ADULTERY. Arabic zina’ زنة.
The term zina’ includes both adultery and fornication, but there is a difference in the punishment for these offences. [FORNICATION.]
Adultery is established before a Qazi, either by proof or confession. To establish it upon proof, four witnesses are required. (Qur’an Surah iv, 1.) When witnesses come forward, it is necessary that they should be examined particularly concerning the nature of the offence. When the witnesses shall have borne testimony completely, declaring that “they have seen the parties in the very act of carnal conjunction,” the Qazi passes sentence.
A confession of adultery must be made by the person who has committed the sin, at four different times, although, according to the Imam ash-Shifi’i, one confession is sufficient. Some of the doctors hold that if a person retract his confession, his retraction must be credited, and he must be forthwith released.
At the commencement of Muhammad’s mission, women found guilty of adultery and fornication were punished by being literally immured – Suratu ‘n nisa (iv.) 19, “Shut them up within their houses till death release them, or God makes some way for them. This, however, was cancelled, and lapidation was substituted as the punishment for adultery, and 100 stripes and one year’s banishment for fornication.
When an adulterer is to be stoned to death: he should be carried to some barren place and the lapidation should be executed, first by the witnesses, then by the Qazi, and afterwards by the bystanders. When a woman is stoned, a hole or excavation should be dug to receive her, as deep as her waist, because Muhammad ordered such a hole to be dug for Ghandia.
It is lawful for a husband to slay his wife and her paramour, if he shall find them in the very act. If a supreme ruler, such as a Khalifah, commit adultery, he is not subject to such punishment.
The state of marriage which subjects a whoremonger to lapidation, requires that he be free (i.e. not a slave), a Muslim, and one who has consummated a lawful marriage.
It will be seen that Muslim law is almost identical with the divine law of the Jews with regard to adultery (Deut. xxiii. 22, Lev. xix. 20); but the Mosaic penalty applied as well to the betrothed as to the married woman.
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam