In this post, I am going to address the feeble attempt by certain Muhammadan scholars and apologists to undermine the report from Aisha that a sheep devoured the only copy which contained the verses of stoning adulterers, and of women breastfeeding men. I already wrote a post on this specific issue, which can be accessed here: (https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2019/09/28/a-docile-beast-falsifies-the-quran-how-a-sheep-trumped-allah-and-his-messenger/).
Here is what a very popular online Salafi website claims with respect to the hadith of the goat eating the sheet that contained the verses of adult breastfeeding and stoning:
There is this hadith that a Christian is posting in Internet forums. It is hadith no. 1944 in Sunan Ibn Maajah, Kitaab an-Nikaah, which has to do with a goat eating the Qur’an. It was posted in a forum for discussion between Muslims and Christians. I would like to know the whole story about this matter and its history…
All versions of the hadith are based on the following chain of narrators:
Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr ibn Hazm, from ‘Amrah bint ‘Abd ar-Rahmaan, from ‘Aa’ishah. The isnaad ends with her and does not go back to the Prophet.
The hadith was taken from ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr by a number of narrators and their narrations are as follows…
It was narrated by Imam Maalik. His version says: Among that which was revealed of the Qur’an was the ruling that those ten definite breastfeedings are required to establish the relationship of mahram, then that was abrogated and replaced with five definite breastfeedings. When the Messenger of Allah died this was among the things that were recited in the Qur’an.
This was narrated by Maalik in al-Muwatta’ (Kitaab ar-Ridaa‘, hadith no. 17), and via him by Imam Muslim (1452) and others. We may note here that the report of Imam Maalik from ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr also does not include any mention of the story of the goat or tame sheep eating anything of the Mus-haf. Rather one sentence is added to it at the end: When the Messenger of Allah died this was among the things that were recited in the Qur’an.
It was narrated by Muhammad ibn Ishaaq. His version says: The verse of stoning and breastfeeding of an adult ten times was revealed, and it was written on a leaf that was kept beneath a bed in my [‘Aa’ishah’s] house. When the Messenger of Allah fell sick, we were preoccupied with his situation, and a little animal of ours came in and ate it.
This was narrated by Imam Ahmad in al-Musnad (43/343), and Ibn Maajah in as-Sunan (no. 1944); the latter version says: When the Messenger of Allah died, we were preoccupied with his death, and a tame sheep came in and ate it.
As you can see, this version does mention the odd phrase that is additional to what was narrated by the two great imams, Yahya ibn Sa‘eed al-Ansaari and Maalik ibn Anas. This is what the questioner referred to in his question. In this version of the hadith it says that a tame sheep – which is a sheep that people feed in their homes – came in and ate the page that contained the verse of stoning and the verse of breastfeeding an adult.
This difference was sufficient for the scholars of hadith to rule that the version narrated by Muhammad ibn Ishaaq was da‘eef (weak), and that it was to be rejected and regarded as odd. In their view, the odd hadith is any hadith in which a trustworthy narrator differed with that which was narrated by other trustworthy narrators who were more accurate than him in the narration or were greater in number. This is a sound academic principle, because how can one narrator have additional wording in a hadith that others also narrated from the original narrators, when the latter are greater in number, more accurate in memory and narration, and of higher status in knowledge of hadith? Why didn’t they also narrate this additional or different material? Is there any other way to understand what happened, except by referring to that rule in order to know where some narrators differed in their narration and included some odd material in it? If that is not the case (and you do not want to refer to that rule), then how could this debater convince us that Muhammad ibn Ishaaq learned of the hadith of ‘Aa’ishah that which both Yahya ibn Sa‘eed al-Ansaari and Maalik ibn Anas had forgotten, when they were both leading scholars and senior figures in their field? In fact Sufyaan ath-Thawri said: Yahya ibn Sa‘eed al-Ansaari was, in the view of the people of Madinah, of a higher standard in the field of hadith than az-Zuhri. ‘Ali ibn al-Madeeni regarded him as one of the most authentic and trustworthy narrators of hadith, and one of those concerning whom one would have no sense of unease with their hadith at all. Ahmad ibn Hanbal said concerning him: He is one of the most accurate in narration. Wuhayb said: I came to Madinah and I did not see anyone but you might feel comfortable with some of what they narrated and have reservations about other reports of theirs, except Maalik and Yahya ibn Sa‘eed (i.e., all of their reports could be accepted without reservation).
See: Tahdheeb at-Tahdheeb (11/223)…
Yahya ibn Ma‘een classed him as da‘eef in one report narrated from him. An-Nasaa’i said: He is not qawiy (strong). Ad-Daaraqutni said: The leading scholars differed concerning him, and he is not an authority; rather his narration may be taken into consideration (alongside others)
See: Tahdheeb at-Tahdheeb (9/45)…
What will make the matter clearer is the fact that al-Qaasim ibn Muhammad, like ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr, narrated the hadith without the additional material of Muhammad ibn Ishaaq.
At-Tahhaawi narrated in Sharh Mushkil al-Athaar (11/486): Muhammad ibn Khuzaymah told us: al-Hajjaaj ibn Minhaal told us: Hammaad ibn Salamah told us, from ‘Abd ar-Rahmaan ibn al-Qaasim, from al-Qaasim ibn Muhammad, from ‘Amrah, that ‘Aa’ishah said: Among the things that were revealed in the Qur’an, then abrogated, was that the relationship of mahram cannot be established except by ten breastfeedings, then after that it was revealed: or five breastfeedings.
To sum up, the story of the sheep eating a page of the Holy Qur’an in the house of ‘Aa’ishah is da‘eef (weak) and is not proven…
End quote from Ta’weel Mukhtalif al-Hadith (p. 443)
The commentators on the Musnad of Imam Ahmad said:
Its isnaad is da‘eef because the only one who narrated it was Muhammad ibn Ishaaq, and its text contains something odd.
End quote from the Mu’sasat ar-Risaalah edn (43/343)
With regard to the additional material having been on a page that was kept with ‘Aa’ishah and was eaten by the tame sheep, it is a fabrication and lie of the heretics that this was lost as the result of being eaten by a tame sheep without being abrogated. This is what it says in al-Kashshaaf.
End quote from Rooh al-Ma‘aani (11/140) (Islam Question & Answer, “The hadith about the sheep eating the page containing the verse about stoning and breastfeeding in the house of ‘Aa’ishah is not saheeh” https://islamqa.info/en/answers/175355/the-hadith-about-the-sheep-eating-the-page-containing-the-verse-about-stoning-and-breastfeeding-in-the-house-of-aaishah-is-not-saheeh; underline emphasis mine)
The three main objections against the authenticity of Ibn Ishaq’s report of a tame goat devouring the only written copy of the verses of stoning and the breastfeeding of adults are:
- The narration is said to be weak or fabricated.
- Ibn Ishaq is questionable when it comes to narrating ahadith.
- Other more reliable hadith transmitters and Muslim scholars did not mention or include this addition when referring to Aisha’s hadith about breastfeeding.
I will address each of these points so as to show that none of what these authorities claim suffices to refute the veracity of this tradition, nor does this solve the problem this raises on the preservation of the Quran.
In the first place, contrary to the assertion that this report is graded daif (“weak”), or even false, there are specific Muslim scholars that classified it as sahih (“sound”) and hasan (“good”). Note, for instance, what this next ahadith states:
Sunan Ibn Majah
The Chapters on Marriage
It was narrated that ‘Aishah said:
“The Verse of stoning and of breastfeeding an adult ten times was revealed1, and the paper was with me under my pillow. When the Messenger of Allah died, we were preoccupied with his death, and a tame sheep came in AND ATE IT.”
1: These verses were abrogated in recitation but not ruling. Other ahadith establish the number for fosterage to be 5.
Grade: HASAN (Darussalam)
English reference: Vol. 3, Book 9, Hadith 1944
The following is an English translation of an online Arabic fatwa that addresses the issue of this particular narration:
Abu Salamah Yahya bin Khalaf told us, Abdul al-Ali told us about Muhammad ibn Ishaq on the authority of Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr on the authority of Amrah on the authority of Aisha and Abd al-Rahman bin Qasim from his father from Aisha. She said, “The verse of stoning and adult breastfeeding ten times was revealed, and it was in the sheet under my bed when the Messenger of Allah died. And we were concerned with his death. Poultry (dajin) entered and ate it.”
I want a grading of this hadith and an explanation of it, as a non-Muslim person sent it to me as evidence that the Qur’an is incomplete and unreliable. May Allah reward you.
