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Is the Hadith about Musa Asking about Adam’s Forgiveness Authentic?

Answered by Shaykh Farid Dingle

Question

Is the hadith below authentic?

Musa (Peace and blessings be upon him) asked Allah (Ta’ala) “My Lord, you have created Adam (Peace and blessings be upon him) with your power. And you have breathed into him the spirit. And you made the angels prostrate to him. And entered him in paradise. And you accepted his repentance. How could he return you for all these favors you have bestowed upon him?”

And Allah responded “Oh Musa (Moses), it was sufficient for Adam (saw) that he said praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds”

Answer

Bismillahi al-Rahman al-Rahim

Where Can This Text Be Found?

To my limited knowledge, this hadith has been narrated in the following ways:

Hannad al-Sariyy (d. 243/894), Ibn Abi Dunya (d. 281/894) and Al-Bayhaqi narrate from al-Hasan al-Basri that Moses (upon whom be peace) said, ‘O Lord, who could Adam (upon whom be peace) ever give you due thanks for that which you have done for him? You created Him with Your very own hands, breathed into him of Your soul, made him dwell in Your paradise, and commanded the angels to prostrate to him.
He replied, ‘O Moses, he new that was from Me and praised Me for it, so that what was the gratitude for what I did for him.

al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi (d. 320/869) narrates this from Sayyidna Husayn (Allah be well pleased with him) that Moses (upon whom be peace) said, ‘O Lord, who did Adam (upon whom be peace) thank you?
To which Allah replied, ‘By knowing that that was from Me, that’s how he thanked Me.’

The Arabic sources are as follows:

كتاب الزهد، هناد بن السري، دار الخلفاء، الكويت، ١٩٨٥، ج. ١، ص. ٣٩٩
موسوعة ابن أبي الدنيا، ابن أبي الدنيا، دار أطلس الخضراء، الرياض، ٢٠١٢، ج. ٣، ص. ٢١١
الجامع لشعب الإيمان، البيهقي، مكتبة الرشدي، الرياض، ٢٠٠٣، ج. ٦، ص. ٢٤٥
نوادر الأصول، الحكيم الترمذي، مكتبة الإمام البخاري، القاهرة، ٢٠٠٨، ج. ١، ص. ٩٢

Is It Authentic?

The chain of transmission goes through Yusuf Al-Sabbagh who is generally considered a weak narrator [Tahdhib al-tahdhib] so the narration would seem to be weak; and given that al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi has exactly the same chain, the change in name from al-Hasan to Husayn is probably a mistake.

What Is the Significance of This Narration?

This narration is an account about an Old Testament prophet (israiliyyat), and deals with general morals (fada’il al-a‘mal), and as such it does not really matter too much how strong the narration is.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, ‘Relate [stories] from the Children of Israel.’ [Bukhari] This hadith has been explained by Imam al-Shafi’i among others to mean that we can relate such stories as do not contradict what we know of the truth from the Quran and Sunna, without worrying too much the source or authenticity. [Fath al-Bari]

So a hadith of this nature doesn’t need to fulfill the rigorous conditions of a normal hadith because we are not going to use it establish any rules in the Sacred Law, nor are we going to use it prove any tenet of faith, and nor are we even ascribing any word or deed to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace).

So too, since the topic of the hadith is one of general morals, and not rules of the Sacred Law, there is ever more of a reason to “lower our guard”, so as to speak, vis-a-vis the chain of transmission.

Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal said, ‘When we narrate hadiths from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) concerning that which is halal or haram or other details of the Sacred Law, we are strict about chains of transmission, but when we narrate hadiths from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) concerning general Islamic morals (fada’il al-a’mal), that neither neither establish a rule nor removes it, we relax out standards [tasahlna] for chains of transmission.’ [al-Kifaya, al-Khatib al-Baghdadi]

For this reason, we find hadiths of all levels of authenticity in books like those of Ibn al-Mubarak, Imam Ahmad, Ibn Abi Dunya and others that deal with topics of generosity, patience, certitude, forgiveness and other well-known practices that are already well established by the Quran and sound hadiths.

As an example, al-Hafidh al-Mundhiri mentions in the beginning of his book al-Targhib wa al-Tarhib — a book of the very nature just described — that he will mention many weak hadiths in his work without going into the details about what is wrong with them because, ‘those scholars who have gone before us have deemed it meet to be ‘easy-going’ [al-tasahul] when dealing with topics of general recommendation or determent.’

So, in summary, given the nature and content of this narration, it doesn’t actually matter whether or not it is “authentic” in the usual sense.

The ‘Is It Sahih?’ Police

What we should keep our guard up against is the over-sensitivity towards weak hadiths that has wafted over us from certain corners of the Muslim world. Weak hadiths are not lies, and they have a place in the general Islamic culture of Muslims, just as they do in the discussions of halal and haram. This is something that is very clear to any serious student of Islamic law.

It is one thing to be jealous over what is said about our beloved prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), and it is quite another to dismantle the Islamic tradition and the pure Sunnna itself by a misapplication of certain methods of textual analysis.

I pray this helps,

Wassalam,
[Shaykh] Farid Dingle
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani 

Shaykh Farid Dingle grew up in a convert family in Herefordshire, UK. In 2007, he moved to Jordan to pursue traditional studies. Shaykh Farid continues to live in Amman, Jordan with his wife and kids. In addition to continuing his studies he teaches Arabic and several of the Islamic sciences.

Shaykh Farid began his journey in sacred knowledge with intensives in the UK and Jordan (2004) in Shafi’i fiqh and Arabic. After years of studying Arabic grammar, Shafi’i fiqh, hadith, legal methodology (usul al-fiqh) and tafsir, Sh. Farid began specializing in Arabic language and literature. Sh. Farid studied Pre-Islamic poetry, Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, and Andalusian literature. He holds a BA in Arabic Language and Literature and continues exploring the language of the Islamic tradition.

In addition to his interest in the Arabic language Shaykh Farid actively researches matters related to jurisprudence (fiqh) which he studied with Shaykh Hamza Karamali, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, and continues with Shaykh Amjad Rasheed.