Shaykh `Ata’ Ibn Khalil (Allah preserve him):
“…Hadith: A believer does not commit zina” – An Explanation”
- Sometimes the contextual indications (qara’in) are necessary to understand what meaning the word ‘iman’ takes because when used in the Qur’an and hadith of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) it is not always in the theological sense (i.e. `aqadi meaning).
- Shaykh `Ata’ (Allah protect him) comments:
“…likewise is the hadith: ‘an adulterer (zani) does not commit adultery (zina) while he is a believer (mu’min)’[Bukhari, Sahih (#6810)]. The Prophet did not punish the adulterer with the punishment of apostasy but carried the punishment for zina. He was considered a Muslim, was prayed over and given a Muslim burial. The action of the Messenger of Allah is a contextual indication (qarina) that the meaning of the word ‘iman’ in the hadith is not the theological or doctrinal meaning, i.e. iman in the sense whose opposite is disbelief (kufr); rather it is an indication of the enormity of the crime of adultery in that the absence of iman at the time one commits the act is a form of non-literal expression (al-ta`bir al-majazi) that indicates the enormity of the crime…”
- This hadith does not carry the meaning of negating iman (i.e. where one becomes a non-believer).
- The meaning of ‘iman’ here is not the theological meaning, i.e. decisive belief that is based on evidence and conforms with reality.
- The action of the Messenger of Allah offering the funeral prayer over the person as well as burying him is an indication that the meaning of iman is not the theological one.
- This indication then offers a departure from the literal/technical meaning to a non-literal expression denoting the enormity of the crime.
And with Allah is all success.
 Sh. `Ata’ b. Khalil, al-Taysir fi Usul al-Tafsir, p.48.