Did Jibreel put mud in Pharaoh’s mouth to stop him becoming a believer?



Islamic Text

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the Name of Allah Most Merciful Most Kind

Short Answer

It has been narrated that Jibreel (peace be upon him) put mud in Pharaoh’s mouth to stop him becoming a believer. However, some scholars have questioned this narration. They have suggested that it is not a prophetic statement. Rather, this is a statement of Sayidina Ibn Abbas.

عَنْ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ، أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ: لَمَّا أَغْرَقَ اللَّهُ فِرْعَوْنَ قَالَ: {آمَنْتُ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا الَّذِي آمَنَتْ بِهِ بَنُو إِسْرَائِيلَ} [يونس: 90]. فَقَالَ جِبْرِيلُ: يَا مُحَمَّدُ فَلَوْ رَأَيْتَنِي وَأَنَا آخُذُ مِنْ حَالِ البَحْرِ فَأَدُسُّهُ فِي فِيهِ مَخَافَةَ أَنْ تُدْرِكَهُ الرَّحْمَةُ. هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ

Ibn Abbas narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said: When Allah (Most High) drowned Firown he said: I believe that there is no god except the One that the children of Israel believe in. (Surah Yunus, 90). Jibreel said: O Muhammad, if you could have seen me taking mud from the sea and filling his mouth, out of fear that the mercy would reach him. (Sunan al-Tirmidhi 3107, Hasan).

In the Hadith above, Sayidina Abdullah bin Abbas narrates that the blessed angel Jibreel put mud in Pharaoh’s mouth to stop him becoming a believer. He narrated it from the Mubarak Prophet ﷺ in this particular narration. However, in other narrations, this is not linked to the Prophet. Rather it is a statement of Sayidina Ibn Abbas.

Some scholars felt that it is more correct to consider this a statement of Abdullah Ibn Abbas (May Allah Most High be pleased with them both) rather than a prophetic Hadith. If we accept this position, then it is reasonable to consider it a narration from the Israeliyaat. This is because Sayidina Ibn Abbas used to narrate such narrations. Furthermore, such narrations do not establish religious fact.

Problems with the narration
الْأَقْرَبُ أَنَّهُ لَا يَصِحُّ، لِأَنَّ فِي تِلْكَ الْحَالَةِ إِمَّا أَنْ يُقَالَ التَّكْلِيفُ كَانَ ثَابِتًا أَوْ مَا كَانَ ثَابِتًا، فَإِنْ كَانَ ثَابِتًا لَمْ يَجُزْ عَلَى جِبْرِيلَ عَلَيْهِ السَّلَامُ أَنْ يَمْنَعَهُ مِنَ التَّوْبَةِ، بَلْ يَجِبُ عَلَيْهِ أَنْ يُعِينَهُ عَلَى التَّوْبَةِ وَعَلَى كُلِّ طَاعَةٍ، لِقَوْلِهِ تَعَالَى: وَتَعاوَنُوا عَلَى الْبِرِّ وَالتَّقْوى وَلا تَعاوَنُوا عَلَى الْإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوانِ. [الْمَائِدَةِ: 2]. وَأَيْضًا فَلَوْ مَنَعَهُ بِمَا ذَكَرُوهُ لَكَانَتِ التَّوْبَةُ مُمْكِنَةً، لِأَنَّ الْأَخْرَسَ قَدْ يَتُوبُ بِأَنْ يَنْدَمَ بِقَلْبِهِ وَيَعْزِمَ عَلَى تَرْكِ مُعَاوَدَةِ الْقَبِيحِ، وَحِينَئِذٍ لَا يَبْقَى لِمَا فَعَلَهُ جِبْرِيلُ عَلَيْهِ السَّلَامُ فَائِدَةٌ، وَأَيْضًا لَوْ مَنَعَهُ مِنَ التَّوْبَةِ لَكَانَ قَدْ رَضِيَ بِبَقَائِهِ عَلَى الْكُفْرِ، وَالرِّضَا بِالْكُفْرِ كُفْرٌ، وَأَيْضًا فَكَيْفَ يَلِيقُ باللَّه تَعَالَى أَنْ يَقُولَ لِمُوسَى وَهَارُونَ عَلَيْهِمَا السَّلَامُ: فَقُولا لَهُ قَوْلًا لَيِّناً لَعَلَّهُ يَتَذَكَّرُ أَوْ يَخْشى. [طه: 44]. ثُمَّ يَأْمُرُ جِبْرِيلَ عَلَيْهِ السَّلَامُ بِأَنْ يَمْنَعَهُ مِنَ الْإِيمَانِ. (مفاتيح الغيب)

It is most likely inauthentic. Because in that case either he was responsible (Mukallaf) or not. If he was responsible then it would not be permissible for Jibreel (peace be upon him) to prevent him from repenting. Rather, he would be obliged to help him to repent and assist in all types of obedience. Due to the Almighty saying: And assist one another in righteousness and piety. But do not assist in sin and transgression. (Surah al-Ma’idah, 2).

