Is stoning only for women?

My attention was brought to this website, according to which it is only Muslim women, and not men, who are punished for adultery in the Muslim world. This is something I have often been asked by non-Muslim people when discussing Islam.

Before I ask you some questions, allow me to begin by saying that stoning as a punishment for adultery is not part of the Quran. Capital punishment in the Quran for a Muslim is reserved only for murder (2:178). This is of course something many non-Muslims may not know. A Muslim may understand the reason for this – early Muslim population was small and if, like in the OT, all offences were to be punished by death, the population would have shrunk further.

But as the population of Muslims grew, Sharia developed further to include the following crimes to be punished by death: (1) Treason, helping an enemy of the Muslim community; (2) Apostasy, leaving the faith and joining the enemy in fighting against the Muslim community; (3) Land, sea, or air piracy; (4) Rape; (5) Adultery; (6) Homosexual intercourse. The argument is simple – these activities spread fisaad fil ardh (mischief on earth).

Adultery has been punished by the first Muslims, including the Prophet, by stoning and it has always been a subject of much debate. Ahadith tell us that despite stoning not been a set punishment in the Quran, the Prophet did stone people (both women and men) for adultery:

From Sahih Bukhari alone:

Volume 8, Book 82, Number 803:

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.”

Volume 8, Book 82, Number 805:

Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah Al-Ansari: A man from the tribe of Bani Aslam came to Allah’s Apostle and Informed him that he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and bore witness four times against himself. Allah’s Apostle ordered him to be stoned to death as he was a married Person.

Many Muslims claim that adultery should not be punished by stoning since the Quran doesn’t set that punishment. I would have had trouble understanding this (since hadith and sharia do lay out that punishment quite clearly) if there was no punishment mentioned in the Quran. However, Quran does set out the punishment for adultery which is by flogging 100 times (24:2). It is, however, argued in hadith that there was a verse on stoning abrogating 24:2 but that a goat ate the leaf on which it was penned down.[i]

So when did stoning become a standard punishment for adultery? Looking at history from hadith alone, it is clear that  the Prophet did not know that adultery was punished by stoning in Judaism:

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 82, Number 809:

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.

As the ruler of Medina, all people whether they were pagan, Christian, Jewish or Muslim came to the Prophet for judgment. He often used to offer judgment based on the Quran, but there were cases in which he awarded punishment according to the punishment prescribed in the faith of the violator, like for instance, it is argued that all adult males of Banu Qurayza were killed because that is the punishment set for treason in the Torah.

In my opinion, this is where stoning for adultery began as a prophetic practice but something that was not laid down in the Quran. This confused even early Muslims because some questioned:

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 82, Number 804:

Narrated Ash Shaibani: I asked ‘Abdullah bin Abi Aufa, ‘Did Allah’s Apostle carry out the Rajam penalty ( i.e., stoning to death)?’ He said, “Yes.” I said, “Before the revelation of Surat-ar-Nur or after it?” He replied, “I don’t Know.”

Now that we have established that stoning indeed did take place, let us look at what happens to fornicators and adulterers.

Unmarried couples engaging in pre-marital sex are flogged 100 times. It is a punishment agreed upon unanimously by Muslim scholars.  According to Sharia, if a married man has sex with someone else’s wife, then both the adulterers are to be stoned to death. If a married woman has sex with an unmarried man, then only the woman is to be stoned to death; the man is flogged 100 times and exiled for a year.[ii] Here is the difficult part – if a married man has sex with a woman who is unmarried, there is no set punishment for the man in Sharia! I have searched everywhere and I couldn’t find anything. Can anyone help? I asked an Imam and his answer was that it is certain that since the woman is unmarried that she should be flogged 100 times, but he was not sure about the man since there was no prior example of such a case for inference.

Why is there no example of such a situation? I think it is possible that such an event never happened because men are by law allowed several women (they can legally have up to four wives and as many concubines as they can afford) so like I said before, the urge for committing adultery is almost nil. If a married man fancies an unmarried woman, he has the legal and religious right to marry her, or if the woman was a slave, then to “possess” her. The opportunity for adultery would only arise if he already had four wives and the woman he newly fancied was a free woman. Even then he could potentially divorce one of his wives and marry this new woman. We see that happening often even today.

So in such a case, adultery does become a married woman’s problem. What if she begins to fancy a married man? Or an unmarried man? Or a slave? Or is simply bored in her marriage? What legal opportunities are available to her?

