All praise is due to Allah, the One Who says:
[And do not come near to the unlawful sexual intercourse.]
And peace and blessings be upon His slave and Messenger Muhammad, who said, “When a man commits fornication, faith departs from him and there is something like a canvas roof over his head; and when he quits that action, faith returns to him”
(Abu Dawud 40:4673).
Undoubtedly, all Muslims are aware of the prohibition of adultery and fornication. However, many of us live in a Western society where this crime has become widespread and commonly accepted. This crime has even crept into some Muslim homes to the extent that we find some who are proud to see their son entering the house with a girl accompanying him.
This article will define adultery and fornication in Islam; it will discuss the punishment for them and the status of one’s marriage to one who commits either of them, and it will advise how to repent and how to protect yourself from them.
In today’s English, unlawful sexual intercourse by a married person is called adultery; sexual intercourse by an unmarried person is called fornication. Unlike English, Arabic has only one word for both cases — zina.
Throughout the history of religions, zina always has been prohibited; however, its prohibition is more emphatic and forceful in Islam.
Zina is regarded as one of the gravest of all the major sins.
Over fourteen hundred years ago, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) prophesied that among the signs of the Day of Judgment is the prevalence of illegal sexual intercourse.
Anas ibn Malik reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying, “It is from the conditions of the Last Hour that knowledge would be taken away and ignorance would prevail (upon the world), liquor would be drunk, and adultery would become rampant” (Muslim 34:6451).
Prophet Muhammad viewed zina as a serious crime. It is reported that Allah’s Messenger ordered that an unmarried man who committed illegal sexual intercourse to be scourged one hundred lashes and sent into exile for one year (Al-Bukhari 3:48 817).
A person has committed zina if he or she voluntarily and deliberately performs sexual intercourse with other than his or her spouse. The act of zina has taken place when the man’s sexual organ has been inserted inside the women, regardless of the number of times or whether contraception was used, such as a condom or separator between the consenting adults organs.
A person is convicted of zina by one or more of the following ways:
If the zaani (fornicator or adulterer) makes a confession without going back on his or her word until he or she is subjected to any prescribed punishment. If at some stage the person retracts the confession, he or she must not be subjected to any prescribed punishment.
The testimony to the act of four reliable and pious men, each of whom must testify that he actually saw the man’s sexual organ inserted inside the womans.
This stringent condition is to protect innocent Muslims and to block the road for those who want to spread evil among Muslim society.
If a woman who is not married is found pregnant.
Punishment for Zina in This Life
There are definite prescribed punishments known as hadd (plural: hudud), which have been mentioned in the Quran and the Sunnah concerning those who engage in the criminal act.
The following conditions must be fulfilled before the hadd is applied:
1. The offenders must be sane.
2. They must be Muslim.
3. They have reached the age of puberty.
4. They must be free and not slaves.
The Quranic injunctions with regards to those who commit zina were revealed in stages.
The wisdom behind this was to make these injunctions acceptable to the new converts to Islam who often engaged in zina during the days of Jahiliyah (ignorance).
The first revelation concerning the punishment of zina was that a woman guilty of zina was to be confined to her home until she died (An-Nisaa 4:15).
The second revelation covered both men and women and was not very specific regarding punishment:
[And as for the two who are guilty of indecency from among you, give them both a punishment; then if they repent and amend, turn aside from them; surely Allah is Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful.] (An-Nisaa 4:16)
Allah Almighty then revealed:
[(As for) the fornicatress and the fornicator, flog each of them, (giving) a hundred stripes, and let not pity for them detain you in the matter of obedience to Allah and the last day.] (An-Nur 24:2)
Know that punishment for this crime of zina acts as atonement for this sin. The idea behind the harsh and severe punishment does not contradict the spirit of Islam; it actually serves as a deterrent in society. It protects a person’s family lineage and the spread of moral decadence and disease in society.
When people realize the graveness of their sin, and that its punishment is most humiliating and painful, very few would dare to commit it.
