Stoning to Death for Adultery in Islam: The Missing Stoning Verse of the Quran Eaten up by a Goat
Stoning to Death for Adultery in Islam: The Missing Stoning Verse of the Quran Eaten up by a Goat
M. A. Khan
Could Prophet Muhammad’s wife Aisha have burnt the stoning-of-adulterers verse of the Quran — the only verse Muhammad had kept in his wives’ custody, and was supposedly lost because of its being eaten up by a goat — hoping to relieve the future generation of Muslim women from Islam’s extreme injustice against them?
Stoning Adulterers to Death in Islam
Stoning to death for adultery has been a historical tradition in Islam that goes to the days of Islam’s birth and continues to this day in some Muslim countries, although many Muslim countries have abandoned this barbaric form of punishments due to Western secular-democratic influence. Stoning-to-death for adultery is a legal form of punishment in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria, Taleban-rule Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Islamists-controlled region of Somalia. Indonesia’s Aceh province legalized stoning to death of adulterers in 2009.
In Sharia-ruled Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, stoning being a form of legal punishment, offenders are killed by stoning on a regular basis, but those cases get little media attention to the outside world. Stoning adulterers and/or fornicators to death or orders to do so have also been reported in countries like the Sudan, Turkey, Nigeria, and Pakistan, perpetrated extra-judicially upon fatwa by local imams and village courts. In 1997, 23 Islamic clerics in Bangladesh demanded that former president Hussain Muhammad Ershad and his mistress of 14 years, Mrs Mosharraf, be publicly stoned to death for adultery.
Prophet Muhammad’s dealing with adultery
The Quran that we have has no verse sanctioning stoning of adulterers to death. Yet, it has been a deeply-rooted tradition in Islamic societies right from the beginning of Islam. The tradition originated from Prophet Muhammad’s dealing with adulterers in his lifetime. There are multiple authentic hadiths (deeds and sayings of Prophet Muhammad, who, in Islam, is considered the most ideal human being of all time), which give vivid accounts of how Prophet Muhammad had ordered stoning of adulterers to death on multiple occasions, and how they were carried out. Let us read a few such hadiths:
Sahih Bukhari 4.56.829:
Narrated Abdullah bin Umar: The Jews came to Allah’s Apostle and told him that a man and a woman from amongst them had committed illegal sexual intercourse. Allah’s Apostle said to them, “What do you find in the Torah (old Testament) about the legal punishment of Ar-Rajm (stoning)?” They replied, “(But) we announce their crime and lash them.” Abdullah bin Salam said, “You are telling a lie; Torah contains the order of Rajm.” They brought and opened the Torah and one of them solaced his hand on the Verse of Rajm and read the verses preceding and following it. Abdullah bin Salam said to him, “Lift your hand.” When he lifted his hand, the Verse of Rajm was written there. They said, “Muhammad has told the truth; the Torah has the Verse of Rajm. The Prophet then gave the order that both of them should be stoned to death. (Abdullah bin Umar said, “I saw the man leaning over the woman to shelter her from the stones.”)
Sahih Muslim 17.4207:
Imran b. Husain reported that a woman from Juhaina came to Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) and she had become pregnant because of adultery. She said: Allah’s Apostle, I have done something for which (prescribed punishment) must be imposed upon me, so impose that. Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) called her master and said: Treat her well, and when she delivers bring her to me. He did accordingly. Then Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) pronounced judgment about her and her clothes were tied around her and then he commanded and she was stoned to death.
Sahih Bukhari 7.63.196:
Narrated Abu Huraira: A man from Bani Aslam came to Allah’s Apostle while he was in the mosque and called (the Prophet) saying, “O Allah’s Apostle! I have committed illegal sexual intercourse.” On that the Prophet turned his face from him to the other side, whereupon the man moved to the side towards which the Prophet had turned his face, and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I have committed illegal sexual intercourse.” The Prophet turned his face (from him) to the other side whereupon the man moved to the side towards which the Prophet had turned his face, and repeated his statement. The Prophet turned his face (from him) to the other side again. The man moved again (and repeated his statement) for the fourth time. So when the man had given witness four times against himself, the Prophet called him and said, “Are you insane?” He replied, “No.” The Prophet then said (to his companions), “Go and stone him to death.” The man was a married one. Jabir bin ‘Abdullah Al-Ansari said: I was one of those who stoned him. We stoned him at the Musalla (‘Id praying place) in Medina. When the stones hit him with their sharp edges, he fled, but we caught him at Al-Harra and stoned him till he died.
