Exposing Some More of the Moral Problems of Islam:

The Quran’s Confused Stance on Sexual Ethics

Sam Shamoun

Some Muslims have attacked the Bible with the argument that it allows, endorses or even promotes all that it does not explicitly condemn (e.g., public nudity and worse), and it is therefore not a suitable guidance for a healthy society. (One of the most vocal representatives of this approach is Nadir Ahmad, as can be seen in the articles listed under "Morality", on this page.) Originally we simply intended to expose this fallacy by turning these erroneous criteria against the Quran and Islam, but as we researched this issue we found more and more actual problems in the Quran and Islam in this regard. In consequence, this paper does not only expose a fallacy, but also exposes some very questionable aspects of Islam, Muhammad, Muhammad’s followers, and Muslim scholars.

What impact does the silence of the Quran and Muslim source materials have on certain areas of Islamic morality? And what are some of the explicit statements found in Muslim sources which go against the Biblical exhortations to moral purity and holiness, in fact to most people’s views of what is ethical?

There are other articles on our site that provide answers to the above questions, documenting different aspects of Islam’s highly questionable moral practices, for example:


In this paper we present some more problematic elements in Islam’s sexual ethics as found in both the traditions and in the interpretations of renowned Muslim scholars. On the most part, we will focus on the issue of unnatural sexual activity, in particular the question of what the Quran and other Muslim sources say (or don’t say) on homosexuality, both male and female, and on bestiality.

We begin by examining a particular hadith, plus one Muslim scholar’s commentary regarding it. The particular tradition that we will be quoting here is from an online Arabic version of Sahih Muslim, Number 525, under the chapter of ‘Menstruation.’ The title of this particular hadith is ‘Abrogating water from water and the necessity of washing.’ No page number is given since the tradition is from an electronic version.

The scholarly interpretation that will be provided comes from Imam Al-Nawawi. Here is a short bio of Al-Nawawi for those who are interested to know his qualifications as a scholar and commentator:

ON TASAWWUF Imam Nawawi (d. 676)

One of the great Sufi scholars, strictest latter-time hadith masters, and most meticulous of jurists, Shaykh al-Islam Imam Muhyiddin Yahya ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi is with al-Rafi`i the principal reference of the late Shafi`i school. His books remain authoritative in the methodology of the law, in Qur'an commentary, and in hadith. His commentary of Sahih Muslim is second only to Ibn Hajar's commentary of Sahih Bukhari. Allah gave his famous compilation of Forty Hadiths more circulation and fame than possibly any other book of hadith, large or small, and has allowed Nawawi to be of immense benefit to the Community of Islam.

Nawawi was considered a Sufi and a saint, as is evident from the titles of some of his works and that of Sakhawi's biography entitled Tarjamat shaykh al-islam, qutb al-awliya' al-kiram, faqih al-anam, muhyi al-sunna wa mumit al-bid`a Abi Zakariyya Muhyi al-Din al-Nawawi (The biography of the Shaykh of Islam, the Pole of Noble Saints, the Jurist of Mankind, the Reviver of the Sunna and the Slayer of Innovation... al-Nawawi). (Source; underline emphasis ours)


Yahya ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi (d. 676/1277)

Imam Yahya ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi was born in the village of Nawa in Southern Syria, Nawawi spent most of his life in Damascus where he lived in a simple manner, devoted to Allah, engaging single-mindedly in worship, study, writing and teaching various Islamic sciences. The life of this world seems scarcely to have impinged upon him. He was a versatile and extremely dedicated scholar whose breadth of learning was matched by its depth.
Imam Nawawi died at the young age of 44 years, leaving behind him numerous works of great importance, the most famous of these being:

Although best known for his works in hadith, Yahya ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi (d. 676/1277) was also the Imam of the later Shafi'i school of Jurisprudence, and widely acknowledged as the intellectual heir to Imam Shafi’i. He was a renowned scholar and jurist who dedicated his life to the pursuit of Islamic learning. (Source)

Both the hadith and Al-Nawawi’s explanation are taken from the Al-Azhar Islamic web site (*). This is the official web site of Cairo’s Al-Azhar university and mosque, and is considered trustworthy.

What you are about to read is very graphic and quite shocking. Our translator, Dimitrius, made sure to carefully translate the text, and even double-checked the meaning of one specific word (Hash-fa) to insure proper translation and correctness.

We now proceed to the text of the Hadith and the commentary of Al-Nawawi.

