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Rajm is an Arabic 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. Traditionally it is called for in cases of adultery where the criteria for conviction are met. The appropriate punishment for adultery committed by a married man or married woman with someone who is not legal to him/her and there is a confession from either the adulterer/adulteress or the confession of testimony of four witnesses (as prescribed by the Quran in Surah an-Nur verse 4). Other Muslims disagree entirely regarding its legality, arguing that it cannot be found in the Qur'an. However Surah an-Nur deals with adultery in regard to unmarried men and women (regarded as fornication as the Arabic word Zina, describes both fornication and adultery) and does not prescribe the punishment towards those who commit adultery whilst married.
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, but according to hadith, the Qur'anic verses of stoning were written on a piece of paper and were lost when a goat ate it:
[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."
— 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
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. There are also other hadith regarding stoning. Sahih Muslim Book 17 has several hadith regarding Stoning specifically (17:4191-4209,4914)
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
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.
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 modernist Islamic thinkers as to the applicability of stoning for adultery as, 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 some schools maintain that the punishment may nevertheless be exacted on the grounds that hadith can establish laws which the Qur'an does not mention.
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, a Pakistani Islamic scholar and a proponent of Islamic law in Pakistan, has postulated that the Quran does not support Rajm for adultery- his views are based on a close reading of the Quranic text.[Quran 24:2] Ghamidi claims that stoning is prescribed only in extreme cases - for someone who rapes or habitually commits fornication as prostitutes do, which then constitute malfeasance in the land that is punishable according to other Quranic verses.[Quran 5:33-34]
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