in category Fiqh (Jurisprudence)

How did the classical scholars understand the ahadith prioritising Muslim life over the ka'bah?

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Islamic researcher, graduated from Al-Azhar University, Islamic Studies in the English language. I also studied at Temple University in the US.
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In a Nutshell:
Classical scholars and jurists accept the meaning of the hadith i.e. the sanctity of the Muslim is prioritised over that of the ka'bah and the destruction of the ka'bah is easier than the murder of a Muslim. I did not find any dispute on this.


The shari'ah prohibited the killing of an innocent life (nafs) and considered it a great sin (as the verse in the background) and as Allah says:

وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ
"And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden, except by right." (Qur'an 17:33)

Protecting the life of Muslims (and innocent people as a whole) is one of the fundamental purposes of shari'ah (maqasid al-Shari'ah) and it comes immediately after the value of protecting the deen in the five major aims of the deen (al-Kuliyat al-Khams).

The Shafi'i jurist al- Bujayrami said regarding these al-Kuliyat al-Khams of Shari'ah:

الْكُلِّيَّاتِ الْخَمْسِ وَهِيَ حِفْظُ النَّفْسِ وَالدِّينِ ... فَشُرِعَ الْقِصَاصُ حِفْظًا لِلنَّفْسِ
"Kuliyat al-Khams are the protection of soul, deen, … so Qasas (legal retribution) was legislated for the protection of soul." (al-Bujayrami, al-Tajreed, Vol. 4, p. 209)

He also added the protection of life comes after the protection of deen:

وَيَلِيهَا الْقَتْلُ ظُلْمًا
"And comes after it (in priority) the unjust murder." (Ibid, Vol. 4, p. 237)

It was also narrated the Prophet (saw) when he was asked about the greatest sins, he said the disbelief in Allah and the killing of the innocent soul:

ذَكَرَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم الْكَبَائِرَ، أَوْ سُئِلَ عَنِ الْكَبَائِرِ فَقَالَ ‏"‏ الشِّرْكُ بِاللَّهِ، وَقَتْلُ النَّفْسِ ...
"Allah's Messenger (saw) mentioned the greatest sins or he was asked about the greatest sins.
He said, "To join partners in worship with Allah; to kill a soul which Allah has forbidden to kill. …." (Bukhari 5977, Muslim 160)

As Allah says killing one life (even the non-Muslim innocent life) is like killing all humanity:

أَنَّهُ مَن قَتَلَنَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا
"Whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption (done) in the land - it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one - it is as if he had saved mankind entirely." (Qur'an 5:32)

So the meaning is true apart from the ahadith prioritizing Muslim's life over the ka'bah.

Prioritising Muslim Life over the Ka'bah

This hadith was narrated by mutable chains of narrators – a couple of them are weak but the rest are sound – and on the authority of a large number of companions. So, the Prophet (saw) certainly said this hadith.

Classical scholars and jurists cite these hadith in their books generally in the section of hudud and the sanctity of human life. Most of them – as usual – don't comment especially on its meaning as it is relatively obvious, but comment on the general rule of the sanctity of man's life and deduce the rules from them. But their recognition of the ahadith is enough for accepting its meaning. (Umrani, al-Bayan fi Madhab al-Shafi'i, Vol. 11, p. 297)

But there are a number of scholars who commented on the ahadith, for example, the third-century leading Shafi'i jurist al-Buwayti argued the sanctity of Muslim life was given the priority of the ka'bah because the ka'bah was sanitised because it is the place where Muslims worship, so it could not go above their lives. He said:

ْفَإَنَّ حُرْمَةِ البيتِ إنَّما هيّ للمُؤمِنِينَ مِنْ حَيْثُ كَوْنِهَا مُتَعَبَدًا لَهُم
"The sanctity of ka'bah is for Muslims for being their worshipping place." (Buwayti, Murshid Dhawi al-Haja, Vol. 23, p. 278)

The same meaning was also stated by the eleventh-century Hanafi jurist al-Sanadi. (al-Sanadi, Kifayat al-Hajah, Vol. 2, p. 460)

Some Muslim compilers of hadith make the meaning of this hadith the head of human life sanctity's section. For example, the eight-century compiler of hadith Abd al-Raheem al-Iraqi put a title in his compilation:

الْمُؤمِنْ أَفْضَلُ مِنَ الْكَعْبَة
"The believer is better than the Ka'bah." (Abd al-Raheem al-Iraqi, al-Mughni An Haml al-Asfar 1496)

Even the Shiites accept the hadith and its meaning, for example, the ninth-century Zaydi Shiite scholar ibn al-Wazir commented on the hadith and said:

وحُرْمَةِ المُسْلِمِ أعْظَمُ من حُرْمَةِ الكَعْبَةِ بِنَصِِّ النَبِي صلى الله عليه وسلم
"The sanctity of the Muslim is greater than the sanctity of the ka'bah proven by the statement of the Prophet (saw)." (Ibn al-Wazir, al-Awasim wa al-Qawasim, Vol. 8, p. 79)


Classical scholars and jurists accept the meaning of the hadith i.e. the sanctity of the Muslim is prioritised over that of the ka'bah and the destruction of the ka'bah is easier than the murder of a Muslim. I did not find any dispute on this.


Al-Bujayrami, al-Tajreed
Umrani, al-Bayan fi Madhab al-Shafi'i
Buwayti, Murshid Dhawi al-Haja
Al-Sanadi, Kifayat al-Hajah
Abd al-Raheem al-Iraqi, al-Mughni An Haml al-Asfar
Ibn al-Wazir, al-Awasim wa al-Qawasim

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