The Book Pertaining to Punishments (Kitab Al-Hudud) Sahih Muslim
(4194) ‘Abdullah b. Abbas reported that ‘Umar b. Kattab 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 proof is established, or if there is pregnancy.
If the above hadith is authentic then the punishment of stoning to death of the married individual in Islam, as you refuted, is prescribed. I have also heard that Umar (ra) had given the punishment of stoning in his time of Khilafat. If our prophet (pbuh) refuted this punishment, which I think he did not, in the last stages of his life then Umar (ra) would not have given it. Comment please.
Deriving directives from narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) is not as simple as it may apparently seem. We know that the transmission and narration of Hadith is completely dependent upon the accuracy of understanding as well as that of narration of each of the individual narrator in the chain. It is, therefore, extremely important to critically analyze the content narrated in each Hadith in the light of the Qur’an, the Sunnah and, wherever necessary, in the light of the established facts of history and science.
A close look at the content of the referred narrative raises a few important questions in mind. For instance:
The narrative clearly implies that God revealed a few verses in the Qur’an which were acted upon and implemented by the Prophet (pbuh). Subsequently, however, for absolutely unknown reasons, God removed these verses from the Qur’an and yet, according to the narrative, the directives entailed in these removed verses should still be followed.
The idea that there could have been some verses included in the initial revelation of the Qur’an, which may have entailed some directives of a temporary nature and, therefore, these verses may have been removed from the final reading of the Qur’an, seems quite acceptable. However, the idea that God removed a few verses from the final reading of the Qur’an, even though the directives entailed in these verses were of a permanent nature is completely incomprehensible. After all, if the directives entailed in these verses were to be followed for all times to come, then why were these verses removed from the Qur’an?
The statement: “Stoning is a duty laid down in Allah’s Book for married men and women” is clearly against the Qur’an.
The Qur’an has prescribed the punishment of one-hundred lashes for the fornicator. It is quite obvious that if the Prophet (pbuh) implemented a different punishment upon a married fornicator, then the general nature of the directive of the Qur’an was altered by the Prophet (pbuh). In other words, the idea that a married fornicator should be subjected to a punishment of stoning to death seems quite clearly to be against the Qur’an. Can the Prophet (pbuh) alter the directives of the Qur’an?
It is on the basis of such observations that I do not consider the implication of the referred kind of narrations to be acceptable. It seems that one or more of the narrators included in the chain of such narrators has erred in his narration.
If seen in the light of the Qur’an, such severe punishments as stoning to death seem to have been implemented by the Prophet (pbuh) upon such criminals, who were guilty not merely of a simple case of fornication, but were, in fact, guilty of crimes like rape, prostitution and other more abhorrent categories of sexual or other crimes, in accordance with the directives of Surah Al-Maaidah 5: 33 – 341.
I hope this helps.
February 26, 2002
- For more details, please refer to: “Punishment of Rajam (Stoning to Death) in the Case of Adultry” and “Stoning to Death“. [↩]