Do weak hadiths condemn bestiality? Text from Answering Islam, Sam Shamoun

Death Penalty for Bestiality

There is nothing about the punishment for bestiality in Muwatta, Bukhari or Muslim. We find some ahadith on the subject in books of Abu Da`ud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, and Ahmad and, of these muhaddithun those who do express opinions on the authenticity of ahadith they record, do not have a favorable opinion of these particular ahadith.

There is essentially one hadith prescribing death penalty for bestiality:

‘Abd Allah bin Muhammad al-Nufayli related to us: ‘Abd al-‘Aziz bin Muhammad related to us: ‘Amr bin Abi ‘Amr related to me from ‘Ikrimah from Ibn ‘Abbas that the Messenger of God said: “If anyone has sexual intercourse with an animal, kill him and kill it along with him.” (‘Ikrimah) said: “I asked him (Ibn ‘Abbas): ‘Why the animal?’ He replied: ‘I think (the Prophet) disapproved of its flesh being eaten when such a thing had been done to it’.” Abu Da`ud said, This is not strong.  (Abu Da`ud 3871)

Narrations of this hadith with variations are also found in Tirmidhi (1374), Ibn Majah (2554), and Musnad Ahmad (2294, 2591). They all are narrated from ‘Amr bin Abi ‘Amr from ‘Ikrimah from Ibn ‘Abbas. One narration in Ahmad comes from ‘Abbad bin Mansur instead of ‘Amr bin Abi ‘Amr but in that narration the Prophet is not mentioned and the words quoted are understood to be the words Ibn ‘Abbas:

‘Abd al-Wahhab related to us: ‘Abbad bin Mansur informed us from ‘Ikrimah from Ibn ‘Abbas that concerning the one who has sex with an animal he said: “kill the fa`il and maf`ul bihi“. (Ahmad 2597)

But in al-Hakim a narration from the same ‘Abbad bin Mansur from ‘Ikrimah in which the saying of Ibn ‘Abbas becomes a hadith of the Prophet:

From ‘Abbad bin Mansur from ‘Ikrimah from Ibn ‘Abbas that he mentioned (dhakara) the Prophet that concerning the one who has sex with an animal he said: “kill the fa`il and maf`ul bihi” (Al-Hakim, quoted from ‘Awn al-Ma‘bud 3869).

Note that this narration is the same as the one from Ahmad except for the words, “he mentioned the Prophet”. These words are awkward and vague, not clearly stating that the death penalty was prescribed by the Prophet. They are a timid attempt to turn a view attributed to Ibn ‘Abbas into a hadith.

It is even doubtful that Ibn ‘Abbas held this view, since in the following narration, Ibn ‘Abbas in fact says something completely different:

Ahmad bin Yunus related to us that Sharik, Abu al-Ahwas and Abu Bakr bin ‘Ayyash related to them from ‘Asim (bin Bahdalah Abi al-Najud) from Abu Razin from Ibn ‘Abbas who said:There is no prescribed punishment for one who has sexual intercourse with an animal.” Abu Da`ud said: “‘Ata also said so.” Al-Hakam said: “I think he should be flogged, but the number should not reach the prescribed punishment (for zina`, that is, 100 lashes)”. Al-Hasan said: “He is like al-zan.” Adu Da`ud said:This hadith of ‘Asim weakens the hadith of ‘Amr bin ‘Amr.” (Abu Da`ud 3872)

The following facts about the above narrations, when taken together, leave little doubt that the hadith prescribing the death penalty for sex with animals is a fabrication resulting from some mistake or an outright lie:

First, the hadith is narrated only on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas (d. 68) in the first generation, only on the authority of ‘Ikrimah (d. 104) in the second generation, and then mostly from ‘Amr bin Abi ‘Amr (d. 144) in the third generation and very rarely from ‘Abbad bin Mansur (d. 152). Imams Malik, Bukhari, Muslim either did not know about it or did not trust it.

Second, narrators in the third generations, ‘Amr bin Abi ‘Amr and ‘Abbad bin Mansur, are not reliable. Abu Zur‘ah al-Razi considers ‘Amr bin Abi ‘Amr thiqah and Abu Hatim, Ibn ‘Adi and Ahmad say la bas bi hi. But al-Nasa`i considers him munkar and says he is not strong. Bukhari said that ‘Amr bin Abi ‘Amr is trustworthy but he has wrongly attributed to ‘Ikrimah several traditions. Yahya bin Ma‘in and al-‘Ajli also called him thiqah but rejected the ahadith he narrated from ‘Ikrimah from Ibn ‘Abbas. The views of scholars about ‘Abbad bin Mansur are even more negative. Thus he is described as da‘if al-hadith by Abu Hatim, laysa bi shay` by Yahya bin Ma‘in, layyin by al-Razi andmunkar al-hadith, qadri, mudallis by Ahmad.

Third, in one narration in Musnad Ahmad, also from ‘Ikrimah from Ibn ‘Abbas, the “hadith” is found as a saying of Ibn ‘Abbas and NOT a saying of the Holy Prophet. So there is a distinct possibility that an opinion of Ibn ‘Abbas was attributed to the Prophet by a later transmitter such as ‘Amr bin Abi ‘Amr.

Fourth, it is doubtful that Ibn ‘Abbas believed in the death penalty for bestiality, since in another tradition Ibn ‘Abbas himself says clearly, “there is no prescribed punishment for sex with an animal”.

Fifth, as noted in ‘Awn al-Ma‘bud, the four Sunni schools of fiqh are unanimous that death is not prescribed for one who commits sexual intercourse with an animal, but may be given some other punishment (yu‘azzar wa la yuqtal). Such an agreement among the fuqaha` would have been difficult to develop if they generally knew and accepted a hadith, in which the Prophet ordered to kill the one who has sex with an animal.

Although, in view of the above considerations, there can be little doubt the hadith in question is a false hadith, yet some later scholars accept the hadith and then try to reconcile it with the opinion of the fuqaha`. Thus some say that killing is mentioned in the hadith only as a threat not meant to be carried out. Some say that the killing of the man is only a threat but killing of the animal is to be carried out in actuality. In contrast to such artificial explanations of later scholars, Abu Da`ud and Tirmidhi themselves show better sense. Abu Da`ud, facing the obvious, declares: the tradition of ‘Asim (in which it is denied that there is any prescribed punishment for sex with animals) weakens the tradition of ‘Amr bin Abi ‘Amr (in which the death penalty is prescribed). Tirmidhi also shows reservation about the hadith by noting: “We do not find this hadith except from ‘Amr bin ‘Amr and he from ‘Ikrimah and he from Ibn ‘Abbas and he from the Prophet.”

It is necessary that when the weakness of a hadith reaches the level shown above we should have the courage to call it a false hadith, something that many scholars do not do. The authentic teaching of Islam, meant to guide humanity for all times to come, could not have been transmitted in this weak way. If we do not declare such ahadith as false then this means that we cannot free ourselves from the errors and lies of some Muslims in the past and therefore cannot faithfully interpret and implement what God and his Messenger have taught us. This in turn means that we cannot move forward as a civilization…

Since the narration in Abu Da`ud 3870 does not attribute the death penalty for the homosexual act to the Prophet but only to Ibn ‘Abbas, it is quite possible that the tradition originally was not marfu‘ (attributed to the Prophet) but became so only at a later time. Earlier we noted a similar situation in case of a hadith from ‘Abbad bin Mansur about bestiality. In one narration (Ahmad 2597) the death penalty for this misdeed is attributed to Ibn ‘Abbas while in another narration, reported in al-Hakim, it becomes a hadith. This evidence strongly suggests that death penalties for sexual crimes were not originally based on the words of the Prophet but of some Companions. We can even go further:since the death penalty at least for the homosexual act was not known to al-Zuhri or Imam Malik as a hadith or even as an opinion of a Companion but as an opinion of some fuqaha` among the Successors, it is quite possible that even its attribution to a Companion such as Ibn ‘Abbas is not historical. Certainly, in case of bestiality we have seen evidence showing that Ibn ‘Abbas did not think that there was any prescribed penalty.

It is also worth noting that all the ahadith about the death penalty for deviant sex, i.e. sex with animals, a mahram, or a member of one’s own gender come from the same very small group of transmitters in the first four generations: Ibn ‘Abbas, ‘Ikrimah, Da`ud bin al-Husayn, ‘Amr bin Abi ‘Amr, Ibrahim bin Isma‘il etc. If the Prophet prescribed the death penalty for all these crimes, it is strange that its knowledge in all three cases remained limited to a few Hadith students for about one and a half century. (Shafaat, Death Penalty For Homosexuality, Incest, And Bestiality: Source)

Not only are there no sound narrations prescribing any specific punishments for bestiality, we actually find at least one scholarly reference that seems to support the permissibility of engaging in this perverted act.

{Side note: One interesting thing about the author is that he consistently claims throughout his article that the prescribed punishments mentioned in these weak or forged narrations regarding bestiality, homosexuality etc. actually come from the Holy Bible!}

To summarize our analysis of the Quran, we found one text worded in such a manner as to suggest that a person can take a mate, a partner from cattle. Other texts seem to support it by saying that individuals are to protect their private parts except from their spouses and what their right hands own. Since animals are part of what a person owns this seems to suggest that intercourse with beasts is permissible. Even if one wishes to argue that the author didn’t mean to imply that bestiality is permissible, at the very least this shows that the Quran is far from being as eloquent and as clear as Muslims believe. Specific texts are written in a very chaotic and confusing manner, leading into all kinds of ethical and theological problems.

The Muslims are obviously left in a very difficult position.

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2 Responses to Do weak hadiths condemn bestiality? Text from Answering Islam, Sam Shamoun

  1. θ says:

    Just like slavery, the end of legitimate and legal punishment of perverts and Homosexuals is a recent backward evolution in the West Christendom.
    Someday, every sins and perversions would be permissible for them, even perhaps terrorism. Maybe it’s just a matter of time?
    When the Roman Empire came under Christian rule, all male homosexual activity was increasingly repressed, often on pain of death.[8] In 342 CE, the Christian emperors Constantius and Constans declared same-sex marriage to be illegal.[9] Shortly after, in the year 390 CE, emperors Valentinian II, Theodosius I and Arcadius declared homosexual sex to be illegal and those who were guilty of it were condemned to be publicly burned alive.[8] Emperor Justinian I (527–565 CE) made homosexuals a scapegoat for problems such as “famines, earthquakes, and pestilences.”[10]

    Laws and codes prohibiting homosexual practice were in force in Europe from the fourth[8] to the twentieth centuries, and Muslim countries have had similar laws from the beginnings of Islam in the seventh century up to and including the present day. Abbasid Baghdad, under the Caliph Al-Hadi (785–786 CE), punished homosexuality with death.

    During the Middle Ages, the Kingdom of France and the City of Florence also instated the death penalty. In Florence, a young boy named Giovanni di Giovanni (1350–1365?) was castrated and burned between the thighs with a red-hot iron by court order under this law.[11][12] These punishments continued into the Renaissance, and spread to the Swiss canton of Zürich. Knight Richard von Hohenberg (died 1482) was burned at the stake together with his lover, his young squire, during this time. In France, French writer Jacques Chausson (1618–1661) was also burned alive for attempting to seduce the son of a nobleman.

    In England, the Buggery Act of 1534 made sodomy and bestiality punishable by death. This act was replaced in 1828, but sodomy remained punishable by death under the new act until 1861. The last executions were in 1835.

  2. θ says:

    In Medieval Ages, even the Reformed would shout so proudly “Je suis Islamist”
    More and more evidences of History showed how that Islam and the Medieval West (both Catholicism and Reformation) were once very common.

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