Why do babies cry at birth?

The Hadith under discussion is as follows:

قَالَ أَبُو هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏”‏ مَا مِنْ بَنِي آدَمَ مَوْلُودٌ إِلاَّ يَمَسُّهُ الشَّيْطَانُ حِينَ يُولَدُ، فَيَسْتَهِلُّ صَارِخًا مِنْ مَسِّ الشَّيْطَانِ، غَيْرَ مَرْيَمَ وَابْنِهَا ‏”‏‏.‏ ثُمَّ يَقُولُ أَبُو هُرَيْرَةَ ‏{‏وَإِنِّي أُعِيذُهَا بِكَ وَذُرِّيَّتَهَا مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ ‏}

Narrated Said bin Al-Musaiyab: Abu Huraira said, “I heard Allah’s Apostle saying, ‘There is none born among the off-spring of Adam, but Satan touches it. A child therefore, cries loudly at the time of birth because of the touch of Satan, except Mary and her child.” Then Abu Huraira recited: “And I seek refuge with You for her and for her offspring from the outcast Satan” (Qur’an 3.36)[1]

This Hadith has been posted and a number of questions have been asked pertaining to it.

1. Do you think there is no medical reason for why the newborns cry? According to medical science a new born baby has to cry otherwise brain will not get oxygen immediately and this can bring serious complications later. When the baby is in the womb it doesn’t breath through the nose but by umbilical cord, so when it comes out there is no oxygen going in through the nose since the baby doesn’t know how to breath so the nurse will hit their tiny buttocks and they will respond to the pain will a yell which automatically opens the nose and the lungs start pumping oxygen.  In some cases, babies born at home, into a quiet, warm environment (especially during water birth) sometimes do not cry and no complications may happen in those circumstances. Babies need to be monitored only under such circumstances.   Therefore, there is pure science involved for babies crying. It is not Satan’s touch that makes them cry.

There is no reason why the medical reason and the touch of Satan cannot go hand in hand. Let’s say, if someone says that Allah causes rain and another person says that evaporation and the whole procedure related to it causes rain, we cannot say that only one of them is correct; both would be correct in saying so. Allah causes rain and evaporation is the procedure by which it happens.

إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ يَجْرِي مِنِ ابْنِ آدَمَ مَبْلَغَ الدَّمِ

Satan runs in the body of Adam’s son (i.e. man) as his blood circulates in it.[2]

Satan’s touching is an unseen event. We know that he resides in son of Adam like blood yet we cannot see it or feel it. However, we don’t know when Satan enters the human body. It could either be at time of birth or while the child is still in the womb or later on. Since it is from the unseen, speculating won’t be helpful. There is another Hadith that provides us with further understanding of Satan.

إِذَا اسْتَيْقَظَ ـ أُرَاهُ ـ أَحَدُكُمْ مِنْ مَنَامِهِ فَتَوَضَّأَ فَلْيَسْتَنْثِرْ ثَلاَثًا، فَإِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ يَبِيتُ عَلَى خَيْشُومِهِ

“If anyone of you rouses from sleep and performs the ablution, he should wash his nose by putting water in it and then blowing it out thrice, because Satan has stayed in the upper part of his nose all the night.”[3]

Some people attempt to ridicule this Hadith. However, that is not our concern in this paper. If they find problems in accepting that Satan is an ugly creature and that his deeds are ugly as well, then they would not attempt to defend Satan by mocking such narrations.

Satan’s touch (or his initial entry into the human possibly through the nose) while the child enters the world, could cause the medical conditions mentioned. For someone to find the Hadith to be against science, they would have to have seen Satan in person and convince others that Satan is not how he has been defined by Allah and His Messenger (ﷺ).

The second question asked relating to the Hadith is as follows:

2. There are some babies that do not cry at the time of birth. Will they come under the category of Mary and Jesus? i.e, They do not cry, is it because of Satan not touching them?

The Hadith states that a baby that cries is due to the touch of Satan. It does not say that Satan’s touch always causes a cry. There is a big difference in both! A child cries when it falls down while playing. However, this does not mean that all children will cry when they fall down; some don’t.

