by Silas

            A young Muslim man returns home and finds his wife standing near the door.  He assumes immediately she’s an adulterer and raises his weapon to kill her.  But she warns him that something dangerous is within their house.  The man rushes in and on the bed is a large snake.  The man attacks the snake and kills it, but during the struggle he is also bitten, both die quickly.


            Snakes kill people, people kill snakes.  There is nothing uncommon about it; its been happening for thousands of years.


            So, what is unusual about this instance?



            Muhammad had some very unusual things to say about this event.  As you read Muhammad’s words try to determine if he relied upon his own ideas, upon Allah's wisdom, or perhaps another source of information?  Think about his statements, then decide if he was superstitious, irrational, or telling the truth.  





            The following are a collection of Hadith from several Islamic sources.  Each one contains a unique detail that I feel is necessary to present the overall picture.   Try to form a composite in your mind of what Muhammad intended.



(1)       From Muslim's collection of Hadith [1], Book 026, Number 5557:

            Abu as-Sa'ib, the freed slaved of Hisham b. Zuhra, said that he visited Abu Sa'id Khudri in his house, (and he further) said: I found him saying his prayer, so I sat down waiting for him to finish his prayer when I heard a stir in the bundles (of wood) lying in a comer of the house. I looked towards it and found a snake. I jumped up in order to kill it, but he (Abu Sa'id Khudri) made a gesture that I should sit down. So I sat down and as he finished (the prayer) he pointed to a room in the house and said: Do you see this room? I said: Yes. He said: There was a young man amongst us who had been newly wedded. We went with Allah's Messenger (to participate in the Battle) of Trench when a young man in the midday used to seek permission from Allah's Messenger to return to his family. One day he sought permission from him and Allah's Messenger (after granting him the permission) said to him: Carry your weapons with you for I fear the tribe of Quraiza (may harm you). The man carried the weapons and then came back and found his wife standing between the two doors. He bent towards her smitten by jealousy and made a dash towards her with a spear in order to stab her. She said: Keep your spear away and enter the house until you see that which has made me come out. He entered and found a big snake coiled on the bedding. He darted with the spear and pierced it and then went out having fixed it in the house, but the snake quivered and attacked him and no one knew which of them died first, the snake or the young man. We came to Allah's Apostle and made a mention to him and said: Supplicate to Allah that that (man) may be brought back to life. Thereupon he said: Ask forgiveness for your companion and then said: There are in Medina Jinns who have accepted Islam, so when you see any one of them, pronounce a warning to it for three days, and if they appear before you after that, then kill it for that is a devil.



NOTE:  If you don’t know what “Jinn” are, see the link below for further information.



(2)       From Muslim's collection of Hadith Book 026, Number 5558:

            Asma' b. 'Ubaid reported about a person who was called as-Sa'ib having said: We visited Abu Sa'id Khudri. When we had been sitting (with him) we heard a stir under his bed. When we looked we found a big snake, the rest of the hadith is the same. And in this Allah's Messenger is reported to have said: Verily in these houses there live aged (snakes), so when you see one of them, make life hard for it for three days, and if it goes away (well and good), otherwise kill it for (in that case) it would be a nonbeliever. And he (the Holy Prophet) said (to his Companions): Go and bury your companion (who had died by the snake bite).




(3)       Sunan of Abu Dawud, Book 41, Number 5236:

Narrated Abu Sa'id al-Khudri:

Muhammad ibn Abu Yahya said that his father told that he and his companion went to Abu Sa'id al-Khudri to pay a sick visit to him. He said: Then we came out from him and met a companion of ours who wanted to go to him. We went ahead and sat in the mosque. He then came back and told us that he heard Abu Sa'id al-Khudri say: The Apostle of Allah  said: Some snakes are jinn; so when anyone sees one of them in his house, he should give it a warning three times. [4521]. If it return (after that), he should kill it, for it is a devil.


            Hasan’s note 4521 states:

            The verb means to make things difficult.  It means that one should tell the snake three times that it will be in difficulties if it returns.  It should not blame one if it is driven away and killed.  The warning should be given for three days.  There is a difference of opinion whether it should be given three times or for three days.  What is agreed is that it should be given three times for three days.



(4)       Sunan of Abu Dawud, Book 41, Number 5240:

Narrated AbdurRahman Ibn Abu Layla:

The Apostle of Allah  was asked about the house-snakes.  He said:  When you see one of them in your dwelling, say:  I adjure you by the covenant which Noah made with you, and I adjure you by the covenant which Solomon made with you not to harm us. Then if they come back, kill them.



