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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. Erron

    Yeah, but the Qur'an also says that anything the prophet Muhammad does or says becomes Islamic law and disobeying is against Allah, so therefor the many hear-says of the Hadith's become just as much part of Islamic law as the Qur'an. Everything from this story above with the stoning of adulterers (also similar in the Old Testament), or the 72-virgins awarded to martyrs. If you are Muslim and put too much argument into swaying the Qur'an or Hadith's, you are also subject to death under Islamic law. Welcome to totalitarianism.

    July 9, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
    • JJ

      Islam does not say whatever the prophet did becomes law..... get your facts straight
      Suna Al Nabi is the traditions of the Prophet 99 % are not islamic laws

      July 9, 2010 at 5:05 pm |
  2. me

    Its not the God you follow, its the way you follow your God.

    July 9, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  3. allison

    Barbaric. Any killing in that capacity is. Christians were condemned for burning at the stake, and that practice has stopped- what is is going to take to stop people from treating anyone in this way? There is no excuse for behaving like this- especially not religion.

    July 9, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
    • Adam

      There is an excuse, actually, and it is the belief that the Quran is the LITERAL AND PERFECT WORD OF THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE. As long as we believe that God wrote some of our books we will handcuff ourselves to this bronze-age morality whereby people die because god commands others to kill.

      July 9, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
  4. me

    Of all the words given...you choose the ones that fit your needs.

    And you wonder why it continues without interuption.

    July 9, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
  5. secular

    Which devil is showering meteiorite as punishment from sky? my best guess will be islam, any takers?

    July 9, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
  6. Steve

    The Bible calls for stoning to death people for adultery and blasphemy. The people who follow the "great" religions closest, are the ones that call for stoning people to death. We really should be honest about this. The religious texts do in fact call for stoning people to death. So I say, those who want to follow the religious texts should not pick and choose which parts they follow. How do we know that the bible god does not want us to stone people to death. It seems pretty clear in the text.

    July 9, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
  7. nancy

    Im tired of people saying the koran doen`t calln for stoning but the bible does.Last time i checked, muslims are the ones stoning a woman to death. Christians do crazy things too, but they don`t stone each other

    July 9, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
    • jessica

      nancy-your right christians dont stone each other...they burn each other alive...remember kkk...all white male group...love how you ppl forget your own history....

      July 9, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
  8. Reality

    The koran may not call for stoning but the prophet sure did:

    Sahi Muslim No. 4206:

    “A woman came to the prophet and asked for purification by seeking punishment. He told her to go away and seek God’s forgiveness. She persisted four times and admitted she was pregnant. He told her to wait until she had given birth. Then he said that the Muslim community should wait until she had weaned her child. When the day arrived for the child to take solid food, Muhammad handed the child over to the community. And when he had given command over her and she was put in a hole up to her breast, he ordered the people to stone her. Khalid b. al-Walid came forward with a stone which he threw at her head, and when the blood spurted on her face he cursed her.”

    July 9, 2010 at 4:18 pm |
    • Umme Omar

      The prophet (PBUH) sent her homes 4 times to seek forgiveness from God. She was the one who persisted. Also, he did not let her child suffer because of her sin. If she had listened to him, she could get away with it. This is the beauty of Islam. Thank you reality for sharing this. Islam is in reality the most perfect religion. We have the best family system. We are always faithful to each other. Men are responsible for their children. If the man divorces his wife, he still has to take responsibilty for the kids. Mothers do not have to raise their children single handedly.

      July 13, 2010 at 10:57 pm |
  9. Another Human

    Human beings are a species of ape; this explains much. And it is estimated 1 out of 5 people, 20% of the human population, has "noticeable" or significant mental dysfunction (mental illness). Also it's been pretty well established, albeit recently, that a third of us enjoy inflicting pain on others and have the "pleasure center" of the brain become stimulated when power and dominance is exercised over other creatures, including over other people. This does include people who get pleasure from inflicting pain on others. None of this is our fault; manyt of us just suck and it's disappointing to the rest of us, that's all.

    July 9, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
    • Umme Omar

      Yeah sounds like you are one of those 20 % human beings. Speak for yourself, maybe you really are a child of monkeys. We are children of Adam and Eve (peace of God be upon them both). Please leave us alone. 🙂

      July 13, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
  10. exCONservtv

    I don't give a FF if the image of Muhammad appeared on a piece of toiletpaper saying it's ok. Stoning is obviously inhumane to someone living in the 21st century FFS. Just one more reason that we should make the whole region a mirror before we let them have nuclear enrichment technologies. Like the world doesn't have enough problems already. Better yet, a Middle East solar collector so we can get off oil.

    July 9, 2010 at 4:10 pm |
  11. The Myth

    Which version of the "Q" are they using? I've seen so many versions, it's easy to see why these idiots use whatever they want to spread fear into the minds of the people. Basically, if you don't follow the "Q", your a dead person. What is not to love about that? LOL

    July 9, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
  12. Margroks

    Even the lashes are ridiculous. This is a clearcut instance of ancient and abrbaric cultural mores being claimed as religious law because an extremist cleric doesn't want to live in the modern and more humane world. Every religion has these guys. A majority of people in the area have to become educated and liberalized if this bararic practice is ever to be stamped out. And it is obvious that the ancient law itself was extremely prejudiced against women since you had to have two women to equal a man. The Shah may have been a barbaric man in his own way but at least he did afford women equal right and consideration under the secular law.

    July 9, 2010 at 4:07 pm |
  13. YE

    I grew up and went to school in a muslim country. We always took these coranic edicts with a grain of salt. For one, they were written 1400 years ago and totally out of touch with today's reality. Second, those rules, ironically, were progressive compared to the world's behavior at the time. How crazy!
    At the end of these verses, is always an out: If the guilty repents, then God is most merciful. Meaning: no punishment. No lashes, stoning, etc...

    July 9, 2010 at 4:05 pm |
  14. Arafat

    I am a Muslim and long ago I stopped following the idiots who come up with these stupid laws. I read the book myself and it is far different from the perverted Islam of today. I feel so much sorrow for those who suffer because of these Mullahs. Islam of today is severely corrupt and offers nothing good to anyone.

    July 9, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
  15. Eric G

    Regardless of your religion, God's actual views on adultry are very clear.
    He doesn't care.
    Because he doesn't exist........ So, nanner, nanner, boo, boo.

    July 9, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
  16. Naved Musharraf

    Goes to show how outdated the religion of Islam is. It should be consigned to the trash bin of history.

    July 9, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
    • May me

      or the Recycle Bin icon on my desktop

      July 9, 2010 at 8:10 pm |
  17. Abdiwali

    Torah Punishment for Adultery
    is Stoning to Death

    July 9, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
  18. G

    I googled jihad to get a basic understanding then i searched Islamic contacts and found an 800 number to an Islamic NON-PROFIT in chicago.i talked to an ISLAMIC WOMAN for about 30-40 minutes asking anything i could think of.she happily answered my questions.that is all you need to do to find out about TRUE Islamic beliefs.just because the 9/11 attackers were Islamic doesn't mean EVERY Islamic wants to kill us.i posted when they were talking about building a mosque at ground zero and asked how do you know they are not going to go there to pray for innocent Americans that were killed in the name of their own religion for a 'nutjob' interpretation similar to david koreshs interpretation of the Bible?Does every Christian belive in koresh's interpretation?NO.does every Islamic believe in bin laden's inerpretation?FAR FROM IT!

    July 9, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
  19. Ballz

    If they deny that she was stoned to death, have her stand in public for a statement to the press....

    July 9, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
  20. Abdiwali

    This is misleading... the quran calls for stonning. The 100 lashes is for unmarried persons guilty of adultary.....married persons commit it, the punishment is to stone them to death, according to Allâh's Law. Torah Punishment for Adultery
    is Stoning as well. What about Christianity? God's Law always supercede man-made law!

    July 9, 2010 at 3:38 pm |
    • Michael

      If my memory doesn't fail me, Jesus said "He who is without sin, cast the first stone".

      July 9, 2010 at 5:42 pm |
    • May me

      Then didn't the first rock come from Mary?

      July 9, 2010 at 8:09 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.