Sahih Muslim
Book of Menstruation
Hadith number 525
Chapter of Hadith: Abrogating a fluid with water and the necessity of washing.

Narrated by Zuhair Ibn Harb, narrated by Ghasan Al-Masma’i, narrated by Muhammad Ibn Al-Mathny, narrated by Ibn Bashar, who said that it was narrated by Muath Ibn Hisham, narrated by Abu Qatada, narrated by Mattar, narrated by Al-Hassan, narrated by Abu Rab’i, narrated by Abu Huraira who said,

"The prophet – peace be upon him – said, ‘If one sits between a woman’s fours (shu’biha Al-arba’) and then fatigues her, then it necessitates that he wash.’

In the hadith of Mattar it is added ‘even if he does not excrete (yunzil).’ Zuhair narrated among them using the phrase ‘Ashba’iha Al-arba’. It was also narrated by Muhammad Ibn Umar Ibn Ibad Ibn Jablah, narrated Muhammad Ibn Abi Uday, narrated by Muhammad Ibn Al-Mathny, narrated by Wahb Ibn Jarir who both related from Shu’bah who narrated from Qatada who gave this same chain of transmission, except that in the hadith of Shu’bah it has the phrase ‘then he labored’ but did not have the phrase ‘even if he does not excrete.’


Here is a similar hadith from the on-line English version of Sahih Muslim:

Book 003, Number 0684:

Abu Musa reported: There cropped up a difference of opinion between a group of Muhajirs (Emigrants) and a group of Ansar (Helpers) (and the point of dispute was) that the Ansar said: The bath (because of sexual intercourse) becomes obligatory only when the semen spurts out or ejaculates. But the Muhajirs said: When a man has sexual intercourse (with the woman), a bath becomes obligatory (no matter whether or not there is seminal emission or ejaculation). Abu Musa said: Well, I satisfy you on this (issue). He (Abu Musa, the narrator) said: I got up (and went) to 'A'isha and sought her permission and it was granted, and I said to her: O Mother, or Mother of the Faithful, I want to ask you about a matter on which I feel shy. She said: Don't feel shy of asking me about a thing which you can ask your mother, who gave you birth, for I am too your mother. Upon this I said: What makes a bath obligatory for a person? She replied: You have come across one well informed! The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: When anyone sits amidst four parts (of the woman) and the circumcised parts touch each other a bath becomes obligatory. (Source)

Commentary of Imam Al-Nawawi on the Hadith

The saying of the prophet – peace be upon him- ‘If one sits between a woman’s fours (shu’biha Al-arba) and then fatigues her

In another narration the word ‘Ashu’biha’ is used. The scholars have disagreed about the intended meaning of ‘shu’biha Al-arba’ (the fours) for some said that it means the arms and the legs, while others have said that it refers to the legs and thighs, and other said it means the legs and the edge of the pubic area. Al-Qadi Ayad chose the meaning of the four areas surrounding the vagina. The word (Shu’b) means areas, its singular form being (Shu’bah). As for those who say (Ashba’iha) that is the plural of the word (Shu’b).

The word Aj-hada-ha (fatigue her) means to plow her, which was also stated by Al-Khatabi. Others have said it means to make her reach exhaustion as in the phrase ‘she made him toil and labor till he was exhausted’. Al-Qadi Ayad – may Allah rest his soul- said ‘Primarily, the word (Jahada’ha) means that the man exerted his effort working in a woman, where the word (Juh’d) means energy and refers to motion by describing the type of work. This is similar to his (the prophet) saying ‘he who plowed her’ meaning he who penetrated her by his motion. Otherwise, what other fatigue could a man experience because of her, and Allah knows best.

The meaning of the hadith is that the necessity to wash is not limited to when semen is ejaculated, rater it is when the penile head (Hash-fa, lit. "the head of the male member," i.e. head of the penis) penetrates the vagina, then it is necessary for the man and the woman to wash. There is no disagreement on this today, even though there was disagreement on this by some of the early companions and others later. However, an agreement was later reached and this is what we have shown and presented previously.

