Recently it was discussed whether stoning was a part of Islam and the Qur’an. To my knowledge, stoning is no where in the Qur’an and the injunction is for lashes instead. However, the result of 100 lashes seems to be death. Is this what the punishment for zina is in a more subtle manner? In this day’s society, who administers this punishment upon the sinner?
It should be understood at the outset that Islam, in its injunctions regarding the penal law, has classified crimes into two major categories:
Normal crimes; and
Examples of the first category may include crimes against someone’s property, i.e. theft, crimes against someone’s life, i.e. murder or physically harming a person, and crimes against chastity and respect, i.e. fornication and defamation. Besides this classification, Islam has given another class of crimes that may appear to be of the same nature as given above, but are committed with an absolutely different psyche.
For example, a person may quietly enter someone’s premise and steal something from there, and in another case a few people may form a gang of robbers and rob market places, houses and automobiles on the highways. Now, if you would consider closely, although a crime has been committed against property in both the cases, but the psyche of the criminals is quite different in the two cases. The first case entails a psyche of a simple criminal while the second case entails a psyche of a person who wants to create unrest and disorder in the society, as a whole. Likewise, in case of murder, a person may kill another person on provocation, in hot blood or only to “get even” for an insult, or to settle the score of an old enmity. While on the other hand, a person may install a bomb in a public place and thereby kill anyone – men, women or children – that comes within the range of the blast. Now, again, even though the two acts have resulted in the same thing – that is loss of life – yet the psyche in the two acts is absolutely different. The same is the case with crimes against chastity and respect. A man and a woman may indulge in the act of fornication or adultery, while in another case, a man may rape a woman or a woman may open a brothel.
Crimes of the first category are basically against the person, property, respect and morality of individuals, while crimes of the second category are basically against the society, as a whole. The crimes relating to the second category have been termed as “Hiraabah” or “fasaad fi al-ardh” in the Qur’an .
Islam, in its penal law, has proposed two different kinds of punishments for the crimes of the two categories. It proposes that the punishment of a thief should be amputation of his (right) hand; the punishment of a murderer should be “qisaas1” and the punishment of the individuals involved in fornication should be a hundred flogs, in public, and – if they are married – severing of their marriage with chaste individuals, while if they are not married, disallowing their marriage with chaste individuals. On the other hand, the punishment for “fasaad fi al-ardh” has been mentioned in Al-Maaidah 5: 34. The Qur’an says that such individuals should be slain in a painful manner (taqteel); or should be crucified (tasleeb); or one of their hands and one of their feet should be amputated; or they should be sent in exile (they should be removed from their society and thereby from the influence of bad company). It is obvious from this verse that the court has been given the authority to decide and implement from amongst these four punishments according to the gravity of the crime and according to the psyche of the criminal.
In my opinion, the Prophet (pbuh) stoned some individuals to death, on the basis of the directive of Al-Maaidah 5: 34. Stoning to death was one way of painfully slaying a person (taqteel).
As far as the remaining part of your question is concerned, I would like to clarify that one hundred flogs is not a subtle way of giving a death sentence. One hundred flogs, as implemented by the Prophet (pbuh) shows us that:
the whip used for this purpose should neither be too thick nor too thin, but should be of a medium thickness (Mu`atta Imam Maalik)
the act of flogging should be performed, not by professional and trained ‘whippers’, but by the decent and respected class of the society, the flogs should not be too hard for the individual to bear (zaadu’l-ma`aad)
the criminal should neither be undressed nor tied to a tripod while implementing the punishment (Ahkaam al-Qur’an )
26th October 1998
- That is, to be dealt with, in a manner similar to the act originally committed. In other words, the criminal is to be killed or injured in the same way as he himself killed or injured his victim. [↩]