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Interpretation of Sura an-Nur - Verse 2

Adopted from the book: "The Light of the Holy Qur'an - Interpretation of Sura an-Nur" by: "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani & a Group of Muslim Scholars"

2. " The fornicatress and the fornicator, scourge you each one of them (with) a hundred stripes. And let not pity for them withhold you from enforcing the sentence of Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of the Believers witness their punishment."


According to the conditions of persons, there are different judgments of fornication. In this verse, only one of its cases is referred to, the case that if a celibate man or woman commits fornication, each of them will be flogged with one hundred stripes. But if a person who has spouse and commits adultery, the punishment is stoning to death. If someone who has spouse, but he or she can not reach him or her (for example the spouse is behind bars), and commits fornication, the judgment of stoning to death is changed to stripes.

The holy Qur'an counts fornication as an indecency and horrible deed and prohibits it where it says: "And do not approach fornication ..." 3, and it counts the abundance of fornication as a sign for the true servants of Allah, where it says: "The (faithful) servants of the Beneficent (Allah) are those who.nor commit formation ..." 4, and again it considers the avoidance of committing this sin as the condition for the allegiance with the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) as, in another occurrence, the Qur'an says: "O Prophet! When believing women come unto thee, taking oath of allegiance unto thee that they ...will neither steal nor commit (or fornication) adultery ... " 5

After this general statement of the verse, the first decisive and determining ordinance about fornicatress and fornicator is presented. It says:

"The fornicatress and the fornicator, scourge you each one of them (with) a hundred stripes..."

To emphasize more, the Qur'an adds:

"... And let not pity for them withhold you from enforcing the sentence of Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day...."

Finally, at the end of the verse to conclude this Devine punishment, another matter is added, where it says:

"... And let a party of the Believers witness their punishment."

As matter of fact, this verse contains 3 commandments:

1. The ordinance of punishing fornicatress and fornicator; (the purpose of fornication is unlawful sexual intercourse).

2. Emphasis on the matter of not being moved by compassion and sentiments at the time of executing divinely prescribed punishments. These sentiments and kindness yield as result only corruption and defilement in society. But to deactivate the motivations of such sentiments, the Sura brings up the issue of belief in Allah and the Day of Judgment, because the sign of belie in origin and Resurrection is absolute resignation to Allah's commandment.The belief in the Lord of the world, Who is All-Knowing, All-Wise, makes man know that each commandment is based on a philosophy and wisdom and is not legislated without any reason. Having faith in Resurrection causes man to feel responsibility for violations and transgressions.

Here, there is an interesting tradition that must be noted carefully:

The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) says: "(On the Day of Judgment) some of the rulers who have decreased one stripe from the divinely prescribed punishment will be fetched (to the place of gathering). They will be questioned why they had done such a thing. They will answer: 'For having mercy on Your servants! 'Allah will say: "Did you show more mercy to them than I did?" The command of throwing him into Fire will be issued.

Another person who has added one stripe to the divinely prescribed punishment will be brought (to the place). He will be asked why he did such an action. He will answer: 'For preventing then from disobeying You.' Allah will say: 'Were you wiser and more knowing than Me?' Then the command will be issued of throwing him into Fire." 6

3. The commandment of attendance of a group of believers in the place where the judgment of punishment is carried out. The aim is not only to make the wrongdoer learn lesson, the aim is that his punishment will work as an admonition for others. In another word, considering the texture of man's social life, a person's ethical defilements are not limited to one person, but it influences society. For cleaning, the punishment must be carried out in public, as wrong action has become manifest.

Thus, in this way, the answer to the question that why Islam allows a man's honour to be lost in the public becomes clear, because as far as the sin is not manifested and is not reported to the Islamic court, Allah, Who veils vices, does not will to unveil what is secret. But after that the wrong action is proved, and its secret is uncovered, society is defiled and the sin decreases in importance, so punishment must be executed in a way that the negative effects of the sin may be deactivated and the magnitude of the sin can be reestablished.

Essentially, in a sound society, violation of law must be counted important. Surely if that violation is repeated, that importance will be broken. Its importance will be reset only through publicly punishing the offenders.

Moreover, we must pay attention to the fact that for many of people honour is more important than the issue of bodily punishment. This very publicizing of punishment suppresses their ungovernable low desires.

Some Narrations on Evils of Fornication

Some evils and harm of fornication are mentioned in one of the speeches of Imam Rida (a.s.), including the followings:

1. Committing murder by abortion

2. Violation of structure of family and relationship

3. Abandonment of training issues

4. Ruin of criteria of heritage 7

In the opinion of Ali (a.s.), abandonment of fornication buttresses family (to be protected) and desertion of sodomy protects generation. 8

The holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) says: "Fornication enjoys harms both in this world and the other world. In this world, there are ruins of man's luminosity and beauty, untimely death, and termination of the portion of sustenance. And in the other world, there will be helplessness at the time of resurrection's reckoning, and there are Allah's rage and eternal Hell." 9

There have been narrated in a tradition from the Prophet (p.b.u.h) who said:

1) "When fornication increases, sudden death increases, too." 10

2) "Do not commit fornication, so that your wives do not get involve in fornication. Whoever violates another person's honour his honour will be violated. You will be treated as you treat others." 11

3) "There are four things that if each of them exists in any house, that house will be desolate and void of blessing: A) Treachery B) Stealth C) Wine-Drinking D)Fornication." 12 And "Fornication is one of the major sins." 13

Imam Sadiq (a.s.) says: "Whenever people commit four sins, they will be involved in four disasters:

1. Whenever fornication prevails, earthquakes will occur.

2. Whenever people do not pay alms-tax, quadrupeds will be demolished and blessing will be taken from grains.

3. Whenever the judgment of judicial authorities is oppressive, there will be no rain.

4. Whenever breach of promise occurs, polytheists will get victory over Muslims." 14

Some messages

1. Sexual freedom and unlawful relations are forbidden.

2. The function of women in creating unlawful relations and preparing preliminaries of fornication is more considerable than that of men. On the contrary, in stealth, men have more function. Thus, in the verse, the Arabic word /zaniyah/ (fornicatress) precedes the word /zani/ (fornicator).

3. For correcting wrongdoer and protecting public chastity, bodily punishment is necessary. ("... scourge ... stripes")

4. In a liaison and intimacy, both parties must be punished equally. ("... each one of them...")

5. The amount of punishment must be measured by Allah.

("... a hundred stripes...")

6. In punishing wrongdoers, it is forbidden to be influenced by compassions and sentiments.

7. Compassion and kindness must be inside the range of religion. ("...And let not pity for them withhold you from enforcing the sentence ...")

8. Religion is not only fasting and performing ritual prayer, but Divinely imposed limits are of the essential elements of religion, too. ("... the sentence of Allah...")

9. By believing in origin and resurrection, rules can be carried out firmly and decisively.

10. Carrying out the prescribed punishments is the sign of belief in Allah. ("... if you believe in Allah...")

11. Punishment must be in a way that others take lesson. The verse says: ("...And let a party of the Believers witness their punishment.")

12. A person who commits fornication must be both bodily and psychically punished.

13. People's attendance is a lever to control both the judge and the executer.

14. Believers' attendance should be used for prohibition of committing evil.

15. Only Muslims are allowed to attend the occasion of execution of Divinely-prescribed punishment


3. Sura 'Isra No. 17, verse 32

4. Sura Al-Furqan, No. 25, verse 63 and 68

5. Sura Al-Mumtahanah, No. 60, verse 12

6. The commentary of Fakhr-i-Razi, Vol. 23, p. 148

7. Bihar, Vol. 79, p. 24

8. Nahj ul-Balaqah, Wisdom 252

9. Bihar, Vol. 77, p. 58

10. Bihar, Vol. 73, p. 372

11. Bihar, Vol. 76, p. 27

12. Bihar, Vol. 76, p. 19

13. Ibid

14. Bihar, Vol. 76, p. 21

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