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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. Aye

    20th century man praying to an all-powerful being in the heavens....and depictions of early cavemen cringing at the onsite of an eclipse....and the diference is what?

    July 9, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
    • Jim McTeigue

      None- at the time of the caveman, they lacked any proof as to the nature of eclipses. Today, we lack any proof that God doesn't exist. For the record, smart guy, believing that God doesn't exist is the same thing as believing he DOES exist- a matter of faith that cannot be proven. So go ahead, keep spouting off like you "know" something. When you have proof, maybe people will actually care.

      July 9, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
    • Mary

      Actually we lack any proof that God DOES exist.

      July 9, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
    • Jim McTeigue

      We lack proof that God does OR does not exist.

      July 10, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
  2. Paul

    Many of the Mullahs in Iran I presume are of right mind. It is the few who cast stones at people and who are narrow minded who should be punished in similar ways they issue punishments. I would suggest punishments for the mullahs similar to early Roman punishments or Tudor punishments.

    July 9, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
  3. harry

    You obviously have not read the Quran and any other book such as Bible or the Torah for that matter...you are one of those who just wants to write something here without knowing the truth...

    July 9, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
  4. likeAplan

    Were women burned alive at some point in America's history?

    July 9, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
    • Aye

      yes, rememeber Salem? even the Native Americans were burned at the stake

      July 9, 2010 at 1:19 pm |
    • dajackg

      Actually nobody was burned in Salem. The "witches" were hanged and Giles Corey was pressed to death with stones. Not like it matters in the context of the discussion. Just thought I'd put it out there. Thanks. 🙂

      July 9, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
    • Mary

      true, nobody was burned alive...the fires created a lack of oxygen and the bodies actualy suffocated before they ever caught on fire

      July 9, 2010 at 2:27 pm |
    • Greg C.

      Yes, in Kansas City during the Civil War...those damn Yankees!

      July 9, 2010 at 9:05 pm |
    • Woody

      The Constitution was written less than a hundred years after the Salem witch trials and executions. The Founding Fathers were well aware of the dangers of religious fanatics gaining political power. They wisely wrote a secular document with no mention of a state sanctioned religion. Thankfully, we don't have Religion Police peeking in our windows as some of the Muslim nations do. Separation of Church and State is one of the cornerstones of this great nation. May it forever be so. Some people wish to see state sanctioned prayer in our public schools. Be very careful what you wish for.

      July 12, 2010 at 9:26 pm |
  5. harry

    Actually, 'religion' is the biggest con job pulled on humanity (any religion). Take all religions out of the world and you will have peace...until then....we will think our religion is right and others are wrong.... and so the fight goes on....

    July 9, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
    • Joan

      religion in some form has existed since the dawn of time.. it is human nature to ask questions like 'where do we come from' 'how was this made' 'what is my purpose'. seeing as that is inherant in our nature.. makes you at least think why we are programmed as such. lack of religion and we'd have a world without order.

      July 9, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
    • Aye

      Agreed, "'religion' is the biggest con job pulled on humanity ... w/o religion there would be peace ... we would have a world based on moral law not civil law

      July 9, 2010 at 1:17 pm |
    • Jim McTeigue

      LOL! Good to know that violence isn't a part of human nature, but is instead something taught to us by religion. I guess things like "Though shalt not kill" are just ancient forms of reverse psychology, eh? Just out of curiosity, how does your theory account for violence committed by people against other people of the same faith? How does it account for violence by atheists? I'm sure the blood-diamond producing African nations will be thrilled to hear that decades of conflict over control of valuable resources are actually the fault of religion. It's all good to know that North Korea, being communist and therefor without religion, will never be capable of conducting warfare...

      July 9, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
    • Jim McTeigue

      Oh hey, just of curiosity, without the use of violence or belief, what, exactly, will be used to enforce this "moral law"? A stern talking-to?

      July 9, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
    • Marx

      Jim, sorry but Communism and Atheism are not mutauly inclusive. That makes your comment mute.

      July 9, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
    • Jim McTeigue

      Mute, eh? I think you mean moot. "Religions is the opiate of the masses" sound familiar? Russia, North Korea, and China- politically, atheist and communist. Technically you could have communism with God, but then again, I never said they were inseparably intertwined. I simply pointed out that the communist nations in existence are atheist nations, and yet they still manage to war without having religious motivation...

      July 9, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
    • dajackg

      If actual communism had ever existed anywhere on this earth, we'd know the answer to that. But it hasn't.

      July 9, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
    • Jim McTeigue

      well, self-labeled communist nations if you prefer.

