By Dr. Abdul-Rahman Al-Sheha
The family unit is the basis of a healthy society and this can only be maintained by upholding the sanctity of marriage. For the preservation of moral purity among all men, women and children in the society, Islam strictly prohibits adultery, fornication and homosexuality. Islam concurs with previous divine religions in this prohibition but goes further by banning many acts that may lead to committing this sin, like immodest dress and free mixing of the sexes in public or private quarters. These manners and precautions cut the avenues towards temptations. Allah the Almighty says in the Glorious Qur’an:
Nor come near to unlawful sex. Verily it is a great sin, and an evil way. (Al-Israa’ 17:32)
Abdullah ibn Mas`ud relates that he said: “O Messenger of Allah, which sin is gravest to Allah? He said: “That you make others to be equal to Allah even though (He Alone) has created you.” I then asked: And then what? He said: “To kill your child fearing that he will eat along with you.” I then said: And then what? He said: “To fornicate or have adultery with your neighbor’s wife.” Then the Messenger of Allah recited the following verses of the Qur’an (reaffirming what he just said):
And those who invoke not with Allah any other god, nor slay such life which Allah has made sacred, except for just cause, nor commit fornication – and whoever does this shall meet (the due reward of his) sin. The torment will be doubled to him on the Day of Resurrection, and he will abide therein in disgrace. Unless he repents, believes, and works righteous deeds, for those Allah will change their sins into good deeds, and Allah is Oft-forgiving Most Merciful. (Al-Furqan 25:68-70) (Muslim)
The punishment of flogging is legislated for a previously unwed male or female who commit fornication. Allah, the Exalted, states in the Glorious Qur’an:
The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication, flog each of them with a hundred stripes: let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day: and let a party of the Believers witness their punishment. (An-Nur 24:2)
As for the married male or female who commits adultery while being married or after divorcing one’s spouse, the penalty for such a criminal is like in the Torah scriptures: stoning to death. To apply this punishment, the judge must either have the full confession, or the testimony of four trustworthy eyewitnesses who testify that they clearly saw sexual penetration.
Confession means that the crime is confessed openly by the adulterer/fornicator before the Muslim Judge or ruler. The confession must be repeated four times to remove any doubt. In the case of testimony, four trustworthy, honest and sound people must report to the Muslim judge or ruler seeing the actual sexual penetration of the fornicators or adulterers, a scenario that is very rare under normal circumstances.
The early history of Islam recorded a few instances of confession of the crime of adultery wherein the individuals openly confessed their crime because their strong faith in Allah propelled them to the desire for sincere repentance and purification. As the traditions make clear, Allah will not punish someone twice for the same crime, and they wanted to be protected from having the punishment in the Hereafter. It should be noted that if sexual penetration and intercourse does not fully take place – if a person, for instance only kisses, hugs or touches – then there is no application of the punishment.
The penalty of false accusation for those who do not produce evidence to support their claims and accusations is eighty lashes, and a further punishment is that their testimony is thereafter rejected. As Allah says in the Glorious Qur’an
And those who accuse chaste women, and produce not four witnesses, (to support their allegations), flog them with eighty stripes; and reject their testimony ever after: for such men are disobedient. (An-Nur 24:4)
Mockery and derogatory words and deeds that violate the honor, dignity and respect of others in the community are strictly prohibited, as Allah says in the Glorious Qur’an:
O you who believe! Let not some men among you mock others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women mock others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames: ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness, (to be used of one) after he has believed: and those who do not desist are (indeed) doing wrong. O you who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin: and spy not on each other, nor speak ill of each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, you would abhor it. However, fear Allah: for Allah is Oft-Returning, Most-Merciful. (Al-Hujurat 49:11-12)
Islam safeguards the sanctity of reproduction for the maintenance of the human race on earth. The human race is entrusted with the guardianship of the entire earth and the representation of divine wisdom to serve as the vicegerent of the Almighty Allah on earth. Destroying the means of reproduction by any means or tampering with it in any way for no legitimate reason is an unlawful practice according to Islam. The Almighty Allah states in the Glorious Qur’an:
When he turns away his aim is to spread mischief everywhere through the earth and destroy crops and cattle. But Allah loves not mischief. (Al-Baqarah 2:205)
Islam considers deliberate abortion of the fetus after four months a premeditated act of murder tantamount to infanticide that entitles punishment for all who participate. Unintentional abortion may require blood-money substitution for the aborted fetus and fasting for two consecutive months in repentance to Allah, if caused by accident or manslaughter.
Many hadiths recommend a Muslim to get marry and seek offspring. Allah’s Messenger said, “Marry a woman who is loving and can bear many children, for verily I will display your outnumbering of the other nations on the Day of Requital (due to the large number of my followers).” (Ahmad)
Islam places special value on strong family bonds and good relations among relatives. Since the family is the basis and the foundation of the society, many rules help protect this family against break up and disintegration. Relatives have obligations and rights. One must recognize the rights of kith and kin and consequently satisfy the rights of each relative in the most appropriate fashion.
Mixing between the male and female members of the family -who are permitted to marry one another lawfully- may lead to many family social problems. To avoid any unwanted situation, Islam commands segregation between the male and female members of the family who are allowed to marry each other. A woman is allowed to appear without her outer garments only before her father, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, father-in-law and sons.
In the pre-Islamic days of Jahiliyyah (ignorance) the family system was corrupted and decadent. Islam initiated decisive reformations and annihilated all existent malpractice. Some of the institutions banned by Islam will be mentioned as examples.
Islam bans ascribing a child to a man as a son without the man’s admission to be the father because such a claim jeopardizes marital relationships as well as family life. A woman is to be protected from false accusations that blemish her honor and dignity of illegitimate sexual activities with a man other than her husband. Moreover, such a false claim of a man may create doubts and in turn a rift between the rest of the children of the family, not knowing legitimate from illegitimate. Any child born who is a legitimate product of a marriage contract is attributed to the father with no need of any further proof or denial. A husband of a woman needs not to announce that the child is his. This practice is based on the statement of Allah’s Messenger, “The child (born as a result of a lawful marriage) belongs to the (bed of) his father.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
The only exception to this rule is when it is proved, beyond a doubt, that the wife has betrayed her husband and is pregnant from other than her husband. In such a case, specific rules of disowning the child will apply. After disowning, he will become as a total stranger in relation to the husband. This means that if the disowned child is female, she must not appear before such a man at her leisure, travel with him, live with him or deal freely with him.
A Muslim woman, after marriage keeps her maiden name according to Islamic jurisprudence. According to Islamic teachings and law, it is unlawful for a woman to bear the family name of her husband after marriage. Looking at this closely one can comprehend the great honor, dignity and respect granted to the woman in Islam. This practice preserves the equality and equal right of a Muslim woman to the Muslim man of the right of carrying her own independent name, especially in the event of divorce.
Source: Taken with modifications from the author’s “Human Rights in Islam And Common Misconceptions”