Monday, September 15, 2014

The Purity of an Adulteress

Hidden pasts. Dark secrets. Tragic love. Broken hearts. These words don’t just belong to soap operas or romantic novels, to movies or non-Muslim societies. They are human themes that have spanned time, affecting saints and sinners and everyone in between.

Muslim women are no exception. In many peoples’ minds, the ideal Muslimah is a pure, innocent, and sheltered being, protected from all that is wrong and sinful, a Madonna to be placed on a pedestal and revered as a figure of incorruptible chastity.

The reality, however, is that Muslim women are human beings with desires and inner demons, just like everyone else. Even in the earliest Islamic history, in the idealized Islamic, Prophetic society of Madinah, the Companions of the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) led lives that were fraught with personal battles. Some of the Sahaba were known for being alcoholics; others confessed to cowardice on the battlefield, the urge to steal, and more. The female Companions were not immune, either.
Some of the most powerful stories about the Muslim women of Madinah are about two female Companions who are not known by their names, but only by the names of their tribes.

It is recorded in Sahih Muslim (Kitab al-Hudud, the Book of Punishments), that there came to RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) a woman from the tribe of Ghamid. The woman approached him and said, “O Allah’s Messenger, I have committed adultery, so purify me.” The Prophet’s eyes filled with grief and he turned away from her, dismissing her from the gathering.

The next day, al-Ghamidiyyah returned and once again publicly confessed her crime. “O Allah’s Messenger, why do you turn me away?” she beseeched. “Perhaps you turn me away as you turned away Ma’iz. By Allah, I have become pregnant!”

RasulAllah answered, “If you insist upon it (the punishment), then leave and return only after you give birth.”
Months later, al-Ghamidiyyah returned to RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), with her baby wrapped in blankets. She presented the child, saying, “Here is the child whom I have given birth to.”
RasulAllah answered, “Leave, and suckle him until he is weaned.”
Approximately two years later, al-Ghamidiyyah returned with her child, who was holding a piece of bread in his hand.
“O Allah’s Messenger, here is my child, as I have weaned him and he can now eat (solid) food.”

Upon this, RasulAllah entrusted the child to one of his other Companions, and pronounced the punishment of zina upon al-Ghamidiyyah. She was placed in a ditch that came up to her chest, and he commanded the people to come forth and stone her.
Khalid ibn Waleed flung a stone at her head, at which blood spurted forth from her and splashed Khalid’s face. Furious, Khalid verbally abused her. RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) heard Khalid’s curses and rebuked him, saying “Khalid, be gentle! By Him in Whose Hand is my life, she has made such a repentance that even if a wrongful tax-collector were to repent, he would have been forgiven.”
After she died, RasulAllah prayed the funeral prayer over her body and al-Ghamidiyyah was buried.[1]
 (Sahih Muslim)

Imran bin Al-Husain Al-Khuza`i reported,
“A woman from the tribe of Juhainah came to Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) while she was pregnant from adultery and said to him, "O Messenger of Allah! I have committed an offense liable to Hadd (prescribed punishment), so exact the execution of the sentence.''

The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) called her guardian and said to him, "Treat her kindly. Bring her to me after the delivery of the child.'' The man complied with the orders.

At last the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) commanded that it was time to carry out the sentence. Her clothes were secured around her and she was stoned to death. The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) led her funeral prayers. `Umar questioned, "O Messenger of Allah! She committed Zina and you have performed funeral prayer for her?'' He replied, "Verily, she made repentance which would suffice for seventy of the people of Al-Madinah if it is divided among them. Can there be any higher degree of repentance than that she sacrificed her life voluntarily to win the Pleasure of Allah, the Exalted?''[2]
(Sahih Muslim)

These were women who committed zina, a sin which is considered to be one of the greatest sins, which has a prescribed punishment in the Shari’ah. Even today, there are vulgar words used to describe women who commit zina: slut, harlot, whore. The social repercussions for women even suspected of having committed zina is severe – even if they are, in truth, innocent.

Yet when RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was faced with these women, how did he react? Did he curse them, shame them, declare that they were no longer fit to be called Muslim?

No. Rather, he recognized their faith and – before anything else – extended to them a way out, a merciful option which would allow them to live their lives as they had before, to give birth to and raise their children in peace. What mother doesn’t want to witness her baby’s first smile, first steps, first words? What mother doesn’t want to be there to watch her child grow up before her eyes, to provide love and comfort, to take part in the pride and joy that accompanies childhood, adolescence, and adulthood?

Instead, both these women sought forgiveness and purity from their Lord, to bear a punishment in this world rather than in the Hereafter. RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), in turn, shared with the entire Muslim Ummah that these were women who had made the greatest of all sacrifices: sacrificed their husbands, their infant children, their reputations, their lives… all for the ultimate Pleasure of Allah alone.

These were women who, if they publicly confessed their crimes today, would be scorned and humiliated by their fellow Muslims, who would be damned to Hell by many, who would be told that they had failed in their Islam. These were women whose actions, even today, are considered to be amongst the worst sins an individual could commit.

