Women and the Koran


Women and the Koran17:32 Do not draw near adultery; it is an abomination and an evil way.

Those who do not respond to insults with an insult of their own; those who prostrate themselves or stand up night and day in prayer; those who plead not to be sent to Hell; those who spend their money wisely; those who believe in Allah and only Allah and repentant murderers, but perhaps not adulterers (revelation 25:68), will be given a shot at Paradise.

25:63 And the servants of the Compassionate who walk in the land gently and, if the ignorant address them, they say: “Peace.”

25:64 And those who pass the night prostrating themselves to their Lord or standing up.

25:65 And those who say: “Lord, divert from us the agony of Hell”; but its agony is unavoidable punishment.

25:66 Wretched it is as a final resort and resting-place!

25:67 And those who, when they spend, do not squander or stint, but chose a middle course between that.

25:68 And those who do not call upon any other god than Allah, and do not kill the soul which Allah forbade, except justly; and they do not commit adultery. He who does that shall meet with retribution.

25:69 Punishment shall be doubled for him on the Day of Resurrection and he will dwell forever in it down-trodden;

25:70 Except for him who repents, believes and does the righteous deed. Those Allah will change their evil deeds into good deeds. Allah is ever All-Forgiving, Merciful.

25:71 He who repents and does the righteous deed returns to Allah unhampered.

Murder and adultery in the same revelation should give you an idea of how seriously Allah takes infidelity. Still, there are no revelations about an adulteress being put to death in the entire Koran. This, however, does not mean that an adulteress and sometimes the adulterer get off lightly.

In revelation 4:15 Allah recommends the very harsh punishment of confining the adulteress to her home until she died.

One verse recommended the very harsh punishment of confining the adulteress to her home until she died.

4:15 As for those of your women who commit adultery, call four witnesses from your own against them; and if they testify, then detain them in the houses till death overtakes them or Allah opens another way for them.

If two men were found guilty of adultery the punishment was or could be much less severe and a slow, lingering death unlikely. Why two men? Fakhry does not provide any explanation for his additional text.

4:16 If two [men] of you commit it, punish them both. If they repent and mend their ways, then leave them alone. Allah is truly All-Forgiving, Merciful.

Men were to be forgiven their adulterous transgressions but not women. Perhaps realizing the unfairness of it all Allah changed his mind … maybe?  Yes, He did at one point, abrogate i.e. annulled verse 4:15 and replaced it with another where the woman’s punishment was greatly reduced and men were now also susceptible to being found guilty of adultery and suffering the same reduced punishment as the female partner in an adulteress affair.


24 An-Nûr

In the Name of Allah,

the Compassionate, the Merciful

24:1 A Surah that We have sent down and stipulated, and We have sent down in it clear revelations, that perchance you might remember.

24:2 The adulteress and the adulterer, whip each one of them a hundred lashes; and let no pity move you in Allah’s religion, regarding them; if you believe in Allah and the Hereafter. And let a group of believers witness their punishment.

Adulterers and adulteresses can only marry those found guilty of the same offence or idol worshippers.

24:3 The adulterer shall marry none but an adulteress or an idolatress; and the adulteress none shall marry her but an adulterer or idolater. That has been forbidden the believers.

The punishment for un-corroborated accusation of sexual impropriety against an unmarried woman was only slightly less painful than being found guilty of adultery.

24:4 Those who accuse chaste women, then cannot bring four witnesses, whip them eighty lashes, and do not ever accept their testimony. For those are the wicked sinners.

24:5 Except for those who repent afterwards and mend their ways. For Allah is surely All-Forgiving, Merciful.

A wife accused of adultery by her husband could avoid the public whipping altogether by calling her husband a liar.

24:6 And those who accuse their wives and have no witnesses except themselves, the testimony of one of them shall be to swear by Allah four times that he is truthful.

24:7 The fifth time shall be Allah’s Curse on him, if he is a liar.

24:8 And her swearing four times by Allah that he is a liar will ward off punishment from her.

