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Title: Hudud  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Application of sharia law by country, Sharia, Islamic criminal jurisprudence, Apostasy in Islam, Zina
Collection: Islamic Criminal Jurisprudence, Punishments in Religion
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Hudud (Arabic: حدود Ḥudūd, also transliterated hadud, hudood; singular hadd, حد, literal meaning "limit", or "restriction") is an Islamic concept, based on the Quran and Hadiths, that define "crimes against God".[1][2] These include the religious crimes of adultery, fornication, homosexuality, accusing someone of illicit sex but failing to present four Muslim eyewitnesses,[3][4] apostasy, consuming intoxicants, transgression, robbery and theft.[1][5][6]

Under Sharia, the Islamic religious law, hudud crimes trigger a class of punishments which are considered by Muslims to be mandated and fixed by God.[1][7] These range from public lashing, publicly stoning to death, amputation of hands or public execution.[8] However, public stoning and execution punishments are relatively uncommon in the modern times in most Muslim nations, and are currently witnessed in Muslim nations, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, that follow strictest interpretation of sharia.[2][9]

Sharia recognizes other crimes that are not hudud crimes. One category of non-hudud crimes is Qisas – considered by sharia to be private dispute between two parties where retaliation as a punishment is allowed. The second category is Tazir – where the punishment is left to an Islamic judge's discretion.[1][10]


  • Overview 1
    • Quran 1.1
    • Hadiths 1.2
    • Hudud versus other category of crimes 1.3
    • Sunni versus Shia interpretations 1.4
  • Punishments 2
  • Requirements for conviction 3
    • Illegal sex 3.1
    • Theft 3.2
  • Modernization versus tradition 4
  • See also 5
  • Further reading 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Hudud crimes are defined in Quran and Hadiths, and are considered as "claims of God". The sovereign Muslim state had the obligation and responsibility to punish hudud crimes. All other offenses were defined as "claims of [His] servants," and responsibility for prosecution rested on the victim.


The Qur'an describes several hudud crimes and in some cases the required punishments.[7] The hadd crime of theft is detailed in Quranic verse 5:38:[7]

The hadd crime of robbery and civil disturbance against Islam inside a Muslim state, according to Muslim scholars, is covered by Quranic verse 5:33:[7]

The hadd crime of intoxication is covered by Quranic verse 5:90, but its punishment is described in hadiths:[7]

The hadd crime of illicit consensual sex is covered by several verses, including Quranic verse 24:2:[7]

The hadd crime of "accusation of illicit sex or rape against chaste women without four witnesses" and of "apostasy from Islam" is based on Quranic verses 24:4, 24:6, 9:66 and 16:106, among others Quranic verse.[7]


The sahih hadiths, a compilation of sayings, practices and traditions of Muhammad as observed by his companions, are considered by Sunni Muslims to be the most trusted source of Islamic law after Quran. They extensively describe hudud crimes and punishments.[16][17] In some cases where the Quran specifies the hadd crime but does not state the punishment, Islamic scholars have used hadiths to establish the hadd punishment.[7] Some of these are,[7]

Hudud versus other category of crimes

Hudud is one of three categories of crimes in Islamic Penal Law:[22][23]

Hudud offenses include:[24]

  • Theft (Sariqa, السرقة), stealing[25]
  • Highway robbery (Haraba, Qat' al-Tariq, قطع الطريق), or other forms of mischief against the Muslim state[25]
  • Apostasy (Riddah, ردة or Irtidad, ارتداد), the act of leaving Islam to adopt another religion or becoming atheist[26][27]
  • Zina (Zina', الزنا), which includes pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex and homosexuality[28][29]
  • Sexual slander, the false accusation of zina (Qadhf, القذف)[25][30]
  • Drinking alcohol, gambling and disputing an Imam/transgression (Shurb al-Khamr, Maisir, Baghi)[25]

Murder, injury and property damage are not hudud crimes[22]

Murder, in Islamic law, is not a hadd crime, but is treated as a private dispute between the murderer and the victim's heirs. The heirs of the victim(s) may have no claims, or may be awarded the right to forgive the murderer, or demand compensation (see Diyya) or demand death of the murderer (see Qisas). The heirs may have no claims in cases where the accused "justifiably kills the victim" such as in cases where the murder victim was engaged in illicit sex, blasphemy or apostasy from Islam.[31][32] Honor crimes, where a Muslim woman is killed by her family or relatives because her sexual behavior brought dishonor to the family, is treated as a civil matter.[22] Similarly, bodily harm and property damage, are considered as a non-criminal, civil dispute between two parties.[22]

