The twelfth Greater Sin is Qazaf. Qazaf means to wrongfully accuse a chaste Muslim man or chaste Muslim woman of adultery or homosexuality. We have the authority of our Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.), Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.), Imam Musa al-Kazim, Imam Ali ar-Reza (a.s.) and Imam Muhammad al-Taqi (a.s.) that qazaf is a Greater sin. The Holy Quran also speaks of the punishment for this sin.
"Surely those who accuse chaste believing women, unaware (of the evils), are cursed in the world and the hereafter and they shall have a grievous chastisement. On the day when their tongue and their hands and their feet shall bear witness against them as to what they did."
(Surah Nur 24:23-24)
The above verses clarify that those who falsely accuse chaste men or women of adultery are cursed by Allah as long as they are alive, and in the hereafter they shall be deprived of His Divine Mercy. We should maintain our distance from such people on whom the wrath of Allah has descended and be very wary not to believe their false accusations. False accusers have to be penalised in this world according to the Islamic law. Once their testimony is proved false, they can never ever testify in a court of Islamic law.
Organs of the Inhabitant of Hell
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) has said,
"The organs and the parts of the body of a true believer shall not testify against him. But they will testify against the one who, after all, has to burn in Hell."
The person who accuses anyone falsely of adultery and sodomy belongs to this category. Because his punishment is Hell-fire, his organs, according to the Holy Quran shall testify against him.
Penalty for Qazaf - Rejection of Testimony and its Invalidation
It is also mentioned in Surah Nur:
"And those who accuse free women then do not bring four witnesses, flog them, (giving eighty lashes), and do not admit any evidence from them ever, and these it is that are the transgressors."
(Surah Nur 24:4)
Three commands are issued in this ayat regarding one who commits qazaf. The first is that he has to be punished with the Islamic penalty imposed upon him. The second is that his evidence is never ever to be accepted and the third is that such a person must always be considered as unreliable and a transgressor.
Islamic society which is geared to promote the dignity and welfare of its members cannot allow a false accuser to go unpunished. This falsehood dishonours an upright person, and a society which cannot uphold the honour of its members, cannot possibly give them peace and security.
(Condensed from Burhan-e-Quran)
The book 'Islam and World Peace' mentions that in order to curb frivolous propaganda, a slanderer who cannot furnish four witnesses, is given lashes. If three witnesses testify and the fourth witness is not available then the former three are also punished with eighty lashes each. However, if a husband accuses his wife of adultery but cannot support his accusation with witnesses, he cannot be lashed. This is to avoid domestic upheavals. In this case the husband is made to repeat four times by calling Allah as a witness that his wife has committed adultery. And the fifth time he has to say that if he is lying, the curse of Allah be upon him. His wife is also given a similar right that she can say four times, calling Allah as a witness that her husband is lying. And the fifth time she has to say that if her husband is telling the truth, then the curse and the wrath of Allah may be upon her. She can escape punishment in this way. This law is derived from the sixth and the seventh ayat of Surah Nur.
Whether it is true or false it must be known that it is Haraam to accuse anyone of adultery or homosexuality till he sees with his own eyes the penetration of the sexual organ. Even after being the eye witness of this he must not testify before a Qazi till three other just witnesses testify (he must himself be just (adil) too). As stated earlier, if the witnesses are less than four, their testimony is rejected. In this case, the witnesses are considered as transgressors instead of the alleged sodomist and the fornicator, and penalised with eighty lashes each.
Those Who Commits Qazaf are not Believers
Hazrat Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) has informed;
"One who commits qazaf is removed from the ranks of the believers of Allah and considered as a transgressor. Transgressor is also the opposite of believer as Allah himself says,
'Is he then who is the believer like him who is the transgressor?'"
(Surah Sajdah 32:18)
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) has been reported to have said,
"The person who accuses falsely a chaste man or a chaste woman of indecency, Allah invalidates all his good deeds (and does not give him any reward) and on the Day of Judgement seventy thousand angels lash him from the front and behind and continue to do so till the order is passed for him to be put in Hell."
Penalty for Qazaf
"And those who accuse free women then do not bring four witnesses, flog them, (giving) eighty lashes, and do not admit evidence from them ever."
(Surah Nur 24:4)
The above verse, numerous traditions and the rules promulgated by the Mujtahids indicate that every one of the false accusers of sodomy and fornication must be lashed eighty times (provided four just witnesses are not available simultaneously). However, the following conditions should be noted.
1) The sinner must be major and sane. A minor child or an insane person cannot be punished for false accusations. Also, the major and the sane person should have made the allegation after careful consideration and not under compulsion. No penalty can be imposed on an accuser if he has made a genuine blunder or if he has made the accusation in jest.
2) One who has been accused of adultery or sodomy must possess five characteristics. First of all, he must be a major. Secondly, he must be sane and not a madman. Thirdly, he must be free and not a slave. Fourthly, he must be a Muslim and not a Kafir. Lastly, he must apparently be chaste. A person who strongly objects to being blamed of adultery and fornication or is shocked and dismayed by such an accusation is taken to be a chaste person. So if the accused does not fulfill the above conditions or is notorious for being corrupt and indecent, the accuser is not penalised for qazaf.
