Saudi Arabia: Comment: On the Flogging of a Female Rape Victim

Arab News
"There is no legal or Islamic basis for such sentencing. Although it is true that according to Qur’anic teaching, a woman may not meet a man in privacy, no punishment was decreed for taking such action."
"As some of you might know, something happened in Saudi Arabia sometime ago that captured much attention. A Saudi woman went out to meet a person she knew, who happened to be male. She found herself in a situation where seven men abducted her and her male companion and then proceeded to gang-rape the two abductees. Instead of only having her persecutors brought to justice, this woman, a victim of brutal rape, was treated like a criminal and sentenced.
Initially, the woman was sentenced to 90 lashes. When her lawyer appealed the sentence and spoke about the injustice of the situation to the media, her sentence was increased to six months in jail and 200 lashes.

I, as a Saudi woman, committed to my government and its equal treatment of all its citizens, refuse to accept that this will be the fate of this woman.

It is our collective responsibility, as concerned citizens of this great nation, and of the world, to eradicate the mindset and flaws in the system that allow such a miscarriage of justice to stand and cause a woman to be punished for an action of which she was the victim.

There is no legal or Islamic basis for such sentencing. Although it is true that according to Qur’anic teaching, a woman may not meet a man in privacy, no punishment was decreed for taking such action.

In addition, when placed in context, it is clear that the restrictive statement was meant to be purely instructional, and no language in the relevant verse itself, nor in the following verses, can be used to deduce punishment.

Regardless of whether or not the woman met her male companion in secret, which is the justification cited by the judges for imposing the flogging, nothing she has done could be classified as a crime. Flogging is one of the punishment of a person who committed zena, a term used for both fornication and adultery alike.

Punishment in the case of zena only applies if four witnesses testify to the actual penetration. In practical terms, unless the participating man and woman were engaging in lewd exhibitionist behavior, it is nearly impossible to incriminate them.

There is wisdom and protection behind such a condition. From this, it follows that there is absolutely no ground according to the Shariah for the woman in this case to be flogged. Her sentence is, from every angle, un-Islamic, as is evidenced from even the most basic reading of the texts.

What saddens me even more greatly is that this case has shown how little Muslims have come to rely on one of the most progressive and just aspects of our religion — the requirement that each and every Muslim use his/her own critical faculties to think and assess each aspect of the religion himself/herself.

Islam was promoted by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a religion of simplicity and moderation. The Qur’an is a book of teaching that is easy for the layman to understand. Islamic belief is founded on a central idea that there is no mediator between the individual and God. We need not saints, popes or even imams for that matter to act as mediators to God.

In other words, each and every person is empowered and encouraged to read the Qur’an and assert his or her own understanding of the universal teachings of Islam. A cleric is meant only to help in that individual thought process.

To succumb without question to the decrees of others, clerics or otherwise, is to me an indication of the death of the moral consciousness of an individual. It would be hard to rescue the collective moral consciousness if on an individual level so many people are in deep slumber. I encourage everybody to promote Islamic awareness and engage at every possible chance in debating this and similar issues so that our rights as individuals can be preserved."

By: Aiyah Saihati

Aiyah Saihati is a research fellow at the Cato Institute. E-mail at: