The Verse of Stoning in the Bible and the Qur'an
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THE VERSE OF STONING
IN THE BIBLE AND THE QUR'AN
W. H. T. GAIRDNER, B.A.
THE CHRISTIAN LITERATURE SOCIETY FOR INDIA
LONDON, MADRAS AND COLOMBO
WE believe that there is no one in the whole Muslim world who has not heard the oft-repeated accusation of Muslims directed against Christians, and their claim, that we have corrupted the Bible by additions and omissions. These accusations, unworthy though they are of any attention, have often been refuted by Christians, and we do not believe that any learned Muslim is sincerely convinced of the accusation which he directs against us. Indeed he is only driven to it by his inability to reconcile the Bible and the Qur'an. The latter testifies to the former as being the inspired Book of God; but then, what about the clear divergence between the two? Is he to believe in the Qur'an's witness to the Bible and deny the Qur'an itself—his own book? Or, is he to deny the witness of the Qur'an, and so the Qur'an itself? So to avoid the hopeless difficulty, he accuses the Christians of having corrupted the Bible.
With regard to this accusation Muslims may be divided into three classes: those who know that the accusation is utterly false; those who are convinced that it is true; and, lastly, those who do not know whether it is false or true. The first party know the truth; the second ignore it; and the third are driven to the accusation by the inertia of habit. Their ancestors made the accusation, and they simply follow in their steps, irrespective of whether the accusation is well founded or baseless. And it is to the last two parties that we address ourselves, seeing that the first knows the truth, but only disputes for the sake of disputing.
But before proceeding to discuss the question in detail, we will ask our brother Muslims to answer the following questions:—
(1) Was the Bible in the days of Muhammad sound and true?
(2) If it was true (and there is no escape from admitting the fact) was it corrupted after the days of Muhammad?
(3) Can Muslims produce a copy of the Bible whose date can be traced to the days of Muhammad (or farther back) which is different from the present Bible?
(4) Is it conceivable that the Jews and Christians should agree to corrupt the Bible, knowing that they are as widely separated from each other as the two poles?
We believe that there is no answer to these questions.
Our object in publishing this book is threefold. We want, first, to prove (though such an axiom hardly needs to be proved) that the Verse of Stoning has been omitted from the Qur'an, not from the Bible, thus turning the accusation against our Muslim friends themselves! secondly, to prove (and again such an axiom need hardly be proved) that the verse does exist in the Taurat; and thirdly, to narrate a story, in connexion with this same Verse of Stoning, which occurred in the days of Muhammad, and which in itself proves that the Taurat was then, and therefore is now, free from any corruption whatsoever.
Chapter 1: THE VERSE OF STONING IN THE QUR'AN
READERS of the tafasir of the Qur'an must have noticed often that time after time the commentators, wishing to give concrete examples of the alleged corruption of the Bible, dismiss the subject perfunctorily by the sentence which, after a time, becomes quite like a conventional phrase: 'As the Verse of Stoning and the allusions to the Prophet.'
Now with regard to the 'allusions to the Prophet', had they really existed in the Taurat, the Jews would not have dared to tamper with them, so great was their respect to God's Book. It will be remembered that the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah with other allusions to the Messiah (كنعت المسيح ) still exists in the Jewish Bible, although they are clear references to Christ and the way He was to sacrifice His life as an atonement. Is not this conclusive proof that the Jews have too great a respect for the Book of God to attempt to corrupt it, even when a text in it tells controversially against them?
That the Verse of Stoning is in the Bible and never was omitted from it we shall show in another chapter. But in this chapter we are going to make the amazing discovery that it has been dropped, not from the Bible, but from the Qur'an!
It will be remembered that the penalty incurred by adulterers was first perpetual imprisonment, as in the verse:—
'Shut them (the adulteresses) up within their houses till death release them, or God makes some way for them' [Suratu'n-Nisa' (iv) 19].
For this penalty there was then substituted another, i.e. a hundred lashes; and this again was in turn replaced by stoning. But that Verse of Stoning has gone from the Qur'an.
If it be argued that the Verse of Stoning was not recorded, when the Qur'an was edited, only because it could not be testified to by two (or more) witnesses, we will say that the verse was known to several of the Companions (Ashab) who could and did testify to its genuineness. We give below some traditions to this effect:—
(1) Abu 'Ubaid quotes a tradition coming down from ibn Jaish, saying: 'Ubai said, "How many verses is the Suratu-'l-Ahzab (xxxiii)? " I said, "Seventy-two or seventy-three." He said, "It was as long as the Stiratu'l-Baqara (ii) and we used to read in it the Verse of Stoning." I said, "And what was the Verse of Stoning?" He said, "The married man and the married woman when they commit adultery, they stone without doubt as a punishment from God."'
