The issue of stoning to death is an interesting one. One always begins to think whether one is being arrogant by assuming that this is cruel, because only Allah knows best. To my knowledge, stoning is not mentioned in the Qur’an. However, the following hadiths mention it and I was wondering if you could explain them or elaborate on them. What is your opinion on stoning?
Narrated Jabir: A man from the tribe of Aslam came to the Prophet and confessed that he had committed an illegal sexual intercourse. The Prophet turned his face away from him till the man bore witness against himself four times. The Prophet said to him. ‘are you mad?’ he said ‘no’. he said ‘are you married?’ he said ‘yes’. then the Prophet ordered that he be stoned to death and he was stoned to death at Musalla. when the stones troubled him he fled, but he was caught and was stoned till he died. The Prophet spoke well of him and offered his funeral prayer. Volume 8, Book 82, Number 810
An important aspect of the law of punishments of the Qur’an is that it classifies the crimes into two broad categories: 1) where the crime is committed in its simple form; and 2) where the same or a different crime becomes a crime against the whole society or the community, in general.
Islam has separately mentioned the punishments that it wants to administer against criminals who commit some of the crimes in their simple form. In this category the Qur’an has mentioned the maximum punishment that it wants to administer against thieves, fornicators, murderers and those who are involved in defamation and slander. It is quite easy to understand what these crimes are and, therefore, no explanation needs to be given in this respect.
Besides these, there are other crimes, which may or may not be related to these crimes; which are not against a particular individual/individuals but become crimes against the community as a whole. These crimes may include treason, mutiny against the state etc. Furthermore, when theft become robbery, murder becomes terrorism, fornication becomes rape or gang rape etc., then Islam considers these crimes to be crimes not just against an individual(s) but against the whole community, in general.
The Qur’an , besides mentioning the punishment for the crimes of the first category, has also mentioned the punishments for the crimes that fall in the second category (Al-Maaidah 5: 33, 34). In this case, the Qur’an has given four options for the person administering the punishment. Thus, in this case, the punishment may be severe or comparatively soft depending upon the nature of the crime committed and on the various conditions, variables and factors that surround the criminal. The punishments mentioned in the Qur’an , from among which one of the punishments shall be administered are:
Taqteel: Taqteel in the Arabic language means to kill in a very painful manner. One of the methods of taqteel, as adopted in the times of the Prophet (pbuh) was rajam or stoning to death. Other methods might include killing through the Electric chair etc.
Tasleeb: Tasleeb means to crucify. Crucifixion is the other option given by the Qur’an . Both taqteel and tasleeb are different methods that may be adopted to punish a criminal that in the eyes of the law deserves no mercy and should not be allowed to live in the society.
Amputation of one hand and one foot: The third option is to cut off a hand and a foot of the criminal. This option shall be administered if the judge feels that the criminal has committed such a heinous crime that even if he is allowed to live, he should be made an example for the other members of the society and should not be allowed to live a normal life.
Banishment: The fourth option given to the judge for punishing the criminals of the second category is to banish them from their land. This option shall be used for such criminals who, in the eyes of the judge have the potential of correction and who, only due to their bad company had committed a grave crime.
Keeping the above explanation in perspective, it seems that the Prophet (pbuh) sentenced people to stoning to death as one of the methods of taqteel. This also gives us an idea that those who were punished in this manner were people who had not committed fornication in its simple form but were probably rapists because of whom the society was facing grave problems.
I am sure that anyone who does not have an inherent inclination of supporting only the criminals in the society and anyone who can also feel the pain of the aggrieved and not just the punishment that is going to be administered to the oppressor, shall agree that such criminals, indeed, deserve to be dealt with in such a severe manner.
I do agree, to some extent, that these punishments are somewhat cruel and inhumane. But I would like to remind you that these punishments are to be administered on those individuals and groups who have acted in such a cruel and an inhumane way that they deserve nothing less than an inhumane and a cruel punishment.
1st April 1999