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Stoning to Death for Adultery ?


The Islamic law attaches great importance to chastity and condemns illicit relations before marriage. 

Severe penalties sanction this kind of crime, but it is false to say that Islam has made provision for the stoning to death of the offenders. 

In fact, the Quran makes no mention of stoning as a punishment, whether for the sin of adultery or for any other crime. The verse establishing the sentences for adultery contains no ambiguity.

“The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication, flog each of them with a hundred stripes: Let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day: and let a party of the Believers witness their punishment.” (24: 3)

 Although the Quran has clearly prescribed flogging, some schools of thought maintain that this verse deals exclusively with the punishment reserved for unmarried people who commit the sin of adultery and that married persons who are found to be guilty (of the sin) have to face the penalty of death by stoning.

However, the word “Al-Zani” denotes both the fornicator and the adulterer. The fornicator is that unmarried person who commits the sin of lust. No linguistic authority has so far proved otherwise and it is obvious that the above verse does not distinguish between married and unmarried people.  

The confusion seems to exist because the Holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh) had, on certain occasions, ordered the killing of those accused of adultery. However, it should be noted that before the Holy Quran was revealed in its entirety, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) conformed to the laws contained in the Torah to judge certain crimes, for the books of Moses (as) have provided for the stoning to death in these cases (Leviticus 20: 10, Deuteronomy 22: 122, John 8: 3-5).  

There is no indication that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) has continued this practice after the above verse of Surah Al-Nur was revealed. In any event, it is quite inconceivable that he could have gone against such a clear and unambiguous command.

Some erroneous quotes attributed to the caliphs Umar and Ali have also contributed to the persisting confusion. According to some traditions, the Caliph Umar had said, 

“The Quran contained a verse about stoning. We had read and understood it. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) stoned the adulterers and we did the same. I would have inscribed it in the Holy Quran if I did not fear being accused of having made additions in the Book of God.” (Kashaf-al-Ghummah Vol. 2, Pg. 111 & Muslim).

This tradition seems to be an outright fabrication, or at most the result of a misinterpretation of what the Caliph would have actually said. How could he have feared being accused of tampering with the Book (of Allah) if he was only to restore a verse to the Holy Quran that should actually be there (be found therein)?

According to another tradition, the caliph Ali, after having ordered the whipping and stoning of a woman had reportedly said: “I have flogged her as per the command of the Book of God, and I stoned her to death according to the practice of the Holy Prophet (pbuh).”  

Two observations arise from these quotes:

(1) That the practice of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) disagreed with the commandment of God prescribed in the Holy Quran, and

(2) That there is a contradiction between the statements of Umar and Ali.

Whereas according to the Caliph Umar, death penalty by stoning was a divine injunction which formed part of the Holy Book, according to Ali it was not the commandment of God but only the practice of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). These traditions, besides the fact that they contradict each other are against the teaching of the Holy Quran and must be rejected.

-Extracts from a Speech delivered by the Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Saheb (atba) of Mauritius during his recent visit to the Comoros Islands, 21-27 October 2015.

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