3) The accusation should clearly mention adultery or sodomy. If an accuser is vague in his allegations and merely hints at adultery or sodomy or addresses the accused as 'adulterer' or 'sodomist', then he can be exempted from punishment. But in this case, the accused has a right to demand action against the accuser.
Sometimes, the allegation is against someone other than the one who is addressed. For example, One says, "Your father was an adulterer! Your father was a sodomist!" In such a situation, it is the right of the father, of the one who is addressed to insist upon the penalty. The son is not directly accused but insulted in the process. Consequently, he cannot demand the sentence of qazaf against the accuser but must insist upon a lighter penalty like reprimanding or beating so that the sin is not repeated.
In the same way, if someone says "bastard" or "adulterously born!' etc., the right of having the punishment decreed rests upon the one who is actually accused. The person who is addressed can only claim a reduced penalty.
Expiation of the Sin on the Day of Judgement
A woman presented herself before the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and said, "O, Messenger of Allah, I called my maid adulteress."
The Prophet (s.a.) said,
"Have you ever seen her committing adultery?"
"No," she replied.
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) told her,
"Know that ! On the day of Qiyamat, some of your good deeds will be transferred to this maid and it would be the expiation.
This woman returned and handed a whip to her maid and said, "lash me" but the maid refused, so she freed her. Again, she returned to the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and related the incident. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) remarked,
"May be this action of yours will act as the expiation of your utterance and you may not suffer it's consequences in the hereafter."
Repenting for Qazaf
One who accuses a Muslim of adultery or sodomy should know that qazaf or false accusation is a sin that trespasses upon the right of man as well as the right of Allah. As far as the human rights are concerned, the one who is falsely accused can take the accuser to the Qazi. If qazaf is proved by the confession of the accuser or by the testimony of two just witnesses who testify having heard the accuser making the false allegation, the legal sentence is executed. It is wajib for the person who has committed qazaf to submit himself to the accused for trial. However, he can request the one he has falsely accused to forgive him and must try his best to do so. If he is condoned, he escapes punishment. But if he is not forgiven and nor is the sentence carried out, and the falsely accused dies, the right of having the penalty executed is transferred to the legal heirs of the falsely accused. Now it is wajib upon the one guilty of qazaf either to surrender himself to the heirs so that he may be taken to a Qazi or he could ask for their forgiveness. If the heirs of the deceased forgive, he is saved from punishment.
Samaa says that I asked Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) regarding the person who commits qazaf but is forgiven by the one whom he accused falsely. "If later, this person regrets having forgiven and wishes that the accuser be punished, can the punishment for qazaf be executed now?"
Imam (a.s.) replied;
"No penalty can be imposed upon him after being respited."
Samaa says that I further enquired,
"What if the man says, "O son of a fornicatress." And the one who is falsely accused condones him but leaves the matter to Allah?" Imam (a.s.) replied;
"If his mother is alive, the son does not have the right of forgiving the accuser. His mother has the right to forgive. She can exercise her right whenever she wants. If his mother has died, only then does he have the right to forgive."
It is wajib upon the accuser, that after he has received the penalty or after he has been condoned by the one whom he falsely accused that he must publicly announce that whatever he has uttered is absolutely false. For example, he should say, "I had accused this person of fornication. It was a false accusation." His announcement should be to the extent that those who have heard the false accusation must hear his confession too.
In an authentic report Ibne Sinan asked Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.), "If a person makes a false allegation and undergoes the Islamic punishment and also repents. Can his evidence be accepted in future?" Imam replied,
"If he repents and his repentance consist of taking back the words he has uttered and confesses before the Imam (a.s.) and the Muslims to have uttered a lie... Then it is incumbent upon the Imam to accept his evidence and consider him just."
The book Al Kafi and Al-Tahzeeb contain other reports concerning the same issue. If the accuser has made a false accusation, it is obvious that to falsify his accusation is a must. But there may be a situation where the accuser has really witnessed the act of adultery and sodomy but the crime is not proved due to lack of four witnesses and as a result he becomes liable for penalty. In this case too, he has to falsify his statement.
Since adultery or sodomy could not be established according to the stipulation laid down by Islam, from the point of view of Shariat, his accusation is false. So although he had witnessed the crime, it is appropriate on his part to falsify his statement. This he should do with the clear intention that he is submitting to the laws of Islam.
This is in consonance with the following verse:
"Why did they not bring the four witnesses of it? But as they have not brought they are liars before Allah."
(Surah Nur 24:13)
The Shaykh writes in the book 'Nihaya' that a person who is guilty of qazaf should repent by publicly announcing that the accusation he had made is untrue, and that he had uttered a lie. He should do this at the same place where he had made the accusation. In this way all those who had heard a Muslim being denounced will now be aware of its falsehood and there will be no misunderstanding in their minds about his good character.
