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July 9th, 2010
12:05 PM ET

Quran doesn't call for stoning, experts insist

International outcry - and the pleas of a devoted son - seem to have saved an Iranian woman from being stoned to death for adultery.

But while Sakineh Mohammedie Ashitani has been granted a reprieve, she is not the only woman sentenced to be stoned for adultery in Iran. There have been at least six sentences carried out since 2006, says Ann Harrison, an Iran expert at Amnesty International in London.

Adultery is the only crime that carries such a penalty in Iranian law, she said.

Only a handful of countries have laws calling for stoning, and Iran is the only one that carries out executions that way, Amnesty International records suggest.

That is because Islam doesn't really want the punishment to be carried out, says Ziba Mir-Hosseini, an Iranian-born campaigner against the practice.

"Stoning is not a Quranic punishment, it is Islamic jurisprudence. It happened later," says Mir-Hosseini, an expert on Iranian family law at London's School of Oriental and African Studies. "The punishment for any kind of sexual relations (outside of marriage) in the Quran is 100 lashes," she says.

Stoning is based on sayings from the Prophet Mohammed, known collectively as the hadith, says Mohammed Ali Musawi, a research fellow at the Quilliam Foundation, which describes itself as an "anti-extremist think tank."

Under the letter of Islamic law, it's nearly impossible to prove adultery, he says.

"How you prove adultery or fornication is to have four male witnesses - or two women for every male equivalent - all of them known to be upright, with no questions about their moral character, who witnessed the actual act of intercourse between the male and the female," he says.

"Basically, in normal life, this is next to impossible, to have four people testify that in the same place, at the same time, they saw the act of penetration," he argues.

False testimony can itself be punished with whipping, he says, because "it is such a severe sin."

"As you can imagine, if people were following these laws as they are stated, there would be next to no stonings," he says.

Even if someone confesses to serious sexual impropriety, they should be sent away three times to reconsider their confessions, he says, and only punished if they have admitted it four times, he adds.

But Iranian law is different, Mir-Hosseini says.

"In the case of this woman and other cases, the standard is 'the judge's knowledge,'" she says - in other words, whether the judges believe adultery has been committed.

She sees stoning as a way of putting pressure on women, she says, particularly in provincial areas.

"So far there have been no sentences of stoning in Tehran, only in the provinces. It happens when the judge has a grudge against the woman," she argues, although she notes that only the Iranian Ministry of Justice has full records of how many stonings there have been, and where.

Men, too, can be stoned for adultery in Iran, she says.

The practice was banned under the secularizing Iranian shahs of the early 20th century, she says, then reinstated after the Islamic revolution of 1979.

"After the revolution, one of the first things the clerics wanted to do was put aside the 1920 secular legal code," which was based on French law, she explains.

"In 1982, the parliament called for Islamic punishments," she says. There was some resistance from senior clerics, but the founder of the revolution, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, intervened to get it passed.

Stoning remained law in the updated 1992 penal code, she says, but in the first draft of a 2007 revision, it wasn't there.

"After the intervention of (hard-line President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad, it was restored," she says.

That new legal code has not yet been approved, she says.

It's not clear who will win the battle over the code working its way through the system now, she says, but it does include a potentially face-saving way to keep stoning on the books without having to carry it out.

"There is a provision that, in cases where stoning causes harm to Islam, it can be substituted with other punishments," she says.

She thinks it's no accident that people are being stoned these days, amid political unrest in Iran.

"It has become a political matter," she contends. "Whenever there is a dispute between traditionalists and reformers in the judiciary," stonings increase.

"Stoning is one of those issues that has really (been problematic) for the Islamic republic because it is not accepted by society, including the judiciary," she claims. But there continue to be stonings, she says, because "like anywhere else, you have hardliners. You have radicals."

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Iran • Islam • Violence

soundoff (594 Responses)
  1. Jesus

    Q. What do Allah, Yahweh, Cronus, El, and God have in common?

    A. They never existed.

    July 9, 2010 at 8:44 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      What do unbelievers, Atheist, and Agnostic have in common:

      They are all fools!

      July 9, 2010 at 9:01 pm |
    • Jesus

      Because we don't care about fairy tales?

      Keep worshipping your Cronus, El, or whatever you wish to call it. You are the fool.

      July 9, 2010 at 9:14 pm |
    • Tovah

      They also have in common statistically higher level of schizophrenia in their followers. WHY? Because when you talk to someone that isn't there for years and year... they start talking back. lol

      July 9, 2010 at 9:32 pm |
  2. Tssshhh

    America: the judge, protester and prosecutor of the whole world. Iran will likely kill her to spite the horrified onlookers.

    July 9, 2010 at 8:43 pm |
    • Shamrock6

      Whatever. Kill her...don't kill her. Who cares.

      July 9, 2010 at 8:44 pm |
    • Tssshhh

      Shamrock6,
      Right! It's none of my business. Someone truly innocent was killed today somewhere in my state. I'm certain of it.

      July 9, 2010 at 8:51 pm |
  3. Shamrock6

    Am I the only one here who could care less what the Quran says? What a useless article. The Quran doesn't call for stoning. Ok. Great. Yawn.

    July 9, 2010 at 8:40 pm |
  4. wowlfie

    All Muslims are barbarians regardless of society it exists in. The Koran is barbaric as ARE all religions. Only a fool believes in a god.

    July 9, 2010 at 8:38 pm |
  5. secular

    We need human law breaking this Allah-Mullah nexus.

    July 9, 2010 at 8:23 pm |
  6. secular

    Ayatollahs are worst criminals of mankind, except condemning west and demeaning other religion they achieved nothing. Iran is suffering due to this anomaly.

    July 9, 2010 at 8:20 pm |
  7. modoquasi

    If all of the organized religions can't be right then they must all be wrong. Not surprising since they all originated with the biggest liar of all time: man. And the biggest lie he told was that there is a god and that that god told him how things were and are supposed to be. If you believe any of it you're either desperate for guidance because you don't have the ability to manage your life or you're just plain stupid.

    July 9, 2010 at 8:10 pm |
  8. secular

    In essence Islam made Bedouins more civilized (compared to their primitive ways) and Mawalis (Iranians and others) more uncivilized. Check Parsis or Zoroastrianism they are the fine gentlemen by any standard and opposite end of the spectrum are Ayatollahs.

    July 9, 2010 at 8:03 pm |
  9. Little John

    The Quran says it's ok to lie to infidals. That's all this is a lie!

    July 9, 2010 at 8:02 pm |
  10. Umme Omar

    They cannot put her to death. Either she has to confess (without any pressure) which she has not. Or they produce 4 witnesses which is not happening either. She should go home unharmed and allowed to live with her family. May God forgive her if she has done anything wrong. But according to Islamic law, circumstancial evidence is not enough to punish her in this life. According to Islamic law she should be considered innocent because she hasn't been proved guilty.

    July 9, 2010 at 7:56 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Hi, friend!!!!

      I am with you on this one. I pray for her life to be spared.

      July 9, 2010 at 9:11 pm |
    • Tovah

      Islamic law is barbarism. A violent and cruel system where women are at the mercy of their supposedly superior husbands. Whateve. Maybe in 500 years islam will catch up with the rest of the world.

      I wonder is muslims ever pause to wonder why their countries are doing so horribly in comparison to "infidel" countries.

      July 9, 2010 at 9:35 pm |
  11. caroline

    Just curious- Does the Quran call on flying planes into tall building of the Infidels? Just seems like making the issues with the Middle East about Islam being a bit simplistic. Is it really about what the Quran says or a bunch of neanderthal men wanting to impose their stone age views of women's rights?

    July 9, 2010 at 7:55 pm |
    • Umme Omar

      Caroline, Islam does not call on killing innocent people. We cannot fly planes into tall buildings or punish this woman. Poor woman. Either they bring witnesses who saw it happening or she confesses for her crime. But she is not pleading guilty nor have they brought any witnesses. She should go home unharmed and allowed to live with her children. According to Islamic law, she is considered innocent because she is not proved guilty. If she has done anything wrong, Allah will forgive her. She has already suffered so much.

      July 9, 2010 at 8:04 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Caroline, I have never read the Qu'ran bible and I don't have to even read it for me to answer your question. NO. Everyone seriously need to stop labeling all Muslims as being so evil and terrorists! I am a nondenominational Christian and I want to share this verse from the Holy Bible for Christians:

      John 8: 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

      Bashing at others for their belief is throwing stones at them.

      July 9, 2010 at 9:10 pm |
  12. IMJ

    If an earthquake strikes Iran will it be due to the immodesty of the women or because of the evil of the men?

    July 9, 2010 at 7:33 pm |
  13. Carl LaFong

    # If thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.–4:23

    # For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast.–12:12

    # At midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle.–12:29

    # The LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast.–13:15

    # The LORD is a man of war.–15:3

    # He that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.–21:15

    # Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.–22:18

    # He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.–Ex22.20:

    # And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.–22:24

    # Then shalt thou kill the ram, and take of his blood, and put it upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about. - 29:20

    # Ye shall keep the sabbath ... every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death.–31:14

    # Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side ... and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.–32:27

    # And the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.–32:35

    July 9, 2010 at 7:28 pm |
    • Shamrock6

      What the helleth are thou talking....eth about.....eth.

      July 9, 2010 at 8:43 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      LOL, an expert fool making his own devil book!

      July 9, 2010 at 9:03 pm |
  14. Carl LaFong

    # And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and ... offer him there for a burnt offering. - 22:2

    # And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. - 22:10

    # And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him. - 38:7

    # And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also. - 38:10

    July 9, 2010 at 7:28 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Wow, you are a writer and Satan is the author of your very life! LOOL

      July 9, 2010 at 9:02 pm |
  15. secular

    Jihad from noble cause is to struggle for well being of others incl. infidels and fighting for cause of just world. Anything legalized for narrow political end should be dealt with legal slap and punished. Let human law take over lunatic religions law dictating humans.

    Islam had sanctified evil and perverted logic to suite their political means, specially the goatee Bedouins. This should be stopped.

    July 9, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
  16. cregis

    It is really tiresome to read the comments about the Blble and stoning. Am I the only person who learned in Sunday School that the old Testament is only for historical reference and is not binding on Christians because Christians made a new covenant with Jesus? I don't believe Jesus preached stoning. Of course I didn't go to a whacko male dominated church.

    July 9, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
  17. Faiz the Dirty Paki, Margalla Hills, Pakistan

    "The Iranian judiciary officially placed a moratorium on stoning in 2002, although the punishment remained on the books, and there were a few cases of Judges handing down stoning sentences in 2006 and 2007 [5], until Iran's judiciary decided in 2008 to fully scrap the punishment from the books in a legislation submitted to parliament for approval.[6] As of June 2009, Iran's parliament has been reviewing and revising the Islamic penal code to omit stoning as a form of punishment.[7]"

    July 9, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
  18. Yan

    Here are some quotes from the real Quran:
    98.6. Those who reject (Truth), among the People of the Book and among the Polytheists, will be in Hell-Fire, to dwell therein (for aye). They are the worst of creatures.
    2.257. Allah is the Protector of those who have faith: from the depths of darkness He will lead them forth into light. Of those who reject faith the patrons are the evil ones: from light they will lead them forth into the depths of darkness. They will be companions of the fire, to dwell therein (For ever).
    4.15. If any of your women are guilty of lewdness, Take the evidence of four (Reliable) witnesses from amongst you against them; and if they testify, confine them to houses until death do claim them, or Allah ordain for them some (other) way.

    I can't post more than three quotes here, but there are thoursands of quotes from the Quran itself who invites the fidels to hate non-Muslims. Those islamists are Muslims, but they believe so much in everything who is written in the Quran that they know they have to fight against the infidels (because it's written in every page of the Quran, you must fight the infidels!). Jihad means "struggle". You fight in a battle and a battle is a struggle. So we talk about Jihad everywhere in their Holy Book. I can say that we can't read such hateful words in the Torah or the Bible. This is why I think Islam is a very bad religion.

    July 9, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
  19. Sandy

    Is this person kidding?? The "rules" described are not those of any religion that respects and redeems. This can only be the rules of a satanic cult. Quit drinking the kool-aid.

    July 9, 2010 at 6:49 pm |
  20. Ireadthis

    Ok Jim, why don't you go back and read your first sentence? I don't believe what you do, so don't force your beliefs on me either.

    July 9, 2010 at 6:47 pm |
    • Jim

      I could care less what you believe. Nor would I "force" my opinions on you. Take them or leave them. That is freedom. You live your life. I'll live mine.

      July 10, 2010 at 9:18 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.