Hadith Database – Hadith on ‘Ajwa Dates and Protection Against Magic and Poison

Hadith Database – Hadith on ‘Ajwa Dates and Protection Against Magic and Poison

pdf
View as PDF

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم

Narrated Sa`d: I heard Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) saying, “Whoever takes seven ‘Ajwa dates in the morning will not be affected by magic or poison on that day.”

Source: Sahih Bukhari, 76:91, https://sunnah.com/bukhari/76/91
Status: Sahih
Explanation: The conflict between science and religion has been intensifying of late, with detractors of religious beliefs often mocking the followers of different religions for believing in things that are perceived (whether rightly or wrongly) to be opposed to established scientific principles. But these perceived “scientific errors” are also used by followers of one religion against another, and this blog is no different, as previous articles published on the blog have criticized the Bible for scientific errors, and despite the efforts of the apologists, these scientific errors have not been explained with any satisfaction.[1] But Islam is also attacked for perceived “scientific errors”, and that is the topic for this article. Detractors and critics refer to the above hadith on ‘Ajwa dates and their alleged protective affects against poisonous substances and even magic and claim that this is a superstition and a belief that is not supported by scientific evidence. Thus, they allege that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) somehow must be a false prophet.
As we can see, the hadith does state that whoever eats 7 ‘Ajwa dates, he/she will not be affected by magic or poison.[2] Another hadith from Tirmidhi states that:

“Al-‘Ajwah is from Paradise and it contains a cure for poison. Truffles are a form of manna, and its liquid is a cure for the eye.”[3]

Does this mean that ‘Ajwa dates have miraculous protective powers against any harmful substance? Let us discuss this question.
But first, let us find out what ‘Ajwa dates actually are. According to Lane’s Lexicon, they are dates specifically from the city of Madinah, and are considered the “best of dates”:
Lane - ajwa.PNG
‘Ajwa dates are known by the scientific name Phoenix dactylifera,[4] and are actually found throughout the Middle East, but the hadith above is referring specifically to those grown in Madinah.[5] According to the late scholar Dr. Mustafa As-Sibai, this was the view of the majority of Islamic scholars.[6]
Ajwa dates.png
As for the hadith in question, when read in isolation, it can be easily misunderstood. It’s no wonder that overzealous detractors of Islam tend to be either oblivious of other ahadith which expand on the issue, or deliberately ignore them. As brother Waqar Akbar Cheema has explained in his article on the issue, other ahadith clarify the issue further, so that we can make the following conclusions:

“1- It is about ‘Ajwa dates from al-Aliya, a particular locality near al-Medina

2- The benefit is for eating them early in the morning breaking the night fast with it

3- It is for the one who eats them regularly as Aisha (RA) used to instruct people. Her instruction matters for she is one of the narrators of the Hadith in question.”[7]

The fact that the benefits of ‘Ajwa dates come from eating them in the morning on an empty stomach (i.e., while fasting from the previous night) is seen in a hadith from Musnad Ahmad:

“The ‘ajwah dates of al-‘Aliya taken as the first thing in the morning, in the state of fasting; contain healing for all (kinds of) magic or toxins.”[8]

As for eating them on a regular basis, this is seen in a hadith from the Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba:

“Narrated ‘Urwah: ‘Aisha used to order to make a habit of or taking in regular intervals seven ‘ajwah dates, in the state of fasting for seven mornings.”[9]

Thus, we can see that the benefit lies in eating ‘Ajwa dates on a regular basis and on an empty stomach. This was emphasized by the great scholar Ibn Al-Qayyim:

“Dates preserve good health, especially when one consumes them regularly like the people of Al Madeena. In fact, they consume dates like others consume wheat, because it is their staple food. As for aaliya dates, they are amongst their best dates, because they are firm and sweet. In fact, dates are considered a food, fruit, and medicine, and they agree with most bodies.”[10]

So, it does not mean that eating 7 dates on any random morning and then deliberately ingesting a poisonous substance will result in the poison being neutralized.
Moreover, as brother Cheema argues, the Arabic word “summ” can mean both “poison” or more generally, simply “toxin”. Thus, eating ‘Ajwa dates on a regular basis can protect a person from toxins, such as excessive cholesterol.[11] Indeed, Dr. As-Siba’ee also understood the hadith in this way. He stated:

“In modern medicine, it has been proven that the ‘Ajwah is nourishing, is beneficial to the digestive system, is helpful in strengthening the body, and is potent in fighting harmful bacteria.”[12]

Interestingly, there is also a hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) forbid Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) to eat unripe dates shortly after recovering from an illness:

“It was narrated that Umm Mundhir bint Qais Ansariyyah said: “The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) entered upon us, and with him was ‘Ali bin Abu Talib, who had recently recovered from an illness. We had bunches of unripe dates hanging up, and the Prophet (ﷺ) was eating from them. ‘Ali reached out to eat some, and the Prophet (ﷺ) said to ‘Ali: ‘Stop, O ‘Ali! You have just recovered from an illness.’ I made some greens and barley for the Prophet (ﷺ), and the Prophet (ﷺ) said to ‘Ali: ‘O ‘Ali, eat some of this, for it is better for you.’””[13]

However, it should be noted that this hadith does not specifically mention ‘Ajwa dates. Nevertheless, the Prophet advised Ali not to eat the unripe dates and to eat some barley instead. In his book Tibb-ul-Nabbi (Medicine of the Prophet), Al-Suyuti related that when Ali was sick, the Prophet allowed him to eat up to seven dates but no more.[14]
But is there any scientific evidence that dates, and more specifically ‘Ajwa dates, have a protective effect against poisonous substances. Brother Cheema noted that it is well-established that dates have anticholesterolemic properties (i.e., they can help reduce harmful cholesterol) and are generally beneficial for cardiovascular health. There are many peer-reviewed studies that have confirmed this. Dates have also been demonstrated to have anticancer properties as well.[15] In fact, according to one study in the journal Trends in Food Science and Technology:

“[t]he unique phytochemical profile of Ajwa dates have [the] potential to cure different diseases.”[16]

This study also states:

“…that Ajwa dates have strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic, hepato-protective, nephroprotective and anti-cancer activities.”

In other words, dates may help protect the vital organs such as the liver (hepatoprotective) and kidneys (nephroprotective). So, there is no doubt that dates are a nutritious food with many health benefits.
Dr. As-Siba’ee had left it an open-ended question about other possible benefits of ‘Ajwa dates when he stated:

“[i]f modern medicine has not succeeded in finding all of the special qualities of the ‘Ajwah, that does not mean that the hadith is a fabrication. Can anyone claim that medicine has reached its pinnacle or that it has discovered the medicinal qualities of all foods, drinks, or plants? […] And if they do not discover all of the therapeutic benefits of the ‘Ajwah today, then they will tomorrow insha’Allah.”[17]

As it turns out, recent studies have confirmed Dr. As-Siba’ee’s wise observation. Some studies have shown that ‘Ajwa dates can indeed have a protective effect against some toxic substances. One such study, published in 2004, assessed the potential of dates to protect against carbon tetrachloride (CCl4)-induced hepatotoxicity in rats, and made the following conclusion (emphasis ours):

“The data suggest that the daily oral consumption of an aqueous extract of the flesh and pits of dates, and as a part of the daily diet ad libitum, was prophylactic to CCl4 poisoning, achieving about 80% protection with datepalm flesh and 70% with pits. A similar percentage of protection was achieved when the aqueous extracts of the flesh and pits were used as a cure against CCl4 poisoning after toxicity was induced.”[18]

This study shows that dates have a protective effect against carbon tetrachloride (CCl4). They can be used “prophylactically”, which means that they can be used to prevent CCl4 poisoning. This finding was duplicated in a separate study conducted in 2017. The authors of this study stated that:

“…Ajwa date extract afforded significant protection against CCl4-induced hepatocellular injury; an effect that could be attributed to its antioxidant, antiapoptotic and antifibrotic activities.”[19]

In fact, another study conducted in rats concluded that date seeds could be used for humans:

“as a cheap source of anti-inflammation that can be considered as a health opportunity for developing countries.”[20]

carbon tetrachloride.jpg
Figure 1 – A label warning of the danger of exposure to carbon tetrachloride (Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/chemistry/comments/6gq0vg/carbon_tetrachloride_in_a_pharmacy/)