Another question pertaining to the Hadith is as follows:

3. Why Mary and Jesus alone were exempted from Satan’s touching and (most probably did not cry)? This question is important, because, as per the hadith, even prophet Ibrahim was not excluded from Satan’s touching. And why Mary and Jesus alone?  Don’t you think this hadith makes discrimination among different prophets?

The reason why Lady Maryam was not touched by Satan is because she was dedicated by her mother to the service of Allah. Her purpose in life was to stay away from worldly activities and only dedicate herself to the worship of Allah and hence Allah kept her away from Satan. Here is what her mother had said when she conceived her:

اذ قالت امراة عمران رب اني نذرت لك مافي بطني محررا فتقبل مني انك انت السميع العليم

When the wife of ‘Imran said, “My Lord, indeed I have pledged to You what is in my womb, consecrated [for Your service], so accept this from me. Indeed, You are the Hearing, the Knowing.”[4]

Prophet Eisa (عليه السلام) was not touched by Satan because the Qur’an explicitly says so.

فلما وضعتها قالت رب اني وضعتها انثى والله اعلم بما وضعت وليس الذكر كالانثى واني سميتها مريم واني اعيذها بك وذريتها من الشيطان الرجيم

But when she delivered her, she said, “My Lord, I have delivered a female.” And Allah was most knowing of what she delivered, “And the male is not like the female. And I have named her Maryam, and I seek refuge for her in You and [for] her descendants from Satan, the expelled [from the mercy of Allah].”[5]

The prayer was answered. The Hadith of Satan not touching them is quoted in the commentary of this verse by Ibn Kathir as well.

As to the discrimination argument, there is none because all messengers of Allah were out of the reach of Satan’s influence in their life. Since all messengers of Allah were not able to be influenced by Satan in their lives, Prophet Eisa and Maryam (عليهم السلام) would have been protected by Allah from Satan even if the prayer was not made. However, since the prayer was made, the additional protection was provided to them and that was the touch of Satan at the time of birth.

On a side note, one must not question such issues and points related to discrimination between prophets because they were all messengers of Allah. Prophets were given features, qualities and miracles by Allah and hence to say that one messenger received such and such a miracle while the other received such and such and hence this messenger has been discriminated against would not be a wise complaint.

Moreover, Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) mentioned that his companion Satan became a believer. We are not told whether the same happened with any other messenger as well. Asking unnecessary questions at unnecessary places and occasions leads to confusions and doubts. Since the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) is not with us any more to answer the questions directly, we must remain content with what has been told to us and such areas not told to us should not be speculated upon.

Another question asked is as follows:

4. Don’t you think this hadith contradicts another ahaadith reported by both Bukhari and Muslim wherein the prophet said that each and every child is born in a state of Fitrah?

The child is still born on Fitrah. This question indicates a lack of understanding of the term ‘Fitrah’. Satan’s touch does not convert the child towards a false or a corrupted religion, neither does it force the child towards the worship of a false deity or any other deviated belief. The Hadith that has been spoken of in this question itself clarifies this, if read in full.

مَا مِنْ مَوْلُودٍ إِلاَّ يُولَدُ عَلَى الْفِطْرَةِ، فَأَبَوَاهُ يُهَوِّدَانِهِ أَوْ يُنَصِّرَانِهِ أَوْ يُمَجِّسَانِهِ، كَمَا تُنْتَجُ الْبَهِيمَةُ بَهِيمَةً جَمْعَاءَ، هَلْ تُحِسُّونَ فِيهَا مِنْ جَدْعَاءَ

“No child is born except on Al-Fitrah (Islam) and then his parents make him Jewish, Christian or Magian, as an animal produces a perfect young animal: do you see any part of its body amputated?”

Lastly, it has been asked whether making du’a (prayer), as mentioned in another Hadith, can prevent from the touch of Satan.

5. You quoted a hadith from Volume 1, Book 4, Number 143: Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas, in which prophet said “If anyone of you on having sexual relations with his wife said ‘In the name of Allah. O Allah! Protect us from Satan and also protect what you bestow upon us (i.e. the coming offspring) from Satan, and if it is destined that they should have a child then, Satan will never be able to harm that offspring. “My question is this:  Are you saying that babies born in the above circumstances won’t cry?

