The following hadith was sent to me over email and seems a little confusing to me. It implies that yawning is an unnatural thing, which Allah does not like. I was wondering on the authenticity or background of this hadith so that I may be clearer on it:
Narrated by Abu Hurairah (Radhiallahoanho) : The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “Allah loves sneezing but dislikes yawning; so if anyone of you sneezes and then praises Allah, every Muslim who hears him (praising Allah) has to say Tashmit to him. But as regards yawning, it is from Satan, so if one of you yawns, he should try his best to stop it, for when anyone of you yawns, Satan laughs at him.” Bukhari Vol 8 : No. 245
It can sometimes be very difficult to say for sure what exactly were the words said by the Prophet (pbuh). The basic reason for this uncertainty seems to be the fact that it is not the Prophet (pbuh) himself who has recorded these words in the various books. On the contrary, such sayings have been ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) by any one or more of such of the Prophet’s companions who was present at the time the Prophet (pbuh) spoke these words and who heard the Prophet (pbuh) say them. Later on, one or more of these companions of the Prophet (pbuh) narrated, in his/their own words such sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) to those who were not present during the time of the Prophet (pbuh). In turn, these people narrated the sayings of the Prophet’s companions, in their own words to those who came after them. This chain of narrators of the sayings ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) kept transferring such teachings of the Prophet (pbuh) to their next generations, till the time when such narrations were recorded by any one or more of the compilers of such narrations, like Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmadhi etc.
If you look closely at the process of the compilation of the various narrations ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) as is summarized above, you shall notice that because of this process, the narrations ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) as recorded in the various compilations are prone to a number of errors. One of the most obvious among these errors is the simple fact that in the whole chain of narrators, even if one of the narrators has not properly comprehended the particular saying of the Prophet (pbuh), it would result in a faulty transmission of that particular saying.
Among a number of others, one of the methods of analyzing these narrations is simply to compile all the narrations on the particular topic and see if there is any difference in the words narrated. This may solve the problem.
If we compile all the narrations on the particular topic that you have referred to in your question, it seems that it is actually not the “yawn” that the Prophet (pbuh) has condemned, but actually the style in which one yawns. Consider the following narrations:
Some of the important sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) regarding the issue under consideration are noted below:
When you yawn, cover your mouth with your hand. (Muslim)
Try as hard as you can to overcome your yawns while you are in your prayers. (Muslim)
Allah likes the sneeze and dislikes the yawn. When someone amongst you makes a sound like “aah aah” while yawning, the shaitan (satan) laughs in his open mouth. (Tirmadhi)
Allah likes the sneeze and dislikes the yawn. When someone among you sneezes and says: “Alhamdulillah” (All praise to Allah [for relieving me]), it is essential for all those who hear him to say: “yarhamukallah” (May Allah have mercy on you). While if someone feels that he is about to yawn, he should try to overcome it, as much as possible [and if it is not possible to overcome it] he must not make sounds like: “haah haah”. These sounds are prompted by the shaitan (satan) and he laughs when you make such sounds [while yawning]. (Tirmadhi)
These and a number of other narrations point to the fact that the Prophet (pbuh), in these words has actually taught an important etiquette to his companions. It seems that the narrators of the particular narration of Bukhari that you have referred to have missed out on an important part of the actual words of the Prophet (pbuh). What the Prophet (pbuh) actually condemned was not the natural phenomenon of yawning, but to yawn without covering one’s mouth and to make weary and lethargic sounds with such yawns. If this explanation is correct, it would mean that the Prophet (pbuh) has actually taught us an important etiquette in this saying, that is to control and overcome our tendency to yawn in our prayers and while sitting in company of others. This is primarily due to two reasons: Firstly, yawning is a sign of lethargy. Such lethargy, in prayers or in company of others depicts that a person is not fully interested and is not concentrating in what he is doing. Secondly, such lethargy is prone to be contagious. It has been observed that when a person in company of others, whether in prayers or otherwise, yawns, he prompts the others to do the same. Such a tendency greatly contributes in spoiling the atmosphere of the gathering.
In case it is not possible to overcome a yawn, then we should at least observe our social etiquette. We should cover our mouth and not make any lethargic sounds.