A separate study found similar protective effects against another toxic substance. According to this study (emphasis ours):

Pretreatment with date palm fruit extract restored the liver damage induced by dimethoate, as revealed by inhibition of hepatic lipid peroxidation, amelioration of SOD, GPx and CAT activities and improvement of histopathology changes. The present findings indicate that in vivo date palm fruit may be useful for the prevention of oxidative stress induced hepatotoxicity.”[21]

Dimethoate is a highly toxic insecticide that affects the nervous system and can be fatal.[22]
Other studies have found that ‘Ajwa dates protect against other toxic substances as well, such as lead acetate,[23] thioacetamide, dichloroacetic acid,[24] and cadmium.[25] One study, conducted in India, even found that dates can have a protective effect against mosquito coil smoke! The smoke used to repel mosquitoes contains many toxins which can damage the lungs.[26] But date extracts helped to reduce the damage.
‘Ajwa dates have also been studied for their protective effects against antibiotic-induced toxicity. While antibiotics are life-savings medications for bacterial infections, they can still cause serious side effects in some people. Studies have found that date extracts can have a protective effect against azithromycin- and gentamicin-induced toxicity.[27]
At least one study has even suggested a use for dates in treating the adverse effects of opioid use.[28] In 2016, drugs like morphine and oxycodone were responsible for over 47,000 deaths in the United States due to overdoses.[29] Due to the antioxidant properties of dates, it has been suggested by Sani et al. that they could be used in treating opioid-related health effects. They state that:

Phoenix dactylifera as a potent antioxidant is rich in potassium, phenolics, flavonoids and low calcium level. Additionally, because of its magnesium content, it is expected that date palm may exert antagonistic effect on adversity of opioid drugs.”[30]

Noting the damaging effects of morphine on the brain, they also suggest that:

“…the neuro-protective effect of P. dactylifera may counteract the destructive activity of the reactive oxygen species (ROS) that could originate from the opioid abuse.”[31]

Of course, more studies will be needed to confirm these effects. Nevertheless, we do have ample scientific evidence that suggests the protective effects of ‘Ajwa dates against some poisonous substances. However, this does not mean that anyone could deliberately consume a poison such as cyanide and then assume that eating some ‘Ajwa dates will protect them against the deadly effects of the poison. As far as I am aware, there have been no studies done to test the protective effect of dates against cyanide or other common poisons. But there is no reason for a Muslim to deliberately consume cyanide just to test whether ‘Ajwa dates will offer some protection anyway, since there is a hadith which clearly forbids Muslims from deliberately consuming any poisonous substance:

“Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (ﷺ) said…whoever drinks poison and kills himself with it, he will be carrying his poison in his hand and drinking it in the (Hell) Fire wherein he will abide eternally forever…”[32]

So, this was a warning not to deliberately consume harmful substances. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not suggest that Muslims could prove their faith by performing wondrous deeds like swallowing poison and not being harmed.[33]
Therefore, when considering the totality of the teachings of Muhammad (peace be upon him), we find great knowledge and wisdom. Dates are a healthy food with numerous health benefits, including protection against some poisonous substances, but that does not mean that Muslims have some sort of magical shield that will make them impervious to poison.
As for the part of the hadith mentioning magic, there are obviously no scientific studies to assess this. Brother Cheema posits the view that the Arabic word “sihr” may refer to anything that “changes health and soundness to disease” and does not necessarily have to only mean a supernatural phenomenon like magic.[34]
However, Dr. As-Siba’ee explained that if something:

“…is beneficial to the body, it is also beneficial to the soul of the one upon whom magic is cast.”[35]

If ‘Ajwa dates do protect against magic, that would only be by the will of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) and it is a matter of the unseen. But as for the protective effects against certain poisonous substances and toxins, we have seen scientific evidence confirming this, though more studies are definitely needed. Alhamdulillah! And Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best!


