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. Reality


    I agree with your comments with the exception of "Almost all violent death on this sweet planet is committed by (male) Christians, Muslims, and Jews." The Asian regions actually "win" that distinction.

    July 11, 2010 at 11:24 am |
  2. The_Mick

    Wow! I can't remember another article where so many of the comments have been written by people who clearly didn't read the article (want to know the punishment for men? READ the article) or don't know the position of Christianity on stoning yet pass themselves off as experts that it supports it ("Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."). I fear the article on the next flu outbreak. These same people will either say they wonder if anyone's catching it or will claim to have cures!

    July 11, 2010 at 10:42 am |
  3. Erin

    All the same religion – Monotheism – meaning Christians, Muslims, Jews – same God (uh huh, sure), same Moses, Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham – all believe in the same idiotic creation myth, and these characters who never existed. Turn the myth into doctrine and viola!! – you gotta deadly religion. It is cultural, but is not history. All non-Monotheists on Earth must do whatever it takes to dismantle this power structure. How can a woman or a black ever follow this myth-faith?? HOW??? All it's ever done is oppress and hurt you, and does so to this day, as this story shows. Almost all violent death on this sweet planet is committed by (male) Christians, Muslims, and Jews. An Athiest would call it "murder," rather than "justice." Please killers, just go away, and take the mythology with you. The world is not flat after all...

    July 11, 2010 at 9:31 am |
  4. David Stone

    @Oxy....islamic legal experts are considering lightening the punishment...to something milder like sticking needles under the fingernails or something..

    July 10, 2010 at 6:58 pm |
  5. OxyCon

    I am so glad the Quranic punishment for adultry is only 100 lashes and not stoning to death. Whew! For a brief moment I was under the false assumption that Islam is a cruel and barbaric religion.

    July 10, 2010 at 5:32 pm |
  6. Heather

    This is to neuron2003:
    If you read the BIBLE, THE WHOLE BIBLE, not cherry picking through as you say, then you would see that Christains don't condon it because of JESUS. He came here and died for our sins, there for the OLD Testiment has no hold when it comes to punishments like STONING!! Read it more in detail, and if you don't understand it then go find someone who does. Then start talking. You DO NOT speak for me, and I am a Christain.

    July 10, 2010 at 3:49 pm |
  7. Barley

    I admit I'm a little shocked that Muslims are interested in getting this girl stoned. It was my understanding that these people of faith abstained from drugs and alcohol. The temperance movement in general tends to be a Christian one, as it has been my experience that these are the people who are far more likely to invoke "do as I say, not as I do." (Psalm 81, I believe, if my Biblical training remains on point).

    If the Quran doesn't call for getting this girl stoned, I hope someone with some sense will get as many of these people stoned that want to be. Perhaps we can get some young hotshot Ayatollah in there, or perhaps there can be a vote and the Quran can be amended, like our great Constitution. I have been working on a few new books of the Bible (written in the original English, of course) that I would like to see added.

    Thank you for your time. Praise his name!

