Assalamualaikum. I have a question. I committed zina once but I am really ashamed of it, regretted it and have made taubah prayer. I know that Allah will forgive sinners if they really mean it but how do I live with knowing that I have committed this sin?? I just can’t take this out of my head and I feel like I am always a useless being for having done so. And I feel embarrassed because of that to even do good deeds. Does a sinner like me even have a place to see Allah?
Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,
The Prophet PBUH says: “A person who repents from a sin is like one who has not committed the sin.” I understand your guilt and I believe the best way to overcome it is to try to be an extraordinary Muslim from now on, such as by reading the Quran for an hour every day for the rest of your life. You can also promise God to do a significant extra act of worship for Him, such as giving away $10,000 in charity in small amounts, or performing 1000 rakats of extra prayers (in units of two), doing as many as easy to do every day whether during the day or night. You could also start fasting every Monday and Thursday until you have performed a certain number of fasts, such as 100. You can also commit to seeking religious knowledge, such as by reading all of Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim. InshaAllah these things will help ease your guilt.
There are numerous hadiths that tell us the Prophet Muhammad PBUH stoned a number of married adulterers. The most important hadith might be one where the Jews of Medina bring a cause of married adultery before the Prophet PBUH. The Prophet PBUH wants to deal with the adulterers according to Jewish law (probably because no Quranic verse had been revealed regarding the issue). The Jews try to ward off the punishment by saying there is nothing in the Torah about stoning adulterers. But Abdullah b. Salam, a Jewish scholar who converted to Islam, forces them to tell the truth:
Malik related to me from Nafi that Abdullah ibn Umar said, "The Jews came to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and mentioned to him that a man and woman from among them had committed adultery. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, asked them, 'What do you find in the Torah about stoning?' They said, 'We make their wrong action known and flog them.' Abdullah ibn Salam said, 'You have lied! It has stoning for it, so bring the Torah.' They spread it out and one of them placed his hand over the ayat of stoning. Then he read what was before it and what was after it. Abdullah ibn Salam told him to lift his hand. He lifted his hand and there was the ayat of stoning. They said, 'He has spoken the truth, Muhammad. The ayat of stoning is in it.' So the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, gave the order and they were stoned.
Muwatta Book 41, Hadith 1. Also in al-Bukhari, Muslim and others.
The fact that the Prophet PBUH ordered the stoning of some adulterers is uncontroversial. But the most important thing we need to know is whether he ever ordered stoning after Surat al-Nur was revealed, the chapter of the Quran where the issue of adultery is dealt with in some detail. The Quran does not mention stoning of adulterers anywhere, and if we only had the Quran to follow, it would have been clear that adulterers are only to be punished with flogging rather than stoning.
The great 20th century scholar of Islamic law Muhammad Abu Zahra found stoning so repulsive that he considered it impossible that Prophet Muhammad PBUH, sent as a “mercy to mankind”, would instate such a barbaric punishment in his law. (See my essay about his view).
To clarify the matter, I decided to collect all hadiths that mention stoning happening after the Islamic law on the issue was revealed in Surat al-Nur. As it happens, the strongest hadith we have actually tells us that a Companion was unsure whether stoning ever took place after Surat al-Nur was revealed.
I asked Abdullah bin Abi Aufa about the Rajam (stoning somebody to death for committing illegal sexual intercourse). He replied, "The Prophet (ﷺ) carried out the penalty of Rajam," I asked, "Was that before or after the revelation of Surat-an-Nur?" He replied, "I do not know."
Sahih al-Bukhari 6840, also in Muslim and Mustakhraj Abi Uwana.
Below is a diagram of the chains of this hadith:
This hadith receives an authenticity score of 30.2%, which makes it authentic according to probabilistic hadith verification (which has much more stringent criteria compared to the criteria used by al-Bukhari and other scholars, see my essay about it).
The following hadith is the strongest hadith we have that states that stoning was carried out after the revelation of Surat al-Nur. In it Umar b. al-Khattab (may God be pleased with him) defends stoning.
Narrated Ibn `Abbas:
Umar said, "I am afraid that after a long time has passed, people may say, "We do not find the Verses of the Rajam (stoning to death) in the Holy Book," and consequently they may go astray by leaving an obligation that Allah has revealed. Lo! I confirm that the penalty of Rajam be inflicted on him who commits illegal sexual intercourse, if he is already married and the crime is proved by witnesses or pregnancy or confession." Sufyan added, "I have memorized this narration in this way."Umar added, "Surely Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) carried out the penalty of Rajam, and so did we after him."
