Stoning as Punishment of Zina: Is it Valid?

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Mohammad Hashim Kamali


Three issues are explored in this article with regard to death by stoning as a punishment for adultery. First is its total absence in the Qur’an; the Qur’an makes no reference to stoning, providing a punishment of one hundred lashes of the whip for all adulterers, without any further qualification. Stoning as a punishment originates in the Sunnah of the Prophet, who applied it in the case of married adulterers, thus seemingly reserving the Qur’anic punishment for the unmarried adulterer. This perspective has dominated legal practice ever since. The second issue arising is as to how the conflicting rulings in the Qur’an and Sunnah relate to one another. Is it a case of specification (takhsis) or of abrogation (naskh)? If the latter, is it in order for the Sunnah to abrogate the Qur’an? The third issue is over the chronological sequence of the two rulings. If it is accepted that the Qur’anic ruling was revealed in Madinah after the few cases in which the Prophet applied stoning, then the Qur’an would have effectively overruled/abrogated the Prophetic practice. It is also said that the Prophet applied stoning by reference to the Torah, which was then set aside by the Qur’an. A minority opinion has also held that the Prophet applied stoning by way of ta’zir. A number of prominent twentieth-century shariah scholars have advised against the enforcement of stoning altogether.

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