Question: Why did the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) suggest to the bedouin that his child had just inherited his skin color from a distant grandfather instead of stating the obvious that his wife had committed adultery?
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
Thank you for your important question.
Once a bedouin came to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) complaining that his wife had given birth to a child that did not look like him. ‘Do you have any camels?’ asked the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace).
‘Yes,’ the bedouin replied.
‘What color are they?’
‘Are any of them grey?’
‘Yes, some of them are indeed grey.’
‘How does that happen?’
‘O Messenger of Allah, that is just in their genes!’
‘Perhaps this was just in his genes!’ [Bukhari]
The point that Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) was making was that lack of resemblance to his father did not warrant an accusation of adultery (li’an). Rather, that would have to be based on certainty or very clear signs seen by the husband along with a formal accusation of adultery (li’an) on his part. [Mughni al-Muhtaj, al-Khatib al-Shirbini]
The idea is that a child is always considered to be ascribed to his legal father (the legal husband of the mother) unless it is physically impossible. Given that it is not physically impossible that the child looks significantly different from his father, he is still assumed to be the son of his legal father. It is not an issue of suggesting something likely but rather of preserving lineage which is one of the greatest goals of Islam. [al-Qawai’d al-Kubra, al-Izz ibn Abd al-Salam]
I pray this helps.
Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language.