, by SYED AKBAR HASSAN
On getting closer to Surah Bani Israil we come to a hukm (commandment) which says: “Do not even go near fornication.” The wordings are not that don’t commit zina (adultery or fornication) but to keep from it – to keep a safe distance from it – as it is shameful and very wrong path. This hukm is for both individuals and society as a whole. It warns individuals not only to guard against zina itself but against all that leads to or stimulates it. These stimulants in today’s world are stronger catalysts due to all the vulgarity that is being spread through print, TV, internet and other media and we just can’t shut our eyes and isolate ourselves rather only when we are closer to the Qur’ān Allah will guide us and shall insulate us so that we can counter these stimulants and save ourselves and our families from this grave evil. Therefore, before proceeding to the next ayah or hukm, let us try to understand the present scenario more closely in the light of the hukm: “Do not even go near fornication.”
The main source that works as lead or stimulant (and which in itself is considered adultery by Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) is very well defined in the hadith in which Abu Hurairah reported Allah’s Messenger as saying: Allah fixed the very portion of adultery which a man will indulge in. There would be no escape from it. The adultery of the eye is the lustful look and the adultery of the ears is listening to voluptuous (song or talk) and the adultery of the tongue is licentious speech and the adultery of the hand is the lustful grip (embrace/shaking of hands) and the adultery of the feet is to walk (to the place) where he intends to commit adultery and the heart yearns and desires which he may or may not put into effect. This is the moral aspect of zina and not legal which will come to effect only when the shameful act is actually committed. The sources as mentioned above in the quoted hadith are potential threat to society which may lead towards the commission of zina.
Another ayah worth mentioning here: “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity, and God is well acquainted with all they do. And say to the believing woman that they should lower their gaze, and guard their modesty.”(Qur’ān 24:30-3 1).
What happens when zina becomes rampant in a society? The very foundations on which the structure of human civilization and culture has been built will topple down and the whole basis of the concept of a social life will disappear. Once haya (modesty) is knocked down, it leads to exhibitionism in society. The Qur’ān impresses upon us that the institution of family should be very strong. If zina is rampant in society, the bond of love between the spouses is weakened.
If there is no segregation of sexes or we ignore the ahkam related to modesty, we come to see a woman attracting us and that woman may become a sort of fixation in our mind. So, our attention towards our wives will be diverted and weakened and wives shall feel it. Similarly, in a modern society, if wife also gets attracted to some man, the bond of love, faith and trust between husband and wife will loosen. It is for these reasons that free mixing of men and women, without any recognised and stable bonds of trustworthiness, is objectionable, and this is why in every age zina has been considered a moral evil and, in religious terminology, a grave sin. Accordingly, the social systems in every age recognised and adopted the institution of marriage and also adopted preventive measures against adultery or fornication.
The Shari’ah (Islamic Law) holds zina as a punishable crime. The Islamic Law views zina as an act which, if allowed to be indulged in freely, will strike at the very roots of both human race and human civilization. Islam does not rely on corrective law alone for saving humanity from the menace of zina. It employs both reformatory and prohibitory measures on a large scale. It has provided legal punishment only as the last resort.
Islam does not want that people go on committing this crime and getting flogged with stripes day and night. Its real aim is that they do not commit this crime at all and there should be no occasion to resort to the extreme punishment. For this purpose Islam first of all purifies us. It imbues us with the fear of Al-Qadir (All-Powerful) and Al-Aleem (All-Knowing) – Allah. It inculcates in us the sense of accountability in the Hereafter. It fills us with obligation of obedience to Divine Law which is sure to follow true iman. Then, it repeatedly warns us that zina is a terrible crime, for which Allah will call the doer to account with a severe reckoning. This theme occurs again and again in the Qur’ān.
Moreover, Islam provides all possible facilities for a man to marry. If he is not satisfied with one wife, he is allowed to take up to four. If husband and wife cannot pull on amicably, there are provisions for separation. In case of a dispute between the two, provision exists for reconciliation through the intervention of the members of the family and failing that through the Shari’ah courts so that they should either reconcile or separate and then remarry whomsoever they like. All this has been explained in Surahs Al-Baqarah, An-Nisa and At-Talaq.
Then Islam puts an end to all the factors which provide occasions for zina. A year before the punishment for zina was prescribed, women were commanded (in Surah Al-Ahzab) to cover themselves with sheets and lower their head-covers over their faces when going out of their houses. The wives of the Holy Prophet, who are a model for every Muslim family, were ordered to restrict themselves to their houses with decorum and dignity and not to display their charms and adornments. Moreover, they were required to communicate with men from behind the curtain if there be any need for that. This was a model which was followed by all believing women. Similarly, free mixing of men and women was discouraged before it was declared as a criminal offence and women were prohibited from going out openly in make-up. After adopting such measures zina was declared as a punishable offence and spreading of indecency in any way was also prohibited.
A person who understands the gravity of the act, is always on his/her guard and guards the family as well, and remains loyal to the spouse. A hadith has to say that even having satisfaction with wife is Sadaqah. The Sahaba were greatly amazed that here a man is gratifying his desire and yet he is being rewarded for it. The Holy Prophet explained to them that had this man gratified himself in a haram manner he would be punished for it, then why he should not be rewarded for satisfying himself in a Halaal manner.