Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Tears between Muhammad and Jesus

Demou’ bayna Muhammad wa Yasou’

By M. Rafiqul-Haqq and P. Newton

In Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 23 (Funerals), Number 392, we read the following:

Narrated Aisha: When the news of the martyrdom of Zaid bin Haritha, Ja‘far and 'Abdullah bin Rawaha came, the Prophet sat down looking sad, and I was looking through the chink of the door. A man came and said, "O Allah's Apostle! The women of Ja‘far," and then he mentioned their crying. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) ordered him to stop them from crying. The man went and came back and said, "I tried to stop them but they disobeyed." The Prophet (p.b.u.h) ordered him for the second time to forbid them. He went again and came back and said, "They did not listen to me, (or "us": the sub-narrator Muhammad bin Haushab is in doubt as to which is right)." ('Aisha added: The Prophet said, "Put dust in their mouths." I said (to that man), "May Allah stick your nose in the dust (i.e. humiliate you)." By Allah, you could not (stop the women from crying) to fulfill the order, besides you did not relieve Allah's Apostle from fatigue."

Here is another rendition of the same event:

`Abdul'l-Rahman b. al-Qasim b. Muhammad told me from his father from `A'isha the prophet's wife who said: When news of Ja‘far's death came we saw sorrow on the apostle's face. A man went to him and said, "The women trouble us and disturb us." He told him to go back and quieten them. He went but came back again saying the same words. `A'isha here commented, "Meddling often injures the meddler." The apostle said, "Go and tell them to be quiet, and if they refuse throw dust in their mouths." `A'isha added: "I said to myself, God curse you, for you have neither spared yourself the indignity of a snub nor are you able to do what the apostle said. I knew he could not throw dust in their mouths."1

The three men mentioned above were killed in the battle of Mo’uta. One of the three men was Ja‘far ibn Abu Talib. He was one of the early followers of Muhammad. He was actually the son of Abu Talib, Muhammad’s uncle.

Someone noticed that the women of Ja‘far were terribly distraught at the death of their loved one. This man went to Muhammad seeking some help. This man probably was expecting Muhammad to go to the grieving group of women to comfort them. After all Ja‘far was being obedient to Muhammad’s call for Jihad. He was a faithful soldier in Muhammad’s army and finally he paid the ultimate price. He was also Muhammad’s cousin.

The sudden death of a loved one is always painful. The death of a dear one on the battle field is no exception. The reaction of the women of Ja‘far was normal and was a typical reaction of any family in the Middle East at that time. Aisha reacted the same way when Muhammad died.

Ibn Humayd - Salamah - Muhammad b. Ishaq - Yahya b. 'Abbad b. al-Zubayr - his father 'Abbad: I heard 'A'ishah saying, "The Messenger of God died on my bosom during my turn, and I did not wrong anyone in regard to him. It was because of my ignorance and youthfulness that the Messenger of God died while he was in my lap. Then I laid his head on a pillow and got up beating my chest and slapping my face along with the women."2


"Fatima Zahra (a.s) hearing the rumour of the martyrdom of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) at Uhud came out of her house running and beating her head".3

Weeping accompanied by chest beating and face slapping is part of the Middle Eastern culture even to this day.

So how did Muhammad react to the lamenting women of Ja‘far?

The women of Ja‘far obviously did not live very far from where Muhammad was staying, for the man came to Muhammad three times the same day according to Bukhari’s Hadith, with the message that the women’s weeping had broken everybody’s heart.

Muhammad could have gone by himself and given some words of comfort to those women.

Or he could have given the man some words of comfort to convey to the women.

No, Muhammad did not do any of the above. Muhammad wanted the natural feelings of those women to be repressed. He wanted them to be quiet and if they do not then dust had to be shoved in their mouths.

Aisha’s words “May Allah stick your nose in the dust (i.e. humiliate you). By Allah, you could not (stop the women from crying) to fulfill the order”, is more humane than Muhammad’s instruction to put dust in the mouths of Ja‘far’s women.

