Sahih Muslim Book 17, Number 4221

Abu Huraira reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) was asked about the slave-woman who committed adultery and was not protected (married). He said: If she commits adultery, then flog her and if she commits adultery again, then flog her and then sell her even for a rope.

Are 4 witnesses required for slaves?

  • Are you cherry-picking ahadith? You should read the whole chapter before posting a single hadith, Imam Muslim compiled his book in chapters similarly to imam al-Bukhari the first hadith in any chapter is the strongest and anything later must be regarded in relation to it (in this case see here). Further the qur'an already requires witnesses ... And why are you pointing at Dhimmis in your question title these are two different topics. Please formulate a question, and mark quotes as such in order to distinguish them from your own words.
    – Medi1Saif
    Nov 16, 2021 at 15:44
  • No i’m not cherry picking i read the chapter and there is nothing about witnesses for slave women if she committed adultery. Do have any such information if master make adultery allegation on his slave then he need 4 witnesses?
    – Harris
    Nov 16, 2021 at 16:06
  • 1
    Note another narration of this hadith in Sahih Muslim: "When the slave-woman of any of you commits adultery and this (offence of hers) becomes clear."
    – The Z
    Nov 16, 2021 at 17:15
  • 1
    So, what makes you doubt that it is required? Just because one hadith does not mention something does not mean it does not exist. The laws of Islam are not made in lone evidences, but by the combination of all evidences. The Quran itself obligates finding 4 witnesses or proof equivalent to that.
    – The Z
    Nov 16, 2021 at 17:19

1 Answer 1


The hadith must be regarded in the light of the initial hadith of the chapter

Well you claim you are not cherry picking, but the first hadith in this chapter in Sahih Muslim says:

When the slave-woman of any of you commits adultery and this (offence of hers) becomes clear, she should be flogged (as the prescribed) punishment, but hurl no reproach at her. If she commits adultery again, she should (again be punished) by flogging, but hurl no reproach upon her. If she commits fornication for the third time and it becomes clear, then he should sell her, even if only for a rope of hair

Which indicates that the pre-requirements for a punishment for committing zina are fulfilled.
Imam an-Nawawi explains in his commentary on Sahih Muslim -see here- saying:
Here and in the follwoing I'm translating from Arabic language, as these translations are of my own take them carefully!.

ومعنى تبين زناها : تحققه إما بالبينة وإما برؤية أو علم عند من يجوز القضاء بالعلم في الحدود
"and this offence of hers becomes clear" means: it became clear by evidence either by eye witness or with whom it is permissible to judge with knowledge within the limits.

Al-Qurtoby explains it as follows in his commentary -see here- on Sahih Muslim:

وتبين زنى الأمة يكون بالإقرار وبالحبل، وبصحة الشهادة عند الإمام.
The zina of the slave girl is made clear by confession and by conception, and by the validity of the testimony according to the imam.

So witnesses are among the necessary pre-requirements for condemnation!

There's one difference of opinion among the scholars, it is whether the slave owner can punish once he has the "evidence" or the imam is necessary to give a final judgement to apply the punishment.

Witnesses are already requested in the qur'an

And Allah the Almighty ordered:

  • Those who commit unlawful sexual intercourse of your women - bring against them four [witnesses] from among you. ... (4:15)

  • And those who accuse chaste women and then do not produce four witnesses - lash them with eighty lashes and do not accept from them testimony ever after. ... (24:4)

  • Why did they [who slandered] not produce for it four witnesses? ... (24:13)

It is agreed upon that four (free, Muslim) male witnesses are necessary for a condemnation for zina, based on this verse. However the ruling on slaves has a difference of opinion when it comes to the punishment based on whether the slave was married or not and who was involved in this act of zina. This is also based on the interpretation of "الإحصان" in the verse from surat an-Nisaa'.

  • Can you please explain the meaning of by the rope? in the Al-Qurtoby commentary
    – Harris
    Nov 17, 2021 at 18:31
  • @Harris that was a translation mistake, I've copied the wrong meaning حبل means both a rope or pregnancy...
    – Medi1Saif
    Nov 17, 2021 at 18:48
  • Oh ok thank you friend :)
    – Harris
    Nov 17, 2021 at 18:57

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