Our companions have said that if the penile head has penetrated A WOMAN’S ANUS, or A MAN’S ANUS, or AN ANIMAL’S VAGINA or ITS ANUS then it is necessary to wash whether the one being penetrated is alive OR DEAD, YOUNG OR OLD, whether it was done intentionally or absentmindedly, whether it was done willfully or forcefully. This also applies if the woman places the male member inside her while the man is asleep, whether the penis is erect or not, whether the penis is circumcised or uncircumcised. All these situations require that the person committing the act and the one the act is committed on must wash themselves, unless the person committing the act or the person the act is committed on is a young male or female. In that case it cannot be said that the person must wash, for they do not have the responsibility, rather it is said that this person is in a state of impurity. If that person can discern (the sexual act) then his guardian can command him to wash just as he commands him to perform the ablution washing for prayers. For if he prays without washing, his prayer has not been performed correctly; likewise if he doesn’t wash after he reaches puberty he must be forced to wash. If he washed as a youth and then reaches puberty, then he does not have to repeat the washing.

Our companions have said that intercourse occurs when a healthy male’s penile head completely penetrates (an orifice), as has been unanimously agreed. Thus, when the penile head has completely disappeared (inside the orifice), then all the regulations concerning washing apply. It is unanimously agreed that it is not necessary that the entire penile shaft penetrate to apply the regulations of washing. If part of the penile head penetrates, then the regulations of washing are not imposed as is agreed, except by an odd few of our companions who said that even in this case all the regulations of washing apply. However, this opinion is wrong, rejected and abandoned.

If the male member was severed and what remained was less than the length of the penile head, then none of the washing regulations apply. If the part remaining was equal in length to the penile head length then that part must completely penetrate for the regulation of washing to apply. If the part remaining was greater in length to the penile head length then there are two famous opinions for our companions. The most correct is that if the portion that penetrates is equal to the length of the penile head, then the regulations for washing apply. The other opinion is that none of the regulations for washing apply until the entire remaining length of the penile shaft completely penetrates and Allah knows best.

If a man wraps a sheath around his male member and then ejaculates inside a woman’s vagina, then there are three opinions from our companions. The most famous is that the man must wash. The second is that he does not have to wash because he ejaculated inside the sheath. The third is that if the sheath is thick and prevents climax and wetness (in the vagina) then washing is not necessary, otherwise it is necessary and Allah knows best.

If a woman inserts (in her vagina) AN ANIMAL’S PENIS she must wash, and if she inserts A DETACHED PENIS (thakaran maktu-an, lit. "a severed male member"; a marital aid perhaps!?) there are two opinions; the most correct is that she must wash.

In order to help our readers better appreciate what has been said we would like to break down the material and highlight certain points.

The hadith states that Muhammad made bathing necessary for the person sitting between a woman’s fours.

The expression "a woman’s fours" required an explanation, which the Muslim scholars such as Imam Al-Nawawi sought to provide.

Imam Nawawi was a renowned Muslim scholar whose works such as the Forty Hadith Qudsi and his commentary on Sahih Muslim are considered to be some of the greatest.

One Muslim source which we cited even states that Imam Al-Nawawi’s commentary on Sahih Muslim was second only to Imam Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani’s commentary of Sahih Bukhari.

According Al-Nawawi, the Muslim scholars provided elaborate details on what sexual acts necessitated washing.

The acts which Imam Al-Nawawi lists as necessitating washing presupposes that there were individuals engaging in these sexual acts, i.e. persons who were engaging in homosexuality, anal sex, bestiality, use of sexual props and/or dismembered sexual organs. Otherwise, what was the purpose of Al-Nawawi mentioning these acts if there hadn’t been individuals in the Muslim community engaging in them?

In light of the preceding, we have some questions for the Muslims, and readers in general, to ponder on. Al-Nawawi stated that a person was required to wash in case the penile head made penetration with someone who was young:

Our companions have said that if the penile head has penetrated a woman’s anus, or a man’s anus, or an animal’s vagina or its anus then it is necessary to wash whether the one being penetrated is alive or dead, YOUNG or old…

The question is, YOUNG means exactly what in the above? Does this take pedophilic actions as a given? And washing is the only advice he gives in that case? What about punishment for the person who abuses children??? Just wash yourself and you are acceptable before God again? Note again:

… unless the person committing the act or the person the act is committed on is a young male or female. In that case it cannot be said that the person must wash, for they do not have the responsibility, rather it is said that this person is in a state of impurity. If that person can discern (the sexual act) then his guardian can command him to wash just as he commands him to perform the ablution washing for prayers. For if he prays without washing, his prayer has not been performed correctly; likewise if he doesn’t wash after he reaches puberty he must be forced to wash. If he washed as a youth and then reaches puberty, then he does not have to repeat the washing.

