Commentary : Verse 4.5

4.وَالَّذِينَ يَرْمُونَ الْمُـحَصَنَاتِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَأْتُوا بِاَرْبَعَةِ شُهَدَآءَ فَاجْلِدُوهُمْ ثَمَانِينَ جَلْدَةً وَلاَ تَقْبَلُوا لَهُمْ شَهَادَةً أَبَداً وَاُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ

  1. إِلاَّ الَّذِينَ تَابُوا مِن بَعْدِ ذَلِكَ وَأَصْلَحُوا فإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

  2. " And those who accuse chaste women (with adultery) but do not bring four witnesses, then scourge them (with) eighty stripes and do not (afterward) accept their testimony forever, and these are they that are evil-doers,"

  3. " Save those who repent thereafter and make amends, for verily Allah is Forgiving, Merciful."

Commentary:

Accusation is like shooting arrow to the honor and dignity of people and not observing it. And, the punishment of accusing married and chaste women is more severe.

Since the pervious verses consist of a heavy punishment for men and women who commit fornication, and it is possible that some impious malicious individuals accuse a few pure and chaste persons, thus immediately after mentioning of severe punishment of adulterers, the punishment of those who accuse others and intend to misuse this ordinance is declared, so that the honor and respect of chaste families can be saved from the threat of such persons, and no one dare denigrate people. At first, it says:

" And those who accuse chaste women (with adultery) but do not bring four witnesses, then scourge them (with) eighty stripes ..."

After this heavy punishment, two more ordinances are added, where it says:

"... and do not (afterward) accept their testimony forever, and these are they that are evil-doers,"

Thus, in this way, not only such persons are heavily punished, but also their testimony and speech is invalid and invaluable in a long term, so that they cannot defame pure individuals. Moreover, the mark of impurity is set on them and they will be scandalized in the society.

This austereness in saving reputation of pure people is not limited to this case here, but it is also seen in many Islamic teachings. It indicates how extremely Islam values reputation of pure female and male believers.

Imam Sadiq (a.s.) in a tradition said: "When a Muslim accuses his Muslim brother of a matter (that is not done by him), faith will vanish from his heart as salt melts in water."[^1]

However, in view of the fact that Islam never closes the path of return to anyone, and it uses every opportunity to encourage wrongdoers to purify themselves and atone for the former errors and mistakes, in the next verse the Qur'an adds:

"Save those who repent thereafter and make amends, for verily Allah is Forgiving, Merciful."

Therefore, according to the traditions narrated from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) and other Imams (a.s.), by repenting both their testimony is valid in the future and the judgment of being mischievous is abrogated of them in all fields, because a person who has repented and become just again, the title of being mischievous will be taken from him.

Some Traditions on Repentance:

  1. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: "An individual who repents his sin is like a person who is sinless."[^1]

  2. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: "Nothing is more liked before Allah than a faithful man and woman who regret about sin and then repent."[^2]

  3. Imam Ali (a.s.) said: "Impart the pleasant odour of seeking forgiveness, so that the offensive smell of sins does not stigmatize you."[^3]

  4. Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said: "The favorite servant before Allah is a well-doer who repents a lot."[^4]

Pay attention to some points:

1. What does the word 'Ramy' mean here?

The Arabic word /ramy/ basically means throwing stones or shooting arrows and like, and it is natural that in many cases it harms.Then this Arabic word has been used sarcastically in accusation of individuals, cursing, abusing and unfair imputation, because as if these words and speeches are like arrows that hit the body of a person and wound him.

Perhaps it is for this reason that this word has been used in an absolute form in the verses under discussion and later verses. For example, it has not mentioned, "Those who accuse chaste women of adultery", because considering verbal contexts, the word 'fornication' has been omitted in the concept of the word /yarmana/. Moreover, the lack of clearly expressing it, when chaste women are mentioned, is- considered as a kind of courtesy, respect, and chastity in words.

2. Why Four Witnesses?

We know that in Islam two just witnesses are usually enough for proving crimes and asserting rights. Even in the case of homicide when there are two witnesses, the crime is proved, but in the question of accusation to adultery four witnesses are especially necessary. The reason that witness outweighs here is possibly the fact that many people accuse others very easily and they always mar reputation and honour of individuals suspiciously or not suspiciously. Islam is rather uncompromising in this respect so that people's honour can be saved. But in other issues, even homicide, individuals' tongue is not so defiled.

Moreover, in homicide there is only one party, i.e. the criminal is one, but in adultery two persons are charged with the crime, and if we require two witnesses for each of them, there will be four witnesses.

