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Answering Islamophobic Claims

The punishment for rape in Islam



One of the biggest misconceptions towards Islam is that it has a law that calls for the punishment of the rape victim. This accusation is completely false, there is no law in Islam that calls for the punishment of the rape victim, a rape victim in Islam has no sin or crime upon them, and the crime only befalls onto the criminal.

Islam is clear; the rapist is to be punished for their crime, with no guilt on the rape victim as the following hadith clearly shows:

Narrated Wa'il ibn Hujr: When a woman went out in the time of the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) for prayer, a man attacked her and overpowered (raped) her. She shouted and he went off, and when a man came by, she said: That (man) did such and such to me. And when a company of the Emigrants came by, she said: That man did such and such to me. They went and seized the man whom they thought had had intercourse with her and brought him to her. She said: Yes, this is he. Then they brought him to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him). When he (the Prophet) was about to pass sentence, the man who (actually) had assaulted her stood up and said: Apostle of Allah, I am the man who did it to her. He (the Prophet) said to her: Go away, for Allah has forgiven you. But he told the man some good words (AbuDawud said: meaning the man who was seized), and of the man who had had intercourse with her, he said: Stone him to death. He also said: He has repented to such an extent that if the people of Medina had repented similarly, it would have been accepted from them.  (Sunan Abu Dawud 4366, book of punishment [hudud])

In the above hadith we read about how a lady was raped, the lady was not punished, rather it was the rapist who was given the punishment. Now if Islam commanded the punishment of the rape victim, then why wasn’t the lady punished? And why was the rapist punished instead? Surely we would have expected to see the opposite.

Some might ask about why the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told the lady that God forgave her, what did she have to be forgiven for? When the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told her that God had forgiven her, it wasn’t forgiveness for being raped, but rather for firstly identifying the wrong man.

The lady identified a man, and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was going to pass the sentence on him, until the actual culprit stood up and took responsibility as being the actual rapist. So this is why she was forgiven, she had initially accused the wrong person of raping her.

So now that we have the Islamic text, let’s move on to the scholarship. One of the greatest Islamic scholars, Imam Malik, founder of the Maliki Jurisprudence School, said the following concerning rape:

In our view the man who rapes a woman, regardless of whether she is a virgin or not, if she is a free woman he must pay a "dowry" like that of her peers, and if she is a slave he must pay whatever has been detracted from her value. The punishment is to be carried out on the rapist and there is no punishment for the woman who has been raped, whatever the case.  (Imam Maalik, Al-Muwatta', Volume 2, page 734)

So according to Imam Malik, if a lady is raped, there is no punishment for the rape victim, and the punishment is to be carried out on the rapist. Imam Malik even brings up a slave woman, even if a slave woman is raped, she gets no punishment, and the punishment is still upon the rapist. So Imam Malik’s statement refutes not one, but two common arguments against Islam, that 1) Islam punishes the rape victim, 2) that Islam allows for captive women to be raped.

Now what about the issue of having 4 witnesses to try and prove a rape? This is another misconception; in Islam the need for 4 witnesses is for acts such as fornication or adultery, that’s when 4 witnesses are needed. Rape is not considered in the same category as those two acts, and so 4 witnesses are not needed in order to prove the rape happened.

In the hadith we had earlier read, 4 witnesses were not brought to punish the rapist.

In conclusion, Islam does not call for the punishment of the rape victim, Islam clearly teaches that it is the rapist who will bear the guilt of his crime.

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