There is no mention of stoning in the Qu’ran, which only allows the most forgiving punishments of those who have committed crimes. The practice of stoning has long existed before Islam’s arrival and has been prescribed as a means of punishment to adulterers in Greek and Jewish cultures.1 Stoning was, and still is, considered a very harsh punishment that was only reserved for the most egregious crimes in ancient Arabia. In the Qur’an, four witnesses are needed to accuse someone of a crime like adultery, so it was rare and difficult for someone to receive a punishment. Moreover, the Prophet allowed many people to “rethink” their confessions of adultery before issuing a punishment. Given this, punishments for crimes should focus on forgiveness, repentance, and rehabilitation, which are at the core of Islamic teachings.
“And those who launch a charge against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses, flog them with eighty stripes: and reject their evidence ever after: for such men are wicked transgressors” (24:4)
Unfortunately, stoning is associated with Islam and patriarchal interpretations of the Qur’an and thus has led to the indiscriminate stoning of many women who have been raped or sexually harassed. This is not permissible in the Qur’an and overlooks the inaccurate conflation of sexual assault and adultery. Furthermore, there is no agreement within the global Muslim community over the validity of the practice under Islamic jurisprudence.
The Qur’an states that the offense of adultery must be proven through voluntary confession or by testimony of four witnesses of good moral character who have witnessed the crime take place, making this punishment virtually impossible. Stoning is an outdated practice that is not unique to Islam yet it is still legal in some countries, such as Pakistan, Iran and Sudan. Although stoning occurs in those countries, many Muslim-majority nations have banned the practice including Malaysia, Tunisia, Turkey, Morocco, and Algeria. Furthermore, Imams across the globe have argued that this practice is un-Islamic and goes against the Qur’an’s teachings of forgiveness and compassion.
Women have the right to protect themselves against unjust accusations that lead to grave punishments. Stoning is reprehensible and does not fall under Islam’s teachings of compassion. As such, we assert that laws that unduly criminalize women with the punishment of stoning is forbidden in Islam. Instead, leaders and community members must strive for forgiveness and equality.
Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, Shirin Ebadi , Asifa Quraishi-Landes, Ziba Mir-Hosseini
Past approaches to empowering Muslim women typically employ a distinctly Western framework for understanding the problem, relying exclusively on measurements of economic status, educational level, health care or political participation. WISE approaches change from a holistic perspective that addresses the many interrelated factors that contribute to gender-based inequality and disempowerment.