These are three stories, all historic events, which are often repeated separately with pride by many Scholars as a proof of virtues of women and the kindness of the Messenger of God. Linking of the stories, pardon me, is my handiwork.
A young woman approached Prophet Mohammed and confessed to him that she had committed adultery (Faahisha), and wished to be purified. There was no written Quran then, but she had heard her uncle recite from a stone-slab, on which he had written what the Prophet had dictated the latest message from god sent through Jibril:
“If any of your women are guilty of fornication, take the evidence of four witnesses from amongst you against them; and if they testify, confine them to houses until death does claim them. And the two, whether married or unmarried, who are guilty of this offense, punish them both. If they repent and mend their ways, leave them alone. Surely Allah is the Acceptor of Repentance, Merciful (Surah 4:15-16)
It is not on record if the Prophet asked her if she believed that her uncle had recorded the holy verse or if she heard it from some other source. Since the Prophet had to rack his own memory, he asked the woman to come next day.
The woman went away happily. Confinement to the house was what she was used to anyway. Probably the event did take place while she was inside her house. In a joint family, uncles, cousins and step-brothers and step-fathers used to be great lovers then, as they are today.
The Prophet thought and thought. He recalled at least three more Surahs that Jibril dictated to him when he came in flying on his six hundred wings, gems and pearls dripping from them like drops from a Houri’s wine jar in heaven. Once the great angel had dictated:
As for him, however, who is driven [to what is forbidden] by dire necessity 11 and not by an inclination to sinning – behold, God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace. (S 5: 3)
When he racked his brain again, hoping someone would note down all those commandments that come streaming in according to need and regretting he could not write them down himself, for Jibril taught him all that was there to be taught except reading and writing, the Prophet remembered another Surah:
The woman or man found guilty of fornication – lash each one of them with a hundred lashes, and do not be taken by pity for them in the religion of Allah, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a group of the believers witness their punishment. (S. 24:2)
That night, while playing tongue-in-cheek with eight-year-old Aisha and gently massaging her with his tool between her young soft thighs, the Prophet decided that a hundred lashes for the woman as Allah commanded would be just right. Perhaps he should ask the name of the co-conspirator in the evil deed of unmarried love. Hundred lashes each would serve as an hour-long entertainment for the war-weary followers.
The woman came the next day with the news that further complicated matters. She said she was pregnant from the sin. This called for further racking of the brain or even consultation with Jibril with six hundred wings and dripping pearls. The Prophet told her to return after she delivered the baby. The sin was certainly compounded with pregnancy, which was the woman’s fault. The Prophet gave no further thought to the partner in her crime. The burden of sin rested, along with the fetus, on the womb of the woman.
“Come back to me after you delivered the baby”, commanded the Prophet.
During the next seven months, the Prophet was too busy to wonder if the woman would run away and escape punishment. He spent all his time at Medina, judging the division of spoils of plunder among the soldiers, himself and Allah, apart from the heavy work involved in carrying out his legal duties with eleven women in bed.
No, the woman hadn’t run away. Ever a true believer, she came back one day with a beautiful baby in her arms. The Prophet, ever fond of babies, coochi-cooed the little one and told the woman to go back, feed the baby well and come back after it was weaned.
The young woman went home, pleased that the Messenger was smiling. She felt forgiven. Cradling the baby, she sang:
The Messenger didn’t ask who donnit,
He didn’t ask why I donnit
He’s like Allah, all-forgivin’
There’ll be no lashes and no smashes,
Forgiveness by Surah Five- three
Will set your Mama free.
The woman returned to Holy Prophet two years later. The little one had had his drink of Mama’s last drop of milk. He walked with her, pleased to be holding his mother’s hand.
The Prophet was rejoicing after the latest message that came from Allah and wondering how to celebrate the message with his companions. The cause of happiness was permission to acquire his adopted son’s beautiful wife. It happened like this
Zaynab bint Jahsh, his cousin from his father’s side, being the latter’s sister’s daughter, had grown up with him in the same house. He knew her (in a simple way, not as Bible means with he knew her), and liked her, but not in terms of adding her to his harem. The thought had not occurred to him, nor had a message to that effect come from Allah the greatest.
Zayd was a slave boy gifted to him by his first wife Khadijah, now deceased. Being gracious and broad-minded, the Prophet adopted Zayd as his own son. Allah was very kind to Muhammad, but had never given him a son – a terrible lapse on Allah’s part because if the Messenger had a son and took over the Caliphate after him, and his son’s sons after him and so on till today, Islam would be one nation, guided by Allah with guidance whispered in the ears of each succeeding caliph. Not to digress, Zayd the adopted son grew up to be a fine handsome young man, already married to Baraka with a son Usama, he desired, in the tradition of his adopted father the Messenger, to marry the Messenger’s cousin Zaynab who lived in the same house.
Zaynab, a royal Quraysh was not pleased with the idea of marrying a former slave. But Allah’s Messenger promptly received a warning by way of a Surah which could not be defied:
It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path, (S 33:36)
Allah won, and the uneven marriage took place and, for all we know, promptly consummated since Zayd was well-versed in the affairs of the bed with his wife Baraka.
