The Quran

Commentaries for 4.15

An Nisa (The women) - النساء

4.15 Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(As for those of your women) your free, married women (who are guilty of lewdness) i.e. of fornication, (call to witness) that they were caught red-handed in the act (four of you against them) four of your free men. (And if they testify) to the Truth of the allegation (then confine them to the houses) keep them in prison (until death take them) until they die in prison (or (until) Allah appoint for them a way) out by means of stoning. Imprisoning a free, married woman who commits fornication until she dies in prison was later abrogated by stoning.
4.15 Jalal - Al-Jalalayn
As for those of your women who commit lewdness, adultery, call four, Muslim men, of you to witness against them; and if they witness, against them such [lewdness], then detain them in their houses, and prevent them from mixing with people, until, the angels of, death take them or, until, God appoints for them a way, out of it. This was stipulated for them at the very beginning of Islam, but then a way out was appointed for them through [the stipulation] that the virgin should receive a hundred lashes and be banished for a year, and the married woman be stoned. The prescribed punishment was explained thus in the hadīth, ‘Come listen to me! Come listen to me! God has now made a way out for them’, as reported by Muslim.
4.15-16 Kathir - Ibn Al Kathir
The Adulteress is Confined in her House; A Command Later Abrogated
At the begining of Islam, the ruling was that if a woman commits adultery as stipulated by sufficient proof, she was confined to her home, without leave, until she died. Allah said,
وَاللَـتِى يَأْتِينَ الْفَـحِشَةَ
يعني الزنا
مِن نِّسَآئِكُمْ فَاسْتَشْهِدُواْ عَلَيْهِنَّ أَرْبَعةً مِّنْكُمْ فَإِن شَهِدُواْ فَأَمْسِكُوهُنَّ فِى الْبُيُوتِ حَتَّى يَتَوَفَّاهُنَّ الْمَوْتُ أَوْ يَجْعَلَ اللَّهُ لَهُنَّ سَبِيلاً
(And those of your women who commit illegal sexual intercourse, take the evidence of four witnesses from among you against them; and if they testify, confine them (i.e. women) to houses until death comes to them or Allah ordains for them some (other) way.) `Some other way' mentioned here is the abrogation of this ruling that came later. Ibn `Abbas said, "The early ruling was confinement, until Allah sent down Surat An-Nur (chapter 24) which abrogated that ruling with the ruling of flogging (for fornication) or stoning to death (for adultery).'' Similar was reported from `Ikrimah, Sa`id bin Jubayr, Al-Hasan, `Ata' Al-Khurasani, Abu Salih, Qatadah, Zayd bin Aslam and Ad-Dahhak, and this is a matter that is agreed upon. Imam Ahmad recorded that `Ubadah bin As-Samit said, "When the revelation descended upon the Messenger of Allah, it would affect him and his face would show signs of strain. One day, Allah sent down a revelation to him, and when the Messenger was relieved of its strain, he said,
«خُذُوا عَنِّي، قَدْ جَعَلَ اللهُ لَهُنَّ سَبِيلًا، الثَّيِّبُ بِالثَّيِّبِ، وَالْبِكْرُ بِالْبِكْرِ، الثَّــيِّبُ جَلْدُ مِائَةٍ، وَرَجْمٌ بِالْحِجَارَةِ، وَالْبِكْرُ جَلْدُ مِائَةٍ ثُمَّ نَفْيُ سَنَة»
(Take from me: Allah has made some other way for them. The married with the married, the unmarried with the unmarried. The married gets a hundred lashes and stoning to death, while the unmarried gets a hundred lashes then banishment for a year.)'' Muslim and the collectors of the Sunan recorded that `Ubadah bin As-Samit said that the Prophet said,
«خُذُوا عَنِّي خُذُوا عَنِّي، قَدْ جَعَلَ اللهُ لَهُنَّ سَبِيلًا، الْبِكْرُ بِالْبِكْرِ جَلْدُ مِائَةٍ وَتَغْرِيبُ عَامٍ، وَالثَّيِّبُ بِالثَّيِّبِ جَلْدُ مِائَةٍ وَالرَّجْم»
(Take from me, take from me. Allah has made some other way for them: the (unmarried) gets a hundred lashes and banishment for one year, while the (married) gets a hundred lashes and stoning to death.) At-Tirmidhi said, "Hasan Sahih''. Allah said,
وَاللَّذَانَ يَأْتِيَـنِهَا مِنكُمْ فَـَاذُوهُمَا
(And the two persons among you who commit illegal sexual intercourse, punish them both.) Ibn `Abbas and Sa`id bin Jubayr said that this punishment includes cursing, shaming them and beating them with sandals. This was the ruling until Allah abrogated it with flogging or stoning, as we stated. Mujahid said, "It was revealed about the case of two men who do it.'' As if he was referring to the actions of the people of Lut, and Allah knows best. The collectors of Sunan recorded that Ibn `Abbas said that the Messenger of Allah said,
