'Honor Killing' amongst Muslims - How Islamic are they?

Most often a question ran through my mind and I got curious, as to what is the punishment for women, who commit adultery or have sex before marriage in the framework of Islam? Is it (stoning to) death? I have been reading certain articles on 'honor killing' where male relatives kill sisters, mothers, cousins etc., if they find out they have committed adulterous affairs. Many of these honor killings happen mainly in Jordan and Pakistan. There was one incident where a woman was raped (obviously not her fault) but still her father killed her because he felt she brought shame to the family. Many of the men who kill are not charged at all. Police often turn a blind eye. I was just curious as to what the punishment should be? Because these honor killings really struck a cord in me.

  On studying the issues involved and Quranic injunctions on this matter, I realized that this is a clear example of how far Muslims have come from implementing the true teachings of the Qur'an and Sunnah (example of the Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him )!

The punishment for adultery/fornication is a certain number of lashes [1] for both criminals.  Rape is a completely different scenario in which the woman is not held accountable for anything.  These punishments must be carried out by the Islamic State, after a proper trial, and not by any individual or groups of people, whether they are family members of the guilty couple or not!  

Furthermore, the court must make its decision after it is proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that both people indeed committed the act, and there must be 4 witnesses (at least) who saw the act happen in front of them. There is a famous incident which happened after the death of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him ) where four people saw a man commit fornication with a woman.  The matter was brought to the court and each witness was asked what he saw.  Three of them said that they saw this man X have intercourse with this woman Y.  However, the fourth person, in his testimony, could not say upon oath that he saw the actual act of "intercourse" while looking at the couple!
The result? The couple was sent free, unblemished.  And the 4 witnesses were all punished for their "false testimony."
What does this show? The only way that you can have 4 people witness the act of illegal intercourse is if the act is pretty much done in public (or if there are no significant precautions taken to perform the act privately).  Some people question the harshness of the punishment for illegal intercourse in Islam.  But I say, if 4 people are able to see the act, then the act is done in public, and the punishment MUST be severe for such a public, careless display of this sinful act!

It's one thing to commit a sin.  It's quite another thing to commit it publicly with no shame, or for the act to become rampant among people, corrupting not only the two fornicators/adulterers but also the rest of the society around them!

The requirement of having a trial for the crime, and for the matter to be decided completely by the State and not individuals, is also present in other Islamic punishments.  Stealing is definitely one of them.

The famous Disney movie, Aladdin, shows the "street rat" being chased by shopkeepers running after him to cut his hands for stealing an apple!

That was pure rubbish! This is not how an Islamic state functions.  

First, if a person steals out of need because, say,  he cannot find work in the State, then his act of stealing cannot be punished by cutting off his hands!  In this case, the State is the guilty party for not providing employment for all of its citizens, so that they can earn a livelihood for themselves and their families.

Second, the "street rat" cannot simply be chased by shopkeepers and awarded his punishment on the streets! The matter has to be taken to court, where a trial has to occur, and a judgment has to be made by the judge, and the sentence carried out by the police.  There is an established system for everything, far from the chaotic society presented on the screens of Hollywood!

I pray to Allah that He guides the Muslims to hold fast to the Qur'an and Sunnah in their daily lives.  May Allah give us the ability to establish the Islamic State soon, so the Islamic laws and practices may be carried out in their purest forms.  And may He give guidance to the non-Muslims, and prevent such stereotypes from repelling them away from the true beauty of Islam.

Courtesy: Arsalan

1. Reader's comment:  The issue of punishment for adultery/fornication in Islamic shariah is an interesting one. someone recommends stoning to death and others call for a 100 lashes. One always begins to think whether one is being arrogant by assuming that this is cruel, because only Allah knows best. To my knowledge, stoning is not mentioned in the Quran. However, the following hadiths mention it and I was wondering if you could explain them or elaborate on them. What is your opinion on stoning.

