I recently stumbled upon a video where I saw a Muslim preacher in the UK consume rat poison during a debate with Christian missionaries. Is such an act allowed in Islam to prove the legitimacy of Islām?
In the Name of God, Most Merciful, Most Kind
We thank you for contacting Mathabah with your query. May God bless you and may He protect the faith of Islām.
It is entirely forbidden in Islām to deliberately consume poison or any such element which will cause detrimental consequences for one’s life, safety and health.
The beautiful faith of Islām does not require proving its legitimacy with irresponsible actions.
One should yearn to defend Islam through professional, civil, peaceful and intellectual dialogue rather than engaging in unwarranted radicalism.
Allāh, the Almighty, has promised He will guard the truth. He does not require Muslims to put lives in danger to disprove those who who oppose Islam.
Allāh says in the Qurʾān:
يُرِيدُونَ لِيُطْفِئُوا نُورَ اللَّـهِ بِأَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَاللَّـهُ مُتِمُّ نُورِهِ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ الْكَافِرُونَ
“They wish to extinguish God’s light with their mouths, but God will [certainly] perfect His light, even to the dismay of the disbelievers.” (Qurʾān: 61:8)
Allāh, the Exalted also says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ ۖ لَا يَضُرُّكُم مَّن ضَلَّ إِذَا اهْتَدَيْتُمْ ۚ إِلَى اللَّـهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ
“O you who believe, you are only accountable for yourselves (protect yourselves). It will not harm you if someone chooses to deviate – as long as you are on the guidance. To God you will all return, and He will inform you of what you used to do.” (Qurʾān: 5:105)
The Qurʾān emphasizes the importance of maintaining the sanctity of life in every regard.
وَلَا تُلْقُوا بِأَيْدِيكُمْ إِلَى التَّهْلُكَةِ ۛ وَأَحْسِنُوا ۛ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
“Do not throw yourselves into destruction with your own hands. Do good, for God certainly loves those who do good.” (Qurʾān: 2:195)
Allāh makes mention of a comprehensive description of the prophet of Islam, Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) in the Qurʾān. He indicates that those who adhere to the teachings of this great Prophet, find his description in the previous scriptures, namely the Torah (Old Testament) and the Injīl (New Testament).
He further states,
الَّذِينَ يَتَّبِعُونَ الرَّسُولَ النَّبِيَّ الْأُمِّيَّ الَّذِي يَجِدُونَهُ مَكْتُوبًا عِندَهُمْ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَالْإِنجِيلِ يَأْمُرُهُم بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَاهُمْ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَيُحِلُّ لَهُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَيُحَرِّمُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْخَبَائِثَ وَيَضَعُ عَنْهُمْ إِصْرَهُمْ وَالْأَغْلَالَ الَّتِي كَانَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ ۚ
“[This Prophet] invites them to do good and forbids them from evil, permits for them what is lawful and forbids them from what is impure, and relieves them from their burdens and shackles that bound them” (Qurʾān: 7:157)
Consumption of rat poison is not logical at any level.
If the youth or the devotees of such preachers consume poison based on what their role models do, the consequences of such blind reverence could be disastrous.
In the case where death occurs due to such irrationality, then such preachers should be held responsible for their actions.
وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِكُمْ رَحِيمًا
“Do not kill yourselves, indeed God is the Most Merciful upon you.” (Qurʾān: 4:29)
If someone tries to prove the legitimacy of Islam by consuming poison and it backfires i.e, the preacher is harmed by the poison or it claims their lives; then such will cause Islām to be further extensively misunderstood.
The Prophet Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) is reported to have said on the authority of Abū Hurayrah (may God be pleased with him):
“Whoever consumes poison and ends up killing themselves, such poison will remain in their hands [as a burden]. They will consume that poison [as unending punishment] in the hellfire forever.” (Bukhārī: 5778)
As for the ḥadīth pertaining to Khālid bin Walīd who consumed poison, the report is mursal (chain of narration is questionable). It was narrated by Abū Safar who had never even met Khālid bin Walīd (may God be pleased with him) in his life. Some scholars have also identified Qays bin Abī Ḥāzim – a narrator in this chain of transmission – to be munkar al ḥadīth (unacceptable in narrating ḥadīth). Imām al Dhahabī has recorded in his Siyar, “ʿAlī ibn al-Madīnī narrates that Yaḥyā ibn Maʿīn related to him that Qays bin Abī Ḥāzim is munkar al ḥadīth.”
Even though, there are some who mentioned him to be a reliable narrator, nonetheless, this chain is not free from criticism.
Khālid bin Walīd (may God be pleased with him) was a great leader and a strategic military general for muslims during his era. He, being as intelligent as he was, would not be going around and drinking poison, which is clearly forbidden in Islām through the verses of the Qurʾān and by the words of the Messenger Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him).
Even if this narration is hypothetically true, then this would be considered an isolated incident; it contradicts the Qur’ān, other clear authentic narrations and exhortations of the Prophet Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him). Hence, should be taken as such, with a grain of salt.
And Allāh Almighty Knows Best.
By Sheikh Mazhar Mahmood