Sunni versus Shia interpretations

There are minor differences in views between the four major Sunni madhhabs about sentencing and specifications for these laws, in the matter of Baghj (dispute or open criticism of a religious authority such as an Imam).[7] Baghj is considered as violation of Quranic verse 49:9,[33] and a hadd crime in all Sunni and Shia schools of law; however, unlike other hadd crimes, the verse suggests that the accused violator of the Islamic law be counseled, and various fiqhs differ on the required process before punishment is handed out. In other categories and cases, Sharia is God's law in Islam, specifying certain punishments for each crime, they are immutable. They are considered claims of God, revealed through Muhammad, and they cannot be altered or abolished by people, jurists or parliament. Anyone once charged with a hadd crime must be pursued by the Muslim state, that charge cannot be retracted, nor can any authority grant a pardon. He or she must be punished.[34]


Dira Square in Saudi Arabia where hadd punishments, such as beheading by sword, are enforced.

In brief, the punishments include:[7][35]

  • Capital punishments – by beheading / crucifixion (for apostasy, for highway robbery with homicide), by stoning (for illicit sex by a married offender)
  • Amputation of hands or feet (for theft and highway robbery without homicide)
  • Flogging, between 40 to 100 strokes (for sex by unmarried offender, drinking alcohol, gambling, and accusing someone of illicit sex but failing to present Muslim witnesses of the crime)

The hudud punishment for theft was carried out on several hundred individuals, during the first two years when Shari`a was made state law in Sudan between 1983 and 1985 and then was withdrawn from application but not from the law. Flogging for moral charges have been carried out since the codification of Islamic law in Sudan in 1991 without withdrawal from application. In 2012, a Sudanese court sentenced Intisar Sharif Abdallah, a teenager to death by stoning, in the city of Omdurman, near Khartoum, under article 146 of Sudan’s Criminal Act after charging her with "adultery by a married person". She was held in Omdurman prison with her 5-month-old baby, with her legs shackled.[36]

The hudud punishment for zināʾ in cases of consensual sex, and the punishment of a victim for her failure to present four male Muslim witnesses in cases of rape, are the subject of a global human rights debate.[37][38]

The requirement of four male witnesses before a victim can seek justice has been criticized as leading to "hundreds of incidents where a woman subjected to rape, or gang rape, was eventually accused of zināʾ" and incarcerated,[39] which is defended as punishment ordained by God. Hundreds of women in Afghanistan jails are victims of rape or domestic violence, accused of zina, when the victim failed to present witnesses.[40] In Pakistan, over 200,000 zina cases against women, under its Hudood laws, were under process at various levels in Pakistan's legal system in 2005.[41] In addition to thousands of women in prison awaiting trial for zina-related charges, there has been a severe reluctance to even report rape because the victim fears of being charged with zina.[42]

Requirements for conviction

Sharia in certain legal system such as the Hudud Bill in Kelantan, Malaysia permits only Muslim eyewitness testimony and confession as evidence.[43] Circumstantial and forensic evidence (i.e., fingerprints, ballistics, body fluids, DNA etc.) is rejected in rape and other hudud cases, only eyewitnesses or confession are acceptable for conviction in hudud crimes.[44][45] However, indirect evidence such as pregnancy in the accused are acceptable sufficient evidence of zina, in certain cases.[3]

For eyewitness testimony, Hudud crimes require four male witnesses, all providing a consistent testimony. A confession must be repeated four times, and he or she can retract the confession at any time during the trial.[43][44]

Illegal sex

There are certain standards for proof that must be met in Islamic law for zina punishment to apply. In the Shafii, Hanbali, and Hanafi law schools Rajm (public stoning) or lashing is imposed for the religiously disallowed sex only if the crime is proven, either by four male adults witnessing at first hand the actual sexual intercourse at the same time or by self-confession.[3] For the establishment of adultery, four male Muslim witnesses must have seen the act in its most intimate details. Shia Islam allows substitution of one male Muslim with two female Muslims, but requires that at least one of the witnesses be a male. The Sunni Maliki school of law, and Shia Islamic law considers pregnancy in an unmarried woman, or contested pregnancy in case of married woman, as sufficient evidence of zina.[3][46] If a woman such as a rape victim or uninvolved person alleging zina fail to provide four consistent Muslim witnesses, he or she can be sentenced to eighty lashes for unfounded accusation of fornication."[47] The requirement of four upstanding male Muslim witnesses to provide evidence for rape has been criticized as making it difficult for rape victims to achieve justice.[48]