(2) We read in the 'Kitabu'l-Burhan' that 'Umar said, 'Were I not afraid lest people should say that I have added to the Qur'an I would have recorded it (i.e. the Verse of Stoning).'
(3) Another tradition is traced back to Abu Imama ibn Sahal to the effect that his aunt said: 'The Prophet . . . read to us the Verse of Stoning, saying, "If an old man and an old woman commit adultery stone them both for the pleasure they have sought."'
(4) Al-Hakim quotes another tradition from ibn Sait saying: 'When Zaid ibn Thabit and Sa'id ibn al-'As were writing out the Qur'an, they came to this verse (i.e. Verse of Stoning), Zaid said, "I have heard the Prophet say, if an old man and old woman commit adultery stone them both."'
(5) According to the same tradition, 'Umar said: 'When this verse came down I went to the Prophet and said, "May I record this verse? " But it seems he disliked it . . . '
(G) An-Nisa'i quotes a tradition similar to the previous one about 'Umar.
(7) In the 'Itqan' (on Fada'ilu'l-Qur'an) ibn Durais cites a tradition ascribed to ibn Aslam to the effect that 'Umar once addressed a large audience and said: 'Doubt not concerning stoning, for it is lawful. I would have written the Verse of Stoning in the Qur'an, but Ubai ibn Ka'b said to me, "Dost thou not remember when thou once camest unto me while I was asking the Prophet to recite the verse to me, and he pushed me in my chest? And thou saidst unto me, 'Dost thou ask the Prophet to recite the verse to you when people are committing adultery like beasts?"' 1
(8) 'Ayesha, whose testimony, though a woman's, counts whole, not half, knew of this verse at and after the death of Muhammad, as we shall see.
Thus it is evident that the witnesses of the Verse of Stoning were the most important of the Companions, such as 'Ayesha, the wife of the Prophet, 'Umar ibnu'l-Khattab, one of his successors, Zaid ibn Thabit, his secretary and editor, with others—very many more than the quorum of two required to authenticate any verse.
The assumption is that the Verse was caused to be forgotten.
Some Muslims claim that this verse was caused by God to be forgotten, as God has the right to cancel or abrogate any verse. The Qur'an says: 'And whatever verse we cancel or cause thee to forget, we bring a better or its like [Suratu'l-Baqara (ii) 100]. Two arguments are advanced by Muslims to this effect:—
(1) In the 'Kitabu'l-Yanbu' ibn Zafar denies that the verse is abrogated in text. 'The witness of one man, (i.e. 'Umar),' he says, 'does not prove that the verse is genuine. The truth is that the verse is of the category of the to-be-forgotten and not the to-be-abrogated verses, the difference between the two categories being that a verse which may be made forgotten exists in effect.' We cannot, however, reconcile this with the fact that the verse in question was remembered, and that by more than one of the Companions.
(2) If God really wanted the verse to be forgotten, He would of course have abrogated its effect. But in this case we see that though the text has been dropped, its sentence still survives, and has been repeatedly applied to adulterers.
This proves that Muhammad was not 'caused to forget' the verse, but simply disliked the recording of it, and he consequently discouraged 'Umar from recording it, and pushed Ubai in his chest when the latter asked him to recite it to him. Ibn Majah said that the remainder of Suratu'l-Ahzab (xxxiii) was written on a leather roll and placed underneath the bed of the Prophet. When Muhammad died, 'Ayesha accompanied his funeral to the grave, and on her return she found that a goat had eaten the roll with all the inspired verses it contained, including this same Verse of Stoning! Apart from the strangeness of this story, it is yet another clear proof that the verse actually existed in writing till the very death of Muhammad. How then can it be alleged that he was 'caused to forget it'? He, in fact, remembered it only too well, and so did many of his Companions.
- كنعت النبي وآية الرجم
- Suratu'n-Nur (xxiv) 1.
- الشيخ والشيخة إذا زنيا فارجموهما البتة
- See Nöldeke, Geschichtes des Qorans, p. 194, and Sell's Rescensions of the Qur'an, p. 6, note 3.