Sahih al-Bukhari 6829, also in Muslim, Ibn Maja, al-Humaydi, Abu Uwana, Musnad Ahmad, Ibn Hibban, Musannaf of Abd al-Razzaq and al-Nasa'i.
Below is the hadith’s chain diagram:
This hadith receives an authenticity score of 27.79%, below the 30% needed for judging it authentic.
The following is the second and last hadith we have that states stoning was carried out after Surat al-Nur:
From Ali when the latter stoned a lady to death on a Friday. Ali said, "I have stoned her according to the tradition of Allah's Messenger (ﷺ)."
Sahih al-Bukhari 6812
Below is the hadith’s chain diagram:
This hadith’s fatal weakness is that al-Shaʿbī, according to the hadith scholars al-Ḥākim, Ibn al-Jawzī and Ibn Ḥazm, never heard anything from Ali, therefore there is at least one hidden transmitter before al-Shaʿbī. This makes the hadith receive an authenticity score of 11.08%, making it rather weak, since unknown transmitters are given half the authenticity score of known transmitters in the probabilistic method. But even if we assume the unknown transmitter is entirely trustworthy, the hadith’s score only increases to 22.16%, still below the needed 30%.
Putting Islamic law’s fate in the hands of two men
All of the chains of Hadith 2 above come to us through a single transmitter, Ubaydullah b. Abdullah (it has an alternative chain that is so weak as to be unworthy of consideration). As for Hadith 3, it too comes to us through a single, unknown transmitter.
What this means is that in order to decide whether Islamic law requires the stoning of married adulterers or not, we have to place our entire trust in two men, one of whom is unknown. The law of the Quran (which does not include stoning) has to be ignored because two men tell us, through relatively low-quality hadiths, that stoning took place after Surat al-Nur.
I believe we should require evidence that receives an authenticity score of at least 60% before we can consider anything controversial to be proven beyond doubt. Putting the fate of Islamic law in the hands of two men, and ignoring the Quran for their sake, seems extremely irresponsible to me.
Another piece of evidence in favor of stoning adulterers is Maliki law, which is not entirely derived from hadith, but also from the practice of the people of Medina at the time of Imam Malik (ʿamal ahl al-madīna, or ʿamal for short, which Shaykh Umar Faruq Adullah translates as “Medinan praxis”). But this can be explained as follows: Perhaps after Surat al-Nur was revealed, there were no more cases of adultery brought before the Prophet PBUH. And after he died, since people only remembered the cases where he had stoned adulterers, people assumed this was the right thing to do in such cases. The issue never received much analysis because of the extreme rarity of adultery cases. Islam requires four witnesses to the act, which makes it almost practically impossible to prove a case of adultery. People only remembered the fact that the Prophet PBUH stoned some adulterers, without worrying about whether these cases took place before or after Surat al-Nur. And since there were no cases of adultery judged according to Surat al-Nur in the present or the past, and since all cases of adultery before had been judged according to Jewish law, it was Jewish law that was accepted as the tradition of the Prophet PBUH.
Since stoning is a matter of life and death, and since the Quran’s various verses on the punishment of adulterers contradicts it (slave-women get “half” the punishment of free women in the Quran. How can stoning to death be halved?), I believe we are well-justified in considering stoning an unproven punishment, and well-justified in only carrying out the Quranic punishment.
It may be prudent to add that I believe Islamic law should only be applied when people freely choose to live under it. The question of forcing Sharia law on people should never arise among civilized Muslims.
Assalamualaikum. My friend told me about an imam in her village who was found passing away in a brothel. After an investigation on how he could end up there, it was found that the imam actually frequented the brothel to use the service. This really troubles me, how can someone who's in worship more frequent than others do such illicit behavior in parallel. I'm starting to fear that my worship won't guarantee me to stay out of major evil deeds. What's your opinion? Thank you very much
Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,
An imam is just an ordinary person chosen by the community to give sermons and lead prayers. It is quite possible for such a person to go through these motions without their heart being in it.
The lesson from that imam is that doing “Islamic” work is no guarantee of having a high Islamic character. In order to maintain a high character we need to do constant, daily work, for example listening to the Quran for an hour every day. Without this work our natural human instincts take over and we start to act by them whether we are an imam or other Islamic leader. We shouldn’t put our trust in imams or scholars as if their status automatically ensures their high character. They are just humans and they can suffer all human weaknesses.
