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Do Husband and Wife have the same rights in the case of Li’an?

(He is a new convert to Islam, from the Netherlands)

refers to a situation where a person accuses his spouse of adultery. In this article we examine the claim made by a christian writer that only husbands have the right to practise Li`aan' in islam,  or in other words only husbands ( according to the christian writer ) have the right to accuse their spouses of adultery. The case of Li`aan' is explained in Soerah 24:6-11.

Soerah 24:6-11

And for those who launch a charge against their spouses, and have (in support) no evidence but their own,- their solitary evidence (can be received) if they bear witness four times (with an oath) by God that they are solemnly telling the truth; And the fifth (oath) (should be) that they solemnly invoke the curse of God on themselves if they tell a lie. But it would avert the punishment from the wife, if she bears witness four times (with an oath) By God, that (her husband) is telling a lie; And the fifth (oath) should be that she solemnly invokes the wrath of God on herself if (her accuser) is telling the truth. If it were not for God's grace and mercy on you, and that God is Oft-Returning, full of Wisdom,- (Ye would be ruined indeed).

The christian missionary comments:

a woman apparently cannot charge her own husband similarly. A woman apparently can only defend herself against charges brought against her. She cannot play the equal role of the man as accuser.



The above comment made by the christian missionary is not correct and untrue. The scholars of ourdialogue.com comment: “When we speak of the masculine gender used in the Qur’an, we should know that in Arabic this is a standard usage, and it applies to both sexes equally. Nevertheless, God has taken care to mention on several occasions that His provisions and reward apply to men and women in equal measure.  If anyone does not agree, he is then saying that Islamic duties do not apply to women. That is absolutely wrong. Read, if you will: “  1

Surah 3:195  

“Their Lord answered their prayer, saying, ‘I do not let go to waste the labor of any worker from among you, whether male or female, for all of you (human beings) are the offspring of one another. I will, therefore, forgive all the shortcomings of those who left their homes or were expelled from them for My sake or were persecuted and of those that fought for My cause and were slain, and admit them to the Gardens underneath which canals flow. This is their reward from Allah and with Allah alone is the richest reward.”

Surah 33:35

“Most surely the men and the women who have surrendered themselves to Allah; who are believing, obedient, truthful, and patient; who bow down before Allah, practice charity, observe the fasts, guard their private parts and remember Allah much; Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward.” 

Ustadha Zaynab Ansari comments:

“The Arabic language has a grammatical principle that an address to the male gender implicitly includes the female gender, in other words, the implication of the wording is general to both genders.”

An example of this can be found in soerah 5:6

O ye who believe! when ye prepare for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands (and arms) to the elbows; Rub your heads (with water); and (wash) your feet to the ankles. If ye are in a state of ceremonial impurity, bathe your whole body. But if ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands, God doth not wish to place you in a difficulty, but to make you clean, and to complete his favour to you, that ye may be grateful.

Here in soerah 5:6 Allah swt tells us that men have to purify themselves after they had contact ( sexual intercourse ) with their wifes. Anyone who studies islam knows that women too have to purify themselves after they had sexual intercourse with their husbands. Allah swt only explains the law here by using the masculine gender. Like i said before in Arabic this is a standard usage, and it applies to both sexes equally. Another reason why Allah swt uses the masculine gender in most cases to explain his laws, is the fact that most laws were send down to the prophet in the presence of men. And again, i repeat the comments made by muslim scholar Ustadha Zaynab Ansari : “the Arabic language has a grammatical principle that an address to the male gender implicitly includes the female gender, in other words, the implication of the wording is general to both genders.” So now we can clearly see that soerah 24:6-11 does also apply to the situation where a wife wants to accuse her husband of adultery. In other words wifes can also accuse their husbands of adultery (Li’an) , just like husbands can accuse their wifes of adultery. The comments of renowned muslim scholars on soerah 24:6-11 further confirm this:


Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi comments:

 “There is no discrimination between a wife and husband in the case of Li'an. If the wife accuses her husband or the husband accuses his wife, in both cases they will have to produce evidence. In the absence of evidence they have to do the Li'an. After the Li’an, both parties are separated. They are not husband and wife. However, if the wife accused her husband of adultery and then she refused to do the Li'an then in this case she will be punished for Qadhaf. Similarly, if the husband accused his wife of adultery and then when asked to do Li'an he balked, then he will be punished for Qadhaf. Both parties are treated equally in this law. Adultery is Haram for man as it is for woman. There is no special treatment for men or women in this case.”   3

Moiz Amjad comments:

“There is no stated difference in the punishment of the man and the woman, where a person accuses his/her spouse of adultery. However, the Qur'an, as is its general style, has explained the law for a situation where the accuser is the husband. Someone may derive from the statement of the Qur'an that the stated law relates only to a situation where the husband accuses his wife for adultery and, therefore, the law would not apply to a situation where such accusation is made by the wife against her husband. In my opinion, such a derivation is not correct. There is absolutely no reason to restrict the application of the law to only where the accuser is the husband. The law applies to both of the two possible situations.

The referred law is summarized as follows:

If a person accuses his/her spouse of fornication, while there are no witnesses of the incident except the accuser, then the accuser would declare four times under oath that he/she is truthful in his/her accusation and a fifth time, he would invoke God's wrath upon himself/herself, if he/she were to lie. In response, the accused shall be considered as guilty unless he/she declares under oath that the accusation is false and a fifth time he/she would invoke God's wrath upon himself/herself if he/she were to lie.

If both the accuser and the accused were to make the stated declarations under oath, then the accused shall not be subjected to any punishment and neither would the accuser be considered to have made a false allegation. No punishment shall be implemented upon either of the parties.

I really do not see any reason to restrict the implication of the law to a situation where the accusation is made by the husband. Just as the Qur'an has stated the law for defamation (Qazaf), with reference to unfounded accusations upon pious women, yet it applies to all unfounded accusations whether against men or women, in the same manner the law for 'li`aan' (accusation of sexual infidelity) would apply to both possible situations, even though the law is explained with reference to a particular situation only.”  4

Shayk Abdullah Yusuf Ali comments:

“The case of married persons is different from that of outsiders. If one of them accuses the other of unchasity, the accusation partly reflects on the accuser as well. Moreover, the link which unites married people even where differences supervene, is sure to act as a steadying influence against the concoction of false charges of unchasity particularly where divorce is allowed (as in Islam) for reasons other than unchasity. Suppose a husband catches a wife in adultery. In the nature of things four witnesses - or even one outside witness -   would be impossible. Yet after such an experience it is against human nature that he can live a normal married life. The matter is then left to the honour of the two spouses. If the husband can solemnly swear four times to the fact, and in addition invoke a curse on himself if he lies, that is prima facie evidence of the wife’s guilt. But if the wife swears similarly four times and similarly invokes a curse on herself, she is in law acquitted of the guilt. If she does not take this step, the charge is held proved and the punishment follows. In either case the marriage is dissolved, as it is against human nature that the parties can live together happy after such an incident.”  5

We clearly see that both husband and wife have the right to practise 'li`aan'. 'Li`aan' refers to a situation where a person accuses his spouse of adultery, but does not have any witnesses to support his/her accusation. Like Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi said: “There is no discrimination between a wife and husband in the case of Li'an.” Moreover the Qu’ran tells us in soerah 2:228 that: “And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them.”


1: http://www.ourdialogue.com/e3.htm

2: http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=7&ID=6446&CATE=3120  

3: http://www.islam-online.net/livefatwa/english/Browse.asp?hGuestID=9w3YXt 

4: http://www.understanding-islam.com/related/text.asp?type=question&qid=1150&sscatid=174

5: The Meaning of The Holy Qur’an, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Note 2960, Page 866





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