Question # 276: I heard an Imam explaining: “prophet told us to drink camel urine”. Can you please verify if possible?
Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: In some Muslim countries, camel urine is believed to contain extraordinary medicinal value. Although, this practice is confined to a few cultures, it is raising questions among Muslims and non-Muslims equally as there has not yet been conclusive scientific research on the benefits or harms of camel urine. Following the outbreak of MERS‐CoV, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued warnings against consumption of raw camel milk/urine.
In a sahih hadith, a group of new Muslims, who arrived in Madinah, came to Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and complained about their illness, to which he (صلى الله عليه و سلم) told them to drink camel’s urine and milk, which helped them regain their good health. According to scholars, based on various narrations, these camels belonged to Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) or that amongst the camels were some that belonged to him or were of sadaqah.
On the other hand, it is well-known that Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) warned against negligence in regard to keeping oneself clean from urine (because of the punishment in the grave); he did not limit it to just human urine, as he did not specify the type of urine. Considering this grave warning, the following can be said about the above hadith:
- The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) permitted them to drink the urine of camels due to necessity (at the time, and for those particular individuals only) as he knew through revelation that their cure lay in that. Islamically, using haraam substance as medical remedy is permissible when there is certainty of cure in the absence of a halal alternative. Therefore, this incident cannot be taken as evidence where such a necessity does not exist.
- This hadith was abrogated by later hadiths, which established the filthiness of urine; since this incident occurred during 6 A.H. and the hadith of the filthiness of urine was narrated by Abu Hurayrah, who embraced Islam during 7 A.H. It is well-known in the science of hadith that commandments in the matter of filth were gradually escalated from leniency to strictness.
In conclusion, it can be said that had the camel urine been permissible to consume, it would have been widely used by Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and his Companions (رضي الله عنهم) and all the generations thereafter to our time. It would have been a very popular method of medication and everyone among the Muslims would have known – like the way, we know about Zamzam water or honey and its virtues. In fact, to most Muslims, the drinking of camel urine is unheard of and, when told, they find even the thought of it abhorrent and distasteful.
Long Answer: In some countries of the Muslim world, camel urine is believed to contain extraordinary medicinal value. It is drunk and used in various ways. Companies have come into existence, which produce camel urine drinks and other products from camel urine. Although, this practice is found amongst a tiny minority of – almost insignificant – Muslim populations confined to a few cultures, it is nevertheless causing some confusion and raising questions (not to speak of the derision by some non-Muslims, who have their own multiple other questionable practices). Some are drawing a parallel between this practice by some Muslims and the consumption of, and supposed blessings derived from, cow urine by some Hindus.
As far as we are aware, there is no conclusive scientific research available yet on the benefits or harms of camel urine. Some laboratory research seems to indicate that camel urine may contain anti-cancer properties. Following the outbreak of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS‐CoV), the World Health Organization (WHO) has recently (2017) issued warnings about the consumption of raw camel milk or camel urine by those who are at high risk of contracting the virus.
Why Are Muslims Drinking Camel Urine?
The question arises as to why Muslims, who have always been known for their extraordinary diligence in cleanliness and purity, which is at the very core of the teachings of their faith, are drinking camel urine. As surprising as it may sound, those minority of Muslims who are drinking camel urine, are doing so out of religious conviction. That conviction stems from their understanding of an incident during the blessed lifetime of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم). This incident has been reported in several places by Imam al-Bukhari and Imam Muslim in their sahih ahadith. It has also been reported by various other imams of hadith in their respective collections.
The Hadith of Camel Urine
The hadith is narrated by Anas ibn Malik (رضي الله عنه). He describes how a group of people from the tribe of ῾Ukl or ῾Uraynah arrived in Madinah. In the commentary of the hadith, Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Hajar al-῾Asqalani, in his monumental Fath al-Bari, states that they embraced Islam, but fell very ill due to the climate, food and flu of Madinah. Ibn Hajar mentions that there is indication that when they arrived in Madinah, they were already ill. Their illness was extreme malnutrition and weakness. Their cooler had turned pale. They came to the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and complained about their critical condition. He told them to go to a herd of milch camels that were kept in the plains outside Madinah and drink their urine and milk. In his commentary on Sahih Muslim, ῾Allamah Mufti Muhammad Taqi ῾Uthmani mentions various narrations that state that the camels belonged to the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) or that amongst the camels were some that belonged to the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم). Some narrations of the hadith state that the camels were of sadaqah. When these individuals went, and drank the urine and milk of the camels, they regained good health. They then killed the shepherd of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and stole the camels. According to some narrations, they put on weight and regained strength.
Verdicts of the Legal Schools
Imam Badr al-Din al-῾Ayni, in his commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari, states that, based on this hadith, Imam Malik maintains purity (ṭaharah) of the urine of all animals whose flesh is halal. This view is also shared by Imams Ahmad, al-Sha῾bi, ῾Aṭā̕, al-Nakha῾i, al-Zuhri, Ibn Sirin, al-Hakam, al-Thawri. From amongst the imams of the hanafi school of sacred law, Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani also holds this view. When asked about it, he argues with this hadith in his pivotal work, Kitab al-Asl. Imam Abu Yusuf, the other main student of Imam Abu Hanifah, maintains the permissibility of drinking the urine of animals whose flesh is halal (like camels), but states that the same will render water impure, even if a small quantity mixes with water. However, the established view in the hanafi school, upon which fatwa is given, is that all urine is filth (najis), although a small amount, which has been deemed negligible, is excused in prayer.