Asalam Alaikum. My sister is a divorced. I have sadly found out my sister has a haram relationship with a married man. The mans wife is both my sisters and I very good friend so I could not believe my sister would do this to her. I’m so sad. What should I do? Tell my parents, tell my friend or confront my sister (she doesn’t know I know)?
Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,
Sorry about your situation. It would be best to confront her privately without any threats of letting others know about it. Maybe this will make her agree to end the relationship. If she does not, then you can tell her that you will tell your parents and your friend who is being cheated on.
It is best to try to solve such matters as privately as possible, since this is best for everyone involved.
Even if your sister promises to break the relationship, there is of course still the fact of your friend being married to such a man. I cannot say what should be done about this, for example if children are involved then that would complicate matters. If there is a chance that the man may repent and go on with his life like normal then it might be best if your friend does not find out about his cheating. If you are unsure what to do in this regard, it may be best to leave it to God to decide what He wishes. But if you get a clear sense that it is your duty to tell your friend, then perhaps consult a knowledgeable person you trust who knows you and knows that family and maybe a solution would suggest itself.
I read your answers about hymenoplasty but my case is specific, please help! I was 15 when I lost my virginity, stupid and naive- the guy was 10 years older than me so I changed my mind when it was about to happen, but he did it anyways. I was not a Muslim back then. Now I am a Muslima, 22 years old, shall I tell my fiance I did hymenoplasty, or does it count as my past (we shouldn’t talk about our previous sins; and Allah forgives the past, before islam and repentance). However, I feel like that big of a lie (deception) would cause a break of our relationship sooner or later and a heavier reason, I don’t want to stain my soul by lying! People nowadays underestimate what lies do to our character. On the other hand, I am very content I did it because it helps me guard from zina now. And it somehow healed me. May Allah bless you for your research and knowledge you share with us.
According to a fatwa by the Qatari Fatwa Authority, a person who committed zina should not tell the future spouse about it since the Prophet PBUH recommends that we do not tell others about our sins when God has allowed them to remain secret. This is also the opinion of Shaykh Muhammad al-Hasan al-Shanqiti in a fatwa. For this reason it may be best if you keep your history and your hymen reconstruction a secret. I understand the burden of feeling like you are living a lie. What you should do may change based on the character of your future spouse. If they are pious, open-minded and forgiving, then letting them know may not harm your relationship with them, while if they have some immaturity then it may be best to keep it a secret from them. It is a difficult choice, but as far as I know there is no easy way out. If you keep it a secret, you can make it up through repentance and worship, especially through developing a close relationship with the Quran through tahajjud and Quran-reading.
is neglecting to pray salat a worse sin than zina?
Some scholars, such as Ibn al-Qayyim, have said that. But there is no explicit evidence on this from the Quran or hadith. The reason they say that is because intentionally avoiding the prayer is out of arrogance and rebelliousness, while committing adultery is out of desire, and rebelliousness is considered a greater sin due to it being more intentional and cold-blooded.
But personally I recommend not speculating about which sin is greater. It is God’s business, and the judgment may differ with each specific case.
Selam aleykum! About the question if neglecting prayer is worse than zina - Praying is one of the five pillars of Islam, so shouldn't it be seen as a worse sin than adultery?
Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,
It is not a simple comparison because adultery has more serious and long-lasting consequences, while a person may neglect the prayer due to suffering depression. Since human thought and motivation are so complex, we should leave it to God to judge each case according to all the relevant factors.
Asalam aliekum,I had a sexual relation with a married woman and now her husband wants to kill me or asks for huge amount of money which i can't never get to pay him for the crime i did. Please tell me what should i do.
Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,
I doubt you can fix that situation by yourself. You should get other people involved, such as your family, his family, your local imam, people in your extended family who have a high social standing and who may be taken seriously by that man, and maybe the police if you fear for your life. That man has no right to take the law into his own hands, both according to Islamic law and secular law. If there is to be a legal solution, it will have to be decided by a judge, imam, or other members of society who can perform this job.
