Is there a hadith stating that there is poison in one wing of a fly and antidote in the other? How is it interpreted?

Details of the Question

Is there a hadith stating that there is poison in one wing of a fly and antidote in the other? How is it interpreted?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Abu Hurayra (radiyallahu anh) narrates: "The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,

"When a fly alights in anyone’s vessel, he should plunge it all in, for in one of its wings there is a disease, and in the other is a cure. It prevents the wing of it is which there is a cure." (Abû Dawud, At'ima 49; Bukhari, Tibb 58, Bad'ul-Khalq 14; Ibn Majah, Tibb 31; Nasai, Fara' 11)

EXPLANATION:

1. This narration is one of the miraculous hadiths that can persuade even non-Muslim biologists that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) speaks based on revelation. For, at a time when the science of microbiology did not exist and in a place where no natural sciences existed (Arabia), the Prophet (pbuh) expressed an important thing fully; today’s science expresses it in the same way using different terminology.

There are substances that are harmful and useful to human health in flies; those substances exist in a balanced way: the harmful one in one wing and the useful one in the other.

2. The hadith was reported through various narrators. The following is stated in the narration included in Ibn Majah reported by Abu Said al-Khudri:

"On one of the wings of a fly, there is a poison and on the other is the cure. If it falls into the food, then dip it into it, for it puts the poison first and holds back the cure."

As it is understood from the narration above, the order to dip the whole fly is to ensure that the cure in the other wing passes into the food. For, the hadith states that when the fly falls, it dips its poisonous wing into the food and since the other wing is out of the food, the cure (antidote) remains in it. When the whole fly is dipped, the antidote remaining in the other wing also passes into the food, removing the harm given by the other wing.

According to a narration of Bazzar, a fly fell into the plate of Anas. He dipped the fly into the food three times with his finger and said, "Bismillah!" Then, he said, "The Messenger of Allah ordered us to do so."

3. Which one is the poisonous wing of the fly? Ibn Hajar says that he has not seen any narrations mentioning it but that some scholars state the following by reasoning: "A fly protects itself with its left wing hence it is the poisonous wing; thus, the cure is in its right wing." In the hadith, Abu Said states that the poisonous wing does things (protection, etc.) first and that the curative wing later.

4. Acting upon this hadith, it was decreed that flies and small animals that have no flowing blood would not dirty a small amount of water: "For, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would not have ordered something that would dirty the water when it died to be dipped into water. However, some scholars opposed this view and said, "When a fly is dipped into water, it does not mean that it will die. As a matter of fact, when it is dipped slightly, it will not die; when a living fly falls into water, it does not dirty that water." Baghawi deduced a decree like that from the hadith. Abut-Tayyib at-Tabari states the following regarding the issue: "The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) did not mean dirtiness and cleanliness with this hadith; on the contrary, he wanted to explain how to eliminate the harm caused by a fly." Ibn Hajar said, "This statement is right but it does not prevent another decree from being deduced from this hadith." Thus, he states that the dipping of the fly can be applied in different ways.

* To dip it in a way that will not kill the fly.

* To dip the fly without caring whether it will die or not. However, in that case, it can be said that the fly will die if the food is hot and will not die if it is cold. Since there is a condition in the hadith, the decree is accepted to be general. However, this decree is debatable because an absolute hadith is approved like that; if an evidence is found in a certain way later, it is interpreted by it. 

5. Khattabi states the following: "Some unfortunate people talked against hadiths and asked questions like "How can poison and antidote come together in two wings of a fly? How can the fly know it and use the curative wing first? What causes the fly to act like that?" However, they are the questions of ignorant people. For, many animals combine opposite attributes in them. Allah caused them to compromise and decreed that they would come together; He extracted animal powers from them. As a matter of fact, Allah revealed to the bee to make beehives and produce honey in them. He inspired the ant to accumulate food for the time it will need and to split the wheat into two to prevent it from germination. The Being who revealed and inspired to them is strong enough to reveal to the fly to use one of its wings first and the other later."

Ibnul-Jawzi states the following: "There is nothing strange in what this person says. For, the bee collects honey with its head and produces poison at the bottom. The flesh of the snake whose poison kills is added to the medicine used in the treatment of the poison. The fly is crushed with ismid (a kind of kohl) in order to brighten the eyes." Some specialized doctors state the following: “The fly has a power to poison; that itching and swelling start after it bites shows it; this power is like its weapon; when the fly encounters something that harms it, it uses its weapon; the Prophet states that Allah orders us to resist this power of poison with the antidote He placed in the other wing and hence those two substances interact, removing the harm with the permission of Allah.” (İbrahim Canan, Kutub-i Sitte Tercüme ve Şerhi, Akçağ Yayınları: 11/135-137.)

