Rafed English

Interpretation of Sura an-Nur - Verse 3

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"

3. " The fornicator shall not marry save a fornicatress or an idolatress, and the fornicatress, none shall marry her save a fornicator or an idolater; and all that is forbidden unto the believers."


The Muslim believers, men and women, must marry chaste and pure spouses.

Corrupted people are unwelcome in an Islamic society. Since the above-mentioned verse speaks about the punishment of fornicator and fornicatress, a question raises that how the lawful marriage with such persons is judged.

This verse answers this question in this way:

" The fornicator shall not marry save a fornicatress or an idolatress, and the fornicatress, none shall marry her save a fornicator or an idolater; and all that is forbidden unto the believers."

Upon the subject that this holy verse is the statement of a Divine ordinance or it mentions only a natural and external phenomenon, commentators discuss differently:

Some believe that this verse mentions only an objective reality or fact that defilers go after defilers or birds of a feather flock together, but believers and pure persons do not go along with such evils and do not marry impure spouses. Believers prohibit themselves from it. What confirms this interpretation is the very apparent of the verse which has been stated in a predictive form.

But some others believe that this holy sentence declares a religious and Divine ordinance, which specially intends to prevent Muslims from marrying those persons who commit fornication, because, like physical illnesses, ethical diseases are often infectious. Moreover, this is counted a shame and disgrace for pure persons.

What is more important is that the offspring who are bred by such skeptical and impure persons have an ambiguous destiny. Regarding these facts, Islam has prevented it.

This interpretation is confirmed by this sentence which consists of the sense of prohibition: "... and all that is forbidden unto the believers."

There are many traditions stated by the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and other infallible Imams (a.s.) in this regard that establish the validity of this interpretation indicating that this verse declares an ordinance.

Even some of great commentators have said about the occasion of revelation of this verse: "A Muslim man asked the Prophet's permission for marrying a woman called ''Umm-i-Mahzul' who, in the Age of Ignorance, was notorious for immodesty and even she had hanged a flag as a sign on the door of her house. At that time, this verse was sent down and the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) answered him." 15

Another tradition, narrated from Imam Baqir (a.s.) and Imam Sadiq (a.s.), says: "This verse is about those men and women who committed fornication at the age of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.). Allah prohibited Muslims from marrying them. Right now this judgment covers all people. None should marry one who commits this wrong action and is punished according to Divinely-prescribed measures until his or her repentance is declared."

This is a worth-mentioning matter that many of the divine ordinances are stated in the form of predicative sentence. To state Divine ordinances in the form of imperative and prohibitive sentence is not always necessary.

By the way it must be noted that connecting 'idolater' to 'fornicator' is in fact for stating the importance of the matter. It means that the sin of fornication is equal to idolatry, because in some narrations we read that when a person commits fornication, he has no faith. The holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: "Fornicator is not a believer when he commits fornication. Likewise a thief does not have faith at the time of stealing, because at the time of doing this action, his faith is taken away as shirt is taken off." 16

Some Matters to Study

1. The cases of fornication that necessitates the death sentence

What has been mentioned upon the fornication judgment in the above-mentioned noble verse is a common ordinance that has also some exceptional cases, including adultery whose prescribed punishment is death sentence if its conditions are confirmed.

The purpose of the Arabic word /muhsin/ concerning adultery is a man who has got wife and his wife is with him and /muhsinah/ is woman who has got husband and her husband is with her. If a person who is provided with such a lawful way commits fornication, his Islam prescribed punishment is death sentence. How this sentence is carried out is explained in the books of Islamic jurisprudence. The sentence that is issued about the one who commits incest is execution too. Rape is also a felony punishable by execution.

Of course, in some cases there are also some additional punishments other than flagging, such as exile and so on. For these punishments, we must read their explanation in the jurisprudence books.

2. Why does the word 'fornicatress' precede the word 'fornicator'?

Undoubtedly this unchaste act is ugly and bad for every one, but for women it is worse and uglier, because they are more modest and decorous. If this modesty and decorousness is ruined, it will be a reason for more violent disobedience.

Moreover, although its evil consequences affect both of them, women will be affected with more evil consequences. Another possibility is that this ugly matter is more tempted by women and in many cases women are the main factor and origin of temptation.