      July 9, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
    • Mary

      Jim, but who do they go to war wit' ? it takes 2 to tango. just because they are atheist war hungry ppl doesn't induce an actual conflict wit out someone to go to war wit'

      July 9, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
    • keep ot up

      HAHA Jim has to back peddle after every statement he makes

      July 9, 2010 at 2:58 pm |
    • bostonjim

      I think Jim's point is that violence is a not a product of being religious, but rather of being human. And, yes, China is not a strict Communist state any more than we are a Democracy- yet for the purposes of simplicity, I find they are often referred to as such. Religion is often used to justify violence, it is true. However, people seem perfectly content to use nationalism, or ethnicity or political affiliation- or heck, just about anything- to justify violence as well. I'm not a believer myself, but I don't imagine removing religion from our lives would truly eliminate violence. Like an alcoholic seeking his next drink, humans will always find a reason to beat on other humans.

      July 9, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
    • Mark

      I like BostonJim too bad the Celtics lost to the Fakers

      July 9, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
    • ravi

      If not for religion, atheists can do whatever they want and that could be destructive. Religion does provide structure to society, at least some of them do. Islam is irrational and represents a immature form of religion.

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

    you just got to love some of the bigots out here... you give them evidence that stoning is not a punishment prescribed by islam and they actually do some research and find the cause for it in the hadith... however, you need to understand that the qur'an comes first.... always, then the sunnah of the prophet (saws). not to mention that the case for stoning would be impossible to build... four witnesses who have to be known to be truthful and just people... who not only have to see the people together, but have to actually witness the act of penetration....

    but once a bigot, always a bigot,right.

    July 9, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
    • Dan

      Sorry, but Muslim scholars for centuries have said that the Qur'an and the Hadith are the two legs upon which Islam stands. Thay have always used the Hadith to understand the Qur'an, becuase without it, the Qur'an is senseless babbling.

      July 9, 2010 at 11:52 pm |
  7. eegur beevur

    absolutely right: the prophet liked to stone people to death: there is one detailed hadith where a couple accused of fornication (not adultery) are stoned to death – the witness notes at the end of the hadith: "even as the stones were hitting them, the man kept bending over the woman, trying to shield her from the flying stones, and bearing them himself". This act of bravery and humanity makes the condemned fornicator a MUCH greater human being than the prophet.

    BTW, i am a former muslim from Pakistan – i am a proud murtid now.

    July 9, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
    • Spike

      Well said.

      July 9, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
  8. Religious

    A book written by "man" either heresay or second-hand, and thousands follow and obey...sounds like a cult

    July 9, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
    • Russ

      ...but when hundreds of millions or billions follow it it's called organized religion and the rest of us have put up with these frikkin' fairy tales.

      July 9, 2010 at 1:55 pm |
    • Mary

      Organized Religion = Cult (why does the word cult always have to be negative? so if a religious sect does and teaches bad things, then they are referred to as a cult?)

      July 9, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
    • no god

      you said it.

      July 9, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
    • Bobbie

      Therefore, your DISbelief in God (Atheism) is also a cult. If religion is just "a bunch of beliefs and rules," the word "Atheism" is defined as "the doctrine or belief that there is no god." Therefore, we are all in an occult, and we are all religious. That would explain why ANYONE could be a dangerous person.

      July 9, 2010 at 5:04 pm |
    • Mark

      Bobbie, the word religion is the belief in a 'superpower'. Therefore a DISbelief in God (Atheism) is not a religion or a cult by logical deduction. Thus everyone is not religious.

      July 9, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
    • jbug

      Mark, Bobbie is actually correct as well. There is more than one accepted definition of religion. "A cause, principle, or activitiy pursued with zeal or devotion." If you claim there is no supernatural power, by deduction, you are following a cause, principle, or activity with devotion. Whether you claim it privately or publicly, everyone has an opinion on whether there is a higher power or no higher power, therefore, everyone adheres to some form of religion.

      July 9, 2010 at 9:41 pm |
  9. Kam

    Stoning is not Islamic, it's ancient cultural practice that was carried over. Stoning was in the Bible as well.

    July 9, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
    • Bobbie

      Stoning was in the Bible, but please check your facts before you just throw that out there. When Jesus came along stoning was condemned ("Let him without sin cast the first stone").

      July 9, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
    • Redmond

      Stoning was condemned really in bible by saying "let he be the first to throw the stone who is with out sin"?

      Question, what if there was a stupid guy like me sitting there, who though I have no sins at all.

      To be serious, wasn't there a plan english, "I prohibit stoning of adultery". Or may be not.

      Thank you

      July 9, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
  10. Mimi B

    If you have any questions about how gruesome stoning is, please watch "Stoning of Soraya M." I watched that movie not too long ago, and it left such an immense impression on me, that for days it was all I could think about, had hard time sleeping and eating. Anyone who even for a brief moment thinks this is how any society should deal with people (and by that I refer to women), doesn't really know what that means. I believe that the movie portrayed accurately what stoning looks like. It is sickening, and sadly, it is based on a true story!

    July 9, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  11. Religious

    For being so "religious" they are not very open-minded.

    July 9, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
    • Jean

      Please tell me what religion IS open-minded. Since all religion is a matter of faith, not scientific inquiry, open-mindedness only can only result in doubt. If "John Doe" REALLY believes he knows what "god" wants us to do, wouldn't he have a moral obligation to force the rest of us to go along? Religion is a dangerous thing!

      July 9, 2010 at 3:57 pm |
  12. Gary

    Admin.........If indeed God does hate Islam, why did he give them 90% of all the worlds oil reserves? Looks like favortism to me?

    July 9, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
    • Aye

      He gave the reserves to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden actually....white people had them first

      July 9, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
    • Jim McTeigue

      LOL! What makes you think Adam and Eve were white? That story is originally found in religions originating in the Middle East.

      July 9, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
    • Aye

      and where do you think was the location of the Garden of Eden? In the Middle East...

      July 9, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
    • Mary P

      My Sunday school teacher told me that Adam and Eve were white, but the Mormons that come over on Family night say that Adam and Eve were Native Americans

      July 9, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
    • ad

      wait.... are you saying white people came first and gave birth to black and brown people? LOL

      July 9, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
    • Marx

      Ad... it's called Evolution and Natural Selection .. get educated before u post and prove ur ignorance

      July 9, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
    • glossolalia

      a lot of you people, and i sincerely mean this, need to work harder at spotting sarcasm on the interweb. it's a life skill.

      July 9, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
    • G

      Gary,actually Islam believes in the same God.It is a CONTINUATION of both Christianity AND Judaism.

      July 9, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
    • Bobbie

      G: The three (Islam, Christianity, Judaism) may have some of the same beliefs, but they are NOT the same religion.

      July 9, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
    • jbug

      This sounds like a funny thread between my friends and me on my facebook page.
      Context people . . . context!!!!

      July 9, 2010 at 9:23 pm |
  13. Non Idiot

    What a joke? WHO CARES what QURAN or ANY BOOK says about stoning??
    It cannot be, must not be done.. PERIOD..
    Who the heck are these experts even discussing this?
    Time to not give credence who are falling behind on Darwinian scale
    CNN – great News – Shame on you.. Can your quality go any lower? The tabloid getting better these days 😦

    July 9, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
    • NH

      completely agree with you... I cannot believe anyone even trying to justify 100 lashes for adultery.. ridiculous

      July 9, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
    • JJ

      its also ridiculaus how we let child pedophiles back into society..... So whats worse hard punishment for aldultry or leanent pushiment for worse crimes....its no better situation in America

      July 9, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
  14. sam

    Jesus was a man, a compassionate man. You should be more worried about kneeling before him, as you try to intimidate people with your Christlike stance. Disgusting.

    July 9, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
  15. nOT Trash

    Religion rocks!!

    July 9, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
    • Mark

      religion stones

      July 9, 2010 at 7:38 pm |
  16. sid

    It is a shame to all human beings and civilizations that we still have this kind of laws in Islamic countries. How can a religion dictates the fate of an woman should end up by stoned to death? Islam is evil. Muhammed was evil.

    July 9, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
    • G

      sid try researching Islam instead of asking your neighbor what they think it is.it doesn't take long.well...with you it might.

      July 9, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
    • lorne

      to the posts under Sid, please tell how sid is wrong. the fact is that the saudis, and the iranians and other quranites do allow for stoning a woman to death because she "may" have committed adultery. this "law" is used by a "court" usually consisting of fundamental, self righteous, " only we know the truth" old men who still live in the 10th century. these countries only operate under rule by laws, and NOT the the rule OF law.

      July 9, 2010 at 4:16 pm |
    • R

      Everyone thinks Sid is an idiot without an education... OK..instead of just insulting him why not rationally dispute him? I also need an education so maybe you can help...Questions: is Islam based on the teachings of Muhammad? Did Muhammad claim to be a man or a deity? At his peak did Muhammad have wealth and power over other men? Did Muhammad orchestrate battles/wars that resulted in the destruction of his spiritual and economic rivals? Did Muhammad have several wives? Did Muhammad consummate a marriage with a 7-9 year old? Did Muhammad own slaves?

