cognitive ability, emotional control, acquired knowledge, or a combination of some of these.

    The hadith cannot mean that all women are deficient, because in the authentic hadith narrated in Bukhari the Prophet said “Many a man has become complete, yet no woman but Maryam bint Imran and Asiyah the wife of Pharaoh has done so.”
    I.e. both men and women are incomplete, and it is through their due diligence of worship, obedience, and learning that they become whole. This said, Maryam was the only one to have reached this till the time of the Prophet, which means that those after him are still able to.

    Understanding these two hadith together helps to prevent misogynistic abuse of the apparent meaning of the first. and a lot more could be said on this as well.
    Allah knows best

  3. Asalamu alaykum,

    Amatullah: Yes, I remember that lecture well, I think we were among the few actually taking notes. And I agree Amatullah, the question is “if” people have high levels of taqwa and emaan. Yet from the hadeeth even the sahabiyyat are questioning or asking for clarification of the meanings so how much more in need of explanation are we when we are so far from the language spoken at that time.

    Hood: These are some of the points raised by our teachers and may help clarify misunderstandings. I have never liked the way some people use selective hadeeth or ayat to denigrate women as if the qadr of our gender is a virtue or something of which to be ashamed.

  4. A side note: I remember one discussion I had with a brother that proposed about not speaking about the people of knowledge or trying to seek out their faults and he said all the tired phrases about submitting to the haqq, following the real scholars on the manhaj, deviant this and that, and in the end I said it seems brothers seem to enjoy these conversations about everyone else’s supposed deviancy much more than sisters and then he said something like well that’s probably why most of the dwellers of hellfire will be women. Alhamdulillah, that was an easy proposal to reject.

  5. “I have not seen anyone (over controlled-over influenced) more diminished (decreased) in perception and religion than you.”

    What is meant by over controlled-over influenced? I understand the hadith when re-phrased, but the parenthesis is confused. Perhaps it’s just me 🙂

    Jazaki Allahu khaira in advance!

  6. Asalamu alaykum,

    Don’t worry about it Canadian Muslimah, if you understand the former translation go with it. The point of any good translation is to convey the intent and shades of meanings.

  7. Salaam Aleikom dear brothers and sisters, my name is Kevin Adullah Kareem, i’m the owner of http://www.islamic-answers.com , i just came across this blog by coincidence, and i noticed the discussion here around the hadeeth in question, actually after researching and studying this hadeeth for a long time, my article on it for my website is almost finished, it can be read here.

    Inscha’allah it will clarify a lot of misconceptions many people have around this hadeeth, which after close examination does not at all depict or insult women.

    ma salama

  8. Assalaamu alaikum

    One of the most negative effects of misreading this and similar ahadith – brothers using it to demean sisters, husbands using it to demean wives.

    This is a totally invalid application and not how it was applied in the time of the Prophet (saws). The basis of superiority is taqwa, not gender. The presence of even an atom’s worth of arrogance can lead one to hellfire. We know that Prophet Muhammad (saws) loved women greatly. We know he (saws) took the advice of women (e.g. Umm Salamah) at critical times for his ummah. His most beloved companions were women (Ayesha and Khadija raa) We know his male companions (raa) learned from women, for example learning the laws of inheritance from Ayesha (ra). Many more examples.

    Nevertheless, as women we should definitely humble ourselves. Prophet Muhammad (saws) rebuked his male companions and described their shortcomings as well as the shortcomings of our human condition. He (saws) described people (not just women) as rushing headlong into the hellfire despite his (saw) efforts to stop them. This led the male companions to weep and find out what they can do to overcome these weaknesses. I notice as women we tend to have an opposite response, namely, to start arguing our worth almost in defiance of what we are hearing.

    If most women are in Hellfire then we have to think no further than the fact that hell will be filled with jinn and humans. It is a warning for all of us to believe and do righteous deeds and find the means to jennah.

    If someone gloats over the idea that their muslim sister might be going to hell (gloating in spite of the fact that Allah SWT has revealed in qur’an that the believing men and women are awliyah of each other), then that shows something very wrong about their attitude.

    Maybe we are weaker in some aspects of intellect. There are numerous theories about “women’s way of knowing” that argue how women build meaning together through conversation, and that their goal is to forge relationship and meaning rather than necessarily uphold and argue logical truths. Not that women aren’t capable of that, but that is not their commonly used mode. This way of knowing could definitely argue for having 2 witnesses (who through conversation remind each other of the truth of what happened) and argue against the prophetic role for women in that their way of intellect is less suited to withstanding constant assault from all members of society (which happens to prophets as). Maryam (ra) and Asiya (ra) are actually amazing examples of women who are singular and isolated and cling to truth despite their isolation.