In the light of what I have presented above, what implication does stoning for adultery have for Muslim feminists? I understand that most of you don’t have to fight against this punishment in your countries of residence, but have you ever raised your voice to help women in other countries who have been given this punishment and are waiting to literally die by stoning? Do you think it is unfair that men today are not punished similarly even though there are ample examples that married men too were stoned in Prophet’s time? How do you feel about stoning generally?


[i] Narrated ‘Aisha: “The verse of the stoning and of suckling an adult ten times were revealed, and they were (written) on a paper and kept under my bed. When the messenger of Allah expired and we were preoccupied with his death, a goat entered and ate away the paper.” 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

[ii] Set according to Sahih hadith in Bukhari,  Volume 8, Book 82, Number 842:

Narrated Abu Huraira and Zaid bin Khalid Al-Juhani: A man came to the Prophet and said, “I beseech you to judge us according to Allah’s Laws.” Then his opponent who was wiser than he, got up and said, “He has spoken the truth. So judge us according to Allah’s Laws and please allow me (to speak), O Allah’s Apostle.” The Prophet said, “Speak.” He said, “My son was a laborer for the family of this man and he committed illegal sexual intercourse with his wife, and I gave one-hundred sheep and a slave as a ransom (for my son), but I asked the religious learned people (regarding this case), and they informed me that my son should be flogged one-hundred stripes, and be exiled for one year, and the wife of this man should be stoned (to death).”The Prophet said, “By Him in Whose Hand my soul is, I will Judge you (in this case) according to Allah’s Laws. The one-hundred (sheep) and the slave shall be returned to you and your son shall be flogged one-hundred stripes and be exiled for one year. And O Unais! Go in the morning to the wife of this man and ask her, and if she confesses, stone her to death.” She confessed and he stoned her to death.

Advertisements

25 thoughts on “Is stoning only for women?

  1. Lat says:

    “..goat entered and ate away the paper” This says it all! It’s divine will to abrogate the stoning law! It was a Jewish law and prophet did punish people according to it but only for a time till he was with the Jews (I think 15 mths),hoping for them to accept him as a prophet.When this did not happen,he no longer had to follow their stoning law.That’s how I understood the subject on rajm.

    I prefer the Quranic stance and not the death penalty for adultery.The rajm law put in practice in today’s climate is very discriminatory towards women,simply because they bear the evidence of such an act! In those days they needed 4 witnesses to prove the act of penetration which was very difficult.But now a cell phone or video clip can replace this and the woman can be charged accordingly. How fair is this?

    • Metis says:

      “This says it all! It’s divine will to abrogate the stoning law!”

      So true! I like that. BTW, I was reading somewhere about stoning and got stuck on these lines – “For married persons, the Sunnah/Hadith abrogated the Qur`anic penalty of 100 lashes and instead prescribed death by stoning… The stoning penalty is found in the Qur`an but it is known only to scholars of great erudition capable of diving deep into the meanings of the Book of God.”

      Despite the fact that I am NOT a scholar “of great erudition capable of diving deep into the meanings of the Book of God”, I thought hadith couldn’t abrogate Quran!

      Yes, but if an act is captured on phone then the man will be held accountable as well, won’t he? It is unfair that men are usually not charged.

  2. Sumera says:

    I think its highly unfair that in most cases the man flee’s and its the woman who is left behind to bear the brunt of it all!

    If a man/woman were having an affair but did it in the privacy of their own homes (without any witnesses to the actual ACT of penetration) then nothing can be done. If they were doing it in public view (thus promoting it) then thats where the punishment would be applied.

    I find it so bizarre how, as Lat mentioned, they can have a video clip to prove adultery (have “advanced” in this)YET for things like divorce a man warbling it instead of putting it down in writing is considered sufficient!

  3. luckyfatima says:

    Like many Muslims, I find ahadeeth to be very self-contradictory. They contradict the Quran often, or supposedly abrogate the Quran, or provide room for interpretations and rulings that go completely against the spirit justice. I realize we need them to know how to pray and complete other such functions, but when it comes to this stuff about hadd punishments and all, I think they need to be very highly scrutinized and taken with a grain of salt. Shari’ah is something that exists in the sky, and there is no book called The Shari’ah. What we take to be as Shari’ah differs all over the world on many many matters (like divorce, for example). So why not make modern interpretation and for what we consider as our Shari’ah? If a just-minded group of ‘ulema were to do this, that would solve this problem of anti-woman rulings and literal hadd.

    I always understood the hadd punishment of stoning to be more of a deterrent of the socially and morally destructive phenomenon of infidelity. The set of ahadeeth that I most strongly attach to it are about the Prophet seeming to encourage people to not bear witness against themselves, and turning them away. It never made logical sense why a person would confess to adultery multiple times when given a chance to retract her testimony, and ask for stoning, but apparently this did occur according to tradition.

    I had no idea that based on ahadeeth that there is no hadd prescribed to married men who cheat with an unmarried woman. The Quran is clear, but once again, ahadeeth provide for an unreasonable conclusion.

    There are contemporary places where men implement their understanding of Shari’ah, but it seems that either they are interested in both offenders regardless of the fact that there is no hadd specified for a married male, or more often due to patriarchy and misogyny, little attention is paid to the male culprit or he is not even identified, and a woman bears the brunt of the hadd no matter her marital status or whether or not she has incriminated herself. Once again, this has little to do with ‘what Islam says…” and more to do with patriarchy and their particular sociopolitical circumstances (like in Talibanized Afghanistan or in Northern Nigeria or wherever these things pop up in the news).

    • Metis says:

      I agree with you Fatima, and it is such a relief that more and more women are really eager to learn about their religion and use their brains to come to intelligent decisions. I think education is very necessary. Agree with your second paragraph so much.

  4. sana says:

    not just the muslim world but every place and nation where patriarchy is relevant. Apart from the stoning law, women or girls always bear the brunt if they “unlawfully” mingle with men. I have heard people shamelessly expressing that if their son has girlfriends or female friends it’s totally alright but if it’s a girl doing so, even if a platonic relationship they will quickly tag her as “fast’ and cheap. I really hate that. I have openly and many times rudely spoken against the practice but get nothing but their callous and shameless reaction. These things happen in the faamily too so it just boils my blood. May allah give me the courage and wisdom to bring up my daughters and sons equally when I become a mother.
    I have also read it somewhere that divorce rates are low where there is patriarchy. why?

    • Becky says:

      I have alway wondered about this as well Sana, and think it’s such incredibly unfair! I have platonic friendships with guys, and I do not see a problem with it, especially because it’s so unfair that it apparently is perfectly fine for guys to be friends with girls, but not the other way around! Also, it’s fine for guys to have female roommates…. but not for girls to have male roommates? It’s so messed up! InshaAllah, once I have kids, I’ll be able to bring up my boys and girls as equals.

    • Metis says:

      “I have also read it somewhere that divorce rates are low where there is patriarchy. why?”

      No way! The world’s highest divorce rate is in the quite patriarchal UAE!

    • Zuhura says:

      Where isn’t there patriarchy? I’d like to visit!

  5. Lat says:

    {“For married persons, the Sunnah/Hadith abrogated the Qur`anic penalty of 100 lashes and instead prescribed death by stoning… The stoning penalty is found in the Qur`an but it is known only to scholars of great erudition capable of diving deep into the meanings of the Book of God”},

    OMG! 😀 If the holy Quran did not have the stoning law why continue to practice it?

    Even the flogging thing is so oddly practiced.A few months earlier,3 Malaysian women were ordered to be flogged for fornication.All three got pregnant,I think.This whole episode made the news and flogging methods were shown on tv.But the thing is only the women are shown.No male participants in the fornication process were ever mentioned.In news article,it was written that they got their punishment too.I wonder if this was an appeasement sentence.Probably the males didn’t come forward to accept their punishment.The opposition MP,Mr Anwar,did hightlight this point at a conference talk.When punishment is meted out,it should be fair on both sides.How did the girls get pregnant anyway? I wonder how long they’re going to make fools of their people.

    There’s the hadith about a man who was given the stoning order but he somehow managed to escaped and ran away.He was caught and put to death.When the prophet was told about this,he asked them why they didn’t let him go.So I think perhaps it was for particular persons who such punishments were administered not for general muslim community at that time.

    • Metis says:

      Or that woman in Africa – Amina someone. Because she got pregnant she was accused and sentenced to stoning. That is so unfair. Frankly I would be a little, teeny tiny more at peace if both parties were punished.

  6. Sara says:

    I have to rush out now so I couldn’t read the post properly (will do so later) but I just wanted to repeat that stoning is not in the Qur’an, like you said. Also, in the hadith, it supposedly is for men and women – basically whoever commits adultery.
    Will be back!

  7. Sara says:

    “In the light of what I have presented above, what implication does stoning for adultery have for Muslim feminists? I understand that most of you don’t have to fight against this punishment in your countries of residence, but have you ever raised your voice to help women in other countries who have been given this punishment and are waiting to literally die by stoning? Do you think it is unfair that men today are not punished similarly even though there are ample examples that married men too were stoned in Prophet’s time? How do you feel about stoning generally?”

    Okay I’m back 😀

    I find it v. interesting that in shari’a men aren’t punished for adultery the way women are, even though the Prophet punished both and the Qur’an says they should both be punished. Doesn’t sond right 😉

    Even though we may not get affected by stoning where we live, we shold still fight against it for the sake of women who have to suffer through itand also for its symbolic value.

    It’s ridiculous that men aren’t getting stoned and women are, but not really surprising considering the way the Islamic tradition has been denegrated by lteralists/extremists/salafis.

    I’m sure 1400 stoning was normal and not seen as extreme, just like cutting off someone’s hand. But today we have better options. Instead of cuttin off someone’s hand, we put them in jail. So why do we need to still stone people?

    • Metis says:

      “Even though we may not get affected by stoning where we live, we shold still fight against it for the sake of women who have to suffer through itand also for its symbolic value.”

      Ditto!

      I agree with your better options logic. Stoning should have died with the stone age.

  8. Becky says:

    Like everyone else have pointed out as well, if the Qu’ran does not mention stoning, it shouldn’t be done! This is one of the main reasons why I have such a big problem with the hadiths. And what’s up with not punishing the men?! It makes me absolutely furious! I hate how girls/women can be punished for “flirting”, or even for being raped whereas the man goes completely free!

    • Metis says:

      Becky, this was a huge problem in Pakistan. The Hadd punishment laws punished all victims of rape.

      • Becky says:

        Yes I’ve read about this, absolutely horrendous, I can’t believe people cannot see how twisted this is! This is even worse than ‘blame the victim’ – mentality, it’s punish the victim mentality!

  9. mariam says:

    salam 🙂
    stoning is not in Quran, so it is not an Islamic law.I dont buy those stories that say prophet and Ali practiced it. stoning is a Hindu tradition and still is practiced in parts of India not by a theocratic goverment but by hands of family members.I dont know about other countries but in Iran we are heavily influenced by Hindu traditions( many people think these tradtions are Islamic tradtions).
    if muslims can believe that words of God was eaten by a goat why they cant believe that those stories in Sahih Bukhari which claim both prophet and Ali praticed stoning are fake? 🙂

    mariam-Iran

  10. Sophia says:

    I’m from the US and I’m against stoning… period. I may be somewhat biased since I’m also against capital punishment (I’ve hovered in the grey on this issue, but I find myself opposed to it every time), but I still think lethal injection or even a firing squad is a freakin’ picnic compared to stoning. Also, the fact that its a punishment for something between two consenting adults, not even “eye for an eye”, is pretty messed up in my view.

    The only way it will stop is if people raise such a fuss that the countries practicing it are shamed into putting an end to the practice. I’m usually against pushing my own cultural beliefs down another countries’ throat… but I make an exception in this case!

  11. Wafa' says:

    Islam did take some of its law from other religions and traditions,it’s a fact. So maybe stoning was a law in old Arabia and that’s how we got it. It’s one of most brutal punishments in Islam and in any law.
    You have mentioned it’s excistence in the time of the prophet, but that’s mean that we believe in all the stories of that time or the history of Islam !!! and i guess that’s something we need to dig more into , the history of Islam. Are all these hadiths and tales are true and honest !!

    maybe my method is not why is this or that thing exisit in Islam but about the whole tales, incidents and stories, are they honest, true, real? is this really what happened at that time or …??

    The Quran didn’t mention this punishment so why did the propeht order them ? did not the prophet follows the orders of Allah and instruct us to do something based on divine messages? what was the divine message here? why is this differentiation in punishing men and women, married and unmarried? where is the hadith that says so? and why do they instruct us to do so? . Do not you think that stoning women might be a law as i said before that has been drived from ancient laws due to the position women had in those laws.

    i guess we need to know more about how our Islamic history written this way and why it has place women this low.

  12. sf says:

    Am also waiting (am not holding my breath) for the answer on the man who commits adultery. I have always questioned this as you only hear its the woman who bears the brunt and punishment(death by stoning or lashes). Where is the man in this?? She didn’t do it by herself!!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s