[1] https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/07/on-rabbits-and-rumination-a-response-to-christian-interpretations-of-leviticus-115-6/
https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2019/07/19/biologos-on-scientific-errors-in-the-bible-a-review/
https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/science-in-the-bible-and-the-quran/
[2] Another version of this hadith does not give a specific number of dates to eat. Rather, it simply says “some dates” (Sahih Bukhari, 76:82, https://sunnah.com/bukhari/76/82).
[3] Jami At-Tirmidhi, 4:2:2066, https://sunnah.com/urn/673690.
Interestingly, studies have found that truffles can indeed be used to treat eye infections. See the following:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22181843
https://scialert.net/abstract/?doi=tmr.2016.28.34
[4] Fazal Khan et al., “Ajwa Date (Phoenix dactylifera L.) Extract Inhibits Human Breast Adenocarcinoma (MCF7) Cells In Vitro by Inducing Apoptosis and Cell Cycle Arrest”, PLoS One 11, no. 7 (2016): 1, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4956039/pdf/pone.0158963.pdf.
[5] See also Sahih Muslim, 36:212, https://sunnah.com/muslim/36/212.
[6] Mustafa As-Siba’ee, The Sunnah and Its Role in Islamic Legislation, trans. Faisal Ibn Muhammad Shafeeq (Riyadh: International Islamic Publishing House, 2008), p. 362.
[7] https://www.letmeturnthetables.com/2011/07/hadith-ajwa-dates-and-science.html
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibn Al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyya, Zad Al-Ma’ad: Provisions of the Afterlife Which Lie Within Prophetic Guidance, trans. Ismail Abdus Salaam (Beirut, Lebanon: DKI, 2010), p. 555.
[11] A well-known adage in the field of toxicology is a statement attributed to the Swiss scientist Paracelsus:

“Sola dosis facit venenum – The dose makes the poison” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_dose_makes_the_poison).

In other words, in large amounts, any substance can become “toxic” or “poisonous”, even water. “Water poisoning”, also known as “water intoxication” occurs with excessive water intake (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318619.php).
[12] As-Siba’ee, op. cit., p. 362.
[13] Sunan Ibn Majah, 4:31:3442, https://sunnah.com/urn/1274870.
[14] Al-Suyuti, “Tibb-ul-Nabbi or Medicine of the Prophet”, trans. Cyril Elgood, Osiris 14: (1962), p. 135, https://www.jstor.org/stable/301867?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents.
[15] Fazal Khan et al., “Ajwa Date (Phoenix dactylifera L.) Extract Inhibits Human Breast Adenocarcinoma (MCF7) Cells In Vitro by Inducing Apoptosis and Cell Cycle Arrest”, PLoS One 11, no. 7 (2016): 1, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4956039/pdf/pone.0158963.pdf.
[16] Sumaira Khalid et al., “A review on chemistry and pharmacology of Ajwa date fruit and pit”, Trends in Food Science and Technology, 63 (2017): 60, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/314658385_A_review_on_chemistry_and_pharmacology_of_Ajwa_date_fruit_and_pit.
[17] As-Siba’ee, op. cit., pp. 362-363.
[18] Aly Abdullah Al-Qarawi et al., “Protective Effect of Extracts from Dates (Phoenix dactylifera L.) on Carbon Tetrachloride-Induced Hepatotoxicity in Rats”, Intern J Appl Res Vet Med 2, no. 3 (2004), 179, http://jarvm.com/articles/Vol2Iss3/ELMOUGHJARVMVol2No304.pdf.
[19] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29175788
[20] Saryono Saryono et al., “Decreasing Carbon Tetrachloride Toxicity using Date-seed (Phoenix dactylifera L.) Steeping in Rats”, Toxicology and Environmental Health Sciences 10, no. 2 (June 2018): 139, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326323501_Decreasing_Carbon_Tetrachloride_Toxicity_using_Date-seed_Phoenix_dactylifera_L_Steeping_in_Rats.
[21] Emna Behija Saafi et al., “Protective effect of date palm fruit extract (Phoenix dactylifera L.) on dimethoate induced-oxidative stress in rat liver”, Experimental and Toxicologic Pathology 63, no. 5 (July 2011): 433, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0940299310000370.
[22] http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/extoxnet/dienochlor-glyphosate/dimethoate-ext.html
[23] Ahmed R. Ragab et al., “Antioxidant and Tissue-Protective Studies on Ajwa Extract: Dates from Al Madinah Al-Monwarah, Saudi Arabia”, Environmental and Analytical Toxicology 3, no. 1 (2013): 1-8, https://www.academia.edu/8621951/Antioxidant_and_Tissue-Protective_Studies_on_Ajwa_Extract_Dates_from_Al_Madinah_Al-Monwarah_Saudia_Arabia.
The study concluded the following:

“…[the] present study augments the increased interest among phytotherapy researchers to use medicinal plants with antioxidant activity for protection against heavy metal toxicity. Also, it could provide a scientific cause for the conventional use of Ajwa extract in lead poisoning conditions as a nutritional protocol of management. Further studies should be carried out to determine the value of the accurate preventive and therapeutic protocol offered by Ajwa extract.”

[24] Ali Hafez El-Far et al., “Date Palm {Phoenix dactylifera): Protection and Remedy Food”, Journal of Nutraceuticals and Food Science 1, no. 2 (2016): 5, http://nutraceuticals.imedpub.com/date-palm-phoenix-dactylifera-protection-and-remedy-food.pdf.
[25] Ali H. El-Far, “Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera): Novel Findings and Future Directions for Food and Drug Discovery”, Current Drug Discovery Technologies 15, no. 2 (2018): 2, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323993251_Date_Palm_Phoenix_dactylifera_Novel_Findings_and_Future_Directions_for_Food_and_Drug_Discovery.
[26] M. Sudhagar et al., “Ameliorating effects of Phoenix dactylifera on sub-chronic exposure of mosquito coil smoke induced biochemical and pulmonary alveolar impairment in male Wistar rat”, International Journal of Science and Humanities 1, no. 1B (2015): 609-622, https://www.academia.edu/31093617/Ameliorating_effects_of_Phoenix_dactylifera_on_sub-chronic_exposure_of_mosquito_coil_smoke_induced_biochemical_and_pulmonary_alveolar_impairment_in_male_Wistar_rats.
[27] For azithromycin, see:
Mobasher Ahmad et al., “Pharmacological Investigation of Phoenix dactylifera L. in Azithromycin Induced Toxicity”, International Journal of Pharmacology 14, no. 1 (2018): 61, http://docsdrive.com/pdfs/ansinet/ijp/2018/61-67.pdf.
For gentamicin, see:
Saher Mahmood Jwad, “Alcoholic Extract Of Ajwa Fruit Alleviates The Reduction of Erythropoietin Levels And Prevents The Hemotoxic Effects Induced By Gentamicin Antibiotic In Male Albino Rats”, Biochemical and Cellular Archives 18, Supplement 1 (2018): 1193, https://www.academia.edu/37546168/ALCOHOLIC_EXTRACT_OF_AJWA_FRUIT_ALLEVIATES_THE_REDUCTION_OF_ERYTHROPOIETIN_LEVELS_AND_PREVENTS_THE_HEMOTOXIC_EFFECTS_INDUCED_BY_GENTAMICIN_ANTIBIOTIC_IN_MALE_ALBINO_RATS.
[28] Ibrahim H. Sani et al., “Phoenix dactylifera Linn as a potential novel anti-oxidant intreating major opioid toxicity”, Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science 5, no. 8 (August 2015): 167-172, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/5709/06abd1f148147d72061fffe006e9e4ebc8fc.pdf?_ga=2.256914891.1716318139.1565734913-727790281.1564451494.
[29] https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/index.html
[30] Sani et al., op. cit., p. 168.
[31] Ibid.
[32] Sahih Bukhari, 76:90, https://sunnah.com/bukhari/76/90.
[33] Such bold, faith-based statements are made in the New Testament, not in the Quran or the Sunnah (https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2019/07/21/is-christianity-the-true-religion-and-do-christians-have-real-faith-the-gospels-provide-the-litmus-test/).
[34] https://www.letmeturnthetables.com/2011/07/hadith-ajwa-dates-and-science.html
[35] As-Siba’ee, op. cit., p. 362.

One thought on “Hadith Database – Hadith on ‘Ajwa Dates and Protection Against Magic and Poison

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s