A person guilty of qazaf transgresses Allah's right by disobeying a Divine command. Allah has strictly prohibited qazaf and a person guilty of it is deserving of the punishment of the hereafter. But if the offender repents sincerely and reforms himself, Allah is most Forgiving and most Merciful.
"Except those who repent after this and act aright, for surely Allah is Forgiving and Merciful."
(Surah Nur 24:5)
Sincere repentance reforms a person. He will either make peace with the person whom he had earlier maligned, or he will confess his guilt and falsify his accusation before a Qazi. After this he is no longer a transgressor or a liar according to Shariat. He is now an adil (just man) whose evidence is acceptable. Beyond this, the experience of being guilty of qazaf and repenting sincerely by going through the humiliation of acknowledging it in public, brings about a deep-rooted transformation in the person's character. He is now inclined toward morality and piety and strives for spiritual upliftment.
The Shaykh says in the book "Mabsut": "After repentance, only good deeds should be seen in that man."
One who hears the accuser is obliged to advise him to refrain from slandering and even to reprimand him.
Qazaf and the Responsibility of Other Muslims
According to the philosophy of Islam, if a Muslim hears of another Muslim being accused of adultery or sodomy he should not pay heed to it. It is Haraam for him to believe it. It is also Haraam to repeat this slander to others. Till four just witnesses testify before the qazi and the qazi issues his decree, it is Haraam to associate any one with these sins. Even if one has witnessed the crime with his own eyes or believes the accuser, one should not spread the slander. Such an action would cause the accused person to lose his honour and dignity in people's estimation. This is totally unacceptable in Islam.
Till four just witnesses have not testified, the accuser should be regarded as a liar and a transgressor, and it is wajib upon the person who hears him to consider him so, even if what he says is true. It should be said to the accuser, "This is a great allegation. We do not accept that the statement is correct according to Shariat."
"Surely they who concocted the lie are the party from among you. Do not regard it as an evil to you, nay, it is good for you. Every man of them shall have what he has earned of sin and (as for) him who took upon him the main part thereof he shall have a grievous chastisement.
Why did not the believing men and the believing women, when they heard it, think well of their own people and say: this is an evident falsehood?
Why did they not bring four witnesses of it? But as they have not brought witnesses they are liars before Allah.
And were it not for Allah's Grace upon you and His Mercy in this world and the hereafter, a grievous chastisement would certainly have touched you on account of the discourse which you entered into.
When you received it with your tongues and spoke with your mouths what you had no knowledge of, you deemed it an easy matter while with Allah it was grievous.
And why did you not, when you heard it say: 'It does not beseem us that we should talk off it, glory be to thee ! This is a great calumny?'
Allah admonishes you that you should not return to the like of it ever again if you are believers.
And Allah makes clear to you the communications, and Allah is knowing and wise.
Surely (as for) those who love that scandal should circulate respecting those who believe, they shall have a grievous chastisement in this world and the hereafter and Allah knows while you do not know.
(Surah Nur 24:11-19)
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) explains,
"One who speaks wrongly about the believer and says something which he has neither seen nor heard himself is from those who have been mentioned in the verse:
"Surely (as for) those who love that scandal should circulate respecting those who believe they shall have the grievous chastisement in this world and the hereafter and Allah knows while you do not know."
(Surah Nur 24:19)
In conclusion, it is Haraam to accuse anyone of fornication and sodomy without having seen the act with one's own eyes. Even after seeing it, it is Haraam to speak of it till four just witnesses testify having seen it.
But, if a husband accuses his wife wrongly of adultery, four witnesses are not required. It is sufficient for the husband to say before the qazi in the prescribed manner, "I am the liar, may the curse of Allah be upon me." And his accusation is admitted. This order is known as "laee" in Islamic terminology. And the accuser must fulfill the conditions as mentioned earlier in which case two just witnesses could testify that he has committed a calumny. As a result of this he is liable for penalty (eighty lashes). But these lashes would be lighter than those which are prescribed for the adulterer and the alcoholic. Also, the slanderer will not be lashed on a naked back like an adulterer and the alcoholic. He would be allowed to wear his shirt during lashing.
If Conditions for Qazaf are Absent
Even if the necessary conditions are not present in the accused it is still Haraam to associate him with adultery or sodomy. In this case the slanderer is reprimanded. However if some one calls a Muslim 'bastard' it does not imply that he is born of adultery. It could also imply that he was conceived when his mother was having a menstrual discharge. In such a condition it is Haraam for his father to perform the sexual act and the child conceived during this time is also a child of sin. In the same way if someone calls another, indecent or 'evil doer', the accusation of adultery and sodomy is not proved. However he could be punished lightly or reprimanded for insulting a person.
Similarly if a Muslim accuses falsely a Kafir of adultery or sodomy, the penalty of qazaf does not apply. Yet it is Haraam to associate even a Kafir with adultery and sodomy. It is not permissible to make such a statement in unequivocal words or to allude to it. But if it is established that he has committed adultery even from the point of view of his own faith, then it is allowed to associate him with it.
source : GREATER SINS by Ayatullah-ul-Uzma Sayed Abdul Husain Dastghaib Shirazi (r.a.)