Not too long ago, The New York Times reported that a group of Muslims in Afghanistan had stoned to death a woman accused of adultery. On what legal basis did this group of Muslims base its judgment in committing this gruesome act of stoning?
They could not have based it on the Quran, because the Quran gives clear and definite directives on the punishment of adultery which are completely different from the punishment meted to that unfortunate woman.
Stoning is Not an Islamic Punishment
The punishments for adultery are stated in Ayahs 02-03 of Surah an-Nur:
The adulteress and the adulterer scourge each one of them a hundred stripes, and in the matter of Allah’s Religion let no tenderness for them seize you if you believe in Allah and the Last Day; and let a party of the believers witness their chastisement. The adulterer shall marry none but an adulteress or an idolatress, and the adulteress none shall marry her but an adulterer or an idolator; that is forbidden to the believers.
Furthermore, Ayah 93 from Surah an-Nisa states:
And whoever kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell to abide therein, and the Wrath and the Curse of Allah are upon him, and a great punishment is prepared for him.
So in taking the law in their own hands, this particular group of Muslims has committed a most grievous crime!
References to Stoning in the Quran
The punishment meted to that unfortunate and aggrieved woman is not Islamic in so far as the Quran is concerned. In fact, the method of punishment itself is not Islamic. In multiple places, the Quran states that the method of execution by stoning is a characteristic of Pagan societies. Nowhere is it mentioned as an Islamic practice; but instead, stoning was a form of punishment invented by societies before Islam. Many Prophets of Islam, such as Hz Abraham (AS), were given threats related to stoning by unbelievers. For example:
Ayah 20 of Surah ad-Dukhan:
And indeed, I have sought refuge in my Lord and your Lord, lest you stone me.
Ayah 46 of Surah Maryam:
(His father) said, “Have you no desire for my gods, O Abraham? If you do not desist, I will surely stone you, so avoid me a prolonged time.”
Ayah 20 of Surah al-Kahf:
For they, if they should come to know of you, will stone you or turn you back to their religion; then ye will never prosper.
Ayah 91 of Surah Hud:
They said, “O Shuayb, we do not understand much of what you say, and indeed, we consider you among us as weak. And if not for your family, we would have stoned you (to death); and you are not to us one respected.”
From the above verses, it is clear that stoning was a pagan practice, and the Quran views it as such. It is not an Islamic punishment. Plus, it absolutely was not a method of punishment invented or practised by the Arabs.
Origins of Stoning
So, where did stoning come into Islam from? In reality, it came from later sources, as thoroughly discussed by Theodor Nöldeke in his work Geschichte des Qorâns (1860). According to him, inspiration for stoning as a method of punishment came from the Old Testament.
As a matter of fact, Paul Winter, in his work On the Trial of Jesus (Berlin: Walter de Gruyer & Co, 1961), observed that the Old Testament decrees three methods for putting people to death, as under:
- The first method is stoning, which is especially applied in the case of an adulteress.
- The second one is death by burning alive. This method is also applied to an adulteress if she happens to be the daughter of a Rabbi.
- The third method is cutting the head off by means of a sword.
It is now clear as to from where the abomination of stoning came into Islam. It came not from the Quran, but from alien sources. In other words, it came via those people from Ahl al-Kitab who acted as story tellers and popular commentators on the Quran. They produced a religious lore, some of which found its way into the Islamic practice of later days.
Therefore, while the modern media verticals are happy to term “stoning” as an Islamic practice, it hardly has any Islamic connections. In fact, the so-called Muslim lawgivers who advocate stoning as a form of punishment are mistaken about the teachings of Islam in this regard.
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