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Does a woman’s past matter?

وَيۡلٌ لِّكُلِّ هُمَزَةٍ لُّمَزَةٍ

Destruction be for every person who searches for faults (in others- the scandal monger ) and who mocks (the Mu’mineen). [Surah al-Humazah, v.1]

Sha’bi narrates that a woman was once punished for a crime of immorality. However, after her tribe arrived as immigrants in Madinah, she repented sincerely. When she received a marriage proposal, her uncle disapproved of getting her married without first informing the people about her past. At the same time, he also disliked disclosing her secret. When he consulted Sayyiduna Umar رضى الله عنه about the matter, Sayyiduna Umar رضى الله عنه said, “Get her married as you would get any of your righteous girls married.” [Hayatus-Sahaabah, V.2 pg. 438 Ch. Concealing the Faults of Muslims]

To disclose one’s sin is prohibited, even if it is to a prospective spouse. Demanding a future wife or husband to open up and be transparent about past sins is also strictly prohibited. When the uncle of this girl, who had a past, consulted Sayyiduna Umar رضى الله عنه, his instructions were clear, “Get her married as you would get any of your righteous girls married.”

In the guise of transparency, prospective grooms will disclose their past secrets, sometimes including illicit/haram relationships. Some will be bold and claim their past relationships have given them experience and expect their prospective wife to accept him with his experience.

Masculinity is not in being transparent about the past but in emulating the Prophetic Sunnah.

In contrast, if a woman were to have a “past”, she would be instantly rejected and labelled for being promiscuous and unchaste, and her reputation would be tarnished. A sin is a sin, whether the perpetrator be a man or a woman. Every individual will be responsible for their actions in the Court of Allah unless the sin has been forgiven.

In Islam, it is wrong and sinful for any man to ask a woman if she has engaged in premarital relations. What Allah has kept secret, no man has the right to pressure or coerce a woman into disclosing it. Confession to one’s sins is made in privacy in the presence of the All-Mighty, not a prospective spouse. People are always prone to mistakes, especially in their teens and early adulthood. As a person increases in maturity, they have sincere remorse and regret their past decisions. This remorse leads to repentance and beseeching forgiveness from the Most-Forgiving.

When the sin is forgiven, it has been deleted from the Book of Deeds. Allah will not hold the person accountable for it on Judgment Day. This is Allah’s Mercy.

قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏: التَّائِبُ مِنَ الذَّنْبِ كَمَنْ لاَ ذَنْب

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “The one who repented from sin is like one without sin.” [Sunan Ibn Maajah, 4250]

If the potential spouse decides not to disclose their past, it would be impermissible to interpret it as guilt. Baseless suspicions and evil thoughts about others are categorically forbidden in Islam and also one of the enormities.

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ ٱجۡتَنِبُواْ كَثِيرٗا مِّنَ ٱلظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعۡضَ ٱلظَّنِّ إِثۡمٞۖ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُواْ وَلَا يَغۡتَب بَّعۡضُكُم بَعۡضًاۚ أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمۡ أَن يَأۡكُلَ لَحۡمَ أَخِيهِ مَيۡتٗا فَكَرِهۡتُمُوهُۚ وَٱتَّقُواْ اللهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيمٌ

O you who have Imaan! Refrain (stay away) from excessive assumption (suspicion and assuming evil things about people without verification). Verily, some assumptions are a sin. (Good assumptions about people are however encouraged.) Never spy (on people) and never backbite each other. Does any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother, which you so detest? (Backbiting equals the sin of eating the dead flesh of one’s brother.) Fear Allah. (If you repent for these sins, then remember that) Allah is Most Pardoning, Most Merciful. [Suran Al-Hujuraat, v.12]

Prior to marriage every Muslim man and woman is a virgin unless proven otherwise. In Islam, if someone accuses another of fornication, the accuser must provide witnesses to prove the crime. If he or she is unable to provide eyewitnesses, the accuser has committed an enormity, slander.

إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ يَرۡمُونَ ٱلۡمُحۡصَنَٰتِ ٱلۡغَٰفِلَٰتِ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنَٰتِ لُعِنُواْ فِي ٱلدُّنۡيَا وَٱلۡأٓخِرَةِ وَلَهُمۡ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ

Those who slander (accuse of adultery) unwary (unsuspecting) chaste Mu’mineen women are certainly cursed (far removed from Allah’s mercy) in this world and in the Aakhirah. They shall suffer a terrible punishment…” [Surah Nur, v.23]

يَوۡمَ تَشۡهَدُ عَلَيۡهِمۡ أَلۡسِنَتُهُمۡ وَأَيۡدِيهِمۡ وَأَرۡجُلُهُم بِمَا كَانُواْ يَعۡمَلُونَ

on the day (of Qiyaamah) when their tongues, hands and legs will testify against them for what they did (making every evil act of theirs apparent to all). [Surah Nur, v.24]

These verses are explicit. Anyone who accuses chaste believing women of fornication and lewdness is accursed in this world and the Next Life.

Sayyiduna Anas bin Malik رضى الله عنه Instructs that a Lady should Not be Exposed

Saalih bin Karz narrates, “I once brought before Hakam bin Ayyoob a slave girl of mine who had fornicated. I was sitting there when Sayyiduna Anas bin Malik رضى الله عنه arrived and sat down as well. ‘O Saalih!’ he asked, ‘Who is this slave girl with you?’ I replied, ‘She is my slave girl who has fornicated, and I wish to have her case brought before the governor so that she may be punished.’ Sayyiduna Malik رضى الله عنه said, ‘Do not do that. Rather, take your slave girl back home. Fear Allah and conceal her folly.’ When I refused to do as he instructed, he said, ‘Do not go ahead and do as I say.’ He then continued insisting until I eventually took her back.” [Hayatus-Sahaabah, V.2 pg. 438 Ch. Concealing the Faults of Muslims]

By Mawlana Mushtaq Shaikh


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