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Assalamualaikum I found a hadith regarding barren women :

Abu Dawud said:
It was narrated from 'Abdullah bin 'Umar that Umar (RA) said: A mat in a house better than a woman who does not give birth to a child (Sunan Abi Dawud 3922 Book 30, Hadith 19)

Why did Umar RA utter such a statement? I know that marrying prolific women is held in high regard because it increases the umma but that shouldn’t be used as an excuse to belittle women who are barren. Surah 42:49-50 clearly shows that being barren is both the will and wisdom of Allah SWT in His creation and it is not to be viewed as something blameworthy. How to understand this?

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  • inre the citation, did Abdullah bin Umar actually narrate that? My reading of the hadith suggests that it's simply Abu Dawud's commentary on ibn Umar's hadith, not further narration by ibn Umar himself.
    – goldPseudo
    Dec 2 '19 at 22:00
  • This does not mean that barren women are valued little in front of Allah. It is just that Allah created women to reproduce that is their second objective of life after worshipping Allah and a woman that is not able to do so is useless in that particular terms and I 100% agree with that. And the one who marries such a woman has by the will of Allah done a favor on her. Aug 23 at 20:39
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I think it is worth explaining this long quote of abu Dawod in a bit more details:

  1. abu Dawod first quotes a hadith on the authority of ibn 'Umar, which has a high level of trust as it was reported via trustworthy narrators: al-Qa'anabi (student of imam Malik and one of the narrators of al-Muwatta' which's copy still exists)-> imam Malik-> ibn Shihab az-Zuhri->Salim and Hamzah sons's of -> ibn 'Umar.
  2. abu Dawod quotes a statement attributed to imam Malik explaining how omen could come from a dwelling.
  3. The statement attributed to 'Umar explaining how omen could come from a woman. Which is the statement you want to know more about.

Omen (bad) in Islam are related to shirk

The hadith on which footnote this statement appears itself is considered as shadh by al-Albani (which usually means it is not going along with any reliable narration, but having strong and abnormal differences etc.). So it can hardly be taken as authentic even if the narrators of the hadith are all of high trust.
Further omen are regarded as shirk and therefore scholars had big issues to accept and explain narratives that quote them.
Here some of these statements:

  • Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
    Another group said: regarding these three as bad omens only affects those who believe in that. Whoever puts his trust in Allaah and does not believe in omens and superstition, that does not affect him. They said: this is indicated by the hadeeth of Anas, ‘A bad omen only affects the one who believes in it.’
  • Al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in Sharh Muslim:
    The scholars differed concerning these ahaadeeth and how to reconcile them with the ahaadeeth that forbid tatayyur. Some of them interpreted them as they appear to be, and said that this is an exception from the ruling on tatayyur, i.e., that tatayyur is forbidden unless a person has a house which he does not want to live in, or a wife whom he does not want to keep company with, or a horse or servant, all of which he should get rid of by selling them, or by divorcing the wife.
    (Source: islamqa #27192)

An-Nawawi further saif about our hadith in question (Same source as above):

Others said that a house may be regarded as a bad omen when it is too small, or there are bad neighbours who cause trouble; a woman may be regarded as a bad omen when she does not produce children, or she has a sharp tongue, or she behaves in a suspicious manner; a horse may be regarded as a bad omen when it is not used in jihad, or it was said, when it is difficult to handle or it is too expensive; and a servant may be regarded as a bad omen when he has a bad attitude or is not trustworthy or reliable.

The quote below is from the translation of Sahih al-Bukhari, I've added the explanation of Arabic terms from that of Sahih Muslim:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "No 'Adwa (transitive disease) nor Tiyara (divination); but I like Fal (good omen)." They said, "What is the Fal?" He said, "A good word."
(Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)

Among the most authentic ones are:

Evil omen was mentioned before the Prophet: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "If there is evil omen in anything, it is in the house, the woman and the horse."
(Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)

I'd like to add that the hadith abu Dawod quoted in his Sunan also appears in a different order in both Sahih's beside other narratives that are closer to an acceptable meaning in which the term "Omen" is a bit eased (like in the quote above).

Which makes me come to the conclusion that either al-Albani would regard any of the similar reports -even in both Sahih's- as shadh or his qualification is about all 3 reports which are quoted: The hadith on the authority of ibn 'Umar(), Malik's statement and 'Umar's() statement. However al-Albani's commentary is:

شاذ والمحفوظ إن كان الشؤم
Shadh, the memorized is if there is evil omen in anything ...

The statements of 'Umar and imam Malik and their issues

The statement of 'Umar ibn al-Khattab -assuming it can really be attributed to him- is also shadh because it goes against the qur'an:

Or He makes them [both] males and females, and He renders whom He wills barren. Indeed, He is Knowing and Competent. (42:50)

However it is very likely -assuming this report is authentic- that 'Umar meant to express both the maybe negative feelings women who are not able to give birth and their husbands may feel if they really which to have children. But still the wording sounds too harsh to be regarded as acceptable.

Some scholars stated that this report or statement has no narrator chain among them ibn as-Subki. Abu Dawod only quoted it to explain how a woman could be regarded as an omen. Al-Hafidh al-'Iraqi denied it being a hadith, so it can only be an athar of 'Umar() and not attributed to the prophet().

Note that also the explanation of imam Malik which abu Dawod added as a footnote is disconnected as it ends with Malik while abu Dawod certainly only heard it via intermediate from him (one could fairly guess it was al-Qa'anaby for example as abu Dawod at least met a few students of Malik or their students).

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