Explanation of the Hadith of the Rock, the Gharqad Tree, and the Jews: Did Prophet Muhammad Command Muslims to kill all Jews?


By Abu Amina Elias for FaithinAllah.org

Question:

I heard that Prophet Muhammad said:

لَتُقَاتِلُنَّ الْيَهُودَ فَلَتَقْتُلُنَّهُمْ حَتَّى يَقُولَ الْحَجَرُ يَا مُسْلِمُ هَذَا يَهُودِيٌّ فَتَعَالَ فَاقْتُلْهُ

You will fight against the Jews and you will kill them until even a stone would say: come here, O Muslim, there is a Jew, so kill him. 

[Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Number 6981]

Is this narration telling Muslims that killing Jews is a good deed?

Answer:

This narration is describing a specific miraculous event which will occur near the end of time. It is not a narration from which is derived a legal ruling. In other words, this narration is a description, not a prescription. For this reason, the scholars recorded this narration in the books of tribulations near the end of time and portents of the Hour; and they did not record it in the books of legal punishment.

An important principle of interpretation regarding the sacred text of Islam is that the clear verses and narrations should be referred to in order to explain other narrations like this. Allah said:

هُوَ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُّحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَابَهَ مِنْهُ ابْتِغَاءَ الْفِتْنَةِ وَابْتِغَاءَ تَأْوِيلِهِ

It is He who has sent down to you the Book; in it are verses that are precise – they are the foundation of the Book – and others unspecific. As for those in whose hearts is deviation, they will follow that of it which is unspecific, seeking discord and seeking an interpretation.

[Surah Ali Imran 3:7]

Therefore, we need to place this narration in its proper context so that Muslims will not act upon it wrongly and thereby commit transgression.

This miraculous event of the speaking rocks and trees will take place near the end of the world when the False Messiah (Anti-Christ) will appear and many people will follow him, including a small army of Jews. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said:

يَتْبَعُ الدَّجَّالَ مِنْ يَهُودِ أَصْبَهَانَ سَبْعُونَ أَلْفًا عَلَيْهِمُ الطَّيَالِسَةُ

The False Messiah would be followed by seventy thousand Jews of Isfahan wearing Persian shawls. 

[Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Number 7034]

As another narration makes clear, this is a group of unbelieving Jews, who do not believe in their own scriptures, let alone Islam. Jesus, peace be upon him, is quoted as saying:

 أَنَّ الدَّجَّالَ خَارِجٌ قَالَ وَمَعِي قَضِيبَانِ فَإِذَا رَآنِي ذَابَ كَمَا يَذُوبُ الرَّصَاصُ قَالَ فَيُهْلِكُهُ اللَّهُ حَتَّى إِنَّ الْحَجَرَ وَالشَّجَرَ لَيَقُولُ يَا مُسْلِمُ إِنَّ تَحْتِي كَافِرًا فَتَعَالَ فَاقْتُلْهُ قَالَ فَيُهْلِكُهُمْ اللَّهُ

The False Messiah will emerge and I will have with me two bars; so when he sees me he will melt away like the melting of lead. Allah will destroy him until the stone and the tree say: O Muslim, underneath me is an unbeliever, so slay him; thus, Allah will destroy them.

[Musnad Ahmad, Number 3546]

It is these particular Jews, not all Jews, whom Muslims will fight and they will be aided by miracles from Allah. An army of seventy thousand is quite modest by today’s standards, a mere fraction of the total Jewish population; so it cannot be said that all Jews, or even most Jews, will join the False Messiah.

Indeed, the Noble Quran is careful to distinguish between hypocrite Jews, who do not believe in their own scriptures, and believing Jews, whose attitude towards Islam is conciliatory. Allah said:

لَيْسُوا سَوَاءً مِّنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ أُمَّةٌ قَائِمَةٌ يَتْلُونَ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ آنَاءَ اللَّيْلِ وَهُمْ يَسْجُدُونَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَيُسَارِعُونَ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ وَأُولَٰئِكَ مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ وَمَا يَفْعَلُوا مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَلَن يُكْفَرُوهُ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِالْمُتَّقِينَ

They are not all the same; among the People of the Scripture is a community standing, reciting the verses of Allah during periods of the night and prostrating in prayer. They believe in Allah and the Last Day, and they enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and hasten to good deeds; and those are among the righteous. Whatever good they do – never will it be removed from them; and Allah knows the righteous.

[Surah Ali Imran 3:113-115]

And He said:

وَمِن قَوْمِ مُوسَىٰ أُمَّةٌ يَهْدُونَ بِالْحَقِّ وَبِهِ يَعْدِلُونَ

Among the people of Moses is a community which guides by truth and by it establishes justice.

