Women and the Koran


Women and the KoranThose who believe in Allah and only Allah and repentant murderers, but perhaps not adulterers, Revelation 25:68, will be given a shot at Paradise.

25:68 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 (Judgement Day) 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.

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 official Koran. This, however, does not mean that adulteresses, and sometimes adulterers, get off lightly. In Revelation 4:15, God recommends the harsh punishment of confining the adulteress to her home until she dies.

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 typically less severe with a slow, lingering death unlikely.

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.

No amount of homage or repentance would get the adulterous' sentence reduced.

60:12 O Prophet, if believing women come to you to pay you homage, pledging not to associate anything with Allah, steal, commit adultery, kill their children, come up with a lie they invent between their hands and feet (allege that an illegitimate child is their husband’s) or disobey you in any honourable matter, then accept their homage and ask Allah’s Forgiveness for them. Allah indeed is All-Forgiving, All-Merciful.

Why two men? Fakhry does not provide any explanation for his additional text. Men were to be forgiven their adulterous transgressions but not women. Perhaps realising the unfairness of it all, God changed his mind. Verse 4:15 was abrogated (annulled) and replaced by 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 woman in an adulteress affair.


24 An-Nűr

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 can only marry each other or an unbeliever.

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 uncorroborated 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 God 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 law? Why do some of these countries favour the execution of alleged adulteresses and girls, such as sixteen-year-old Atefah Sahaaleh who was hanged in a public square in the Iranian city of Neka in 2004 for having premarital sex? Is it because Muhammad was in favour of stoning women for adultery?

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.

Malik's Muwatta 41.1.5

Muhammad was quick to sentence a woman to be stoned, but not a man.

Narrated Zaid bin Khalid and Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "O Unais! Go to the wife of this (man) and if she confesses (that she has committed illegal sexual intercourse), then stone her to death."

Bukhari 38.508

In the another account of the stoning of a man from Aslam, Muhammad conducts an extensive, explicit interrogation in which he tries to save the man from himself. The chagrin God’s Messenger experiences in sentencing a man to be stoned to death is evident in his command that those who said he was “stoned like a dog” must eat from the decaying corpse of an ass.

Narrated AbuHurayrah:

A man of the tribe of Aslam came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and testified four times against himself that he had had illicit intercourse with a woman, while all the time the Prophet (peace be upon him) was turning away from him.

Then when he confessed a fifth time, he turned round and asked: Did you have intercourse with her?

He replied: Yes.

He asked: Have you done it so that your sexual organ penetrated hers?

He replied: Yes.

He asked: Have you done it like a collyrium stick when enclosed in its case and a rope in a well?

He replied: Yes.

He asked: Do you know what fornication is?

He replied: Yes. I have done with her unlawfully what a man may lawfully do with his wife.

He then asked: What do you want from what you have said?

He said: I want you to purify me. So he gave orders regarding him and he was stoned to death.

Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) heard one of his companions saying to another: Look at this man whose fault was concealed by Allah but who would not leave the matter alone, so that he was stoned like a dog.

He said nothing to them but walked on for a time till he came to the corpse of an ass with its legs in the air.

He asked: Where are so and so?

They said: Here we are, Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him)!

He said: Go down and eat some of this ass's corpse.

They replied: Apostle of Allah! Who can eat any of this?

He said: The dishonour you have just shown to your brother is more serious than eating some of it. By Him in Whose hand my soul is, he is now among the rivers of Paradise and plunging into them.

Abu Dawud 38.4414

The act of stoning does not purify a woman who has committed adultery, but it seems to have that effect on a man found guilty of the same offence. She is going to Hell, he is going to Paradise.

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. So why does Islamic Law, in some jurisdictions, give precedence to the example of God’s Messenger 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

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."

So there you have it. When you hear of a woman being stoned or murdered for committing adultery or 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, if not the example of Muhammad.

Narrated Ash-Sha'bi, from Ali when the latter stoned a lady to death on a Friday: Ali said, "I have stoned her according to the tradition of Allah's Apostle."

Bukhari 82.803

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.

The Stoning Ritual

Amina would have been placed in a cloth sack, with her hands tied behind her back, and buried in the ground up to her shoulders. She would not be buried up to her neck, allegedly to allow her to wriggle free and prove her innocence before a missile hits its mark, and not to make the event more sporting for the men hurling stones at her head while chanting "Allah hu Akbar" (God is great).

 Instructions as to how stones should be thrown:

Narrated Abdullah bin Mughaffal Al-Muzani:

The Prophet forbade the throwing of stones (with the thumb and the index or middle finger), and said "It neither hunts a game nor kills (or hurts) an enemy, but it gouges out an eye or breaks a tooth."

Bukhari 73.239