Malik, the originator of the Maliki judicial school of thought, recorded in The Muwatta of many detailed circumstances under which the punishment of hand cutting should, and should not, be carried out. Commenting on the verse regarding theft in the Quran, Yusuf Ali says that most Islamic jurists believe that "petty thefts are exempt from this punishment" and that "only one hand should be cut off for the first theft."[49] Islamic jurists disagree as to when amputation is mandatory religious punishment.[50]

Modernization versus tradition

Scholars[51][52] suggest that "such penalties may have been suitable for the age in which Muhammad lived. However, as societies have since progressed and modernized, they are not suitable any longer." Other scholars[53] write that "here and at other places the Qur'an merely declares that sodomy is such a heinous sin ... that it is the duty of the Islamic State to eradicate this crime and ... punish those who are guilty of it."

It has also been argued that the Hudud portion of Sharia is incompatible with International laws on human rights. However, the trend has been to introduce hudud laws in various Muslim countries. Pakistan and Brunei have adopted hudud laws in 1979 and 2014 respectively.[54][55] A Washington Times editorial called Pakistan's Hudood ordinance, "a set of laws passed in 1979 in response to pressure from hardline Islamic political groups that odiously punished rape victims while making it difficult to convict the perpetrators".[56]

Liberal movements in Islam[57] and Quranists have called for return to Quran, and removal of punishments declared in Hadith. They reject the Hadiths as a source of law.[58][59] They suggest that the verses in the Quran should be the only source for formulating Islamic Law, and only laws derived exclusively from the Quran are valid.[60]

The vast majority of Muslims, however, consider hadiths, which describe the words, conduct and example set by Muhammad during his life, as a source of law and religious authority.[58] Similarly, most Islamic scholars believe both Quran and sahih hadiths to be a valid source of Sharia, with Quranic verse 33.21, among others,[61][62] as justification for this belief.[59]

Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah.

It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path.
— Qur'an, [Quran 33:21–36]

For vast majority of Muslims, Sharia has historically been, and continues to be derived from both Quran and Sahih Hadiths. The Sahih Hadiths contain isnad, or a chain of guarantors reaching back to a companion of Muhammad who directly observed the words, conduct and example he set – thus providing the theological ground to consider the hadith to be a sound basis for sharia, which includes hudud crimes and punishments.[59]

See also

Further reading

  • Muhammad Ata Alsid Sidahmad, The Hudud: the seven specific crimes in Islamic criminal law and their mandatory punishments. ISBN 983-9303-00-7
  • Chris Horrie C. and Chippindale P. What Is Islam? Virgin Books, 2003. ISBN 0-7535-0827-3


