How should we understand the hadiths about the Prophet’s kissing his grandsons Hasan and Husayn? Will you interpret them?

The Details of the Question

Once, Abu Hurayra met Hasan Ibn Ali and said to him, "Lift your gown so that I will kiss the place that I saw the Messenger of Allah kissing." Hz. Hasan lifted his gown. Abu Hurayra put his lips on his navel and kissed." Ibn Abbas narrates the following: "I saw the Prophet. He put Husayn’s legs apart and kissed his willy." Is there a hadith like that? If yes, will you explain it?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

One of the best ways of expressing the love toward children is through hugging and kissing them. Therefore, there are a lot of examples showing that the Prophet (pbuh) hugged and kissed children, whom he likened to basil and said, "The smell of children is from the smell of Paradise."

It is stated in the narration of Ibnu Umar that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) often called Hasan and Husayn "my two basil in the world" and according to what Anas narrates, "The Prophet often summoned them, smelled and hugged them."

As a matter of fact, it is stated in the version in Bukhari that Abu Hurayra, in the version in Tirmidhi that Hawla Bintu Hakim, in the version in Hakim that Ya'la Ibnu Munabbih as-Saqat, in the version in Ibn Majah that Ya'la al-Amiri reported that the Prophet (pbuh) hugged his grandchildren, prayed for them and showed his love.

We understand from a narration of Usama Ibn Zayd in Bukhari that the Prophet (pbuh) showed his love toward other children who were not his own children and grandchildren too. Usama narrates:  

"The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) used to put me on one of his knees and Hasan Ibn Ali on the other knee, hug us and say

‘O Lord! Have mercy on them because I am merciful toward them.’"

Ibn Raba'ati'bnil-Harith supports this view: He said,  

"My father sent me and Abbas sent his son al-Fadl to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). When we entered into his presence, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) made us sit on his right and left and hugged us so firmly that nobody had hugged us so firmly."

Narrations show that the Prophet (pbuh) kissed children on various places. In a narration from Abu Hurayra, we see that the Prophet (pbuh) kissed Hasan and Husayn, who were on his shoulders, on their lips and in another narration that he sucked "Hasan's tongue as if he sucked a dry date" and in a narration of Muawiya that he sucked "Hasan's lip without hurting." The following narration regarding the issue also seems interesting:

"Once, Abu Hurayra met Hasan Ibn Ali and said to him, "Lift your gown so that I will kiss the place that I saw the Messenger of Allah kissing." Hz. Hasan lifted his gown. Abu Hurayra put his lips on his navel and kissed."

Similarly, it is narrated that the Prophet (pbuh) kissed his daughter Fatima too. It is stated in some narrations that he generally kissed Fatima "generally on top of her head" but the existence of the narration that he kissed Hz. Abu Bakr’s daughter Aisha on the cheek shows that there is no tendency that girls are kissed only on the forehead or head.  

As it is understood from those narrations, little children are kissed whether they are boys or girls. According to what Ibn Battal states, "It is permissible to kiss children on any organ. - The examples we gave confirm his statement.  According to the majority of scholars, it is permissible to kiss adults on any organ unless awrah." Islamic scholars divide kissing into five as "kiss of affection, mercy, compassion, respect and lust"; they say all of them will be regarded as worship if they are done for Allah’s consent. They evaluate kissing children as "mercy" and distinguish it completely from lustful kissing. Ibn Hajar states the following by giving more details:  

"Kissing one’s own children, the children of relatives and others is for compassion and mercy, not for pleasure or lust; the same thing is valid for hugging and smelling them."

However, Nawawi states the following: "It is permissible to kiss the children of other people if it is not with lust." Thus, he includes the possibility that a different intention can intervene while kissing the children of other people.

Books of hadith and siyar are full of the examples of the Messenger of Allah’s (pbuh) love and affection toward Hz. Hasan and Hz. Husayn. He was sometimes on all fours and they were on his back. He sometimes lay on his back and placed them on his abdomen; he even watched when they urinated on him and intervened those who wanted to prevent it by saying, "Do not break my son’s urination." He often placed one of them on one of his shoulders and the other on the other shoulder and walked like that. Once, he was delivering a sermon when his grandchild entered the mosque and stumbled; thereupon, he interrupted the sermon, picked him up and placed him on the pulpit; then, he resumed the sermon. He kissed his grandchildren on the forehead, cheek, lips, navel and even willy. He praised them expressing his love toward them and prayed for them. He gave some information about their future in the world and in the hereafter. In short, the Messenger of Allah, was very busy with presenting guidance to humanity, giving them principles about their bliss in both the world and the hereafter but his two small grandchildren had a place that was beyond what is usual and expected in his life.  

However, studies show that this care was not due to blood kinship and being family members but as a necessity of his duty of prophethood for all humanity. We quote a very good explanation of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi regarding the issue:

"Among the universal, general duties of his prophethood, God’s Noble Messenger (Upon whom be blessings and peace) displayed great compassion in certain particular, minor matters. Superficially, his behaving so kindly in such matters seems unfitting for the supreme importance of the prophetic mission. But in reality, such minor matters were the tips or samples of a chain that would be the means whereby a universal, general function of prophethood would be fulfilled. The greatest importance was therefore given to the sample for the sake of the mighty chain.

For example, the extraordinary gentleness God’s Messenger (UWBP) showed towards Hasan and Husayn in their childhood and the great importance he gave them was not only out of love and natural kindness and family feeling, it was rather because they were each the tip of a luminous thread of the office of prophethood, and the source, sample, and index of a community of great consequence which would receive the legacy of prophethood. Indeed, the Messenger (UWBP) used to take Hasan (May God be pleased with him) tenderly into his arms and kiss his head for the sake of the luminous, blessed, Mahdi-like descendants who would spring from him, such as Shah Geylani, the Ghawth al-A‘zam, who would be the inheritors of prophethood and would uphold the sacred Shari‘a of Muhammad. He saw with the eye of prophethood the sacred services they would perform in the future, and applauded them. He kissed Hasan’s head as a sign of approval and encouragement.

Also, he embraced Husayn (May God be pleased with him) and showed him importance and tenderness on account of the illustrious Imams like Zayn al-‘Abidin and Ja‘far al-Sadiq, and the numerous Mahdi-like luminous persons, the true inheritors of prophethood, who would spring from his effulgent line, and for the sake of the religion of Islam and office of prophethood. Since with his heart with its knowledge of the Unseen, the Prophet Muhammad’s (UWBP) luminous vision and future-penetrating eye observed from the Era of Bliss in this world the Assembly of the Resurrection on the side of post-eternity, and from the earth saw Paradise, and watched events which had occurred since the time of Adam and were concealed in the dark veils of the past, and even beheld the vision of the All-Glorious One, he surely saw the spiritual poles and the Imams who were to be the inheritors of prophethood, and the Mahdis, who would follow on in the lines of Hasan and Husayn. And for sure he would kiss their heads in the name of all of them. Yes, Shah Geylani has a large part in his kissing Hasan’s head." (Lem'alar, Dördüncü Lem'a)

After stating that the Messenger of Allah gave importance to his ummah’s gathering around his family members and mentioning that "members of his family were the source and guardians of his practices (Sunna) and were charged with complying with them in every respect", Badiuzzaman Said Nursi remarks the following:

"This is why what was intended by this Hadith was adherence to the Book and the Prophet’s practices. That is to say, in respect of the office of messengership it was the Prophet’s (UWBP) practices that were sought from his family. So, no one who abandoned his practices could truly be a member of his family, nor could such a person not be a true friend to them."

(Prof. Dr. İbrahim Canan, Kütüb-i Sitte)

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