Sexual Assault

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful

Contents of this Article:

  1. Introduction: “What is sexual assault”
  2. A Letter of Concern
  3. The Case of Yusuf a.s.
  4. Comments on an Article: “Rape in Islamic Law …”
  5. A Valid Question
  6. Discussion on ‘The Audio Leak’
  7. Conclusion

[1] Introduction: “What is sexual assault?

A sexual assault is any sexual act that a person did not consent to, or is forced into against their will. It is a form of sexual violence and includes rape, … or other sexual offences, such as groping, forced kissing, child sexual abuse, or the torture of a person in a sexual manner. Sexual assault is an act that is carried out without the victim’s active consent. This means they didn’t agree to it. …”

[Source: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/help-after-rape-and-sexual-assault/%5D

“Sexual assault and abuse are serious crimes which continue to have a significant impact on our society. The devastating consequences for any victim can often be misunderstood and neglected.  Despite this, the vast number of victims remain hidden due to a fear of coming forward or a lack of faith in organisations. …”

[Source: https://www.england.nhs.uk/commissioning/health-just/sexual-assault-and-abuse/%5D

“Sexual assault and abuse affect people from all genders, ages and sexual identities. An estimated half a million adults living in the UK are sexually assaulted each year. 1 in 20 people will have experienced childhood sexual abuse.

The impact of sexual assault and sexual abuse can have pronounced physical, emotional and psychological health consequences for individuals, both in the immediate aftermath and long term. 

Sexual assault and abuse happen to many people.  Despite this, the majority of victims and survivors do not disclose or report their experiences due to a fear of judgement or disbelief.”

[Source: https://www.alleast.nhs.uk/sexual-assault/%5D

It is strongly advised to report rape or attempted sexual assault, as soon as possible after the crime, without unnecessary delay:

[Source: https://www.gov.uk/report-rape-sexual-assault%5D

[2] A Letter of Concern (sent 7th January 2022):

The issue addressed in the ‘letter of concern’ below is whether the norms of deciding disputes i.e. an evaluation of the available evidence and witness testimony, would apply by default in cases of sexual assault (including rape) accusations, or not.

The letter was sent to caliph v, mirza masroor ahmad sahib, current head of the ahmadiyya community, and also subsequently sent via email to various missionaries and some others, including officials, within the ahmadiyya community. The letter/emails run as follows:

“In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful

….

Assalaamu ‘alaikum wa Rahmatullaah

I hope and pray you are in the very best of health, Ameen.

I am writing to express my concern that some ahmadis are claiming these days that four witnesses are required to support an accusation made against someone of rape, whereas this is only stipulated as a requirement in cases of zina in the Holy Qur’an.

On the other hand, we know from a study of the account of Hadhrat Yusuf a.s. that the wife of his egyptian master was guilty of attempted sexual assault, in that she used force (jabr) in trying to restrain him from running away from her towards the door when she was trying to seduce him, tearing his shirt from behind in the process, as stated in the Qur’an:

[12:26] “And they both raced to the door, and she tore his shirt (lengthwise) from behind, and they found her husband at the door. She said, ‘What shall be the punishment of one who designed evil to thy wife, save imprisonment or a painful punishment?’”

Though she used the unspecific word ‘evil’ (soo’an) and not the word ‘rape’ (ightisaab), this may have been to highlight the enormity of attempted rape. Also, her suggestion of an unspecified painful punishment, perhaps lashing, stoning, or crucifixion, also supports the view that her accusation was one of attempted rape by him.

Hadhrat Yusuf a.s. countered her accusation by emphasising that she herself was the one who was guilty of attempted sexual assault, against his will, viz:

[12:27] “He said, ‘She, she it was who sought to lure me against my will.’ …”

We can also see that a single (expert) witness testimony using an argument based on the evidence sufficed to prove who was the guilty party:

[12:27] … And a witness of her household bore witness saying, ‘If his shirt is torn from the front, then she has spoken the truth and he is of the liars.