The question would not have been asked if the Hadith had been read properly. The du’a made by the parent is for the parents as well. Since the parent makes du’a for protection from Satan, who has already been touched by Satan at his own birth, how can one assume that the protection of the child from Satan means protection from his touch at the time of birth? Harm caused by Satan is not only limited to touching at the time of birth. Satan not being able to harm him speaks of a bigger context i.e. Satan would not be able to cause him problems in life that may turn him away from the true faith.

Indeed, Allah knows the best.

[1] Saheeh Bukhari, Book 60, Hadith 102

[2] Saheeh Bukhari ,Book 78, Hadith 243

[3] Saheeh Bukhari, Book 59, Hadith 104

[4] Qur’an 3:35

[5] Qur’an 3:36

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10 thoughts on “Why do babies cry at birth?

  1. There is a theory for which I do not have evidences as of now (a lot of ifs buts and may be’s) and hence not included in the article above but would like to mention here in comment.

    It is possible that Prophet Eisa (عليه السلام) was born differently from inside and hence there was no possibility for Satan to enter him. The possible proof is that Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) went to heaven in a physical body and before that he underwent an open heart surgery by the angels [Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Hadith 314]. Prophet Eisa (عليه السلام) also went to heaven in a physical body and so it could be possible that he was already born with the internal system that Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) had obtained after the operation. Allah knows best.

  2. Allahu Akbar…this write up is very insightful..May Allah replenish your fountain of wisdom.

    Then also I want to ask…there is specifically 2 cases to this…
    There is a situation whereby a baby is born and did not cry….Then the nurse or doctor will den spank did baby to make him cry…does that mean wen d baby was first born,Satan didn’t touch him? and after spanking the start crying,does that mean Satan touch him?

    And how abt cases where, the baby is born and didn’t cry..cos of a medical condition where the baby tongue has gummmed down to his lower part of his mouth.

    Pls enlighten me

    • Islam is not against science. If the crying of the baby is prevented due to a medical condition, then medical condition it is. Satan did touch both the babies in the examples you stated but due to some issues, medical or otherwise, the baby did not cry at birth. Allahu A’alam.

  3. So Satan touches the babies because he hates them so, yet he makes them cry which is the integral part of them starting to breath. So Satan is helping them come alive and still after all this time he hadn’t worked it out.

    • This is a good question and understandable why one would reach such a conclusion. However, there are a few things to consider:

      1. These are things of the unseen and knowing these in their entirety with certainty is not possible in this world
      2. Every person has a companion devil: https://islamqa.info/en/26226
      3. The companion devil is not the same as The Devil or The Satan. Satan is from the race of Jinns and he has a team that works for him. His team members are also little devils and the companion devil is one of them.
      4. The companion devil flows within a person like blood: https://www.sunnah.com/abudawud/42/124
      5. We do not know when exactly the companion devil enters the person; whether it is during the fetus formation stage or at the time of birth. What appears likely, and God knows the best, is that this devil enters the person when the child is born. A satan touches the child at this time (i.e. enters it).
      6. Due to the touch of Satan, the baby cries.

      As mentioned earlier, we’re operating in an area which is unknown and unseen to us and hence, all possibilities are only likely. Possibilities are as follows – could be one of the following or more than one:

      1. The chief devil aka Lucifer aka Iblees is working on a plan and the bottom line behind it is the misguidance of mankind. He asked for respite till the Day of Judgment and if he had an opportunity to kill the child at birth and he utilised it and ended all mankind, his respite would have ended and he would have been sent toward hell. Read the Islamic story of Iblees/Lucifer here: http://www.islamawareness.net/Prophets/adam.html it is most likely that the devil does not have such powers. His flowing in blood only pertains to giving evil whispers, negative thoughts, encouraging the person to commit evil and so on. He does not physically control the individual.
      2. The baby cries due to both – touch of satan and the biological process. There is nothing in the text to limit it to only satan. Mentioning one does not negate the other.
      3. The physical change that the child goes through at this time makes an opening for satan to enter, which he does after which the child cries. So from our scientific perspective, we see that the child cries due to the biological effect but in the unseen world, satan uses that opportunity. This way both would be correct to say: child cries due to satan’s touch which happens during the biological process

      There are several more possibilities but the bottom line is that guessing in the unseen and the unknown world can never bring us absolute answers. Only God knows the best.

    • Yes. In Islam, we believe that the chief devil/satan is Iblis/Lucifer but he is not alone and has a big team of devils with him.

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