Rajam - Stoning to Death
Stoning to death is a slow death by collective torture. The Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible introduced it as a legitimate legal practice ordained by God. The Torah sentences death by stoning for the following:
1. Touching Mt. Sinai while God was giving Moses the Ten Commandments. Exodus: 19:13)
2. An ox that kills someone should be stoned to death. (21:28)
3. Breaking Sabbath. (Numbers: 15:32-36)
4. Impregnating someone from Molech. (Leviticus: 20:2-5)
5. Sorcery (Lev. 20:27)
6. Cursing God. (Lev: 24:10-16)
7. Idolatry. (Deuteronomy: 17:2-7)
8. Propagating idolatry. (Deut: 13:7-12)
9. Rebellion against Parents. (Deut: 21:18-21)
10. Pretending to be a virgin. (Deut: 22:13-21)
11. Adultery. (Deut: 22:23-24)
Mishna, the oral Torah, prescribes stoning to death to the following persons:
One who has had connection with his mother
One who has sex with his father's wife
One who has sex with his daughter-in-law
One who has sex with a human male
One who has sex with cattle
The woman who uncovers herself before cattle
One who has sex with a blasphemer
One he who sacrifices one of his children to Molech
One that occupies himself with familiar spirits
One who violates Sabbath
One who curses his father or mother
One who has assaulted a betrothed damsel
A seducer who has seduced men to worship idols
The one who misleads a whole town
A witch (male or female)
Aa stubborn and rebellious son
Christians and Jews revere these laws and consider them sacred. They repeat them in their religious readings daily and they consider them God-given. Yet, they lack the commitment to be loyal to their books as they have abandoned them. They ignore these laws not because they are barbaric but because they are not sure if they are divinely ordained. With so much human interference in Biblical writings, they cannot be sure of every word in the Bible.
However, if these Biblical laws are applied in the US as more than 80 million Christian evangelicals and some 3 million Jews are striving for, then nearly two-thirds of the US population would be the easy the target for stoning to death including one percent zoophiles, four million homosexuals, seventy million or more men and women living together without marriage, over one million Hindu idolaters, some 60 million youth who show stubbornness and rebellion to family traditions and the majority of media people who often mislead the entire world.
Stoning to death is a Biblical punishment and the last divine revelation, the Quran does not mention it. The Quran prescribes the punishment of 100 lashes to the one found guilty of the act. Yet Stoning to death is part of the Islamic penal codes in several Muslim countries. For instance, in Iran, the following articles give details of stoning to death.
Article 102 – An adulterous man shall be buried in a ditch up to near his waist and an adulterous woman up to near her chest and then stoned to death.
Article 103 – In case the person sentenced to stoning escapes the ditch in which they are buried, then if the adultery is proven by testimony then they will be returned for the punishment but if it is proven by their own confession then they will not be returned.
Article 104 – The size of the stone used in stoning shall not be too large to kill the convict by one or two throws and at the same time shall not be too small to be called a stone.
The justification of stoning to death is done on the basis of rules derived from the statements attributed to the Prophet or his companions. There are two opinions on this matter. There are scholars who suggest that both lashing and stoning to death should be carried one after another. For instance, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Daud Zahiri, and Ishaq bin Rahawayh are among those who hold the view that there are two penalties for Zina` for a married person: 100 lashes followed by rajm, one stated in the Quran and the other in the Hadith. On the other hand are those who believe that the punishment of lashing is abrogated by ahadith of the Prophet that prescribe stoning to death for the guilty. The issue of abrogation of the Quranic verses is a different issue and it would be discussed in a separate article.
The stoning to death is being carried out for centuries in several Muslim societies in the name of God and in the name of the Prophet. Few have questioned its legitimacy on a religious basis. Those who have opposed this penalty on the basis of their understanding of the Quran are often described as ignorant Muslims or incomplete Muslims or Muslims influenced by western propaganda. Emotions run so high on this issue that people often ignore facts and logic.
The fact is if the ahadith of stoning to death are considered authentic and accepted genuine, then the authenticity of the Quran could be in jeopardy. By accepting the accuracy of some of these ahadith, no longer could it be argued that the Quran is unchanged, unedited and protected. No longer could it be claimed that it was divinely revealed and preserved. In other words, the Quran would be like any other book subject to human intervention and human interference. It is an irony that some scholars of Islam, have tried to defend the narrations of Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, the two most authentic books of ahadith among Muslims, without realizing its implication on the authenticity and legitimacy of the Quran.
