Stoning in Islamic Law

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A public stoning carried out in Afghanistan. Rajm is the Islamic punishment for illegal sexual intercourse, as ordered by Muhammad himself. (more graphic images)

Definition

Stoning to death (رجم Rajm), according to traditional interpretations of Islamic law, is primarily a punishment for persons who engage in unlawful sexual relations (which include homosexual relationships), and is one example of abrogation (naskh) being applied to Qur'anic text. The criminals "hands are tied behind their backs and their bodies are put in a cloth sack." They are then "buried in a hole, with only the victims heads showing above the ground. If its a woman, she is buried upto her shoulders."[1] The stones which are to be thrown at the criminal "should not be so large that the offender dies after a few strikes, nor so small as to fail to cause serious injury."[2]

In the Modern World

Due to the Islamic laws on rape requiring four male eye witnesses before guilt can be ascertained, many rape victims end up being charged with 'adultery.' As was the case for 13-year-old Aisha Ibrahim Dhuhulow in Somalia[3] who in October of 2008 was buried up to her neck and stoned to death in front of more than 1,000 people in a football stadium. She was the victim of gang-rape. Another Somalian female who gave birth to a stillborn child, was also stoned to death in front of a crowd of 200 in November (one of at least four Somalians to be stoned for adultery in 2009).[4] Her boyfriend received 100 lashes. Incidents of stoning have also been reported in Iraq and Pakistan, and forms a part of Afghan, Iranian, Nigerian, Indonesian, Sudanese, Saudi Arabian, and United Arab Emirate law.[5] While the modern views of many contemporary Muslims scholars and believers are diametrically opposed to any implementation of such punishments, it is very much an accepted part of Islam for traditional scholars and millions of lay Muslims around the world. In an August 2009 Pew survey[6] that 83% of Pakistanis believe that adulterers should be stoned. In another survey carried out in Indonesia (the world's most populated Muslim country) it found that "almost half the respondents back stoning as a punishment for adulterers."[7]

Qur'an

According to hadith, the Qur'anic verse of rajm (stoning) was originally found in surah Al-Ahzab.[8]

'The fornicators among the married men (ash-shaikh) and married women (ash-shaikhah), stone them as an exemplary punishment from Allah, and Allah is Mighty and Wise.'[9]
The missing Verse of Rajm

The above verse, along with verses regarding adult suckling, were written on a piece of paper and were lost when a goat ate them.[10] Even Umar had concerns that in the future some Muslims may try to deny that rajm is Islamic.[11] As it stands, the Qur'an itself does not explicitly mention the act, but the majority of Muslims do not follow Qur'an alone Islam. In any event, scholars have still managed to find justification for it from within its pages:

So when Our decree came to pass, We turned them upside down and rained down upon them stones, of what had been decreed, one after another.

Hadith

Sunnah of Muhammad

There are many sahih (authentic) hadith which speak of Prophet Muhammad ordering people to be stoned to death. Therefore it is considered a part of Muhammad's sunnah and cannot be ignored by Muslims according to the traditional views of the scholars.

Narrated Ash-Sha'bi: from 'Ali when the latter stoned a lady to death on a Friday. 'Ali said, "I have stoned her according to the tradition of Allah's Apostle."

Stoning in Judaism vis-à-vis Islam

The Hadith testifies that the Jews of Muhammad's time had ceased to employ such violent forms of punishment, and that it was he who insisted on the reinstatement of stoning.

Narrated Ibn 'Umar: A Jew and a Jewess were brought to Allah's Apostle on a charge of committing an illegal sexual intercourse. The Prophet asked them. "What is the legal punishment (for this sin) in your Book (Torah)?" They replied, "Our priests have innovated the punishment of blackening the faces with charcoal and Tajbiya." 'Abdullah bin Salam said, "O Allah's Apostle, tell them to bring the Torah." The Torah was brought, and then one of the Jews put his hand over the Divine Verse of the Rajam (stoning to death) and started reading what preceded and what followed it. On that, Ibn Salam said to the Jew, "Lift up your hand." Behold! The Divine Verse of the Rajam was under his hand. So Allah's Apostle ordered that the two (sinners) be stoned to death, and so they were stoned. Ibn 'Umar added: So both of them were stoned at the Balat and I saw the Jew sheltering the Jewess.
Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar : The Jew brought to the Prophet a man and a woman from amongst them who have committed (adultery) illegal sexual intercourse. He ordered both of them to be stoned (to death), near the place of offering the funeral prayers beside the mosque."

The Man who Couldn't Keep Silent

Narrated Abu Huraira: A man from Bani Aslam came to Allah's Apostle while he was in the mosque and called (the Prophet ) saying, "O Allah's Apostle! I have committed illegal sexual intercourse." On that the Prophet turned his face from him to the other side, whereupon the man moved to the side towards which the Prophet had turned his face, and said, "O Allah's Apostle! I have committed illegal sexual intercourse." The Prophet turned his face (from him) to the other side whereupon the man moved to the side towards which the Prophet had turned his face, and repeated his statement. The Prophet turned his face (from him) to the other side again. The man moved again (and repeated his statement) for the fourth time. So when the man had given witness four times against himself, the Prophet called him and said, "Are you insane?" He replied, "No." The Prophet then said (to his companions), "Go and stone him to death." The man was a married one. Jabir bin 'Abdullah Al-Ansari said: I was one of those who stoned him. We stoned him at the Musalla ('Id praying place) in Medina. When the stones hit him with their sharp edges, he fled, but we caught him at Al-Harra and stoned him till he died.

The Adulterous Bedouin

Narrated Abu Huraira and Zaid bin Khalid Al-Juhani: A bedouin came and said, "O Allah's Apostle! Judge between us according to Allah's Laws." His opponent got up and said, "He is right. Judge between us according to Allah's Laws." The bedouin said, "My son was a laborer working for this man, and he committed illegal sexual intercourse with his wife. The people told me that my son should be stoned to death; so, in lieu of that, I paid a ransom of one hundred sheep and a slave girl to save my son. Then I asked the learned scholars who said, "Your son has to be lashed one-hundred lashes and has to be exiled for one year." The Prophet said, "No doubt I will judge between you according to Allah's Laws. The slave-girl and the sheep are to go back to you, and your son will get a hundred lashes and one year exile." He then addressed somebody, "O Unais! go to the wife of this (man) and stone her to death" So, Unais went and stoned her to death.

The Boy

Narrated 'Aisha: Sad bin Abi Waqqas and 'Abu bin Zam'a quarreled over a boy. Sad said, "O Allah's Apostle! This boy is the son of my brother ('Utba bin Abi Waqqas) who took a promise from me that I would take him as he was his (illegal) son. Look at him and see whom he resembles." 'Abu bin Zam'a said, "O Allah's Apostle! This is my brother and was born on my father's bed from his slave-girl." Allah's Apostle cast a look at the boy and found definite resemblance to 'Utba and then said, "The boy is for you, O 'Abu bin Zam'a. The child goes to the owner of the bed and the adulterer gets nothing but the stones (despair, i.e. to be stoned to death). Then the Prophet said, "O Sauda bint Zama! Screen yourself from this boy." So, Sauda never saw him again.

Scholars

Ibn Kathir

[وَاللَّذَانَ يَأْتِيَـنِهَا مِنكُمْ فَـَاذُوهُمَا]
(And the two persons among you who commit illegal sexual intercourse, punish them both.) Ibn `Abbas and Sa`id bin Jubayr said that this punishment includes cursing, shaming them and beating them with sandals. This was the ruling until Allah abrogated it with flogging or stoning, as we stated.)

Shaykh Gibril Haddad

The late Shaykh `Abd Allah al-Ghumari in Dhawq al-Halawa fi Imtina` Naskh al-Tilawa and al-Ihsan fi Ta`qib al-Itqan, denied that "When the mature man and the mature woman commit adultery, stone them" was ever part of the Qur'an and asserted the report to that effect was disclaimed (munkar). However, it cannot be munkar since Imam Malik narrates it verbatim from our liegelord `Umar in the chapter on hadd in the Muwatta'.
. . .

Yes, our liegelord `Umar radyAllahu `anhu reported that when it was revealed, the Prophet salla Allahu `alayhi wa-Sallam refrained from consigning it into writing, so it did not become mass-transmitted from him. (If it had, it would have been meaningless for `Umar to strenuously predict that innovators would one day emerge and deny that rajm was ever in the Qur'an.)

Yet the wording is clearly related from `Umar in the Muwatta' as I mentioned in my previous post, not through al-Zuhri but through Yahya ibn Sa`id al-Ansari.

The wording and its slight variants are also related from (1) `Umar with a weaker chain by al-Nasa'i in the Kubra, (2) Ubay ibn Ka`b by Ahmad, al-Tayalisi, Ibn Hibban etc. with sound chains, (3) `A'isha by al-Qasim ibn Sallam with a weak chain, (3) Zayd ibn Thabit in Ahmad and al-Nasa'i's Sunan al-Kubra with fair chains, (4) Sa`id ibn al-`As in Ahmad, al-Darimi, al-Nasa'i in the Sunan al-Kubra, etc. with fair chains (5) Ibn `Abbas by al-Hakim, and (6) Abu Umama ibn Hunayf's maternal aunt in al-Nasa'i's Sunan al-Kubra and al-Hakim.

And yes, "shaykh" in Arabic does not connote betrothal but only age. `Iyad in his commentary on Sahih Muslim said its wording was plainly not Qur'anic; and al-Tabari narrates with his chain that that very wording was read out to the Prophet from the Torah. Evidently, the Torah wording was written, famous and widespread while Allah Most High lifted up the Qur'anic wording and caused it to be forgotten.

However, the ruling was identical and remained: it is transmitted from al-Zuhri by eight of his students that `Umar said: "Rajm is firmly established in the Book of Allah."
Abrogation and Hadith
Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad, Living Islam, December 23, 2008

Recent Fatwas

....the prescribed punishment for adultery, which means an illegitimate sexual intercourse between a married man and a woman married to another man is stoning to death. But this offense must be proven either through a confession made voluntarily by the accused or by the testimony of four witnesses who state under oath that they have witnessed the commission of the crime. It's only after this legal procedure that the accused will be punished by lapidation. This punishment is agreed upon by scholars and there is no question about it.
. . .

In the Kuwaiti Encyclopedia of Islamic Jurisprudence, we read the following:

Ibn Qudamah wrote: “Muslim jurists are unanimous on the fact stoning to death is a specified punishment for married adulterer and adulteress. The punishment is recorded in number of traditions and the practice of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stands as an authentic source supporting it. This is the view held by all Companions, Successors and other Muslim scholars with the exception of Kharijites.”


Al-Bahuty said: “The authentic practice of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) supports stoning to death as a punishment specified for adultery. In addition, the verse commanding this punishment was revealed in the Qur’an. Later, it was verbally abrogated but its ruling is still binding.
. . .
Stoning to death is a Divine obligation and punishment specified for any married adulterer or adulteress once there is four witnesses or the confession of the accused.
. . .

Finally, we would like to note that there are many incidents in the Sunnah and the life of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in which the Prophet stoned the married adulterer and adulteress to death. This happened in the case of Ma`iz and the Ghamidi woman. All this makes it clear that the punishment is proven and authentic and is not debatable.
Stoning: Does It Have Any Basis in Shari`ah?
Fatwa from Islam Online, March 29, 2005
Praise be to Allaah.

It is essential to stone the married adulterer until he dies, following the Sunnah of the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), as it is proven that he said that, did it and enjoined it. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) stoned Maa’iz, the Juhani woman, the Ghaamidi woman, and the two Jews. All of that is proven in saheeh ahaadeeth narrated from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). The scholars among the Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with them), the Taabi’een and those who came after them are also unanimously agreed on that. No one differed from them apart from those to whose views no attention is to be paid. Al-Bukhaari and Muslim narrated in their Saheehs from Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) that ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “Allaah sent Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) with the truth and revealed to him the Book, and one of the things that Allaah revealed was the verse of stoning. We have read it and understood it. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) stoned (adulterers) and we stoned (them) after him, but I fear that there may come a time when some people say: ‘By Allaah, we do not find the verse of stoning in the Book of Allaah.’ So they will go astray by forsaking an obligation that Allaah has revealed. According to the Book of Allaah, stoning is deserved by the one who commits zina, if he is married, men and women alike, if proof is established or the woman becomes pregnant or they confess…”

Based on this, it is not permissible to replace stoning with killing by the sword or shooting, because stoning is a more severe punishment and a more effective deterrent to the sin of zina, which is the most grave sin after shirk and killing a soul whom Allaah has forbidden us to kill. The hadd punishment of stoning for a married person who commits zina is one of the matters that is determined by the Qur’aan and Sunnah and there is no room for ijtihaad or personal opinion. If killing by the sword or shooting were permissible in the case of the married adulterer then the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) would have done that and would have explained it to his ummah, and his companions after him would have done that too.

Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 22/48-49.

See Also

  • Stoning - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Stoning

External links

References

  1. What happens in Stoning? - apostatesofislam.com
  2. Should Sharia laws be reconsidered? - Sandhya Jain - International Humanist and Ethical Union, March 9, 2004
  3. Stoning victim 'begged for mercy' - BBC News, November 4, 2008
  4. Somali woman stoned to death for adultery - The Jakarta Post, November 18, 2009
  5. Stoning - Frequently Asked Questions about Stoning - stop-stoning.org
  6. Pew Report: Pakistani Public Opinion - Growing Concerns about Extremism, Continuing Discontent with U.S.Religion, Law, and Society Page 3
  7. 50% Support Stoning for Adultery in 'Moderate' Muslim Country - The Jawa Report, March 18, 2006
  8. "Umar said to me ‘How many verses are contained in the chapter of al-Ahzab?’ I said, ‘72 or 73 verses.’ He said it was almost as long as the chapter of the Cow, which contains 287 verses, and in it there was the verse of stoning." - Al-Muttaqi ‘Ali bin Husam al-Din in his book “Mukhtasar Kanz al-’Ummal” printed on the margin of Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Volume 2, page 2, in his hadith about chapter 33
  9. As-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fii Ulum al-Qur'an, p.524
  10. References: Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal. vol. 6. page 269; Sunan Ibn Majah, page 626; Ibn Qutbah, Tawil Mukhtalafi 'l-Hadith (Cairo: Maktaba al-Kulliyat al-Azhariyya. 1966) page 310; As-Suyuti, ad-Durru 'l-Manthur, vol. 2. page 13
  11. "...'Umar said, "I am afraid that after a long time has passed, people may say, "We do not find the Verses of the Rajam (stoning to death) in the Holy Book," and consequently they may go astray by leaving an obligation that Allah has revealed..." - Sahih Bukhari 8:82:816