Hadith Exegesis

Were She-Mon­keys Stoned For Adultery ?

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An amus­ing lit­tle polemic regard­ing a hadith that is record­ed in Sahih al-Bukhari has recent­ly sur­faced and is being cir­cu­lat­ed by some apos­tates from Islam. Nat­u­ral­ly, the Chris­t­ian mis­sion­ar­ies too had decid­ed to jump on the band­wag­on of smear­ing Islam through a mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion of this hadith as well.

The hadith is record­ed as follows :

Vol­ume 5, Book 58, Num­ber 188 :

Nar­rat­ed Amru bin Maimun : Dur­ing the pre-lslam­ic peri­od of igno­rance I saw a she-mon­key sur­round­ed by a num­ber of mon­keys. They were all ston­ing it, because it had com­mit­ted ille­gal sex­u­al inter­course. I too, stoned it along with them.”

The basic premise of their charge” is that the Prophet(P) had ordered the ston­ing of a she-mon­key and that lap­i­da­tion for zina (for­ni­ca­tion) is extend­ed to ani­mals as well.

Back to Basics : The Issue of Isnad and Matn

The full cita­tion of the hadith as record­ed by al-Bukhari is as follows :

    Were She-Monkeys Stoned For Adultery? 27Muham­mad bin Isma’il Abdal­lah al-Ja’­far (Imam al-Bukhari), Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 5, Bk. 58, No. 188

On clos­er scruti­ny of the above-record­ed hadith, any­one pro­fi­cient in the sci­ences of the Hadith (ulum al-hadith) would imme­di­ate­ly see the fal­la­cy of such a claim when the matn (text) and isnad (chain of trans­mis­sion) of the hadith is studied.

First­ly, the per­son who uttered the above words was not the Prophet Muham­mad(P) him­self, but by one of his Com­pan­ions by name of Amru bin Maimun(R). The fol­low­ing is the chain of trans­mis­sion for this hadith :

    Were She-Monkeys Stoned For Adultery? 28

The hadith is cat­e­go­rized as mauquf (lit. stopped”), mean­ing that it is a say­ing traced to that of a Com­pan­ion(R). There­fore, since it is clear that this hadith is not a say­ing of the Prophet(P), much less ascribed to him, it can­not be a basis for a rul­ing in Islam.

Sec­ond­ly, the key phrase in the above hadith is Dur­ing the pre-Islam­ic peri­od of igno­rance”, which the crit­ics had obvi­ous­ly over­looked. While we con­cede that above hadith is indeed accept­ed as authen­tic, we would also argue that accord­ing to the prin­ci­ples of crit­i­cism of the hadith, the matn of the hadith above would be reject­ed even if it had been ascribed to the Prophet(P). Abdur Rah­man I. Doi has out­lined this prin­ci­ple by stat­ing that :

As far as the matn is con­cerned, the fol­low­ing prin­ci­ples of crit­i­cism of the Hadith are laid down :

(1) The Hadith should not be con­trary to the text or the teach­ing of the Qur’an or the accept­ed basic prin­ci­ples of Islam.
(2) The Hadith should not be against the dic­tates of rea­son or laws of nature and com­mon experience.
(3) The Hadith should not be con­trary to the Tra­di­tions which have already been accept­ed by author­i­ties as reli­able and authen­tic by apply­ing all principles.
(4) The Hadith which sings the prais­es and excel­lence of any tribe, place or per­sons should be gen­er­al­ly rejected
(5) The Hadith that con­tains the dates and minute details of the future events should be rejected.
(6) The Hadith that con­tains some remarks of the Prophet which are not in keep­ing with the Islam­ic belief of Prophet­hood and the posi­tion of the Holy Prophet or such expres­sions as may not be suit­able to him should be reject­ed.Abdur Rah­man I. Doi, Intro­duc­tion to the Hadith (A.S. Nordeen, 2001), p. 15

Ibn Hajar

Inter­est­ing­ly, Ibn Hajar in his Fath al-Bari had dis­cussed at length the exe­ge­sis of the above hadith. He quotes from Ibn Abd al-Barr as follows :

    Were She-Monkeys Stoned For Adultery? 29

Ibn Abd al-Barr has denounced this report of Amru Ibn Maimun and said : It includes attribut­ing adul­tery to a crea­ture not assigned (with dis­tinc­tion between law­ful and unlaw­ful) and imple­men­ta­tion of legal pun­ish­ment on ani­mals. This is denounced before schol­ars”.Ahmed Ibn Ali Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Fath al-Bari

Then Ibn Hajar responds to the above argu­ment of Ibn Abd al-Barr :

    Were She-Monkeys Stoned For Adultery? 30

…I answer that the event being sim­i­lar to that of adul­tery and ston­ing does not neces­si­tate that it is real­ly adul­tery or legal pun­ish­ment. It is called so because it is sim­i­lar to it, so it does not neces­si­tate assign­ment of ani­mals (with a dis­tinc­tion between law­ful and unlaw­ful).ibid.

In oth­er words, even if we assume for the sake of the argu­ment that the claims of the apos­tates are true and the above hadith is indeed ascribed to the Prophet(P) , the crit­ics will still not be able to make the charge that the Prophet(P) had ordered the ston­ing of a she-monkey.

