“Those who accuse chaste, honourable women (of unchastity) but do not produce four witnesses, flog them with eighty lashes, and do not admit their testimony ever after. They are indeed transgressors, except those of them that repent thereafter and mend their behaviour. For surely Allah is Most Forgiving, Ever Compassionate.”
(Al-Qur’ān – 24:4-5)
This directive aims at putting an end to salacious talk and gossip in society about illicit sexual relations between people. People are required to abstain from the same because it leads to numerous other evils. The worst effect is that it creates an atmosphere conducive to illicit sex. A person relates to another person the illicit sexual adventures of another person. These tales naturally circulate and in due course a lot of exciting material is added to the original stories. Those inclined to evil ways thus come to know through whom their sexual passions can be gratified.
The Shari’ah, however, aims to nip this evil in the bud. Therefore, on the one hand, it prescribes that a person convicted of unlawful sexual intercourse be subjected to the most severe punishment to which any criminal would be subjected. On the other hand, it also ensures that the person who accuses others of this grave offence be able to conclusively prove it, and if he fails to do so that he be severely punished with 80 lashes. This so as to deter people from irresponsibly slandering others. Even if one observes someone indulging in unlawful sex before one’s own eyes, one should not publicise it, this to prevent corruption from spreading.