What Does the Hadith “Be like the Son of Adam” Mean in Context of Self-Defense?

Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat


Can you please explain and contextualise the following Hadith?

Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas reported: I said, “O Messenger of Allah, what do you think if someone invades my home and stretches out his hand to kill me?” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Be like the son of Adam.” Yazid ibn Khalid recited the verse, “If you raise your hand against me to kill me, I shall not raise my hand against you to kill you. Verily, I fear Allah the Lord of the worlds.” [Quran, 5:28]


I pray you are well.

In the Name of Allah—the Most Compassionate, Most Merciful.

Hadith Context

The hadith in question relates to the tribulation at the time of the assassination of Sayyidina ‘Usman. People with enmity and animosity towards the Muslims had infiltrated them and stirred up tensions. This led to a volatile situation that led to the murder of the third caliph.

Due to the fact Muslims had been manipulated from within their own ranks, Sa‘d b. Abi Waqqas saw the danger of Muslims taking up arms against one another, and he recalled the instructions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) regarding that situation.

Sa‘d said, “I testify that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, ‘There will be a huge tribulation in which one sitting will be better than one standing. Someone standing will be better than someone walking. Someone walking will be better than someone running.’”

This indicated that not taking part was better than engaging in it the tribulation, because of the potential harm to the Muslims, in general. There would be various levels of engagement from people, and the lesser it was, the better.

Sa‘d then asked, “What do you think if someone enters my house and stretches his hand out to kill me?” “Be like the Son of Adam” was the reply of the Messenger of Allah, (Allah bless him and give him peace) [Tirmidhi].

Meaning he should not do anything to exacerbate the general tribulation, even at the cost of his life.

Avoiding Conflict

The hadith, therefore, was a strong deterrent for Believers to become embroiled in the conflicts that occurred amongst the Muslims for various reasons, after the passing of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). It does not relate to someone coming to harm one’s life or possessions.


A man said, “O Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), what do you think about someone coming to take my property?” “Don’t give him your property,” he said. “What do you say if he fights me?” he asked. “Fight him back,” said the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace). “What if he kills me?” the man asked; “Then you are a martyr (shahid),” he said. “What if I kill him?” “He will go to Hell,” was his reply. [Muslim]

In this (hadith) is the permissibility of fighting someone who intends to take one’s possessions without right, be it meagre or much, due to the general wording. This is the position of the majority of scholars. [Nawawi, Sharh Muslim]

May Allah protect us and the Believers worldwide.
[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History, he moved to Damascus in 2007, where, for 18 months, he studied with many erudite scholars. In late 2008, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years in Sacred Law (fiqh), legal theory (Usul al-fiqh), theology, hadith methodology, hadith commentary, and Logic. He was also given licenses of mastery in the science of Quranic recital, and he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Quranic sciences, tafsir, Arabic grammar, and Arabic eloquence.