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I would like to know what actions would be considered zina according to Islam. Is it limited to sexual intercourse?

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Anything that involves "penetration of head of male penis into female vagina (with or without ejaculation)" would constitute zina requiring Hadd punishment. This has been agreed upon by scholars (of Ahlus sunnah).

The things that lead to zina such as touching, kissing, and rubbing the private parts together without penetrating do not come under the ruling on zina that require Hadd punishment. However, such activities which may lead to zina (fornication) are haraam and abhorent.

Allah says (interpretation of meaning):

"And do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse. Indeed, it is ever an immorality and is evil as a way." [ Surat Al-'Isrā' 17:32 ]

Also, in terminology of Sharee'ah, zina can be committed by eyes, ears, tongue, hand or feet due to the following Hadiths:

It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Allaah has decreed for every son of Adam his share of zina, which he will inevitably commit. The zina of the eyes is looking, the zina of the tongue is speaking, one may wish and desire, and the private parts confirm that or deny it.”

al-Bukhaari, 5889

According to the version narrated by Muslim:

“The zina of the eyes is looking, the zina of the ears is listening, the zina of the tongue is speaking, the zina of the hand is touching, and the zina of the foot is walking. The heart wishes and longs and the private part confirms that or denies it.” Muslim, 2657

The zina of eyes or tongue or desire doesn't entail Hadd punishment but are absolutely haraam.

Reference: The zina which incurs the hadd punishment

Ruling on the things that lead to zina

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Just to add to your answer, the things that lead to zina may not be considered zina, but are still explicitly and absolutely haram. Furthermore, we are instructed in the Qur'an not just to avoid zina, but to not come anywhere near zina. One should not do the things that lead to zina and presume they can control themselves, there are plenty of examples out there of the failure of that. –  Ahmad Bushnaq Jun 27 '12 at 14:20
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@AhmadBushnaq Of course, it is. Though it wouldn't entail Hadd punishment, it is completely haraam. I just was sticking to answering the question asked. –  Abdullah Jun 27 '12 at 14:21
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@Ershad I think you should include that additional information in your answer. –  ashes999 Jun 27 '12 at 15:05
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Yes, it's limited to sexual intercourse. There are four kinds of zina:

  • Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman who are mahram
  • Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman when the woman is forced to do so
  • Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman when they are single and they chose to do so
  • Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman when they're married but their husband/wife is not available (e.g., is on a trip)

Where each has a different retribution.

There's difference in opinion between Shi'a and Sunni, Shi'a defines zina as something more broad:

This includes the Sunni definition of zina and also includes: heterosexual intercourse, a great variety of sexual behavior: buggery, both with men and women, lesbian intercourse and heavy petting.

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Zina زنا has little or even nothing to do with sexuality than most people think. It has a lot todo with abuse of financial contract(meethaq) between husband and wife (zawjayn).

sexuality between two couples and hence hereditary nature of the relationship is depicted in the Quran as ba3l بعل rather than zawj زوج , as in 11:72 and 4:128.

I would argue that Zina is more closer to za ya na than to za na ya. It has analgously same construct as Riba.

If Riba is the abuse of the usage of ra ya ba (uncertainties/futures/probabilities/etc) in the expense of others involved in the contract for example abuse of hedging, abuse of money printing (if we consider printing money as a means of estimating value of resources), etc. , then Zina is the abuse of the usage of za ya na (goodness/glamour/resource) in the expense of others involved in the contract for example financial embezelments, using the spouse's money irresponsibly causing severe financial losses.

Both are acts of taking something from someone without the other parties consent. And hence a kin to stealing but have different levels, the former is much severe than the latter thus the former is justifiable by an act of embargo/حرب (from the term mi7raab/secluded places) while the latter is treated with flogging.. and depending on the severity of the act, the flogging can be done as minimal as the example of ayoub AS to his wife in 38:44

wallahua3lam

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Salam Alaikum, Zina is sexual intercourse outside of Marriage. Please add some citations to back up your answer. –  Al Ummat Feb 6 '13 at 16:37
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