In one of your responses, you write:
‘Zinaa’ implies sexual relations with a person with whom such relations are not recognized, licensed and approved by the society.
However, more “liberal” and modern societies are moving towards accepting couples who, though not married, are considered as being legally partners. This means when either the husband or wife dies, the partner of the deceased is granted the same rights as the married couples.
An example of this (in the UK) is an unmarried woman, whose husband died in combat. Under legislation, she was not allowed to receive a pension and other state benefits (like the married widow). However, uproar in society meant that the legislation was changed, and she was granted the benefits. There is also talk of extending benefits for married couples to unmarried couples.
My question is, would such “relationships”, having approval of the society, be recognized under Islam?
It is clear that the Divine law has always been very severe in punishing unchaste behavior. Chastity is one of the most important pillars upon which the structure of the society should be built. It is for this purpose that the only permanent provision for sexual relations between a man and a woman, in the divine law, is conditional upon a socially recognized relationship of marriage. Any sexual relation beyond marriage is, therefore, rendered a punishable crime in the Divine law1. Under normal circumstances, therefore, the allowable sexual relations should be restricted to married individuals and the society should consider all deviations as an assault on its basic values.
However, there are times when even ‘normal circumstances’ become far-fetched ideals and apparently unattainable and social and moral deviations and perversions become an accepted norm. A general recognition of sexual relations between unmarried individuals is a tragic instance of a general and widespread socio-moral perversion of the society. Nevertheless, the fact remains that when the society refuses to even recognize a crime, then the solution does not lie in promulgating and implementing sever laws, but in the general development and moral training of the society in the right direction2.
In my opinion, as is clear from the path taken by Islam to correct the social phenomenon of slavery, when a social evil or perversion becomes widespread, Islam would like to correct it through the socio-moral improvement and development of the society, in general, rather than through subjecting a very large number of people in the society to severe social and physical punishments.
Thus, when a socio-moral deviation becomes a widespread phenomenon to the extent that it is granted social and even legal recognition, then the right thing to do, in my opinion, would be to recognize the perversion, while trying to enhance the socio-moral standards of the society and passing effective laws, which discourage such deviations, on the one hand, and promote and, once again, strengthen the institution of marriage, on the other.
I hope this helps.
March 8, 2002
- As is clear from the Torah as well as the Qur’an. [↩]
- This, in my opinion, is also the implication of Jesus’ (pbuh) response to the Pharisees, when they asked him about the punishment of the adulteress. John 8: 2 – 11 reads:
Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do you say?” They were saying this, testing him, so that they might have grounds for accusing him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” [↩]