On ‘Honor’ Killing

Salam alaikum,

I was disturbed to see that Hizb al-tahrir -- a group well-known for its eccentric positions on the Khilafa -- issued a statement claiming that Islam supports the concept of "honor" killing based on a dubious analogy to the fact that someone killed protecting his honor is deemed a martyr.  I wish I could have appended my response to their "communique," but it was so shockingly reflective of ignorance that my only choice was to delete it immediately and ask Allah to guide us out of the ocean of darkness in which we find ourselves.

Meanwhile, having found a few minutes, I located Ibn 'Abd al-Barr's discussion of this issue in his monumental "Al-Istidhkar li-madhahib fuqaha` al-amsar," which is a book of comparative fiqh in the guise of a commentary upon the Muwatta` of Imam Malik, may Allah be well-pleased with him. 

"Al-Istidhkar al-jami’ li-madhahib fuqaha` al-amsar[1]

Abu ‘Umar Yusuf b. ‘Abdallah b. Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr Beirut: 
Mu`assasat al-risala, 1414/1993 Vol. 22, pp. 149-54  

"The Legal Ruling (qada`) Regarding One Who Discovers a [non-Mahrim] Man With His Wife

Malik narrated from Suhayl b. Abi Salih al-Samman, from his father, from Abu Hurayra that Sa'd b. 'Ubada, said to the Prophet (S) "Suppose I discover a man with my wife.[2]. . .

This hadith includes the following legal principles: The prohibition against applying a legal penalty without legal authority[3] and without witnesses; cutting off the means to shedding the blood of a Muslim based merely upon the claim of his accuser, the one seeking the shedding of the accused's blood.[4] and has made the sin in taking it great as well.[5] so that it may apply that which Allah has commanded in His book or on the tongue of His Prophet (S).

Malik followed that hadith with an opinion of ‘Ali [b. Abi Talib], may Allah be well-pleased with him, which clarifies the rule. Malik narrated from Sa'id b. Yahya from Sa'id b. al-Musayyib that "A man from Syria, with the name of Ibn Khaybari, discovered a man with his wife so he killed him, or both of them.[6] Ibn Jurayj, Ma'mar, and al-Thawri, reported it, or its near equivalent, from Yahya b. Sa'id from Sai'd b. al-Musayyib.[7]  

Ibn 'Abd al-Barr said: It means, according to him,[8] that he [Mu’awiya] should deliver him [Ibn Khaybari] with a rope around his neck to the relatives of the victim so that they may take qisas against him.qisas against him unless he produces four witnesses to an act of adultery whose obligatory punishment is stoning.[9]  

The bulk of jurists in the townships, the people of opinion and the people of transmitted knowledge[10] concur in the opinion of ‘Ali, may Allah be well-pleased with him, bountiful praise to Allah. ‘Abd al-Razzaq mentioned from Ma’mar from al-Zuhri, who said: “A man asked the Prophet, may Allah grant him abundant blessings and peace, saying ‘A man discovers another man with his wife; shall he kill him?’  

Abu Bakr b. Abi Shayba said: "‘Abda b. ‘Asim told me from al-Hasan, that he said, ‘Punishments[11] are [the responsibility] of the government.”[12] A similar [opinion] is attributed to Ibn Muhayriz, ‘Ata` al-Khurasani, and ‘Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz, and there is no disagreement on this point. 


Mohammed Fadel American-Muslim of Egyptian origin with a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages from the University of Chicago, dissertation in Islamic law, and a J.D. from the University of Virginia.  I am currently a law clerk for the United States District Court in the Southern District of Georgia and starting in September, I will be a law clerk on the United States 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

[1] Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, may Allah have mercy upon him and upon us, was a well-known Maliki scholar of Qurtuba who died in the last half of the fifth century of the glorious hijra.Istidhkar is one of two massive commentaries the author wrote on the Muwatta` of Imam Ahl al-Madina, Malik b. Anas, may Allah be well-pleased with him.al-Tamhid – is primarily a work of hadith, al-Istidhkar is a veritable encyclopedia of the legal opinions (fiqh) of the early scholars of Islam.

[2] “A ra`ayta in wajadtu ma’a imra`ti rajulan, a umhiluhu hatta atiya bi-arba’ata shuhada`?”

[3]bi-ghayri sultan.

[4]wa allahu ‘azza wa jalla qad ‘azzama dama al-muslim.”


[6] “fa-l-yu’ta bi-rimmatihi.”


[8] The referent of the pronoun is ambiguous, but the context suggests that Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr is explaining the meaning of ‘Ali’s opinion.

[9]al-zina al-mujib li-l-rajm.”zina, are punished by stoning.muhsan, because they had never been married, for example, this defense would be inapplicable, wa allahu a’lam.

[10]wa ‘ala qawli ‘ali radiya allahu ‘anhu jama’at fuqaha` al-amsar wa ahl al-ra`y wa al-athar.”

In addition to the narrow legal rule discussed by Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr in this context, there is a great lesson to Muslims regarding cooperation to further righteousness (al-ta’awun ‘ala al-birr wa-l-taqwa), even among foes.bay’a to our master ‘Ali as a result of this disagreement, which eventually led to armed conflict between the two.inna aqdakum ‘ali).”nasiha) when he asked, although he no doubt considered his wilaya over Syria at that time to be an act of rebellion against his rule.

I ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to grant us from His mercy the akhlaq of the Salaf as exemplified in this report.