Recently I have heard about this narration in a local gathering but the speaker did not give any references nor did he elaborate on this specific Hadith.

Narrated Abu Hurairah: The Prophet (ﷺ) said: The child of adultery is worst of the three.

It was used when the speaker was talking about Zina and the negative effects of it to the society.

I am having a hard time understanding this as the literal meaning tends to suggest that the innocent child born is also blame worthy.

Can someone please clarify this hadith and explain what exactly am I missing here?.

2 Answers 2


Asalaam Alaikum

As already there is an answer to this question, I will try to navigate my answer towards understanding this hadith and clarifying without iteration.

This hadith seems to cause consternation in appearance and this is one of the many hadith that are often misunderstood and misquoted. The apparent meaning is a direct conflict to the Quranic maxim of no one should bear the burden of another [ 6:164, 17:15, 35:18, 39:7, 53:38 ]


This hadith (Sunan Abu Dawud 3963) does not mean illegitimate children are worse by nature of being illegitimate, it was specific to the person whom the Prophet ﷺ was addressing and the comments of Abu Hurayah are based on a misunderstanding of what the Prophet ﷺ said.

To clarify, first I would like to quote the narration by Urwah, recorded by Imam At-Tahawi:

Urwah narrated: It reached Aisha that Abu Huraira related that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, "The child of adultery is worst of the three." She said, May Allah have mercy on Abu Huraira, he erred at hearing and erred at relating it; the hadith was not in this meaning. Actually there was a man who hurt the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and it was mentioned to the Prophet (ﷺ) that besides what he had done he was also born out of adultery. Thus the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, "He is worst of the three".

and this report by Abd Al-Razzaq Al-San'ani:

When it was mentioned to Aisha that [a child born out of wedlock] was worst of the three she objected to it and said, "The sin of his parents is not on the child for Allah has said, 'No bearer shall bear the sins of others'."

From these, it's pretty much clear that the literal meaning of the hadith in general has nothing to do with the children born of adultery. This is further strengthened by the reports of the companion Abdullah b. Umar and well known scholars from the subsequent generation al-Sha'bi and 'Ikrimah, the freed slave of Ibn Abbas, recorded by Abd al-Razzaq:

He is [in fact] best of the three

With that I believe we have a better understanding of the hadith and when I tried to find more explanations, Imam Baghawi writes:

It means there is no burden on him for the sin committed by the adulterers and he is better than them both for his innocence from the sin.

and Imam Ibn Hibban writes:

The child of zina will not be taken to account for the sin of his parents.

Just to have more clarity I would like to quote from the comments section of the Darrussallam edition of Sunan Abu Dawud of this hadith:

An illegitimate child should not be deemed evil and corrupt or immoral unless he behaves like his parents, his circumstances of birth are not his fault. Allah has said: "No bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another." (Sürat Al-An'am 6:164.) This narration has a special event as its background. There was a disbeliever who used to tease the Prophet ﷺ . It was brought to the knowledge of the Prophet, and on that occasion he said this statement.


These details conclusively prove that hadith in question was specific to a person in the time of the Prophet (ﷺ) and does not apply to all children born of illegitimate intimacy. This is also the view of almost all the major and majority of scholars, both classic and contemporary.

NOTE importance has been given to include narrations/evidences that are authentic and in cases where there are slight concerns about the chain of narrators, I have included narrations that have corroborating evidences thus following the best practice.


  1. Sharh Mushkil al-Athar by Imam Abu Jafar At-Tahawi
  2. Musannaf of Abd al-Razzaq al-San'ani
  3. Sharh Al-Sunnah by Abu Muhammad Al-Baghawi
  4. Sahih Ibn Hibban by Muhammad ibn Hibban al-Busti
  5. Sunan Abu-Dawud ( Darrussallam )
  6. Tafsir of Quran
  7. Mustadrak by Al-Hakim Al-Nishapuri
  8. Tafsir ibn Abi Hatim

May Allah the mighty and sublime grant us mercy and guide us to the straight path.

Allah knows best

  • Good answer. +1
    – user31217
    Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 4:51
  • Jazakallah for the answer.
    – user47503
    Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 6:22

The hadith is as follows:

ولد الزنا شر الثلاثة

The child of adultery is worst of the three.

Sunan Abu Dawud, Musnad Ahmad

The apparent meaning of this hadith is that a child born due to Zina is worse than its father and mother who actually committed the adultery. This is problematic because the parents have committed a major sin, while the child is born innocent and will not carry the blame for its parent's sins:

ولا تكسب كل نفس إلا عليها ولا تزر وازرة وزر أخرى

And every soul earns not [blame] except against itself, and no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another.

Quran 6:164

The following are the various explanation that have been given for this hadith by the scholars:

  • "The child of adultery" meant one specific person, and it has not been said regarding all the children born of zina. This specific person was condemned because of his own actions and not because of being born due to adultery.

    بلغ عائشة رضي الله عنها أن أبا هريرة رضي الله عنه يقول: ... وإن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: " ولد الزنا شر الثلاثة " ... فقالت عائشة رضي الله عنها: رحم الله أبا هريرة أساء سمعا , فأساء إجابة ... وأما قوله: "ولد الزنا شر الثلاثة". فلم يكن الحديث على هذا، إنما كان رجل من المنافقين يؤذى رسول الله - صلى الله عليه وسلم - فقال"من يعذرنى من فلان؟ " قيل: يا رسول الله إنه مع ما به ولد الزنا. فقال رسول الله - صلى الله عليه وسلم -: "هو شر الثلاثة". والله تعالى يقول: {ولا تزر وازرة وزر أخرى}

    Aisha was informed that Abu Hurairah narrated that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: "The child of adultery is worst of the three."

    Aisha said: May Allah have mercy on Abu Hurairah he made a mistake in hearing and narrating it ...

    As for the saying "The child of adultery is worse of the three". That is not what the hadith means.

    Rather there was a hypocrite who used to hurt the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. The Prophet was told that this person was also born of adultery on which he said: "The child of adultery is worse of the three".

    And (contrary to the wrong interpretation) Allah has said: "no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another" [Quran 6:164].

    Sunan al-Kubra Bayhaqi, Mustadrak al-Hakim

  • The complete wording of the hadith is that the child of Zina is worse than its parents if it too does the Zina like its parents.

    ولد الزنا شر الثلاثة , إذا عمل بعمل أبويه

    The child of adultery is worst of the three if he does the deed like his parents (i.e. adultery)

    Sunan al-Kubra Bayhaqi

  • It mean that the child is in a worse state than its parents in worldly attributes. This is because :

    • The child is born from the sperm of a adulterer, and from the womb of an adulteress, it is born due to an unlawful relationship and its lineage is marred.
    • The child will be more inclined and susceptible towards adultery and sins since children are influenced by the behavior of their parents.
    • The parents will be considered purified after receiving the legal punishment of adultery, but the fate of the child will remain uncertain.
  • The hadith describes the typical case, which occurs due to the bad influence on the nature of the child. It does not mean that all children born of adultery are of evil character, but some of them are like that. In the end everyone receives reward based on their own actions and not based on the deeds of their parents.

  • "The child of adultery" does not mean a child born due to adultery, rather it means a person who commits adultery frequently. This is similar to how a wayfarer is called ibn al-sabeel or a thief is called walad al-layl etc.

  • It is weak and the Prophet ﷺ did not actually say this. Note however that most of the scholars do not adopt this view as the chain of transmission is not so weak.


  • Jazakallah for the answer.
    – user47503
    Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 6:21

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