Does Islamic Law Require Witnesses to Punish a Rapist?

18 October, 2017
Q How is rape really dealt with in Islamic law? Many majority Muslim societies punish the victim and show no regard for the life and safety of the victim. If this is the reality of Islam, I find this outrageous and I cannot and will not believe that God would sanction this torture of a person who is already been victimized so brutally.


Short Answer: Of course not. Rape is NOT a form of consensual adultery. Rape is a matter of one person attacking another innocent person, and such attacks do not require four witnesses to punish the offender. “The attacker needs to be dealt with. The other person is the victim. And we need to respect the rights of the victim and bring her justice.”

Asalamu Alaikum,

Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question. Dr. Shabir Ally from addresses this question in the video below.


Aisha Khaja: Dr. Shabir, the question that we have today is from a student in UK.

And they’re asking about a question regarding Islamic Sharia law’s stance on the subject of rape and victims of rape.

And the viewer says: “I read that if the victim does not have four men who have witnessed the rape, then it’s not provable. And therefore, the victim may be punished as well. If this is the case, then proving of the case might be difficult.”

And the viewer argues that this might be seen as not being just.


Dr. Shabir Ally: Yeah so, in view of limited time, let me start with the solution and then describe where the problem has been.

The solution to this is to treat rape as falling under hirabah, which is generally crimes against people, similar to highway robbery and other crimes involving an attack on persons: brigandry, burglary, and so on.

Well, if its treated under that category, then it’s just a simple attack of one person against another.

We do not need the four witnesses that normally are needed in the case of trying to prove adultery.

Now, so that’s the solution in which case there is no real problem.

And in fact, because this solution has not been applied widely enough, that’s why the question comes to be raised because you may have a case where a girl is raped, and then she becomes pregnant as a result.

And then in some classical formulations of Islamic Law, actually she now comes to be seen as an adulteress because the issue that [she] somehow [has to] disprove that she has committed adultery.

And that’s because the problem is that they have treated rape under the broad umbrella of adultery cases.

So, now in adultery cases you gotta prove adultery to apply the classical Islamic law against adulterers.

Then you have to prove your case by citing four witnesses.

And if you’re thinking, “okay, the girl claiming that she’s been raped this is a claim that somebody is committed adultery with her.”

Now we have to find the four witnesses: obviously won’t find the four witnesses especially if the rapist is clever enough to hide his actions from the public.

And what will happen then is that the girl might be accused of slander, that she is slandering somebody else.

And then the classical Islamic law about that means that she will be punished for her slander.

Aisha Khaja: Ok, so, that’s where the questions come from.

Dr. Shabir Ally: Double problem for the poor girl.

First, she’s been raped and now she’s being accused of slander.

So, put it under highway robbery or attacks against the person simply enough.

Then what we have here is a simple case of one person attacking another one.

The attacker needs to be dealt with. The other person is the victim. And we need to respect the rights of the victim and bring her justice.

I hope this helps answer your question. Please keep in touch.

Walaikum Asalam.

(From AboutIslam’s archives)

Read more:

Does Hijab Guarantee Protection From Sexual Assault?

Are Raped Women Punished in Islam?

3 Major Goals of Islamic Shariah

About Dr. Shabir Ally
Dr. Shabir Ally holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, with a specialization in Biblical Literature. He also holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto with a specialization in Quranic Exegesis. He is the president of the Islamic Information and Dawah Centre International in Toronto where he functions as Imam. He travels internationally to represent Islam in public lectures and interfaith dialogues. He explains Islam on a weekly television program called "Let the Quran Speak". Past episodes of this show can be seen online at: