Monday, December 10, 2012

Stoning in Islam

It was not Muhammad who invented stoning as punishment, particularly the stoning of adulterers. But it is he who forced a come back to the practice, after it had been abolished eight centuries earlier by Jesus, as described in the Gospel of John, chapter 7, and even abandoned by the Jews. Because of Muhammad, the practice of stoning people has been propagated until the present times.

As Muhammad's example is, of course, normative for Islamic behavior, since "verily in the messenger of Allah ye have a good example for him who looketh unto Allah and the Last Day, and remembereth Allah much" (Qur'an 33:21), stoning has been perpetuated, and included in Sharia Law:

o12.6 If the penalty is stoning, they are to be stoned, no matter the weather, or if they are ill. A pregnant woman is not stoned until she gives birth and the child does not need to nurse.

Stoning adulterers is not "extremist"; it is Islamic law. The caliph Umar, one of Muhammad's closest companions, even maintained that it was originally in the Qur'an:

'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. Lo! I confirm that the penalty of Rajam be inflicted on him who commits illegal sexual intercourse, if he is already married and the crime is proved by witnesses or pregnancy or confession." Sufyan added, "I have memorized this narration in this way." 'Umar added, "Surely Allah's Apostle carried out the penalty of Rajam, and so did we after him." (Bukhari, vol. 8, bk. 82, no. 816)

"Allah's Apostle" is, of course, Muhammad, who did indeed carry out stonings. Here is the hadith in which he challenges the rabbis about stoning, and in which there is amidst the barbarism and brutality a final act of love and compassion:

The Jews came to Allah's Apostle and told him that a man and a woman from amongst them had committed illegal sexual intercourse. Allah's Apostle said to them, "What do you find in the Torah (old Testament) about the legal punishment of Ar-Rajm (stoning)?" They replied, (But) we announce their crime and lash them." Abdullah bin Salam said, "You are telling a lie; Torah contains the order of Rajm." They brought and opened the Torah and one of them solaced his hand on the Verse of Rajm and read the verses preceding and following it. Abdullah bin Salam said to him, "Lift your hand." When he lifted his hand, the Verse of Rajm was written there. They said, "Muhammad has told the truth; the Torah has the Verse of Rajm. The Prophet then gave the order that both of them should be stoned to death. 'Abdullah bin 'Umar said, "I saw the man leaning over the woman to shelter her from the stones." (Bukhari, vol. 4, bk. 56, no. 829)

In other hadith, Muhammad sentenced an adulterer woman:

There came to him (the Holy Prophet) a woman from Ghamid and said: "Allah's Messenger, I have committed adultery, so purify me." He (the Holy Prophet) turned her away. On the following day she said: "Allah's Messenger, Why do you turn me away? Perhaps, you turn me away as you turned away Ma'iz. By Allah, I have become pregnant." He said: "Well, if you insist upon it, then go away until you give birth to (the child)." When she was delivered she came with the child (wrapped) in a rag and said: "Here is the child whom I have given birth to." He said: "Go away and suckle him until you wean him." When she had weaned him, she came to him (the Holy Prophet) with the child who was holding a piece of bread in his hand. She said: "Allah's Apostle, here is he as I have weaned him and he eats food." He (the Holy Prophet) entrusted the child to one of the Muslims and then pronounced punishment. And she was put in a ditch up to her chest and he commanded people and they stoned her. - Sahih Muslim 17.4206.

Even the monkeys practiced stoning, according to another hadith:

During the pre-lslamic period of ignorance I saw a she-monkey surrounded by a number of monkeys. They were all stoning it, because it had committed illegal sexual intercourse. I too, stoned it along with them. (Bukhari, vol. 5, bk. 58, no. 188)

A discussion about stoning from a purely Islamic perspective:
A few reported stonings:
  • Pakistan, Sep 2010: A video shows turbaned men gathering around a woman with a black hood over her head, picking up large rocks and repeatedly throwing them at her until she lies motionless, stretched along the ground. The stoning was carried because she was seen out with a man (Reuters).
  • Iran, Sep 2010: Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani is an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. An international outcry in favour of her has been ignored by the Mullahs, who suggest that she should be hanged instead. According to her son, she has also been sentenced to 99 lashes for a photo published of her without a headscarf. (AP
  • Somalia, Nov 2009: A woman in Somalia has been stoned to death after an Islamic Sharia law court found her guilty of adultery. (BBC News)
  • Iran, 1994: Video of a couple being stoned to death (Apostates of Islam).