  1. ^ a b c d Mohamed S. El-Awa (1993), Punishment In Islamic Law, American Trust Publications, ISBN 978-0892591428, pp. 1-68
  2. ^ a b Oliver Leaman (2013), Controversies in Contemporary Islam, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415676137, Ch. 9
  3. ^ a b c d Z. Mir-Hosseini (2011), Criminalizing sexuality: zina laws as violence against women in Muslim contexts, SUR-Int'l Journal on Human Rights, 8(15), pp 7-33
  4. ^ Kecia Ali (2006), Sexual Ethics and Islam, ISBN 978-1851684564, Chapter 4
  5. ^ Otto, Jan Michiel. Sharia and National Law in Muslim Countries. Amsterdam University Press. pp. 663, 31.  
  6. ^ Philip Reichel and Jay Albanese (2013), Handbook of Transnational Crime and Justice, SAGE publications, ISBN 978-1452240350, pp. 36-37
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Silvia Tellenbach (2015), The Oxford Handbook of Criminal Law (Ed: Markus D. Dubber and Tatjana Hornle), Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199673599, pp. 251-253
  8. ^ Hadd Oxford Dictionary of Islam, Oxford University Press (2012)
  9. ^ John L. Esposito (2004), The Islamic World: Past and Present, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0397512164, pp. 82-83
  10. ^ Muhammad Al-Madni Busaq, Perspectives on modern criminal policy & Islamic Sharia, Naif Arab University, ISBN 978-9960853178, pp. 126-135
  11. ^ Quran 5:38
  12. ^ Quran 5:33
  13. ^ Quran 5:90
  14. ^ Quran 24:2
  15. ^ Quran 24:6, Quran 24:4, Quran 9:66, Quran 16:106
  16. ^ Elyse Semerdjian (2008), "Off the Straight Path": Illicit Sex, Law, and Community in Ottoman Aleppo, Syracuse University Press, ISBN 978-0815631736, pp. 8-14
  17. ^ Christopher Melchert (1997), The Formation of the Sunni Schools of Law: 9th-10th Centuries CE, Brill Academic, ISBN 978-9004109520, pp. 16 with footnote 78
  18. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 8:81:780 see also Sahih al-Bukhari, 8:81:781, Sahih Muslim, 17:4175
  19. ^ Sahih Muslim, 17:4226
  20. ^ Sunan Abu Dawood, 38:4469
  21. ^ Sunan Abu Dawood, 38:4424 see also Sunan Abu Dawood, 38:4421, 38:4426, 38:4429, 38:4433
  22. ^ a b c d Lindsey Devers and Sarah Bacon, Interpreting Honor Crimes: The Institutional Disregard Towards Female Victims of Family Violence in the Middle East, International Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory, Vol. 3, No. 1, June 2010, pp. 359-371
  23. ^ The Constitution of Iran: Politics and the State in the Islamic Republic / by Asghar Schirazi, London; New York: I.B. Tauris, 1997 pp. 223–24
  24. ^ Between Vision and Reality: Law in the Arab World, Guy Bechor, IDC Projects Publishing House, 2002. pp. 105–110
  25. ^ a b c d M. Cherif Bassiouni (1997), Crimes and the Criminal Process, Arab Law Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 3 (1997), pp. 269-286
  26. ^ Peters & De Vries (1976), Apostasy in Islam, Die Welt des Islams, Vol. 17, Issue 1/4, pp 1-25
  27. ^ J Rehman (2010), Freedom of expression, apostasy, and blasphemy within Islam: Sharia, criminal justice systems, and modern Islamic state practices, Criminal Justice Matters, 79(1), pp. 4-5, doi:10.1080/09627250903569841
  28. ^ Julie Chadbourne (1999), Never wear your shoes after midnight: Legal trends under the Pakistan Zina Ordinance, Wisconsin International Law Journal, Vol. 17, pp. 179-234
  29. ^ Reza Aslan (2004), "The Problem of Stoning in the Islamic Penal Code: An Argument for Reform", UCLA Journal of Islamic and Near East Law, Vol 3, No. 1, pp. 91-119
  30. ^ Joseph Schacht, An Introduction to Islamic Law (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), pp. 178–181
  31. ^ R Peters (2006), Crime and Punishment in Islamic Law, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521796705, pp. 116-119
  32. ^ P Smith (2003), Speak No Evil: Apostasy, Blasphemy and Heresy in Malaysian Syariah Law, UC Davis Journal Int'l Law & Policy, 10, pp. 357-373
  33. ^ Quran 49:9
  34. ^ Richard Terrill (2012), World Criminal Justice Systems: A Comparative Survey, Routledge, ISBN 978-1455725892, pp. 557-558
  35. ^ Muhammad Ata Alsid Sidahmad (1995), The Hudud: The Hudud are the Seven Specific Crimes in Islamic Criminal Law and Their Mandatory Punishments, ISBN 978-9839303001, pp. 219-220
  36. ^ Sudan: Ban Death by Stoning Human Rights Watch (May 31, 2012)
  37. ^ KUGLE (2003), Sexuality, diversity and ethics in the agenda of progressive Muslims, In: SAFI, O. (Ed.). Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, Oxford: Oneworld. pp. 190-234
