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Verse 4:16 - Does it refer to two men or man and woman?


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Author Topic: Verse 4:16 - Does it refer to two men or man and woman?  (Read 130 times)
Ruhi_Rose
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« on: December 08, 2017, 12:18:47 pm »

 BismEm


Quoting Verse 4:16

"And as for the two of you who are guilty thereof, punish them both. And if they repent and improve, then let them be. Lo! Allah is ever relenting, Merciful."   - Translation Pickthall.

Concerning the underlined portion, "two of you" - some readers of the Quran say this refers to two men.  In other words, the reference is to homosexuality.  How do they presume that?  I was quite sure it referred to heterosexual relation ... "two of you" meaning the man and woman involved in illicit sexual relations.
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« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2017, 01:42:22 pm »

It is possible that the reference is to same gender relations but we cannot be sure.  Many readers also conclude that the preceding Verse 4:15 is reference to same gender relations too.  That goes to say that Verse 4:16 refers to homosexuality (male same gender relations) and Verse 4:15 refers to lesbian relations (female same gender relations).  Quoting both Verses below (word by word literal translation):

"And those who commit immorality from your women then call to witness against them four among you. And if they testify then confine them in their houses until comes to them death or Allah makes for them a way."  (4:15).

"And the two who commit it among you, 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."   (4:16).

Two different commentaries have attempted to explain Verses 4:15/16 as alluding to same gender relations.

First is the Jalalyn tafsir which tries to assess on grammatical grounds.  Quoting this commentary:  "Judging by the dual person pronoun it seems more obvious that homosexual fornication is meant by this verse even though the school of al-Shāfi‘ī was of the opinion that it referred to an adulterer and an adulteress; but this opinion may be countered by the fact that the reference to the two men becomes clear because the Arabic term "minkum" ("among you") is a masculine plural pronoun, that they suffer the same punishment both effect the action of repentance and are both granted that they be left alone thereafter all of which applies specifically to men given that for women detention is stipulated as was stated before (V.4:15)."   

This might be correct but I'm really not sure.    Various words in Arabic are classified as masculine or feminine parts of speech which denote the grammatical identification of words but aren't necessarily used for the respective genders only.  For instance the preceding Verse 4:15 mentions "your women" which in original Arabic is "nisa ikum"  and "ikum" is masculine plural pronoun.  When Allah says "your women" or "nisa ikum" it refers to the woman belonging to a family which would obviously include the male and female members of that woman's family, namely her father and mother.   So I am really not sure if the grammatical classification of the word "minkum" is sufficient to determine that it refers to two men.

Second is  M. Asadi's opinion, quote:  "The words in Verses 4:15 and 4:16 do not speak about adultery between man and woman, but about same gender sexual relations. In 4:15 the subject is two women and in 4:16 the subject is two men.   In 4:15, God set a punishment for women who commit lesbian activities;  in 4:16 God left the punishment to be decided by the community."  Apparently the punishment for lewdness between same gender people would be the same as in the case of heterosexual relations out-of-wedlock.  Asadi further adds:  "The words "Then if they repent and reform, you shall leave them alone" in 4:16 do not cancel the punishment which is due to the male couple. The words "Then if" at the beginning of the sentence mean that if they repent and reform after they receive the punishment, that they are not to be harassed or degraded by anyone."  Similarly about women in Verse 4:15 where Allah says to confine them in their homes until death or until Allah decides a way for them basically means temporary confinement until they have reformed.

To conclude, the fact remains that neither Verse 4:15 nor 4:16 directly confirm  nor denote homosexuality and lesbianism, respectively. 

The main reason for concluding same gender relations is that punishment of fornication in heterosexual relations is already given in Verse 24:2 (Surah An-Nur) as hundred lashes.  Therefore, for the same situation translators think that Verses 4:15 and 4:16 would not mention a different punishment unless the offence is somewhat different.  But I don't fully agree with this point.   Judgement for many offenses are flexible in the Quran.  For instance, the heterosexual law of Li'an about punishment of an unfaithful wife is based purely on trust.  If the husband suspects his wife of committing fornication (or call it adultery), he has to take an oath on Allah 5 times that his accusation is true.  Then if the wife takes an oath on Allah 5 times refuting his accusation, then by law it has to be taken that she's truthful and the husband's allegation must be discarded.  There can be no punishment of lashes nor any other penalty.  In case the wife has taken a false oath to refute the allegation, then Allah will know it and her punishment will be in the Hereafter.  But in this world she got to be presumed innocent.  Similarly if the husband, out of spite, takes a false oath to accuse his wife, he will  suffer its consequences in the Hereafter, and of course the wife is fully entitled to deny it with a similar oath on Allah.   So, one can say that this procedure is different from Verse 24:2 of one hundred lashes.  But it is NOT a contradiction as some may jump to assume.  Verse 24:2 simply states a basic punishment for a particular offense.  But every case concerning the same offense has different circumstances and therefore require different procedures to verify its truth.  Considering that, in most cases the earthly punishment has to be waived.  Moreover, witnesses doesn't necessarily refer to eye-witnesses.  It simply means anyone who can testify concerning the case with whatever information they may have.  Yet, in 99% of cases, this cannot contribute to collecting  substantial evidence of guilt by a long shot.

Of course, this doesn't imply in any way at all that same gender relations isn't prohibited in the Quran.  It certainly and absolutely is.  Allah has already condemned the people of Lut who indulged in homosexual relations.  And very definitely, from the same perspective, same gender sexual relations among females is just as unacceptable.  All of that goes without saying.  This post is only on the interpretations of Verses 4:15-16.
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« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2017, 01:57:22 pm »

That makes it much clearer to me.  Allah bless you, dear brother.   So I would conclude that it could mean either heterosexual or same gender relations. Only Allah can confirm.   Personally to me, both Verses seem references of man and woman. 
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« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2017, 01:58:14 pm »

Yes sister, it appears exactly the same way to me too.  Though same gender relations is flatly prohibited, these two particular Verses may not necessarily refer to that.  But only Allah knows best.
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« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2017, 08:21:53 am »

..... Though same gender relations is flatly prohibited, these two particular Verses may not necessarily refer to that.  But only Allah knows best.

Exactly and undoubtedly.
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« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2017, 11:11:20 am »

This point never struck me about these 2 Verses.  Thank you for the query Sister Ruhi and plenty of thanks to brother TS for analyzing it in a manner uncomplicated and precise.  The conclusion you folks mentioned is the obvious one.  Only Allah would know best but it apparently seems like the reference is to man and woman. 

Concerning Verse 4:16 the only two translators I've so far checked have explained it as an allusion to men (translating as "two men") are Yusuf Ali and Abdel Haleem.   All  others  have  used expressions such as "those two or any two or two persons" etc.  which bear no irrefutable proof that it means two men. 

Concerning Verse 4:15 "As for those of your women who may commit whoredom,...."   translation Abdul Majid Daryabadi  apparently defines heterosexual act, that is, whoredom generally refers to lewdness or promiscuity of a woman in relation to a man.    Then again Ahmed Ali's translation of Verse 4:15 reads "If any of your women is guilty of unnatural offence,.."  apparently alludes to same gender relation.  But use of the word "unnatural" comes from his own opinion of presuming it's a same gender issue.  In the literal translation of Verse 4:15 there's no room for this term. 

As we can see, the translators are basically expressing their own opinions via their works.  The original Quranic Verses quite obviously do not confirm same gender relations.  Also bother TS' final paragraph contains very comprehensive contents to conclude.  "Of course, this doesn't imply in any way at all that same gender relations isn't prohibited in the Quran."    This is a very important factor to remember even if Verses 4:15-16 doesn't imply to same gender relations.
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« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2017, 12:20:30 pm »


Many thanks for the analysis and query brother and sisters.  This is certainly as far as we can go to interpret these two Verses, maintaining the fact that information in this thread is not supposed to imply that same gender relations isn't prohibited in the Quran.  It surely is and I'm glad brother TS clarified that aspect too. 

I also value his emphasis on not using Verse 24:2 of Surah An-Nur to presume that if Verse 4:15 refers to the punishment of a woman's relations with a man, is "contradictory" compared to Verse 24:2.  What is stated in Verse 24:2 is the basic or ultimate earthly penance for the violation of illicit sexual relations between man and woman.  But every such case has different circumstances and therefore the basic penalty cannot be implemented each time someone is suspected of fornication (the law of Li'an is a good example of that).  According to the circumstances, the punishment has grades in accordance with the strength of evidences acquired in every case.  It's only when foolproof evidences of fornication are available via sound and airtight testimonies of witnesses that the punishment of Verse 24:2 is applicable which might not be so in 99% of cases.
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« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2017, 12:35:47 pm »

Thanks for some additional input Sisters Heba and Zeynab.  All your points have surely clarified certain vital aspects of this topic.  Nonetheless, focused on these two Verses, our dinner table discussion continued last evening.  Most members of my family perceive these Verses as man-woman relations.  But some consider the indirect denotation to be same gender relations. 

For instance my brother is of the opinion that Verse 4:15 spells out the exact punishment which can be read as temporary incarceration (house arrest) from modern perspective for women involved in either same gender or heterosexual relations.  Verse 4:16 simply states to punish the guilty but does not spell out the exact nature of punishment which apparently indicates the legal authority may decide the punishment as either 100 lashes as stated in Verse 24:2 (even in the case of homosexual relations) or something lesser depending on the level of certainty of the evidences available.  But the reason why same gender relations in both Verses is more likely is  since the nature of punishment is stated in Verse 4:15 and if you presume this as the punishment for those women guilty of illicit intimate relations with a man, then why would Verse 4:16 leave the nature of punishment open for the legal authorities to decide if it also referred to a man's relation with a woman?  However, my husband is of the opinion that Verse 4:16 may imply the same as Verse 4:15 by reiterating, that is, underscoring that a man having illicit relations with a woman should either face similar confinement or some other penalty as decided by the law lesser than lashes on account of lesser evidences. 

We come to the same conclusion that we cannot confirm whether the reference in both Verses is to same gender relations or heterosexual relations.  But would like to know your views on the opinions of my brother and husband.
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« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2017, 12:51:30 pm »

Yes Sister Ruhi, both those views of your brother and husband are very logical and likely.  They certainly make sense either way.  I would think that each individual reader as well as every legal authority within a Muslim society are entitled to expound as they deem correct according to their unbiased perception & understanding of these Verses.  Yet none of that can  be a final confirmation.  The wholesale differences in opinion is itself an indication that only Allah is the Final Authority.  Whatever might be the decision of Shariah or Fiqh concerning Verses 4:15-16, that's their opinion just as we have ours.  The final evaluation will come from Allah Almighty on the Day of Judgement.  For that reason it's highly important for every human source to be super careful with their interpretations to make sure they decide to the best of their understanding without indulging in bias nor harboring selfish motives.
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« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2017, 01:01:23 pm »



Many thanks Sis Zeynab  Smiley     And thanks to all for your time and interest to discuss.  Allah bless.
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« Reply #10 on: December 14, 2017, 01:04:11 pm »


You're very welcomed Sister Ruhi.  We hope to receive many more educational queries from you and our MV Team, InshAllah.  Allah bless all of you.  Ameen.
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« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2017, 01:05:12 pm »


InshAllah, ameen.
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