24 - An Nur (The light)

5 Tafsir(s) related to verse 24.2


As for the fornicatress and the fornicator, that is, of those not in wedlock — because those [in wedlock] are stoned according to the Sunna (the al [in al-zāniya, ‘the fornicatress’, and al-zānī, ‘the fornicator’] according to some mentioned [opinions] is a relative [particle]; the clause [al-zāniyatu wa’l-zānī] is a subject, and because of its similarity to a conditional, the fā’ has been inserted into the predicate, which is [the following, fa’jlidū]): strike each of them a hundred lashes, [a hundred] strikes (one says jaladahu to mean daraba jildahu, ‘he struck him on the skin’). According to the Sunna, in addition to this [punishment] there is also banishment for a whole year. The slave, however, receives half of the mentioned [punishment]. And do not let any pity for them overcome you in God’s religion, that is to say, in [the fulfilment of] His rulings, by disregarding any part of their prescribed punishment, if you believe in God and the Last Day, namely, the Day of Resurrection: in this [statement] there is an incitement to [abide by] what was [mentioned] before the conditional [above] and it also constitutes the response to the latter, or [at least is] an indication of the response to it. And let their punishment, the flogging, be witnessed by a group of the believers — some say [that this should be a group of] three; some say four, as in the number of witnesses testifying to an act of fornication.

Ibn Al Kathir

The Importance of Surat An-Nur

سُورَةٌ أَنزَلْنَـهَا

(A Surah which We have sent down) Here Allah is pointing out the high esteem in which He holds this Surah, which is not to say that other Surahs are not important.


(and which We have enjoined,) Mujahid and Qatadah said, "This means: We have explained what is lawful and unlawful, commands and prohibitions, and the prescribed punishments.'' Al-Bukhari said, "Those who read it: Faradnaha, say that it means: "We have enjoined them upon you and those who come after you.''

وَأَنزَلْنَا فِيهَآ ءَايَـتٍ بَيِّنَـتٍ

(and in it We have revealed manifest Ayat,) means, clearly explained,

لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ

(that you may remember.)

The Explanation of the Prescribed Punishment for Zina (Illicit Sex)

Then Allah says:

الزَّانِيَةُ وَالزَّانِى فَاجْلِدُواْ كُلَّ وَاحِدٍ مِّنْهُمَا مِاْئَةَ جَلْدَةٍ

(The Zaniyah and the Zani, flog each of them with a hundred stripes.) This honorable Ayah contains the ruling on the law of retaliation for the person who commits illegal sex, and details of the punishment. Such a person will either be unmarried, meaning that he has never been married, or he will be married, meaning that he has had intercourse within the bounds of a lawful marriage, and he is free, adult and of sound mind. As for the virgin who is unwedded, the prescribed punishment is one hundred stripes, as stated in this Ayah. In addition to this he is to be banished from his homeland for one year, as was recorded in the Two Sahihs from Abu Hurayrah and Zayd bin Khalid Al-Juhani in the Hadith about the two bedouins who came to the Messenger of Allah. One of them said, "O Messenger of Allah, this son of mine was employed by this man, and committed Zina with his wife. I paid a ransom with him on behalf of my son one hundred sheep and a slave-girl, but when I asked the people of knowledge, they said that my son should be given one hundred stripes and banished for a year, and that this man's wife should be stoned to death.'' The Messenger of Allah said:

«وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ لَأَقْضِيَنَّ بَيْنَكُمَا بِكِتَابِ اللهِ تَعَالى، الْوَلِيدَةُ وَالْغَنَمُ رَدٌّ عَلَيْكَ، وَعَلى ابْنِكَ جَلْدُ مِائَةٍ وَتَغْرِيبُ عَامٍ، وَاغْدُ يَا أُنَيْسُ لِرَجُلٍ مِنْ أَسْلَمَ إِلَى امْرَأَةِ هذَا،فَإِنِ اعْتَرَفَتْ فَارْجُمْهَا»