This statement is the content of a tradition narrated from Imam Sadiq (a.s.). Abi Hanifah, the famous Sunni jurist, says: "I asked Imam Sadiq (a.s.) that whether fornication is more condemnable than homicide. He said: 'No, homicide is.' Then I said: 'Why are two witnesses enough in proving homicide, but fornication requires 4 witnesses?' He said: 'What do you say about this matter?" Abi Hanifah could not answer explicitly. Imam said: "This is because there are two prescribed punishments in fornication, one of them is for man and the other one is for woman. So two witnesses are needed. But in homicide only one prescribed punishment is inflicted on murderer."[^1]

Of course there are some cases of fornication for which prescribed punishment is inflicted on one party (e.g. rape and suchlike), but these are the exceptional instances. What is common and obvious is the one that is committed with mutual agreement, but we know that the philosophy of ordinances depends on prevailing individuals.

3. Important condition of repentance:

We have reiterated this fact that repentance is not only asking Allah's forgiveness or feeling remorse about past deeds or even deciding to relinquish an evil act in the future, but in addition to all these things the wrongdoer must put his best foot forward to amend the past.

If he has really marred reputation and honour of a pure man or woman, he must, in order to make his repentance accepted, deny what he has said in the presence of those who have heard his accusation, so to speak, he must rehabilitate the disgraced person.

The Qur'anic holy phrase /wa 'aslahu/ ("...who ... make amends ...") that has come after the phrase /tabu/ ("... who repent ...") indicates this fact that such persons must repent from their sins and then must atone what wrong they have committed. This is not right that another one accuses a person of lying in public (or by means of press or mass media) and then, in his home, when he is alone, he asks Allah's forgiveness. Allah never accepts such repentance.

Therefore, there are some traditions narrated from the leaders of Islam as an answer to the question that whether the testimony of those who accuse someone of dishonour is accepted after they repent and are prescribedly punished; their answer is "Yes". And when it was asked how his repentance is done, they said: "He will come to Imam (or Islamic judge) and will say: 'I accused so and as and I repent of what I have said'."[^1]

4. The ordinances of 'Qathf': (false accusation of unlawful intercourse)

In the book entitled: "Hudud" (prescribed punishments), there is a chapter which is called: "the prescribed punishment of Qathf". The word 'Qathf' (on the rhythm of 'Hazf') means hurling something to a far away place. But in these cases, like the Arabic word /ramy/, it alludes to dishonouring accusation of an individual. In other words, it is scurrility and foul language related to these matters.

Whenever 'Qathf' is done explicitly and affirmatively in any language and in any form, its prescribed punishment is 80 stripes, as it was mentioned above. If it is not explicit and affirmative, it is subject to the ordinance of discretionary punishment (the purpose of 'discretionary punishment' is those sins that have no definite prescribed punishment in religion, but it is up to the Islamic judge to decide the measure and the way of punishment in a certain case with regard to the characteristics of the criminal and the quality of crime as well as other conditions).

Even if a person accuses a group of people of such a crime, swears at them and accuses them one by one (singly), there will prescribed punishment of Qathf for each accusation separately. But if he accuses them on the whole or altogether, and if they jointly and intemperately ask punishment for him, he will be inflicted with one prescribed punishment, but if they separately take legal action against him, for each accusation he will be imposed with one independent prescribed punishment.

This is so important that if a person is accused of such a crime and this person dies, his heirs can sue accuser and ask prescribed punishment for the accuser. Of course, since this ordinance is among the personal rights, and if an entitled person forgives wrongdoer, his prescribed punishment will be canceled, unless this offence is repeated so many times that reputation and honour of society is threatened, in this case this crime will be treated differently.

If two persons use bad language about reputation of each other, there will be no prescribed punishment for both of them, but they will be imposed with discretionary punishment as judge decides. Thus, no Muslim has right to answer back foul language, but he can only demand his rights through the judge of religion and asks for punishment of bad language user.

Anyway, the purpose of this Islamic ordinance is, first: saving men's honour and reputation, and second is, preventing ample social and moral corruptions which bedevil the society, because if corrupted persons are to be free, they will swear at and accuse every one unjustly and then they are saved from punishment.

In this condition, people's reputation and honour are always at risk and even these unjust accusations make a spouse cynical of other half. And father will be skeptical of his issue's legitimacy. In short, the existence of family will be threatened, atmosphere of suspicion and skepticism prevails society, rumour-mongers drive a roaring line, and all chaste persons will be stained in the opinion of people.

Here, there will be the demand of decisiveness, the same decisiveness which Islam has presented to these bad language users.

Yes, they must be flogged with 80 stripes as penalty for their evil and accusing swearing, so that they will never fiddle with people's reputation and honour.

Commentary : Verse 6.7.8.9.10

  1. وَالَّذِينَ يَرْمُونَ أَزْوَاجَهُمْ وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُمْ شُهَدَآءُ إِلآَّ أَنفُسُهُمْ فَشَهَادَةُ أَحَدِهِمْ أَرْبَعُ شَهَادَاتٍ بِاللَّهِ إِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ

  2. وَالْخَامِسَةُ أَنَّ لَعْنَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ إِن كَانَ مِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ

  3. وَيَدْرَؤُا عَنْهَا الْعَذَابَ أَن تَشْهَدَ أَرْبَعَ شَهَادَاتٍ بِاللَّهِ إِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ

  4. وَالْخَامِسَةَ أَنَّ غَضَبَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهَآ إِن كَانَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ

  5. وَلَوْلاَ فَضْلُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَتُهُ وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ حَكِيمٌ

  6. " And (as for) those who accuse their wives (with adultery), and have (in support) no witness except themselves, then the testimony of one of them (shall be taken) four times (swearing) by Allah that verily he is of the truthful (ones);"

  7. "And the fifth (oath to be) that the curse of Allah be on him if he is one of the liars."

  8. "And it shall avert the punishment from her if she bears witness four times (swearing) by Allah that verily he is one of the liars,"

  9. "And the fifth (oath) should be that the wrath of Allah be upon her if he is of the truthful (ones)."

  10. "And had it not been Allah's grace and His mercy on you, and that Allah is Oft-Pardoning, All-Wise, (you would have been ruined and undone)."

Occasion of Revelation:

Among some of the Companions, Sa'ad Ibn 'Ibadeh (the great of The Helpers) told the Prophet (p.b.u.h.): "O' Prophet of Allah! When accusing someone of this unchaste action has such a punishment that if an accuser can not prove it, he will be flogged with 80 stripes, so what can I do when I enter my home and I do see that a miscreant man is having sexual intercourse with my wife?

If I wait for four persons to come and see and then testify, the time has passed and that evil man has done his job, and if I want to kill him, no one believes me without witnesses and I will be retaliated justly as a murderer; and if I tell what I have seen to judge, I will be flogged with 80 stripes." Some minutes later his cousin (son of his uncle) by the name of Hilal-Ibn 'Umayyah entered to report to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) that he had seen a miscreant man with his wife at night. He explicitly said: "I have seen this fact with my own eyes and I heard their voice with my own ears."

At this time the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) became so annoyed that the sign of his unhappiness appeared in his blessed face. Hilal said: "I see by your face how annoyed you have become, but, by Allah, I tell the truth and I hope Allah Himself helps me." At this time Gabriel came down and revealed this verse and its following four verses to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and presented Muslims its real exact solution.

Here, the Holy Qur'an has excluded some cases from the judgment of Qathf (false accusation); if a husband accuses his wife of unchaste action and says that he has seen her while she was doing sexual intercourse with a strange man, Qathf judgment will not be imposed on this husband, and, on the other hand, the husband's claim about his wife will not be accepted without reason and witness.

Here, the holy Qur'an suggests a proposition that the problem will be solved justly and in a most excellent way. That proposition is that the husband must first testify four times for proving that his claim is true. As the Qur'an says:

" And (as for) those who accuse their wives (with adultery), and have (in support) no witness except themselves, then the testimony of one of them (shall be taken) four times (swearing) by Allah that verily he is of the truthful (ones);"

And in the next verse the Qur'an says:

"And the fifth (oath to be) that the curse of Allah be on him if he is one of the liars."

Thus it implies that the husband repeats this sentences for four times, saying: he testifies by Allah that he is telling the truth in accusing his wife of adultery!

In the fifth time the husband says that: May he be cursed by Allah if he tells a lie.

Now the wife is facing a dilemma; if she confirms her husband's words or she does not agree to deny this accusation, according to the way that is mentioned in the next verse, she will decisively be imposed with prescribed punishment of fornication. Thus in the next verse it says:

"And it shall avert the punishment from her if she bears witness four times (swearing) by Allah that verily he is one of the liars,"

And the next verse mentions:

"And the fifth (oath) should be that the wrath of Allah be upon her if he is of the truthful (ones)."

Thus, the wife testifies five times that her husband's five-time-declared testimony that she has committed adultery is untrue. Four times she repeats this sentence:"I testify by Allah that he is telling untruth in his accusation of my adultery."

In the fifth time she declares an oath saying: "Should be that she solemnly invokes the wrath of Allah upon herself if he (her accuser) is telling the truth."

The fulfilment of this Islamic custom in Arabic is called /li'an/ (conjugal anathema, or imprecation) because of the word /la'n/ (curse) mentioned in the above sentences. Doing /li'an/ leads to four certain judgments for these two spouses.

A) Without the formula of repudiation (divorce), they will immediately separate from each other.

B) This wife and husband will be perpetually unlawful to each other; and there will never be the chance of a new marriage between them.

C) There will be no Qathf punishment for this husband and the prescribed punishment of adultery for the wife.

