The Number Forty in the Ahadith
Herewith some of those ahadith in which the figure forty has been used
1. `Imran b. Husayn said that they were with the Prophet during a campaign. They started to travel by early night until when they were very close to the morning they stopped and rested. But sleep overtook them until the sun rose up. The first to wake up was Abu Bakr. Normally he would not wake up the Prophet until he himself woke up. Then `Umar woke up. Then Abu Bakr sat by the Prophet’s head and began to say Allahu Akbar raising his voice until the Prophet woke up. So he came down (after a short journey) and offered the Prayers. One of the men fell apart and did not offer his Prayers with us. When he finished his Prayer he asked, ‘O so and so, what happened that you didn’t pray with us?’ He answered, ‘I had a wet dream.’ He ordered him to rub himself with dust. So he prayed. The Prophet placed me on his beast in front of him. And, we were extremely thirsty. Then, as we were marching, we encountered a woman who had hung her two feet over two bags of water (on a camel). We asked her, ‘Where is water?’ She answered, ‘There is no water.’ We asked her about how many day’s journey was it between her people and water. She answered, ‘A day and night.’ We said, ‘Come on with us to the Messenger of Allah.’ She said, ‘And what is a Messenger of Allah?’ But we did not speak to her about him until we had brought her to the Prophet. He asked her the same questions as we had done except that she told him that her children had been orphaned. He asked the water bags to be lowered. Then he touched their mouths and we drank to our full. We were forty. Then we filled every pot and bag that we had with water except that we did not water our camels, while they (the woman’s water bags) were as if full. The he said, ‘Donate what you can.’ So we collected together bread and dates, until she was back to her tribe. She told them, ‘I have met the greatest of magicians, unless he is a Prophet as they claim.’ Allah guided that clan through her. So she entered into Islam and they entered into Islam. (Bukhari)
2. Anas reports that Umm Sulaym, his mother, took a handful of barley and made a semi-liquid dish out of it. Then she squeezed (over it) a small bag (of butter) that she had. Then she sent me to the Prophet. I went to him while he was with his companions. I invited him. He said, ‘Also those who are with me?’ So I went back and said, ‘He asks, do I come with those with me?’ So Abu Talha went out and said, ‘Messenger of Allah. It is nothing but (a little bit of food) made by Umm Sulaym.’ He said, ‘Let ten enter upon me.’ So they came in and ate until they were full. Then he said, ‘Let ten enter upon me’ – until forty were counted. Then the Prophet ate and rose up. I began to look whether it had undergone any decrease? (Bukhari).
3. Anas b. Malik also reported: The Prophet was neither over-tall, nor short, neither off white, nor dark, neither too short of hair nor tresses hanging down. Allah raised him at forty. He stayed at Makkah ten years and at Madinah twenty and Allah took back his soul at sixty in a condition that he did not have more than twenty grey hair in his beard. (Bukhari)
4. The Prophet said, “Whoever saw me in his dream, surely saw me, for Shaytan cannot assume my appearance, and a believer’s dream is one forty-sixth part of Prophethood” (Bukhari, Muslim).
5. When the Last Hour nears, a believer’s dream would rarely be untrue. And a believer’s dream is one forty-sixth part of Prophethood (Bukhari).
6. Adam and Musa disputed. Musa said, ‘O Adam, you are our father. You put us into a loss and brought us out of Paradise.’ Adam replied, ‘O Musa, Allah chose you for direct talk and who wrote (the Torah) for you with His Hand. Do you blame me for a matter that had been decreed upon me forty years before He created me?’ Thus Adam overcame Musa, Adam overcame Musa,’ (saying that) thrice.
7. On `Abdullah (ibn Mas`ud’s) authority, he said, “We were with the Prophet in a camp, some forty men. He asked, ‘Are you satisfied that you should be one-fourth of the inhabitants of Paradise?’ We said, ‘Yes.’ He asked, ‘Are you satisfied that you should be one-third of the inhabitants of Paradise?’ We said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘By him in whose hands is my soul, I hope that you will be half of the inhabitants of Paradise. This is because none will enter Paradise except a believing soul. And you are not when counted against the pagans but a bunch of white hair on the skin of a black oxen, or a bunch of black hair on the skin of a red oxen’” (Bukhari, Muslim).