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Zina (Arabic: الزنا‎ ) is the Arabic word for "unlawful sexual relations." Zina, according to traditional Islamic jurisprudence, can include adultery[1][2][3] (of married parties), fornication[1][2][3] (of unmarried parties), prostitution,[4] rape,[5] sodomy[1][6] (in a heterosexual or homosexual context[7][6]), incest,[8][9] and bestiality.[1][10] Four witnesses are required to prove the offense.[11]

The Islamic definition of Zina differs from the commonly used definition of "adultery" in English. The meaning also differs in relation to gender under traditional Islamic jurisprudence.

Married Men

Adultery is the consensual sex with a woman who does not qualify as one of the following:

  1. His wife
  2. His concubine
  3. His slave[12][13]

A Muslim man is permitted to have up to four wives[14] and an unlimited number of concubines and slave girls[15]. Unmarried men cannot be found guilty of adultery even if they sleep with another man's wife. They can only be found guilty of fornication which does not merit the death penalty in Islam. If an unmarried man sleeps with a married woman, her transgression merits death by stoning but his transgression merits 100 lashes and possible exile for one year.[16]

Married Women

Adultery is the consensual sex with a man who does not qualify as one of the following:

  1. Her husband
  2. Her master

A Muslim woman can only have one husband at a time. She may not have sex with her male slaves.[17] She must have parental consent to the marriage. If not, sex between the couple is classed as adultery.[18]

However, in Saudi Arabia today, if a married woman is raped, she may be be accused of zina (adultery) and punished .[19]

See Also

  • Adultery - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Adultery


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Semerdjian, Elyse (in en). "Off the Straight Path": Illicit Sex, Law, and Community in Ottoman Aleppo. Syracuse University Press. p. 53. ISBN 9780815651550, 2008. https://books.google.com/books?id=cZzuBMnBKfUC&q=bestiality+zina&pg=PA53. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Khan, Shahnaz (in en). Zina, Transnational Feminism, and the Moral Regulation of Pakistani Women. UBC Press. p. 8. ISBN 9780774841184, 2011. https://books.google.com/books?id=9IfJl4J7MAgC&q=adultery+fornication+zina&pg=PA8. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Akande, Habeeb (in en). A Taste of Honey: Sexuality and Erotology in Islam. Rabaah Publishers. p. 145. ISBN 9780957484511, 2015. https://books.google.com/books?id=XKyPCgAAQBAJ&q=adultery+fornication+zina&pg=PA145. 
  4. Meri, Josef W. (in en). Medieval Islamic Civilization: L-Z, index. Taylor & Francis. p. 646. ISBN 9780415966924, 2006. https://books.google.com/books?id=LaV-IGZ8VKIC&q=prostitution+zina&pg=PA646. 
  5. Semerdjian, Elyse, "Zinah", In John L. Esposito, Oxford: Oxford University Press, Error: Bad DOI specified, ISBN 9780195305135, 2009, http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195305135.001.0001/acref-9780195305135-e-0984. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Habib, Samar (in en). Islam and Homosexuality (1st ed.). ABC-CLIO. p. 211. ISBN 9780313379031, 2010. https://books.google.com/books?id=9y_TyzK9_5oC&q=homosexuality+zina&pg=PA211. 
  7. Mohd Izwan bin Md Yusof; Muhd. Najib bin Abdul Kadir; Mazlan bin Ibrahim; Khader bin Ahmad; Murshidi bin Mohd Noor; Saiful Azhar bin Saadon, "Hadith Sahih on Behaviour of LGBT" (in English), Government of Malaysia, http://www.islam.gov.my/images/ePenerbitan/Hadis-hadis_Sahih_Berkaitan_Perlakuan_LGBT_BI.pdf. 
  8. Clarke, Morgan (in en). Islam and New Kinship: Reproductive Technology and the Shariah in Lebanon. Berghahn Books. p. 41. ISBN 9781845454326, 2009. https://books.google.com/books?id=MwreDKOTXM8C&q=incest+zina&pg=PA42. 
  9. Kamali, Mohammad Hashim (in en). Crime and Punishment in Islamic Law: A Fresh Interpretation. Oxford University Press. p. 94. ISBN 9780190910648, 2019. https://books.google.com/books?id=ZNGaDwAAQBAJ&q=incest+zina&pg=PA94. 
  10. Ahmed, Syed (in en). Law relating to fornication (Zina) in the Islamic legal system: a comparative study. Andhra Legal Decisions. p. 3,71,142, 1999. https://books.google.com/books?id=N24mAQAAIAAJ&q=bestiality+zina. 
  11. Peters, R.. P. Bearman. ed,. Zinā or Zināʾ (2nd ed.). Brill. Error: Bad DOI specified, 2012. 
  12. "The believers must (eventually) win through,- Those who humble themselves in their prayers; Who avoid vain talk; Who are active in deeds of charity; Who abstain from sex, Except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess,- for (in their case) they are free from blame, But those whose desires exceed those limits are transgressors;- " - Quran 23:1-7
  13. "And those who guard their chastity, Except with their wives and the (captives) whom their right hands possess,- for (then) they are not to be blamed, " - Quran 70:29-30
  14. "If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice. " - Quran 4:3
  15. "(Indeed We know what We have enjoined upon them about their wives) means, `concerning the limiting of their number to four free women, and whatever they wish of slave-girls" - Tafsir Ibn Kathir - Quran 33:50
  16. "Narrated Abu Huraira and Zaid bin Khalid Al-Juhani: A bedouin came and said, "O Allah's Apostle! Judge between us according to Allah's Laws." His opponent got up and said, "He is right. Judge between us according to Allah's Laws." The bedouin said, "My son was a laborer working for this man, and he committed illegal sexual intercourse with his wife. The people told me that my son should be stoned to death; so, in lieu of that, I paid a ransom of one hundred sheep and a slave girl to save my son. Then I asked the learned scholars who said, "Your son has to be lashed one-hundred lashes and has to be exiled for one year." The Prophet said, "No doubt I will judge between you according to Allah's Laws. The slave-girl and the sheep are to go back to you, and your son will get a hundred lashes and one year exile." He then addressed somebody, "O Unais! go to the wife of this (man) and stone her to death" So, Unais went and stoned her to death." - Sahih Bukhari 3:49:860
  17. - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an (Quran 23:1-11, Footnote 7 #2)
  18. "It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that: the Messenger of Allah said: “No woman should arrange the marriage of another woman, and no woman should arrange her own marriage. The adulteress is the one who arranges her own marriage.” (Sahih)" - Ibn Majah Vol. 3, Book 9, Hadith 1882
  19. "Saudi Arabia: Rape Victim Punished for Speaking Out", HRW, 2007, https://www.hrw.org/news/2007/11/15/saudi-arabia-rape-victim-punished-speaking-out/.