Fiqh al-Sunnah: Privacy and consideration for where one relieves themselves

Another installment of our tour of the Sunnah

Imam al-Tirmidhi said in his Jaami’

10 – باب مَا جَاءَ فِي الاِسْتِتَارِ عِنْدَ الْحَاجَةِ

Chapter: What has come of screening while relieving one’s self

حَدَّثَنَا قُتَيْبَةُ بْنُ سَعِيدٍ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ السَّلاَمِ بْنُ حَرْبٍ الْمُلاَئِيُّ، عَنِ الأَعْمَشِ،

Anas said:

When the Prophet wanted to relieve himself, he would not raise his garment until he was close to the ground. [Weak – Mursal]

عَنْ أَنَسٍ، قَالَ كَانَ النَّبِيُّ ﷺ إِذَا أَرَادَ الْحَاجَةَ لَمْ يَرْفَعْ ثَوْبَهُ حَتَّى يَدْنُوَ مِنَ الأَرْضِ.‏

قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى هَكَذَا رَوَى مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ رَبِيعَةَ عَنِ الأَعْمَشِ عَنْ أَنَسٍ هَذَا الْحَدِيثَ‏.‏ وَرَوَى وَكِيعٌ وَأَبُو يَحْيَى الْحِمَّانِيُّ عَنِ الأَعْمَشِ قَالَ: قَالَ ابْنُ عُمَرَ كَانَ النَّبِيُّ ﷺ إِذَا أَرَادَ الْحَاجَةَ لَمْ يَرْفَعْ ثَوْبَهُ حَتَّى يَدْنُوَ مِنَ الأَرْضِ‏.‏ وَكِلاَ الْحَدِيثَيْنِ مُرْسَلٌ.‏

وَيُقَالُ لَمْ يَسْمَعِ الأَعْمَشُ مِنْ أَنَسٍ وَلاَ مِنْ أَحَدٍ مِنْ أَصْحَابِ النَّبِيِّ ﷺ وَقَدْ نَظَرَ إِلَى أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ قَالَ رَأَيْتُهُ يُصَلِّي‏.‏ فَذَكَرَ عَنْهُ حِكَايَةً فِي الصَّلاَةِ.‏

وَالأَعْمَشُ اسْمُهُ سُلَيْمَانُ بْنُ مِهْرَانَ أَبُو مُحَمَّدٍ الْكَاهِلِيُّ وَهُوَ مَوْلًى لَهُمْ.‏ قَالَ الأَعْمَشُ كَانَ أَبِي حَمِيلاً فَوَرَّثَهُ مَسْرُوقٌ.

16 – باب مَا جَاءَ أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ ﷺ كَانَ إِذَا أَرَادَ الْحَاجَةَ أَبْعَدَ فِي الْمَذْهَبِ

Chapter: What has been related that the Prophet ﷺ would go far away if he wanted to relieve himself

حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ بَشَّارٍ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الْوَهَّابِ الثَّقَفِيُّ، عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو، عَنْ أَبِي سَلَمَةَ،

Al-Mughīrah bin Shu’bah said:

I was with the Prophet ﷺ on a journey. The Prophet ﷺ had to relieve himself, so he went far away. [Hasan]

عَنِ الْمُغِيرَةِ بْنِ شُعْبَةَ، قَالَ كُنْتُ مَعَ النَّبِيِّ ﷺ فِي سَفَرٍ فَأَتَى النَّبِيُّ ﷺ حَاجَتَهُ فَأَبْعَدَ فِي الْمَذْهَبِ.

قَالَ وَفِي الْبَابِ عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ أَبِي قُرَادٍ وَأَبِي قَتَادَةَ وَجَابِرٍ وَيَحْيَى بْنِ عُبَيْدٍ عَنْ أَبِيهِ وَأَبِي مُوسَى وَابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ وَبِلاَلِ بْنِ الْحَارِثِ.‏

قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ.‏

وَيُرْوَى عَنِ النَّبِيِّ ﷺ أَنَّهُ كَانَ يَرْتَادُ لِبَوْلِهِ مَكَانًا كَمَا يَرْتَادُ مَنْزِلاً.‏ وَأَبُو سَلَمَةَ اسْمُهُ عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ عَوْفٍ الزُّهْرِيُّ ‏.


