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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. Reese Witherspooning

    "Quran doesn't call for stoning, experts insist "

    Even if the Quran called for a mild verbal admonishment, what does it matter?

    There is no reason whatsoever to consider the Quran as a guide for morality, ethics, or justice.
    The same goes for any of the nonsense scriptures of Islam, Judaism, Christianity.

    July 9, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
  2. John

    Experts in the Quran? sure, yu can find experts on every side of an argument. They are the same experts who say homosexuals are ok too. BTW, the Bible was not written by men, it is inspired by God, but you don't know him either Linda.

    July 9, 2010 at 11:36 pm |
  3. Suleiman

    The purpose of our existence is to believe and worship in the One True God – The-God/ Al-ilah/ Allah or Eloh/Elohim in Hebrew. The Lord of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them). For those who die in a state of disbelief will suffer a painful torment forever in the hereafter. So all hate and lies towards Islam is not worth it.

    July 9, 2010 at 11:34 pm |
    • suteki

      That's your *opinion* and frankly you can't *prove* it absolutely. It's your *belief* that you were *taught*. If you had been born before Judaism was started you would not have that belief. If you were born in another country where there isn't Judaism, Christianity or Islam you wouldn't have that belief. YOu have been *brainwashed* to believe that. That's fine for *you*. The rest of us *don't want to hear it*. We disagree with you. Read Robert Monroe. That would be interesting to watch your brain reading something so unreligious and yet that discusses the afterlife. lol I don't expect any change out of you or those like you who want to push *your* ideas on everyone else that you got from having them shoved into your brain when you were too small to judge for yourself.

      July 9, 2010 at 11:39 pm |
    • Only Way

      God of Quran is NOT the same God as the Bible. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! (James 2:19). It is NOT about the believe in ONE GOD but about the belief in the SON of GOD who came to die for the sins of the world so that people can go to heaven. Only Jesus came from heaven and went back to heaven!!

      July 9, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
    • IMJ

      You were doing OK until you got to Muhammad and then I entered into a state of disbelief.
      Muhammad has qualities that exclude him from consideration.
      For instance, before Muhammad the Arabs would adopt children.
      After Muhammad the Arabs would no longer adopt children.

      July 10, 2010 at 12:29 am |
    • Scott

      Jesus is not simply a prophet, but the only prophet to die and rise again to show that He is of the same spirit as God, the Creator. He was sent to undue what Adam did which caused mankind to be in a enternal sinful state unless we could be forgiven by a perfect and just Creator. In the old covenant to be forgiven we had to sacrifice animals but now an acceptance of Christ is all we need to be forgiven. These days, Christ forgives us as a witness before God, the Creator, sacrificed animals is not longer needed for forgiveness in God's eyes.

      Mohammed was nothing more than a con man who has ultimately led millions of people down the path to hell through a false doctrine called Islam. The devil is a very powerful creature and will do anything to destroy us.

      July 12, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
  4. Henriette

    Gosh, why don't we invade them and liberate everybody, like in Iraq. Gee whiz, they just love us there, and now they're just like us... bar-b-cues, PTA, mac'n'cheese night, $1.00 well drinks, Nascar... I could go on. I say invade them because they're hiding weapons of mass destruction, and make them the 53rd state. Right after Iraq and Afghanistan. Everybody in the world is just itching to be exactly like us, no?

    July 9, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
  5. Teresa

    Married – and thank God divorced – to the son of an Iranian American man, I make a large circle around any Iranian man, no matter how handsome! Beating is normal. I could never again trust an Iranian man. They are camels! Only they ride you and use and abuse you if you stand up for yourself.

    July 9, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
    • IMJ

      I am sorry for the tribulation that you endured.
      Did you find God before or after your marriage?

      July 9, 2010 at 11:40 pm |
  6. Reason

    No matter the opinion stated here, you are all fanatical nutjobs. Quote whatever fairy tale you wish, this is wrong and something for the married couple to deal with themselves (who knows what archaic law governs that situation!).

    July 9, 2010 at 11:30 pm |
  7. Jeremy

    Whether or not the Koran condone stoning is irrelevant. Suppose that the Koran says that stoning is fine does that mean it's ok to do so? A barbaric act is a barbaric act no matter what source it came from. The problem of making law and moral judgment based on religion is that is can make inhumane act acceptable to the human psyhic. So if people wants to speak out against stoning, they should do so because human decency tell us that it's a barbaric act. Looking into a religious text for support against this barbaric act is rather juvenile.

    July 9, 2010 at 11:28 pm |
    • suteki

      Yes, Jeremy, of course you are very right. There is no way to defend something like stoning or a death sentence for adultery. I'm betting quite a number of people in power in Iran have also committed adultery.

      July 9, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
  8. Teresa

    People seem to not understand that Christian comes from Christ and what Christ taught is the new agreement, the new testament. The old Testament comes from Jewish laws and behaviors and Jesus overruled much of that. The old Testament only shows us some good ways to live and how dicrepted people were, and we Christians are only to live by the New Testament if it does not disagree with the new covenant (new testament) with Jesus Christ. So a Christian while learning from the wisdom from the Old Testament about how God handled things is bound by the New Testament. The Old Testament was "show" on the outside; but the New Testament is the requirement to change the HEART FROM WITHIN; in other words pretending to be good on the outside versus changing our heart inside and following Christs goodness. Please get this. Too many ignorant people attacking Christianity which is the basis for protecting you from so much additonal evil. How ungrateful you all are!

    July 9, 2010 at 11:25 pm |
    • suteki

      Why should non-Christians feel "grateful" to Christianity. if it weren't for Christianity would there have been pogroms in Russia, the Inquisition in Spain, the Holocaust, etc? I think not.

      July 9, 2010 at 11:40 pm |
  9. Mike

    Only 100 lashes? Pfft.

    July 9, 2010 at 11:24 pm |
  10. Mary

    99 lashes is still brutal and extreme punishment.

    July 9, 2010 at 11:23 pm |
  11. suteki

    I don't think the women of Iran or even *all* the people of Iran have the power to overthrow this government, at least not without *tremendous* bloodshed. Look at what happened to protestors last year. Even that many people just got squashed and then many got slaughtered. The thing I think a lot of people want to think is that if *we* were the ones in that situation that somehow we could get out of it but the truth is that we would be stuck just like the Iranians are–under a fascist dictatorship. Things like this are to maintain terror and power. The rulers should all be in jail. I can't understand feeling anything but very sorry and compassionate for people living under such a government. This isn't Islam. It is fascism. It uses religion as an excuse for this fascism as a way for rulers to maintain power just as Mao used communism as he lived like a king. There are moderate Islamic nations that aren't like this. We could have had crazy extreme Christians in power today. It could still happen. That isn't 'Christianity' anymore than these extremist are all that Islam is.

    July 9, 2010 at 11:17 pm |
  12. Teresa

    God said that he will close the minds and understanding of those people who do not honor him. He will harden their mind and their heart; and you look like your heart is hardened. I hope that one day you come to an understanding of what God is really about. You do not know what God is about unless you study his Word which was given by the Holy Spirit. How could you love a partner for example without knowing them. You can't. You fall in love with a fantasy and if you did not try to get to know her/him how they really are, you know nothing about them and you know nothing of love. The same is true with God.

    July 9, 2010 at 11:16 pm |
  13. none of your f-ing business Jr.

    Why am I skeptical of this article? LOL

    July 9, 2010 at 11:10 pm |
  14. Teresa

    Mohammed was a warrier who based all his ideas on some apprent visions which supposedly came from what he calls "the angel Gabrie." That's it. He used his visions to conquer other tribes. That's all. He is nothing like Jesus. Jesus was humble and meak and never did anything evil. He told us in the New Testament how to live. Forget the rules, he said; it's what is in your heart that God can read that counts. It's the results of what people do that show us the vaules. What is the result of the Moslem society? Abuse of women. That tells you all! In a way they are saying that God created inferiour beings, namely women, because he is not capable of creating better. They are saying that God is injust by preferring one sex over the other. They are saying power is the answer, not love. They are saying power over others and domination of others – that's what their God is like. They can have their miserly God. Jesus is not like that. Jesus is love, acceptance and he teaches us to lover our brothers as ourselves. Hate the evil they do, but love your brother. How about that, Moslem folks?!

    July 9, 2010 at 11:09 pm |
  15. Dan

    "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."

    Punish the person who admits they sinned four times. So if they deny it, there is no punishment. LOL. That so completely causes me to understand why so many peopl in the Middle East lie so much about the things they do. Deny it, no punsihment. Confess it, be lashed or stoned. Sick.

    July 9, 2010 at 11:09 pm |
  16. suteki

    This is just another form of fascism. It reminds me *very* much of China under Mao and things that happened there and then. The religion is just the excuse. If those same leaders were not religious there would be some other excuse to terrorize in order to maintain power.

    Sick, sick individuals full of greed for power making these legal decisions. Very sorry for the people of Iran.

    July 9, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
  17. iftikhar khan

    CNN is so dedicated to spread hate against islam and muslims, Did any body saw news on cnn regarding the burnt down mosque in Atlanta on july6?

    July 9, 2010 at 11:04 pm |
    • jad

      So rebuild it somewhere very far away on a sand dune........

      July 9, 2010 at 11:10 pm |
    • Teresa

      Wakeup, you are blinded by old traditions that abuse others to gain power, a form of pleasure! Yak! Disgusting!

      July 9, 2010 at 11:12 pm |
    • suteki

      I'm very sorry there is so much hatred toward Muslims in these replies. But there is also a lot of concern for this poor woman and for the people of Iran in these replies as well. As for this news story, I do not think it is designed to bring hatred toward Iran but to help put pressure on the Iranian government to save this woman's life. There are comments here that are truly hateful and embarrassing to me as a non-Muslim. I hope you know that they don't represent everyone in the USA.

      July 9, 2010 at 11:28 pm |
  18. doughnuts

    Yes. Fear of being killed in a horrific manner is a great basis for a long-lasting relationship.

    July 9, 2010 at 11:04 pm |
  19. Teresa

    I highly recommend for Muslim women to get a hold of the New Testament and learn what Jesus taught about love. Love is the answer, not cruelty. If all the women of Iran would rebel at once, those dicrepeted Iranian men who hate women and just use them like a piece of meat and a slave to take care of the household, these men would lose all the pleasures of their abuse to women. I am so angry. I am an American, a Westerner, and what is done to women, especially in Muslim ruled countries is outrages and makes me extremely angry!

    July 9, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
  20. doughnuts

    Who gives a crap what is said in what "holy" book. Laws should not be based on religious dogma of any kind. Stoning or lashing for a victimless non-violent crime is barbaric.

    July 9, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
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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.