(By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, I will judge between you both according to the Book of Allah. Take back the slave-girl and sheep, and your son is to be given one hundred stripes and banished for one year. O Unays -- he said to a man from the tribe of Aslam -- go to this man's wife, and if she confesses, then stone her to death.) Unays went to her and she confessed, so he stoned her to death. This indicates that if the person who is guilty of illegal sex is a virgin and unmarried, he should be banished in addition to being given one hundred stripes. But if married, meaning he has had intercourse within the bounds of lawful marriage, and he is free, adult and of sound mind, then he should be stoned to death. Imam Malik recorded that `Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, stood up and praised and glorified Allah, then he said; "O people! Allah sent Muhammad with the truth, and revealed to him the Book. One of the things that was revealed to him was the Ayah of stoning to death, which we have recited and understood. The Messenger of Allah carried out the punishment of stoning and after him we did so, but I am afraid that as time goes by, some will say that they did not find the Ayah of stoning in the Book of Allah, and they will go astray because they abandoned one of the obligations revealed by Allah. Stoning is something that is prescribed in the Book of Allah for the person -- man or woman -- who commits illegal sex, if he or she is married, if decisive evidence is produced, or if pregnancy results from that, or if they confess to it.'' It was also recorded in the Two Sahihs in the lengthy Hadith of Malik, from which we have quoted briefly only the portion that is relevant to the current discussion.

Do not feel pity for Them when carrying out the Prescribed Punishment

وَلاَ تَأْخُذْكُمْ بِهِمَا رَأْفَةٌ فِى دِينِ اللَّهِ

(Let not pity withhold you in their case, in a punishment prescribed by Allah,) Meaning, with a ruling prescribed by Allah. So the meaning of the Ayah is: "Do not feel too sorry for them where the laws of Allah are established.'' This does not mean that we should not naturally feel pity when carrying out the punishment. What is prohibited here is the kind of pity that may make the judge ignore the punishment altogether. This is what is not permitted for the judge. Mujahid said,

وَلاَ تَأْخُذْكُمْ بِهِمَا رَأْفَةٌ فِى دِينِ اللَّهِ

(Let not pity withhold you in their case, in a punishment prescribed by Allah,) "If the matter is taken to the ruling authority, the punishment has to be carried out and cannot be stopped.'' This was also narrated from Sa`id bin Jubayr and `Ata' bin Abi Rabah. It was recorded in a Hadith:

«تَعَافَوُا الْحُدُودَ فِيمَا بَيْنَكُمْ، فَمَا بَلَغَنِي مِنْ حَدَ فَقَدْ وَجَبَ»

(Compromise with the matter of prescribed punishment mutually sorting it out among yourselves, for once a matter where the prescribed punishment is required reaches me, I am obliged to carry it out.) Allah's saying:

إِن كُنتُمْ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الاٌّخِرِ

(if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. ) means, then do that, carry out the punishments on those who commit illegal sex, and strike them hard without causing any wound, so that he and others like him will be deterred by the terror of that. In Al-Musnad, it was recorded that one of the Companions said, "O Messenger of Allah, when I slaughter a sheep I feel pity for it.'' He said,

«وَلَكَ فِي ذلِكَ أَجْرٌ»

(You be rewarded for that.)

Carry out the Prescribed Punishment in Public

وَلْيَشْهَدْ عَذَابَهُمَا طَآئِفَةٌ مِّنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ

(And let a party of the believers witness their punishment.) This is more humiliating for the people who are guilty of illegal sex, if they are flogged in front of the people. This is because it is more effective as a deterrent and it conveys the sense of scandal and rebuke. Al-Hasan Al-Basri said,

وَلْيَشْهَدْ عَذَابَهُمَا طَآئِفَةٌ مِّنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ

(And let a party of the believers witness their punishment.) "Publicly.''

Kashf Al-Asrar

The fornicatress and the fornicator-flog each of them a hundred lashes, and let no clem- ency toward them seize you in God's religion, if you have faith in God and the Last Day. And let a group of the faithful witness their chastisement.

The world's folk are three groups: the common people, the elect of the Presence, and the elect of the elect. If the common people fornicate, their penalty, in the tongue of the Shariah, is whipping or stoning. MuṣṬafā said, "Take this from me! Take this from me! God has appointed for them a path: for virgins, one hundred stripes and banishment; for those formerly married, one hundred stripes and stoning." He also said, "Receive kindly the stumbles of those with positions except in the case of penalties."

The fornication of the elect is the gazing of the eyes. MuṣṬafā said, "The fornication of the eyes is the gaze." Their penalty is to cast down the eyesight and to turn the eyes away from the soul's pleasures and appetites, even if they are licit. The Prophet said, "Cast down your eyes, guard your private parts, and hold back your hands."

The fornication of the elect of the elect is the heart's thoughts about anything less than the Real. If they give something else access to their secret core, this is counted in the Tariqah as forni- cation. Their penalty is disentanglement from attachments and withdrawal from people. God says, "Say 'God,' then leave them" [6:91].

Let no clemency toward them seize you in God's religion, if you have faith in God. One of them said this means, "If you are among the folk of affection and love for Me, oppose those who oppose My command and do what I have prohibited. No one is a lover who has patience with op- position to his beloved."

Junayd said, "Tenderness toward those in opposition is like turning away from those who conform." In other words, "Being tender to those who oppose at the moment of opposition is just like turning away from those who conform at the moment of their conformity."

Having mercy in accordance with the Shariah is beautiful and praiseworthy. "The All-Merci- ful has mercy on those who are merciful." But, it is not a stipulation to have mercy as a requisite of nature and habit at the moment of opposition, and it is not allowable to be remiss in enacting the penalties.

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an

After adopting such measures zina was declared to be a punishable offense and spreading of indecency in any way was also prohibited. Prostitution was legally banned and severe punishment was prescribed for charging men and women with adultery and propagating it without proof. Men were enjoined to restrain their gaze so that unrestricted feasting of eyes should not lead to lust for beauty and further on to illicit love. At the same time women were also enjoined to differentiate between mahram and non-mahram relatives.' This enables one to understand the entire scheme of reform, a constituent part of which is the prescribed punishment for zina. This extreme punishment is for those incorrigible persons who persist in resorting to the illegal course for the gratification of their sex desires in spite of all the treasures adopted to reform the individual and society. They certainly deserve to be flogged. Punishment of a wicked person serves as a, psychological deterrent for those who have similar tendencies.

The most important case is that of Ma`iz bin Malik Aslami, which has been related by a large number of reporters on the authority of many Companions of the Holy Prophet (Allah's peace be upon him) and almost all books of Traditions contain details with regard to it. Ma`iz was an orphan boy from the clan of Aslam who had been brought up by Hazzal bin Nu'aim. He committed zina with a freed slave-girl. Hazzal said to him, "Go to the Holy Prophet and inform him of your sin; may be he prays for your forgiveness." Ma`iz went before the Holy Prophet in,the Mosque and said, "I have committed zina; please purify me " The Holy Prophet turned his face away from him and said, "Woe be to you, go back and pray to Allah for forgiveness." But the boy again appeared before the Holy Prophet and said the same thing and the Holy Prophet again turned his face away. The boy then repeated his offense for the third time and the Holy Prophet again turned his face away. Hadrat Abu Bakr warned the boy that if he confessed the crime for the fourth time, the Holy Prophet would get him stoned. But the boy persisted and repeated the same thing again. At this the Holy Prophet turned to him and said: "You might have only kissed or embraced or caressed her, or you might have looked at her with lust (and you thought it was an act of Zina." The boy said, "No." The Holy Prophet asked, "Did you lie with her in the same bed?" The boy replied in the affirmative. The Holy Prophet again asked: "Did you have sexual intercourse with her? The boy again replied in the affirmative. The Holy Prophet then inquired in the most explicit Arabic expression specifically used for this act. Such a naked expression had never before been heard nor was ever heard afterwards from him. Had it not been the question of the life of an individual, the Holy Prophet would never have uttered such words. But the boy again replied in the affirmative to this explicit question. The Holy Prophet then asked: "Did you commit the act in such a manner that your male organ disappeared in her female part'?" The boy answered, "Yes." Again he was asked whether the act was as Complete as is a piston in a cylinder and a rope in a well. The boy again answered in the affirmative. Again he was asked whether he really understood what zina meant, and the boy said, "Yes, I have committed the same act with her illegitimately which a husband commits legitimately with his wife." The Holy Prophet asked: "Are 'you married?" He said, "Yes". Again the Holy Prophet asked whether he had taken any wine. He said, "No", and one of the Companions smelt his mouth and continued that he had not. After this the Holy Prophet inquired of his neighbors whether he was suffering from insanity. They replied that he had not exhibited any sign of insanity. Then the Holy Prophet said to Hazzal: "Had you kept it secret, it would have been better for you." Then he ordered Ma`iz to be stoned to death and he was stoned to death outside the city. When they began to throw stones at him, Ma`iz tried to escape, and said, "O people, take me back to the Holy Prophet. The people of my clan deluded me, assuring that the Holy Prophet would not condemn me to death. " But they did not let him escape. Afterwards when this incident was reported to the Holy Prophet, he said: "Why didn't you let him go? Had you brought him to me, he might have repented. and Allah might have accepted his repentance."

