Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Safar\Rabi-Ul-Awwal 1424 H
May 2003
Volume 16-05 No : 197
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Our Dialogue


Adultery and Its Punishment
A Woman's Mahram in Pilgrimage
Spending Nights in the Mosque
A Congregation With One's Wife


By Adil Salahi

Adultery and Its Punishment

Q. Could you please explain how serious is the adultery offense from the Islamic point of view?
Please state the punishment for adulterers who are married, and also if only one of them is married.
Is it true that it is a sin for which God accepts no repentance?


A. Any sexual intercourse between a man and a woman when they are not married to each other is strictly forbidden in Islam. Adultery is the English word for unlawful sexual intercourse between a married man and a married woman who is not his lawful wife. If those who commit the offense are not married, then it is called fornication. It is important to make the distinction because the punishment is different.

No punishment is applicable for any offense before it is proven according to the criterion set by God for such a proof. In the case of both fornication and adultery, the proof required is a free confession or four witnesses who testify to having seen the offense being committed. Anyone who accuses a person of adultery or fornication without providing such a proof, i.e. four witnesses, is himself liable to be punished with 80 lashes for false accusation.

No one is encouraged to make a confession to adultery or fornication. On the contrary, a person who voluntarily offers a confession is advised to withdraw his or her confession.

The judge must try to persuade them to withdraw, and if they withdraw the confession, that is immediately accepted and the matter is closed. The point is that Islam does not like punishment to be implemented. It wants punishment to be primarily a deterrent. If the offense is proven, either through a repeated confession that will not be withdrawn or the testimony of four witnesses, who must be cross-examined, then there is no option but to apply the punishment, because it is stated by God, and no one can amend, modify or reduce what God legislates.

The punishment stated in the Qur’an is 100 lashes for each of the two parties. All scholars agree that this is the punishment for fornication and most scholars also agree that the punishment for adultery is stoning, which applies to both partners. If one of them is married and the other is not, then stoning is applied to the married partner, while the other receives the punishment of fornication.

A minority of scholars, many of them are highly eminent, say that the stoning punishment is not mandatory, i.e. hadd, but discretionary, i.e. ta’zeer. A mandatory punishment cannot be modified, but a discretionary one is open to change or modification either to reduce or increase it.

It is not true to say that no repentance of adultery can be accepted. God says in the Qur’an: “God does not forgive that partners should be associated with Him, but He forgives any lesser sin to whomever He wills.” (4: 116) Even in the case of associating partners with God, if the person who does it changes his position and declares his belief in God’s oneness and in Muhammad (peace be upon him) as God’s messenger, he is forgiven his past. This means that if a person is guilty of adultery, he or she may repent and seek God’s forgiveness, which may be forthcoming once the repentance is sincere and coupled with a resolve not to repeat the offense.

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A Woman's Mahram in Pilgrimage

Q. My mother came for pilgrimage in the company of my wife's parents and a group of pilgrims.
I joined them when it was time for the pilgrimage.
Some people suggest that as she did not have a blood relation with her,
she travelled without a mahram and her pilgrimage is invalid. Others say the reverse. Please clarify.

A. The important point to realize is that Islam takes care of women when it requires a woman to have a mahram accompanying her when she travels. The point is that in travel we may encounter different difficulties. Because many women are housewives, they may find things difficult if they were to travel on their own. Similarly, protection may be needed. All this is provided when a woman travels with a mahram, who is either her husband or a close relative whom she is not allowed to marry, such as a father, son, uncle or nephew. Scholars also say that a woman may travel for her obligatory pilgrimage with ‘safe company’, which means a group of pilgrims that includes women pilgrims with their mahrams.

In our modern days, if a woman is traveling by plane to a place where a mahram of hers lives, she does no wrong. Suppose you live in Riyadh and your mother comes from your home country by plane to visit you and then to do the pilgrimage, she does not need anyone to accompany her on the plane, because she is already in safe company. The same applies to other means of public transport, such as buses and trains.

Having said that, I should add that people often pronounce judgments of far-reaching significance, without checking whether they are right or not. For example, people who tell you that your mother’s pilgrimage is invalid do not know what they are talking about. If a woman travels for pilgrimage on her own, and she offers the pilgrimage without having any company, she does wrong, but her pilgrimage is, God willing, valid and acceptable. The violation of one rule does not render it totally invalid.

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Spending Nights in the Mosque

Q. In many parts of the sub-continent and in India, the I'tikaf is given much importance,
to the extent that the local imam insists that at least one person from every family undertakes this task for the protection of the locality. Please explain.

A. I’tikaf is the Arabic name of the Sunnah practice of spending a few days in a mosque in the last part of Ramadan, when all time is devoted for worship. The Prophet used to spend the last ten days of Ramadan in such devotion and he recommended this to his companions and followers. This is done by men only, as the Prophet did not ask his wives or daughters or any other women to share in this worship.