Marriage to a Person Guilty of Zina
Marriage between two who are guilty of zina is permissible as per what Allah Almighty says:
[The fornicator shall not marry any but a fornicatress or idolatress, and (as for) the fornicatress, none shall marry her but a fornicator or an idolater; and it is forbidden to the believers.”] (An-Nur 24:3)
There is a difference of opinion among the scholars with regards to a chaste man marrying an adulteress who has not repented or vice versa. Some of them said that it is not lawful.
This is the opinion of Ali, Al-Baraa, Aishah, and Masud (may Allah be pleased with them all).
The majority of scholars, including Abu Bakr, Umar or Uthman, and Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them all), on the other hand, permitted marriage with an adulterer, adding, however, that marriage to a chaste and pure person was more virtuous.
One might think that the only way a person guilty of zina can be forgiven is by undergoing the prescribed punishment (hadd), but scholars have said that a person who commits a sin should repent to Allah Almighty.
The repentance should be sincere, and the guilty person should perform lots of righteous acts and acts of worship. Furthermore, the person should feel remorse and have no intention of ever committing the sin again.
The repentance will not be accepted if it is done during the throes of death, as Allah Most High says
[And repentance is not for those who go on doing evil deeds, until when death comes to one of them, he says: Surely now I repent; nor (for) those who die while they are unbelievers.] (An-Nisaa’ 4:18)
Protection From Committing Zina
There are many ways that Muslims can protect themselves from zina. Salah (prayer), both obligatory and supererogatory, is one of the strongest defenses against zina. Allah Almighty says
[Recite that which has been revealed to you of the Book and keep up prayer; surely prayer keeps (one) away from indecency and evil, and certainly the remembrance of Allah is the greatest.]
Regular fasting is another way of suppressing sexual desires, as Allah’s Messenger prescribed it for young people who could not afford to get married.
Another way to keep away from zina is by reminding yourself how you would abhor and dislike it for your mother, daughter, sister, brother, and aunt.
This was how Prophet Muhammad explained it to a man who came seeking permission to commit zina. The Prophet told him to remember that Satan watches and waits for you to be distant from your Muslim brethren, then he makes his attack. And so among the things that will deter you from zina is to always be in the company of righteous people who will remind you of Allah Almighty.
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said in the hadith collection of Abu Dawud, “Indeed the wolf devours the lone sheep.” Remember that saying “no” to someone who invites you to commit zina will secure you a place of shelter under the shade of Allah’s Throne on the day when there will be no shelter except His.
We ask Allah Most High to protect us from the evil of zina, to accept out righteous actions, and to shower us with His bounties in this life and in the hereafter.
Illegal sexual intercourse is called ‘Zina’ in Arabic. The word Zina is usually used for illegal sexual intercourse but there are also other types of Zina. In brief they are: touching Na-Mehram, talking unnecessarily to Na-Mehram, glancing Na-Mehram, or any unnecessary connection with any Na-Mehram man or woman. Indeed it is a shameful act. Sexual intercourse is allowed between (husband & wife) only.
Punishment For Married Adulterer
If a married person commits Zina then he/she should be stoned to death. There is no forgiveness for them in this world. They should bear this punishment and should beg Allah for His mercy and forgiveness. The punishment for married people is stricter because they are already married and can fulfill their sexual desires with their spouse.
