Islam stipulates a severe punishment for slander. The punishment referred to in the Qur’an comes in parallel with the severity of the crime that may affect people’s honor, which is protected by Islamic teachings as well as man-made laws. Accusing someone of sodomy without evidence (bringing forth four witnesses, as the Islamic Shari`ah stipulates) is a heinous crime that takes the same ruling of accusing someone with zina (Arabic for: illegitimate sexual intercourse).
In this regard, Dr. Taha Jaber Al-`Alwani, former president of the Fiqh Council of North America and president of the Cordoba University, Virginia, US, stated: There is a consensus among scholars of the Shafi`i school of fiqh and scholars of exegesis of the Qur’an that slandering someone by accusing him of committing sodomy takes the same ruling of slander when accusing someone of committing adultery or fornication, as stated in Surat An-Nur. Imam Ahmad and Imam Malik agreed on this opinion, stating that the ruling pertaining to slandering someone by accusing him or her of sodomy is the same in case of slander by accusing someone of zina. This is based on the fact that scholars deem sodomy like zina, and the sodomite, whether a man or a woman, is like the adulterer or the fornicator, if the crime is proved.
As for the slanderer who falsely accuses anyone with sodomy, he or she should receive the prescribed penalty of the slanderer of adultery, according to both Maliki and Shafi`i schools of fiqh. Thus, if someone accuses a person saying words like, “He is a sodomite or one of Lot’s people,” the accuser is to receive the prescribed penalty of slander according to both schools.
Some Hadith scholars also state the same ruling, like the prominent scholar `Abdul-Qadir `Udah in his book At-Tashri` Al-Jina’i fi Al-Islam (Criminal Legislation in Islam).
In the chapter on slander, he wrote, “The Shafi`i scholars say, ‘If a person says to another that he has committed sodomy or so and so have committed sodomy with him of his own free will, then this is considered a slander that necessitates the prescribed penalty, and in this way, it is similar to the slander of zina.
In the Kuwaiti Encyclopedia of Jurisprudence, it is mentioned that: If a person accuses another of committing the crime of Lot’s people, he should receive the prescribed penalty for slander, because sodomy is similar to zina. This is the opinion of many scholars like Al-Hasan Al-Basri, An-Nakh`i, Az-Zuhri, Malik, Ahmad, Muhammad ibn Al-Hasan Ash-Shaibani, and Abu Yusuf. All of them agreed with Imam Ash-Shafi`i’s opinion. On the other hand, only `Ataa’, Qatadah, and Abu Hanifah disagreed. They deem that a discretionary punishment should be applied in this case not the prescribed one, because of the hideousness of this crime, bearing in mind that the discretionary punishment could be more severe than the prescribed one (i.e., more than 80 lashes), and which may even reach the death sentence. (Vol. 33, p. 9)
Now let us look into some of what the most prominent exegetes said about the Qur’anic verses on chastity and slander:
1. In Ibn `Atiyyah’s Al-Muharrar Al-Wajiz fi Tafsir Al-Kitab Al-`Aziz, it is stated, “Allah mentioned slandering women because accusing them of adultery or fornication is more serious and more hideous than slandering men, though slandering men is included under this meaning, and scholars of the nation uniformly agree on this opinion.” Another similar ruling is the prohibition of eating the flesh of swine, which applies also to eating the fat and the cartilage of the swine, according to the consensus of scholars in this respect.”
2. Abu Bakr Al-Jaza’iri stated in his At-Tafsir Al-Muyassar that “Those who slander male or female believers [i.e. Muslims] by accusing them of committing zina or sodomy, must produce four witnesses to testify before the judge, supporting their accusation; otherwise, they are to be punished (i.e. 80 lashes).”
3. In his exegesis of the Qur’an, Imam Al-Baghawi stated, “A punishment of 80 lashes must be exec
uted on any person who slanders another by accusing him or her with zina or sodomy, whether the accused is single, married, or previously married.”
Moreover, Dr. Salah Sultan, president of the American Center for Islamic Research, Columbus, Ohio, US, and member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, added: The punishment prescribed in Islam for the one who slanders another with sodomy is the same punishment for one who slanders another with zina. This is indicated by analogy from Almighty Allah’s saying, [And those who accuse honorable women but bring not four witnesses, scourge them (with) 80 stripes and never (afterward) accept their testimony. They indeed are evildoers] (An-Nur 24:4).
thus, the punishment mentioned in the verse includes accusing men or women with zina; by virtue of analogy, it also includes accusing men or women with sodomy. May Allah guide us all to see truth as truth and follow it and to see evil as evil and shun it.