Also, if he prevented him as they mentioned, then repentance was still possible. Since the mute may repent by feeling remorse in his heart and resolving to refrain from the sin. Thus, there will be no benefit in what Jibreel (peace be upon him) did. Also, if he had prevented him from repenting, then he would have been agreeable to his remaining upon Kufr (disbelief). And agreeability with Kufr is Kufr.

Likewise, how is it appropriate (to claim that) Allah (Most High) said to Musa and Harun (peace be upon them): So speak to him a gentle word, perhaps he will remember or fear. (Taha: 44). And then ordered Jibreel, peace be upon him, to prevent him from believing? (Imam Fakhr al-Deen al-Raazi, al-Tafseer al-Kabeer).

والأقرب عند العلماء أن هذا الخبر غير صحيح. (غرائب القرآن ورغائب الفرقان)

The scholars consider it most likely that this narration is not authentic. (Imam Nidhaam al-Deen al-Naysaburi, Gharaib al-Quran).

In the Nusoos above, we see questions raised regarding the authenticity of the Hadith about Jibreel putting mud in Pharaoh’s mouth. This questioning should be regarding the connection of the Hadith to the blessed Prophet ﷺ. As for it being linked to Sayidina Ibn Abbas, that seems confirmed.

So, if it is not a prophetic Hadith but rather a statement of the Sahabi Ibn Abbas, then the discussion is completed changed. Now it becomes likely that this narration is from the Israeliyaat. Thus, it is not from our tradition but from the Ahl al-Kitab. As a result, such narrations cannot be taken as religious fact. Therefore, the questions raised by Imam al-Razi do not require an answer.

It is not a Prophetic statement
هَذَا حَدِيثٌ صَحِيحٌ عَلَى شَرْطِ الشَّيْخَيْنِ وَلَمْ يُخْرِجَاهُ إِلَّا أَنَّ أَكْثَرَ أَصْحَابِ شُعْبَةَ أَوْقَفُوهُ عَلَى ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ. (المستدرك على الصحيحين)

This Hadith is authentic according to the conditions of the two Sheikhs. But they did not narrate it. However, most of Shubah’s companions attributed it to Ibn Abbas. (Imam Hakim al-Naysaburi, al-Mustadrak).

وَأَشَارَ ابْنُ جَرِيرٍ فِي رِوَايَةٍ إِلَى وَقْفِهِ. (البداية والنهاية)

(Imam) Ibn Jarir indicated in a narration that it is Mowquf. (Imam Ibn Katheer, al-Bidayah wa al-Nihaayah).

In the above Nusoos, we find senior Imams of Hadith speaking about the possibility of the Hadith regarding Jibreel putting mud in Pharaoh’s mouth being Mowquf. A Mowquf narration is one that is attributed to a Sahaabi rather than the Prophet ﷺ.

Those who disagree and insist that it is a Prophetic narration must consider the questions raised by Imam al-Raazi (above). It does seem strange that Pharaoh would be prevented from repentance and accepting faith. Especially since he had been called to it.

As for those who are more incline to the view that this is not a Prophetic narration, rather it is from the Israeliyaat, they have no such concerns. This is because, such narrations do not establish religious facts. Subsequently, we do not need to defend something that is not a religious fact from our tradition.


Many scholars narrated the Hadith about Jibreel putting mud in Pharaoh’s mouth to stop him becoming a believer. However, they did not discuss the implications of this action and how it relates to the fact that Allah (Most High) accepts repentance. A minority of scholars raised these concerns and often inclined towards the view that the Hadith is not authenticated to the blessed Prophet ﷺ.

I am inclined towards the view that this story is from the Israeliyaat. Firstly, because the narrations allow for this possibility. Secondly, because it contradicts the general prophetic practice of encouraging disbelievers to become Muslim, even upon their deathbed.

However, the other view must be respected. It seems to be the view of many great Imams of Ahl al-Sunnah. They seemed to accept the narration without concern. Unfortunately, they tended not to address the issues raised by Imam al-Razi. It would have been useful if they had done so.

And Allah Most High Knows Best.

Answered by Shaykh Noorud-deen Rashid (21.04.24)