Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Addressing Paul Williams’ False Accusations Pt. 6

Sam Shamoun

We now come to the final part of our rebuttal.

Williams attempts to defend Muhammad’s teaching that Allah will torture Jews and Christians as a sacrifice for the sins committed by Muslims.

In order for the readers to follow along we will again quote one of the narrations from Sahih Muslim which we used to illustrate this point, this time by employing a different translation:

(20) CHAPTER. Disbelievers are sent to Hell as sacrifice to the Muslims

1937. Abu Musa narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: “When it is the Day of Resurrection, Allah will deliver every Muslim a Jew or Christian and say: ‘THAT IS YOUR SACRIFICE FROM HELL-FIRE.’” (The Translation of the Meanings of Summarized Sahih Muslim (Arabic–English), Compiled by Al-Hafiz Zakiuddin Abdul-Azim Al-Mundhiri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, First Edition: February 2000], Volume 2, 62– The Book Of Repentance And Allah’s Great Mercy, pp. 1033-1034; capital emphasis ours)

Williams attempts to brush aside these reports on the grounds that they supposedly contradict the Quran which says that no soul will bear the burdens of another (cf. Q. 35:18). He also claims that the language of these ahadith are simply figurative, not literal, and that they are Ahad narrations (e.g. single chain narrations) which implies that they might not be free from error after all. He further claims that Ahad hadiths cannot be used for any creedal formulations.

Needless to say, there are major problems with Williams’ response.

First, we did not use these reports to establish a creedal statement so this is nothing more than a straw man argument.

Second, Williams must contend with the fact that these ahadith were included within a work that many Muslims deem to be the second most authentic collection of narrations ever compiled. In fact, some of the Islamic scholars claim that in some aspects Sahih Muslim is actually superior to al-Bukhari’s collection!

“… Although Sahih al-Bukhari is the most reliable collection of Ahadith, however, Sahih Muslim has certain aspects of superiority. Imam Muslim adhered strictly to most of the principles of the Science of Hadith which were somehow at some places ignored by his teacher Imam Bukhari. Imam Muslim accepted for his collection only such Ahadith which had been transmitted with an unbroken chain of reliable narrators, free from all defects and were in perfect harmony with the narrations of other narrators. He has recorded only those ahadith which were transmitted at least by two different transmitters from two different Companions. Imam Bukhari has sometimes used the Kunyah (surname) of the narrators and sometimes their names. Imam Muslim avoided this confusion. Imam Muslim is also particular in pointing out the slightest difference in the text of the narrations. Imam Bukhari has fragmented most of the Ahadith and presented the portions under different chapters, while Imam Muslim presented them as a whole narration. So, the works of both Imams provide different approaches for the scholars and readers of Ahadith.” (The Translation of the Meanings of Summarized Sahih Muslim, Publisher’s Note, Volume 1, p. ii; bold emphasis ours)


“Imam Muslim compiled many books and treatises on Hadith, the most important of his works is the compilation of the Hadith collection Al-Jami‘ As-Sahih, which is famous by the name of Sahih Muslim. Some scholars of Hadith opine that in some respects IT IS THE BEST AND MOST AUTHENTIC COLLECTION of Ahadith. Imam Muslim laboriously collected 300,000 Ahadith, but after critical study, he selected only 4,000 Ahadith for this collection…

“Many students learned the Science of Hadith from Imam Muslim. Those who became famous and occupied a prominent position are: Abu Hatim Razi, Musa bin Harun, Ahmad bin Salamah, Abu ‘Isa Tirmidhi, Abu Bakr bin Khuzaimah, Abu ‘Awanah and Hafiz Dhahbi.” (Ibid., p. v; bold and capital emphasis ours)

This means that these traditions thoroughly met Imam Muslim’s stringent criteria of authenticity, which also indicates that this renowned hadith scholar was fully convinced that these were actual statements uttered by Muhammad. Therefore, Williams is going to have to do a lot more than to simply brush aside these traditions on the grounds that they are Ahad reports since the fact still remains that according to the very strict criteria employed by Imam Muslim they are genuine sayings of the historical Muhammad (that is, as far as Islamic historiography and hadith criticism are concerned).

As such, these narrations are still binding upon Muslims such as Williams to believe and affirm, just as the following Sufi scholar asserts:


Does any scholar ever say that we can not take into aqeedah an ahad hadith?


