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Islamic Sharia Laws ( 25 Feb 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Does Islam prescribe rajm (stoning to death) as a punishment for adultery? Capital Punishment is Inhuman, Barbaric, Immoral and Obsolete

By Abdul Rehman Hamza, New Age Islam

25 February 2021

Stoning is mentioned in multiple Ahadith(plural of Hadith) and therefore most schools of Islamic jurisprudence accept it as a prescribed punishment for adultery. Most Muslims and Islamic scholars considerAhadith(reports claiming to quote what Hazrat Muhammad said verbatim on various matters) an authoritative sourceof Islamic law, second only to Quran. The punishment of stoning to death has been rarely applied in the history of Islam owing to the very strict evidential requirements stipulated by Islamic law.

Legal imposition of the rajm punishment (stoning to death) was very rare in Islamic history. During the 623-year history of the Ottoman Empire, for which voluminous court records are available, there is only one recorded example of a judge sentencing a convict to death by stoning. No sentences of stoning have been recorded in Syria during Muslim rule.Muslim jurists used a number of techniques to avoid application of the stoning penalty. They interpreted the evidentiary requirements so strictly that it was effectively impossible to prove the offense. They actively encouraged witnesses to withhold testimony, and argued that it was “morally better” to do so,(meaning it was hard for their conscience to accept this barbaric act). They defined the offense narrowly to exclude many types of sexual activity. And they developed the legal concept ofshubha (doubt), which held that when an illegal sexual act resembled legal sex in some way, the stoning penalty should not be applied. Techniques used to argue that the pregnancy of a single woman should not be considered evidence of zinaʿ included fantastic presumptions about the length of the human gestation period. Classical Hanafite jurists ruled that it could last for up to two years, Shafi'ites four, and Malikites as long as five years. HazratUmar once acquitted a pregnant single mother on the grounds that she was a "heavy sleeper" who might have "intercourse without realizing it".

However, those who claim to be the true followers of Islam like the Taliban in Afghanistan,ISIS in Iraq, and Boko Haram in Nigeria have actively implemented it. Out of the world’s forty-nine Muslim-majority states, six retain the punishment in deference to Islamic legal tradition, ... Of these countries only Iran, which officially placed a moratorium on stoning in 2002 but still gives leeway to individual judges, has actually carried it out.

Stoning is not mentioned as a form of capital punishment in the canonical text of the Quran. However, Islamic scholars have traditionally postulated that there was a Quranic verse: “If a married man and woman commit adultery, stone them..." which was abrogatedtextually while retaining its legal force.

Numerous sahih Ahadith(reliable, according to Sunni scholars), however, describe stoning. One is the Hadith pf Umar’s speech, HazratMuhammad's last Hajj sermon and the Hadith of the Verse of Stoning.

 Sahih Bukhari, the book most trusted after Quran by most Muslims, has several sunnah regarding stoning. For example:

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: 'Umar said, "I am afraid that after a long time has passed, people may say, "We do not find the Verses of the rajam (stoning to death) in the Holy Book," and consequently they may go astray by leaving an obligation that Allah has revealed. Lo! I confirm that the penalty of rajam be inflicted on him who commits illegal sexual intercourse, if he is already married and the crime is proved by witnesses or pregnancy or confession." Sufyan added, "I have memorized this narration in this way." 'Umar added, "Surely Allah's Apostle carried out the penalty of rajam, and so did we after him."

Sahih Bukhari 8:82:816, see also Sahih Muslim, 17:4194

See also- —Sahih Bukhari 7:63: 196, Sahih Bukhari 2:23:413, Sahih Bukhari 3:34:421Sahih Bukhari 3:49:860 Sahih Bukhari 3:50:885 Sahih Bukhari 4:56:829, Sahih Bukhari 6:60: 79, Sahih Bukhari 7:63:195

Other ahadith also mention stoning as the punishment for adultery.

Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah: A man committed fornication with a woman. So, the Apostle of Allah ordered regarding him and the prescribed punishment of flogging was inflicted on him. He was then informed that he was married. So, he commanded regarding him and he was stoned to death.

See also Sunan Abu Dawood 38:4424,Sunan Abu Dawood 38:4421, 38:4426, 38: 4429, 38:4433.

The early Islamic era text Musannaf of Abdul Razzaqin the chapter on rajm, lists 70 hadith reports of stoning linked to HazratMuhammad, and 100 to his companions and other authorities.

 One very important ruling of stoning by Hazrat Muhammad relating to non-Muslims(Jews) proves its Quranic basis as well.

 Quran 5:41 “they say, if you are given this, take it, but if you are not given this, then beware!"

Tafseer Ibn Kathir commentary on the above verse:

“This Ayah was revealed about two Jews who committed adultery. The Jews changed the law they had in their Book from Allah on the matter of punishment for adultery, from stoning to death, to a hundred flogs and making the offenders ride a donkey facing the back of the donkey. When this incident of adultery occurred after the Hijrah, they said to each other, "Let us go to Muhammad and seek his judgement. If he gives a ruling of flogging, then implement his decision and make it a proof for you with Allah. This way, one of Allah's Prophets will have upheld this ruling amongst you. But if he decides that the punishment should be stoning to death, then do not accept his decision.''

There are several Hadiths mentioning this story. Malik reported that Nafi` said that `Abdullah bin `Umar said, "The Jews came to Allah's Messenger and mentioned that a man and a woman from them committed adultery. Allah's Messenger said to them, (What do you find of the ruling about stoning in the Tawrah) They said, `We only find that they should be exposed and flogged.' `Abdullah bin Salam said, `You lie. The Tawrah mentions stoning, so bring the Tawrah.' They brought the Tawrah and opened it but one of them hid the verse about stoning with his hand and recited what was before and after that verse. `Abdullah bin Salam said to him, `Remove your hand,' and he removed it, thus uncovering the verse about stoning. So they said, He (`Abdullah bin Salam) has said the truth, O Muhammad! It is the verse about stoning.' The Messenger of Allah decided that the adulterers be stoned to death and his command was carried out.

Bukhari and Muslim also collected this Hadith and this is the wording collected by Bukhari. Another hadith says that Abdullah bin `Umar said, "I was among those who stoned them and I saw the man shading the woman from the stones with his body.'' These Hadiths state that the Messenger of Allah issued a decision that conforms with the ruling in the Tawrah, not to honour the Jews in what they believe in, for the Jews were commanded to follow the Law of Muhammad only. Rather, the Prophet did this because Allah commanded him to do so.

See also Ali Ibn Ahmad Al-Wahidi’sAsbabun- Nuzul (Occasions of revelations) for 5:41-49 which confirms it.This book is available on the internet.

There are numerous other records of instances similar to this one where HazratMuhammad had adulterers stoned to death. What was, in fact, the "Verse of Stoning"? It is mentioned in the following tradition:

Zirr ibn Hubaish reported: "Ubayy ibn Ka'b said to me, 'What is the extent of Suratul-Ahzab?' I said, 'Seventy, or seventy-three verses'. He said, 'Yet it used to be equal to Suratul-Baqarah and in it we recited the verse of stoning'. I said, 'And what is the verse of stoning'? He replied, 'The fornicators among the married men (ash-shaikh) and married women (ash-shaikhah), stone them as an exemplary punishment from Allah, and Allah is Mighty and Wise."' (As-Suyuti, Al-ItqanfiiUlum al-Qur'an, p.524).

It was narrated by Muhammad ibn Ishaaq. His version says: The verse of stoning and breastfeeding of an adult ten times was revealed, and it was written on a leaf that was kept beneath a bed in my [‘Aa’ishah’s] house. When the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) fell sick, we were preoccupied with his situation, and a little animal of ours came in and ate it.

This was narrated by Imam Ahmad in al-Musnad (43/343), and Ibn Maajah in As-Sunan (no. 1944); the latter version says: When the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) died, we were preoccupied with his death, and a tame sheep came in and ate it.

Whereas the Qur'an makes no distinction in Surah 24.2 between the married or unmarried state of those who are guilty of fornication (it simply calls them az-zaaniyatuwaz-zaanii - "the female and male fornicators"), the text as given in the above tradition only states that married men and women who are caught in adultery should be stoned (the actual meaning of the word is "old" or "adult" men and women, implying married persons).

