Answer by Shaykh Jamir Meah
Question: Assalamu Alaikum, I read this hadith: “Satan touched every son of Adam the day his mother beareth him, save only Mary and her son.” What is its proper meaning in relation to the life of the Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) and his Exalted Spiritual Station?
Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam. I pray you’re well insha’Allah.
The hadith, ‘When any human being is born. Satan touches him at both sides of the body with his two fingers, except Jesus, the son of Mary, whom Satan tried to touch but failed, for he touched the placenta-cover instead’ is a sound hadith found in al Bukhari.
However, to conclude from this hadith that one prophet is better than the other, namely Sayyidina Isa (peace be upon him) is superior to Sayiddina Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) because of this, is incorrect thinking.
To understand why the above assumption is incorrect, please consider the following:
1. We affirm that Allah Most High gives to whom He pleases whatever He pleases.
2. Allah Most High tells us in the Qur’an, ‘The Messenger has believed in what was revealed to him from his Lord, and [so have] the believers. All of them have believed in Allah and His angels and His books and His messengers, [saying], “We make no distinction between any of His messengers.” [2.285].
3. Using the logic that if God gives x something and he doesn’t give the same thing to y, x must be better than y, or to put it in another way, if God singles out x for special treatment in a matter, x must be superior to y because y does not receive the same special treatment in the same situation, is incorrect. This would mean the following:
a) That any prophet given something unique is better than others, such as Sayyidna Sulaiman (peace be upon him) is better than all other prophets because God granted him a kingdom and power over creation not given to anyone after him, Sayyidna Yusuf because of his manifest beauty, Sayyidna Adam (peace be upon him) is better than Sayyidna Isa (and all other prophets) because not only did Satan not touch him, but he was created directly by Allah, and even the four that spoke in the cradle, including Jesus because they spoke as babies, etc.
b) That Sayyidina Musa (peace and blessings be upon him) is better than all prophets because of the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), ‘Do not say I am better than Moses for mankind will faint on the Day of Judgment and I will be the first to recover, and Moses at that time will be holding the side of the Throne. I do not know if he would faint and recover before me, or if Allah will make an exception for him.’ [Muslim]
4. It is an integral part of our faith that we believe that all the Prophets were infallible and divinely protected (ma’sum). If a person is infallible and it is impossible that they sin, then this means that satan has no power of them. As such, it makes no difference whether satan touches them at birth or not! There must then be another reason for Sayyidna Isa being excluded from the norm.
5. It is documented in various instances that each person has an accompanying devil, and that the devil accompanying the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) not only had no control over him, but became Muslim!
Why Satan was unable to touch Maryam and her son
Imam al Qurtabi tells us that the touch of satan at birth is the beginning of his trying to control the person, but Allah protected Sidtina Maryam and her son through the blessings of Maryam’s mother’s du’a, ‘Verily, I seek refuge for her and her offspring from the cursed Satan’ [3:36], and Maryam had no progeny other than Isa (so the result of her supplication could only descend upon him). [Fathul Bari]
From the few simple examples above, it is clear that it is erroneous to conclude that because of an event, namely, Sayyidina ‘Isa not being touched by satan at birth, then it must mean that he is more exalted than the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him). Rather, Sayyidna ‘Isa was given a special exception in this situation through a) the Wisdom and Will of Allah who gives to whomever He pleases, and b) as an acceptance of his pure mother’s du’a for her offspring which God chose to answer in this way. Thus it was an honour for mother and son, not a sign of their superiority over others.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him)
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is the leader of all the Prophets and the leader of all mankind. ‘I will be the leader of the sons of Adam on the Day of Resurrection and the first for whom the grave will be opened and the first to intercede and the first whose intercession will be accepted.’ [Muslim]
His chest was open, his black spot (found in all hearts) was removed, and his heart was cleansed with Zamzam water on numerous times, not because he was blotted somehow by the devil. The removal of the spot was the removal of a matter found in everyone, as well as a means to make us know what is what is inside our hearts so we may be aware of the danger of letting it grow and spread.
As for the purifying of his blessed heart, this was never because of its need to be purified, but rather, it was in preparation for the tremendous gifts, bestowals, favours, strength, knowledge, wisdom, love and compassion that Allah Most High wished to pour into him, and to prepare him for the greatest experience ever bestowed upon anyone, the ascent to the heavens and the beatific vision of his Lord, an experience not given to any prophet before.
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. He travelled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years privately studying a range of Islamic sciences under the foremost scholars and muftis from the Ribat Tarim, specializating in Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies under many of Amman’s most prominent scholars, in a range of Islamic sciences, including Islamic theology, logic, legal principles and precepts, hadith studies, grammar and rhetoric, seerah, Quranic studies and tafsir. He is also an experienced homeopath