D) The issue that is created through this phenomenon will not be related to husband, but the issue's affinity with wife remains.

Finally in the last one of the concerned verses, it says:

"And had it not been Allah's grace and His mercy on you, and that Allah is Oft-Pardoning, All-Wise, (you would have been ruined and undone)."

In fact this holy verse is as a compact indication that puts emphasis on the above judgments, because it shows that the custom of /li'an/ is a Divine bounteousness that solves the problem of relationship between wife and husband in a right way.

First, it does not compel husband to be silent when he saw his wife has committed a wrong action and to withdraw from instituting legal proceedings.

Second, as soon as the accusation takes place, it does not declare wife to the prescribed punishment of adultery and it grants wife the right to defend herself.

Third, it does not demand husband to go after four witnesses when he saw this scene and so lets the cat out of the bag.

Fourth, it divorces this wife and husband who are unable to continue their married life and even it does not allow them to be spouses with each other again in the future, because if this accusation is true, they can not psychically continue their married life and if it is a lie, wife's sentiment is so spoiled that returning to a new life becomes difficult, because the result of such affair is animosity and hostility not chilly detachment.

Fifth, it also settles the situation of the issue.

By using a delicate, measured, and just solution, Allah has cleared up this difficult problem. He has shown His bless, bounteousness, forgiveness, and intellect towards His servants. If we contemplate this matter, we see that the main judgment that demands four witnesses is not totally cancelled, but in case of wife and husband each of these four 'testimonies' are substituted for one 'witness' and some of its judgments are taken into consideration.

Some matters to be mentioned:

1. Why is Qathf allocated to spouses?

The first question that is brought up here is that what characteristics do two spouses have that such an exceptional judgment has been declared about thema The answer of this question can be, on one hand, found in the occasion of revelation of the verse, and that is when a man sees his wife with a strange man he can not be silent, if he possibly wants. How does his jealousy allow him to show no reaction against infringement of his honour and reputation? If he wants to go to judge and say something, he will be imposed with Qathf punishment, because the judge does not know he is right, perhaps he tells a lie. If he wants to go after 4 witnesses, it will be against his face and reputation; moreover, it is possible that the affair ends during finding of witnesses.

On the other hand, strange persons accuse each other of this evil action very soon, but wife and husband accuse each other less. Thus, having 4 witnesses is necessary for strange persons, otherwise Qathf punishment will be carried out, but it is not the same for wife and husband. Therefore, this judgment is because of their characteristics.

2. Li'an, a Special Program:

According to explanations that were given in the commentary of the verses, to annul Qathf punishment of man who accuses his wife of adultery, man must testify four times by Allah that he is telling the truth. As a matter of fact, in this special case, each of these four testimonies takes place of a witness. And in the fifth time he most heartedly and willingly wishes Allah's curse, if he tells a lie.

Considering that these regulations are usually carried out along with religious obligations in an Islamic environment, and when one person sees that he must so decisively testify by Allah in the presence of an Islamic judge, and he must curse himself, most of times this bad action (accusation) is not committed. And this prevents man from untrue accusations.

The fact that the wife must testify four times by Allah that this accusation is untrue, is to equalize the testimony of wife and husband. And, since wife is the one who is accused of adultery, she defends herself in the fifth time with a more severe sentence than that of the men and she demands Allah's wrath if the husband tells the truth. We know that 'La'nat' (curse)means not enjoying Allah's mercy, but 'Qadab' (wrath) is something worse than being aloof of Allah's mercy,because wrath demands a punishment that is more than cursing. Thus, in the commentary of Sura Al-Hamd, we said that 'Maqdub-i- 'Alayhim' ("...not (the path) of those inflicted with Your wrath") are persons who are worse than 'Dallan' ("...(those) gone astray."), though 'Dallah' or those who go astray do not certainly acquire Allah's mercy.

Some Traditions on Calumny:

  1. Imam Rida (a.s.) narrated from his fathers who said: "The Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) said: 'One who calumniates a faithful man or woman, or says something about her (or him) which is not in him (or her), in the Resurrection Day Allah, the Exalted, will set that calumniator on a heap of Fire so that what he has said about him or her comes out of him, (and he will be cleaned by suffering that chastisement)."[^1]

  2. Imam Ali (a.s.) said: "A believer does not deceive his (religious) brother, nor does he betray him, nor does he disappoint him, nor does he slander him, nor does he says: 'I hate you'."[^2]

  3. Imam Ali (a.s.) said: "The (sin of) culminating someone (who is clean and pure) is heavier than skies."[^3]

  4. Imam Ali (a.s.) said: "No shamelessness is like culmination."[^4]

  5. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: "Whoever calumniates a Muslim in order to bother him, on the Day of Judgment Allah will keep him in the bile sludge of Hell-dwellers till He judges between people."[^5]