Why does God frown upon consensual sex before marriage more than rape? I've done some research and haven't found anything about rape. Many don't even validate rape and equates it to normal sex . The only hadith I stumbled on about a woman who had been raped (in this case it was referred as forced zina). The man got stoned and she was told by Rasulallah that she is forgiven. This arise another question which is why would he say that she's forgiven? Had she sinned by being victim to such a horrible thing in the first place? I just feel the issue of rape and molesting is not addressed in the Muslim communities. I've even heard Muslims refering to raped people as unclean. It's very sad. Many woman are being raped and the worst part is that they are being asked about their hijab when rape is not about clothes always. I even personally know a girl who went through that and she wears abayah. I just don't understand why it's more important for Muslims what a woman is wearing. I come from a culture in which raped woman are actually blamed for being raped and to keep modesty they must marry their rapist so its a heavy burden on me to talk about this issue. The Islamic communities I know in the west aren't at this stage but they're definitely not progressive
In Islam, rape is a category of zinā (adultery and fornication), so it is incorrect to say that Islam frowns upon sex before marriage more than rape, it does not. At best they are equal. Islam’s law against “people who spread corruption” allows society to deal with a rapist in whatever way they think is fair, including banishment, amputating their limbs or execution. We have an example of five men (if I remember the number correctly) who raped a boy in Ottoman times and who were executed for their crime (mentioned in Crime and Punishment in Islamic Law by Rudolph Peters).
In the hadith you mentioned, and in similar hadiths, it is almost always guaranteed that we are not getting the full story about what took place. Hadith narrators only transmit what they consider to be the most important features of an event, often neglecting to transmit details that would make the story make more sense to us modern people. You should never take any single hadith too seriously but always relate it to the rest of the literature. The majority of authentic narrations have probabilistic, rather than absolute, authenticity. As books of legal theory (uṣūl) tell us, only a minority of hadith narrations can be considered to yield certain knowledge (ʿilm al-yaqīn).
The hadith you mentioned has its madār (common link) at Samāk (?) bin Ḥarb. The hadith scholar Shuʿba bin al-Ḥajjāj (d. 776 CE) considered him ḍaʿīf (untrustworthy), while Imam Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal (d. 855 CE) considered him muḍtarib (one who is not fully reliable). There are others who consider him reliable. Due to the uncertainty surrounding this person, the hadith should not be used as the basis for any argument and should be considered at least as likely to be false as it is likely to be authentic. Therefore we can forget about this hadith, it has no significance in the discussion.
Islamic law only gives us a general framework that each civilization can build upon. It allows each society to deal with rape in its own way. One would be right to wonder why Islam did not fully spell out the way to deal with rape. I believe it is because rape is a very context-sensitive crime unlike crimes like murder. A man who rapes random women on the street can be dealt with in the harshest way, he can even get executed in the worst cases. But what about the case of a woman who is in love with a man and wishes to marry him, but during some interaction the man ends up forcing himself on her despite her protestations? That too is rape, but it is different. In such cases some women may become traumatized and lose their respect for the man so that they may want him punished, while others may continue to wish to marry him. A sensible society should therefore take the context into account and find out if and how traumatized the woman is, and what her relationship is with the man. The worse cases of rape can lead to execution, while some cases may lead to the judge forcing the man to marry the woman, as in the case of a rich man forcing himself on a servant girl he is in love with but who he is unwilling to marry due to her low social status. If the servant girl is asked her opinion and she say she wishes to marry him, then they can be made to marry and that can be the end of it.
It is true that most Muslim societies have not had good policies against rape, similar to most other societies, and uneducated Muslims often put the blame on the woman in cases of female rape. These are cultural prejudices rather than concepts derived from Islam. There is nothing in Islam preventing us from being as harsh on rape as we think it deserves. Many Muslim societies are where Europe was in the 19th century. Social change often takes many generations, therefore hopefully things will get better over time.
We should also not forget that rape is not only a women’s rights issue, men and boys can be raped too. It is a human rights issue. As far as I am aware most Muslim societies are unaware that the rape of men and boys is a crime that should be taken seriously.
Why does Allah frown upon woman with consensual sex more than men?
It seems like you are asking why God blames men more than women in cases of adultery and fornication. Islamic law punishes men and women equally for such sins and does not hold one of them more accountable than the other. Even if a woman has greater responsibility (as some women believe, see below), this greater responsibility is not so much greater to justify a harsher treatment. Their responsibility is similar enough to justify the same legal treatment.