These are rules for what young boys or girls – before they have reached puberty! – have to do after they have been penetrated. It does not prohibit the sexual act with prepubescent children, it only regulates what they have to do in regard to washing. Even worse, the formulation "If that person can discern (the sexual act)" creates two cases, only one of which is then discussed explicitly, but by implication the other one is clear too, i.e. that in the case of a child who is not yet able to discern (the sexual act), it is not necessary that he/she has to wash. Again, such abominable abuse is not forbidden nor is a punishment specified, but it simply prescribes certain washings for such a case, or implies that they are not necessary for the very young.

Again, pay careful attention to this paragraph:

Our companions have said that if the penile head has penetrated a woman’s anus, or a man’s anus, or an animal’s vagina or its anus then it is necessary to wash whether the one being penetrated is alive or dead, young or old, whether it was done intentionally or absentmindedly, whether it was done willfully or forcefully.

What does this mean? Willfully refers to the case that the act was committed by consent / agreement of the other person – woman or man or animal, dead or alive, or young boy or young girl. Forcefully refers to the case that the act was done to any of the above against their will. In plain words: If you raped a child, you need to wash and you have to command the victim to wash as well, as if the issue at hand is washing and not the disgusting crime itself.

For more on the Quran and pedophilia please consult the following paper, specifically near the end: http://answering-islam.org/Shamoun/prepubescent.htm

Do Muslims want us to believe that Islamic morality is the "best morality" and "best instruction for life" in light of the foregoing?

Now someone may contest Al-Nawawi’s interpretation and choose to simply ignore it by claiming that it is not binding upon Muslims. It is simply his own fallible interpretation and opinion. The problem with this approach is that it fails to explain what exactly did Muhammad mean by sitting between "a woman’s fours"? Since the hadith doesn’t clarify what the phrase means exactly, what must a Sunni Muslim do or where does he/she turn to in order to know for certain? Well, the only thing one can do is to turn to the Muslim scholars such as Al-Nawawi for the interpretation and understanding of the expression in order to know how it applies to daily Muslim life.

In fact, the Quran never expressly condemns either bestiality or lesbianism, and we will shortly provide several texts which seem to be supporting what this Muslim scholar said. We even found one Muslim who honestly admitted that neither the Quran nor the so-called authentic hadith collections prescribe any kind of punishment for this gross perverted act of bestiality. His comments will be presented in the next section.

As we now turn our attention to the Quran we will see that it isn’t simply silent on these issues, but even contains passages which seem to allow them. For instance, there is a specific passage where its wording implies that Allah created spouses for mankind from among the cattle:

The Originator of the heavens and the earth; He made mates (azwajan) for you from among yourselves, and mates (azwajan) of the cattle too, multiplying you thereby; nothing like a likeness of Him; and He is the Hearing, the Seeing. S. 42:11 Shakir

Fatiru alssamawati waal-ardi jaAAala lakum MIN anfusikum azwajan WAMINa al-anAAami azwajan yathraokum feehi laysa kamithlihi shay-on wahuwa alssameeAAu albaseeru

Notice the Arabic preposition min and the conjunction wa in the sentence. As a result of the wording of the text this is how it literally reads:

The Creator of the heavens and the earth, he has made for you spouses FROM yourselves AND FROM the cattle spouses, whereby He multiplies you…

Several immediate problems arise from this verse.

What exactly does it mean that Allah has created mates or spouses from themselves (i.e., "you," "yourselves")? Who are the "yourselves" of the sentence?

Are they both men and women, and if so does this mean that marriage can take place only between members of the opposites sex?

Or does this mean that marriage can occur between all sexes, i.e. heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian marriages are all permitted and sanctioned by this text?

Since the text addresses the same group, i.e. "you," when it mentions that Allah also created mates from the cattle does this therefore mean that humans can engage in sexual intercourse with animals?

Why even mention mates from the cattle in a context dealing with human sexual relations?

If the text does imply that persons can engage in sexual acts with cattle then in light of the statement that Allah ordained this for the multiplying of mankind, does this therefore mean that the author of the Quran thought that man could cause an animal to get pregnant thereby conceiving human species? Or perhaps the author assumed that the union between these two species would result in a third type of species thereby propagating two kinds of creatures simultaneously?

Or maybe the author wasn’t saying that Allah multiplies humans via intercourse with cattle. The text may actually be saying that Allah has made spouses for humanity from among themselves and the cattle for enjoyment, and yet he multiplies humans only through sexual union amongst themselves. To put it another way, Allah maybe saying that human intercourse is for both pleasure and multiplication, whereas intercourse with cattle is strictly for pleasure!

