Abou El Fadl on Sexual Violence in Islamic Law

SHARIAsource Senior Scholar Khaled Abou El Fadl recently gave a lecture (available on YouTube here) regarding the prohibition of torture in Islam, which he explained is not derived from modern international law, but rather from the Qurʾān and ḥadīth. In particular, Abou El Fadl pushed back against the misconception that, under Islamic criminal law, victims of torture such as sexual abuse, sexual assault, and sexual violence must have four witnesses in order to prove their case:

The law of four witnesses was decreed to protect the honor of people, especially women. It was not a license for sexual harassment and sexual assault. Sexual assault is not subject to the law of evidence for zinā [extramarital sex]. Sexual assault is the crime of ḥirāba—terrorism.

The SHARIAsource Portal contains court cases from around the world dealing with various aspects of Islamic law. Among the cases related to zinā is a 2002 case of a Nigerian woman who was sentenced to death for having a child out of wedlock. This case caused international controversy, and the Sharīʿa Court of Appeal of Katsina State ultimately overturned her conviction, finding that it “is unjust and is in conflict with Islamic law.” Read the decision (translated from Hausa into English) here.