Several critics of Islam quote a hadith which states that the Prophet, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, ordered to burn the houses of the people who do not offer the prayer in congregation. These critics claim that this is barbaric and that Islam teaches hate. This is the hadith:
Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Messenger of Allah said, “No prayer is harder for the hypocrites than the morning and the night prayers, and if they knew the reward for these prayers at their respective times, they would certainly present themselves in the mosques, even if they had to crawl.” The Prophet added, “Certainly, I decided to order the muezzin to call the azan and order a man to lead the prayer and then take a flame of fire to burn all those who had not left their houses so far for the prayer along with their houses.” (Al-Bukhaari, Azan 29, Husumat 5, Ahkam 52; Muslim, Masajid 252, (651); Muwatta, Salaat Al-Jamaa‘ah 3, (1, 129-130); Abu Dawud, Salat 47, (548, 549); Tirmidhi, Salat 162, (217); Nasaa’i, Imamah 49, (2, 107).
Does this mean that a Muslim should start burning people's houses by using a lighter and petrol just because they do not offer the prayer in congregation? Is this hadith literal? If it is not literal, then what is the proof that it is metaphorical? Why did the Prophet, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, order such a harsh ruling about this issue? Thank you.
All perfect praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.
The Prophet did not order to burn the houses of those who stayed behind from the prayer (in congregation), and the hadeeth does not indicate that we should go and burn the houses of those who stay behind from the prayer with petrol. This is clear ignorance on part of the one who said it or the one who understood the hadeeth to mean this.
The hadeeth is clear, and it does not include the words ‘I decided to order’ or that he actually ordered doing so; rather, the translation of that part of the hadeeth is: ‘I was about to order’ or ‘I was thinking of ordering’, and there is a big difference between being about to order something or thinking of ordering it and actually giving the order.
He was about to order to burn the houses but he did not order it and he did not do it. So how can it be understood from this that such an action is legitimate and that the Muslims should do it?!
Allah knows best.
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