By Abu Amina Elias for FaithinAllah.org
Some people claim the Prophet burned down people’s houses because they were absent from prayer. Is it true?
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
There is a tradition of the Prophet which states that he wanted to burn down the houses of the hypocrites – those who pretended to be Muslims in order to infiltrate and harm the Muslim community – because they would habitually miss the congregational prayers. However, he only expressed that he wanted to do so but he did not actually do it.
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
إِنَّ أَثْقَلَ صَلَاةٍ عَلَى الْمُنَافِقِينَ صَلَاةُ الْعِشَاءِ وَصَلَاةُ الْفَجْرِ وَلَوْ يَعْلَمُونَ مَا فِيهِمَا لَأَتَوْهُمَا وَلَوْ حَبْوًا وَلَقَدْ هَمَمْتُ أَنْ آمُرَ بِالصَّلَاةِ فَتُقَامَ ثُمَّ آمُرَ رَجُلًا فَيُصَلِّيَ بِالنَّاسِ ثُمَّ أَنْطَلِقَ مَعِي بِرِجَالٍ مَعَهُمْ حُزَمٌ مِنْ حَطَبٍ إِلَى قَوْمٍ لَا يَشْهَدُونَ الصَّلَاةَ فَأُحَرِّقَ عَلَيْهِمْ بُيُوتَهُمْ بِالنَّارِ
Verily, the most burdensome of prayers upon the hypocrites are the night prayer and dawn prayer. If they knew the blessings that are in them, they would come to them even if they had to crawl. Certainly, I felt like ordering the prayer to be established and commanding a man to lead the people in prayer, then I would go with some men with firewood to the people who were absent from the prayer and I would burn their houses with fire.
Source: Sahih Muslim 651, Grade: Sahih
The narration clearly discusses the hypocrites who were infamous for pretending to be Muslims while hiding their intention to destroy the Muslim community.
إِذَا جَاءَكَ الْمُنَافِقُونَ قَالُوا نَشْهَدُ إِنَّكَ لَرَسُولُ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ إِنَّكَ لَرَسُولُهُ وَاللَّهُ يَشْهَدُ إِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ لَكَاذِبُونَ اتَّخَذُوا أَيْمَانَهُمْ جُنَّةً فَصَدُّوا عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّهُمْ سَاءَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
When the hypocrites come to you they say: We testify that you are the Messenger of Allah. Allah knows that you are His Messenger and Allah testifies that the hypocrites are liars. They have taken their oaths as a cover, so they divert people from the way of Allah. Verily, it was evil that they were doing.
Surah Al-Munafiqun 63:1-2
Although the Prophet knew they were hypocrites, he still did not punish them. Rather, he only “felt like” (hamamtu) punishing them with fire but he did not act upon his feelings. In fact, the Prophet prohibited the Muslims from using fire as punishment.
Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
لَا تُعَذِّبُوا بِعَذَابِ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ
Do not punish with the punishment of Allah the Exalted.
Source: Musnad Ahmad 1904, Grade: Sahih
Furthermore, the Prophet set an important example of tolerance and forbearance by not punishing the hypocrites.
Jabir ibn Abdullah reported: A man came to the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, and he said to him, “O Muhammad! Be just!” Umar ibn Al-Khattab said, “O Messenger of Allah, allow me to kill this hypocrite!” The Prophet said:
مَعَاذَ اللَّهِ أَنْ يَتَحَدَّثَ النَّاسُ أَنِّي أَقْتُلُ أَصْحَابِي إِنَّ هَذَا وَأَصْحَابَهُ يَقْرَءُونَ الْقُرْآنَ لَا يُجَاوِزُ حَنَاجِرَهُمْ يَمْرُقُونَ مِنْهُ كَمَا يَمْرُقُ السَّهْمُ مِنْ الرَّمِيَّةِ
I seek refuge in Allah that the people would say I am killing my companions. Verily, this man and his companions will recite the Quran but it will not go beyond their throats. They will exit Islam just as an arrow goes through its target.
Source: Sahih Muslim 1063, Grade: Sahih
In this narration, Umar asked the Prophet for permission to kill a man whom they knew was a hypocrite. They knew he did not really believe in Islam, that he would twist the meaning of the Quran, and that his followers would distort Islam’s ethical and spiritual teachings, but despite this the Prophet did not harm him because he intended to set a precedent of tolerance.
In conclusion, the Prophet did not burn down anyone’s house for missing the prayer. Rather, he only felt as if he wanted to do so to the hypocrites who intended to harm the Muslim community. Despite knowing who the hypocrites were, he did not harm them in order to set an example of patience and forbearance.
Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.