Most of the fuqaha‘ and Ahl al-Hadith say it from the time of the Salaf to ours with the exception of the likes of Ibn al-Qayyim and al-Albani. This does not mean that one is free to reject any and all lone-narrator reports as not binding! On the contrary, as we said, they are binding, but are not retained to define the `aqidah of every Muslim for to deny any aspect of the latter is kufr whereas as we said the denial of any ahad hadith is only fisq.Hajj Gibril (G. F. Haddad, Can an ahad hadith be used for `aqida?; underline emphasis ours)

Haddad goes so far as to claim that specific sahih ahad hadiths can be and are in fact used as proofs for credal statements and laws!

sahih ahad hadiths
3) Hadith Ahad [Ones, from Wahid: One] which is a Hadith that has been attributed to one or maybe a handful of the prophet's companions, i.e. it is not corroborated by enough people to exclude the possibility of error. 95% of all written Hadiths (never mind their Isnad or Matn) fall within this category

This is false. A sahih ahad hadith can well be corroborated by enough people and other factors so as to exclude the possibility of error. Because of this, some of them are even considered proofs in credal matters let alone law.

However, this is moot, as the yardstick in practice is the exclusion of the *likelihood* of error. As for the possibility of error, it is not excluded even from the laws of physics, as shown by our abandonment of previous laws for relativity. Ahad Hadiths proved more reliable than Newton. (Various Issues About Hadiths)

Third, Williams conveniently overlooks all the passages of the Quran which explicitly state that individuals will carry the burdens of others:

Hence, on Resurrection Day they shall bear the full weight of their own burdens, AS WELL AS SOME OF THE BURDENS of those ignorant ones whom they have led astray: oh, how evil the load with which they shall be burdened! S. 16:25 Muhammad Asad

And [He is aware, too, that] they who are bent on denying the truth speak [thus, as it were,] to those who have attained to faith: "Follow our way [of life], and we shall indeed take your sins upon ourselves!" But never could they take upon themselves aught of the sins of those [whom they would thus mislead]: behold, they are liars indeed! Yet most certainly will they have to bear their own burdens, AND OTHER BURDENS BESIDES THEIR OWN; and most certainly will they be called to account on Resurrection Day for all their false assertions! S. 29:12-13 Asad

The ahadith confirm this by indicating that individuals suffer because of the sins and wrongdoings committed by others. For instance, Muhammad believed that Adam’s sin resulted in the expulsion of all mankind from the garden:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, “Moses argued with Adam and said to him (Adam), ‘You are the one who got the people out of Paradise BY YOUR SIN, AND THUS MADE THEM MISERABLE.’ Adam replied, ‘O Moses! You are the one whom Allah selected for His Message and for His direct talk. Yet you blame me for a thing which Allah had ordained for me before He created me?’” Allah's Apostle further said, “So Adam overcame Moses by this Argument.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 262)

“It is narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira and Hudhaifa that the Messenger of Allah said: Allah, the Blessed and Exalted, would gather people. The believers would stand till the Paradise would be brought near them. They would come to Adam and say: O our father, open for us the Paradise. He would say: What turned you out from the Paradise WAS THE SIN OF YOUR FATHER ADAM. I am not in a position to do that…” (Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0380; *)

Abu Huraira reported that God’s messenger told of Adam and Moses holding a disputation in their Lord’s presence and of Adam getting the better of Moses in argument. Moses said, “You are Adam whom God created with His hand, into whom He breathed of His spirit, to whom He made the angels do obeisance, and whom He caused to dwell in his garden; then BECAUSE OF YOUR SIN caused MANKIND to come down to the earth.” Adam replied, "And you are Moses whom God chose to deliver His messages and to address, to whom He gave the tablets on which everything was explained, and whom He brought near as a confidant. How long before I was created did you find that God has written the Torah? Moses said, “Forty years.” Adam asked, “Did you find in it, ‘And Adam disobeyed his Lord and erred’?” On being told that he did, he said, “Do you then blame me for doing a deed WHICH GOD HAD DECREED THAT I SHOULD DO forty years before He created me?" God’s messenger said, "So Adam got the better of Moses n the argument." Muslim transmitted it. (Mishkat Al-Masabih English Translation With Explanatory Notes by Dr. James Robson, Volume I [Sh. Muhammad Ahsraf Publishers, Booksellers & Exporters, Lahore-Pakistan, Reprint 1990], p. 23; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Muhammad even taught that Cain also shares a part of the responsibility for every murder which shall be committed:

Narrated 'Abdullah:
The Prophet said, "None is killed unjustly, but the first son of Adam will have a part of its burden." Sufyan said, "... a part of its blood because he was the first to establish the tradition of murdering." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 92, Number 423; *)

Muhammad also stated that individuals will share in the reward or punishment of others whom they have influenced to do something good or bad:

“… The Messenger of Allah said: He who sets a good precedent in Islam, there is a reward for him for this (act of goodness) and reward of that also who acted according to it subsequently, without any deduction from their rewards; and he who sets in Islam an evil precedent, there is upon him the burden of that, AND THE BURDEN OF HIM WHO ACTED UPON IT SUBSEQUENTLY, without any deduction from their burden.” (Sahih Muslim, Book 005, Number 2219; *)


Jarir b. Abdullah reported that some desert Arabs clad in woolen clothes came to Allah's Messenger. He saw them in a sad plight as they had been hard pressed by need… Thereupon Allah's Messenger said: He who introduced some good practice in Islam which was followed after him (by people) he would be assured of reward like one who followed it, without their rewards being diminished in any respect. And he who introduced some evil practice in Islam which had been followed subsequently (by others), he would BE REQUIRED TO BEAR THE BURDEN LIKE THAT OF ONE to bear the burden like that of one who followed this (evil practice) without theirs being diminished in any respect. (Sahih Muslim, Book 034, Number 6466)

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger as saying: He who called (people) to righteousness, there would be reward (assured) for him like the rewards of those who adhered to it, without their rewards being diminished in any respect. And he who called (people) to error, HE SHALL HAVE TO CARRY (the burden) OF ITS SIN, LIKE THOSE WHO COMMITTED IT, without their sins being diminished in any respect. (Sahih Muslim, Book 034, Number 6470)

And since Williams likes Muhammad Asad’s Quran so much, here is Asad’s note to Q. 29:13:

10 Cf. the Prophet's saying: Whoever calls [others] unto the right way shall have a reward equal to the [combined] rewards of all who may follow him until Resurrection Day, without anything being lessened of their rewards; and whoever calls unto the way of error will have to bear a sin equal to the [combined] sins of all who may follow him until Resurrection Day, without anything being lessened of their sins" (Bukhari). (Bold emphasis ours)

Hence, not only do these passages show that Muhammad contradicted himself, they also affirm that he actually believed that Allah does punish individuals for the transgressions committed by others. There is, therefore, nothing figurative about these narrations since it is obvious that Muhammad truly felt that Allah would indeed punish the Jews and Christians for their own crimes as well as for the sins committed by Muslims.

This leads me to the final problem with Williams' "reply." His response impugns Muhammad's prophethood since it implies that his prophet failed to communicate his point clearly and effectively, giving the misleading impression that Allah would actually redeem Muslims from hell by torturing Jews and Christians in their place. This means that Muhammad lied or was mistaken when he claimed that he was gifted with the most eloquent and pithy expressions:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "I have been given the keys of eloquent speech and given victory with awe (cast into the hearts of the enemy), and while I was sleeping last night, the keys of the treasures of the earth were brought to me till they were put in my hand.” Abu Huraira added: Allah's Apostle left (this world) and now you people are carrying those treasures from place to place. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 87, Number 127)

“… Thereupon, Allah's Messenger, who had been gifted with the most eloquent and pithy expressions, said: I forbid you from every intoxicant that keeps you away from prayer.” (Sahih Muslim, Book 023, Number 4961; *)

Thus, if Williams is correct then that means Muhammad was anything but eloquent or precise since he failed to clearly communicate the fact that the Jews and Christians won't really being punished for the sins committed by Muhammad's followers since this is simply figurative language. According to Williams, Muhammad wanted to say one thing but actually ended up stating something completely opposite from what he really wanted to communicate!

In light of this, Williams must come to terms with reality and contend with the fact that his prophet truly believed that Allah would torture Jews and Christians forever in the place of Muslims as a ransom or sacrifice for the sins committed by the "believers."

Williams must therefore consistently apply his own criticism of the Biblical teaching concerning Christ’s substitutionary death to Islam and condemn Muhammad for proclaiming a morally reprehensible and grotesque doctrine.

For more on these topics we recommend the following articles and rebuttals: