Hadith: Pangs of Hunger

Pangs of Hunger



Hadrat Abu Talha Radi allahu ‘Anhu says: “We complained to Rasulullah Salla Allahu ta’ala ‘alayhi wa Sallam about the severe pangs of hunger, and showed him the stones fastened on our stomachs. A stone was fastened on the stomach of every one of us due to severe hunger. Rasulullah Salla Allahu ta’ala ‘alayhi wa Sallam showed us two stones fastened onto his stomach”. (Sayyidina Rasulullah Salla Allahu ta’ala ‘alayhi wa Sallam experienced more hunger than we did, and he had spent a longer period than us since he had last eaten).

Commentary


It was a custom among the people of Madinah that they fastened stones onto their stomachs when they experienced severe pangs of hunger. This was done so that they do not feel weak while walking and that wind might not build up in the stomach. Some of the ‘ulama are of the opinion that this is a special type of stone of Madinah known as mishba’ah. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has put this peculiarity in this stone that if it is worn it will cool the pangs of hunger. The first explanation is clearer, because even today this is done, that when severe hunger is experienced a cloth is tightly fastened around the stomach, which is beneficial for weakness and soothes the pangs of hunger. Some ‘ulama say it is possible that wind collects in an empty stomach, and by fastening a stone or a heavy object, it gives relief from hunger. Some of the ‘ulama have written that when the stomach is altogether empty, it is feared that the intestines will come down, especially when walking, and by fastening the stomach this fear does not remain. Also when the stomach becomes altogether empty, the back also becomes bent. It is possible that worms may appear. An objection may occur that in many ahaadith it is stated Sayyidina Rasulullah Salla Allahu ta’ala ‘alayhi wa Sallam fasted for many days continuously, and when the sahaba intended to do so, Sayyidina Rasulullah Salla Allahu ta’ala ‘alayhi wa Sallam forbade them to do so, and said: ‘This is specially for me, that I can fast for many days without eating, because Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala feeds me and gives me to drink’. How is this eating and drinking? This is on its place, but we find that by outwardly not eating, hunger did not have an effect on Sayyidina Rasulullah Salla Allahu ta’ala ‘alayhi wa Sallam. In this case the necessity to fasten a stone on the stomach does not remain. Since there are many ahaadith on the fasting of Sayyidina Rasulullah Salla Allahu ta’ala ‘alayhi wa Sallam, for this reason some of the ‘ulama have according to the principles and rules of hadith regarded this as a da’eef (weak) hadith but the findings of the majority of the muhadditheen is that there are many narrations on this subject. The differences between this hadith and the ones on fasting are not of such a nature, that it cannot be said that these were on different occasions. Therefore, the necessity does not arise to judge these ahaadith as weak.

 

Many sayings have been mentioned on these two hadith. (a.) The narration of fastening a stone was in the early periods. It is a fact that Sayyidina Rasulullah Salla Allahu ta’ala ‘alayhi wa Sallam progressed spiritually as time went by. Therefore the narration on fasting will be that of a later period. (b.) The eating and drinking are particular with fasting. This is witnessed by the general Muslims too, that while in the state of fasting one does not feel the effects of hunger and tiredness as much as when one is not fasting. In this case what could be said regarding Sayyidina Rasulullah Salla Allahu ta’ala ‘alayhi wa Sallam when his fasting was of a high calibre and reached completeness. (c.) According to the different times both conditions are of Sayyidina Rasulullah Salla Allahu ta’ala ‘alayhi wa Sallam, like it is with the mashaykh of suluk (spiritual guides), that at different times they experience different conditions. In this manner it will not be necessary to regard this hadith as that of the early periods. It is possible that in later times both conditions were experienced. (d.) Surely the effect of hunger did not affect Sayyidina Rasulullah Salla Allahu ta’ala ‘alayhi wa Sallam. The fastening of stones was in sympathy and joining the poor and needy by becoming part of them. It is a general rule, that when the great experience some hardships, the fortunate young ones do not pay much attention to their own difficulties. In this case, what could be said of the sahaba Radiyallahu ‘Anhum? whose love for Sayyidina Rasulullah Salla Allahu ta’ala ‘alayhi wa Sallam knew no bounds. (e.) Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala feeding Sayyidina Rasulullah Salla Allahu ta’ala ‘alayhi wa Sallam was surely in honouring him, and not something incumbent. At times when the sahaba experienced great poverty and hunger, and it reached such a stage where stones had to be fastened on the stomach, at such a time Sayyidina Rasulullah Salla Allahu ta’ala ‘alayhi wa Sallam did not take the benefit of such favours.

 

When a child suffers hunger, food does not go down a mother’s gullet. In such a manner what could be said about Sayyidina Rasulullah Salla Allahu ta’ala ‘alayhi wa Sallam, when his love for the ummah exceeded the love of thousands of mothers.

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