The Holy Quran
The woman and the man guilty of illegal sexual intercourse, flog each of them with a hundred stripes. Let not pity withhold you in their case, in a punishment prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of the believers witness their punishment. (This punishment is for unmarried persons guilty of the above crime but if married persons commit it, the punishment is to stone them to death, according to Allah’s Law). [Chapter #24 Surah An-Noor, Verse #2]
Narrated Jabir: A man from the tribe of Bani Aslam came to Prophet Mohammad (SalAllaho Alaihi Wasallam) while he was in the mosque and said, “I have committed illegal sexual intercourse.” The Prophet turned his face to the other side. The man turned towards the side towards which the Prophet had turned his face, and gave four witnesses against himself. On that the Prophet called him and said, “Are you insane?” (He added), “Are you married?” The man said, ‘Yes.” On that the Prophet ordered him to be stoned to the death in the Musalla (a praying place). When the stones hit him with their sharp edges and he fled, but he was caught at Al-Harra and then killed. [Sahi Bukhari (Book #63, Hadith #195)]
Narrated Zaid bin Khalid and Abu Huraira: The Prophet (SalAllaho Alaihi Wasallam) said, “O Unais! Go to the wife of this (man) and if she confesses (that she has committed illegal sexual intercourse), then stone her to death.” [Sahi Bukhari (Book #38, Hadith #508)]
Punishment For Unmarried Adulterer
If an unmarried person commits Zina then he/she should be scourged 100 (one hundred) lashes and sent into exile for 1 (one) year. The punishment for unmarried people is lighter as they do not have a spouse to whom they can go to fulfill their sexual desires, that’s why they are given a lighter punishment.
Narrated Zaid bin Khalid: Allah’s Apostle (SalAllaho Alaihi Wasallam) ordered that an unmarried man who committed illegal sexual intercourse be scourged one hundred lashes and sent into exile for one year. [Sahi Bukhari (Book #48, Hadith #817)]
Punishment In Torah (Pentateuch)
Torah (Pentateuch) revealed over Prophet Moses (Alaihissalaam), has also the same punishment for Zina as the Quran has told us.
ADULTERY means sexual intercourse between a man and a woman not married to one another. It is immaterial whether it is adultery (where the participants are married people) or fornication (when they are unmarried). Islam regards adultery in any case as a great sin.
There are many verses of the Qur’an and Prophetic statements with regard to this issue and we relate just a few below. Each indicates the seriousness of adultery and makes it crystal clear that there is no room for it being an acceptable behavior in Islam. Allah says in the Qur’an :”Do not come near to adultery. Verily, it is a faahisha (a great and shameful sin) and an evil way (that leads someone to Hell unless Allah forgives him.” (Al-Israa’ 17:32)
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “There is no sin after Shirk (associating partners to Allah) greater in the sight of Allah than a drop of semen which a man places in the womb which is not lawful for him.” (Al-Bukhari, Kitabul-Hudood).
also said: “The adultery of the legs is walking (with bad intention towards a woman who is not lawful for a man) and the adultery of the hands is touching and patting (such a woman) and the adultery of the eyes is the passionate glance.” (Al-Bukhari).
Abu Umamah narrated: A certain young man came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said “O Messenger of Allah permit me to commit adultery.”
The Companions were annoyed at this arrogant attitude of his and with no attempt at concealment of their feelings in this behalf, berated him, and demonstrated open disgust for his insolent request.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked the young man to come closer and he did so. Then he asked him to take a seat and he obeyed.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) then started to ask him: “Would you like such (i.e. adultery) for your mother?” He (the man) replied, “No, by Allah. May Allah sacrifice me for you.”
The Prophet said, “Other people do not like it either for their mothers. Would you then like it for your daughter (i.e. adultery)?” He replied, “No by Allah. May my life be sacrificed for you.”
The Prophet, “Others too do not like it for their daughters. Would you like if for your sister.
He replied, “No by Allah. May my life be sacrificed for you.” The Prophet said, “Other people do not like it for their sisters. Would you like it for your paternal aunt?”
He replied, “No by Allah. May my life be sacrificed for you.” The Prophet said, “Other people dislike it for their paternal aunts. Would you like it for your maternal aunt?”
He replied, “No by Allah. May my life be sacrificed for you.”
The Prophet said, “Others too do not like it for their maternal aunts.”
He (the narrator) then said, “He (the Prophet) then put his hand on the man’s chest and said, “Oh Allah forgive his sin, cleanse his heart, and make chaste his private parts.”
Thereafter the young man never even looked at anything (prohibited by Allah that includes adultery as well) (Ahmed).