Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Hudud Definition:

Muslim law: divine punishments; the category of crimes most egregious and therefore most severely punished.

Related Terms: Diyya, Hiraba, Zina

Also presented as huddood and hodoud.

Author J. Hussain succinctly writes:

“In Islamic law, crimes are classified in three ways: hudud, qisas (and) Ta’azir...

“[H]udud crimes are those specifically mentioned in the Koran as transgressing the limits which God himself has placed on people's behavior.

"The hudud crimes are: theft, highway robbery, drinking alcohol, unlawful sexual intercourse (and) false accusation of unchastity.

“Some jurists also include murder and apostasy (al-riddah) among the categories of hudud crimes.”

Schacht writes that hudud is reserved for crimes against Allah for which there can be no mercy or judicial discretion.

Further, Al-Awwa adds “unlawful rebellion” to the list of hudud crimes.

Schacht sets out the specifics of huhud:

“[T]he death penalty either by stoning (the more severe punishment for unlawful intercourse) or by crucifixion or with the sword (for highway robbery with homicide); cutting off hand and/or foot (for highway robbery without homicide and for theft....”

Schacht also confirms the rigidity of Islamic law; that hudud is meted out as:

“... a right or claim of Allah, therefore no pardon or amicable settlement is possible.”

However, in some cases, Muslim law allows a criminal defendant to pay off the victim (diyya) and thus, to escape punishment; an option obviously only available to the wealthy.


  • Al-Awwa, Muhammad Salim, “The Basis of Islamic Penal Legislation”, published in The Islamic Criminal Justice System (Rome: Oceana Publications Inc., 1982), page 127
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, Legal Definition of Ta’azir
  • Hussain, J., Islamic Law and Society (Sydney: Federation Press, 1999), page 134
  • Schacht, J., An Introduction to Islamic Law (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), page 175

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