Imams Abu Hanifah, al-Shafi῾i, Abu Yusuf, Abu Thawr and many others maintain the impurity or filth of all urine (irrespective of whether it is the urine of a human – baby or adult, halal animal or haraam animal).
Explanations for the Hadith of Camel Urine
As for the hadith of the people of ῾Uraynah, from which this disagreement stems, imams Abu Hanifah, al-Shafi῾i, Abu Yusuf, Abu Thawr and many others argue that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) permitted them to drink the urine of camels due to necessity (at the time, and for those particular individuals). Therefore, this incident cannot be taken as evidence where such a necessity does not exist. There are many other instances in the Shari῾ah when, due to necessity, an impermissible thing is allowed. For example, the wearing of silk is unlawful for men. It is permitted in the battlefield, due to certain skin conditions and extreme cold, when an alternative cannot be found.
The most satisfactory explanation for the incident of the people of ῾Uraynah is that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) knew through revelation that their cure lay in the drinking of camel urine. Using haraam substance as medical remedy is permissible when there is certainty of cure, in the absence of a halal alternative. For example, eating of a carcass when one fears death due to extreme hunger; drinking of wine due to extreme thirst or in order to clear food that is stuck in the throat, in the absence of anything else. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “Why should you not eat of (meats) on which Allah’s name has been pronounced, when He has explained to you in detail what is forbidden to you – except under compulsion of extreme necessity? (Soorah Al-An῾am: 119)
Shams al-A̕immah al-Sarakhsi states: “…the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) granted them exclusive permission to drink camel urine, as he knew through revelation that their cure lay in its drinking. The same cannot be found in our age. This is similar to his granting Al-Zubayr exclusive permission to wear silk due to the rash on his skin or presence of parasitic insects…”
Imam Badr al-Din al-῾Ayni further presents the generality of the hadith reported by imams al-Hakim, Ahmad, Ibn Majah, al-Dara Quṭni and al-Ṭabarani: “Cleanse yourselves from urine. For, most punishment of the grave is due to [carelessness in this regard].” A similar hadith, warning that punishment of the grave is often due to carelessness in properly cleansing oneself from urine, has also been reported by imams al-Bukhari and Muslim in the Sahih.
Imam Shams al-A̕immah Al-Sarakhsi also presents this hadith and another narration in his Al-Mabsut to prove the impurity of urine in general. He points out that when the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) warned against negligence in regard to keeping oneself clean from urine, he did not limit it to just human urine, as he did not specify the type of urine.
῾Allamah Mufti Muhammad Taqi ῾Uthmani argues that the hadith of the people of ῾Uraynah was abrogated by later hadiths, which established the filthiness of urine. He states: “Even though, in the absence of certainty of dates, abrogation cannot be proven by mere possibility, it can be sufficient to prevent the hadith from being used as an evidence (for the alleged purity of camel urine) in direct contradiction to general [established] principles and popular reports of hadith, when such a possibility is corroborated by various other strong indicative evidences. In this matter, there exist some strong indicative evidences, which corroborate the possibility of abrogation. These evidences include the fact that the incident of the people of ῾Uraynah occurred during the 6th year of the hijrah and the hadith of the filthiness of urine was narrated by Abu Hurayrah, who embraced Islam during the 7th year of the hijrah. When the Islam of a narrator occurs at a later date, even though it does not always definitively imply the lateness of what he has narrated, it is, nevertheless, indicative evidence of lateness. This is especially so, if we consider the fact that had the filthiness of urine been abrogated in the 7th year of the hijrah, none of the Companions would have related the hadith of its filthiness to Abu Hurayrah without pointing out that it had been abrogated. It is obvious that the incident of the people of ῾Uraynah occurred in clear view of the Companions and it was popularly known to people. Had the incident been abrogative of the filthiness of urine, it would not have remained hidden from the Companions. The issue is one that is faced by the general populace – especially, in the case of the Companions, many of whom herded camels and milked them.
It is well-known in the science of hadith that commandments in the matter of filth were gradually escalated from leniency to strictness. There are examples of many things, which, during the early days of Islam, were considered clean (or pure) and not affecting the validity of salah. Later, commandments relating to these very things were escalated to that of filth. An instance of this is the hadith of Ibn Mas῾ud, reported by al-Bukhari, regarding the dumping by Abu Jahl of entrails and intestines of a camel on the back of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) while he was in prostration, praying. He did not interrupt his salah due to this. Rather, he continued praying, as al-Hafiz has mentioned in Fath al-Bari. Ibn Hazm has claimed that this hadith has been abrogated by the hadith of faeces and blood.
Thus, the above indicative evidences corroborate the possibility of abrogation. In the existence of such a strong possibility, it is not correct to infer from the hadith under discussion the purity of urine – regarding the filthiness of which there are many hadiths.”
Based on the above, it is not correct to use the hadith under discussion to prove the purity of camel urine, in the presence of other strong possibilities.
Had camel urine been permissible to consume or indeed a cure, it would have been widely used by the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and his Companions (رضي الله عنهم) and all the generations thereafter to our time. It would have been a very popular method of medication, regarding which every Muslim community in the world, in every age, would have known – almost like the way all Muslims know about Zamzam water and its virtues. In fact, Muslims throughout history would not have let a single drop of urine from their camels go to waste. However, the reality is quite contrary. To most Muslims, the drinking of camel urine is unheard of and, when told, they find even the thought of it abhorrent and distasteful.
(The above excerpt is the abridged version of the Article ‘Consumption of Camel Urine and Clarification from the Islamic Tradition’ by Mawlana Abu Asim Badrul Islam; http://www.ilmgate.org/consumption-of-camel-urine-clarification-from-islamic-tradition/)
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.