«مَنْ رَأَيْتُمُوهُ يَعْمَلُ عَمَلَ قَوْمِ لُوطٍ، فَاقْتُلُوا الْفَاعِلَ وَالْمَفْعُولَ بِه»
(Whoever you catch committing the act of the people of Lut (homosexuality), then kill both parties to the act.) Allah said,
فَإِن تَابَا وَأَصْلَحَا
(And if they repent and do righteous good deeds), by refraining from that evil act, and thereafter their actions become righteous,
فَأَعْرِضُواْ عَنْهُمَآ
(leave them alone), do not verbally abuse them after that, since he who truly repents is just like he who has no sin,
إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ تَوَّاباً رَّحِيماً
(Surely, Allah is Ever the One Who accepts repentance, Most Merciful.) The following is recorded in the Two Sahihs:
«إِذَا زَنَتْ أَمَةُ أَحَدِكُمْ، فَلْيَجْلِدْهَا الْحَدَّ، وَلَا يُثَرِّبْ عَلَيْهَا»
(When the slave-girl of one of you commits illegal sexual intercouse, let him flog her and not chastise her afterwards. ) because the lashes she receives erase the sin that she has committed.
4.15-16 Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
In both these verses (15-16j, punishment for fornication was prescribed for the first time in Islam. According to verse 15, the guilty women were to be kept in confinement till further order, and according to verse I G both the male and the female guilty of fornication were to be punished, that is rebuked. disgraced, beaten, etc. Afterwards this punishment was altered by verse 2 of Surah An-Nur (XXIV). Now both the male and the female are to be scourged with one hundred stripes each.
This gradual enforcement of the criminal law was based on sound practical wisdom. At that tithe the Arabs were not accustomed to live under a settled government with a regular system of law and judiciary. Therefore it might have unwise and too much for them, if the Islamic State had imposed on them its complete system of criminal laws all at once. That is why at first the sort of punishment contained in these two verses was enforced acid then gradually stricter punishments were prescribed for fornication. theft, slander, etc., and finally that complete system of law was evolved which was in force during the time of the Holy Prophet and his rightly guided successors.
The seeming difference in these two verses has misled commentator Suddi to the conclusion that verse I S prescribed the punishment for married women and verse I G for unmarried men and women. Obviously, this flimsy commentary is not supported by any sound argument. Likewise, the commentary of Abu Muslim Isfahani that verse 15 is about the un-natural crime between two females and verse I G about the un-natural crime between two males is also wrong. The Qur'an is concerned only with the fundamental principles of law and morality: therefore it only discusses those problems which are confronted in normal life and does not concern itself with the ones that are met with under abnormal circumstances. These latter problems, as they arise, are left for the people to decide according to their insight. That is why, when after the death of the Holy Prophet the case of unnatural crime between two males was brought before the Companions, none of them turned to these verses for its decision.
4.15 Qushairi - Al-Qushairi
As for those of your women who commit lewdness call four of you to witness against them; and if they witness then detain them in their houses until death take them or God appoints for them a way. So as to lower the veil of generosity over the sins of servants [God] made allowances through an excessive number of witnesses [required] to establish proof of lewdness which is fornication. To follow the witnessing procedure in the law makes establishing proof of the circumstances nearly impossible. When Māʿiz [ibn Mālik] told [the Prophet] ﷺ “O Messenger of God may the blessings of God be upon you I have committed fornication” he said “Maybe you [only] kissedḍ” On another occasion [the Prophet] said “smell his breath.” In this there is the strongest proof of what I have mentioned of the lowering of the veil over ugly acts.