What’s the classical definition of zina?
Does sodomy include this definition?
Does sexual relation between women include this?
Does oral sex include this?
Does other forms of foreplay include this?
Covering up on above, what laws under Shariah are applicable, and how does Quran’s definition of zina cover up on it.
The Qur’an does not define the term Zina while legislating its punishment. The apparent reason for it is that, as in the case of Riba, there was no ambiguity in the minds of its direct addressees regarding the implications of the term. Often translated as “adultery” or “fornication”, Zina really means consensual sexual intercourse between a man and a woman not bound to each other by a legal marriage. It should be clear that the actual sexual intercourse qualifies as Zina for which the punishment according to the Quran is:
The man and the woman guilty of fornication, flog each of them with a hundred stripes and let not compassion move you in their case in the enforcement of the law of God, if you truly believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of the believers witness their punishment. This man guilty of fornication may only marry a woman similarly guilty or an idolatress and this woman guilty of fornication may only marry such a man or an idolater. The believers are forbidden such marriages. (24:2-3)
From this verse, it is evident that the criminals should be flogged publicly to humiliate them in front of people and to make them a means of warning for those present. After this punishment has been carried out, the fornicator shall be barred from marrying a chaste partner.
Based on certain Ahadith, the classical and contemporary scholars of Islam prescribe the punishment of stoning to death for a married adulterer and adulteress. However, there are some issues surrounding this prescription that generated controversy and led an eminent contemporary scholar to disagree. For details you can see the links to previous discussions titled “Punishment of Rajam” and “Regarding Stoning of a Married Adulterer“
You further ask about the inclusion of oral sex and other forms of foreplay within the ambit of Zina. It should be obvious from above that these “acts” do not constitute Zina per se. However, in some of the narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh), he has used the term broadly to signify the abhorrence and gravity of even those acts that come close to or can lead to the “final act.” In other words, these “acts” although cannot be termed Zina in the purely legalistic sense, yet they have been severely censured by the Prophet (pbuh) in comparing them with Zina. He is reported to have said:
The eyes commit Zina, the hands commit Zina and feet commit Zina and the genitals commit Zina.” (Musnad Ahmad, Hadith no. 4258)
This is akin to what Jesus (sws) said in the Gospel of Matthew:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
The Quran also wants to clog all ways potentially leading to Zina:
And come not near unto adultery. Lo! it is an abomination and an evil way. (17:32)
Even though there is no prescribed punishment for these “acts”, they serve as a facilitator for Zina and, in no uncertain terms, incur the wrath of the Almighty. If restraint is not exercised, these can result in punishment in the Hereafter.
Regarding sodomy and sexual relation between women, these are against the natural make-up of the human body. Acts of this category are unnatural and can be classified as natural prohibitions. The Quran states:
When [their menstruation period is over and] they have cleansed themselves come to them from where Allah has guided you. (2: 222)
The words “from where Allah has guided you” clearly point to the fact that only those types of sexual relations are allowed which are natural and in accordance with the human physiology. Thus, broadly, sodomy and homosexuality between females may not be part of the strict definition of Zina, yet in accordance with the teachings of Shari’ah, both stand prohibited. In view of a lack of any direct legislation by the Shari’ah, the Islamic state may legislate any punishment it deems appropriate for the stated acts.
You may also like to see one of our earlier responses to a related question, titled “Some Questions on Sexual Behavior“
Lastly, I may add, anyone conscious of the Innate Guidance and the Revealed Wisdom would never flounder while deciding on the boundaries and limitations of sexual relations and acts.
May 31, 2003