The Illegality of Stoning Someone to Death in Islam?
By: Marcus "Ishma'il" Allgood
Rajm is an Arabic word that means "stoning". It is commonly used to refer to the Hudud punishment wherein an organized group throws stones at a convicted individual until that person dies. Traditionally it is called for in cases of adultery where the criteria for conviction are met. In some schools of Islamic law the punishment of stoning has been prescribed as punishment for married men or women who have committed adultery, following a confession or the testimony of four eye-witnesses. It has no basis in the Qur'an however it is found in Hadith (e.g. Sahih Muslim 17:4191 - 4209 and 17:4916 & 17:4194) . I wanted to address many of these hadiths about Stoning. Let's be CLEAR (Bayyinatti), the Holy Quran does NOT acknowledge any relationship outside of marriage. It uses one word for any relation outside of marriage between a woman and a man, the Arabic word is ZINA. Thus there is no such word for homosexuals, gays, lesbians, adulterers, or fornicators for that matter, it is all considered to be ZINA. And according to the Shafi`i school of thought (madhab), the homosexual receives the same punishment as adultery (if he/she is married) or fornication (if not married). Where I diverge from Shafi’i is the stoning of adulterers. The Quran is clear as to the punishment for Zina, that is 100 lashes.
There is no mentioning of stoning here contrary to some Islamic traditions. In fact, according to Quran 4:25 the punishment of a slave is half that of a free woman and you can not half stone someone to death. Thus you should not stone Adulterers or anyone guilty of Zina for that matter. Although it may seem that these verses in Surah 24 mean to hurt the sinner, i.e. Homosexuals, Adulterers, and Fornicators but this is not the case. These verses were revealed as a mercy and a protection thus necessitating the accuser to produce 4 witnesses. It is a protection against slander. The only way you can be guilty of being viewed by 4 witnesses is by having sex in public, or 4 people enter your home & catch you, or being captured on video, or you go around running your mouth to other people. In these cases you deserved to be flogged.
But...... if the person accusing you, if they do not produce the 4 witnesses they get flogged 80 times. This serves as protection for possible homosexuals, adulterers, and fornicators from slander & verbal abuse. You are innocent until PROVEN GUILTY.
However, stoning is allegedly based on the prophet's practice. In the tradition of hadith, cases are met with in which adultery was punished with stoning to death. One of these cases is expressly mentioned as that of a Jew couple: “The Jews came to the Prophet with a man and a woman from among them who had committed adultery; and by his order they were stoned to death near the place where funeral services were held" Bukhari 23:61.
Further explanation of this incident is given in another report where it is stated that when the Jews referred the case to him, he inquired of them what punishment the Torah prescribed in case of adultery. Jews tried at 1st to conceal the fact that it was stoning to death, but on 'Abd Allah ibn Salaam giving the reference (See Bible: John 8:3-5), they admitted it, and the guilty persons were dealt with as prescribed in Torah (Bukhari 61:26).
According to a 3rd version, which is the most detailed, the Jews who desired to avoid the severer punishment of stoning for adultery said one to another: "Let us go to this Prophet, for he has been raised with milder teaching; so if he gives his decision for a milder punishment than stoning, we will accept it." It is then related that the Prophet went with them to their midraas (the house in which the Torah was read), and asked them what punishment was prescribed in their sacred book. They tried to conceal it at 1st but the truth had to be admitted at last, and the Prophet gave his decision saying: "I give my judgement according to what is in the Torah" Abu Dawud 37:26.
There are even reports where the stoning was applied to Muslims too but that was before the revealing of Surah 24:2. A suggestion to that effect is contained in a tradition (Bukhari 87:6) "Shaibaani says, I asked 'abd Allah ibn Abi Aufaa, Did the Holy Prophet stone to death? He said, Yes. I said, was it before the chapter entitled "the Light" (the 24th Surah) was revealed or after it? The reply was, I do not know". Thus there was some confusion on this matter even among the companions of the Prophet (SAW). And those hadiths attributed to Umar on stoning are unsound.
What about this hadith?
“Jabir b. Samura reported: "As he was being brought to Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) I saw Ma'iz b. Malik-a short-statured person with strong sinews, having no cloak around him. He bore witness against his own self four times that he had committed adultery, whereupon Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Perhaps (you kissed her or embraced her). He said: No. by God, one deviating (from the path of virtue) has committed adultery. He then got him stoned (to death), and then delivered the address: Behold, as we set out for Jihad in the cause of Allah, one of you lagged behind and shrieked like the bleating of a male goat, and gave a small quantity of milk. By Allah, in case I get hold of him, I shall certainly punish him.”