[12:28] “‘But if his shirt is torn from behind, then she has lied and he is of the truthful.’

[12:29] So when he saw his shirt torn from behind, he said, ‘Surely, this is a device of you women. Your device is indeed mighty.”

Thus, a study of the Holy Qur’an shows that there is no need for four witnesses when an accusation of sexual assault or rape is made by one person against any other/s.

Though it is against our principles to interpret the Qur’an to conform to the Bible, it is interesting to note that Jewish and Christian exegetes interpret the account of the incident of Joseph a.s. in Genesis 39 of the Bible to imply that she had accused Joseph a.s. of attempted rape, and a number of references from the Talmud state the same, that it was an accusation of attempted rape. 

It would be advisable for our scholars to study the account of the Qur’an and revise fiqh ahmadiyya on the matter of how to handle accusations of sexual assault in light of the relevant verses of Sura Yusuf. 

It is abundantly clear from a proper reflection on the relevant verses of the Holy Qur’an that one single valid testimony suffices, and that four witnesses are not stipulated as a requirement in such cases.

Wassalaam …”

[3] The Case of Yusuf a.s.

The incident mentioned in the letter above concerning the false accusation made against Yusuf a.s. as recounted in the Qur’an, corroborates the standard procedure in court cases of evaluating any available evidence. It is clear that the wife of the Egyptian master of Yusuf a.s. was guilty of a sexual assault, and not just of attempted seduction, because:

[1] she had bolted the doors [12:24], contrary to his will, and without his (prior) consent, effectively trapping him.

[2] he refused to comply with her order to come to her, seeking refuge in God instead [12:24], but she ignored this, and persisted in her attempt.

[3] she tore his shirt [12:29] as she pulled on it from behind, so as to prevent his escape whilst racing towards the door.

[4] All of what she did was against his will, as clearly and categorically stated five times in the Qur’an, and corroborated by the actions of Yusuf a.s., for he firmly resisted all attempts at seduction and assault during the ordeal.

[4] Comments on an Article: ‘Rape in Islamic Law: Establishing the crime & upholding the rights of the innocent’:

An official organ/periodical of the ahmadiyya muslim community has recently (11th January 2022) published an article on this matter:

Rape in Islamic law: Establishing the crime and upholding the rights of the innocent

The article does not refer to the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Noble Messenger Muhammad s.a., which form the primary sources of Islam, but mainly quotes material from the schools of fiqh (i.e. jurisprudence). Whilst the article still also mentions a requirement to produce four witnesses, which I firmly and strongly disagree with, the section entitled ‘Establishing rape through other forms of evidence’ contains a very interesting incident which corroborates the validity of the contents of the ‘letter of concern’ mentioned above.

There is no doubt in my mind that outdated classical islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) needs urgent review in the light of the Holy Qur’an, and not only is there a dire need to properly train muslim women as scholars, and consult them especially on matters pertaining to women, as per one of the readers comments following the article, viz:

Assalam o alaikum. I think the explanations given above do Islam a disservice. Rape in itself is something that happens in private. Those that commit this heinous crime do so behind closed doors, as they know, that if found out, they would be shunned from society.

It would be, and is, impossible to find 4 witnesses. Rape, most commonly happens within families, including the elite, introducing additional layers of coersive control. I find it disturbing to read that Islam expects an individual who has already endured unspeakable trauma to further suffer, in order to attain appropriate justice.

Further, the explanations above do not show Islamic teachings as those that preserve the wellbeing of society as a whole. With such extreme requirements to prove rape with repercussions on the victim, if they cannot bring forward enough evidence, only creates an environment where rape and abuse can continue without any accountability.

When modern day statistics show that the rate of false rape accusations is between 5-10% of all reported rapes – and where only 35% of all rapes are actually reported – why is more care given to fasle accusations rather than proper justice for victims and creating a safer world for men, women and children?

I think this article proves that the matter of rape is not well understood by islamic scholars. Much of it has been based on schools of thought and open to interpretation. More importantly – it is way overdue for women to have a seat at the table to consult and devise better rules.” [by Khaula S 14th January 2022 At 8:51 am]

Another article appeared on the issue of four witnesses, to which the same person as above offered another excellent comment:

Islam Today: Does a victim of rape need to provide four witnesses?

[5] A Valid Question:

I was asked a question on twitter, that what can an accuser, who has no evidence or witness (i.e. for alleged rape), do? My response was to the effect that:

[1] She/he can appeal to a lawyer &/or expert witness to assist them in furnishing some sort of evidence. If this is deemed insufficient, then:

[2] The accuser/accused can both be asked to swear (once) in the name of Allah that they’re truthful. If both maintain that their respective stances are truthful, then:

[3] Cursing, i.e. drawing the wrath of Allah, can be the last resort.

[6] Discussion on ‘The Audio Leak’:

An audio recording of a 3rd July 2021 conversation between Ms Nida ul Nasser and caliph v, mirza masroor ahmad sahib, was leaked on social media, apparently by a friend of Ms Nida rather than herself, on 11th December 2021. Ms Nida has alleged she was raped by four men over the years, one of them being her own father.

The evidences (which I haven’t seen myself, so I will not be commenting on the them) in support of her accusations supplied by Ms Nida were apparently ignored by mirza masroor sahib on the basis that ‘indecency’ (he used the word fahaashi) should be suppressed, and also that four witnesses were required. I have already addressed above why it is wrong to demand four witnesses in the case of alleged rape, which would add up to the ridiculous number of sixteen witnesses in the case of Ms Nida, who has brought allegations against four men. With regards to the issue of alleged ‘indecency’ in airing her case publicly, the following verse comes to mind:

[4:149] “Allah likes not the uttering of unseemly speech in public, except (on the part of) one who is wronged. Verily, Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.”

This is not a case of an accusation of zina (fornication or adultery), or another indecency, without the stipulated four witnesses. It is a case of accusations of a gross evil, rape (ightisaab), in which one individual is allegedly wronged by others.

Rather than attempt to suppress such an evil deed, and advise dropping the case entirely, people ought to speak out against such abuse, and also endeavour to prevent any such wrong and evil deeds being perpetrated within the community in the present as well as in the future. The following hadith of the Noble Prophet Muhammad s.a. comes to mind:

“On the authority of Abu Sa`eed al-Khudree (may Allah be pleased with him) who said:

I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say, “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart – and that is the weakest of faith.” [Muslim,49

[Source: https://sunnah.com/nawawi40:34%5D

The following verse also comes to mind:

[28:18] “He (i.e. Musa a.s.) said, ‘My Lord, because You have bestowed favour upon me, I will never be a helper of the guilty.’”

[7] Conclusion

There is no true Islamic requirement for four witnesses in the case of rape. In the Ms Nida ul Nasser case, she would be required to produce sixteen witnesses if this were so. Indeed, I have not come across in my study so far, the case of any woman who has ever been able to produce, in the course of human history, the supposedly required four witnesses in support of her accusation of rape. This demonstrates that it is impossible or at least next to impossible to do so, and it is the height of injustice to demand it. This also highlights the deplorable situation with regards to muslim womens rights which I have previously brought up in my post on ‘womens rights’, and which I would recommend reading.

Islamic jurisprudence has been formulated by men without consulting women scholars, as becomes evident from a consideration of how rape is dealt with. These men have in practice distorted the meaning of the verse [4:35] to mean that men are the protectors of fellow men rather than of women! There is a dire need for fully trained women scholars to review the ‘fiqh of women’ and revise it so that injustices to women are prevented. There is also an urgent need for women to collectively realise this need and effectively raise your voices to reclaim your true Islamic rights and status.

Please leave a comment below and check https://the-truths.org/ for other articles.

[19:77] Allah increases in guidance those who follow the guidance.

[20:48] Peace be upon those who follow the guidance.

Author: Zubair Ahmed

Truth seeker

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