  38. ^ LAU, M. (2007), Twenty-Five Years of Hudood Ordinances: A Review, Washington and Lee Law Review, n. 64, pp. 1291-1314
  39. ^ National Commission on the status of women's report on Hudood Ordinance 1979
  40. ^ Afghanistan - Moral Crimes Human Rights Watch (2012); Quote "Some women and girls have been convicted of zina, sex outside of marriage, after being raped or forced into prostitution. Zina is a crime under Afghan law, punishable by up to 15 years in prison."
  41. ^ Pakistan Human Rights Watch (2005)
  42. ^ Rahat Imran (2005), Legal Injustices: The Zina Hudood Ordinance of Pakistan and Its Implications for Women, Journal of International Women's Studies, Vol. 7, Issue 2, pp 78-100
  43. ^ a b Kamali, Mohammad Hashim (1998). "Punishment in Islamic Law – A Critique of the Hudud Bill of Kelantan, Malaysia". Arab Law Quarterly. Vol. 13, No. 3. pp. 203–234.
  44. ^ a b I Hasan (2011), The Conflict Within Islam: Expressing Religion Through Politics, ISBN 978-1462083015, p. 92
  45. ^ A. bin Mohd Noor, & A.B. bin Ibrahim (2012), The Rights of a Rape Victim in Islamic Law, IIUM Law Journal, 16(1), pp. 65-83
  46. ^ Camilla Adang (2003), Ibn Hazam on Homosexuality, Al Qantara, Vol. 25, No. 1, pp. 5-31
  47. ^ Encyclopedia of Islam, Zina
  48. ^ Tripp, Harvey; North, Peter (2003). Culture Shock, Saudi Arabia. A Guide to Customs and Etiquette. Singapore; Portland, Oregon: Times Media Private Limited. pp. 139–40. Given that rape in front of four uninvolved witnesses is most unusual, it should come as no surprise that plaintiffs alleging rape are exceedingly rare in [countries applying sharia law] 
  49. ^ Ali, Abdullah Yusuf (2004). The Meaning Of The Holy Qur'an (11th Edition). Amana Publications. p. 259.  
  50. ^ Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi (2000). The Meaning of the Qur'an, Volume 2. Islamic Publications. p. 451. 
  51. ^ Gerhard Endress, Islam: An Introduction to Islam, Columbia University Press, 1988, p. 31
  52. ^ Esposito, John L. (2002). What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam. Oxford University Press. p. 151.  
  53. ^ Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi (2000). The Meaning of the Qur'an, Volume 2. Islamic Publications. pp. 48–52. 
  54. ^ Is Brunei’s Harsh New Form of Shari‘a a Godly Move or a Cunning Political Ploy? Time (May 27, 2014)
  55. ^ Lau, Martin (1 September 2007). "Twenty-Five Years of Hudood Ordinances - A Review". Washington and Lee Law Review 64 (4): 1291–1314. 
  56. ^ Women’s rights in Pakistan The Washington Times
  57. ^ Mazrui, Ali A. "Liberal Islam versus Moderate Islam: Elusive Moderation and the Siege Mentality". Retrieved 2006-07-03. 
  58. ^ a b Aisha Y. Musa, The Qur’anists, Florida International University, accessed May 22, 2013.
  59. ^ a b c Neal Robinson (2013), Islam: A Concise Introduction, Routledge, ISBN 978-0878402243, Chapter 7, pp. 85-89
  60. ^ Edip Yuksel, Layth Saleh al-Shaiban, Martha Schulte-Nafeh, Quran: A Reformist Translation, Brainbow Press, 2007
  61. ^ Quran 3:32, Quran 3:132, Quran 4:59, Quran 8:20, Quran 33:66
  62. ^ Muhammad Qasim Zaman (2012), Modern Islamic Thought in a Radical Age, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-1107096455, pp. 30-31

External links

  • An Islamic legal analysis of the rape laws in Pakistan
  • Women's rights in Pakistan - November 17, 2006 editorial in the Washington Times
  • Punishment in Islamic Law: A Critique of the Hudud Bill of Kelantan, Malaysia, Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Arab Law Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 3 (1998), pp. 203–234
  • Islamization and Legal Reform in Malaysia: The Hudud Controversy of 1992, Maria Luisa Seda-Poulin, Southeast Asian Affairs (1993), pp. 224–242
  • Crimes and the Criminal Process, M. Cherif Bassiouni, Arab Law Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 3 (1997), pp. 269–286
  • Criminal Justice under Shari'ah in the 21st Century—An Inter-Cultural View, Michael Bohlander and Mohammad M. Hedayati-Kakhki, Arab Law Quarterly, Vol. 23, No. 4 (2009), pp. 417–436
  • Islamization in Sudan: A Critical Assessment, Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, Middle East Journal, Vol. 44, No. 4 (Autumn, 1990), pp. 610–623
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