These are two narrations from two chapters, not consecutive, I’ve picked them due to their relation to each other, each one’s text indicating modesty during self-relief.

A`mash likely did not hear from Anas. Ibn Abi Haatim in al-Maraaseel said that A`mash’s connect between him and Anas is Abu `Amr, Yazeed ibn Abbaan al-Raqaashi al-Qāṣṣ the aesthetic, who is weak.


Vocabulary [شرح الغريب]

Madhhab [المذهب] – lit. “going”, or “path[way]”.


Supporting Narrations


Nearly all the narrations on the topic of the Prophet’s concern for privacy have brief and synonymous or identical wordings with no meaningful variations or additions. He used to go far away, and he would keep himself covered until the last moment.

To make up for A’mash’ weak narration from Anas, there are similar from Abu Hurairah recorded by Abu Dawud, Abdullah ibn Ja’far recorded by Muslim, and Jaabir from Abu Dawud. As for the hadeeth of al-Mugheerah, nearly identical wording was related from the companion Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi Quraad from al-Nasa’i, likewise similar from Jabir with ibn Maajah. As for the narrations of ibn al-Abbaas with al-Tabarani and Bilal ibn al-Haarith that al-Tirmidhi also said were on topic, they are only narrated by weak narrators like Katheer ibn Abdullah or accused like Sa’eed ibn Ṭareef.


However, at this point I wanted to include a couple different narrations that add etiquette concerning where a Muslim chooses to urinate.

Imam Muslim recorded, on the authority of Abu Hurairah that the Prophet ﷺ said:

حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى بْنُ أَيُّوبَ ، وَقُتَيْبَةُ ، وَابْنُ حُجْرٍ جَمِيعًا ، عَنْ إِسْمَاعِيل بْنِ جَعْفَرٍ ، قَالَ ابْنُ أَيُّوبَ ، حَدَّثَنَا إِسْمَاعِيل ، أَخْبَرَنِي الْعَلَاءُ ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ﷺ ، قَالَ : “ اتَّقُوا اللَّعَّانَيْنِ ، قَالُوا : وَمَا اللَّعَّانَانِ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ؟ قَالَ : الَّذِي يَتَخَلَّى فِي طَرِيقِ النَّاسِ ، أَوْ فِي ظِلِّهِمْ

Beware of the two cursers.” They asked, what are the two cursers O Messenger of Allah? He said, “The one who relieves themselves in the people’s pathway or their shade.


Imam al-Nasa’I collected from Abdullah ibn Sarjis that the Prophet ﷺ said:

أَخْبَرَنَا عُبَيْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ سَعِيدٍ، قَالَ أَنْبَأَنَا مُعَاذُ بْنُ هِشَامٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي أَبِي، عَنْ قَتَادَةَ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ سَرْجِسَ، أَنَّ نَبِيَّ اللَّهِ ﷺ قَالَ ‏ “‏ لاَ يَبُولَنَّ أَحَدُكُمْ فِي جُحْرٍ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالُوا لِقَتَادَةَ وَمَا يُكْرَهُ مِنَ الْبَوْلِ فِي الْجُحْرِ قَالَ يُقَالُ إِنَّهَا مَسَاكِنُ الْجِنِّ ‏.‏

Let none of you urinate in a hole.

Qatadah (a subnarrator) was asked what is disliked about it. He said: it is said that they are the dwellings of the jinn.

Some scholars considered this narration weak because Qatadah may not have heard from this companion, plus he used an ambiguous way of attributing the hadeeth to him, the `an`anah. However, a few other researchers consider it authentic, and there is no doubt that the words attributed to the Prophet ﷺ could contain a lot of wisdom. Even if we did not consider it authentic to the Prophet ﷺ, it is authentic up till Qatadah, and he did not shy away from giving his commentary on it, which may also be valid.

All this provides support for the narration that al-Tirmidhi provided the meaning for without the isnad, but was recorded by al-Tabarani from Abu Hurairah, and by others from Ubaidah al-Saifi, that the Prophet ﷺ…

حَدَّثَنَا بِشْرُ بْنُ مُوسَى، قَالَ: نا يَحْيَى بْنُ إِسْحَاقَ السَّيْلَحِينِيُّ، قَالَ: نا سَعِيدُ بْنُ زَيْدٍ، عَنْ وَاصِلٍ مَوْلَى أَبِي عُيَيْنَةَ، عَنْ يَحْيَى بْنِ عُبَيْدٍ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ : كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ﷺ” يَتَبَوَّأُ لِبَوْلِهِ كَمَا يَتَبَوَّأُ لِمَنْزِلِهِ “، لَمْ يَرْوِ هَذَا الْحَدِيثَ عَنْ وَاصِلٍ مَوْلَى أَبِي عُيَيْنَةَ إِلا سَعِيدُ بْنُ زَيْدٍ، وَيَحْيَى هُوَ يَحْيَى بْنُ عُبَيْدِ بْنِ دُجَيٍّ، لَمْ يُسْنِدْ عُبَيْدُ بْنُ دُجَيٍّ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ إِلا هَذَا الْحَدِيثَ .

He used to choose a place for relieving himself like as if he was choosing a place to settle down.


Towards better understanding these narrations…

The Prophet’s Modesty and Command towards Consideration – Lessons for the rest of us


The first two narrations that show the Prophet’s habit of seeking privacy and being far from people provide lessons on modesty and consideration, and not offending others with your sounds and smells. The second is a further increase on modesty, and further cementing that you do not want to others to see what you are doing in that embarrassing position that may make people look at you differently were they to stumble upon you in full view.

Being considerate of others, thinking far ahead of the consequences of our actions, to avoid offending others, whether human, jinni or animal, is a trait of a believer, and a large part of khuluq hasan.

When urine passes out of the urethra, it produces a mildly pleasurable sensation and relief. So rather than simply expelling impurities from the body, some people, depending on their circumstance and location, seek to increase their enjoyment by spreading their urine around to cover more space—like an animal designating its territory—or aiming for targets, e.g. flowers or holes. When out in the open especially, and unable to relieve one’s self in a designated stall, people are given the choice to be considerate and modest or bold, thrill seeking, and entitled by urinating in a relatively open spot on the trail or where other people may be expected to walk or sit, or by going into an animal burrow, ant hill, etc.

The Prophet’s guidance is clear. Whoever wants to train themselves to resemble the Prophet ﷺ more and increase their portion of good characteristics like modesty and consideration, necessities of good character that lead to Paradise, then let them be as private as possible without risking offending others.

Forsaking the Prophet’s guidance in these matters is turning away from the Sunnah in small simple matters—so how then will they be able to keep firm on guidance in larger matters? Abandoning modesty by urinating or defecating in an entitled manner to draw attention to one’s self or turn their nose at others is a doorway to kibr, if it’s not kibr itself—and none shall enter Paradise with a mustard seed’s weight of kibr in their heart. And carelessly urinating in a spot that may offend others, especially humans, where they may reasonably sit and relax, is dangerous as it sets one’s self up for the curses of others—hence, beware of the two cursers.

Likewise, Muslims should not only be considerate to their fellow humans, but to animals that take ground holes as their homes—not to drown them or startle them, which could lead to being stung or bitten by something harmful. But offending the jinn could be far worse in consequence. These guidelines and sunan are manifestation to what the companions observed from the Prophet ﷺ that he used care, caution and great consideration when decided where to relieve himself.

About Chris
Chris, aka AbdulHaqq, is from central Illinois and accepted Islam in 2001 at age 17. He studied Arabic and Islamic theology in Saudi Arabia from 2007-13 and most recently earned a master's in Islamic Law from Malaysia. He is married with children.

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