Leaving Islam




Honor Killing 

By Ali Sina 

Mr. Sina,
My co-worker and I are hoping that you can clarify for us exactly where in Islam honor killings fit in. Is this an Arab cultural thing, or is it covered by wife beating etc. ?

Bob Richman


Dear Bob,  

Honor killing is neither in the Quran nor is it specified in any hadith. It is however the natural outcome of the Islamic ethos of misogyny.

Women in Islam are regarded as sources of shame. Muhammad said they are awrah which can be translated as object of shame.

"Ali reported the Prophet saying: 'Women have ten ('awrah). When she gets married, the husband covers one, and when she dies the grave covers the ten." [1]

What is awrah? The Encyclopedia of Islam defines 'awrah as pudendum, that is the external genitals, especially of the female.  Pudendum derives from the Latin pudor which means sense of shame and modesty. So awrah signify an object of shame that needs to be covered. [2]

According to the following Hadith, women not only have ten 'awrah, but the woman herself is perceived as 'awrah:

"The woman is 'awrah. When she goes outside (the house), the devil welcomes her." [3]

If a woman loses her awrah by e.g. through rape, she becomes the object of shame for her family and the only way to remove that shame and restore the honor is to remove that defiled woman.  

So you can say honor killing is cultural, but it is a culture that is deeply rooted in Islamic mindset and derives from it. It is practiced in all Islamic countries. The more religious is a country, the more is widespread the honor killing. 

Women are asked to; ďstay quietly in your houses, and make not a dazzling displayĒ  Quran 33.33  

A woman who transgresses these orders becomes the source of shame to her family. She will not be marriageable, she and her family become the object of gossip of everyone. The entire family can lose prestige. No one would give a daughter to the brothers of that girl in marriage and no one would marry her sisters. The family and even the extended family are maligned and become outcasts. This can only stop if the family cleanses that stain with blood. The woman thus defiled must be sacrificed even if she is a victim of rape.  

But you donít have to be raped to become an exposed awrah and bring shame to your family. If you disobey your father who has consented that you marry a certain person you dishonor him.  If you escape from your home for any reason including abuse, you have brought shame to your family and you could be haunted by your own brothers or even your mother and killed. If you reject a suitor, his pride can be injured and he may feel the urge to throw acid at your face to avenge and restore his honor.

If you are a female you have to remember that you have brought shame and disgrace to your father and everyone else in your family the day you were born and you must cover this shame, You are awrah, a pudendum, something to be ashamed of, something to hide. When you go to your husbandís house, your parents can breathe a sigh of relief. But from there on you become the awrah of your husband. Only the grave will cover all the shame that you have brought to this world. But as long as you are alive, it is your religious duty to be modest and cover this shame and not disgrace your qayyuums (male guardians). Your male kin, (father, brothers, husband, sons and even uncles) are your qayyuums and you are their awrah. If you make a dazzling display of yourself, the honor of all these "honorable" male relatives is injured and all of them have a right to burry you to restore their honor.

Muslim men have very low self esteem but they compensate the smallness of their selfhood by inflating their ego. If you are a women related to them, they feel as if they own you. Whatever you do affects their gigantic ego. They are possessive and feel dishonored if you make a "dazzling display" of yourself. And of course if you are deflowered, this is an affront to their humongous pride. The damage is irreparable and the only way to restore that pride is to get rid of you. 

Honor killing is theoretically against the law in all Islamic countries, but generally the sentences are light. Often they are a year of jail or only a few months. The judges are very "understanding" and sympathize with the killers who are also grieving for the loss of their loved one. Most likely the Judges would do the same in similar situations. Everyone agrees that this is a very unfortunate situation that has no other solution but taking the life of the poor girl. Often the brothers and the parents hug the lifeless cadaver of their victim and cry bitterly after stabbing her to death or strangulating her. They don't listen to her pleading and begging to spare her life, but sure they cry profusely for her after they kill her.  

On the bright side, if you survive all this, manage to go to your husbandís house and bear him sons, you are set. From there on, and proportionate to the number of sons that you have brought to this world, you gain prestige and respect. Maybe by the time you are a middle aged woman, your sons are strong and your husband is a crippling old man, you can even bang on his head and insult him to the delight of your heart. But you must have your sons on your side to stand behind you at all times. This is a delicate political maneuver that you have to plan for from early on. Then you can be the despot and your aging hubby becomes your vassal. Alas only a few women can savor this sweet taste of success. But those who do it, do it very well. 

Oh well, Allah's "Grace is (entirely) in His Hand, to bestow it on whomsoever He wills". Quran 57:29


Ali Sina, 

Thank you for explaining this point in such great detail. There is, however, one point I am still not clear on ;can you please explain to me the dementia which would permit a BROTHER TO RAPE HIS SISTER and then lead the mother to kill her own daughter to regain honor. Silly me ,I thought the dishonor was on the brother's head. 

Thank You, 

Bob Richman

Dear Bob,

There are many things in Islam that you, I or no one else understands. In such cases we have to say, "Allah knows best" and stop thinking. If you follow this advice, Islam will make perfect sense to you.    

[1] Kanz-el-'Ummal, Vol. 22, Hadith No. 858. See also Ihy'a

[2] Latin pudendum (literally) a thing to be ashamed of

[3] Ihy'a 'Uloum ed-Din by Ghazali, Dar al-Kotob al-'Elmeyah, Beirut , Vol II, Kitab Adab al-Nikah, p. 65. Reported by Tirmizi as a true and good Ahadith.  





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