Penal Law for Adultery: Stoning to Death a Violation of the Quran

The Arabic word in the Quran for Adultery and fornication is Zina. In all these verses the only natural way to understand the Arabic word is that it refers to illicit sexual intercourse whether committed by a married person or an unmarried person:

“Do not go near zina`, for that is surely an abomination and evil conduct.” (17:32). “Those who do not  call on a deity other than (the one true) God and do not kill a person prohibited by God except when justified (by God’s law) and who do not commit zina` (25:68). “O Prophet! When the believing women come to you to give you pledge (bay‘ah) that they will not associate anything as partner in worship with God and they will not steal and they will not commit zina`` …” (part 60:12). The zani marries not but a zaniah or female polytheist and the zaniah marries not but a zani or male polytheist (24:3). 

The worldly legal punishment for Adultery:

As for the adulteress  [Arabic: azaniyatu] and the adulterer [Arabic: azanii] flog each of them with a hundred stripes, and let not compassion with them keep you from [carrying out] this law of God, if you [truly] believe in God and the Last Day; and let a group of the believers witness their chastisement. [24:2]

The word ‘adultery’ (Arabic: Zina) in this verse refers to all forms of extra/pre-marital sex carried out in the public sphere of society or made public, thus violating the rule of law. It makes no difference if the person involved is single or married as far as God’s sanctioned legal punishment occurs in the Quran.

This legal punishment of floging 100 stripes would have repealed any previous practiced ‘legislation’.

Furthermore, God in the Quran says in the very next verse:

The adulterer marries not but an adulteress or a mushrikah (female polytheist) and the adulteress none marries her except an adulterer or a mushrik (male polytheist). Such a thing is forbidden to the believers. [24:3]

If the adulterer and adulteress were stoned to death as claimed by many Muslim ‘Authorities’, then how is it possible for an adulterer to marry an adulteress or vice versa?

Furthermore, God in the Quran prescribes half the punishment for the ‘right hand possessed’ spouse [i.e. marriage with the prisoner of war] – thus this means that there can be no death penalty for adultery:

And as for those of you who, owing to circumstances, are not in a position to marry free believing women, [let them marry] believing maidens from among those whom you rightfully possess. And God knows all about your faith; each one of you is an issue of the other. Marry them, then, with their people's leave, and give them their dowers in an equitable manner - they being women who give themselves in honest wedlock, not in fornication, nor as secret love-companions. And when they are married, and thereafter become guilty of immoral conduct [adultery], they shall be liable to half the penalty to which free married women are liable. This [permission to marry captive women applies] to those of you who fear lest they stumble into evil. But it is for your own good to persevere in patience [and to abstain from such marriages]: and God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace. [4:25]

An honest research of the ‘secondary sources’ [which is not the purpose of this article] reveals contradictory narratives regarding the legal punishment for committing adultery.

Therefore, a believer in God and follower of the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) ministry does not have any choice in the matter but to interpret these contradictions found in extra-Quranic sources in the light of clear commandment of the Qur’an.

Needless to say, the proscribed punishment administrated by the government is for the unrepentant and shameless who commits such lewdness in the realm of public sphere. (4:16-18). Moreover, it is near impossible to actualy establish such a penalty since it requires four witnesses to the phyisical act of penetration (4:24). Thus, the objective of the law is to point out the graveness of the sin (in privacy between the person and God) and the terrible crime [of Zina] in society (whenever commited in public).


And Allah knows best.


For Younger Readers

God teaches in the Quran, the holy book of Muslims that:

  • Sex outside marriage is a major sin
  • The worldly punishment in Islamic law is flogging for sex outside marriage – no death penalty.
  • The purpose of the harsh punishment is to deter others from commiting such sins in society