If a Muslim claims that homosexual and bestial relations are condemned in Islam can that person provide explicit Quranic references where these acts are prohibited? In other words, by using the Quran alone can a Muslim show that Allah abhors homosexual and lesbian relations, as well as bestial acts?

The straightforward reading of the text seems to support bestiality. To highlight this point, imagine if you will that this text was found in any other source besides the Quran, for instance in a document circulating in a society which practices sodomy and bestiality. Would there be any doubt that the wording of the text implies that such acts are permitted by the deity or deities of that particular group? The answer is rather obvious.

There are two more passages that also provide indirect support for the permissibility of bestiality. They are:

Successful indeed are the believers, Who are humble in their prayers, And who keep aloof from what is vain, And who are givers of poor-rate, And who guard their private parts, Except before their mates (azwajihim) or those whom their right hands possess, for they surely are not blameable, But whoever seeks to go beyond that, these are they that exceed the limits; And those who are keepers of their trusts and their covenant, And those who keep a guard on their prayers; These are they who are the heirs, Who shall inherit the Paradise; they shall abide therein. S. 23:1-11 Shakir

for, behold, of their Sustainer's chastisement none may ever feel [wholly] secure; and who are mindful of their chastity, [not giving way to their desires] with any but their spouses (azwajihim) - that is, those whom they rightfully possess [through wedlock] - : for then, behold, they are free of all blame, whereas such as seek to go beyond that [limit] are truly transgressors; and who are faithful to their trusts and to their pledges: and who stand firm whenever they bear witness; and who guard their prayers [from all worldly intent]. These it is who in the gardens [of paradise] shall be honoured! S. 70:28-35 Asad

What makes these texts quite interesting is that some Muslims have used these to prove that Islam does not permit bestiality. They claim that the references limit lawful relations to a man’s spouses or slave girls, and anything beyond this is clearly exceeding the limits which Allah has ordained (source).

The problem with this attempt is that the Arabic words for spouses/mates and "those whom your right hands possess" are not limited to wives or female slaves, at least not in these specific texts. The context of these verses refer to all the believers, whether male or females, and implies that the words refer to either spouse, i.e. to husbands or wives, and to whatever a person owns or possesses such as animals, property etc. There is even one place in the Quran that presents a list of persons and things that a man possesses:

Fair in the eyes of men is the love of THINGS they covet: women and sons, heaped-up hoards of gold and silver, horses branded for blood and excellence, and wealth of cattle and well-tilled land. Such are the POSSESSIONS of this world's life, but in nearness to Allah is the best of the goals to return to." S. 3:14

Even though the above text doesn’t use the same Arabic expression found in Suras 23 and 70, the meaning is the same since "those whom your right hands possess" obviously encompass all the above persons and items. That is unless, of course, Muslims want to argue that a person’s possessions are different from what his right hand owns!

Furthermore, there are places in the Quran where the phrase "those whom your right hands possess" includes more than just the female captives (cf. Suras 4:36; 16:71; 30:28).

In fact, one Muslim admitted that the expression "right hands possess" does include everything which a person may own such as animals etc., even though he tries to refute the notion that Islam allows bestiality. Near the end of his audio presentation, Osama Abdallah says by way of response to a paltalk(*) debater named Christian Prince(*):

Also Allah almighty allowed only sex to be done with the female right hand possessions from out of all of the right hand possessions which include male, males, females, and animals; and other objects like furniture, for instance, or weapons, or, or objects that could be used, for instance, for sex, you know I don’t want to get graphic but you get the picture, where small objects could be used for sexual pleasures. These are all, ah, right hand possessions. But God almighty in the noble Quran made it clear that out of the right hand possessions, only females are allowed to be, to have, for the Muslims to have sex with them. And only the male Muslims, not the female, ohm, Muslim masters. And not, and certainly the female Muslim masters are not allowed to have sex with the, with the male slaves. (Audio source)

Even the late Muhammad Asad provides indirect attestation for our exegesis when he writes regarding Sura 23:6:

Lit., "or those whom their right hands possess" (aw ma malakat aymanuhum). Many of the commentators assume unquestioningly that this relates to female slaves, and that the particle aw ("or") denotes a permissible alternative. This interpretation is, in my opinion, inadmissible inasmuch as it is based on the assumption that sexual intercourse with ones female slave is permitted without marriage: an assumption, which is contradicted by the Quran itself (see 4: 3, 24, 25 and 24: 32, with the corresponding notes). Nor is this the only objection to the above-mentioned interpretation. Since the Quran applies the term ‘‘believers" to men and women alike, and since the term azwaj ("spouses"), too, denotes both the male and the female partners in marriage, there is no reason for attributing to the phrase ma malakat aymanuhum the meaning of "their female slaves"; and since, on the other hand, it is out of the question that female and male slaves could have been referred to here it is obvious that this phrase does not relate to slaves at all, but has the same meaning as in 4: 24 - namely, "those whom they rightfully possess through wedlock (see note on 4: 24) - with the significant difference that in the present context this expression relates to both husbands and wives, who "rightfully possess" one another by virtue of marriage. On the basis of this interpretation, the particle aw which precedes this clause does not denote an alternative ("or") but is, rather, in the nature of an explanatory amplification, more or less analogous to the phrase "in other words" or "that is", thus giving to the whole sentence the meaning, "save with their spouses - that is, those whom they rightfully possess [through wedlock]", etc. (Cf. a similar construction 25: 62 - "for him who has the will to take thought -that is [lit., "or"], has the will to be grateful".) (Asad, fn. 3; online source; bold emphasis ours)

Asad’s candid admission destroys any attempt of using Sura 23:5-6 to refute the permissibility of bestiality, since he admits that neither the term azwaj (spouse) nor ma malakat aymanuhum (right hands possess) are necessarily limited to wives or female slaves. His admission implies that these terms are inclusive, that they encompass anyone or anything which necessarily falls under these specific groups, i.e. all lawful spouses and everything that a person owns or possesses. Since animals also fall under the category of "what" or "whom their right hands possess" one can therefore make a case that these specific passages are actually condoning sexual relations with one’s animals, as well as with one’s male and female slaves (i.e., men with men and women with women relations)! After all, the Quran nowhere explicitly condemns homosexuality or lesbianism.

The issue of male homosexuality and lesbianism is discussed in more detail in these articles:


In fact, had the Quran wanted to limit this group to wives and to the women slaves it could have qualified it in the same way it does elsewhere:

If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women (al-nisa) of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice. S. 4:3

And all married women (al-nisa) except those whom your right hands possess (this is) Allah's ordinance to you, and lawful for you are (all women) besides those, provided that you seek (them) with your property, taking (them) in marriage not committing fornication. Then as to those whom you profit by, give them their dowries as appointed; and there is no blame on you about what you mutually agree after what is appointed; surely Allah is Knowing, Wise. And whoever among you has not within his power ampleness of means to marry free believing women, then (he may marry) of those whom your right hands possess from among your believing maidens; and Allah knows best your faith: you are (sprung) the one from the other; so marry them with the permission of their masters, and give them their dowries justly, they being chaste, not fornicating, nor receiving paramours; and when they are taken in marriage, then if they are guilty of indecency, they shall suffer half the punishment which is (inflicted) upon free women. This is for him among you who fears falling into evil; and that you abstain is better for you, and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. S. 4:24-25 Shakir

Note the qualifiers here, "women," "married women," "from among your believing maidens," none of which appear in either Suras 23 or 70.

One Muslim author candidly admits that neither the Quran nor the sound Islamic narrations prescribe any specific punishment for bestiality, or even homosexuality, which provides indirect and implicit support for its permissibility. After all, if there is no punishment for such an act then that means a person can commit it and nothing will happen to him or her! Dr. Ahmad Shafaat writes:

Death Penalty for Bestiality

There is nothing about the punishment for bestiality in Muwatta, Bukhari or Muslim. We find some ahadith on the subject in books of Abu Da`ud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, and Ahmad and, of these muhaddithun those who do express opinions on the authenticity of ahadith they record, do not have a favorable opinion of these particular ahadith.