    July 10, 2010 at 3:26 pm |
  8. Peter Q. Wolfe

    Religion both good and evil outcomes will probably never be wiped out from this Earth cause science hasn't and won't answer the fundamental questions in life of most people. The most important being what is the purpose in life? Also, where will we go after we die? The inequalities and how we deal with them are disabilities onto their own right like ignorance or stupidity cause of lack of comprimise as well. Then, atheist openly scorn other people's pointswithout wanting to also take blame cause of communist regimes and prechristian acts of barbarism in the world like in modern day Iraq of olden years used to use the eye for an eye concept similar as to what muslims are trying to apply into Islam, which appears from opinions on here to be nonbiblical. So, he Islamic leaders should openly denounce such barbarism? Why isn't this happening at all?
    Also, HUMILITY should be learned by these posters on here. I've said that it's been only like half a century (60 years or so) that the Middle East has been freed by our supposed enlightened christian western nations like Britain, France, Netherlands, Belgium and etc that dominated them of something they themselves used to do or are still doing. I agree with manyposters, americans need to evaluate our own problems without using other nations as scapegoats like us americans tend to do towards a diversion away from our own problem. What happened to Tobler's Fourth Law again? In America, we have the death penalty in like 35 states, engage in wars, high imprisonment rate, Tuskegeegeee Experiment, Civil and human rights violations (Iraq War), etc to deal with first before telling other primitive people what they should or shouldn't do till our house is in order. We live in the land of the deliberate ignorant and hypoccrits like do as I say not as I do sort of thing. If you are criticized of this view you are either nonchristian or anti-american and need to leave cause it's anti-whateverisms.
    I'm tired of the anti-catholic biggoted individuals mainly atheist and protestants that talk about us all of the time even about things that have nothing to do with the church. If you guys are going to post against anything anymore do everyone a favor and provided citations of your information for everyone if you truly think you are right. The people who espouse christian views and think we as a nation are more superior look into our history first. It wasn't even a century ago that women wouldn't even vote. We didn't have universal male sufferage nor african american and minority rights till well after our nations foundation was founded. Our founding fathers were hypocrits and so are lots of their offspring like Thomas Jefferson saying "I'm against slavery", yet had slaves and slept with a slave. Get real this nation chose to be ruled by wealthy supposed patriotic people for the same thing the british empire was doing to us in the name of capitalism by use of christian values. In fact, we are a nation that must discuss the merits of human rights in terms of money dollar signs not moral weight or merit. Shows how religious we truly are right?

    July 10, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
    • Reality

      Peter, It is called evolution of the mind and learning from history. Resurrecting the past sins of slavery etc. is simply whistling in the evolutionary wind. Unfortunately, Islam is caught in a dark age time warp where nothing is evolving.

      July 10, 2010 at 3:20 pm |
  9. Divide

    I enjoy this debate. It is interesting, but I feel like it has strayed. The divide between (as westerners call it) "Church and State" is the ultimate problem. Most Muslim nations build national laws on Sharia Laws, which are interpreted by Mullahs, Imams, etc... Therefore, the only way a national law can be altered in a Muslim nation is with religious support, which mandates a majority of Muslims (alone) must agree on a matter. This is tricky (even in Christian societies), because even US leaders cannot agree on matters, and good luck getting a person to show up for an electoral decision. So, the laws are dictated by a religious group that are not elected, but are deligated b/c they have completed religious schooling. The agendas of the religious leaders are upheld but the average Muslims are not represented. So it's a falsity to assume that all Muslims feel a certain way, just because their government upholds certain laws.

    That being said, the US has laws that can be altered by elected officials. Some representing businesses, corporations, etc... But our "Christian bans" (i.e. blue laws) have been slowly weened from our society. If the same were done in Islamic nations, their modernization would progress rapidly. The demand for "western progress" is there, but it is being stifled by archane laws.

    July 10, 2010 at 9:04 am |
  10. Magnus Johansson

    Jack mentioned that the stoning described in the Old Testament should be applied by Christians. In the following verse from the New Testament Jesus disagrees.

    Luke 16:16: "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it."

    July 10, 2010 at 4:48 am |
    • peace2all

      @Magnus Johansson........I just checking this out, as I know within the (most) of the christian rhetoric, that pretty much all of the murder, genocide, rape, mythical stories, etc........should be not really taken seriously, because.....we are now told that with the NT, Jesus replaced the OT.....with his new and improved versions of bible talk....

      So, I noticed in your response to Jack's mentioning of OT....and you responded with a NT quote from Jesus.. which seems to infer that what I stated above, that Jesus is now saying (basically) forget about the old...in with the new, which started with John....correct....?