Yet these two women – Muslim women who lived in the greatest era of Islam, in the society built by RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) himself, who were in the company of RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) – were able to redeem themselves in the Sight of Allah and His Messenger. By virtue of their repentance, their acknowledgment of the severity of the sins they committed, these Muslim women were able to elevate themselves from a position of lowliness and shame to one of honor and dignity, and displayed an incredibly high standard of courage and emaan.

Through submitting themselves in humility to Allah alone, seeking His forgiveness and His pleasure, these women proved themselves to be true Muslim women, the heroines of Islam.

Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a young woman who finds constant inspiration in the lives of the Sahabiyaat and other great women in Islamic history. She hopes that every Muslimah is able to identify with the struggles of these inspirational women and follow in their footsteps to become a part of a new generation of powerful Muslim women. She blogs at 


Safyyah Muslimah said...

Ma sha Allah. We needed this. Thank you sis.

bosnishmuslima said...

I have been a silent reader a while ago and I really loved each and every post of it. Thank you for sharing and touching exceptional topics which are so rare but so necessary these days in our ummah!

Anonymous said...

Salam, sis. I agree we shouldn't shame our sisters. But I don't think I would have chosen these hadith to support that feeling, when we have so much misunderstanding about hadd punishments for adultery (which is meant to be lashing, not stoning) and when, as presented, they seem to glorify women dying for their sins rather than living and being forgiven; they're presented here as aspirational models rather than tragedies.

AnonyMouse said...

Wa 'alaikumus-salaam,

I'm not sure how *anyone* could infer from this article that they 'died for their sins' and that they're being glorified for that... it's very clear from the hadith and my article that 1) *they* were the ones who begged for the punishment to be implemented ('purify me, ya RasulAllah!'), and 2) that their repentance is what truly made them aspirational models - because they *are* people we should look up to, because of their faith.

Anonymous said...

Khalid ibn Waleed flung a stone at her head, at which blood spurted forth from her and splashed Khalid’s face. Furious, Khalid verbally abused her. RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) heard Khalid’s curses and rebuked him, saying “Khalid, be gentle! By Him in Whose Hand is my life, she has made such a repentance that even if a wrongful tax-collector were to repent, he would have been forgiven.”

There's the big difference. It's because they repented and willingly accepted their punishment that our prophet rebuked Khalid. If they had been caught committing adultery and were being stoned I doubt if our prophet would have rebuked khalid.

Anonymous said...


I'm not sure how else to class their repentance or atonement other than "dying for their sins." My objection was that we shouldn't hold death or death for one's sins as an aspirational model for women who are already told their lives are cheap and expendable and any sin of theirs is capital. A dead woman is not better than a living sinner, who should strive for forgiveness, but ultimately, if we're admonishing our sisters and brothers to nurture compassion in their hearts, why are we referring to hadith about adultery, rather than hadith that are clear admonitions for compassion, that address the problem we're discussing, i.e. the community rather than the adulterer? The focus of the hadith is still on them. I think that is my concern... For me, the events narrated in this hadith are a sad waste of life for a mistake, albeit a grave one, rather than a noble sacrifice. We are far too careless and quick to glorify death and turn to that as an answer these days.

AnonyMouse said...

This isn't about women being considered expendable - it's about women who had such strong piety that they understood that being punished in this world is infinitely better than being punished in the Aakhirah - hence their phrase "purify me, ya RasulAllah" - as it's known that the worldly Hadd punishment removes the punishment of the Hereafter for the same sin.

So yes - in this case, death can be and should be glorified not because it's gory and horrible, but because the *reasoning* behind this death is noble - their personal piety was such that despite being turned away numerous times and having a chance to avoid the punishment, these women came back repeatedly to beg RasulAllah to carry out the Hadd.

As well, in case you think that this was limited to women, a male Sahabi by the name of Maa'iz had a similar story. He too was punished for zina because he confessed and begged RasulAllah to punish him... so this isn't an issue of gender at all, but a basic issue of piety and repentance and determination.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, sis. I may not be able to appreciate the hadith because I've heard women urged too often to be the martyrs, the sacrificers in famillies and the larger communities while men are allowed their worldly pleasures, but I appreciate you taking the time to explain. Salams~

AnonyMouse said...

I definitely understand where you're coming from, as I have also experienced the same thing where women are held to stricter standards than men ever are, but please rest assured that my writing never seeks to uphold those double standards, but rather tries to emphasize the true spirit of the Sunnah.

Anonymous said...

Surah maryam.

Anonymous said...

Assalamualaikum. I mean no disrespect by saying this but I...honestly cannot this as anything other than a tragedy. Yes the life of a martyr can be romanticised or glorified. But who would actually strive for it? Is this the only way to show our piety towards Allah SWT? To beg to die?

Anonymous said...

The Quran does not proscribe death sentence for Zina of any sort, it is you salafist who corrupt Islam, read the Koran if I am lying, why is an adultress confined if found guilty of Zina, confined not killed.

And by the way what would be the half of death as proscribed by Qoran for the punishment of a married slave man or woman.

As I said you are liars, fabricating lies, No hadees can over ride the Word of God (Koran). It is a shame how Muslims have been lying for centuries. Yes it is punishable but not by death, May Allah's curse be on all who lie, as that is what real KUFR is.

arshi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

From comments, I found that some people have confusion. People, you may watch below video by Mufti Ismail Menk,
Misconception of stoning to death - Mufti Menk: