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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. hasc

    I am just waiting to see the new Birka-style spacesuits NASA is developing for female astronaughts.

    July 13, 2010 at 11:36 am |
  2. Deborah

    This goes for those also who claim that due to Jesus "old Testament barbarianism" no longer exists. Guess what, we didn't need him for that. Next!

    July 13, 2010 at 11:15 am |
  3. Deborah

    To neuron20030 who wondered about the Jewish position on stoning and claims Jews "should" support it from the bible. The Jewish position from whichever stream – Reform, Conservative, Orthodox–is that stoning does not apply today. The reasons behind this will vary by denomination. So your statement about Jews is inaccurate.

    July 13, 2010 at 11:13 am |
  4. ThinkBeforeYouSpeak

    I don't know about the Quran (it's on my reading list though), but I recently read the bible and it certainly calls for stoning in a number of situations, so I'd imagine that believers in the Bible should not have a problem with stoning.

    For example:

    Deuteronomy 22:29-21 "But if this charge is true, that the girl was not found a virgin, then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death"

    July 13, 2010 at 10:17 am |
    • Jim

      Many people keep referring to the "old" Jewish law or "law covenant" that God gave the nation of Israellite's. This law no longer apply's. It has been replaced by the "law of Christ" In the Old Testament at Jeremiah 31:31-34 in was foretolded that a new law would replace the law covenant. See Hebrews 8:6-13 for the fullfillment of that promise. So to keep saying that the Bible says its okay for stoning is not accurate. It was once but not anymore!

      July 13, 2010 at 11:50 am |
    • ApoxOnUall

      ALL of you sanctimonious GOD fearing people with your "covenants", your Bibles and your Qurans
      (be you Jew, Christian, or Muslim) are the people who will be responsible if that poor woman in Iran
      is stoned. You are the ones who have perpetuated these brutal religions with their brutal laws. And
      you all are as much to blame for that woman's fate as is the "Law" of Iran...

      July 13, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
    • ThinkBeforeYouSpeak

      But Jim, Jesus disagrees with you. Jesus said:

      "Do not think that I [Jesus] have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke or a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18)"

      July 13, 2010 at 8:56 pm |
  5. Gary

    Any one who has to read a religious text to know that stealing,cheating on your spouse,killing,stoning,lying ect are wrong is boarderline learning disabled. As an agnostic I agree with the golden rule. folks use common sense. Use the brain your God gave you. Take your heads out of religious texts written by primitive cultures two thousands years ago and experience real ife.

    July 13, 2010 at 9:53 am |
  6. Uchilled

    The fact that the Koran/Quran doesn't call for stoning does not mean anything to these idiots. The same Quran does not condone suicide bombing and the killing of innocents but these still continue to happen in the name of Islam. So, the question that begs an answer is this: If the Islamic fundamentalists do not respect their own 'holy' book, what do they believe in?

    July 13, 2010 at 8:39 am |
  7. VegasRage

    This didn't exactly help the Muslim faith much. "The Quran says 100 lashes" and Stoning is based on Mohammed sayings, the hadith. What a bunch bass ackward small minded men. YEAH and they say Israel is the problem.

    July 13, 2010 at 2:52 am |
  8. CowBoy

    I don't believe the Jews intended stoning for capital punishment either!

    July 13, 2010 at 2:35 am |
  9. David Pennington

    In my opinion, the Muslims make this crap up as they go!!! ......and so do the Iranian government!!!! BTW, she knew the consequences, yet she commited adultery anyways. What does the Quran say about homosexuality???? Remind the UAE about that!!!!

    July 13, 2010 at 2:33 am |
  10. TotalNonSense

    the Quran may not call for stoning, but muslims do.

    July 12, 2010 at 11:26 pm |
  11. alan

    Jesus was a man like all the rest of the self proclaimed gods. He stole most of his ideas from the Egyptian's, so I rate him at the level of snake oil salesman. He is dead and dead people don't come back. If he was a god then he has a lot of crimes to be held accountable for. I have never seen a god. We will better humans as soon as we can get rid of religion, it is a hold over from the dark ages, AARRGGG!

    July 12, 2010 at 11:08 pm |
    • ApoxOnUall

      Snake oil salesman that he was, at least his brand of snake oil doesn't seem to call for the subjugation of the female
      half of humanity by the male half. Mother Earth's most beautiful creation was the human female...It's just a shame that
      she made a mistake by creating a physically stronger (and mentally weaker!) male companion. Perhaps (IF there is a
      future for us all) She'll take the weak minded male's religiosity away from him and free us all from it's deadly effects...

      July 13, 2010 at 1:29 am |
  12. thk

    Paladin,

    You asked that we read John 17:3. Here it is with the whole paragraph:

    1After Jesus had finished speaking to his disciples, he looked up toward heaven and prayed: Father, the time has come for you to bring glory to your Son, in order that he may bring glory to you. 2And you gave him power over all people, so that he would give eternal life to everyone you give him. 3Eternal life is to know you, the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ, the one you sent. 4I have brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you gave me to do. 5Now, Father, give me back the glory that I had with you before the world was created.

    Clearly Jesus existed before the world began. How can he be "just" a man?

    July 12, 2010 at 10:05 pm |
  13. Sean McKere

    some critics have pointed out that the Bible also sanctions stoning for sexual offences. The difference being, Old Testament law is not the basis for any Christian nation's criminal code. I'd be happy to double check, but I'm pretty sure the legal codes in Europe and North America do not call for capital punishment upon adulterers, disobedient children, eaters of shellfish, people who plant two different crops in the same field, or people who violate any other wacko part of Leviticus). On the other hand, Islamic nations such as Iran have regulations on stoning built right into their criminal codes. Which indicates the state fully endorses such medieval barbarities.

    July 12, 2010 at 8:30 pm |
  14. Eric G

    "let he who is free of sin cast the first stone" I think the christians are the only ones who should be able to stone people. Didn't Jesus die for their sins? So, aren't they sin free? If only the "free of sin" crowd can cast the first stone, what do the rules say about who casts the second stone? Is it just kind of a free for all after the first one? If I "turn the other cheeck" doesn't that make it harder to hit my target?

    July 12, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
  15. ApoxOnUall

    Admit it, people, ALL of your Abrahamic religions were created by crazy old dirty men FOR crazy old dirty men!! The problem with the Islamic world is their men LOVE their crazy old dirty men!!! AND they are afraid of their women!!!

    The only people who ever needed stoning was Abraham, Moses, and Mohammad...(Jesus, crazy and young as he was, was only a civil protestor who paid dearly for his rabble rousing).

    It's time the women of the Muslim world rise up and stone the MEN of that lame, woman-fearing, paranoid "religion"!!!!

    July 12, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
  16. Scott

    Claire
    @neuron2003, Jesus brought a new covenant, so Old Testament barbarianism no longer applies. A true Christian follows the teachings of Jesus (Let he who is without sin throw the first stone, etc.).
    ______________________________________

    thanks Claire for clearing this up and I agree 100%. The old testament (convenant) basically ended the moment Christ died on the cross. Christ was the first man to ever teach respect for women, children, and all of God's creations; animals, etc. The new convenant taught that education was good and that God encourages progress and acceptance of everyone; not only a few. All humans are covered under the new convenant if you accept Christ. The very fact the Christianity has endured with this positive methodology proves that it is of the one and only Creator; not some ancient and irrelevent sandman called Mohammed who taught control over women and children and today which its followers only want is an uneducated population to reign over. This isn't progress; it's called control plain and simple. Islam shows its true colors every day.

    July 12, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
    • Max

      It always amazed me how christians disregard the teachings of all the prophets before Jesus. Why is it that the rules that God has outlined in the "Old Testament" don't apply any more? Why would God, who is omnipotent and timeless, suddenly change His mind? Is it really so hard to follow God's rules that you have to ignore them just because someone has supposedly already paid for your sins?

      July 12, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
    • ApoxOnUall

      @Max It amazes me how Jews ever thought they had some special covenant with THE God of all
      the universe. It also amazes me that Christians ever thought that Jesus was THE God incarnate...
      and it amazes me how Muslims ever believed that some woman hating Muhammad could speak for
      both...What a bunch of primeval fools you all are!!!

      July 13, 2010 at 7:21 pm |
  17. jpeay

    I am very thankful that Jesus dealt with this in the Bible. What Muslims need is Jesus, not to attempt to defend or deny Islamic practice. I just pray that Islamic nations around the world continue to come to the knowledge of Jesus through dreams, signs, wonders and the preaching of the Gospel.

    July 12, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
  18. missadr

    @neuron2003 – Here's your requested comment from a Christian. The entire point of Jesus of Nazareth willingly sacrificing himself by crucifixion was to fulfill the requirement of the law for all people and for all time. Jesus paid my penalty permanently. The law is satisfied for all eternity. That's why we call it "Gospel" which means Good News. The Good News is that the ultimate penalty has already been paid on my behalf. I suppose Jews, who don't believe that Jesus is the deliverer, can still worry about stoning one another. But Christians no longer have any use for such laws.

    July 12, 2010 at 9:30 am |
  19. Precious

    It's NOT ok to stone a woman because she had an affair, but it's ok to Electrocute or kill by lethal injection?
    We need to stay out of their world, it's their world and they have lived with it for centuries. We need to look at ourselves and the way we are living our lives. Every 3 marriages out of 5 result in divorce, kids growing up with gay parents, we kill our criminals by murdering them, so, who are we to judge.
    I don't agree with stoning, but I also need to respect a society that has kept their crime rates down, very small divorce rates and hold on to family values. I have no right to judge anyone, but only myself.

    July 12, 2010 at 4:48 am |
    • cornholio

      I respect a culture that tortures people to death

      July 12, 2010 at 7:17 am |
    • kh

      Their society has low divorce rates because the men can have more than one wife and woman have no real rights there. Crime rates are low? It depends on what kind of crimes you're talking about. They kill people for speaking their mind there! They also kill criminals ,and homosexuals, girls who "dishonor" the family, but leave boys alive and with much weaker punishments, basically saying that women are to blame for all problems, but are only worth half as much as a man. That should sound familiar. That's how they treated the slaves. How's that for family values for you? You say you can only judge yourself, but you just judged divorced people, gay parents and people who don't rule their families with violence. We do have problems here, but if you think Iran is so much more civilized, especially if you are female, go live there for a few years.

      July 13, 2010 at 7:35 am |
    • kh

      You praise them for a low divorce rate and low crime rate. It's not surprising that their divorce rate is low, other articles about this woman's plight have mentioned that it is not uncommon for men to accuse their wives of adultery, so they can get out of the marriage. Is that they way you would want the divorce rate to be lowered? You say that the U.S. is hypocritical because we execute murderers. They execute more people than here and obviously not just for murder. They execute people for adultery, speaking their mind, homosexuality, defending themselves against rape etc.. Basically their government will do whatever they want in Iran, even if it doesn't really follow Islam. In a situation like this the crime rate will be lower on the surface. Many crimes probably are ignored. Rape is probably more prominent than you know, because they don't care about the victims and see women as half human and she has to prove more than the perpetrator that it wasn't consensual. Also you say that we should not judge... and that you have no right to judge anyone but yourself. You said this after you judged divorced people and gay parents.

      July 13, 2010 at 8:05 am |
  20. HeIsGod

    @ Reality & Erin – Wow, so, Atheist have never committed any crimes?

    But since atheists deny God's existence, they don’t have the ability to realize that God is the Author of the TEN COMMANDMENTS. This forces them to attribute their authorship to a human. But since atheism is opposed to the decorous TEN COMMANDMENTS, even while being force to deceptively think they were authored by a human, this clearly shows evidence that atheism was and is incapable of authoring, realizing and honoring such decorous and noble laws. If in the view of the atheist the TEN COMMANDMENTS were authored by a human, and since it is rightly established that those laws are decorous and honorable, but are hated by atheists, and atheists are said to comprise the most "educated" segment of the human race, then it would have taken a more decorous and honorable human to author them than ever even the most highly educated atheist.

    All atheists and all other nonbelievers in the True God – regardless of their level of "education" and position in society – are therefore the true criminals of the world community and if there is a sane government, should treat them accordingly.

    From Robert Lee – Ex-Atheist

    July 11, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
    • Reality

      HelsGod,

      Actually, Hammurabi had a version of the Ten Commandments long before mythical Moses. And before Hammurabi, the Egyptians published a version in their Book of the Dead. Google or Bing your life into the riches of "new" information.

      July 11, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
    • RAWoD

      Would you please stop wasting bits!
      If you haven't figured it out, essentially nobody buys your crap anymore.
      There have been far too many killings in the name of purely fictional characters.

      July 12, 2010 at 11:28 am |
    • Mark in the Heartland

      Ah yes, the Code of Hammurabi-
      example: If anyone brings an accusation against a man, and the accused goes to the river and leaps into the river, if he sinks in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river proves that the accused is not guilty, and he escapes unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser.
      That certainly sounds like the Ten Commandments to me!
      Hammurabi had 282 laws, it is not surprising he had some the said do not kill, do not steal, or others similar to the Ten Commandments.

      July 13, 2010 at 10:14 am |
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