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Quran Chapter 24 [part 1] - The Light - Compulsory Punishments, A Lesson, Manners

This Medinan sura clarifies regulations for the Muslim community: marriage, modesty, obedience to the Prophet, and appropriate behavior. The initial context is the false rumor against Aisha, the Prophet’s wife, who was left behind unwittingly by her travelling companions after wandering away in search of a dropped necklace. She was escorted back to Medina by a Muslim man coming later who found her there. The sura is named after the Verse of Light (verses 35–36) where God’s light is contrasted to the darkness in which the disbelievers find themselves engulfed.

In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy

Compulsory Punishments

1 This is a sura We have sent down and made obligatory: We have sent down clear revelations in it, so that you may take heed. 2 Strike the adulteress and the adulterer [a] one hundred times. [b] Do not let compassion for them keep you from carrying out God’s law––if you believe in God and the Last Day––and ensure that a group of believers witnesses the punishment. 3 The adulterer is only [fit] to marry [c] an adulteress or an idolatress, and the adulteress is only [fit] to marry an adulterer or an idolater: such behavior is forbidden to believers. 4 As for those who accuse chaste women of fornication, and then fail to provide four witnesses, strike them eighty times, and reject their testimony ever afterwards: they are the lawbreakers, 5 except for those who repent later and make amends––God is most forgiving and merciful.

6 As for those who accuse their own wives of adultery, but have no other witnesses, let each one four times call God to witness that he is telling the truth, 7 and, the fifth time, call God to reject him if he is lying; 8 punishment shall be averted from his wife if she in turn four times calls God to witness that her husband is lying 9 and, the fifth time, calls God to reject her if he is telling the truth.

A Lesson

10 If it were not for God’s bounty and mercy towards you, if it were not that God accepts repentance and is wise . . .! [d] 11 It was a group from among you that concocted the lie [e] ––do not consider it a bad thing for you [people]; it was a good thing––and every one of them will be charged with the sin he has earned. He who took the greatest part in it will have a painful punishment. 12 When you heard the lie, why did believing men and women not think well of their own people and declare, ‘This is obviously a lie’? 13 And why did the accusers not bring four witnesses to it? If they cannot produce such witnesses, they are the liars in God’s eyes. 14 If it were not for God’s bounty and mercy towards you in this world and the next, you would already have been afflicted by terrible suffering for indulging in such talk. 15 When you took it up with your tongues, and spoke with your mouths things you did not know [to be true], you thought it was trivial but to God it was very serious. 16 When you heard the lie, why did you not say, ‘We should not repeat this– God forbid!– It is a monstrous slander’? 17 God warns you never to do anything like this again, if you are true believers. 18 God makes His messages clear to you: God is all knowing, all wise. 19 A painful punishment waits in this world and the next for those who like indecency to spread among the believers: God knows and you do not. 20 If it were not for God’s bounty and mercy and the fact that He is compassionate and merciful . . .! 21 Believers, do not follow in Satan’s footsteps– if you do so, he will urge you to indecency and evil. If it were not for God’s bounty and mercy towards you, not one of you would ever have attained purity. God purifies whoever He will: God is all hearing, all seeing.

22 Those who have been graced with bounty and plenty should not swear that they will [no longer] give to kinsmen, the poor, those who emigrated in God’s way: [f] let them pardon and forgive. Do you not wish that God should forgive you? God is most forgiving and merciful.

23 Those who accuse honorable but unwary believing women are rejected by God, in this life and the next. A painful punishment awaits them 24 on the Day when their own tongues, hands, and feet will testify against them about what they have done– 25 on that Day, God will pay them their just due in full– and they will realize that God is the Truth that makes everything clear. 26 Corrupt women are for corrupt men, and corrupt men are for corrupt women; good women are for good men and good men are for good women. The good are innocent of what has been said against them; they will have forgiveness and a generous provision.


a. The crime of zina in Arabic covers all extramarital sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.

b. Jalada in Arabic means ‘hit the skin’ with the hand or anything else. There are reports that people used shoes, clothes, etc. (Bukhari, Hudud 4).

c. This is not an injunction but a statement of fact, emphasizing the guilt of both. There is another opinion that yankihu is used in its original sense of ‘copulate’. Whichever translation is used, this is not part of the punishment but a condemnation of the crime.

d. The statement ‘If it were not for God’s bounty and mercy’ is repeated four times in this context, but the concluding clauses are suspended in verses 10 and 20. This rhetorical suspense works in English and in Arabic. (See verses 14, 20, 21).

e. This alludes to the accusation made against Aisha, the Prophet’s wife.

f. Abu Bakr, father of Aisha, who used to support a relative called Mistah, swore, when Mistah participated in spreading the rumor, that he would never support Mistah again.

The Qur'an (Oxford World's Classics)

The Qur'an / a new translation by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, copyright © 2004 Oxford World's Classics (Oxford University Press). Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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