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Rajm is an Arabic (رجم) word that means "stoning". It is commonly used to refer to the Hudud punishment wherein an organized group throws stones at a convicted individual until that person dies. Under Islamic law, it is the prescribed punishment in cases of adultery committed by a married man or married woman. The conviction requires a confession from either the adulterer/adulteress, or the testimony of four witnesses (as prescribed by the Quran in Surah an-Nur verse 4). Some Muslim sects such as Khawarij disagree entirely regarding its legality, arguing that it cannot be found in the Qur'an. Surah an-Nur of Quran prescribes lashing for premarital sex (a form of zina) among unmarried men and women, but makes no mention of punishment for adultery. However, multiple sunnah in hadiths mention stoning and therefore most Muslim schools of jurisprudence accept it as a prescribed punishment for adultery.
Hanafites have traditionally held that the witnesses should throw the first stones in case the conviction was brought about by witnesses, and the qadi must throw the first stones in case the conviction was brought about by a confession.
In some schools of Islamic law the punishment of stoning has been prescribed as punishment for married men or women who have committed adultery, following a confession or the testimony of four eye-witnesses. It has no basis in the Qur'an however it is found in Hadith (e.g. Sahih Muslim 17:4191 - 4209 and 17:4916 & 17:4194) . Persons who accuse a woman of adultery but are not able to bring four witnesses are liable to a punishment of 80 lashes and to be unacceptable as witnesses unless they repent and reform. The testimony of those who accuse their own spouse without any other witnesses may be accepted if they swear by God four times that they are telling the truth with a fifth oath to incur God's condemnation if they be lying. The accused shall be considered innocent if they swear by God four times that the spouse is a liar, again with the fifth oath inviting God's wrath if the spouse be telling the truth.
The present-day Qur'an does not explicitly mention the act of stoning. According to one form of wording for a hadith, :
[Narrated 'Aisha] "The verse of the stoning and of suckling an adult ten times were revealed, and they were (written) on a paper and kept under my bed. When the messenger of Allah expired and we were preoccupied with his death, a goat entered and ate away the paper."
Muslim scholars have rejected this specific wording of the hadith, however. All common routes of transmission for this version either contain narrators charged with dishonesty when disclosing their sources, or (in the case of the vesion in Ibn Hanbal's Musnad) conflict with all versions of the hadith which bear authentic routes - none of which mention the goat eating the piece of paper.
In the Hadith
Among prominent records of the words of the Prophet (ahadith) mentioning stoning is the Hadith of Umar's speech of forbidding Mut'ah, Prophet's last Hajj sermon and the Hadith of the Verse of Stoning.
The hadith Shahih Bukhari, the book most trusted after Quran by most Muslims, has several sunnah regarding stoning. For example,
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: 'Umar said, "I am afraid that after a long time has passed, people may say, "We do not find the Verses of the Rajam (stoning to death) in the Holy Book," and consequently they may go astray by leaving an obligation that Allah has revealed. Lo! I confirm that the penalty of Rajam be inflicted on him who commits illegal sexual intercourse, if he is already married and the crime is proved by witnesses or pregnancy or confession." Sufyan added, "I have memorized this narration in this way." 'Umar added, "Surely Allah's Apostle carried out the penalty of Rajam, and so did we after him."
Narrated Abu Huraira: A man from Bani Aslam came to Allah's Apostle while he was in the mosque and called (the Prophet ) saying, "O Allah's Apostle! I have committed illegal sexual intercourse." On that the Prophet turned his face from him to the other side, whereupon the man moved to the side towards which the Prophet had turned his face, and said, "O Allah's Apostle! I have committed illegal sexual intercourse." The Prophet turned his face (from him) to the other side whereupon the man moved to the side towards which the Prophet had turned his face, and repeated his statement. The Prophet turned his face (from him) to the other side again. The man moved again (and repeated his statement) for the fourth time. So when the man had given witness four times against himself, the Prophet called him and said, "Are you insane?" He replied, "No." The Prophet then said (to his companions), "Go and stone him to death." The man was a married one. Jabir bin 'Abdullah Al-Ansari said: I was one of those who stoned him. We stoned him at the Musalla ('Id praying place) in Medina. When the stones hit him with their sharp edges, he fled, but we caught him at Al-Harra and stoned him till he died.
— Sahih al-Bukhari, 7:63:196 see also Sahih al-Bukhari, 2:23:413 Sahih al-Bukhari, 3:34:421 Sahih al-Bukhari, 3:49:860 Sahih al-Bukhari, 3:50:885 Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:56:829 Sahih al-Bukhari, 6:60:79 Sahih al-Bukhari, 7:63:195
Sahih Muslim Book 17 has several hadith regarding Stoning specifically (17:4191-4209, and 17:4914). For example,
Abu Huraira reported that a person from amongst the Muslims came to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) while he was in the mosque. He called him saying: Allah's Messenger. I have committed adultery. He (the Holy Prophet) turned away from him, He (again) came round facing him and said to him: Allah's Messenger, I have committed adultery. He (the Holy Prophet) turned away until he did that four times, and as he testified four times against his own self, Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) called him and said: Are you mad? He said: No. He (again) said: Are you married? He said: Yes. Thereupon Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Take him and stone him. Ibn Shihab (one of the narrators) said: One who had heard Jabir b. 'Abdullah saying this informed me thus: I was one of those who stoned him. We stoned him at the place of prayer (either that of 'Id or a funeral). When the stones hurt him, he ran away. We caught him in the Harra and stoned him (to death). This hadith has been narrated through another chain of transmitters.
Other hadiths also mention stoning as the punishment for adultery.
Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah: A man committed fornication with a woman. So the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) ordered regarding him and the prescribed punishment of flogging was inflicted on him. He was then informed that he was married. So he commanded regarding him and he was stoned to death.
There is disagreement among modern Islamic thinkers as to the applicability of stoning for adultery. While religious texts often give examples both with and without stoning, the Quran does not prescribe stoning as a punishment for any crime, mentioning only lashing as punishment for adultery. However other scholars maintain that there is sufficient evidence from hadiths to derive a ruling.
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, a proponent of Islamic law in Pakistan, has postulated that the Quran does not support Rajm for adultery; but that Quranic verses prescribe stoning only in extreme cases - for someone who rapes or habitually commits fornication as prostitutes do, which then constitute "mischief in the land" that is punishable by death according to Quranic verses 5:33-34.
- Emma Batha, Stoning - where does it happen? Thomson Reuters Foundation, September 29 2013
- E. Ann Black, Hossein Esmaeili and Nadirsyah Hosen (2014), Modern Perspectives on Islamic Law, ISBN 978-0857934475, pp. 222-223
- Rudolph Peters, Crime and Punishment in Islamic Law, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521796705, pp. 37
- "Sura 24, Light (Al-Noor)".
- Nigerian scholars promoting Sharia law as support for women's rights. September 13, 2005
- "5th Delay in Nigerian Gay Trial. Two men facing death by stoning for the alleged crime of sodomy .... September 14, 2005".
- Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal. vol. 6. p. 269; Sunan Ibn Majah, p. 626; Ibn Qutbah, Tawil Mukhtalafi 'l-Hadith (Cairo: Maktaba al-Kulliyat al-Azhariyya. 1966) p. 310; As-Suyuti, ad-Durru 'l-Manthur, vol. 2. p. 13
- Muhammad Taqi Usmani, Takmilat Fath al-Mulhim, vol. 1, pg. 69. Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi.
- Shu'aib al-Arna`ut, Tahqiq Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, vol. 6, pg. 269, hadith #26,359. Beirut: Mu`assasah al-Risalah.
- Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, Mizan, The Penal Law of Islam, Al-Mawrid; Quran 5:33–34
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