There is essentially one hadith prescribing death penalty for bestiality:

‘Abd Allah bin Muhammad al-Nufayli related to us: ‘Abd al-‘Aziz bin Muhammad related to us: ‘Amr bin Abi ‘Amr related to me from ‘Ikrimah from Ibn ‘Abbas that the Messenger of God said: "If anyone has sexual intercourse with an animal, kill him and kill it along with him." (‘Ikrimah) said: "I asked him (Ibn ‘Abbas): ‘Why the animal?’ He replied: ‘I think (the Prophet) disapproved of its flesh being eaten when such a thing had been done to it’." Abu Da`ud said, This is not strong.  (Abu Da`ud 3871)

Narrations of this hadith with variations are also found in Tirmidhi (1374), Ibn Majah (2554), and Musnad Ahmad (2294, 2591). They all are narrated from ‘Amr bin Abi ‘Amr from ‘Ikrimah from Ibn ‘Abbas. One narration in Ahmad comes from ‘Abbad bin Mansur instead of ‘Amr bin Abi ‘Amr but in that narration the Prophet is not mentioned and the words quoted are understood to be the words Ibn ‘Abbas:

‘Abd al-Wahhab related to us: ‘Abbad bin Mansur informed us from ‘Ikrimah from Ibn ‘Abbas that concerning the one who has sex with an animal he said: "kill the fa`il and maf`ul bihi". (Ahmad 2597)

But in al-Hakim a narration from the same ‘Abbad bin Mansur from ‘Ikrimah in which the saying of Ibn ‘Abbas becomes a hadith of the Prophet:

From ‘Abbad bin Mansur from ‘Ikrimah from Ibn ‘Abbas that he mentioned (dhakara) the Prophet that concerning the one who has sex with an animal he said: "kill the fa`il and maf`ul bihi" (Al-Hakim, quoted from ‘Awn al-Ma‘bud 3869).

Note that this narration is the same as the one from Ahmad except for the words, "he mentioned the Prophet". These words are awkward and vague, not clearly stating that the death penalty was prescribed by the Prophet. They are a timid attempt to turn a view attributed to Ibn ‘Abbas into a hadith.

It is even doubtful that Ibn ‘Abbas held this view, since in the following narration, Ibn ‘Abbas in fact says something completely different:

Ahmad bin Yunus related to us that Sharik, Abu al-Ahwas and Abu Bakr bin ‘Ayyash related to them from ‘Asim (bin Bahdalah Abi al-Najud) from Abu Razin from Ibn ‘Abbas who said: "There is no prescribed punishment for one who has sexual intercourse with an animal." Abu Da`ud said: "‘Ata also said so." Al-Hakam said: "I think he should be flogged, but the number should not reach the prescribed punishment (for zina`, that is, 100 lashes)". Al-Hasan said: "He is like al-zan." Adu Da`ud said: "This hadith of ‘Asim weakens the hadith of ‘Amr bin ‘Amr." (Abu Da`ud 3872)

The following facts about the above narrations, when taken together, leave little doubt that the hadith prescribing the death penalty for sex with animals is a fabrication resulting from some mistake or an outright lie:

First, the hadith is narrated only on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas (d. 68) in the first generation, only on the authority of ‘Ikrimah (d. 104) in the second generation, and then mostly from ‘Amr bin Abi ‘Amr (d. 144) in the third generation and very rarely from ‘Abbad bin Mansur (d. 152). Imams Malik, Bukhari, Muslim either did not know about it or did not trust it.

Second, narrators in the third generations, ‘Amr bin Abi ‘Amr and ‘Abbad bin Mansur, are not reliable. Abu Zur‘ah al-Razi considers ‘Amr bin Abi ‘Amr thiqah and Abu Hatim, Ibn ‘Adi and Ahmad say la bas bi hi. But al-Nasa`i considers him munkar and says he is not strong. Bukhari said that ‘Amr bin Abi ‘Amr is trustworthy but he has wrongly attributed to ‘Ikrimah several traditions. Yahya bin Ma‘in and al-‘Ajli also called him thiqah but rejected the ahadith he narrated from ‘Ikrimah from Ibn ‘Abbas. The views of scholars about ‘Abbad bin Mansur are even more negative. Thus he is described as da‘if al-hadith by Abu Hatim, laysa bi shay` by Yahya bin Ma‘in, layyin by al-Razi and munkar al-hadith, qadri, mudallis by Ahmad.

Third, in one narration in Musnad Ahmad, also from ‘Ikrimah from Ibn ‘Abbas, the "hadith" is found as a saying of Ibn ‘Abbas and NOT a saying of the Holy Prophet. So there is a distinct possibility that an opinion of Ibn ‘Abbas was attributed to the Prophet by a later transmitter such as ‘Amr bin Abi ‘Amr.

Fourth, it is doubtful that Ibn ‘Abbas believed in the death penalty for bestiality, since in another tradition Ibn ‘Abbas himself says clearly, "there is no prescribed punishment for sex with an animal".

