Answered by Shaykh Shuaib Ally
Question: Assalam alaykum,
Is the Hadith below Authentic and how should it be understood?
Jabir said, “The Prophet saw a woman so he entered upon Zainab bint Jahsh and had intercourse with her. He then came out to his companions and said to them – A woman advances in the form of a devil, so when one of you gets excited by her, he should go to his wife and have intercourse with her for that will repel what he is feeling.”
The hadith you mentioned in Abu Dawud is considered authentic; variations of the hadith are found in other collections, such as those of Muslim, Tirmidhi, and Ahmad.
Scholars have held varying opinions on the import of the Prophet’s actions, peace and blessings of God be upon him.
The Prophet’s Actions Were Meant as Guidance
Some, such as al-Qadi ‘Iyad (544), in his commentary on Sahih Muslim, incline strongly towards the view that the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, did not do this because seeing a woman had affected him, but rather to demonstrate with his actions to others what they ought to do if they ever found themselves in such a situation, as a matter of guidance.
Imam al-Nawawi (676), in his commentary on Sahih Muslim, restricts himself to mentioning only this position.
The Prophet’s Actions were Reflective of Human Nature
Others, such as al-Munawi (1031), have not considered it problematic that the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, could have been affected in such a manner. In his Fayd al-Qadir, al-Munawi says that the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, did this after he saw a woman and was taken by her.
He quotes ibn al-‘Arabi (543) as arguing that the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, was a human with desires; what went through his mind was not the type of thing that one is faulted for, and does diminish his rank, as it was simply reflective of his human nature.
Such scholars may hold the latter position because the narration in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad from Jabir b. ‘Abd Allah al-Ansari, may God be pleased with him, clearly says that the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, saw the woman and was pleased by seeing her. A further narration in the same collection, from Abu Kabsha al-Anmari, may God be pleased with him, says that the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, felt in himself a desire for women at the sight of this woman who had passed by.
God knows best.
[Shaykh] Shuaib Ally