(5)       Sunan of Abu Dawud Book 41, Number 5229:

Narrated Abdullah ibn Mas'ud:

The Prophet  said: Kill all the snakes, and he who fears their revenge does not belong to me.



(6)       Sahih Muslim, Book 026, Number 5544:

            Salim, on the authority of his father. reported Allah's Apostle as saying: Kill the snakes having stripes over them and short-tailed snakes, for these two types cause miscarriage (of a pregnant woman) and they affect the eyesight adversely. So Ibn 'Umar used to kill every snake that he found. Abu Lubaba b. 'Abd al-Mundhir and Zaid b. Khattab saw him pursuing a snake, whereupon he said: They were forbidden (to kill) those snakes who live in houses.



(7)       Sunan of Abu Dawud, Number 5232:

            Ibn Umar reported the Apostle of Allah as saying:  Kill snakes, kill those which have two streaks and those with small tails, for they obliterate he eyesight and cause miscarriage.  [4519].

            Salim said:  Abd Allah used to kill every snake which he found.  Abu Lubabah or Zaid b. al-Khattab saw him chasing a snake.  He said:  He (the Prophet) prohibited killing house snakes.  [4520]


            Hasan’s note 4519 says,

            They were poisonous snakes and caused harm to people.  The people are commanded to kill them.


            Hasan’s note 4520 says,

            The version of al-Bukhari and Muslim has:  For they are resident jinn.



(8)       Sahih Muslim, Book 026, Number 5559:

Abu Sa'id Khudri reported Allah's Messenger having said: There is a group of Jinns in Medina who accepted Islam, so he who would see anything from these occupants should warn him three times; and if he appears after that, he should kill him for he is a Satan. [2607]


            Siddiqi’s note 2607 reads:

            It is on the basis of this hadith that some of the scholars are of the opinion that it is not proper to kill snakes of Medina without issuing them a grim warning with these words:  “adjure you in the name of that Covenant which Hadrat Sulaiman took from you that you should not harm us and do not appear again.”  This is not essential for any other place besides Medina.  The reason for this is that some of the Jinns had embraced Islam and they lived in the houses and at times assumed the form of big snakes.  (Nawawi, Vol II, p. 234).





            Muhammad had commanded the killing of all snakes, except those that lived in houses.  Additionally, Muhammad believed that some "Jinn" had received Islam and somehow turned into snakes.   These “Muslim” snakes inhabited homes.  If a Muslim snake was found in a home by the human Muslims, they were to warn the Muslim snakes for three days.  The Muslims were to say, “I adjure you by the covenant which Noah made with you, and I adjure you by the covenant which Solomon made with you not to harm us.”  If the snakes left the home, well and good, but if they remained in the house, they were to be killed because they are “the devil”, i.e. evil, non-Muslim snakes, perhaps real snakes, perhaps a emissary of Satan.






            As I read and study the Hadith I am struck over and over again at Muhammad’s extreme superstition.  Fear and superstition permeated his theology.  Now, for some strange reason he believed that Jinn had received Islam and morphed into snakes.  You can’t blame these Muslim snakes for wanting to live in homes can you?  But, Muhammad didn’t want these Muslim snakes to live in human Muslim homes, so he ordered his followers to warn and trouble the snakes in order to drive them out.



            Aren’t people who carry on like this put into mental hospitals?



            Let me ask you.  If you saw someone carrying on a conversation with a large, strange snake in his house, that could be poisonous, what would you think?  Or, what would you think if a friend or co-worker told you about finding a large snake in his home and he was now “warning” it?  Try it for yourself…. Speak to one of your friends at work and tell him, as seriously as possible, that you’re talking with a potentially dangerous snake, because it could be a Muslim snake, and you’re intending to do this for three days.  Watch his reaction!


            Let’s not forget the story about the poor young Muslim man who died from the snake bite.  Imagine if he had allowed the snake to remain in his house for 3 days.  It could have bitten his wife or other visitors to the home.



            You don’t need to be a herpetologist to know that Muhammad has some serious problems.



Here are some issues to be considered.


1)         First of all, not all outdoor snakes are harmful.  Many of them are in fact quite beneficial to humanity.  They kill destructive pests like rodents.  What’s the point in killing beneficial snakes?


2)         Second, what does that say with respect to Islam and the destruction of a beneficial species of animal?