Fifth, as noted in ‘Awn al-Ma‘bud, the four Sunni schools of fiqh are unanimous that death is not prescribed for one who commits sexual intercourse with an animal, but may be given some other punishment (yu‘azzar wa la yuqtal). Such an agreement among the fuqaha` would have been difficult to develop if they generally knew and accepted a hadith, in which the Prophet ordered to kill the one who has sex with an animal.

Although, in view of the above considerations, there can be little doubt the hadith in question is a false hadith, yet some later scholars accept the hadith and then try to reconcile it with the opinion of the fuqaha`. Thus some say that killing is mentioned in the hadith only as a threat not meant to be carried out. Some say that the killing of the man is only a threat but killing of the animal is to be carried out in actuality. In contrast to such artificial explanations of later scholars, Abu Da`ud and Tirmidhi themselves show better sense. Abu Da`ud, facing the obvious, declares: the tradition of ‘Asim (in which it is denied that there is any prescribed punishment for sex with animals) weakens the tradition of ‘Amr bin Abi ‘Amr (in which the death penalty is prescribed). Tirmidhi also shows reservation about the hadith by noting: "We do not find this hadith except from ‘Amr bin ‘Amr and he from ‘Ikrimah and he from Ibn ‘Abbas and he from the Prophet."

It is necessary that when the weakness of a hadith reaches the level shown above we should have the courage to call it a false hadith, something that many scholars do not do. The authentic teaching of Islam, meant to guide humanity for all times to come, could not have been transmitted in this weak way. If we do not declare such ahadith as false then this means that we cannot free ourselves from the errors and lies of some Muslims in the past and therefore cannot faithfully interpret and implement what God and his Messenger have taught us. This in turn means that we cannot move forward as a civilization…

Since the narration in Abu Da`ud 3870 does not attribute the death penalty for the homosexual act to the Prophet but only to Ibn ‘Abbas, it is quite possible that the tradition originally was not marfu‘ (attributed to the Prophet) but became so only at a later time. Earlier we noted a similar situation in case of a hadith from ‘Abbad bin Mansur about bestiality. In one narration (Ahmad 2597) the death penalty for this misdeed is attributed to Ibn ‘Abbas while in another narration, reported in al-Hakim, it becomes a hadith. This evidence strongly suggests that death penalties for sexual crimes were not originally based on the words of the Prophet but of some Companions. We can even go further: since the death penalty at least for the homosexual act was not known to al-Zuhri or Imam Malik as a hadith or even as an opinion of a Companion but as an opinion of some fuqaha` among the Successors, it is quite possible that even its attribution to a Companion such as Ibn ‘Abbas is not historical. Certainly, in case of bestiality we have seen evidence showing that Ibn ‘Abbas did not think that there was any prescribed penalty.

It is also worth noting that all the ahadith about the death penalty for deviant sex, i.e. sex with animals, a mahram, or a member of one’s own gender come from the same very small group of transmitters in the first four generations: Ibn ‘Abbas, ‘Ikrimah, Da`ud bin al-Husayn, ‘Amr bin Abi ‘Amr, Ibrahim bin Isma‘il etc. If the Prophet prescribed the death penalty for all these crimes, it is strange that its knowledge in all three cases remained limited to a few Hadith students for about one and a half century. (Shafaat, Death Penalty For Homosexuality, Incest, And Bestiality: Source)

Not only are there no sound narrations prescribing any specific punishments for bestiality, we actually find at least one scholarly reference that seems to support the permissibility of engaging in this perverted act.

{Side note: One interesting thing about the author is that he consistently claims throughout his article that the prescribed punishments mentioned in these weak or forged narrations regarding bestiality, homosexuality etc. actually come from the Holy Bible!}

To summarize our analysis of the Quran, we found one text worded in such a manner as to suggest that a person can take a mate, a partner from cattle. Other texts seem to support it by saying that individuals are to protect their private parts except from their spouses and what their right hands own. Since animals are part of what a person owns this seems to suggest that intercourse with beasts is permissible. Even if one wishes to argue that the author didn’t mean to imply that bestiality is permissible, at the very least this shows that the Quran is far from being as eloquent and as clear as Muslims believe. Specific texts are written in a very chaotic and confusing manner, leading into all kinds of ethical and theological problems.

The Muslims are obviously left in a very difficult position.

Articles by Sam Shamoun
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