[Surah Al-A’raf 7:159]

Muslims have been encouraged to behave well with these peaceful Jews, and indeed all people of different religions who seek peace. As Allah said:

لَّا يَنْهَاكُمُ اللَّهُ عَنِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ وَلَمْ يُخْرِجُوكُم مِّن دِيَارِكُمْ أَن تَبَرُّوهُمْ وَتُقْسِطُوا إِلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ إِنَّمَا يَنْهَاكُمُ اللَّهُ عَنِ الَّذِينَ قَاتَلُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ وَأَخْرَجُوكُم مِّن دِيَارِكُمْ وَظَاهَرُوا عَلَىٰ إِخْرَاجِكُمْ أَن تَوَلَّوْهُمْ وَمَن يَتَوَلَّهُمْ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ

Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly. Allah only forbids you from those who fight you because of religion and expel you from your homes and aid in your expulsion – He forbids that you make allies of them; and whoever makes allies of them, then it is those who are the wrongdoers.

[Surah Al-Mumtahina 60:8-9]

At-Tabari, an important commentator on the Quran, explains this verse by saying:

لا ينهاكم الله عن الذين لم يقاتلوكم في الدين من جميع أصناف الملل والأديان أن تبروهم وتصلوهم وتقسطوا إليهم

Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion – including all the sects, creeds, and religions – that you behave righteously with them, maintain good relations with them, and act fairly with them.

[Tafsir At-Tabari, verse 60:8]

For this reason, the Prophet, peace be upon him, was careful to behave well towards the Jews, known in the Quran as the “People of the Book,” a title which honors their belief in Moses. For example, on one occasion the funeral procession of a Jewish elder was passing by the Muslims. The Prophet, peace be upon him, stood up out of respect for his humanity. It was said, “It is a Jew,” so the Prophet said:

أَلَيْسَتْ نَفْسًا

Was he not a soul?

[Sunan An-Nasa’i, Book 21, Number 1922]

The Prophet, peace be upon him, maintained amicable business relations with Jews even up until his death. Aisha reported:

تُوُفِّيَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَدِرْعُهُ مَرْهُونَةٌ عِنْدَ يَهُودِيٍّ بِثَلَاثِينَ صَاعًا مِنْ شَعِيرٍ

The Prophet, peace be upon him, passed away while his armor was mortgaged to a Jew for thirty units of barley.

[Sahih Bukhari, Book 59, Number 743]

Other narrations tell us about how the Prophet, peace be upon him, was careful to engage in fair business with Jews. The Prophet even had a Jewish boy who served him and he treated him like family. Anas ibn Malik reported:

كَانَ غُلاَمٌ يَهُودِيٌّ يَخْدُمُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَمَرِضَ فَأَتَاهُ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَعُودُهُ، فَقَعَدَ عِنْدَ رَأْسِهِ فَقَالَ لَهُ  أَسْلِمْ فَنَظَرَ إِلَى أَبِيهِ وَهْوَ عِنْدَهُ فَقَالَ لَهُ أَطِعْ أَبَا الْقَاسِمِ صلى الله عليه وسلم‏.‏ فَأَسْلَمَ، فَخَرَجَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَهْوَ يَقُولُ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي أَنْقَذَهُ مِنَ النَّارِ

A young Jewish boy used to serve the Prophet and he became sick, so the Prophet went to visit him. He sat near his head and asked him to embrace Islam. The boy looked at his father, who was sitting next to him. The father said, “Obey Abu Al-Qasim,” and so the boy embraced Islam. The Prophet, peace be upon him, came out saying, “All praise is due to Allah who saved the boy from the Hellfire.”

[Sahih Bukhari, Book 23, Number 438]

Even when some of the Jews of Medina declared their hostility to the Prophet, he would still respond with forbearance and patience. Aisha reported:

أَنَّ يَهُودَ أَتَوْا النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَالُوا السَّامُ عَلَيْكُمْ فَقَالَتْ عَائِشَةُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَلَعَنَكُمْ اللَّهُ وَغَضِبَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمْ قَالَ مَهْلًا يَا عَائِشَةُ عَلَيْكِ بِالرِّفْقِ وَإِيَّاكِ وَالْعُنْفَ وَالْفُحْشَ قَالَتْ أَوَلَمْ تَسْمَعْ مَا قَالُوا قَالَ أَوَلَمْ تَسْمَعِي مَا قُلْتُ رَدَدْتُ عَلَيْهِمْ فَيُسْتَجَابُ لِي فِيهِمْ وَلَا يُسْتَجَابُ لَهُمْ فِيَّ

Some Jewish men came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and he said (as a play on words), “Death be upon you!” Aisha said, “The curse of Allah be upon you and His wrath!” The Prophet said, “Be calm, O Aisha! Your duty is to be gentle and beware of harshness and bad words.” She said, “Have you not heard what they have said?” He said, “Have you not heard what I have said? I said the same to them, and my supplication against them will be accepted while their supplication against me will be rejected.”