24:9 And the fifth time will be that Allah’s Wrath be upon her, if he (her husband) is truthful.

A Lost Verse Remembered

If Allah says a public whipping is the punishment for adultery and a wife can avoid even that punishment by calling her husband a liar, why are women accused of adultery still susceptible to being stoned to death in countries where the Koran is the law? Is it because the Prophet was in favour of stoning women, even mothers, for having sexual relations with men other than their husbands?

Malik related to me from Yaqub ibn Zayd ibn Talha from his father Zayd ibn Talha that Abdullah ibn Abi Mulayka informed him that a woman came to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and informed him that she had committed adultery and was pregnant.

The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said to her, "Go away until you give birth."

When she had given birth, she came to him. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said to her, "Go away until you have suckled and weaned the baby."

When she had weaned the baby, she came to him. He said, "Go and entrust the baby to someone."

She entrusted the baby to someone and then came to him. He gave the order and she was stoned.


Syed Shahabuddin writing in the Milli Gazette, Indian Muslim’s leading English newspaper reminds us that that flogging is the punishment for adultery, not stoning and the Koran is the final authority, even the Prophet could not substitute his own opinion. If so, why does Islamic law, in some jurisdictions, give precedence to the example of the Prophet instead of the Koran?

According to Shahabuddin this is because “some [Islamic] scholars support 'Rajm' (stoning) by attributing a statement to the second Caliph Umar (second successor to the Prophet Muhammad) that a revelation on the subject had been received but had been lost.”

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

Umar said, "I am afraid that after a long time has passed, people may say, "We do not find the Verses of the Rajam (stoning to death) in the Holy Book," and consequently they may go astray by leaving an obligation that Allah has revealed. Lo! I confirm that the penalty of Rajam be inflicted on him who commits illegal sexual intercourse, if he is already married and the crime is proved by witnesses or pregnancy or confession."

Sufyan added, "I have memorized this narration in this way."

Umar added, "Surely Allah's Apostle carried out the penalty of Rajam, and so did we after him."

Bukhari 82.816

So there you have it. When you hear of a woman being stoned or murdered for committing adultery or for having pre-marital relations in conservative Muslim jurisdictions such as Iran, Nigeria or Saudi Arabia the justification just might be this lost verse of the Koran.

Shahabuddin, always helpful, also explains why it is always women who get stoned even though the punishment is supposed to apply equally to both sexes:

Apart from the brutality of the 'Rajm' (stoning), repugnant to conscience, here is an element of gender injustice in the operation of the traditional law which allows the male partner to get off scot-free, even if he has coerced and raped the female. If the woman lodges a complaint, her complaint is taken as a testimony against herself and, therefore, amounts to admission and requires no further evidence while it is necessary to get 4 witnesses against the man. Also the woman may bear a child, as in Amina's case (Amina Lawal was sentenced to death by stoning by a Nigerian Islamic Sharia Court. Amina had an 8 month old daughter), which is admitted as evidence of zena (guilt) against the woman. Man suffers from no such disability.

Speculation About the Lost Verse

Ali, the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law, during the discussions concerning Aisha's suspected adulterous one-night stand (see The Perfect Wife - A Child Bride’s Indiscretion) told his father-in-law that “Allah has not placed any limits on the choice of a wife. They are plentiful” which would suggest that Ali, who was never a fan of Aisha, favoured that she be stoned.

This has led to speculation that Aisha deliberately got rid of the revelation pertaining to stoning a wife for adultery, after her husband passed away, to avoid being stoned should Ali convinced the Prophet's successor to do what God’s Messenger would not do while he was alive.

In a hadith collected by the famous Sunni scholar Ibn Hanbal the verse was eaten by a goat.

[Narrated 'Aisha] "The verse of the stoning and of suckling an adult ten times were revealed, and they were (written) on a paper and kept under my bed. When the messenger of Allah expired and we were preoccupied with his death, a goat entered and ate away the paper."