This has led to much discussion in Muslim writings about the meaning of the verse. The general understanding among Muslim scholars of earlier generations was that any portion of the Qur'an totally abrogated by Allah was also caused to be entirely forgotten (on the strength of Surah 2.106: nansakh ... aw nunsihaanaati - "abrogate ... or cause to be forgotten", the two being taken together as an entity). So, when a verse was found to be retained in the memory of a companion as distinguished as Umar, it was assumed that, whereas the text may indeed have been withdrawn from the Qur'an, teaching and prescription found in it nevertheless is binding as part of the sunnah of the Prophet of Islam. The dilemma was generally resolved by presuming that the Qur'anic command to impose one hundred stripes on fornicators applied only to unmarried persons, whereas married persons guilty of actual adultery were to be stoned according to the sunnah. Numerous other solutions to the issue have been proposed and the subject has been exhaustively treated in the various works of historical Islamic literature.

Hanafi jurists have held that the accused must be a muhsan at the time of religiously disallowed sex to be punished by rajm (stoning). A Muhsan is an adult, free, Muslim who has previously enjoyed legitimate sexual relations in matrimony, regardless of whether the marriage still exists.

There is disagreement among modern Islamic thinkers as to the applicability of stoning for adultery.However,mostscholars maintain that there is sufficient evidence from Hadith to derive a ruling. The vast majority of Muslims consider Hadith, which describe the words, conduct and example set by HazratMuhammad during his life, as a source of law and religious authority second only to the Quran. They consider sahih Ahadith to be a valid source of Sharia, justifying their belief on Quranic verse 33.21, and other verses.

 Javed Ahmad Ghamidi postulates that Quranic verses prescribe rajm only for those who habitually commit fornication as prostitutes do, which then constitute "mischief in the land" that is punishable by death according to Quranic verses 5:33-34. This view is not popular and does not enjoy acceptance by most ulema.

Contemporary attitudes towards capital punishment in Judaism

Rabbinical courts have given up the ability to inflict any kind of physical punishment, and such punishments are left to the civil court system to administer. The modern institution of the death penalty, at least as practiced in the United States, is opposed by the major rabbinical organizations of Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism.

Orthodox Judaism

In practice, these punishments were almost never invoked in Orthodox Judaism, and existed mainly as a deterrent and to indicate the seriousness of the sins for which they were prescribed. The rules of evidence and other safeguards that the Torah provides to protect the accused made it all but impossible to actually invoke these penalties. The system of judicial punishments could become brutal and barbaric unless administered in an atmosphere of the highest morality and piety. When these standards declined among the Jewish people, the Sanhedrin (The Supreme Council and Tribunal of the Jews during postexilic times headed by a High Priest and having religious, civil, and criminal jurisdiction), voluntarily abolished this system of penalties.

Conservative Judaism

In Conservative Judaism, the death penalty was the subject of a responsum by its Committee on Jewish Law and Standeards, which has gone on record as opposing the modern institution of the death penalty:

"The Talmud ruled out the admissibility of circumstantial evidence in cases which involved a capital crime. Two witnesses were required to testify that they saw the action with their own eyes. A man could not be found guilty of a capital crime through his own confession or through the testimony of immediate members of his family. The rabbis demanded a condition of cool premeditation in the act of crime before they would sanction the death penalty; the specific test on which they insisted was that the criminal be warned prior to the crime, and that the criminal indicate by responding to the warning, that he is fully aware of his deed, but that he is determined to go through with it. In effect, this did away with the application of the death penalty. The rabbis were aware of this, and they declared openly that they found capital punishment repugnant to them. There is another reason which argues for the abolition of capital punishment. It is the fact of human fallibility. Too often, we learn of people who were convicted of crimes, and only later are new facts uncovered by which their innocence is established. The doors of the jail can be opened; in such cases, we can partially undo the injustice. But the dead cannot be brought back to life again. We regard all forms of capital punishment as barbaric and obsolete.”

Reform Judaism

Since 1959, the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Union of Reform Judaism have formally opposed the death penalty. The Central Conference also resolved in 1979 that "both in concept and in practice, Jewish tradition found capital punishment repugnant", and there is no persuasive evidence "that capital punishment serves as a deterrent to crime".

In the light of the above, we may safely conclude that capital punishment must be considered inhuman, barbaric and obsolete.


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