Sahih Muslim 17.4209:
Abu Huraira and Zaid b Khalid al-Juhani reported: Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Say. He said: My son was a servant in the house of this person and he committed adultery with his wife. I was informed that my son deserved stoning to death (as punishment for this offence). I gave one hundred goats and a slave girl as ransom for this. I asked the scholars (if this could serve as expiation for this offence). They informed me that my son deserved one hundred lashes and exile for one year and this woman deserved stoning (as she was married). Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (may peace he upon him) said: By Him in Whose Hand is my life. I will decide between you according to the Book of Allah. The slave-girl and the goats should be given back, and your son is to be punished with one hundred lashes and exile for one year. And, O Unais (b. Zuhaq al-Aslami), go to this woman in the morning, and if she makes a confession, then stone her. He (the narrator) said: He went to her in the morning and she made a confession. And Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) made pronouncement about her and she was stoned to death.
Sahih Muslim 17.4201:
Ibn Abbas reported that Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) said to Ma’iz b. Malik: Is it true what has reached me about you? He said: What has reached you about me? He said: It has reached me that you have committed (adultery) with the slave-girl of so and so? He said: Yes. He (the narrator) said: He testified four times. He (the Holy Prophet) then made pronouncement about him and he was stoned (to death).
There are more hadiths with accounts of stoning adulterers to death upon order from the Prophet of Islam. About the first hadith describing stoning of an adulterous Jewish couple, the following verses from the Jewish Torah (Old Testament), sanctioning the stoning-death punishment for adultery, which the Jewish scholars were trying to hide from Muhammad:
- “If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her” (Deuteronomy 22:22)
- “Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbor’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.” (Deuteronomy 22:24)
What is worth noting about this hadith is that, at that time, the Jews had evidently abandoned this barbaric form of punishment, although prescribed by their sacred scriptures. And, Prophet Muhammad, who claimed to have come to establish the true religion of the Judaio-Christian faiths, just re-established Allah’s original justice, however barbaric and cruel it may be. Stoning adulterers to death, thus, evidently stands on a firm Islamic ground, because Prophet Muhammad’s actions and sayings form the template for emulation and conducting of Muslim societies of all times, because Allah himself has repeatedly commanded Muslims in the Quran to follow Allah [Quran] and His apostle [Muhammad] (see Quran 3:32; 4:13,59,69; 5:92; 8:1,20,46; 9:71; 24:47,51–52,54,56; 33:33; 47:33; 49:14; 58:13; 64:12).
Muslim denial of Islam’s sanction of stoning to death for adultery
Despite the practice of stoning adulterers to death throughout Islam’s history, many well-educated Muslims, often living in the West, would argue that stoning-to-death for adultery is alien to Islam. They claim, “There nothing is said about stoning in Quran”. As said above, the Quran that we have indeed does not have a verse, sanctioning stoning to death of adulterers, although it contain verses that mention barbaric methods of punishments such as stoning, cutting off hands and legs from opposite sides, crucifixion etc. for various crimes (5:33,38) as legal forms of criminal punishments. These ultra-modern new breed of Quran-only Muslims, defying Allah’s repeated commands to follow the Muhammad with equal importance with the Quran, would claim that the Quran is the only text that wholly form the entire foundation of Islam. So, despite multiple incidents of Prophet Muhammad’s punishing apostates with stoning to death as described in the hadith, they deny the existence of stoning-to-death punishment for adulterers, because, to them, hadiths are false or have no bearing on Islam.
The Quran’s prescription for punishing adulterers: Regarding punishing those, who engage in illegal (extra-marital) sexual indulgences, the Quran says (24:2):
The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication,- flog each of them with a hundred stripes: Let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day: and let a party of the Believers witness their punishment.
This verse commands punishing adulterers and fornicators with 100 lashes. So, those Muslims will proudly claim that punishment for adultery in Islam is lashing the offenders 100 times, not stoning to death. Interestingly, if you ask them: Is it right to lash adulterers and fornicators 100 times, they – at least the great majority of them – will say “No” . They will certainly say ‘no’ to lashing fornicators. That’s what I have found out from discussion with a few Muslim friends.
Interesting! They themselves claim that lashing adulterers and fornicators 100 times is the divinely-sanctioned punishment in Islam; at the same time, they will say that it is “not appropriate”. They not only self-contradict, but also tend to play Boss over Allah. It should be noted that in a good few cases of lashings, the victims collapse to death.
Another issue that must be considered about this verse is: It sanctions the same punishment for fornicators (i.e. sex between “unmarried” men and women) and adulterers (i.e. illegal sex between “married” men and women). And if you ask those educated moderate Muslims: Do young unmarried lovers (fornicators) and married men and women (adulterers) deserve the same punishment for engagement in illegal sexual act, they will certainly disagree, as will every community of people in the world. So again, they kind of take pride in Allah’s sanctioned punishment for illegal sexual acts in verse 24:2, and immediately disagree with Allah’s judgment in this verse of giving the same punishment to two kinds of offenders – namely fornicators and adulterers.