This is as far as it goes. It is a Sunnah practice, which we will do well to follow. If someone adds to it an element of obligation, that person is wrong. Therefore, when the imam in your village insists on people to come to the mosque for a few nights, he is stepping beyond what Islam requires. When he says that this is necessary for the protection of the locality, he is adding to this practice what does not belong to it. This is a practice of devotion, which is highly rewarding to those who do it, but it does not mean that if people do not do it, then a calamity might befall them. This is not the way Islam treats any situation.

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Does It Become Obligatory?

Q.1. I am told that if a person performs the Umrah after the end of Ramadan, then it becomes obligatory that he must perform the pilgrimage that year. Is it true?

Q.2. When my parents came for pilgrimage, I travelled to meet them in Makkah, where I performed the Umrah. After a couple of days, I returned to my place of work. I did not do a tawaf of farewell. Should I have done?

A.1. This is a very confused notion which people bring up time after time, although they do not have any basis for it. The Prophet did the Umrah four times, all of which were in the month of Dul-Qaadah, but he performed the pilgrimage only once. Had what you mentioned been true, he would have done the pilgrimage four times. The Umrah may be offered at any time during the year, and it is independent of the pilgrimage. It is the pilgrimage that may be associated with an Umrah, not the other way round.

People get confused when they are told that if they do the Umrah in the pilgrimage months, not intending to do the pilgrimage, then they decide to do the pilgrimage in the same year, their pilgrimage is automatically in the tamattu’ method. A.2. No tawaf of farewell is required for the Umrah. It is only needed at the end of the pilgrimage.

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Voluntary Fasting

Q. Could you please explain about fasting 6 days in the month of Shawwal. Some people start to fast these on the 2nd day of the month. Should a woman fast these before she compensates for the days she missed in Ramadan as a result of her period? What about fasting on 13, 14 and 15 of each lunar month?


A.
The Prophet has guided us to many aspects of worship which we may do voluntarily to earn reward from God and enhance our chances of admission to heaven on the Day of Judgment. For example, we offer Sunnah prayers with each of the five obligatory prayers. Such Sunnah is what it says: voluntary additional prayer, which means that if one does not do it, one is not questioned about it. If we do any such voluntary worship, we earn the reward God is pleased to grant for it.

Similarly, the Prophet recommended fasting as voluntary worship, and he pointed out certain days which are recommended to fast, but this is all voluntary. Among these are the six days people fast in Shawwal, and the three middle days of each month, which are known as the white days. He explains that fasting these six days after Ramadan makes one’s fasting equal to fasting the whole year. This is due to the fact that God reward any good deed with ten times its value. Thus, for fasting the month of Ramadan,

He rewards us for the fasting of ten months. If we add six more days, He increases our reward to the equivalent of fasting 60 days, or two months, to complete the year. The same applies to fasting three days each month. He chose those ‘white’ days because the moon is at its fullest in them which makes the nights bright.

Most people believe that the six days should be offered during the month of Shawwal, but it is probably more accurate to say that they can be done at any time during the year, because the Hadith speaks of ‘six days from Shawwal’, not ‘in Shawwal’.

As for a woman who has to compensate for her missed days in Ramadan, she starts with completing her obligatory fasting. She should not fast any voluntary day before she completes her obligatory fasting. When she has completed that, she may do any voluntary fasting she wants. Hence, the reading of the Hadith allowing the six days to be throughout the year makes things easier for women.

It is important to stress that with what the Prophet has recommended, it remains voluntary. It must not be elevated to the rank of obligatory or semi-obligatory worship. Nothing can be added to what God has made obligatory. Therefore, our approach to recommended worship should always be that it is recommended, not obligatory. This means that if we miss it, we commit no wrong and God will not ask us about what we missed.

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A Congregation With One's Wife

Q. I live at home with my wife only, and there is a mosque nearby.
I wonder whether it is better to offer my obligatory prayers with my wife in congregation,
or to go to the mosque?

A. You should do a mixture of both so that you are not isolated from the local neighborhood, and you allow your wife a chance to pray in congregation. Moreover, if there are facilities for women in the mosque, your wife could go with you for the congregational prayer. This would be the best. Therefore, if she cannot go to the mosque, and she is ready to pray with you, you may pray together.

When she is busy and could delay the prayer until she has finished, then you go and offer the prayer in the mosque. What you may also do is that you pray the obligatory prayer in the mosque, and then repeat it with your wife. It counts for you as a Sunnah, and for her as an obligatory prayer in congregation. This was the practice of Muadh ibn Jabal, who used to offer the Isha prayer with the Prophet and then go to his people and lead them in their congregation.

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