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فتاویٰ > The Sayings of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam)

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f:899 -    Does the Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) forget
Country : Bihar,
Name : Abdul Rahman
Question:     A certain scholar says that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) can also forget things.  Is this correct?
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Answer:     Allah Most High has promised the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) that He Himself will teach the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) and that after that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) will never forget.  As given in the Holy Quran:

(O Esteemed Beloved!) We shall teach you (in a way) that nothing shall you (ever) forget,  Surah A’ala (87:6)

In the Hadith, there is mention of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) being abstract, but this is not the forgetfulness of mere human beings.  The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) has clarified about this that this is only for the instruction of the Ummah about what to do in case of forgetting something.  As given in this Hadith of Muwatta Imam Malik:

Translation: It is narrated on the authority of Hadhrat Imam Malik (May Allah shower His Mercy on him), that he received this Hadith that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said:  I forget or am made to forget to teach you.  (Muwatta Imam Malik, Pg. No. 68)

In Ash Shifa, the following words are mentioned:

Translation: I don’t forget but am made to forget so that my Sunnah is imparted.  (Ash Shifa, Pg. No. 335)

Logically also, this holds good.  Allah has sent the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) to convey His rules.  If the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) also forgot like other human beings, then those against Islam can object that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) forgot to convey some rules.  This apparent abstraction of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) is for the sake of instruction of the Ummah and to convey the message of Allah.

The exegetes have interpreted the aforementioned verse of the Holy Quran in various ways:

(1)  ‘Allama Muhammad bin 'Abdullah Hussain Aalusi (May Allah shower His Mercy on him), the author of Ruh Al Ma’ani writes in his exegesis that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) never forgets.

Translation: The words of Allah, “nothing shall you (ever) forget” negate the possibility of forgetfulness for the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam).  This expresses the favor of Allah on the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) that He (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) has been granted the bounty of memory and retention.

Imam Nawawi, the commentator of Sahih Muslim, writes the opinion of Qazi Iyaz (May Allah shower His mercy on him) after mentioning various opinions:

Translation: The truth, about which there is no doubt, is that we should give preference to those who declare forgetfulness as forbidden for all Prophets the way they don’t lie, neither deliberately nor mistakenly, neither in health nor while sick, neither when pleased nor when angry and in this context, the Seerah of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam), His blessed words, His sacred deeds will suffice for you.  This is such a compendium, which is still detailed and described even after passage of time.  It is accepted by those who are with Him, those who are against Him, those who believe in Him and those who doubt Him.  No one finds an error in any word therein nor does any one specify any misgiving.  If there was any, it would have been related, as is related about Salaat (Sharh Sahih Muslim, Vol. 1, Pg. No. 212)

(2)  Imam Qazi Iyaz (May Allah shower His mercy on him) says:  The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) has been abstracted (Sahw in Arabic) not forgetful.  The Arabic word “Sahw” means not paying attention to something.  As given in Ash Shifa, Vol. 2, Pg. No. 139.

In Subul Ul Huda War Rashad, the following words are also related:

Translation: The second explanation is that abstraction did happen with the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) but not forgetfulness.  The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) has negated forgetfulness for Himself.  Forgetfulness is heedlessness of which the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) is free of, whereas abstraction is because of absolute absorption.

(3)  The third meaning is that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) does not forget except what Allah wants Him to.  This is extremely rare and has not happened in the propagation of Islam and obligations of the Shariah but only in the etiquette and Commendable acts, because if the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) forgets any of the obligations of the Shariah and does not remember them, the Shariah will be affected and this cannot be possible.  As given in Tafseer Kabeer, Surah A’ala.


And Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) knows best.

Mufti Hafidh Syed Ziauddin Naqshbandi Qadri

[Professor, Islamic Law, Jamia Nizamia,
Founder-Director, Abul Hasanaat Islamic Research Center]
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