      I am curious though about this quote from jesus in the NT:

      Matthew 5:18-20--

      "For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will PASS from the LAW until 'ALL' is accomplished. Whoever, then relaxes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you , unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

      --Matthew 5:18-20

      So Magnus Johansson, I am sincerely interested in your thoughts about this.....It seems to me that Jesus very clearly said at least in this passage that 'the law and the prophets are to be followed to the letter...until earth and heaven pass away....

      What say you....?


      July 10, 2010 at 5:26 am |
    • Aaron


      Great question, in order to try and be concise Jesus is telling the Jews that all the laws or a better interpretation would be teachings that are found in what we called the old testament are important or will always be valid. He goes on to say that we should following the teachings of God until the end of time. What's very very important to understand is two fold...first Jesus says that the law must be fulfilled, most of that is fulfilled through his teachings and through the crucifixion and resurrection. What is means is that while the laws of the old testament were never disregarded they were completed by Jesus, which means that we don't have to follow them (not because of lack of importance but because they've been finished). Second through a better interpretation of Greek, Jesus claims that he is giving us a better understanding of the law and most importantly the is teaching us the intent of the rules and law, we can see in the rest of the sermon on the mount that Jesus doesn't get rid of the law he simply teaches us the true meaning of it.

      When confronted with many of the harsh rules of the old testament we must realize that many of them were fulfilled by Jesus Christ and second it isn't the rule per say which needs to be followed but the meaning behind the rule. For example many rules called for the death of a sinner in the old testament...that never really changed sins still lead to death today, the difference is that Jesus fulfilled those rules by dying for the sinners...effectively that rule is still carried out, but Jesus is eternally taking the punishment on our behalf. To non Christians it may be hard to swallow but that is the idea behind Christian faith...God so loved us that he effectively came to fulfill our punishments, it is why we as Christians must always remember to forgive and love each other, just as Christ died for us we should give our lives in love and service for 'ALL' humanity no matter race or religion.

      July 11, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
  11. Eramus

    The so called omnipotent, omniscient and most merciful God of all religions is guilty of disdain, capricious behaviour and malevolent treatment of his creations.... I see no evidence to believe otherwise and to accept that humans would be better off by just following the golden saying " do unto others as you would like done to you". Promoters of religion to guide peoples' lives to redemption are no different than snake oil salesmen who purported to have a cure for any malady.

    Peace and happiness to all

    July 10, 2010 at 12:48 am |
    • HeIsGod

      Eramus, do unto others as you would like done to you is in the very Word of God. God is not interested in religion, that separates us from Him and eternity. You have falsely accused God for what the sins that mankind have committed.

      Cursed is he who has an argument with his Maker, the pot which has an argument with the Potter! Will the wet earth say to him who is working with it, What are you doing, that your work has nothing by which it may be gripped? Isaiah 45:9

      You personal relationship with God is only between you too, regardless of what others do or say. You determine your destiny after you die, no one can chose for you.

      July 10, 2010 at 1:36 am |
    • peace2all

      @heisgod.....Hi heisgod......How are you...?

      My personal relationship with god tells me that I am o.k....and I am going to heaven....He told me there is no hell...those are words written by men, written by men in the bible...I think he is pretty p.o'd about it too....

      Anyways, good chatting.....

      Peace to you..!

      July 10, 2010 at 5:06 am |
    • asrael

      Yeah, I got the same message, except it was from Her, not Him. And She's not very happy about all this God = He propaganda.

      July 10, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
  12. Stanley

    This is an extremely stupid report. It doesn't matter if the woman is killed by stoning, shooting or hanging. I don't care what the Koran says or even Leviticus. It's wrong that she should have ever been arrested in the first place. The Mullahs are the ones who should be put to death.

    July 10, 2010 at 12:46 am |
  13. fadydallas

    i grew up in an islamic country . although being christian , i 've been forced to learn Quran which benefits me now to know what is going on ............ there is a story about mohammed commanding his sahaba "deciples" to stone a lady who committed adultery after delivering her baby as she was pregnant and the muslim speaker told us the story to show us how merciful was mohammed as he delayed her punishment ..... , just to let y'all know in saudi arabia for example " you steal , they cut your hand . you killed, you get killed . you commit adultery, you get whipped thousand of times . if they catch you in the street even during the prayer-times you get sent to jail ...., guys i am talking about facts .... please check it out to know the real Islam !

    July 10, 2010 at 12:03 am |
  14. sanjosemike

    This is the problem with all religions: "It's up to those who have power to adjudicate the 'book' and decide the punishment." And those in power in religions are universally men. sanjosemike

    July 9, 2010 at 11:59 pm |
  15. George

    Stoning or any other type of torture does not belong in the world to day, and was wrong 2000 years ago too. This practice in Iran has a lot more to do with power and control over people. Religion is not the cause of the abuse. Religion is being used as a vehicle for political and social control to enhance a political objective. If indeed Islam is a willing vehicle for these atrocities then it is the embodiment of evil, and should be banished from the world.

    July 9, 2010 at 11:52 pm |
  16. Secular Ignorance of Faith

    The punishments of death by stoning in the Torah or for Christian's the Old Testament required conviction by a large court that no longer exist and the burden of proof was incredibly high. Why many try and lump Islam with Christianity and Judaism are simply ignorant of major differences. Jude0-Christian values are very different than those in Islam. I know most here are not going to study any faith to the degree required to understand, but it all comes down to this. There are no Jews or Christians stoning people today – Only members of Islam do this. Islam has the problems, it is not what is written in any book it is in ACTIONS and not WORDS. Maybe it can be reformed, Most Muslims I know are good people whom would never do such acts. Regardless of this fact, Female genital mutilations, hangings of people for teaching other faiths, killing of daughters or sisters for supposed promiscuity and/or lack of modesty. Almost daily terrorist acts. Today and in our lifetimes, these horrific actions are only being committed in huge numbers by members of the Islamic faith / Islamic governments. Actions speak louder than words said or written. For me, 9/11made it clear that coexistence with religious Islam is impossible. Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, ....you name it all can co-exist. Islam is the only faith than today seemingly can not.

    July 9, 2010 at 11:50 pm |
  17. BlueSky

    There are thousands of innocent people being killed in the world every day. American are not saviors, and need to worry themselves. Most of 50 states are bankrupted. America is not bankrupted just because it can print money.

    July 9, 2010 at 11:48 pm |
  18. Sanoran Triamesh

    It is sad to connect a religion (Islam or any other) with the behavior of some people. Americans kill their prisoners too (aka death sentence). Does Christianity have anything to do with? People decide how to practice a religion, Christianity or Islam. They can choose. Americans choose death by shooting/electric chair/lethal injection and Iranians choose death by stoning. Americans say that in "God we Trust" (a christian God) and then kill people... Iranians do it in the name Koran.... both are equally sick.

    July 9, 2010 at 11:46 pm |
    • suteki

      I think the difference is that Americans live in a relatively free society where we can generally decide for ourselves our moral beliefs and how we want to live. Iranians live under a fascist dictatorship. That's a big difference. Yes, I agree that the death penalty should be abolished. You won't find it carried out in the USA for supposed adultery, though. That's a HUGE difference! There are basic human rights and the legal system of Iran breaks those in my opinion. I hope the people of Iran can one day be free of this horrible fascist government that is in power now.

      July 9, 2010 at 11:51 pm |
  19. Paul

    Ah, Islam, so unjustly accused of being an intolerant and cruel religion. Here is the perfect example of such a base accusation, with this Islamic scholar showing us that in truth, the religion does not call for stoning for adultery. No, instead, Islam only calls for a mere 100 lashes. Are we all properly enlightened now?

    July 9, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
  20. Sammy Sossa

    Beheading , Stoning and lashing happens publicly every friday in Saudi Arabia . How come CNN never covers that ???

    July 9, 2010 at 11:43 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.