Controversial Questions About Islam & Comments

Prepared by: Dr. Saeed Ismaeel Sini

Where is the Truth about the Death Sentence for Adulterers?

     The death sentence for an adulterer who has experienced marriage life is subject to hot discussion. There are scholars who support the opinion that this punishment is still valid. Their evidence is that the Prophet executed this rule in case of Ma’ez al- Aslami,[1] the Ghaamidi woman,[2] the Juhani woman,[3] and Shuraahah.[4] Also, the Prophet said: “the adulterer [who had experienced marriage] deserves one hundred lashes and death sentence by stoning.”[5] Umar the second Caliph said that the verse, which imposed this rule, has been removed from the Holy Quraan, but not the ruling.[6]

     There are others who said that this ruling of punishment is only to scare off a person from committing adultery because adultery was so widely spread at the advent of Islam. So there was a need to stop it by announcing a very severe punishment, but it was not originally to be executed. This group summarizes its arguments in the following points:

     1. Islam made it very difficult, actually next to impossible, to prove adultery, by requiring four witnesses seeing the actual intercourse taking place in a way that is impossible under normal circumstances. Not only that, but it also threatened anyone who slandered a chaste man or woman by accusing him or her of adultery to be lashed eighty lashes.[7] It also gave the accused wife a chance to clear herself of this guilt only by giving four testimonies swearing by Allah that the accusation is false and a fifth oath that that the wrath of Allah be upon her if the accusing husband was truthful.[8]

     2. All cases during the Prophet’s time were executed based on a willful confession, and the Prophet (pbuh) desperately tried to avoid the need for applying the ruling. To take the example of Ma’ez, the Prophet turned away from him four times on different days, he asked the man’s folks about his mental situation and tried, through embarrassing questions, to dissuade him. Finally, when the Prophet was told that Ma’ez ran away during the execution of the judgment of stoning and they followed him, he said: ‘Why did you not leave him alone?’ Concerning the Ghamidi woman, the Prophet kept delaying her punishment, hoping she would not come back and would refrain from confession again. She kept insisting till he told her, the last time, to come back after she completed breast-feeding her child; i.e. a two-years delay.

     3. One person cannot commit adultery. Yet, in all cases except one the Prophet did not make any effort to find out who was the other party to be punished. The only case is when the husband took compensation from his wife’s partner, and the case was presented before the Prophet.

     4. The evidences of abrogation of the ruling is stronger because: (a) There was another ruling for a wife who commits adultery that was not stricken out of the Holy Quraan but the ruling was abrogated. (b) Therefore, if the verse was removed from the Holy Quraan, as claimed by some, the ruling must have been abrogated too.

     In fact, the warning of very severe punishment is found in other cases, such as cursing those who are involved in usury, a woman who uses tattoos or tattoos others.[9] Here, cursing does not mean praying for the person to be deprived from the mercy of Allah, but is used as an intensified warning. This kind of regulation is familiar even in the manmade law. For example, some states in the USA assign a fine of five hundred dollars for littering on highways. In general, when we look carefully at these forms of punishments, we notice that they concentrate on the public’s rights.

For whoever practices sex in a way that four people can describe up to the details is not only violating the honor of his or her legal partner or blood relatives, but offends and challenges public morals as well.






[1]  ibn Maajah: al-Hudood.     

[2]  Imam Ahmad: Bagi Musnad al-Ansar.

[3]  Imam Ahmad: Musnad al-Basryeen.

[4] Imam Ahmad: al-Asharah al-Mubashareen bil Jannah.

[5]  Muslim: al-Hudood.

[6]  al-Bukhari: al-Hudood.

[7]  Holy Quraan 24: 4.

[8] Holy Quraan 24: 6-9.

[9]  for example al-Bukhari: the dealings.