TheReligionofPeace.com
Guide to Understanding Islam

 

 

What does the
Religion of Peace
Teach About...

Stoning Adulterers

 
 

Question
:

Are adulterers to be put to death under Islam?


Summary Answer
:

Yes, Islam explicitly permits a man to keep sex slaves but requires the execution of consenting adults. There were several times in Muhammad's life when he ordered people put to death when they had committed no crime other than "illegal" sexual intercourse.  The only unmarried sex explicitly allowed in Islam is between a Muslim man and his slaves.


The Qur'an:

Stoning is not prescribed in the current version of the Quran.  According to Muhammad's companions, a verse that did order stoning existed at one time but was forgotten. (See Additional Notes).


From the Hadith:

 

Bukhari (6:60:79) - Two people guilty of "illegal" intercourse are brought to Muhammad, who orders them both stoned to death.  Apparently their act was out of love, since the verse records the man as trying to shield the woman from the stones.

 

Bukhari (83:37) - Adultery is one of three justifications for killing a person, according to Muhammad.

 

Muslim (17:4192) - This hadith clarifies the different penalties for adultery (when the subjects are married), and fornication (when they are not): "in case of married (persons) there is (a punishment) of one hundred lashes and then stoning (to death). And in case of unmarried persons, (the punishment) is one hundred lashes and exile for one year" (See also 17:4191)

 

Muslim (17:4196) - A married man confesses that he has adultery.  Muhammad orders him planted in the ground and pelted with stones.  According to the passage, the first several stones caused such pain that he tried to escape and was dragged back.

 

Muslim (17:4206) - A woman who became pregnant confesses to Muhammad that she is guilty of adultery.  Muhammad allows her to have the child, then has her stoned. The description is graphic: "Khalid b Walid came forward with a stone which he flung at her head and there spurted blood on the face of Khalid and so he abused her."

 

Muslim (17:4209) - A woman confesses adultery and is stoned to death on Muhammad's order.

 

Ibn Ishaq (970) - "The adulterer must be stoned."  These words were a part of Muhammad's farewell address to his people on the occasion of his final pilgrimage to Mecca.

 

Islamic Law - "The stone shall not be so big so as to kill the person by one or two strikes, neither shall it be so small that it cannot be called a stone"  The victim is intended to suffer.

 


Additional Notes:

The Qur'an uses the phrase "fornicators or adulterers" in Qur'an 24:2 and prescribes 100 lashes as the punishment (verse 4:15 suggests house arrest for "lewdness").  This almost certainly refers to unmarried sex only, since it would make little sense that fornication and adultery be prescribed the exact same punishment when they are very different offenses.  It would also contradict the many examples from the Hadith in which Muhammad put adulterers to death.  In fact, Muslim (17:4209) records a case in which an unmarried man is ordered flogged, while his married partner in crime is stoned.

 

According to Umar, the companion of Muhammad and Islam's second caliph, "[Allah] sent down the Book (Quran) upon him (Muhamad), and the verse of stoning was included in what was sent down to him."  Umar went on to insist that "Stoning is a duty laid down in Allah's Book for married men and women who commit adultery when proof is established, or it there is pregnancy, or a confession." (Muslim 17:4194)

 

In other words, there was a verse in the original Quran narration that prescribed stoning adulterers, but it was left out of the compiling process in the years following Muhammad's death.  Umar's insistence on the stoning verse is recorded in other volumes that are also among the most reliable Hadith, including Sahih Bukhari 8:817"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."  (Rajam refers to stoning).

 

According to a strong tradition (found in Sunan ibn Majah, Book of Nikah, Hadith no. 1934), Aisha also recalled the verse that prescribed the death penalty for adulterers.  It was written on a palm leaf that was in her home following Muhammad's death.  Unfortunately, a goat or sheep wandered into the house and ate the leaf (along with others) before it could be collected and merged into the other hodgepodge of writings that became the Qur'an.

 

Islamic law (Sharia) requires that adulterers be put to death, since it was the example set by Muhammad.  In practice, the women are executed far more often, since they are presumed to bear the burden of sexual responsibility (in Islam's male-dominated society) and are, perhaps, more likely to confess their discretion.  Rape victims are sometimes convicted if they speak out.  Reporting a rape means a confession of adultery under Sharia law if four male witnesses cannot be found to confirm the victim's claim.

 

Unable to get around the fact that stoning adulterers is very much a part of Islam, apologists typically travel the familiar path of claiming that Christianity is no different.  In this case, they could hardly be more wrong.  Not only is the Old Testament rule of stoning anyone explicitly done away with by the example of Jesus (see John 8:1-11, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone") but the episode itself is proof that Christianity is not under the same law as Islam. 

 

While the teachings and example of Jesus stand between Christians and Old Testament law, Muhammad skipped straight back to the harshest of rules (which even the Jews of his day were reluctant to enforce so literally, as Bukhari (6:60:79) makes clear).  As with so much else - from forgiveness to waging war - the contrasting personal example set by Jesus and Muhammad with regard to killing adulterers could hardly be more different.

 

While many Muslims today do find the practice distasteful, there is simply no arguing that killing grown adults over consensual sex isn't firmly rooted in Islamic theology.  In fact, according to a recent fatwa, merely denying that is appropriate to stone married adulterers in the modern age is a sign of apostasy.

 

Numerous examples of stoning adulterers under Islamic law persist, from the Islamist frontier of Somalia to the modern state of Iran.  In 2010, the Taliban planted a couple having unauthorized sex in the ground and brutally pelted them with stones (the man had to be finished off with three gunshots) only a few days after they flogged a pregnant woman 200 times and then shot her in the head.  In "condemning" the killings, the "moderate" president of Afghanistan would only say that they were wrong because they were not preceded by a trial.

 

Likewise, a leading theologian in Iran defended a recent stoning sentence simply by reminding his audience that "Democracy, freedom, and human rights have no place in Islam."

 

See also: Stoning (from WikiIslam)

 

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