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Asalamu 'aleykum.

There is a Hadith about the day of resurrection which states, that humans will be resurrected from the end part of the coccyx:

This Hadeeth is presented in Saheeh Al-Bukhaari and Saheeh Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurayrah may Allaah be pleased with him: the Prophet, said: "The whole (body) of the son of Aadam (Adam) will be consumed by the earth except for the tailbone, from which he was created and from which he will be created anew." Another version of the Hadeeth was reported on the authority of Abu Sa‘eed may Allaah be pleased with him: he asked: "What is it like, O Messenger of Allaah?” He said: "Like a grain of mustard." [Ahmad and Ibn Hibbaan]

Moreover, another Hadeeth reads: 'It is the first to be created and the last to decompose.' ... That this tiny part of the coccyx bone which is usually mixed with dust and soil in the grave is rather intangible

(see IslamWeb.net)

According to the apparent indication of the Hadeeth and its versions, this tiny part of the human body, the tailbone, which is as small as a grain of mustard, does not decay at all.

Is this true or am I missing something?

  • You need to ask this on a forum for science if that is the case or not before attempting to interpret any hadith. – user12537 Oct 14 '15 at 15:50
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Although I haven't seen any coccyx decomposition studies, there seems to be no scientific reason to believe that the coccyx decomposes at a dissimilar rate to the rest of the human skeleton. Nor would there be any scientific reason to believe that one could not simply take a human coccyx and cut it into parts finer than grains of mustard.

The human tail bone, or coccyx, is actually composed of 4 or 5 small vertebrae. These vertebrae are made of the same material as the other bones of the skeleton, and as far as I know they decay at the same rate (which will depend on factors like temperature, moisture, and whether the body is buried or exposed to air or water). Under the right conditions bone can remain intact for centuries, or even fossilise. -- Corwin Sullivan on Ask a Biologist

Nor is there any scientific reason to think that all bodies will be consumed by the Earth (e.g. Mars One intends a one-way mission to Mars).

Other related points:

  • Criminals (and universities decomposing of cadavers) have been known to decompose bodies in lye, which turns the whole body into a liquid (see e.g. Soluble Dilemma).

  • During cremation, bones "become calcified as they are exposed to the heat and begin to flake or crumble"; see How Cremation Works, who also write:

    A newborn, which has mostly cartilage and very little set bone, might not even leave any remains after cremation.

  • Bone ash has a melting point of 1670°C. The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima achieved "a surface temperature of 6,000°C".

In any case, whatever is left over, can no longer reasonably be described as "bone".

In addition to the above, it's worth observing:

  • Some infants are born without a coccyx; some of these people develop into adults.

    Forty-four cases of congenital absence of part or whole of the sacrum and coccyx have been hitherto placed on record since the condition was first described by Hohl in 1852, and this paper contributes one other. -- Freedman, B, Congenital absence of the sacrum and coccyx, The British Journal of Surgery, 1950.

  • There are conjoined twins which share the same coccyx:

    Roughly 80% of pygopagus twins have fusion of the coccyx and the theca sac. -- Janik et al., Spectrum of anorectal anomalies in pygopagus twins, Journal of Pediatric Surgery, 2003.

In this context, it doesn't matter whether or not the coccyx decomposes: some humans didn't get one, or didn't get a unique one, to begin with.

It's also possible to excise (surgically remove) the coccyx. For example:

The pain from he which he had previously suffered disappeared at once, and has not returned, and the wound healed well and rapidly. -- Excision of the Coccyx, Lancet, 1886

It seems there's nothing inherently essential to being human within the coccyx.

  • To be fair, the statements about destroying the coccyx by fire are not necessarily relevant to the hadith, which only claims that the earth doesn't reclaim the coccyx. You could say that lava qualifies as earth and people falling into lava have their coccyx destroyed that way, but as a general principle, that wouldn't refute the claim that the coccyx is not "consumed by the earth". The same would apply to mechanical destruction, e.g. cutting up. But then again the hadith says "every bone but the coccyx", and under conditions where all other bones decay, the coccyx clearly does as well. – G. Bach Oct 10 '16 at 11:23
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I'd like to point at the commentary of an other hadith from sahih al-Bukhari i found in fath al-Barry of ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani about a linguistic Issue in the hadith narrations: It's the fact that " إِلاَّ " which usually quotes an exception could also be placed in a sentence or used in the meaning of " وَ " (in this case meaning "and") the so called "واو" al-'atf which refers to an addition.

Here the quote from fath al-Barry (I'll try to translate it, with my own comments in brackets)

قال : عياض فتأويل الخبر وهو كل ابن آدم يأكله التراب أي : كل ابن آدم مما يأكله التراب وإن كان التراب لا يأكل أجسادا كثيرة كالأنبياء .

قوله : إلا عجب ذنبه أخذ بظاهره الجمهور فقالوا : لا يبلى عجب الذنب ولا يأكله التراب ، وخالف المزني فقال : " إلا " هنا بمعنى الواو ، أي وعجب الذنب أيضا يبلى . وقد أثبت هذا المعنى الفراء والأخفش فقالوا : ترد " إلا " بمعنى الواو . ويرد ما انفرد به المزني التصريح بأن الأرض لا تأكله أبدا(Islamweb)

ibn al-Jawzy said: ... 'Iyad said: the interpretation of this narration is that any part of the son of Adam is consumed by earth meaning: all parts of the sons of Adam are among what earth consumes, but earth doesn't consume the bodies of many people like the those of the prophets (this seems widely believed by Muslim scholars based on an other hadith).

And the statement "except the coccyx bone" has been taken as is by the majority of the scholars. so they said the coccyx bone doesn't decay and the earth doesn't consume it, but al-Muzni (I this is the student of Imam a-Shafi'i) opposed and said: "إلا" (translated except) here is used instead of "و" meaning: and the coccyx bone too decays. This meaning has been affirmed by al-Fara' and al-Akhfash (I assume it is this one or this one, see also the Arabic Wikipedia search result) and they said: "إلا" is used in the meaning of "واو". And with this solitary opinion al-Muzni reject the statement that earth doesn't consume this bone at all.


Off-Topic to some extent!

From the different ahadith (see for example this, this and this) on the coccyx bone one could deduce:

  1. that the coccyx bone is an essential part from which an embryo is formed in his early stages.
  2. it doesn't decay.
  3. And it is the bone from which he will be created anew.

This site (mostly Arabic text, with English references) states (or pretends) as the first deduction has been affirmed scientifically (I honestly don't know whether this statement is true and haven't checked it!) we can deduce that the third deduction (which is among the things we can't know -al-Ghayb-).

  • 1
    I tried to look up references for the claim that the coccyx is somehow extraordinarily important in the formation of the human embryo - which is not even the statement of the hadith but is instead an unrelated claim - and no textbook on embryology I could find supports such a claim. Some document that the primitive streak transforms to a part of the body that moves toward the sacrococcygeal region and finally settles around coccyx and anus, but the embryo doesn't come from the coccyx - the primitive streak plays an important role before it moves to the sacrococcygeal region, not after. – G. Bach Oct 10 '16 at 11:19
  • @G.Bach It is a more or less copy pasted information so I haven't checked that. Therefore I just edited my answer to show that I have doubts about the truth of this statement. if you found something refuting this let me know and I'll delete this part! – Sassir Oct 10 '16 at 11:55
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    I posted an answer to a similar question here; I don't know how you would substantiate a statement like "the coccyx is not essential" other than by checking and finding no expert who says it is. – G. Bach Oct 12 '16 at 19:41

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