Ibn Qutai­ba

Ibn Qutai­ba makes fur­ther com­men­tary on the above hadith as follows :

    Were She-Monkeys Stoned For Adultery? 31
    Were She-Monkeys Stoned For Adultery? 32

They said : You nar­rat­ed that some mon­keys stoned a she-mon­key for for­ni­ca­tion. If the mon­keys stoned her while she is mar­ried, the hadith would be fun­nier. Accord­ing to this exam­ple, you can­not be sure for per­haps mon­keys imple­ment many rul­ings of the Torah ! Or prob­a­bly they embrace Judaism ! So, if the mon­keys are Jews, then per­haps the pigs are Christians !

Abu Muham­mad [‘Abdul­lah Ibn Qutai­ba, d. 276 A.H.] said : In response to this sneer we state that the nar­ra­tive of mon­keys is nei­ther on the author­i­ty of Allah’s Mes­sen­ger (peace be upon him) nor any of his Com­pan­ions ; it is mere­ly some­thing men­tioned by Amr Ibn Mai­mon. Muham­mad Ibn Khalid Ibn Khadash told me that Mus­lim Ibn Qutai­ba said on the author­i­ty of Hashim on the author­i­ty of Hasin on the author­i­ty of Amr Ibn Mai­mon that he said, A she-mon­key had com­mit­ted for­ni­ca­tion dur­ing Jahiliyyah, so the mon­keys stoned her and I stoned her with them”.

Abu Muham­mad said : He could have seen the mon­keys ston­ing a she-mon­key, so he imag­ined that they were ston­ing her because she com­mit­ted for­ni­ca­tion, this can­not be known except by sup­po­si­tion because mon­keys do not express them­selves and the one who sees them gath­er­ing can­not tell whether they for­ni­cate or not. This is a sup­po­si­tion. Per­haps, the old man knew she had for­ni­cat­ed for some rea­son we do not know for mon­keys are the most for­ni­cat­ing ani­mals. Arabs refer to them as exam­ples of (exag­ger­at­ed) for­ni­ca­tion and say : for­ni­cat­ing more than a mon­key”. Unless for­ni­ca­tion is com­mon among them, they would not be used as an exam­ple. There is none clos­er to man in mar­riage and jeal­ousy than them. The ani­mals get hos­tile with one anoth­er, jump over and pun­ish one anoth­er. Some bite, some scratch, some break and some smash. Mon­keys stone with their hands whom Allah cre­at­ed as man stones. If they stoned one anoth­er for a cause rather than for­ni­ca­tion and the old man thought it is for­ni­ca­tion, it would not be far. If the old man knew about for­ni­ca­tion by some evi­dence and that ston­ing was for it, it would not be far either because — as I have informed you — they are the most jeal­ous among ani­mals and the clos­est to man regard­ing under­stand­ing.Ibn Qutai­ba, Ta’wil Mukhta­laf Al-Hadith, pp. 255 – 256

The points we have made should make it clear that Amru bin Maimun was relat­ing his think­ing or per­cep­tion pri­or to the advent of Islam — how he had fool­ish­ly believed that even mon­keys had com­mit­ted adul­tery ! It hap­pened dur­ing a peri­od where­by the pre-Islam­ic Arabs would indulge in the most detestable acts such as bury­ing their daugh­ters alive and doing the tawaf while they were naked. 

Thus, this means that Islam has ele­vat­ed the sta­tus of mankind by mak­ing them more ratio­nal and mind­ful of their actions, a con­clu­sion that the haters and ene­mies of Islam would cer­tain­ly not like to admit.

What About The Bible ?

If the above hadith is used to con­demn Islam with regards to treat­ment towards ani­mals, then the Bible has the fol­low­ing to say :

If a man has sex­u­al rela­tions with an ani­mal, he must be put to death, and you must kill the ani­mal. If a woman approach­es an ani­mal to have sex­u­al rela­tions with it, kill both the woman and the ani­mal. They must be put to death ; their blood will be on their own heads.Leviti­cus, 20:15 – 16

In oth­er words, an ani­mal that has com­mit­ted its sin of adul­tery is liable to be pun­ished for a crime” it is unaware of in the first place, accord­ing to the Bible.


It is clear that where the hadith regard­ing the ston­ing of a she-mon­key for adul­tery is con­cerned, it is sim­ply a rec­ol­lec­tion of a Com­pan­ion(R) of the Prophet(P) regard­ing this mal­treat­ment of ani­mals dur­ing the pre-Islam­ic peri­od of jahiliyyah, which is in total con­tra­dic­tion to Islam­ic prin­ci­ples and norms. Thus, the claim that this hadith is the basis from which the lap­i­da­tion for mar­ried adul­ter­ers in Islam came about is noth­ing more than a damp fire­crack­er hurled by the haters and ene­mies of Islam. That their view of Islam had been taint­ed by deep igno­rance, hatred, para­noia and xeno­pho­bia is no big secret, and this lat­est polemic is ipso fac­to a con­fir­ma­tion of their cur­rent condition.

And only God knows best. Were She-Monkeys Stoned For Adultery? 33Endmark

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  1. Faizal Abdul Rahman Reply

    Thank you so much. A great site…very insightful.

  2. mikail abdullah Reply

    I don’t know why I can’t com­pre­hend all the arti­cles in this site. It’s very confusing.

  3. SALAM ! i know its not a com­ment though broth­er i have a prob­lem i cant see some let­trs on your web­site instead i see box in place of let­ters for instance the let­ters ITH are miss­ing in the word HADITH on the arti­cle con­cern­ing the she mon­key I HAVE TO PRINT THIS PAGE BUT CANT DUE TO THE PROBLEM

    Thank you !

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