This story was narrated by Imam Al-Bukhari (Hadith no. 3849) from ‘Amr Bin Maimun: “During the pre-lslamic period of ignorance I saw a she-monkey surrounded by a number of monkey. They were all stoning it, because it had committed illegal sexual intercourse. I too, stoned it along with them.”

Al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar said in his commentary on Sahih Al-Bukhari:

Al-Isma’ili narrated a longer version of this story with another chain of narrators in which ‘Eesa Bin Hattan narrated from ‘Amr Bin Maimun that he said:

I was in Yemen tending the sheep of my people up upon an elevation. A male monkey came with a female and laid his head on her hand. Then a smaller monkey came and beckoned towards her, so she gently slipped her hand out from under the cheek of the first monkey and followed him. He mated with her while I looked on. Then she returned and gently tried to slip her hand back under the cheek of the first monkey, but he woke up suddenly, smelled her, and cried out.

Then the monkeys gathered round and he began screaming while pointing towards her with his hand. The monkeys went all about and came back with that monkey that I recognized. They dug a pit for the two of them and stoned them both. So I had witnessed stoning being carried out by other than Adam’s descendants. ” [Fath Al-Bari 7/160]

Obviously, this narration is not the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) speech, nor that of any of his Companions(may Allah be pleased with them all). Imam Al-Bukhari only narrated what was witnessed by ‘Amr Bin Maimu, who is Al-Awdi, Abu ‘Abdullah Al-Kufi. He died in the year 74 H. He lived during the pre-Islamic ignorance and during the prophet-hood of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He became a Muslim, but did not see the Prophet (peace be upon him). Therefore, scholars do not consider him a companion (sahabi) of the Prophet (peace be upon him). He was a mukhdharim (a person who embraced Islam during the Prophet’s lifetime but did not meet him), and one of the most senior tabi’oon (i.e. ‘followers’, those Muslims who met the Companions, but not the Prophet (peace be upon him)).

Please see his biography in Tahthib Al-Tahthib (8/11).

It is well known that it is the authentic Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) which one is required to believe in and submit to its contents. As for what a Tabi’i (follower) may narrate of his observations and experiences, they do not reach the level of the Prophet’s Sunnah in any case.

Now that we have understood that the narration is actually what a tabi’i reported about his experience, we can understand the various possibilities surrounding this report. Hence, it is also understandable that there is nothing objectionable in doubting the reality of what happened between the monkeys or saying that ‘Amr Bin Maimun wrongly assumed that the stoning among the monkeys was due to adultery. We say this because it is certain that ‘Amr did not understand the rational and logic of the monkey world. It was only his own opinion and speculation. Hence, it is possible to oppose his speculation and refuse to accept it.

Ibn Qutaibah Al-Daniwari, may Allah have Mercy have on him, said:

Those who mock the Sunnah and challenge it, say: You narrate that the monkeys stoned a female monkey who had committed adultery…

We responded to this mockery by saying: The narration of the monkeys is neither from the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him), nor his Companions. It is only something narrated from ‘Amr Bin Maimun. It is possible that he saw the monkeys stoning a female monkey and thought that she was being stopned because of committing adultery. No one can know this except by speculating, since monkeys cannot themselves tell us. The female monkey he saw mating, it cannot be said whether she committed adultery or not. This is speculation; perhaps the scholar (‘Amr) got to know this from some evidences that we do not know. Indeed, monkeys are the most adulterous (unfaithful to their partners) of all the animals. Arabs have a proverb: “more adulterous than monkeys.” Had the monkeys not been known to be adulterous, this proverb would not have been coined. No animal resembles man in marriage and its related jealousy and possessiveness, more than monkeys. Animals too develop enmity among themselves, pounce on one another and take revenge from each other: some animals bite, claw, smash and break (the bones, body parts etc) of their enemies, while monkey stone each other with their hands which Allah created for them like man stones. Even if the monkeys stoned one of their kind not due to adultery, ‘Amr thought it was due to adultery. This is not implausible. It is also not far fand etched that ‘Amr thought it was adultery or that the stoning was a punishment for adultery, due to some proof, since as I said monkeys are the most possessive and jealous of all animals, and closest in wisdom to mankind. End Quote.

[Ta’wil Mukhtalif Al-Hadith (pp 255-256)]

Imam Ibn ‘Abdul Barr, may Allah have Mercy on him, said:

Ascribing adultery to animals and establishment of legal punishments among them is rejected (munkar) by a group of scholars.” [Al-Istee’ab fi Ma’rifat Al-Ashab (3/1206)]

Imam al-Qurtubi said, may Allah have Mercy on him, said:

If this narration is authentic, then Al-Bukhari reported it only to prove that that ‘Amr Bin Maimun also lived during the pre-Islamic period, without caring for what he speculated in his pre-Islamic days.” [Al-Jami’ li ahkam al-Qur’an (1/442)]

Sheikh Al-Albani, may Allah have Mercy on him, said: “This narrative is mukar [rejected]. How is it possible for man to know that monkeys marry, and that their nature dictates them to protect their honor so that an unfaithful and adulterous monkey is killed? Even if we suppose that this is how things are in the monkey world, then how did ‘Amr Bin Maimun knew that the female monkey was stoned due to adultery? ” [Mukhatasir Sahih al-Bakhari by Al-Albani (2/535)]

Also, it is not impossible that this story is real and the speculation of ‘Amr is correct, since the animal world is full of wonders. Ancient Arabs used to say: “Marriage and jealousy are combined in nothing except in man and monkey,” [‘Uyun Al-Akhbar by Ibn Qutaibah (page 172)]

In fact, Imam Ibn Taymiah said: “Similar things were witness by people in our times in species other than monkeys, even birds.” [Majmu’ Al-Fatawa (11/545)]

Imam Ibn Hajr, may Allah have Mercy on him, said:

Abu ‘Obaidah Ma’mar Bin al-Muthanna in his book “Kitab Al-Khail” [The Book on Horses] narrated from Al-Awza’ii that, “A colt (young horse) was being made to mate (for breeding) with his mother, but he refused. So, the mother was entered into a house and wrapped in cloth and it was once again tried to to make him copulate with his mother. This time he complied and mated with her (not recognizing her). But, when he got the scent of him mother, the young colt turned to its penis and bit it off with own teeth from its root.” So, if this is intelligence of the horse, which is farthest removed from the monkey’s intelligence, then such an incident is all the more likely to happen among monkeys.”

[Fath Al-Bari (7/161)]

Shaykh ‘Umar Al-Ashqar in his book, “Al-‘Aqidah fi Allah” [Belief in Allah] (page 129) mentioned an ant that was shred to pieces by other ants due to “telling lies” to them. A man used to place grain for the ant, and it would call the other ants to help in picking it up. As soon as the other ants arrived, the man used to lift up the grain and the ants did not find any grain. When this was repeated many times by man, and each time the ants were called by that ant, they gathered around it and shred it into pieces.

We watched some video clips about animal, which would have been unbelievable, had we not seen them. In one of them, a tiger killed a female monkey and dragged it up a tree to tear it apart. When it tore the monkey, a live fetus came out of its stomach. Seeing the baby monkey, the tiger left its mother and became engrossed in taking loving care of the newborn monkey. The tiger protected the baby monkey from hyenas and took it up the tree with it!

For more wonders of the animal world, please see Dr. ‘Umar Al-Ashqar’s “Al-‘aqidah fi Allah”, page 111-168.

Imam Ibn ‘Abdul Barr’s objection on calling the incident among the monkeys “adultery” and his insistence that animals are not accountable for their actions, has been answered by Imam Ibn Hajar:

It is not necessary that an event that looks like adultery and stoning was really a case of adultery and legal punishment. He merely described it that way because it looked like these things to him. It does not necessarily mean that legal accountability is applied to animals.”

[Fath Al-Bari (7/160)]

[Translated for Islam-QA]