How Do We Understand the Hadith on Yawning and the Shaytan?

Answered by Shaykh Abdullah Anik Misra

Question

How do we understand the hadiths on yawning and the Shaytan? Does ٍShaytan cause us to yawn every time or just in prayer? Does he literally enter us if we don’t cover our mouths with our hands?

I read another hadith that said, “Sneezing, dozing and yawning during Salat, and menstruation, regurgitation, and nosebleeds are from the Shaytan.”

Are these attributions authentically narrated?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “… as for yawning, it is only from the Shaytan, so when one of you yawns, try to suppress it to the extent possible, because when you yawn, Shaytan laughs at you.” [Bukhari]

How Do We Understand This Hadith?

The scholars say that the connection between yawning and Shaytan (the devil) has to do with laziness. Since yawning symbolizes being slothful and listless, which means not being energetic and active to do positive things and good work, it is something that the Shaytan encourages and causes because it holds a believer back from achievement.

Others say it does not mean the Shaytan causes it per se, but that the Shaytan likes signs of laziness and is pleased with them, which is why the connection was made. None of this means you cannot be tired, however, or that to yawn is not natural.

About Yawning in Prayer

Regarding the prayer, it means that the Shaytan delights in someone yawning in prayer because it shows they are tired and feeling lazy. As a result, they will either not worship Allah with as much focus and attention or rush the prayer or shortchange some of its devotions. [Qurtubi, Al-Mufhim]

“Entering inside” would be understood similarly, not literally, but that laziness and listlessness take hold and that a person’s effectiveness and good works come to an end for that time; it is as though the “devil got into you.”

Finally, these prophetic hadiths are not legal obligations but gentle guidances towards cultivating good character traits and spiritually-attuned states of being. [Ibid]

Wassalam,

[Shaykh] Abdullah Anik Misra
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat 

Shaykh Abdullah Anik Misra was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1983. His family hails from India, and he was raised in the Hindu tradition. He embraced Islam in 2001 while at the University of Toronto, from where he completed a Bachelor of Business Administration. He then traveled overseas in 2005 to study the Arabic language and Islamic sciences in Tarim, Yemen, for some time, as well as Darul Uloom in Trinidad, West Indies. He spent 12 years in Amman, Jordan, where he focused on Islamic Law, Theology, Hadith Sciences, Prophetic Biography, and Islamic Spirituality while also working at the Qasid Arabic Institute as Director of Programs. He holds a BA in Islamic Studies (Alimiyya, Darul Uloom) and authorization in the six authentic books of Hadith and is currently pursuing specialized training in issuing Islamic legal verdicts (ifta’). He holds a certificate in Counselling and often works with new Muslims and those struggling with religious OCD. He is an instructor and researcher in Sacred Law and Theology with the SeekersGuidance The Global Islamic Seminary. Currently, He resides in the Greater Toronto Area with his wife and children. His personal interests include Indian history, comparative religion, English singing, and poetry.