There is no society, culture or religion that takes the issue of rape lightly. Rape is a completely forbidden practice and a crime punishable by death. In Islam, capital punishment is reserved for the most extreme crimes which harm individual victims or destabilize society. Rape, however, falls into both of these categories.
No religion honors and offers protection for women like the religion of Islam. The Holy Quran specifically reminds men to treat women with kindness and fairness. Throughout Islamic history, there have been scholars who classified rape as a form of terrorism (hiraba). There have also been specific examples in Islamic history which shed light on how early Muslims handled this crime and its punishment.
During the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (Salalahu Alaihi Wasalam), a rapist was punished based on only the testimony of the victim. Wa’il ibn Hujr (R.A) reported that a woman publicly identified a man who had raped her. The people caught the man and brought him to Prophet Muhammad (Salalahu Alaihi Wasalam). He told the woman to go, that she was not to be blamed, and ordered that the man be put to death.
Rape is such an inhumane act that its punishment is death. However, to safeguard the rights of the accused; the crime must be proven with evidence in court. There have been various historical interpretations of Islamic law, but the most common legal practice is that the crime of rape may be proven by any of the following:
The testimony of four witnesses to the act itself is traditionally the requirement to prove adultery under Islamic law. Most Islamic scholars, however, recognize that adultery is voluntary while rape is coerced. Thus, they have moved beyond requiring this evidence alone to prove sexual assault.
The full and complete confession of the perpetrator is accepted as evidence under Islamic law.
Even in early Islamic history, many Islamic jurists accepted physical evidence to prove a woman’s claim to being raped. As forensic science became more adept at providing physical evidence of sexual assault, such evidence is now commonly accepted in Islamic courts.
In the event that sexual assault cannot be proven to such a degree, Islamic courts may use its discretion to find the man guilty but order a less severe punishment, such as jail time or monetary fines.
There is no Islamic precedence for punishing the victims of sexual assault even if it was not proven. Except in a case where a woman is found to have deliberately and falsely accused an innocent person. In such a case, she may be prosecuted for slander. Unfortunately, there have been cases where women have attempted to report a rape complaint but ended up being prosecuted and punished for adultery. These cases demonstrate a lack of compassion and a clear violation of Islamic law.
It should be noted that rape is never caused by a woman, it is strictly a crime of violence, but women ought to take caution as to prevent themselves from being victims of such heinous act.