All the above different opinions have been based on various Traditions of the Holy Prophet, which are given below:

If zina is proved by evidence, the flogging will be initiated by the witnesses themselves. If the punishment is based on confession, the judge himself will initiate the punishment. This is to make the witnesses and the judge realize the seriousness of the matter. In the case of Shuraha, when Hadrat `Ali decided to stone her to death, he said, "Had there been any witness to this crime, he should have initiated the stoning, but as she is being punished on the basis of confession, I will initiate it myself. " According to the Hanafis, this procedure is essential but according to the Shafi`is, it is not essential; it is, however, preferable according to all jurists.

(24) After a convict has been stoned to death, he (or she) will be treated like any other Muslim: his (or her) body will be washed and shrouded: funeral prayer will be said in the Islamic way, and he (or she) will be buried with due respect in a Muslim graveyard. Prayers for his forgiveness will be offered and it will be improper for anyone to talk ill of him. According to Jabir bin 'Abdullah Ansari, as cited in Bukhari, when Ma'iz bin Malik was stoned to death, the Holy Prophet said good words about him and himself led his funeral prayer. A Tradition from Buraidah, as cited in Muslim, states that the Holy Prophet said: °Pray for the forgiveness of Ma'iz bin Malik: he has offered such a repentance that if it were to be distributed over a whole community, it would suffice for the forgiveness of all its people." In the same Tradition it has been mentioned that when Ghaimidiyyah died due to stoning, her funeral prayer was led by the Holy Prophet. When Khaid bin Walid talked ill of her, the Holy Prophet said: "Khalid, hold your tongue! I swear by Him Who controls my life that her repentance was such that even if a cruel tax-collector had offered such a repentance, he would have been forgiven." According to Abu Hurairah, as cited in Abu Da'ud, after the stoning of Ma`iz one day when the Holy Prophet was walking along, he heard two men talking ill of Ma`iz. When he had gone a few paces further, he saw the dead body of a donkey. He stopped there and asked the two men: "Come on and eat something out of it." They said, "O Prophet of Allah, who can eat a dead donkey?" The Holy Prophet replied: "Talking ill of your own brother was much worse than eating a dead donkey. "

Some commentators have interpreted this verse to mean that the culprit should neither be forgiven after his guilt has been proved nor his punishment reduced. He must be flogged with 100 stripes. Some others have taken it to mean that the flogging should not be so light that the culprit may not feel its effect at all. The verse covers both the above interpretations and, in fact, both are plausible. It also means that the one guilty of fornication should get the same punishment which has been prescribed by Allah and no other type of punishment. It is a sin to inflict any other type of punishment instead of flogging even for the sake of compassion or pity. But` if any other type of punishment is inflicted on the ground that flogging with stripes is a barbarous type of punishment, it amounts to kufr ; which should never be tolerated even for a moment by a true Believer. To believe in the Divinity of Allah and then to call Him a barbarian, suits only those who are the meanest of hypocrites.

Another advantage of awarding the punishment publicly is that the officials concerned should not be able to reduce or enhance the punishment at will while executing it.

Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

(The adulterer and the adulteress) who are unmarried and have not been married before, (scourge ye each one of them (with) a hundred stripes) flog each one of them a hundred times. (And let not pity for the twain) for applying the legal punishment (withhold you from obedience to Allah) withhold you from executing Allah's legal ruling on them, (if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day) in resurrection after death. (And let a party of believers) one man, two or more so that the punishment is preserved (witness their punishment) witness the execution of the punishment.