All of these reasons have caused unchaste women to be mentioned before impure men in the above verse, but chaste women and pure men are far from all these affairs.

3. Why is punishment to be carried out in a gathering?

The above holy verse, which is in the form of imperative sentence, indicates that a group of believers must be present when the prescribed punishment of fornication is carried out. But the holy Qur'an has not stipulated that this Islamic sentence must be carried out positively in public, but depending on conditions and interests, it may be changed; for example, only the presence of 3 or more persons is enough. It is important that the judge decides how many persons must attend the occasion.

The philosophy of this judgment is also obvious,, because as we said before:

First: It will be a lesson for all people and it will make society pure.

Second: The shame of the offender prevents committing the wrong action in the future.

Third: When the prescribed punishment is carried out before some persons, the judge and the executers of the punishment will not be accused of taking bribe, collusion, discrimination, torturing and such like.

Fourth: The attendance of people prevents self-interest and excess in carrying out the punishment.

Fifth: It is possible that, after the execution of punishment, the wrongdoer accuses and rumours about judge and executer, but the attendance of people makes his status clear and prevents his destructive activities in the future. And there are many other advantages.

4. What was the prescribed punishment of a fornicator?

It is understood from the 15th and 16th verses of Sura An-Nissa' that before the time that the ordinance of Sura An-Nur about adulterer and adulteress was sent down, their punishment had been life sentence (being imprisoned forever) if they were married and if they were not married they had to be punished and persecuted. (".. .punish them both...")

The measure of this punishment is not clear, but the concerning verse specifies mat it must be one hundred stripes. Thus, the death sentence takes the place of life sentence (being imprisoned forever) for those who are married, and the sentence of one hundred stripes takes the place of the sentence of punishment and persecution for those who are not married.

5. Going to extremes in executing the prescribed punishment is forbidden!

Without doubt, humane and sentimental issues demand ultimate attempt to save every innocent individual from being punished. Also as far as Divine ordinances allow indulgence and pardon, wrongdoers should be pardoned. But when the crime or offence is proved and the prescribed punishment is decided, decisiveness and firmness of rule must be observed, and false sentiments, which harm the system of society, must be put away.

Specially in the concerned verse, the sentence /fi dan-illah/ ("...from enforcing the sentence of Allah...") is used. It means that when it is Allah's ordinance, no one can exceed Allah, the Beneficent, The Merciful.

Here, in this verse, the overcoming of affectionate sentiments is prohibited, because most people have such a mood. It is possible that these affectionate sentiments overcome them, but it cannot be denied that there is a minority that advocates more violation and severity. The mentioned group is also, as we mentioned before, away from the path of Allah's ordinance and these people must control their sentiments and do not exceed Allah, because that deserves to be severely punished, too.

6. How is marriage with fornicator and fornicatress illegalized?

We have already said that the above-mentioned verses apparently illegalize marriage with fornicator and fornicatress. Of course, this ordinance is limited to men and women who were notorious for this action and have not repented. Thus, if they are not notorious for this action, or if they have withdrawn from their former deeds and have decided to be pure and chaste and have shown that they are penitent, marriage with them is lawfully permitted.

In the second status, it is for the reason that the titles 'fornicator' and 'fornicatress' are not applied to them, because they are no longer in the previous condition. But in the first status, this stipulation is understood from the Islamic narrations and the occasion of the revelation of verse confirms it, too.

In a reputable tradition we read that Zurarah, a famous jurist, asked Imam Sadiq (a.s.) about the commentary of the Qur'anic phrase: "The fornicator shall not marry save a fornicatress, ...". Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said: "This verse refers to women and men who had been notorious for fornication and they were known for this evil act in the society. Today it is the same; it is not good to marry one who has been punished for fornication or is notorious for this ugly action, unless his or her repentance is declared." 17

7. Philosophy of Banning Fornication

We do not think that nobody is aware of gloomy consequences that cover society and individual, but a little explanation in this field is necessary: Occurrence of this evil action and its prevalence unquestionably disorder the structure of family. It makes the relationship between father and son dark and gloomy.

It increases issues having no .identity in the society, the issues who, according to experience, will become dangerous felons. This disgraceful action causes kinds of strife and quarrels between the sensual ones. Moreover,every one knows that psychic and venereal diseases, murdering offspring, abortion,and suchlike crimes are its gloomy results. In brief, if offspring of adultery increases in a society, the social relationships, which are based on family relations, will terribly become shaky and unstable.

To find out how important this mater is, we must imagine for a moment that if fornication is to be permissible in man's society thoroughly and marriage is to be extinct, in this condition no one would take care of infants who are born with no identity, neither in their infanthood, nor in their adulthood. Moreover these issues will be deprived of kindness and compassion, which plays an important role in struggling with violations and crimes, and human society changes into a completely bestial society which is accompanied with violation in all aspects.

Of course, this disgraceful act causes kinds of individual and social conflicts and fights between those who are capricious. The stories that have been narrated about the interior conditions of the notorious places and centers of corruption indicate this fact that sometimes the worst crimes take place along with sexual deviations.

In addition to that, experience has informed us and science has proved that this deed causes and spreads kinds of diseases. Although many organizations are prepared for struggling against its consequences, figures show that how many persons have lost and will lose their health because of this act.

This action often causes abortion, murdering of issues, and termination of generation, because such women are not willing to look after such issues of theirs and essentially the existence of offspring is a big barrier against continuity of their gloomy actions, so they always try to put an end to them.

And this chimerical theory that such issues can be gathered in some institutions that are controlled by government is not obviously practicable. It has been proved that how many problems exist in breeding fatherless and motherless children.

Even then these brutal issues are products of an inferior quality. They are uncivilized unscrupulous wrongdoers.

Even we must not forget that the purpose of marriage is not only satisfying sexual instinct,but participation in organizing a family, spiritual familiarity and mental tranquility, training issues, and cooperation in all affairs of life are the consequences of lawful marriage. And these are not possible unless man and woman are limited and allocated to each other and that the banning of fornication should be observed.

Some Traditions on Fornication

1. Imam Ali ibn-Abitalib (a.s.) in a tradition said: "I heard the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: 'There are six evil effects in fornication, three of them are in this world, and three of them in the other world. Those which are for this world are: A) It will take man's luminousness. B) It terminates provisions. C) It speeds up destruction of man. And those which are for the other world are: A) Allah's anger B) Severity of reckoning C) Entering into Fire or eternal abiding in Hell'." 18

2. Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said: "One of the sins that withhold sustenance is fornication." 19

3. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: "Allah's fury is severe and harsh toward those who commit fornication." 20

4. Imam Ali (a.s.) said: "A fervent man never commits fornication." 21

5. It has been narrated: "Verily fornication brings blackness of face, causes poverty, shortens the lifetime, terminates the provision. It ruins beauty and glory and brings

Allah's anger near and the doer of it is wretched and ashamed." 22

6. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: "When fornication increases after me, sudden death does increase." 23

7. Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said: "Verily a person who enters his sperm in an unlawful womb on the Hereafter Day will have severer punishment." 24

8. The Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) said: "When a man commits fornication, the spirit of faith abandons him." 25

9. Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said: "When fornication increases (in a society), many earthquakes occur." 26

10. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: "There are four things that if one of them enters a home, it will destroy it, and which will not be well set-up with blessing: stealth, treachery, wine-drinking, and fornication." 27

11. Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said: "Do good to your fathers, so that your issues will do good to you. And abstain from people's wives, so that your wives will be chaste (and safe)."


15. Majm' ul-Bayan and QurtAbi in his commentary has narrated this tradition

16. 'Usul-i-Kafi, Vol. 2, p.26, as narrated from Nur-uth-Thaqalyn, Vol. 3, p. 571

17. Wasa'il-ush-Shi'ah, Vol. 14, p. 335

18. Majma' ul-Bayan, Vol. 6, p. 414

19. Bihar, Vol. 76, p. 23

20. Nahj ul-Fisahah, p. 57

21. The explanation of Nahj ul-Balaqah, by Ibn Abi Al-Hadid, Vol. 19, p. 311

22. Bihar, Vol. 76, p. 28

23. Bihar, Vol. 70, p. 369 and Furu'-i-Kafi, Vol. 5, p. 541

24. Wasa'il, Vol. 5, p. 47

25. Wasa'il, Vol. 6, p. 256

26. Bihar, Vol. 76, p. 21

27. Khisal, by Saduq, p. 182

Share this article

Comments 0

Your comment

Comment description

Latest Post

Most Reviews