    The above para is conjecture obviously, and based on some modern theories, but shows that the ahadith in question or not necessarily out of sync with what modern science puts out there, yet not many get insulted by the science.

  9. The meaning of the Hadeeth of the Messenger of Allaah (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam):

    “I have never seen anyone with a deficiency of ‘Aql (intellect) and Deen (religion) who are more overpowering to men than one of you [women].”

    So it was said:

    “O Messenger of Allaah, what is the deficiency in her intelligence?”

    He said:

    “Isn’t the witness of two women equal to that of one man?”

    So it was said:

    “What is the deficiency in her Deen?”

    So he said:

    “Isn’t it the case that if she is menstruating she doesn’t pray or fast?”

    So the Messenger (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) clarified that the deficiency of her intellect was from the angle of her weak memory and that her testimony is strengthened with the testimony of another woman. This is because of the preciseness of the witness (in Islaam) and because she could forget and make an addition or deletion to the testimony. Just as Allaah says:

    {And bring forth two witnesses from your own men. If there are not two men (available) then a man and two women, such as you agree for witnesses, so that if one of them (two women) errs then the other can remind her…} [2282]

    As for deficiency in her Deen, then it is because during her state of menstruation and post-partum bleeding, she abandons the Salaat and fasting, and she doesn’t make up the salaat. This is from the deficiency in her Deen. But this deficiency is not blameworthy upon her. Rather it is a deficiency, which happens as a result of that which Allaah had decreed for her and this was done in a manner of leniency and easiness towards her. For if she were to fast in a state of menstruation or in a state of postpartum bleeding it would harm her. So from the Mercy of Allaah (towards women) He has legislated for her to abandon the fast at the time when she is menstruating or in a state of Nifaas, and to make up the fast afterwards. As for the salaat, then without a doubt, the state of menstruation prevents her from purification. So from the mercy of Allaah, He legislated for her to abandon her prayer and likewise in the state of Nifaas. He also legislated for her not to make it up, because in making up the (Salaat) is difficulty, because the Salaat is tremendous, and repetitious, five times throughout the night and day, and the days of menstruation can be plentiful, sometimes seven or eight days or more than that. And the Nifaas could reach 40 days. So from the mercy of Allaah upon her and from His Ihsaan (doing good) towards her is that He removed the Salaat from her whether it be the initial Salaat or the make-up. And this does not necessitate that her intelligence is deficient in everything! Nor that her Deen is deficient in everything! But indeed the Messenger (saw) clarified that the deficiency in her intelligence is from that which happens to her from the lack of precision in her memory and testimony, and that the deficiency in her Deen is from the fact that she leaves off the prayer and fasting at the time of her menses or in the state of Nifaas. Also this doesn’t necessitate that she is less than a man in everything! or the fact that the man is better in everything! Yes, generally the male gender is better than the gender of the females generally for many reasons. Just as Allaah the High and Sublime says:

    {Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allaah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend their wealth (to support them)…} [434]

    But she can surpass him, sometimes, in many things. And by Allaah how many women surpass many men in their intelligence, Deen and precision! But verily that which is narrated on the Messenger (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) is that the women are surpassed by men, generally, in intelligence and in the religion only. There can proceed from her many righteous actions, in which, she can surpass the men and in her Taqwah of Allaah, Azza Wa Jall, and in her station in the hereafter. There could be some affairs that she places great importance on and is precise in them more so than the precision of a man. There are many issues, which she carefully considers, and is diligent in memorizing and precise in. She would become the foundation in Islaamic history and point of reference in many affairs and this is clear to those who ponder and reflect on the state of the women during the time of the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) and after that. With this it should be understood that this deficiency should not prevent her from being treated equally in her narrations and in her testimony, if it is strengthened with the testimony of another woman. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that it (this deficiency) should prevent her from having Taqwah of Allaah and the fact that she could be from the most virtuous slaves of Allaah if she is upright in her Deen, even if the fasting and Salaat is not obligatory upon her at the time of menstruation and Nifaas rather this is a deficiency which is specific to the intellect and Deen just as the Messenger (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) clarified. It is not appropriate that a believer should accuse her of being deficient in everything and weak in every area of her Deen, and its clarification is pertinent and important so that the speech of the Messenger is understood in it’s proper context and in the best possible manner and Allaah knows best.

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