Qur'an, Hadith and Scholars:Honor Killing

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Honor killing has occured in many cultures, and is the murder by family members, usually of females, who are perceived to have brought shame on the family. The attitude is that the honor of the family in the community can be protected or restored in this way. Common triggers for honour killing occur when young couples have unmarried relations with each other, or when a woman marries someone against the wishes of her parents.

In Islamic law, there is no punishment merely for the shame caused upon a family by their female relations, nor to restore family honor by killing them. There are, however, punishments for various types of Zina (unlawful sexual relations) in Islam. Zina includes both fornication (when they are unmarried), for which the punishment is flogging, and adultery (when they are married, but not to each other), for which the punishment is death by stoning. These punishments are only to be applied by the authorities.

Honour killing has been condemned in a recent fatwa[1], which says that the punishment for fornication by the unmarried is flogging, and must be carried out by the proper authorities.

However, some statements about women and the rules to control them may contribute to the perceived social consequences of failing to exert such control and the underlying attitudes towards women and girls held by those who commit honor killing and honor violence. This includes such rules as those concerning parents and their children, a woman marrying without the approval of her wali, and zina, as detailed below. A connection is disputed by some on the basis that honor killing in the Muslim world is largely associated with certain countries like Pakistan and parts of the Middle East and North Africa rather than universal. The problem has also been documented in a Hindu religious context in countries such as India and Nepal, particularly involving couples of differing castes.

Efforts in modern Muslim countries have been made to deter such killings by changing the law to enable prosecution of the perpetrators, for example Pakistan in 2016 (after a change that had left a large loophole in 2004)[2], though as of 2022 the effect there has been limited.[3]

Help and advice is available from a number of charities and organisations around the world to help women at risk of honor violence.[4]

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Boy murdered to prevent grieving his parents by rebellion and disbelief (Kufran)


60. And when Moses said unto his servant: I will not give up until I reach the point where the two rivers meet, though I march on for ages.

61. And when they reached the point where the two met, they forgot their fish, and it took its way into the waters, being free.

62. And when they had gone further, he said unto his servant: Bring us our breakfast. Verily we have found fatigue in this our journey.

63. He said: Didst thou see, when we took refuge on the rock, and I forgot the fish - and none but Satan caused me to forget to mention it - it took its way into the waters by a marvel.

64. He said: This is that which we have been seeking. So they retraced their steps again.

65. Then found they one of Our slaves, unto whom We had given mercy from Us, and had taught him knowledge from Our presence.

66. Moses said unto him: May I follow thee, to the end that thou mayst teach me right conduct of that which thou hast been taught ?

67. He said: Lo! thou canst not bear with me.

68. How canst thou bear with that whereof thou canst not compass any knowledge ?

69. He said: Allah willing, thou shalt find me patient and I shall not in aught gainsay thee.

70. He said: Well, if thou go with me, ask me not concerning aught till I myself make mention of it unto thee.

71. So they twain set out till, when they were in the ship, he made a hole therein. (Moses) said: Hast thou made a hole therein to drown the folk thereof ? Thou verily hast done a dreadful thing.

72. He said: Did I not tell thee that thou couldst not bear with me ?

73. (Moses) said: Be not wroth with me that I forgot, and be not hard upon me for my fault.

74. So they twain journeyed on till, when they met a lad, he slew him. (Moses) said: What! Hast thou slain an innocent soul who hath slain no man ? Verily thou hast done a horrid thing.

75. He said: Did I not tell thee that thou couldst not bear with me ?

76. (Moses) said: If I ask thee after this concerning aught, keep not company with me. Thou hast received an excuse from me.

77. So they twain journeyed on till, when they came unto the folk of a certain township, they asked its folk for food, but they refused to make them guests. And they found therein a wall upon the point of falling into ruin, and he repaired it. (Moses) said: If thou hadst wished, thou couldst have taken payment for it.

78. He said: This is the parting between thee and me! I will announce unto thee the interpretation of that thou couldst not bear with patience.

79. As for the ship, it belonged to poor people working on the river, and I wished to mar it, for there was a king behind them who is taking every ship by force.

80. And as for the lad, his parents were believers and we feared lest he should oppress them by rebellion and disbelief.

81. And we intended that their Lord should change him for them for one better in purity and nearer to mercy.

82. And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and there was beneath it a treasure belonging to them, and their father had been righteous, and thy Lord intended that they should come to their full strength and should bring forth their treasure as a mercy from their Lord; and I did it not upon my own command. Such is the interpretation of that wherewith thou couldst not bear.


A Valid Marriage Requires Approval of the Female's Wali

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)

Note that while the above hadith says that such a woman commits zina (unlawful sexual intercourse), an earlier hadith in the same book indicates that this situation is not considered to be punishable adultery (as was also the consensus of the scholars according to Imam Abu Bakr al-Jassas (d. 370 A.H.) in his Ahkam al-Qur'aan):

It was narrated from Aishah that : the Messenger of Allah said: “Any woman whose marriage is not arranged by her guardian, her marriage is invalid, her marriage is invalid, her marriage is invalid. If (the man) has had intercourse with her, then the Mahr belongs to her in return for his intimacy with her. And if there is any dispute then the ruler is the guardian of the one who does not have a guardian.” (Sahih)

Nevertheless, the requirement for approval from the wali of the woman in order for her marriage to be valid greatly increases the potential for shame to be cast by the community on her and her male family members if she defies their wishes.

A woman marrying without approval from her wali does not have a valid marriage according to this hadith and the majority of scholars. Her wali may only refuse a marriage for legitimate Sharia reasons (for example, if she wants to marry a non-Muslim). Otherwise his guardianship of her passes to another who will approve the marriage[5].

Punishments by stoning for adultery between a married person and someone who they are not married to

Narrated 'Aisha: Sad bin Abi Waqqas and 'Abu bin Zam'a quarreled over a boy. Sad said, "O Allah's Apostle! This boy is the son of my brother ('Utba bin Abi Waqqas) who took a promise from me that I would take him as he was his (illegal) son. Look at him and see whom he resembles." 'Abu bin Zam'a said, "O Allah's Apostle! This is my brother and was born on my father's bed from his slave-girl." Allah's Apostle cast a look at the boy and found definite resemblance to 'Utba and then said, "The boy is for you, O 'Abu bin Zam'a. The child goes to the owner of the bed and the adulterer gets nothing but the stones (despair, i.e. to be stoned to death). Then the Prophet said, "O Sauda bint Zama! Screen yourself from this boy." So, Sauda never saw him again.
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.

Vigilantism against apostates and sinners is commanded or goes unpunished

Narrated 'Ali: Whenever I tell you a narration from Allah's Apostle, by Allah, I would rather fall down from the sky than ascribe a false statement to him, but if I tell you something between me and you (not a Hadith) then it was indeed a trick (i.e., I may say things just to cheat my enemy). No doubt I heard Allah's Apostle saying, "During the last days there will appear some young foolish people who will say the best words but their faith will not go beyond their throats (i.e. they will have no faith) and will go out from (leave) their religion as an arrow goes out of the game. So, where-ever you find them, kill them, for who-ever kills them shall have reward on the Day of Resurrection."
Narrated Ali ibn AbuTalib: A Jewess used to abuse the Prophet (peace be upon him) and disparage him. A man strangled her till she died. The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) declared that no recompense was payable for her blood.
Narrated Abdullah Ibn Abbas: A blind man had a slave-mother who used to abuse the Prophet (peace be upon him) and disparage him. He forbade her but she did not stop. He rebuked her but she did not give up her habit. One night she began to slander the Prophet (peace be upon him) and abuse him. So he took a dagger, placed it on her belly, pressed it, and killed her. A child who came between her legs was smeared with the blood that was there. When the morning came, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was informed about it.

He assembled the people and said: I adjure by Allah the man who has done this action and I adjure him by my right to him that he should stand up. Jumping over the necks of the people and trembling the man stood up.

He sat before the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said: Apostle of Allah! I am her master; she used to abuse you and disparage you. I forbade her, but she did not stop, and I rebuked her, but she did not abandon her habit. I have two sons like pearls from her, and she was my companion. Last night she began to abuse and disparage you. So I took a dagger, put it on her belly and pressed it till I killed her.

Thereupon the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Oh be witness, no retaliation is payable for her blood.

Carry out legal punishments on relatives and do not let the fear of blame stop you

It is unclear whether a judge is required to rule on the matter first in the following hadith.

It was narrated from `Ubadah bin Samit that the Messenger of Allah said: “Carry out the legal punishments on relatives and strangers, and do not let the fear of blame stop you from carrying out the command of Allah (SWT).” (Hasan)

Follow the legal process when you find a man with your wife, not vigilantism

On contrast to the above hadiths, the following indicates that the legal process should be followed in the case of zina and not vilgilantism.

Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Sa'd b. Ubada (Allah be pleased with him) said:

Messenger of Allah, if I were to find with my wife a man, should I not touch him before bringing four witnesses? Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said: Yes. He said: By no means. By Him Who has sent you with the Truth, I would hasten with my sword to him before that. Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said: Listen to what your chief says. He is jealous of his honour, I am more jealous than he (is) and God is more jealous than I.


No retaliation against parents for killing their offspring, or offspring's offspring

Who is Subject to Retaliation for Injurious Crimes

o1.1 - Retaliation

Retaliation is obligatory (A: if the person entitled wishes to take it (dis: o3.8)) against anyone who kills a human being purely intentionally and without right. (O: Intentionally is a first restriction and excludes killing someone through an honest mistake, while purely excludes a mistake made in a deliberate injury (def: o2.3), and without right excludes cases of justifiable homicide such as lawful retaliation.)

o1.2 The following are not subject to retaliation:

-1- a child or insane person, under any circumstances

-2- a Muslim for killing a non-Muslim;

-3- a Jewish or Christian subject of the Islamic state for killing an apostate from Islam (O: because a subject of the state is under its protection, while killing an apostate from Islam is without consequences);

-4- A father or mother (or their fathers of mothers) for killing their offspring, or offspring's offspring;
Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law
Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Edited and Translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller (p. 508, o1.1-2)

Vigilantism encouraged if there is no judge to carry out Allah's punishments

Defaming the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) is a kind of kufr. If that is done by a Muslim then it is apostasy on his part, and the authorities have to defend the cause of Allaah and His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) by executing the one who defamed him. If the one who defamed him repents openly and is sincere, that will benefit him before Allaah, although his repentance does not waive the punishment for defaming the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), which is execution. If the person who defames him is a non-Muslim living under a treaty with the Muslim state, then this is a violation of the treaty and he must be executed, but that should be left to the authorities. If a Muslim hears a Christian or anyone else defaming the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) he has to denounce him in strong terms. It is permissible to insult that person because he is the one who started it. How can we not stand up the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)? It is also obligatory to report him to the authorities who can carry out the punishment on him. If there is no one who can carry out the hadd punishment of Allaah and stand up for the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) then the Muslim has to do whatever he can, so long as that will not lead to further mischief and harm against other people.

Honor killing and vigilantism forbidden even if there is no ruler

Ibn Muflih al-Hanbali (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in al-Furoo’ (6/53): It is haraam for anyone to carry out a hadd punishment except the ruler or his deputy. This is something on which the fuqaha’ of Islam are unanimously agreed, as was stated in al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah (5/280): The fuqaha’ are unanimously agreed that the one who should carry out hadd punishments is the ruler or his deputy, whether the punishment is transgressing one of the limits of Allaah, may He be exalted, such as zina, or a transgression against another person, such as slander. End quote.

Concealing one who has committed this evil deed so that he may repent and set his affairs straight before he dies is better than exposing him, let alone killing him. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) turned away from Maa’iz (may Allaah be pleased with him) after he admitted committing zina, and he ignored him until he had repeated his confession several times, then he carried out the hadd punishment on him.

Based on this, that which is called “honour killing” is a transgression and wrongdoing, because it is killing one who does not deserve to be killed, namely the virgin if she commits zina (fornication), but the shar’i punishment in her case is flogging and banishment for one year, not execution, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “(The punishment for zina) of a virgin with a virgin person is one hundred lashes and exile for one year.” Narrated by Muslim. The one who kills her has killed a believing soul whom Allaah has forbidden to be killed, and there is a stern warning concerning that, as Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And those who invoke not any other ilaah (god) along with Allaah, nor kill such person as Allaah has forbidden, except for just cause, nor commit illegal sexual intercourse ___ and whoever does this shall receive the punishment.

69. The torment will be doubled to him on the Day of Resurrection, and he will abide therein in disgrace”

[al-Furqaan 25:68-69]

Even if we assume that she deserves to be executed (if she was previously-married and committed zina), no one should do that but the ruler – as stated above. Moreover, in many cases killing is done on the basis of accusations and speculation, without proving whether the immoral action even took place.
"Ruling on honour killings"
Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid, Islam Q&A, Fatwa No. 101972, https://islamqa.info/en/101972.

See Also

External Links

  1. Fatwa 101972 Ruling on honour killing
  2. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-37578111
  3. ‘Honor Killings’ Continue Unabated in Pakistan - The Diplomat, 2022
  4. For example, see the list of organisations maintained by the UK Metropolitan police
    IKWRO helps women and girls at risk of honour violence in the UK of a Middle East and North Africa, or Afghan background in their native languages
    In Pakistan there is the NGO Sindh Suhai Sath
    In America there is the AHA Foundation
  5. The girl's father disagrees with a marriage - what is the solution? Fatwah 7193 - Islamqa.info