"Narrated Jabir: A man from the tribe of Aslam came to the Prophet and confessed that he had committed an illegal sexual intercourse. The Prophet turned his face away from him till the man bore witness against himself four times. The Prophet said to him. 'are you mad?' he said 'no'. he said 'are you married?' he said 'yes'. then the Prophet ordered that he be stoned to death and he was stoned to death at Musalla. when the stones troubled him he fled, but he was caught and was stoned till he died. The Prophet spoke well of him and offerred his funeral prayer." Volume 8, Book 82, Number 810

To my knowledge, stoning is no where in the Qur'an and the injunction is for lashes instead.  However, the result of  100 lashes seems to be death.  Is this the punishment for 'zina' is in a more subtle manner?   In this day's society, who administers this punishment upon the sinner?

It must be understood at the outset that Islam, in its injunctions regarding the penal law, has classified crimes into two major categories:

  1 -  Normal crimes; and
  2 -  Extra-ordinary crimes.

Examples of the first category may include crimes against someone’s property, i.e. theft, crimes against someone’s life, i.e. murder or physically harming a person and crimes against chastity and respect, i.e. fornication and defamation. Besides this classification, Islam has given another class of crimes, that may appear to be of the same nature as given above, but are committed with an absolutely different psyche.

For example, a person may quietly enter someone’s premise and steal something from there, and in another case, a few people may form a gang of robbers and rob market places, houses and automobiles on the highway. Now, if you would consider closely, although a crime has been committed against property in both the cases, but the psyche of the criminals is quite different in the two cases. The first case entails a psyche of a simple criminal while the second case entails a psyche of a person who wants to create unrest and disorder in the society, as a whole. Like wise, in case of murder, a person may kill another person on provocation, in hot blood or only to "get even" for an insult, or to settle the score of an old enmity. While on the other hand, a person may install a bomb in a public place and thereby kill anyone – man, woman or child – that comes within the range of the blast. Now, again, even though the two acts have resulted in the same thing – that is loss of life – but still the psyche in the two acts is absolutely different. The same is the case with crimes against chastity and respect. A man and a woman may indulge in the act of fornication or adultery, while in another case, a man may rape a woman or a woman may open a brothel.

Crimes of the first category are basically against the person, property, respect and morality of individuals, while crimes of the second category are basically against the society, as a whole. The crimes relating to the second category are called "fasa’d fi’l-ard" in the Qur’an.

Islam, in its penal law, has proposed two different kinds of punishments for the crimes of the two categories. It proposes that the punishment of a thief should be amputation of his (right) hand; the punishment of a murderer should be "qisa’s" and the punishment of the individuals involved in fornication should be a hundred flogs, in public, and, if they are married, severing of their marriage with chaste individuals, and if they are not married, disallowing their marriage with chaste individuals. On the other hand, the punishment for "fasa’d fi’l-ard" has been mentioned in Quran. In this verse Allah(swt) says : "The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter; Except for those who repent before they fall into your power: in that case, know that Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful." Sura Al-Ma'idah 5: 33-34.

It is obvious from this verse that the court has been given the authority to decide and implement from amongst these four punishments according to the gravity of the crime and according to the psyche of the criminal.

In my opinion, the Prophet (pbuh) stoned some individuals to death, on the basis of the directive of Maidah 5: 34. Stoning to death was one way of painfully slaying a person (taqteel).

As far as the remaining part of your question is concerned, I would like to clarify that one hundred flogs is not a subtle way of giving a death sentence. One hundred flogs, as implemented by the Prophet (pbuh) shows us that:

  1. the whip used for this purpose should neither be too thick nor too thin, but should be of a medium thickness (Mu'atta Ima'm Ma'lik)
  2. the act of flogging should be performed, not by professional and trained whippers, but by the decent and respected class of the society, the flogs should not be too hard for the individual to bear (zadu’l-ma`a’d)
  3. the criminal should neither be undressed nor tied to a tripod while implementing the punishment (Ahka’mu’l-Qur’an)

I hope this would help.

Moin Amjad