The verse of stoning (ar-Rajm) that was eaten up by a goat
No sane person, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, would agree that fornicators and adulterers deserve the same punishment. In the West today, fornicators are not even deemed offenders of any sort; instead, consensual sexual indulgence between unmarried adult couples are seen as normal and even desirable, and it is deemed as their human rights. But adulterers are generally condemned or disapproved of. If they are to be punished at all, then adulterers would deserve harsher punishments than the fornicators. And those educated moderate Muslims, who claim that punishment for adultery in Islam is prescribed in verse 24:2, will be the first amongst Muslims to disagree that fornicators and adulterers should be given the same punishment. Yet, that’s what verse 24:2 apparently recommends.
So the question arises:
- Could Allah be so glaringly stupid to prescribe the same punishment for these two sets of offences – fornication and adultery – that have very different implications?
- Could Allah be more irrational than those educated moderate Muslims as well as infidels of the world, who rightly think that adulterers deserve harsher punishment or disapproval than fornicators?
Those educated moderate Muslims will be the firsts to answer ‘no’ to these questions.
And they are just right. Allah, in actuality, couldn’t and didn’t prescribe the same punishment for fornicators and adulterers. According to authentic Islamic sources, Allah had sanctioned different punishment for adulterers in a separate verse, called verse of ar-Rajm (stoning), but it was somehow lost before the Quran was compiled under Caliph Abu Bakr.
According to authentic hadith compiler Ibn Majah, Allah had revealed a verse on stoning adulterers to death, which the Prophet had kept under his child-wife Aisha’s care, but due to her carelessness, it was eaten up by a goat. Here’s the hadith:
Sunan Ibn Majah, Hadith 1944:
Reported Aisha (RA): ‘the verse of stoning and of suckling an adult ten times was revealed, and they were (written) on a paper and kept under my pillow. When the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) expired and we were occupied by his death, a goat entered and ate away the paper.’ (عن عائشة قالت لقد نزلت آية الرجم ورضاعة الكبير عشرا ولقد كان في صحيفة تحت سريري فلما مات رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وتشاغلنا بموته دخل داجن فأكلها)
Prophet Muhammad’s first original biographer Ibn Ishaq also mentions about the same verse (The Life of Muhammad, Karachi, p. 684):
“God sent Muhammad, and sent down the scripture to him. Part of what he sent down was the passage on stoning. Umar says, “We read it, we were taught it, and we heeded it. The apostle Muhammad stoned, and we stoned after him.”
Sahih Bukhari 8.817, regarding the revelation of the stoning verse for adultery, records:
…In the meantime, Umar sat on the pulpit and when the callmakers for the prayer had finished their call, Umar stood up, and having glorified and praised Allah as He deserved, he said, “Now then, I am going to tell you something which (Allah) has written for me to say. I do not know; perhaps it portends my death, so whoever understands and remembers it, must narrate it to the others wherever his mount takes him, but if somebody is afraid that he does not understand it, then it is unlawful for him to tell lies about me. Allah sent Muhammad with the Truth and revealed the Holy Book to him, and among what Allah revealed, was the Verse of the Rajam the stoning of married person (male & female)… I am afraid that after a long time has passed, somebody will say, ‘By Allah, we do not find the Verse of the Rajam in Allah’s Book,’ and thus they will go astray by leaving an obligation which Allah has revealed. And the punishment of the Rajam is to be inflicted to any married person (male & female), who commits illegal sexual intercourse, if the required evidence is available or there is conception or confession. And then we used to recite among the Verses in Allah’s Book: ‘O people! Do not claim to be the offspring of other than your fathers, as it is disbelief (unthankfulness) on your part that you claim to be the offspring of other than your real father’…
Sahih Muslim 17:4194 also talks about revelation of the verse for stoning adulterers that was lost:
Abdullah b. Abbas reported that Umar b. Khattab sat on the pulpit of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: Verily Allah sent Muhammad (may peace be upon him) with truth and He sent down the Book upon him, and the verse of stoning was included in what was sent down to him. We recited it, retained it in our memory and understood it. Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) awarded the punishment of stoning to death (to the married adulterer and adulteress) and, after him, we also awarded the punishment of stoning, I am afraid that with the lapse of time, the people (may forget it) and may say: We do not find the punishment of stoning in the Book of Allah, and thus go astray by abandoning this duty prescribed by Allah. Stoning is a duty laid down in Allah’s Book for married men and women who commit adultery when proof is established, or it there is pregnancy, or a confession.
Stoning for adultery is Islamic
There is clear evidence that Allah had revealed a verse, which dealt exclusively with adultery, but it was lost – thanks, apparently, to its being eaten up by a goat – before Caliph Abu Bakr had called for submitting all the recorded verses for compilation into a book, the Quran. Since fornicators and adulterers do not deserve the same punishment, to which all sane Muslims would agree, we can conclude that verse 24:2 was intended to deal only with fornicators, sanctioning 100 lashes to them. And even if we disregard the eaten-up stoning verse, the Quran repeatedly commands that Muslims must follow Allah (i.e. Quran) and His apostle (i.e. Muhammad) with equal importance, and there are multiple incidents vividly describing how Prophet Muhammad had order stoning adulterers to death and how those stonings were carried out. So, stoning-to-death punishment for adulterers still constitutes an Islamic punishment, as per very recommendation of the Quran.