Most cultures around the world consider women to have more maturity and self-control than men in sexual matters. Even Western women blame “the other woman” more than their husbands in cases of cheating, as a Cardiff Metropolitan University study showed.1 These women believe that other women “should know better” because women are more mature and have better self-control in sexual matters than men. One could argue that it is because of deeply ingrained misogyny that women hold other women to higher standards than they hold men, but this argument is in itself highly misogynistic, by what right do we deny these women the right to have their opinions on this matter taken seriously? I personally support treating men and women exactly the same when it comes to the issues of adultery and fornication (as the Quran commands us), but ignoring the opinions of these women who have been cheated on just because we do not like what they say is just as discriminatory as ignoring women’s opinions on any other topic. Either we take women’s opinions seriously or we do not, we cannot hold them to double standards, as some feminists do, so that we only accept those female opinions that we like or that fit our ideology and dismiss those that we do not like. Feminists have attacked and demonized female scholars like Camille Paglia and Christina Hoff Sommers for speaking their minds too freely and daring to go against their ideology. A true feminist should be a humanist who does not demonize and belittle other women but respects their opinions regardless of where those opinions might lead.
At any rate, Christian societies until recently put almost the entirety of the blame on women in cases of out-of-wedlock births. It seems to have been common for Christians to cast out women who became pregnant outside of marriage, although perhaps Victorian works of fiction exaggerate how common this was. Casting out such women is expressly forbidden by Islam; her male relatives are forced by Islamic law to continue to shelter and feed her even if they do not want to.
Of course, after pregnancy, it appears that, at least in Islam’s early days, the rule was to follow the Jewish law of stoning adulterous men and women to death. One of the foremost scholars of Islamic law in the 20th century, Sheikh Muhammad Abu Zahra, argued that this punishment was abrogated by the Quran’s 24th chapter (see this article about him). If his view becomes the norm, then stoning would be relegated to history as many Muslims wish. Not even one out of a million Muslims has witnessed a stoning in his or her lifetime, since the extremely high requirements for evidence (four witnesses to the act of copulation) makes it close to impossible to prove, and since Islamic judges have always done everything in their power to avoid carrying out the punishment. But if Sheikh Abu Zahra’s views become the norm, then this issue will finally be settled and we can forget about it. It should also be mentioned that Islamic law is not meant to be forced on people; it is how the Muslim community organizes its own business. In a modern, cosmopolitan society, there would be a constitution that applies to Muslims and non-Muslims, while Islamic law would only apply to Muslims. And since people have the right to abandon Islam (as is the opinion of modern scholars such as Ali Gomaa, Egypt’s Grand Mufti from 2003 to 2013), people who have a problem with Islamic law can do that so that Islamic law would not apply to them any longer. We have no interest in forcing Islamic law on others. Islam is beautiful and meaningful enough to continue to attract great numbers of people who would voluntarily follow its laws.
The Quran provides only a small hint toward women being more responsible than men in cases of adultery, when it says:
The adulteress and the adulterer... (Verse 24:2)
It mentions “adulteress” first, while in the case of robbery it mentions the male robber first. Mentioning the adulteress before the adulterer is the only thing in the Quran that can be construed as putting more blame on women than men. But this apparent extra female responsibility is not used to justify unbalanced laws. The laws treat the man and the woman equally, which shows us that the extra female responsibility is not so great as to justify letting the man get a milder treatment than the woman.
Muslim cultures, however, like all cultures, are harder on women than men in these cases. It is very unfair to let men do whatever they like while putting all the blame and responsibility on women, as past Christian societies used to do and some Muslim societies today as well. The right thing to do is to treat them equally as the Quran commands. But we cannot wipe out human nature, so it will likely forever remain the case that people, including women, will hold women more responsible than men for their sexuality. This means that all Muslim societies, due to being human societies, will invariably edge toward putting more blame on women than men no matter how hard they try to resist this. The more pious these societies are, the fairer they will be toward women, because if they try to follow the Quran as much as possible, then they will try to have its attitude toward adultery and fornication, which is that the man and the woman are to be treated equally.
I’ve committed zina with this one guy and we promised to get married in future. Suddenly one day he told me that he wants to stop seeing me, and he wants to perform umrah. He said he wants to repent but never to be responsible for marrying me. Somehow i feel like i’m being cheated on, why don’t we repent, got married, and perform umrah. Why he seems to just leave me alone? Hope you can give me some good advise to calm my heart. Thank you.