Still there is no indication of when the punishment of stoning for Maiz b. Malik was after the revelation. In the case of Maiz b. Malik- 1.) Someone reported him sleeping with his slave. 2.) He was asked four times & he confessed 3.) Prophet inquired if he just hugged & kissed her and Mr Malik still confessed. Then he was punished. On point # 1 there were not 4 witnesses which is a indication that it occurred prior to the revelation of Surah 24:2. Also there were no lashes/flogging mentioned which is detailed in Surah 24. Thus could not have existed during the time when flogging was enjoined by Allah in such cases. Maiz b. Malik was asked 4 times (on different days), and was inquired if he had a soundness of mind (according to Sahih Muslim 17:4202). This means even if it was after the revelation we should still have to pump the breaks. The penal laws of Islam are called Hudud in the Hadith and Fiqh. This word is the plural of Hadd, which means prevention, hindrance, restraint, prohibition, and hence a restrictive ordinance or statute of God, respecting things lawful and unlawful.
Punishments are divided into two classes, one of which is called Hadd and the other Ta'zir. The Hadd is a measure of punishment defined by the Qur'an and the Sunnah. In Ta'zir, the court, is allowed to use its discretion in regard to the form and measure in which such punishment is to be inflicted.
Punishments by way of Hadd are of the following forms: death by stoning, amputation of a limb or limbs, flogging by one hundred or eighty strokes. They are prescribed respectively for the following offences: adultery committed by married persons, theft, highway robbery, drunkenness and slander imputing unchastity to women.
The punishments described above are the MAXIMUM punishments for the above mentioned crimes. These can be reduced keeping in view the circumstances in which the crimes were committed, the nature of the evidence, and the motive of the criminal with which he committed the crime. In Maiz b. Malik case, he insisted brazenly on the punishment even after Allah’s messenger sought a way out for him.
Now regarding this hadith: ''Ubada b. as-Samit reported: "Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Receive (teaching) from me, receive (teaching) from me. Allah has ordained a way for those (women). When an unmarried male commits adultery with an unmarried female (they should receive) one hundred lashes and banishment for one year. And in case of married male committing adultery with a married female, they shall receive one hundred lashes and be stoned to death." This hadith can be rejected as a later fabrication, and was not related during the time of the prophet.
** Clue # 1: It mentions flogging. Which means it was post revelation of Surah 24. (NOT a smoking gun right?).
** Clue # 2: The Quran ONLY has one word for ANY relationship outside of marriage and that word is ZINA. There was no distinction made between fornication & adultery until after the Abbasid period when the collections of hadith were formed. It is a disfiguring of the truth by saying that hadiths about stoning do not contradict the Quran since only married people are stoned to death. In reality, the fact is that no matter how hard you try to misinterpret and manipulate the Quran, stoning the adulterer is never mentioned in the Quran.
Since a married woman who was previously under the yoke of slavery receives only half the punishment of a married woman, it proves incontrovertibly that the punishment for a married person is 100 lashes (as we saw in 24:2), not stoning to death. You can divide 100 by two (50 lashes) [surah 4:25], but you cannot possibly divide death by two. This is how Allah designed His honorable and powerful Quran to defeat the pagan law of stoning. Verse 4:25 therefore proves incontrovertibly that the definition of “azzâniyatou” and “azzânî” in 24:2 refers both to married and unmarried people who have sex outside of wedlock.
Even if we try and accept these hadiths as true it becomes harder to enforce if you really see the whole body of hadiths in context on the same subject. According to Sheik Javed Ahmad Ghamidi (J. Ghamidi, Mizan, The Penal Law of Islam, Al-Mawrid),states that the Quran does not support Rajm for adultery- his views are based on a close reading of the Quranic text.[Quran 24:2]. Ghamidi claims that stoning is prescribed only in extreme cases - for someone who rapes or habitually commits fornication as prostitutes do, which then constitute malfeasance in the land that is punishable according to other Quranic verses.The hadith reports attributed to the Prophet also support this view: "Acquire it from me, acquire it from me. The Almighty has revealed the directive about women who habitually commit fornication, about which He had promised to reveal. If such criminals are unmarried or are the unsophisticated youth, then their punishment is a hundred stripes and exile and if they are widowers or are married, then their punishment is a hundred stripes and death by stoning."- Sahih Muslim 1690.