If Gender is Decided at Conception, Why Does the Hadith Say it is Decided on the 40th Day?

Answered by Mawlana Ilyas Patel


In various hadith, such as Sahih Muslim 6392 and 6393, it is said that on the 40th day, the angel goes to the developing human and decides his gender. I worry that this may be an inaccuracy, as it is a fact that gender is determined at conception.

The response is that this is talking about the genitalia, but the formation of that is only due to the initial determination at conception.


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

I pray you are in good faith and health. Thank you for your question.

Hudhaifa bin Usaid (Allah be pleased with him) reported directly from Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) that He said “when the drop of (semen) remains in the womb for forty or fifty (days) or forty nights, the angel comes and says, my Lord, will he be good or evil? And both these things would be written. Then the angel says: My Lord, would he be male or female? And both these things are written. And his deeds and actions, his death, his livelihood; these are also recorded. Then his document of destiny is rolled, and there is no addition to and subtraction.” [Muslim]

“All the above which has been mentioned in the hadith below about the child‘s sustenance, destined time, wretchedness, happiness, being male or female, is informing the angel about it to carry out the order and writing of it, as indicated by, ‘then the angel says: My Lord, would he be male or female,’ otherwise Allah Most High’s knowledge, precedes and exists before all this in beginninglessness eternality (azal), and Allah Most High knows of the Prophet’s blessed saying of this before, too.” [Nawawi, Sharh Sahih al-Muslim]

How, then, Could these Five Things Remain Exclusive to the Divine Knowledge of Allah Most High?

Knowledge of the unseen is knowledge without the mediation of a physical cause.  If these things are received by the blessed prophets through revelation, the pious saints through intuition, and astrologers through their calculations, it is not knowledge of the unseen.  Instead, these are ‘news’ of the unseen.  Furthermore, this knowledge is through a medium with the probabilities of error or false perception. [Shafi, Ma’rif al-Quran]

I would like you to go through the valuable answers and links below. You will receive guidance and direction in sha Allah.

Related Answers
Using Ultrasound to Determine the Gender of a Baby – SeekersGuidance
How Are Hadiths about Gender Determination Explained? (seekersguidance.org)

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[Mawlana] Ilyas Patel
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Mawlana Ilyas Patel is a traditionally-trained scholar who has studied in the UK, India, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey.

He started his early education in the UK. He went on to complete hifz of the Quran in India, then enrolled into an Islamic seminary in the UK, where he studied the secular and Alimiyyah sciences. He then traveled to Karachi, Pakistan.

He has been an Imam in Rep of Ireland for a number of years. He has taught hifz of the Qur’an, Tajwid, Fiqh, and many other Islamic sciences to both children and adults onsite and online extensively in UK and Ireland. He was teaching at a local Islamic seminary for 12 years in the UK, where he was a librarian and a teacher of Islamic sciences.

He currently resides in the UK with his wife. His personal interest is the love of books and gardening.