The following article will clarify the issue:

The following hadith about health and the advice given along with it can be found old-fashioned or odd by some people. It can be thought that this information is not or cannot be supported by modern medicine.

"If a fly falls into a plate containing food, you can eat that food after dipping the fly fully into it."

This advice might seem strange, though not dangerous.

However, there is definitely a logical explanation of this hadith for a believer who knows that all of the words and deeds of the Prophet (pbuh) are based on a divine foundation and hence there cannot be any mistakes in them. However, it might need centuries to pass to be understood:

It is known by the science of medicine that the fly carries some pathogens (microbes causing diseases) in its body. This fact was stated by the Prophet 15 centuries ago, when there was no experimental medical knowledge. The Prophet also states the following: "There is no disease without a cure except death and old age."

Therefore, antibiotics including penicillin were discovered in the last century and they have been used against harmful organisms like bacteria. Then, what is the medical logic behind this mysterious advice?

It has been understood by scientific experiments that flies have antibiotics in their bodies. A group of Australian researchers has made a lot of efforts related to this issue. A group of researchers in the Department of Biological Sciences of Macquarie University made a research acting upon the theory that flies are resistant to all kinds of dirt including rotten meat, fruit and manure in order to display this antibacterial property in the different phases of development of flies.

Introducing the new discovery of the group in the Melbourne Microbiology Conference, Ms. Joanne Clarke said, "Our research is a small part of a global research effort for new antibiotics, but we are looking where we believe no-one has looked before." The project she mentions is also a part of her PhD thesis.

Ms. Clarke says the antibacterial properties that occur in the stomach are also present on the body of the fly and that we can observe those activities in both places. She adds, "The reason we concentrated on the body of the fly is because it has a structure that is easier to extract." (http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2002/10/01/689400.htm)

Furthermore, the results of an experiment carried out in the Department of Medical Microbiology in Suudi Arabia Qassim University showed the scientific logic of it. The experiment and its results are as follows:

EXPERIMENT A

Cultured water sample was taken from a flask containing sterilized water and where a fly fell (without submersion). Growth of pathogenic (disease causing) bacterial colonies of the E. coli type was identified after taking samples from the water in the flask for culture.

PLATE 1- Cultured water sample was taken from the same flask following the complete dipping of the fly. An entire disappearance of the bacterial growth was seen in Petri-dish 2. The new bacteria growing in plate 1 were identified as Actinomyces, the ones from which useful antibiotics can be extracted. This explains the complete inhibition of growth in plate 2

EXPERIMENT B

It is the same as Experiment A but a different fly was used this time. 

PLATE 2- Cultured water sample was taken from a flask containing sterilized water and where a fly fell (without submersion). Growth of pathogenic (disease causing) bacterial colonies of the Corynebacterium Diphtheroid type was identified after taking samples from the water in the flask for culture.

PLATE 1- Cultured water sample was taken from the same flask following the complete dipping of the fly. An entire disappearance of the bacterial growth was seen in Petri-dish 2. The new bacteria growing in plate 1 were identified as Actinomyces, the ones from which useful antibiotics (more than 70%) can be extracted. This explains the complete inhibition of growth in plate 2

EXPERIMENT C

It is the same as the previous experiments but a different fly was used.

PLATE 2- Cultured water sample was taken from a flask containing sterilized water and where a fly fell (without submersion). Growth of pathogenic (disease causing) bacterial colonies of the Staphylococcus sp. type was identified after taking samples from the water in the flask for culture.

PLATE 1- Cultured water sample was taken from the same flask following the complete dipping of the fly. An entire disappearance of the bacterial growth was seen in Petri-dish 2. The new bacteria growing in plate 1 were identified as Actinomyces, the ones from which useful antibiotics can be extracted. This explains the complete inhibition of growth in plate 2

The same results were obtained in Salmonellas (Salmonella) + proteus sp type disease causing bacteria. (http://www.islamdunktv.com/2011/01/hadith-of-fly-refuting-those-who-laugh.html)

The latest research in microbiology medically explains the advice given by the Prophet (pbuh) 15 centuries ago and virtually approves him.

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