The reason he is not eager to marry you is something that humans have probably known for thousands of years, which is that men are extremely eager to marry the woman they desire as long as she refuses to sleep with them, but if she gives in to their desires before marriage, they lose interest in marrying her. It is only men who have a strong sense of honor, in other words a small minority of men, who do not act like that and who consider themselves responsible for the woman’s welfare after sleeping with her.
I cannot tell you what is going through his mind. Perhaps if he has sincerely repented, the fact that the relationship was sinful may make him want to selfishly end it and start a new one without the negative associations. Perhaps he just wants to wait.
The best and most honorable thing for you to do would be to sincerely repent then go on with your life, maintaining only a formal relationship with him and leaving it to him to propose if he wants. If he does not have sufficient honor and maturity to take responsibility for his actions, he is probably not worth marrying. I know it will probably require superhuman strength to end the relationship and make things formal. You are in a difficult situation and there is no easy solution for it, and there is no way to guarantee what the outcome will be. The only solution is patience; leave it to God to take care of you while doing your best to improve yourself. See my essay The Road to Maturity: On Dealing with Life’s Unsolvable Problems for a guide on dealing with such situations.
I would be very thankful if you could answer me on my following question. In Quran is written: "There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing."
But also on other places is talked about punishing or killing people who do things like for example: stopping being Muslim, having sex before marriage, being gay and so on. With punishing I mean punishing on this world, and not when we die. If we have freedom to be Muslims or not, why there is no freedom of doing some things that are against religion but don't hurt other people. I am really confused and i hope you can clear this topic for me. Thank you in advance.
Regarding the issue of religious freedom, you are right that the Quran guarantees it. The scholars, however, had to also reconcile various hadith narrations in which the Prophet Muhammad PBUH is mentioned as putting limitations on religious freedom. Another case is that of Abu Bakr in the Riddah wars; when some Arabian tribes wanted to leave Islam and stop paying the zakat, Abu Bakr did not let them but fought them until they were one again part of the Islamic state.
Out of these historical anecdotes, the scholars tried to come up with an interpretation of the religious freedom mentioned in the Quran. The interpretation they came up with was that Islam should not be forced on others, but that a Muslim should not be allowed to leave Islam. From their position of power and authority, it seemed only natural that this should be the case. Islam is God’s chosen religion, so people should be prevented from leaving it for their own good if not for anyone else’s.
That way of thinking went unchallenged until the last century or so. The new reality that Muslims found themselves in (being in a position of weakness rather than strength) forced the scholars to re-examine their interpretation of the idea of religious freedom. In the 20th century there was also a new movement to take the Quran more seriously than before. In the past, the Quran was treated as just a piece of historical evidence that stood side-by-side with hadith. In the 20th century, various new thinkers (Mustafa Mahmud, Muhammad al-Ghazali, Sayyid Qutb, Said Nursi, Ahmad Moftizadeh) arose who rejected this way of thinking and considered the Quran’s teachings superior and more authoritative than hadith. And with this came a new interpretation of various issues within Islam.
Out of this atmosphere came people like Mahmud Shaltut (Grand Imam of Al-Azhar from 1958 to 1963) ruled that apostates are only punished if they try to fight the Muslims and plot against them, that mere apostasy is not punishable, and more recently Ali Gomaa (Grand Mufti of Egypt from 2003–2013), who also says that apostasy is not punishable in Islam unless the apostates try to make other Muslims leave Islam. While this is not perfect religious freedom and not perfect freedom of speech, it is an important step in the right direction. Many clerics have yet to update their thinking on this matter, but that might happen within the next 50 years.
Regarding the death penalty for things like adultery and homosexual sex, this too, like the issue of apostasy, went unchallenged until the 20th century. The Egyptian scholar Muhammad Abu Zahra, one of the greatest scholars of Islamic law in the 20th century, rejected execution of adulterers saying that the historical evidence could be interpreted in a different way. Abu Zahra is not a liberal modernist, he was one of the religious scholars (ulema), and his opinion is highly significant. Please see: Professor Abu Zahra: The Egyptian Islamic Scholar who Rejected the Punishment of Stoning
Ideally, there should be a constitutional law that all Muslims and non-Muslims follow (as in Malaysia, although the Malaysian system has serious issues). Islamic law would be something that all Muslims willingly choose to live under, and anyone who wants to leave Islam should have the right to do so, so that they stop being subject to Islamic law and will only be subject to constitutional law that Muslims and non-Muslims agree upon.