3)         Third, isn’t it quite bizarre for people to be talking with snakes?  Muhammad was a superstitious man, in the Quran he has Solomon talking with ants.   But here, the stakes are a bit higher – i.e. they are Muslim snakes.  I’d hate to see a Muslim try talking with poisonous snake.  Definitely not a good idea.  It might make for a good comedy, or “world’s most dangerous stunts” type show, but certainly not a good idea for a real life situation.


4)         Snakes have poor ability to hear.  If Muhammad were really led by God wouldn’t he have used a more reliable form of communication with the snakes?  After all, the motive was to communicate effectively with the snakes and warn them or drive them away.


5)         Should we assume that snakes, at least the snakes in question, understood Arabic?  Especially the Arabic dialect of the home in which he chose to live?


6)         Normally snakes don’t “live” in homes.  If Jinn has morphed into snakes, would they would live as snakes?  Snakes avoid contact with humans.


7)         Do you really think that by speaking to a snake and referencing Solomon and Noah, that that would prohibit the snake from biting you or anyone else?  Are the Muslims willing to give it a try?  I’m sure there are many cobras in India that are available for the job.






From the World Book Encyclopedia entry on Snakes, pages 524 – 536, (1993 edition).


            Throughout history, snakes have been the subjects of many myths and superstitions.  The fear of snakes results from a lack of knowledge about the animals.  Most snakes are harmless to people.  In addition, snakes are helpful in controlling rats and other rodents.


The main value of snakes is that they form part of the environment and help preserve the balance of nature.  … Snake venom has several uses in medicine and biological research.    Certain pain-killing drugs are prepared from neurotoxins in venom.  Researches use the powerful enzymes in venom to break down complex proteins for biochemical studies.



            Of course there are many in depth books and articles about snakes.  If you want to learn more about them do some research.  Unfortunately for Muhammad, he only had his myths and superstitions to go on.  As a result, he ordered the killing of many beneficial creatures.



            Here is some additional information from a article found on the web.


            About 8,000 people a year receive venomous bites in the United States; nine to 15 victims die. Some experts say that because victims can't always positively identify a snake, they should seek prompt care for any bite, though they may think the snake is nonpoisonous. Even a bite from a so-called "harmless" snake can cause an infection or allergic reaction in some people.


            Though poisonous snakes can be dangerous, snake venom may have a positive side. Clinical trials are presently under way to test the therapeutic value of a venom-derived product called ancrod in treating stroke. Earlier proposals, using snake venom to treat neuromuscular disorders such as multiple sclerosis, never reached the clinical trial stage.






            If you come across a snake in your house, be careful.  It may be poisonous.  Do not follow Muhammad’s advice and “warn” it for 3 days.  If need be, call the fire department, or, animal society representative (the names of such agencies vary from State to State), or even the police department.  If you follow Muhammad’s advice you, or your children, or friends, could be bitten by the snake.  If the snake is poisonous the bite could prove fatal especially to small children.





            Muhammad’s irrational statements on Jinn and snakes stemmed from his lack of knowledge and superstition.  Where he got the idea of Jinn turning into snakes is beyond me.  But we see that his commands to kill all snakes is detrimental to the environment.  Further, his command to warn dangerous snakes is potentially harmful to people that follow and obey him.


            My question to the Muslims is this:  why put your trust in the teachings of this man?  Are you going to entrust your eternity to someone who taught that people should dialog with snakes?





            This prayer is written for anyone.  This includes Muslims who are seeking the truth and who want to know God in a personal way.


            “Lord Jesus, I believe in You.  I believe that You are the Son of God and the Lord.  I believe that You died for my sins and were raised from the dead.  I confess that I am a sinner and I ask You to come into my heart, cleanse me from my sins, and forgive me for my sins.  I turn to follow and obey You – I put my faith in you.  I now receive You as Messiah and Lord and totally commit my life to You.”





  1. Muslim, A., "Sahih Muslim", translated by A. Sidiqqi, International Islamic Publishing House, Riyadh, KSA.
  2. Abu Dawud, Suliman, “Sunan”, al-Madina, New Delhi, 1985, translated by A. Hasan


Rev A: 10/30/02

Further reading:
  • Chapter XI: Tree, Stone and Serpent Worship in Samuel Zwemer's The Influence of Animism on Islam
  • Muhammad and the Animals

  • Articles by Silas
    Answering Islam Home Page