Now let us look at a similar incident but with some stark differences. It involves a man called Lazarus who died and his two sisters were understandingly weeping even four days after he was buried. Here is the story as it is told in the Gospel of John:

Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.   It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.   Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”
When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.   So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.   Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”
The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?”
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.   But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”   These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”
Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.”   However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.
Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.   And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”
Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”    
So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days.   Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away.   And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house.   Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.   And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”    
And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.”   As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him.   Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him.   Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.”
Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.   And He said, “Where have you laid him?”
They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”
Jesus wept.   Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”
And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?”    
Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.   Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”
Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”   Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.   And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”   Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!”   And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” (John 11:1-44)4

In the above account death robs the two sisters of their brother just as it did in the death of Ja‘far’s. The two sisters and their friends were weeping just as the women of Ja‘afar were weeping.

What interests us here is: how did Jesus react to that weeping?

We are told: when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping … Jesus wept.

In light of the fact that Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead in a few minutes, humanly speaking, one might think it would have been proper to ask the two sisters to stop weeping. One even ventures to suggest that if they refuse to stop weeping they might be rebuked by Jesus because their brother is about to be raised in a short while.  Jesus, the one who will raise dead Lazarus within a few minutes, did not ask them to stop weeping. On the contrary He took time to weep with them.

Why did Jesus waste time weeping? Would it not be better to hasten to the grave, raise Lazarus and the time that was wasted on weeping would have been spent rejoicing?

If you were in the shoes of one of the sisters, would you have preferred Jesus to hasten to the grave and raise your brother, or would you have preferred that Jesus spend some time weeping with you, and then raise your brother?

Here the character of Jesus towers over every other character. Jesus chose to weep with the two sisters rather than to raise Lazarus, maybe, half an hour earlier.

Why did Jesus choose to weep rather than hurry up to raise the dead man? Jesus wept because this was the need of the hour. This was what the two sisters needed at this moment in time. None of us is an island. Sooner or later all of us will lose a loved one. And faced with death, comforting words, no matter how true they are, they still seem to be so inadequate. Faced with death nothing comforts us and supports us like the tears of a friend. Jesus was that friend to the two sisters. Jesus was about to take the two sisters back to Lazarus’ grave. He knew that their wounds are still raw and every step they take will be more painful than the previous one. Jesus had to take care of that. And the journey of the two sisters to Lazarus’ grave was less painful because Jesus wept with them. What a friend!

Also imagine that Jesus did not take time to weep with the two sisters, but hastened up, and raised Lazarus. The two sisters would have missed the most treasured moments of their lives, weeping with Jesus and Jesus weeping with them. One could even say that these moments are more precious than the moment of raising Lazarus. For if Lazarus died before his two sisters, since he did die again, then those moments would have been so precious indeed that day.

The Word of God, Jesus, came to stoop down to share our humanity but without sin. Jesus spent more time sharing our infirmities than raising people from the dead so much that he was described as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”.

Jesus could afford to take time to weep with the two sisters, even though with every moment the dead corpse of Lazarus was rotting more and more. Jesus was not in a hurry. He had absolute control over the situation. Jesus took time to weep because Lazarus can wait. Lazarus could not become any more dead than he already was. Not only did Jesus take time to weep but Jesus took time to talk to the two sisters individually and, before that, he took a long time to come to the scene, “when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days”. The time factor did not matter. Jesus was still in control.

When Jesus came to Lazarus’ grave He said, “Take away the stone.” But Martha, the sister of Lazarus, said to Him, “He stinks, because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”

When someone says to someone else, “Did I not tell you”, it indicates a certainty of the outcome because of previous experience. The Lord Jesus did not raise anyone who has been dead for four days previously. Yet he could say to Martha: “Did I not tell you” before he raised Lazarus. Jesus’ certainty of the outcome, before the raising of Lazarus, was the same as His certainty after the event. No wonder He said of Himself, “I am the resurrection and the life”

Muhammad gave what he had and Jesus gave what he has.

The stories of Ja‘far and Lazarus are a sample of the legacy Muhammad and Jesus left to the suffering humanity. Jesus gave His tears, His blood and His life. Muhammad is still shoving dust in the mouth of mankind.



1 Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah, translated as, The Life of Muhammad, (tr. A. Guillaume), Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 535-536.

2 The History of al-Tabari - The Last Years of the Prophet, translated and annotated by Ismail K. Poonawalla [State University of New York Press [SUNY], Albany 1990], Volume IX, p. 183.

3 'Modaarejun Nubuwwat', Vol 2, page 163, as quoted in

4 Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.