What Is the Punishment for Adultery and Murder?

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch


I heard that the punishment for adultery is 100 lashes, and for murder, it’s a beheading. Wouldn’t this entail that the punishment for murder is less severe than that of adultery?


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

Short Answer

The punishment for fornication (i.e., zina of an unmarried person) is 100 lashes. These lashes are done in a way that does not lead to death. Adultery (i.e., zina of a married person) is to be stoned to death. As for murder, the death penalty is only imposed for the killing of any whose life is permanently sacred when done intentionally with no ambiguity.

That said, the punishment for murder is more severe than the 100 lashes of the fornicator as the former forfeits their life and the latter lives on. In comparison between the murderer and the adulterer who is stoned to death, one could argue that the punishment of the adulterer is greater.

This has many wisdoms. In a predominantly normal society murder is not as likely or as common as adultery. Furthermore, the harms of adultery profoundly affect more people and society than that of murder.

Broken homes, illegitimate children, children who do not know their fathers, and licentiousness are just a few, and the harms of these few may last for many generations.

Background Information

Capital punishments (Hudud) are defined in the sacred law as specific punishments established as Allah Most High’s right. Their primary purpose is to deter those acts that cause society or personal harm to creation. An additional purpose (although not the main purpose) is that it acts as a purification for the sin.

Retaliation (Qisas) is ….. It relates to the rights of the creation.

Governmental Punishments (T’azir)

Adultery (Zina)

Adultery/fornication is legally established by legal testimony or by confession.

Legal Testimony

Legal testimony must be given before the judge – all at once – by four free upright male witnesses who saw the act. The judge will then try to discourage them from going forth with the testimony by asking them a series of questions: What is Zina? How does Zina occur? With whom was the Zina? When was the Zina?

If their answer meets the requirements, their stories align, and they are known to be upright both in private and public matters, a legal judgment will be passed.

Any discrepancy in their answer will immediately result in the judgment being overturned.


If a sane adult confesses to Zina with the following conditions and they answer – the punishment will be carried out on them:

They will confess to the judge four times in four different sessions
The judge will reject their testimony, rebuke them for confessing, and display disapproval for the confession each time
The fourth confession will be met with the same aforementioned questions to which they must reply correctly

If all four of these conditions are met, the punishment will be carried out according to the individual’s marital status.

The Punishment for Zina

Married Person (Muḥṣin)

The punishment for Zina for a married person, whether established by testimony or confession, is to be stoned until death. They will be taken out to a deserted area. In the case of testimony, the first to stone them will be the witnesses. If they refuse to do so, the punishment is not carried out.

This is based on the principle of the Sacred Law established by the statement of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace), “Prevent the establishment of capital punishment to the extent possible.” [Tirmidhi]

In the case of confession, the Imam is the first to commence the stoning.

Unmarried Person

The punishment for zina for an unmarried person, whether established by testimony or confession, is to be given 100 lashes. This is described in the following verse:

Allah Most High says, “As for female and male fornicators, give each of them one hundred lashes, and do not let pity for them make you lenient in ˹enforcing˺ the law of Allah, if you ˹truly˺ believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a number of believers witness their punishment.” [Quran; 24:2]

The lashes will be carried out with moderate strength, between that which causes injury and that which is not painful. Injurious lashes may lead to death, and painless lashes defeat the purpose.

The person will have their clothing removed except for that which covers what has legally been deemed nakedness (‘awra). The lashes are spread around the body not to cause severe injury to any part. The head, face, and private areas are avoided.

Retaliation (Qisas) for Killing and Its Types

The punishment for killing is determined according to the nature of the killing. There are five scenarios for this determination:

Intentional killing (Homicide)
Killing that seems to be intentional
Accidental killing  (Manslaughter)
Killing that is legally considered accidental
Killing by way of an abnormal means

One: Intentional Killing

Intentional Killing is defined as striking someone with a weapon or a sharp object that intrinsically can kill or mame: a sharp object like a sword or knife; a heavy stone; fire; etc..

The punishment for this type is major sin and retaliation. Expiation is not allowed. That is unless the guardians of the deceased opt for blood money or other alternative punishments.

Two: Seemingly Intentional Killing

This type is defined as intentionally striking someone with an object that is not a weapon nor is it predominantly used as a weapon.

The punishment for this type is major sin, expiation, and blood money.

Three: Accidental Killing

Accidental killing is of two types:

One, the accident related to the person killed.

For example, if Zayd shoots an arrow at what he thinks is a deer, it turns out to be a person. Or he shoots at an enemy combatant and it turns out to be a fellow Muslim ally.

Two, the accident related to the action.

For example, Zayd shoots at a target and accidentally misses and hits a human.

The punishment for accidental killing regardless of the type is expiation and blood money; no sin.

Four: Killing that is legally considered accidental

An example of this type is a person who is sleeping and rolls over on to someone and kills them thereby.

The punishment for this is the same as the accidental killing.

Five: Killing by way of abnormal means

An example is a person who digs a well on someone else’s property without their or the ruler’s permission. Because of this action, a person dies by falling into the well.

The punishment for this type is expiation and blood money. They are sinful for the act but they do not incur the sin of killing.

The Punishment of Retaliation

Retaliation is necessary to impose for the killing of all whose life is permanently sacred when done intentionally with no ambiguity.

If such an act is committed, punishment is imposed as in the following verse:

Allah Most High says, “O believers! The law of retaliation is set for you in cases of murder—a free man for a free man, a slave for a slave, and a female for a female. But if the offender is pardoned by the victim’s guardian, then blood money should be decided fairly and payment should be made courteously. This is a concession and a mercy from your Lord. But whoever transgresses after that will suffer a painful punishment. There is ˹security of˺ life for you in ˹the law of˺ retaliation, O  people of reason, so that you may become mindful ˹of Allah˺.” [Quran; 2:178-9]

In the case of intentional permanent injury, the like will be done to the perpetrator if an equivalent injury is possible.

Allah Most High says, “We ordained for them in the Torah, “A life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth—and for wounds equal retaliation.” But whoever waives it charitably, it will be atonement for them. And those who do not judge by what Allah has revealed are truly the wrongdoers.” [Quran; 5:45]

Hope this helps
Allah knows best

[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he went on to study at Darul Uloom Seminary in New York and completed his studies in Darul Mustafa in Tarim, Yemen. There he completed the memorization of the Qur’an and his study of the Islamic Sciences. Throughout his years of study he was blessed to learn from many great scholars: al-Habib Umar bin Hafiz, al-Habib Kazhim al-Saqqaf, al-Shaykh Umar bin Husayn al-Khatib, and others. Upon returning, he joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.