It is not the purpose of the article to discuss the merits and demerits of stoning to death or the strength of chain in the narration of ahadith related to stoning to death or their logic etc. the purpose of the article is to argue that the so-called ahadith about stoning to death question the authenticity of the Quran and challenges the divine assertion: “We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption).” (15:9) Or “Praise be to Allah, Who hath sent to His Servant the Book, and hath allowed therein no Crookedness:” (18:1)
One of the ahadith that challenges the authenticity of the Quran is found in Ibn Maja. It says:
“Reported Aisha (RA): 'the verse of stoning and of suckling an adult ten times was revealed, and they were (written) on a paper and kept under my pillow. When the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) expired and we were occupied by his death, a goat entered and ate away the paper.” (Sunan Ibn Majah, Hadith 1944)
Obviously, this hadith negates the divine claim that the Quran is protected. Even if it is assumed that the paper on which the verse was written was eaten by a goat, what prevented the earlier copies of the Quran to include it part of the Quran from their memories if the prophet had mentioned it as part of the Quran.
Ibn Ishaq, the earliest biographer of the Prophet mentions the same verse (The Life of Muhammad, Karachi, p. 684): "God sent Muhammad, and sent down the scripture to him. Part of what he sent down was the passage on stoning. Umar says, "We read it, we were taught it, and we heeded it. The apostle Muhammad stoned, and we stoned after him."
Sahih Bukhari reports the following. “…In the meantime, Umar sat on the pulpit and when the call makers for the prayer had finished their call, Umar stood up, and having glorified and praised Allah as He deserved, he said, "Now then, I am going to tell you something which (Allah) has written for me to say. I do not know; perhaps it portends my death, so whoever understands and remembers it, must narrate it to the others wherever his mount takes him, but if somebody is afraid that he does not understand it, and then it is unlawful for him to tell lies about me. Allah sent Muhammad with the Truth and revealed the Holy Book to him, and among what Allah revealed, was the Verse of the Rajam the stoning of married person (male & female)… I am afraid that after a long time has passed, somebody will say, 'By Allah, we do not find the Verse of the Rajam in Allah's Book,' and thus they will go astray by leaving an obligation which Allah has revealed. And the punishment of the Rajam is to be inflicted to any married person (male & female), who commits illegal sexual intercourse if the required evidence is available or there is conception or confession. And then we used to recite among the Verses in Allah's Book: 'O people! Do not claim to be the offspring of other than your fathers, as it is disbelief (unthankfulness) on your part that you claim to be the offspring of other than your real father'…” (Sahih Bukhari 8.817)
Omar, the Second Caliph, was the most powerful Caliph in the history of Islam. If he had believed that the aya of rajam was part of the Quran, why did he not include it and made the correction? There were many companions who were alive and who would have certainly known this aya to be part of the Quran, why did they not intervene then. They could have supported him in his endeavor. Why did the second caliph wait until his term to raise the issue? When the Quran was being reportedly compiled at his behest during the caliphate of the first Caliph, Abu Bakr, why did the second Caliph not point out the omission? The mother of believers, Ayesha, was alive and she could have backed him up for that. Why the fourth Caliph, Ali did, not corrected the mistake when he has all the authority in his hand to do so.
Sahih Muslim also refers to the verse for stoning adulterers claiming that it was lost: “Abdullah b. Abbas reported that Umar b. Khattab sat on the pulpit of Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: Verily Allah sent Muhammad (may peace be upon him) with truth and He sent down the Book upon him, and the verse of stoning was included in what was sent down to him. We recited it, retained it in our memory and understood it. Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) awarded the punishment of stoning to death (to the married adulterer and adulteress) and, after him, we also awarded the punishment of stoning, I am afraid that with the lapse of time, the people (may forget it) and may say: We do not find the punishment of stoning in the Book of Allah and thus go astray by abandoning this duty prescribed by Allah. Stoning is a duty laid down in Allah's Book for married men and women who commit adultery when the proof is established, or it there is pregnancy, or a confession. (Sahih Muslim 17:4194)
There is no explanation in our books that gives that reason for the omission of this verse from the Quran. Does this not raise a question about the authenticity of the Quran? Does it not challenge the divine promise? Just for the sake of the authenticity and the preservation of the Quran, these ahadith should have been studied in depth to find explanations that would not jeopardize the status of the Quran.
Instead, our scholars have insisted on making stoning to death as part of the divine punishment without giving satisfactory explanations about the omission of the verse from the Quran.
The Quran is a book whose authenticity is the foundation of our iman and identity. Our firm belief is that this book is free from errors as it also claims the same. Anything that questions its authenticity should not be accepted because it weakens the foundation. People may have followed the stoning to death as part of tribal or Biblical or feudal practices, but to say that God revealed a verse about it and the Prophet and all those who were asked to preserve failed to write it in the pages of the Quran is unacceptable. Why did earlier scholars miss this point? This is not a good question because only they were able to answer it. What is apparent to many now is that any statement that would question the authenticity and legitimacy of the Quran would be set aside for any future research and understanding. Until then, it is better to put stop to the practice of stoning to death as part of our loyalty and commitment to Allah.