Did the prophet (PBUH) advise drinking camel’s urine?

The Details of the Question

A group from the tribes of Urayna and Ukayla came to Madinah and they became Muslims. When the climate of Madinah did not suit them, the Prophet advised them to drink camel's urine. They drove away the camels and killed the shepherd. The Prophet ordered them to be caught. He had their hands and feet cut off, and their eyes scratched out; then, he left them in the desert without water. When we wanted to give them water, the Prophet prevented us.” Bukhari Tibb, 5/1, Hanbal 3/107, 163. Using this narration as a pretext, some websites attack the Prophet. Will you explain this hadith?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

We will deal with the issue in terms of a few aspects:

The soundness of the hadith:

Like the other kutub as-sittah resources, Bukhari and Muslim mention this story in a few places. (see Bukhari, Wudu, 66; Tibb, 5- 6; Diyat, 22; Muslim, Qasama, 9-11; Ahmad b. Hanbal III/107,163; Abu Dawud, Hudud,3; Tirmidhi, Taharah, 55, Nasai, Tahrimu’d-Dam, 8-9)

Hadith resources draw attention to the fact that the narrators reporting this story from Anas use various expressions (see Nasai, ibid). This fact makes the soundness of the expression doubtful since some words in the reports are extra or missing though the sources of the narration are sound. Especially the expressions like “only the milk of camel is advised to drink, not the urine,.. these murderers were left to die in the sun, they were not hanged...”  violate the soundness of at least some of the narrations. The resources of the different narrations will be given below.

The summary of the story is as follows:

"Hz. Anas narrates: A group of eight people from the tribe of Ukl or Urayna came to Madinah, paid allegiance to the Prophet (pbuh) and became Muslims. After a while, the climate of Madinah did not suit them and they became ill. Upon their complaint, the Prophet (pbuh) advised them to go outside Madinah with shepherds and to drink camel's milk and urine. They drank camel's milk and urine for a while and got well. After that,they killed the shepherd and drove away the camels. When the Prophet (pbuh) was informed about the incident, he sent some people in their pursuit. They caught those people and brought them to the Prophet (pbuh). The Prophet (pbuh) punished them severely. He had their hands and feet cut off; and their eyes were branded with heated pieces of iron. Then, they were left under the sun to die..."

The analysis of the hadith:

a. Drinking camels’ milk and urine:

The phrase “he advised drinking camel’s urine”  in the question is an intentional or unintentional perversion. For, in all narrations (except the ones stating that only milk is advised), “milk and urine” are mentioned together but milk is not mentioned in the question, which is regarded as an attempt to bring drinking urine into the forefront. This is the result of lack of information or malicious intention.

b. The hesitancy in the expression related to drinking urine:

It is understood from these narrations that Arabs used to use camel's milk maybe also camel's urine as medicine for some illnesses. (see Bukhari, Tibb, 57) As a matter of fact, the same advice was given in an incident reported by Hz. Abu Dharr:

“The climate of Madinah made me ill. Hz. Prophet (pbuh) said to me, ‘Go and drink some camel's milk and goat-sheep's milk (Hammad, one of the narrators of the hadiths said, 'and I think he also said urine').” (see Abu Dawud, Taharah, 125)

Abu Dawud says the phrase "drinking camel's urine" in the hadith is not true and that it exists only in the narration reported from Anas by the hadith scholars of Basra. (see ibid.)

In a narration of Nasai (reported by Humayd from Anas) drinking only milk is advised. (see Ibn Hanbal; III/107; Nasai, Tahrimu’d-Dam, 8)

However, there are some scientific studies about the existence of some properties in camel's milk and urine that can heal certain illnesses. Doctors say it is understood through experience that they are useful for some dermatological and internal diseases. (see Majallatud-Dawa, April, 1425/2004; issue:1938)

According to Ibn Sina, who accepts that animal urines contain some useful elements, the animal whose urine is the most useful is the camel that grazes in Arabian deserts with wonderful air. (see Ibn Qayyim, Zadu’l-Maad, IV/47-48)

c. Preventing giving them water:

In the places that we mentioned as resources, the following statement does not exist: “When we wanted to give them water, the Prophet prevented us.” However, the following statement “They wanted water but they were not given water” exists in some narrations (Bukhari, Wudu, 66); the identity of the person preventing them is not mentioned. As Imam Nawawi states, there is no statement or evidence to accuse the Prophet (pbuh) of preventing people from giving water to those killers. It is a slander and an example of perversion to say, “When we wanted to give them water, the Prophet prevented us.”

The type of punishment given to them:

The punishment given to them is not light but it is just because those murderers deserved it due to the following reasons:

a. They exited Islam after being Muslims and killed one or a few shepherds.

b. They branded the eyes of the shepherds with heated pieces of iron; therefore, the same thing was done to them as retaliation.

c. They were punished by their hands and feet being cut off because they grabbed the camels whose milk and urine they used and were cured by, because they waylaid, they revolted against the state, they caused mischief and they declared war against Allah and His Messenger by doing so. (see Ibn Hajar, Fathul-Bari, X/141-143; XII/230-243).

According to some narrations, the murderers were hanged; they were not left under the sun to die. (see Nasai, ibid).

d. The Quran states the following:

“The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.” (al-Maida, 5/33).

The divine voice that we need to listen carefully regarding the issues like that states the following:

“We have indeed sent down signs that make things manifest: and Allah guides whom He wills to a way that is straight.

They say, "We believe in Allah and in the apostle, and we obey": but even after that, some of them turn away: they are not (really) Believers.

When they are summoned to Allah and His apostle, in order that He may judge between them, behold some of them decline (to come).

But if the right is on their side, they come to him with all submission.

Is it that there is a disease in their hearts? or do they doubt, or are they in fear, that Allah and His Messenger will deal unjustly with them? Nay, it is they themselves who do wrong.

The answer of the Believers, when summoned to Allah and His Messenger, in order that He may judge between them, is no other than this: they say, "We hear and we obey": it is such as these that will attain felicity.” (an-Nur, 24/46-51).

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