[Sahih Bukhari, Book 73, Number 57]

Furthermore, the Prophet, peace be upon him, strongly encouraged an alliance with the Jewish tribes of Medina, as mentioned in the famous Constitution of Medina:

وإن يهود بني عوف أمة مع المؤمنين لليهود دينهم وللمسلمين دينهم

The Jews of Bani Awf are one community with the believers. The Jews will profess their religion; and the Muslims their religion.

[Seerah Ibn Hisham 1/503]

The treaty explicitly affirmed religious freedom for the Jews and the encouragement of cooperation in righteousness between Jews and Muslims. On this basis, there were Jews who fought alongside the Muslims against the alliance of the hypocrite Jews and the idolaters of Mecca. Mukhayriq was one such Rabbi who allied himself with Prophet Muhammad and the Muslims. In fact, he donated all of his wealth to Prophet in order for it to be given as charity to the people of Medina. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said about the Rabbi:

مُخَيْرِيقُ سَابِقُ يَهُودَ

Mukhayriq is the foremost among the Jews.

[Ibn Shabbah, Ta’reekh Al-Madinah 467]

In another narration, the Prophet said:

مُخَيْرِيقٌ خَيْرُ يَهُودَ

Mukhayriq was the best of the Jews.

[Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat Al-Kubra 1535]

Following the Prophet’s example, the companions were eager to behave well with their Jewish neighbors, as this is a great way of seeking reward from Allah. Mujahid reported:

كُنْتُ عِنْدَ عَبْدِ اللهِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو وَغُلاَمُهُ يَسْلُخُ شَاةً فَقَالَ‏ يَا غُلاَمُ إِذَا فَرَغْتَ فَابْدَأْ بِجَارِنَا الْيَهُودِيِّ فَقَالَ رَجُلٌ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ‏:‏ الْيَهُودِيُّ أَصْلَحَكَ اللَّهُ‏ قَالَ‏ إِنِّي سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يُوصِي بِالْجَارِ حَتَّى خَشِينَا أَوْ رُئِينَا أَنَّهُ سَيُوَرِّثُهُ

I was with Abdullah ibn Amr while his servant was skinning a sheep. He said, “O boy, when you finish up, then start with the Jewish neighbor.” A man there exclaimed, “Jewish? May Allah correct you!” He replied, “I heard the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, recommending that we treat our neighbors well until we thought that he would order us to make them our heirs.”

[Al-Bukhari, Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Number 128]

When it comes to legal rulings, it is not permissible to use the narration of the rock and Gharqad tree as an excuse to violate peace treaties or otherwise transgress against peaceful Jews. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said:

مَنْ قَتَلَ نَفْسًا مُعَاهَدًا لَمْ يَرَحْ رَائِحَةَ الْجَنَّةِ، وَإِنَّ رِيحَهَا يُوجَدُ مِنْ مَسِيرَةِ أَرْبَعِينَ عَامًا

Whoever kills a person protected by a treaty will never smell the fragrance of Paradise, and indeed its fragrance can be found a distance of forty years of travel.

[Sahih Bukhari, Book 83, Number 49]

In another narration, the Prophet said:

 أَلَا مَنْ ظَلَمَ مُعَاهِدًا أَوْ انْتَقَصَهُ أَوْ كَلَّفَهُ فَوْقَ طَاقَتِهِ أَوْ أَخَذَ مِنْهُ شَيْئًا بِغَيْرِ طِيبِ نَفْسٍ فَأَنَا حَجِيجُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ

If anyone wrongs a person protected by a peace treaty, detracts from his rights, burdens him with more work than he is able to do, or takes something from him without his consent, then I will plead for him on the Day of Resurrection.

[Sunan Abu Dawud, Book of Leadership, Number 3052]

Violent extremists who cite the narration of the rock and Gharqad tree as evidence have grossly misunderstood the principles of interpretation, whether by ignorance or on purpose. If they use such narrations in order to justify transgression against the Jewish people, then they will surely be surprised on the Day of Resurrection when Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, comes as an advocate on behalf of oppressed Jews against the Muslims who oppressed them.

Conclusion

The narration of the rock and Gharqad tree describes (not prescribes) a specific event which will occur near the end of time, a battle involving Muslims and hypocrite Jews who will follow the False Messiah. It does not describe a battle with all Jews, or even most Jews, and it is not permissible to use this narration in order to make lawful the killing of peaceful Jews. Rather, this narration, whose meaning is unclear, must be referred to other narrations whose meanings are decisively clear; in other words, this specific narration must be interpreted in light of other narrations whose meanings are general. These other narrations inform us that the Prophet, peace be upon him, was careful to maintain amicable relations with Jews and this attitude was passed down from him to his companions.

Violent extremists and anti-Muslim activists like to cite this narration out of context in order to spread discord and hatred among Jews and Muslims. We seek refuge in Allah from their corruption and we pray that Allah Almighty will open their hearts to the light of Islam, and bestow upon them a proper understanding of this tradition.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.

(www.faithinallah.org / 28.09.2012)

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