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4:15-16 The Punishment for Zina

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If any of your women are guilty of lewdness, Take the evidence of four (Reliable) witnesses from amongst you against them; and if they testify, confine them to houses until death do claim them, or Allah ordain for them some (other) way.

If two men among you are guilty of lewdness, punish them both. If they repent and amend, Leave them alone; for Allah is Oft-returning, Most Merciful.

The following excerpt is taken from “Maariful Quran” Vol 2 pg. 356-359:

These verses prescribe punishments for men and women who
commit zink (adultery or fornication). If this comes from women, the
airst verse requires the presence of four male witnesses to prove it. It
means that the executive authority before which the case goes should
call for four qualified witnesses to prove zing Then, it is necessary
that all the witnesses are male. The testimony of women in this
connection is not valid.
Since the guilt of zina of extremely grave nature which not only

violate honour ana modesty, but also brings bad name to the family,
Islam has taken very strict attitude while setting the standard of
evidence to prove this guilt. Firstly, there came the condition that
witnesses have to be men; the evidence of women was not considered
valid. Secondly, the number of the required witnesses is raised to four.
As obvious, this condition is very hard to meet. It is something which
can very seldom take place. This strict approach was taken so that the
husband of the woman, his mother or (another) wife or sister do not
level undue accusations against her out of personal spite. It was also
to check that other ill-wishing people do not get any chance to release
their personal hostility by accusing her falsely. Testimony to zing by
less than four individuals renders their evidence invalid in which case
the complainant and the witnesses may all be charged as liars and the
Hadd of Qadhf (punishment for false accusation) becomes operative
against them for having falsely accused a Muslim.

It has been very clearly said in Surah An-Nur:

which means that those who cannot produce four witnesses are liars.

Some revered elders, describing the wisdom behind the need to
have four witnesses, have said that since this case involves two individuals, man and woman, this one single case comes, so to speak,
under the purview of one rule for two cases. Since each case requires
two witnesses, so four witnesses will be necessary in this case.

Towards the end of the verse, it is said that should they both
repent and correct themselves, then, leave them. It means that, in case
they have repented after punishment, they should not be disgraced
and punished any more. It does not mean that the act of repentance
has absolved them of the punishment because this repentance has
been mentioned after punishment as obvious from the ramification of
the letter fa” (literally, “then, turn away”, which has been left as understood in the present translation). However, in case repentance has not
been made, reproach is in order even after punishment.

No definite Hadd (punishment) has been described in these two verses of the Holy Qur’an. What has been said here is limited to
“torture them” and “confine the fornicating women to their homes”. No
particular method of such “torture” has.been described either, and this
has been left to the discretion of the authorities. Sayyidna Ibn ‘Abbas
(RA) says that torture here means that they should be verbally
reproached and put to shame, as well as, given physical punishment
such as hitting with hands and shoes … This statement reported from
Sayyidna Ibn ‘Abbas (RA) appears to be illustrative. The fact of the
matter is that this whole thing has been left to the discretion of the

In the order of revelation, the injunction ‘to torture’ the adulterers
came first, and it was later that the women guilty of adultery were
ordered to be ‘confined to their homes’. While giving this command, the
Holy Qur’an has mentioned two limits for the period of their confinement. The words used are: “Confine those women to their homes until
death overcomes them or Allah prescribes a way for them”. It means
that such women shall be confined to their homes till their death,
however, if Allah prescribes some. other punishment for them while
they are still alive, then that punishment will replace the punishment
of confinement. That new (expected) punishment has been referred to
in this verse as ‘a way’ prescribed by Allah. Later this ‘way’ as promised in this verse was prescribed and was revealed. Interpreting the word ‘way’ used in this verse, Sayyidna Ibn ‘Abbas (RA) says (that is, stoning to death, for the married and lashing for the unmarried.) (al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Tafsir, v.2, p. 657)

This “way” stands proved through clear statements of the Holy
Prophet (S) himself where the relevant injunctions for the
married and the unmarried have been described separately. The Holy
Prophet (S) had pronounced the Hadd punishment of zina in
the case of Sayyidni Ma’iz ibn Malik and a woman from the
tribe of Azd. Since both of them were married, they were stoned to
death. In addition to that, a couple from among the Jews of Madinah
was also stoned to death because of zing and this judgment against
them was pronounced on the authority of an injunction of Torah.

The injunction relating to the unmarried offender is mentioned in
Surah al-Nur of the Holy Qur’an itself:

(The fornicator, woman or man, administer each one of them –
a hundred lashes.) – (24:2)

A verse of the Holy Qur’an was also revealed earlier to cover the
injunction of rajm (stoning to death), but its recitation was later on
abrogated. However, the injunction itself was retained as operative.

Sayyidna ‘Umar (RA) has said:

(Surely, Allah sent Muhammad (S) with the truth
and sent down to him the Book. Then, in what was revealed
by Allah Almighty there was the verse of Rajm. The Holy
Prophet (S) stoned and we stoned after him and the
revealed injunction of Rajm stands proved against every one
who commits zina despite being married, whether man or
woman.) (al-Bukhari, Muslim, as in Mishkat, p. 309)

To sum up, the injunction of ‘torturing’ and ‘confining to homes’
which appears in these verses was abrogated after the subsequent
revelation of the legal Hadd punishment of zina, that is, one hundred
lashes or Rajm will be mandatory


Shafi, Muhammad (2008). Maariful Quran. (Vol .2 surah 4 pg. 356-359). English-MaarifulQuran-MuftiShafiUsmaniRA-Vol-2.pdf (

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