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Zina (Arabic: الزنا‎ ) is the Arabic word for "unlawful sexual relations." It is used to refer to both adultery and fornication.

The Islamic definition of adultery differs from the commonly agreed upon definition of the word. The meaning also differs in relation to gender.

Married Men

Adultery is the consensual sex with a woman who does not qualify as one of the following:

  1. His wife
  2. His concubine
  3. His slave[1][2]

A Muslim man is permitted to have up to four wives[3] and an unlimited number of concubines and slave girls[4]. Unmarried men cannot be found guilty of adultery even if they sleep with another man's wife. They can only be found guilty of fornication which does not merit the death penalty in Islam. If an unmarried man sleeps with a married woman, her transgression merits death by stoning but his transgression merits 100 lashes and possible exile for one year.[5]

Married Women

Adultery is the consensual sex with a man who does not qualify as one of the following:

  1. Her husband

A Muslim woman can only have one husband at a time. She may not have sex with her male slaves.[6] Her husband must be the result of an arranged marriage. If not, sex between the couple is classed as adultery.[7]

This page is featured in the core article, Islam and Women which serves as a starting point for anyone wishing to learn more about this topic Core part.png

See Also

  • Adultery - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Adultery


  1. "The believers must (eventually) win through,- Those who humble themselves in their prayers; Who avoid vain talk; Who are active in deeds of charity; Who abstain from sex, Except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess,- for (in their case) they are free from blame, But those whose desires exceed those limits are transgressors;- " - Qur'an 23:1-7
  2. "And those who guard their chastity, Except with their wives and the (captives) whom their right hands possess,- for (then) they are not to be blamed, " - Qur'an 70:29-30
  3. "If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice. " - Qur'an 4:3
  4. "(Indeed We know what We have enjoined upon them about their wives) means, `concerning the limiting of their number to four free women, and whatever they wish of slave-girls" - Tafsir Ibn Kathir - Quran 33:50
  5. "Narrated Abu Huraira and Zaid bin Khalid Al-Juhani: A bedouin came and said, "O Allah's Apostle! Judge between us according to Allah's Laws." His opponent got up and said, "He is right. Judge between us according to Allah's Laws." The bedouin said, "My son was a laborer working for this man, and he committed illegal sexual intercourse with his wife. The people told me that my son should be stoned to death; so, in lieu of that, I paid a ransom of one hundred sheep and a slave girl to save my son. Then I asked the learned scholars who said, "Your son has to be lashed one-hundred lashes and has to be exiled for one year." The Prophet said, "No doubt I will judge between you according to Allah's Laws. The slave-girl and the sheep are to go back to you, and your son will get a hundred lashes and one year exile." He then addressed somebody, "O Unais! go to the wife of this (man) and stone her to death" So, Unais went and stoned her to death." - Sahih Bukhari 3:49:860
  6. - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an (Quran 23:1-11, Footnote 7 #2)
  7. "It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that: the Messenger of Allah said: “No woman should arrange the marriage of another woman, and no woman should arrange her own marriage. The adulteress is the one who arranges her own marriage.” (Sahih)" - Ibn Majah Vol. 3, Book 9, Hadith 1882