In summary, the things you mentioned (killing apostates, adulterers and homosexuals) are all issues that have already been solved by respected scholars. What remains is for the rest of the scholars and preachers to catch up.
Assalamu Alaykum. I feel so helpless right now. I don't know what to do. I have a husband, and we are married for almost 2 years. We don’t have a child yet. But my husband has a baby who was just born last month from other woman. They committed zina. The girl secretly hide her pregnancy until she gave birth and now he wants my husband to marry her but my husband said he don’t love her but he is willing to provide for the baby. My husband is receiving death threats. What I should I do?
Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,
That situation will have to be resolved by discussion between your family, his family and perhaps that woman’s. There is no quick solution to such a situation. We have to be patient and trust God to take care of us in the end.
There is the danger of your husband maintaining a relationship with that woman in secret, since he doesn’t have sufficient self-control to not sleep with other women while married. Islam strictly forbids you from staying with a husband who commits adultery and does not repent (who plans to do it again). The Quran says about such people:
The adulterer shall marry none but an adulteress or an idolatress; and the adulteress shall marry none but an adulterer or an idolater. That has been prohibited for the believers.1
Therefore the situation must be resolved one way or another, whether it is through divorce or his promising to never see that woman again. And if he breaks his promise, then difficult as it will be, you will be required to divorce him. There is no toleration in Islam in any way for staying with a cheating spouse.
May God ease your situation and grant you patience and consolation.
Question from a reader
What does it mean that the adulterer should marry the adulteress or the idol worshiper. Aren't these things entirely different? And if a person strives to become better (if that's the main goal of Islam) then why marry someone who errs Just like you do? Aren't they by the hadd law supposed to have a death penalty so how can they have time to marry? I'm really confused about the answer.
Regarding the first part of your question, the verse is defining the boundaries between the believers and the non-believers. It is saying that marrying or staying married to an adulterer is not something a believer would do, it is only something a pagan or an adulterer would do. It is basically telling Muslims to stay away from known (unrepentant) adulterers in their societies. If they strive to be better (if they repent), then the verse does not apply to them.
As for the ḥadd punishment for adultery, this is a matter for the authorities (the police and the courts) to implement. The Quran does not assume that such an authority would exist. The Quran assumes that there will be unrepentant adulterers living in societies that Muslims also live in.
The great Egyptian scholar of Islamic law Muhammad Abu Zahra (1898 – 1974) rejected the death penalty for adultery. He based his reasoning on various arguments, such as the fact that we do not know at what point in the Prophet’s career PBUH the stonings recorded in hadith took place; they may have taken place long before the verses on adultery in the Quran were revealed, meaning that they may be narrating events that took place at a time when the Prophet had no guidance except Jewish law. InshaAllah I will write an article to translate his full reasoning.
But even scholars who believe in the death penalty for adultery say that this is a matter for the government to carry out, so that someone who commits it may repent and go on with their lives.2 So the husband dealt with in this article, since his case did not go to court, may repent and stay married to his Muslim wife.
How does one repent for zina? What if the man is someone who I’m planning to marry anyway since we are close to being engaged? Will the punishment be as severe, especially since we both feel guilt?
If you both truly repent (meaning that you ask for God’s forgiveness and intend to not repeat the sin), then it is the consensus view that the two of you can marry without issue according to a fatwa by the Egyptian scholar Khālid b. al-Munʿim al-Rifāʿī.
Before marrying (before nikāḥ) you must wait one menstrual cycle to ensure that you are not pregnant. If you are, according to the Ḥanafī and Shāfiʿī schools, you two can still marry, while according to the Mālikī and Ḥanbalī schools you cannot marry until you give birth. The Ḥanafī and Shāfiʿī opinions are preferable since this is better for the two of you, the child and for the rest of society (to marry now rather than later if you have became pregnant). If you have your period like normal, then you can marry according to all the schools.
There is no punishment, that is only something relevant if the issue reaches an Islamic court (if people saw you during the act then went on to report on you in a country that follows Islamic law). Since what you mention appears to have been done in private, then it is sufficient for both of you to repent, and that is the end of it. This is the opinion of the Saudi fatwa council.
In short, both of you should repent, then you can marry like normal (taking into account the complications mentioned above) and go on with your lives. Both of you should do extra fasts and worship to prove to yourselves and to God that your repentance is true.