If Muslims would still claim that Islam does not recommend stoning-to-death punishment for adulterers, that will amount to their playing “Boss” over “Allah”. And their denial would also clearly say that Allah Is An Idiot, because, in their own claim, Allah prescribed the same punishment for both fornicators and adulterers – which they themselves find inappropriate and unjust.
Stoning-for-adultery verse in Aisha’s custody: Muhammad’s evil mind?
Prophet Muhammad was not used to keeping his verses in the custody of his wives or any women. Generally, he used to have them written down and memorized by some of his male disciples. Interestingly, to my knowledge, the verse of stoning for adultery seems to be the only verse that was kept in the custody of a woman, namely his favorite wife Aisha. There is a good deal of justification in assuming that possible adultery by one of his wives was the scariest thing for him, especially when his harem was filled with about a dozen young and beautiful wives in his very old days. And to keep his wives terrorized, should they commit adultery, he kept the stoning-for-adultery verse with his wives as a constant reminder to them of the horrors of stoning death against such temptation. How evil a mind this merciful apostle of Allah had!
Eaten up by goat or Aisha’s trickery?
Aisha, although very young, had pretty sharp mind, as it appears. Having been the most favorite wife and closest to Muhammad’s inner self, she used see through many of Muhammad’s trickery. For example, when Muhammad wanted to marry Zainab, when his harem was filled with four wives, the maximum number a Muslim could have as per the earlier revealed verse 4:3, there was objection about the legality of his marrying Zainab as the fifth wife. And Muhammad quickly had verses revealed from Allah, giving only Muhammad the right to marry boundless number of women, and to divorce off old wives and take in new ones, as he wished:
O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee; and daughters of thy paternal uncles and aunts, and daughters of thy maternal uncles and aunts, who migrated (from Makka) with thee; and any believing woman who dedicates her soul to the Prophet if the Prophet wishes to wed her;- this only for thee, and not for the Believers (at large); We know what We have appointed for them as to their wives and the captives whom their right hands possess;- in order that there should be no difficulty for thee. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
You may put off whom you please of them, and you may take to you whom you please, and whom you desire of those whom you had separated provisionally; no blame attaches to you; this is most proper…
When Muhammad brought those verses, quick-witted Aisha’s reaction to Muhammad was: “It seems to me that your Lord hastens to satisfy your desire,” as recorded in the following hadiths:
Sahih Al-Bukhari 6.60.311:
Narrated Aisha: I used to look down upon those ladies who had given themselves to Allah’s Apostle and I used to say, “Can a lady give herself (to a man)?” But when Allah revealed: “You (O Muhammad) can postpone (the turn of) whom you will of them (your wives), and you may receive any of them whom you will; and there is no blame on you if you invite one whose turn you have set aside (temporarily).” (Quran 33.51) I said (to the Prophet), “I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires.”
Sahih Muslim 8.3453:
Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) reported: I felt jealous of the women who offered themselves to Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: Then when Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, revealed this: “You may defer any one of them you wish, and take to yourself any you wish; and if you desire any you have set aside (no sin is chargeable to you)” (Quran 33.51), I (Aisha) said: It seems to me that your Lord hastens to satisfy your desire.
So, when Muhammad kept only the verse of stoning adulterers to death in Aisha’s custody, Aisha, intelligent as she was, had no difficulty in seeing through why Muhammad kept only this verse with his wives.
And why it got lost, supposedly eaten up by a goat, a lame excuse?
Aisha certainly didn’t like that her husband, a dying old man, could have a dozen young wives and many more had he wished so, on top his female captives to have sex with, while he would terrorize his wives with this verses. She saw through the extreme injustice in Muhammad’s theology toward women. She probably sought the same doesn’t happen to future generations of women. In another instance, Aisha had bemoaned of the sufferings of Muslim women (Bukhari 7:72:715):
…Aisha said, ‘I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women…’
So, the stoning-the-adulterers-to-death verse disappeared, probably into ashes. And goat-ate-up-the-verse excuse was forged.
The adultery verses disappeared from the Quran as Aisha had probably wished. Nonetheless, her benevolent trick didn’t succeed in relieving the Muslim women’s sufferings as she had wished until today, due to recording the hadiths of Muhammad’s stoning of adulterers. But the rising new generation of Quran-only Muslims offer hope that Aisha’s sinful trick against Muhammad and His Allah may eventually succeed, for the good of humanity, of course.
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