This hadith was narrated by Imam Ibn Majah 1/625 and Al-Darqutni: 4/179, Abu Ali in his Musnad 8/64, and al-Tabarani in his dictionary 8/12, and Ibn Qutaybah in his interpretation of questionable hadiths, and its origin is in Al-Sahihayn, and Ibn Hazm mentioned it in Al-Mahli 11/236 and he said this is a SOUND (SAHIH) hadith…
And her saying: (And it was…), that is, the Qur’an after it was copied from recitation (in a sheet under my bed) and the poultry (dajin): The sheep whom people feed from their homes, and it may be something other than a sheep that frequents in homes, from birds and others…
Ibn Qutaybah said…
And if the wonder is about the sheep – the sheep is best of cattle, so it is not surprising that the sheep ate the page. And the mouse is the worst among the insects of the earth, gnawing the pages and urinating on them. And if the fire had burnt the page or the hypocrites had taken it away – the wonder would have been less. (Islamweb https://www.islamweb.net/ar/fatwa/12905/)
And here’s their answer from the English version of the site:
|Fatwa Title||:||Two abrogated verses about breastfeeding and stoning|
Al salam Alikom, I was this reading this article when it mentioned the following hadeeth, Sunan Ibn Majah, Book of Nikah, Hadith # 1934. This hadeeth mentions that there were verses from the quran written down on a piece of paper that Aisha had placed under her bed and a goat came in and ate that paper containing the verses and they were lost. My question is, is this hadeeth true?
This Hadeeth was reported by Ibn Maajah and others and Shaykh Al-Albaani classified it AS HASAN [GOOD].
It should be noted here that some callers to misguidance provide this Hadeeth as evidence that the Quran is incomplete. As mentioned in the Hadeeth, the paper contained two verses: the verse about breastfeeding and the verse about stoning. So, these callers to misguidance have an evil purpose in providing this Hadeeth as evidence that the Quran is incomplete; but their purpose has failed, praise be to Allah.
Indeed, the scholars refuted such misconceptions; for instance Ibn Hazm said: “It is confirmed that the wordings of these two verses were abrogated and the paper on which they were written was eaten by the goat, as stated by ‘Aa’ishah. Indeed, there was no need for it….” Then he said: “The evidence for this is that they had learnt them (the two verses) by heart and were it known to them that they were still from the Quran, then the fact that this paper was eaten by the goat would not have prevented them from writing them in the compiled copy of the Quran.
However, the two mentioned verses were abrogated: the verse about breastfeeding was abrogated both in terms of its recitation and its ruling, and the verse about stoning, its recitation was abrogated and its ruling remained in effect. It is for this reason that the Companions did not write them in the compiled copy of the Quran. This is what Ibn Hazm meant.
Allaah Knows best.
Fatwa answered by: The Fatwa Center at Islamweb
http://www.islamweb.net (https://www.islamweb.net/emainpage/PrintFatwa.php?lang=E&Id=182309&lang=E&Id=182309; capital and underline emphasis mine)
Ironically, Ibn Hazm is also cited by Islam Question & Answer in their discussion of this narration:
Ibn Hazm said:
It was proven that the wording was abrogated, but the sheet on which it was written remained, as ‘Aa’ishah said – then it was eaten by the tame sheep; but no one needs it (that verse). Something similar may be said with regard to the verse on breastfeeding, and there is no difference between the two. The proof of that is that they memorised (the verse) as we have mentioned. So if it was confirmed as being part of the Qur’an, the fact that the sheep ate it would not have changed the fact that it was part of the Qur’an, based on the fact that they had memorised it.
Thus we may conclude with certainty that no two Muslims differ concerning the fact that Allah, may He be exalted, enjoined upon His Messenger the conveying of the message, and that he conveyed it as he had been instructed to do. … And we may conclude, with regard to the verses that were lost, that if the Messenger of Allah had been instructed to convey them, he would have done so, and if he had conveyed them they would have been memorised, and if they had been memorised then the death of the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) would not affect the matter at all, just as the fact that he died did not affect anything else of what he had conveyed of the Qur’an.
End quote from al-Muhalla (12/177) (Islam Question & Answer)
I will address Ibn Hazm’s claims shortly.
Secondly, even though Ibn Ishaq may have been deemed weak he wasn’t completely unreliable, which is why the Muslim scholars never rejected him outright or refused to narrate anything from him.
This is a fact that the Islam Question & Answer website itself acknowledges:
3. His scholarly status
Ibn Ishaaq was held in high esteem among the scholars of his own time, because of the vastness of his knowledge. Imam adh-Dhahabi said of him: He was the first one to write down knowledge in Madinah; that was before Maalik and Dhawayh. He was like a wondrous ocean of knowledge, but he was not as precise as he should have been.
Therefore scholarly praise of him was persistent from the earliest times.
‘Ali ibn al-Madeeni said: The hadith of the Messenger of Allah was mainly conveyed by six – and he mentioned them, then he said: And knowledge of the six ended up with twelve, one of whom is Muhammad ibn Ishaaq.
Imam az-Zuhri said: There is a great deal of knowledge in Madinah so long as Ibn Ishaaq remains among them.
4. His vast knowledge of maghaazi (Prophet’s military campaigns) and siyar (Prophet’s biography)
Muhammad ibn Ishaaq is famous for his intense interest in knowledge of maghaazi (Prophet’s military campaigns), as he was the first one to compile the reports of maghaazi into a book. Imam ash-Shaafa‘i said concerning him: Whoever wants to acquire detailed knowledge of maghaazi has no choice but to rely on Muhammad ibn Ishaaq. Ibn ‘Adiyy said: If Ibn Ishaaq had no virtue other than the fact that he diverted rulers from focusing on books from which nothing may be learned to focusing on the military campaigns of the Messenger of Allah, how his mission began, and the beginning of creation, this virtue would be enough to put him ahead of others. Imam adh-Dhahabi said: He was a great scholar of maghaazi…
6. Scholarly praise for his hadith
Shu‘bah ibn al-Hajjaaj said concerning him: He was the ameer al-mu’mineen in hadith.
Abu Mu‘aawiyah ad-Dareer said: Ibn Ishaaq was one of the people with the best memory. If a man had fifty hadiths or more, and he left them with Ibn Ishaaq, he would say: Memorise them for me, then if I forget them, you will have preserved them for me.
Sufyaan ath-Thawri said: I sat with Ibn Ishaaq seventy-odd years ago, and none of the people of Madinah made any accusations against him or said anything bad about him.
‘Ali ibn ‘Abdullah said: I looked in the books of Ibn Ishaaq and I did not find anything about which I had any reservations, apart from two hadiths, but they may still have been sound and saheeh…
Ya‘qoob ibn Shaybah said: I asked ‘Ali – i.e., ibn al-Madeeni –: How is the hadith of Ibn Ishaaq in your view –is it saheeh?
He said: Yes, his hadith is saheeh in my view…
Imam adh-Dhahabi said: We do not claim that the leading scholars of al-jarh wa’t-ta‘deel (evaluation of hadith narrators) were infallible and did not occasionally make mistakes or speak harshly about those with whom there was some ill feeling or animosity. It is known that much of what peers say about one another is to be ignored and does not count for anything, especially if the man is regarded as trustworthy by a group of scholars who sound fair-minded in what they say. These two men – i.e., Maalik and Ibn Ishaaq – each criticised the other, but what Maalik said about Muhammad being somewhat imprecise in narration had an impact of Ibn Ishaaq’s reputation, whereas what Muhammad said concerning Maalik did not have any impact. Maalik rose to high status and became like a star, and the other one – i.e., Ibn Ishaaq – also attained relatively high status, especially in the field of biography…
Ibn ‘Adiyy said: I examined his hadith a great deal, and I did not find any of his hadith that would lead one to state categorically that he is da‘eef. But he may make mistakes, or be confused sometimes, as others also made mistakes, but trustworthy narrators and leading scholars did not refrain from narrating from him, and there is nothing wrong with him. (Ibid., Status of Muhammad ibn Ishaaq, the narrator of al-Maghaazi, in the view of hadith scholars https://islamqa.info/en/answers/148009/status-of-muhammad-ibn-ishaaq-the-narrator-of-al-maghaazi-in-the-view-of-hadith-scholars; bold emphasis mine)
With that said, even if we were to set aside the addition of Ibn Ishaq, Aisha’s report is still damning nonetheless since her words conclusively prove that the Quran has indeed been corrupted.
Note, again, what Muhammad’s child bride is reported to have said:
’A’isha reported that it had been revealed IN the Holy Qur’an that ten clear sucklings make the marriage unlawful, then it was abrogated (and substituted) by five sucklings and Allah’s Apostle died and it was before that time (found) IN THE HOLY QUR’AN (and recited by the Muslims). (Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3421 https://www.searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=008&translator=2&start=0&number=3421; bold, capital and italicized emphasis mine)
‘Amra reported that she beard ‘A’isha discussing fosterage which (makes marriage) unlawful; and she (‘A’isha) said: There was revealed IN the Holy Qur’an ten clear sucklings, and then five clear (sucklings). (Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3422 https://www.searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=008&translator=2&start=0&number=3422; bold, capital and italicized emphasis mine)
Yahya related to me from Malik from Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr ibn Hazm from Amra bint Abd ar-Rahman that A’isha, the wife of the Prophet, said, “Amongst what was sent down of the Qur’an was ‘ten known sucklings make haram’ – then it was abrogated by ‘five known sucklings’. When the Messenger of Allah died, it was what is now recited of the Qur’an.” Yahya said that Malik said, “One does not act on this.” (Malik’s Muwatta, Book 30, Number 30.3.17 https://sunnah.com/urn/413120)
8 Book of Marriage
In what was sent down in the Qur’an was ‘ten known sucklings made marriage unlawful’. Afterwards, they were abrogated by ‘five known ones.’ Then, when Allah’s Messenger died these words were among what was recited in the Qur’an. [Reported by Muslim].
Sunnah.com reference: Book 8, Hadith 195
English reference: Book 8, Hadith 1142
Arabic reference: Book 8, Hadith 113 (sunnah.com https://sunnah.com/bulugh/8/195; underline emphasis mine)
Sunan Ibn Majah
The Chapters on Marriage
It was narrated that ‘Aishah said:
“One of the things that Allah revealed IN the the Qur’an and then abrogated was that nothing makes marriage prohibited except ten breastfeedings or five well-known (breastfeedings).”
Grade: Sahih (Darussalam)
English reference: Vol. 3, Book 9, Hadith 1942
Aisha expressly states that the Quran originally contained the command to suckle a grown man ten times as well as the subsequent injunction which reduced the number to five sucklings. And yet neither of these verses are to be found in any extant copy of the Quran. In fact, unlike the stoning verse which is actually cited in the hadith literature,
Sunan Ibn Majah
The Chapters on Legal Punishments
It was narrated from Ibn`Abbas that `Umar bin Khattab said:
“I fear that after a long time has passed, some will say: ‘I do not find (the sentence of) stoning in the Book of Allah,’ and they will go astray by abandoning one of the obligations enjoined by Allah. Rather stoning is a must if a man is married (or previously married) and proof is established, or if pregnancy results or if he admits it. I have read it (in the Quran). “And if an old man and an old woman commit adultery, stone them both.” The Messenger of Allah stoned (adulterers) and we stoned (them) after him.’”
Grade: Sahih (Darussalam)
English reference: Vol. 3, Book 20, Hadith 2553
Arabic reference: Book 20, Hadith 2650 (sunnah.com https://sunnah.com/urn/1268700; underline emphasis mine)
No Muslim can tell us what the precise wording of the abrogating and abrogated texts happens to be since no trace of them has survived.
These narrations turn out to be quite embarrassing for Muslims since it isn’t merely the abrogated verse that has disappeared, but even that which abrogated it is gone as well!
We must, therefore, ask, where did all those copies which contained these conjunctions disappear to? Why weren’t the codices that included these verses preserved? Did they simply vanish or were they destroyed? If they were destroyed, who exactly destroyed them and for what reason?
The simple fact of the matter is that these narratives from Aisha prove that Allah has not preserved these injunctions permitting women to suckle grown men. At the very least, Allah should have kept the abrogating text intact so others could read it for themselves, especially when Aisha emphatically testified that these commands were found within the Islamic scripture itself and were being recited by the Muslims.
Furthermore, nothing in Ibn Ishaq’s report contradicts anything stated by the other muhaddithun (hadith compilers/scholars). It is simply the case that the other compilers didn’t include this part of the narrative, either because they weren’t aware of it or because they were embarrassed by it (the latter being more likely).
This brings me to my next point. It is obvious why the story of the tame animal devouring a part of the Quran wasn’t included in all the versions of the report from Aisha. As the objections of the Islam Question & Answer site demonstrate, this narration raises a major problem for the Quran’s supposed perfect preservation.
In other words, the Muslims didn’t reject this tradition because of its lack of historical veracity. Rather, it was discarded because it shows that the Islamic scripture hasn’t been preserved completely since there are commands and injunctions that have long since disappeared without a trace.
Therefore, contrary to the objections of the Muslim scholars such as Ibn Hazm, Aisha’s statements show that the Muslim deity has failed to preserve his so-called revelation, which in turn means that the following statement of the Quran,
Verily We: It is We Who have sent down the Dhikr (i.e. the Qur’an) and surely, We will guard it (from corruption). S. 15:9 Hilali-Khan
Is blatantly false.
As such, Allah cannot be God, and the Muslim scripture cannot be the revealed word of the true God, and Muhammad could not have been a true prophet.