      These questions have NOTHING to do with Christianity.. answer them and then give your opinion if following Muhammad is an act of good or evil in your opinion.

      July 9, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
    • Meme

      @R 'These questions have NOTHING to do with Christianity.. answer them and then give your opinion if following Muhammad is an act of good or evil in your opinion.'

      Answer: I don't accept that we can determine with a high level of confidence how to 'follow' Muhammad, if that were one's intended goal. You could certainly follow someone's interpretation of the Quran, or even possibly the Quran if you could become fluent in the Arabic of 6th century Arabia. If you are following the sunnah of Muhammad, even as those collected as a 'sahih Hadith' you are following what a couple centuries worth of heresay can produce, unable to be determined whether or not they are actual examples of Muhammad's life.

      That being said, even if it were possible, in my opinion, it is unwise for anyone to attempt to explicitly follow any person that lived decades or centuries or millenia ago. Civilization and culture is constantly evolving and adapting, and what was common and acceptable to civilizations of old, is not necessarily applicable or practical and or perhaps just not desirable in society today. I think this applies accross all forms of religion and culture that I am presently aware of. I don't mean that you have to throw everything out, just be willing to adapt it to the social norms (if in accordance with logic and reason) of the day.

      July 10, 2010 at 2:41 am |
    • Meme

      @R, Sid Well, I had attempted to answer all your questions, but for some strange reason all my other posts were deleted, even though they were rather mild and informative compared to most of the posts here. It seems Belief Blog has little tolerance for tolerance, so there is no point in attempting futher discussion on this blog for me.

      July 10, 2010 at 8:36 am |
    • YetAnotherBob

      Not to you expressly, but a couple of points on this.

      I have looked at this on a couple of sites. Fox reported that the woman and her lover had each received 99 lashes over 2 years ago. The stoning/hanging is because she potted with two men to kill her husband. He was killed 2 years ago. The stoning (Since changed to hanging) is a punishment for the murder. Yes, Iran is one of the country that has capital punishment. I haven't seen all of this reported on CNN, maybe I just missed it, but it does go a long way to explaining the situation. The woman organized the plot. The men (two) who carried it out got long prison terms. The woman who started it gets executed. Iran gets a black eye in the US, but doesn't seem to care.

      July 11, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
  17. RobertJ

    Sick, twisted, disgusting and utterly purposeless barbarity unworthy even of prehistoric cave dwellers.

    July 9, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
  18. Jonathan Carter

    Excellent. How many more lies do you wish to post about Islam?

    July 9, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
    • Kevin

      yeah, it's sickening

      July 9, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
    • Bobbie

      Not any more sickening than the lies posted about Christians and Christianity every day.

      July 9, 2010 at 4:55 pm |
    • Noah

      Two verses from Surah Al-Hajj in the Quran fit a majority of the comments I have read on this postl

      8- Yet there is among men such a one as disputes about Allah, without Knowledge, without Guidance, and without a Book of Englightenment,-

      9- (Disdainfully) bending his side, in order to lead (men) astray from the Path of Allah. for him there is disgrace in this life, and on the Day of Judgment We shall make him taste the Penalty of burning (Fire).

      July 10, 2010 at 6:38 am |
    • Muddy

      Noah, I can provide dispute about Allah with knowledge, with Guidance and with BOOKS of Enlightenment (Quran and Hadith)
      For starters, I would ask you about the state of mind of Allah who have written two ayats in the same surah and very closely to each other. Sura-e-Baqarah Aayat 30 and 36. In one aayat, Allah is saying he is creating Adam as his vicegerent for earth. While in the other aayat, he is somehow mentioning that Adam was bound to live in heaven but he was expelled from it because he disobeyed.
      If both statements are true, then this Allah is really hypocrite, who created Adam actually for earth but also blamed him for disobedience.

      July 11, 2010 at 7:33 pm |
  19. Lilarose in Bandon, OR

    And this Islamic law gets buried among the other Islamic laws and is relatively unknown, but when a president of Iran, such as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, goes out of office, he is automatically executed by being thrown into a deep pit of horse dung and set on fire. He is burned until dead, then when the next president dies, he gets tossed on top of the crisp remains of the previous president, and on and on. When the pit is full of remains, the remains are used for fertilizer.

    July 9, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
  20. tamars

    stoning is a cruel act and is the result of out-of-control anger. the people who perfomr it know it but do not have the courage to address their anger. rather, they project it on to others. it is ignorance that keeps this in any sense of jurisprudence.

    July 9, 2010 at 12:46 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.