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The Penal Law of Islam (3): Qadhf
Islamic Punishments
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)

Qadhf ie, wrongly accusing someone of fornication can assume two forms:

Firstly, if a person accuses a chaste and righteous woman or man of fornication.

Secondly, if such an accusation takes place between a husband and wife.

In the first case, the law of Islam is that the accuser shall have to produce four witnesses. Anything less than this will not prove his accusation. Circumstantial evidence or medical examination in this case are absolutely of no importance. If a person is of lewd and loose character, such things have a very important role, but if he has a morally sound reputation, Islam wants that even if he has faltered, his crime should be concealed and he should not be disgraced in the society. Consequently, in this case, it wants four eye-witnesses to testify and if the accuser fails to produce them, it regards him as guilty of Qadhf.

According to the Qur’ān, the details of the punishment of Qadhf are:

1. The criminal shall be administered eighty stripes.

2. His testimony shall never be accepted in future in any matter and as such he shall stand defamed in the society.

In the second case, according to the Qur’ān, if there are no witnesses the matter shall be decided by pledging oaths. In Islamic law, this case is termed as Li’ān. The husband shall swear four times by Allah that he is truthful in his accusation and the fifth time he shall swear that the curse of Allah be on him if he is lying. In reply, if the wife does not defend herself in anyway, she shall be punished for fornication. If she refutes the allegations, she shall only be acquitted from the punishment if she swears four times by Allah that the person is lying and the fifth time she says that the wrath of Allah be on her if he is telling the truth.

The same procedure shall be adopted if the wife accuses the husband.

If such an incident takes place between a husband and wife, they shall no longer remain in wedlock according to the verse ‘The man guilty of fornication may only marry a woman similarly guilty or an idolatress and the woman guilty of fornication may only marry such a man or an idolator. The believers are forbidden such marriages’ (24:3), and it is essential that a court legally separate them.

The Qur’ān says:

“Those who accuse honourable women1 and bring not four witnesses as an evidence [for their accusation], inflict eighty stripes upon them, and never accept their testimony in future. They indeed are transgressors. But those who repent and mend their ways, Allah is Oft-Forgiving and Most-Merciful. And those who accuse their wives but have no witnesses except themselves shall swear four times by Allah that they are telling the truth and the fifth time that the curse of Allah be on them if they are lying. But it shall avert the punishment2 from the wife if she swears four times by Allah and says that this person is a liar and the fifth time she says that the curse of Allah be on her if he is telling the truth.” (24:4-9)

Administering eighty stripes and not considering a person eligible to bear witness are punishments of the Herein, while in the Hereafter he shall be counted among the transgressors except if he repents and mends his ways.

(Adapted from Ghamidi’s “Mīzān”)




1. Although in these verses only the accusing of women has been mentioned yet in Arabic language this style called ‘addressing the dominant element’ (alā sabīl-i-taghlīb) has been adopted because normally in a society only women become targets of such allegations and the society is also sensitive about them. Consequently, there is no doubt that on the the ground of ‘similarity of basis’ this directive pertains to both men and women and cannot be restricted to women only.

2. Here ‘punishment’ means the punishment that has been mentioned in verse two of Sūrah Nūr just prior to these verses. According to linguistic principles, whenever a noun has been defined by alif-lam and is repeated later, then if something within the context does not pose a hindrance, the repeated noun shall have the same meaning as the first. Consequently, here, no other punishment can be regarded as implied.


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