The Adulteress is Confined in Her House; A Command Later Abrogated
“And those who commit immorality from your women, then bring against them four witnesses from among you. And if they testify, then confine them in their houses until death takes them or Allah ordains for them (some other) way. And the two among you who commit it (immorality), then punish both of them. But if they repent and correct themselves, then turn away from both of them. Indeed, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”
In previous ayaat, the objective was to correct the malpractices of the days of ignorance committed about orphans and inheritances. The people of jahiliyyah also used to subject women to cruel treatment. They had certain other evil customs also, such as marrying prohibited women.
The present ayaat are meant to correct such customs, however, it has been permitted that if a woman commits a proven guilt, she can be punished. This subject of correcting the evil customs will continue through the next two or three sections.
At the beginning 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 subhanahu wa ta’ala said,
وَاللَـتِى يَأْتِينَ الْفَـحِشَة مِن نِّسَآئِكُمْ فَاسْتَشْهِدُواْ عَلَيْهِنَّ أَرْبَعةً مِّنْكُمْ فَإِن شَهِدُواْ فَأَمْسِكُوهُنَّ فِى الْبُيُوتِ حَتَّى يَتَوَفَّاهُنَّ الْمَوْتُ أَوْ يَجْعَلَ اللَّهُ لَهُنَّ سَبِيلاً
“And those who commit immorality from your women, then bring against them four witnesses from among you. And if they testify, then confine them in their houses until death takes 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, “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.”
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala further says in the ayah,
وَاللَّذَانَ يَأْتِيَـنِهَا مِنكُمْ فَـَاذُوهُمَا
“And the two among you who commit it (immorality), then punish both of them.” 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, “Whoever you catch committing the act of the people of Lut (homosexuality), then kill both parties to the act.”
He then says,
فَإِن تَابَا وَأَصْلَحَا
“And if they repent and do righteous good deeds”,by refraining from that evil act, and thereafter their actions become righteous,
“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:
“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.