Then one day Allah’s Messenger had reason to want to see Zayd in a hurry. The front door of his house was open, so he walked in. Through a sheer curtain, he spied the voluptuous shape of Zaynab, who had just had a bath, and had not dressed as yet. Well, you know what happens to virulent men at the age of sixty at such a vision. That happened to the Messenger of God. He wanted his cousin in bed.
The Prophet rushed back lest he sin, but opened his heart to a trusted companion, who passed it on to another trusted companion, and thus the chain lengthened till it reached Zayd’s ears.
Now Zayd was a grateful son, albeit adopted, and knew that angering the Messenger was the same as angering Allah. He rushed back to his adopted father.
“Abba,” he said, “you can have my wife, I’ll divorce her.”
That was good news, but what would the community think about their Prophet marrying his son’s – even adopted son’s – wife after forcing a divorce?”
The Prophet was a righteous man. Aisha, though very young, but very wise wife of the Prophet had once prophesied:
“Whenever Allah’s Messenger has a need for one, Allah sends him a message.”
Precisely that was what happened, Jibril rushed in, his six hundred wings jangling and dripping pearls and gems, and passed the latest post:
Call them by [the names of] their fathers; it is more just in the sight of Allah . (S. 33:5)
“When thou saidst to him whom God had blessed and thou hadst favoured, ‘Keep thy wife to thyself, and fear God,’ and thou wast CONCEALING WITHIN THYSELF what God should reveal, FEARING OTHER MEN; and God has better right for thee to fear Him. So when Zaid had accomplished what he would of her, THEN WE GAVE HER IN MARRIAGE TO THEE, so that there should not be any fault in the believers, touching the wives of their adopted sons, when they have accomplished what they would of them; and God’s commandment must be performed.” (S. 33:37)
If things were not clear enough to the community that followed the Messenger, Allah further added:
Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets: and Allah has full knowledge of all things.(S. 33:40).
Accordingly, Zayd, who lost his precious surname of bin Muhammad, also divorced beautiful Zanab by saying Talaq, talaq, talaq three times. Allah’s Messenger married her by saying Nikah once, and took her straight to bed.
When he was thoroughly done and happy, came a knock on the door.
Messenger saw a beaming young woman and a plump and handsome infant holding on to her hand. He recollected her tale. And he knew what to do.
Celebration by public entertainment. A Messenger can any time modify Allah’s message. He proposed to do just that.
He promptly called the nearest companion and said:
“Take care of this child and bring him up. Make him a good Muslim. No sin shall visit on him.”
While the woman waited for her pardon as per the last line of Surah No. 5:3, the Prophet got a ditch dug up deep enough to cover her up to the chest. It is not known whether she wailed aloud or whimpered Allahu Akbar while she was seated uncomfortably in the ditch, her head and shoulders above the ditch.
Then Allah’s Messenger ordered that she be stoned, which the believers did with great enthusiasm and glee, all the time shouting that Allah is Great; but His penal code for adultery is too indulgent, so the Messenger of Allah, Peace Be Upon Him, is more right.
While some of the revelers ran to pick more stones, Qazi Khalid bin Walid, one of Prophet’s favorite disciples, raised a huge rock above his head and lobbed it on the woman’s head. Her head split, blood splattered on the face of the pious Qazi, for which crime he cursed her.
The ever merciful Prophet did not rebuke him, but advised him to be gentle, for she had repented. Then he got her buried, presumably satisfied that his own view prevailed over Allah’s.
The circumstances in which the Prophet celebrated his new wedding is not often mentioned in Hadiths or other scriptures; I thought circumstantial evidence leads to the possibility that the two events are linked.
The repenting woman’s sad fate is repeated in most books that interpret Islam for the faithful and teaches women how to conduct themselves. It confused Umar, the father-in-law of Muhammad and the second Caliph of Islam. God ordered a hundred lashes each for fornicators, or shutting them up without harm, but his Messenger had one stoned to death. Who was right – Allah or his Messenger?
While he was intrigued by the contradiction, a woman came to the Caliph and confessed to fornication.
The woman explained, “I was extremely thirsty in the desert. When I went far in search of water, I sighted a black tent which belonged to an Arab. I approached him and asked for water. But he refused to give me any water without my having adultery with him. I did not agree to his devilish desires and ran away into the desert. My eyes became sunken and I felt as if each of my bones were breaking. I returned to this man and in exchange of a drink of water I gave my body to him.”
Umar had decided that in the contradiction between Allah’s dictate and His Messenger’s action, the latter weighed better. The woman would be stoned.
However, Ali intervened. He quoted Allah’s command in Surah 5:3
But whoever is compelled by hunger, in inclining willfully to sin, then surely Allah is Forgiving Merciful,’ (Surah 5:3).
This time, due to Ali’s intervention, Allah won. The woman was set free.
I am yet to read this second epilogue of the story in any scholarly work.
As for Umar, he made his view very clear : “I’d say the Prophet is right because he led by example, not the Quran, In future, such women should be stoned.”
A woman a day is stoned in some part of the world, gladdening the heart of the Prophet who still lies intact and full-blooded in his grave, Till his rises on the day of Qayamat, (the Judgment Day when stars would fall and bounce and scatter on earth like so many light-emitting diodes), and conducts the proceedings for judgment by Allah, Please Be Upon Him.