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Opposing Rajm (Stoning to Death)

 by Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D. 
President
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
7102 W. Shefford Lane
Louisville, KY 40242-6462, U.S.A.

E-mail:
IRFI@INAME.COM
Website: 
http://WWW.IRFI.ORG

Which interpretation to accept?

The companions -- Allah (swt) bless them all -- who experienced Truth first hand, who stood next to Rasoolullah (saw) willing to sacrifice everything out of love for him (saw) and Allah (swt), and who after
the Prophet (saw)'s death blessed us by passing down the Qur'an and Sunnah to succeeding generations.

One would accept the interpretation of the Companions if:

1. It can be proven that it is in fact their interpretation beyond the shadow of a doubt, and

2. It can be proven that they meant that interpretation to be a timeless Law of the Shari'ah.

In the case of Rajm, to a lot of people, both of the above are far from conclusive. Hence, their ruling against Rajm being part of the Islamic Law. If they were convinced of the two points above, they would have been in favor of Rajm.

Therefore, those who accept Rajm and those who do not accept Rajm agree with one's defined principle. 

Modern Muslims are challenging the traditionalists in their belief that the companions understood Rajm to be part of the timeless Islamic Law.

No one is suggesting that the Companions misunderstood the Prophet!

Shaykh G.F. Haddad pointed out:

"Stoning for adultery is mass-transmitted from the Prophet, upon him be peace.

The onus is on those who attribute something to the Prophet and present it as Islamic Law to prove their case.

Why is it that the stoning is nowhere to be found in the Qur'an?

Moreover, for a slave it is HALF the penalty.

How in the world is it possible to HALF-STONE-KILL a slave adulterer?

Point: If you are willing to cast doubt -- and even reject -- something that is Mutawatir by word and deed then it is possible to reject the authenticity of Qur'an and other Sunnah, since they are based on
similar evidence.

Counterpoint: The traditionalists like to hide behind the word "Mutawatir" a lot, instead of paying attention to other people's arguments and then present their case in a logical, rational manner.

Muslims  have already agreed that the Qur'an is the most authentic source of Islam.  It is also agreed that Islam is "based" on the Qur'an.

Do we not agree that the sources other-than-the-Qur'an are not as authentic as the Qur'an?

Do we not agree that the Qur'an has been preserved by none other than God Himself while no such guarantee has been given to sources other-than-the-Qur'an?

So why not one  START from the Qur'an and examine other source IN LIGHT of the Qur'an, instead of examining the more authentic source of Islam in light of the less authentic sources of Islam, which were
compiled by non-Prophets?

Rajm is not in the Qur'an

Rajm is nowhere to be found in the Qur'an, which has very clearly stated what the penalty is. And this is the argument.

Shaykh G.F. Haddad states:
There are three types of abrogated Qur'anic verses:

(1) Recitation-abrogated and ruling-abrogated
(2) Recitation-established and ruling-abrogated
(3) Recitation-abrogated and ruling-established

The verses that concern stoning as the punishment for a married person's adultery are of type (3) cf. al-Suyuti, al-Itqan fi `Ulum al-Qur'an (Type 47 of the Qur'anic Sciences, 2:718 of the Mustafa al-Bugha 1993 2nd edition, Dar Ibn Kathir).

Counterpoint:

One would like to hide behind scholars rather than present a logical and rational argument of one's own.

Does anybody  know that a great scholar Maududi rejects the notion that there was once a verse in the Qur'an on Rajm?

One should also know that there are other scholars who reject that there was once a verse of Rajm in the Qur'an?

So by bringing up names of scholars, what does it prove?

Why would the verse that commands a more severe penalty be removed from the Qur'an and not the one that commands a less severe penalty? Does it seem logical and rational to anyone?

As Rajm would have been more controversial after the Prophet, it would have been clearly stated in the Qur'an for generations to come, and not the much less penalty of 100 lashes?

Also, where does the Qur'an say that "We have removed that verse of Rajm, but go ahead, continue to follow it?"  Why was it removed from it then? What is the rationale behind removing it?

If it was removed, then does it not prove that Allah's WILL was NOT to continue that penalty of Rajm?

This explanation is more logical than dismissing the Prophet (saw)'s action, suggesting he (saw) went against the Qur'an (Astafigurallah!), declaring all the companions to be in error, and blaming the righteous
generations and Caliphs for spreading this error.

That is, since the Qur'anic penalty IS NOT Rajm, he could not have commanded it, unless there was some other explanation of his action!

Once again, it is the Qur'an that provides an outline of the Islamic Law. Other sources of Islam must be examined within the Qur'anic parameters. 

Also, if there was no possibility of any mistakes, then we would not have seen the invention of the Hadith methodology that was mainly invented because people were fabricating Ahadith and it became
necessary to devise methodologies to authenticate them.

That the prophet (SAW) himself explained that the punishment of lashes, in the Qur'an, is for unmarried Muslims, and that the punishment for a married Muslim committing zina, is Rajm. This, too, is
recorded.

This "explanation of the Prophet" itself needs to be authenticated.

Moreover, the penalty for a slave is HALF. How do you HALF-STONE-KILL a slave? If this seems logical to anyone, then that is fine;  but one finds it rather difficult to half-stone-kill a person.

The Qur'an makes it crystal clear that zani (that encompasses both married and unmarried person) is to be given 100 lashes.

Rajm conflicts and contradicts the  Qur'anic Law, to a rational thinker!

Please read an article by a Muslim jurist: "Fawariq-- The Distinctive Character of Tradition" at
http://www.muslimamerica.net/mp/fawariq.htm

The order of Shariah is to go from Qur'an --> Sunnah --> Hadith --> Rulings of Muslim jurists over the past 1400 years.

Some people go from Rulings of Muslim jurists over the past 1400 years
--> Hadith --> Sunnah --> Qur'an, or Rulings ... --> Sunnah --> Hadith --> Qur'an.

The Qur'an, which is a revelation from God and is the most authentic source of Islam, and provides the outline of the Law. Details of this law from other sources must fit within these outlines and parameters.

To a rational thinker, Rajm does not fit the Qur'anic parameters.

Hence the need to understand and follow the Qur'anic patterns and then examine other sources that were transmitted by non-Prophet humans IN LIGHT of the Qur'an, sources that are far less authentic than the Qur'an!

Hence the need for the Qur'an to supersede other sources in the matter of Rajm.

Those who are open-minded to read  the article and its URL is:
http://www.muslimamerica.net/mp/fawariq.htm

How on Earth have we gone from a 'maximum' punishment for public adultery of 100 floggings, to a barbaric and cruel penalty of death by stoning?

Apparently, "we" are not alone. The prophet (SAW), himself, did. There is plenty of recorded evidence of instances of Rajm, order by him (SAW).

The best argument  one  can make is to point out that the prophet (SAW) himself would have preferred to be lenient where he could. There is (at least) implied evidence of this (from hadith collection).

According to some reports, when Ma'ez ibn Malik Aslami was being stoned, he became very agitated, tried to break free, and wanted to be taken back to the prophet. Unfortunately the people stoned him, nevertheless. When the prophet (SAW) heard about it, he was upset and said," why did you not bring him to me? May be he would have repented, and God (SWT) Might Have Accepted his repentance".

In case of Ghamidiyya, who conceived as a result of zina, the prophet sent her back TWICE, first until such time that she was delivered of the child, and a second time to have her suckle the baby until weaning
time. When she still returned after the weaning of the child, and insisted on being purified of her sin, he reluctantly had her stoned. Would he (SAW) have gone after her if she did not voluntarily come back? Personally, I doubt it.

On another occasion when a person reported a married person's zina to the prophet, he (SAW) was displeased, asking the reporter if he would have incurred a loss by keeping his brother's (the sinner's) secret?

ABROGATION OF THE QUR'ANIC VERSES

There are three types of abrogated Qur'anic verses:

 

 (1) Recitation-abrogated and ruling-abrogated                                                                                                   (2) recitation-established and ruling-abrogated
(3) recitation-abrogated and ruling-established

 

 

 #1 and #3 are abrogations by Allah Himself. HE HAS TOLD US that He will protect the Remembrance, so any ayat He allows to be forgotten IS REMOVED BY HIS WILL.
 

What evidence from the Qur'an do we have of (3)?  The proponents of Rajm (stoning death) hold the view that there once was a verse in the Qur'an whose recitation has been abrogated but not its ruling, which
raises a lot of questions about the very authenticity of the Qur'an, by the way.

Moreover, where does the Qur'an say: "Remember that verse about stoning, well, it's no longer part of the Qur'anic text, but the ruling still counts!"?

Why would the recitation be abrogated and not the ruling? It's the ruling and application of it that makes a verse "live" and not just its mere recitation.

So we are left with a less authentic source to prove something that was in a more authentic source, the Qur'an.

Thank God that we have the Word of God preserved forever for us to go back and correct the mistakes, for it is the Qur'an that provides the outline (foundation, if you will) of the Law, while Hadith/Sunnah provides a practical example of it.

This is one of the biggest pieces of evidence to support the view that even the majority can be so utterly mistaken!

Even if there once was a verse in the Qur'an that commanded Rajm, the fact that it is no longer in it clearly means that the author of the Qur'an did not wish to preserve it. So where did the idea that its  ruling is still applicable come from? Obviously from man! Not from God!

Interestingly, the report in which 'Umar is purported to have stated that there once was a verse in the Qur'an that we used to recite and is no longer in it, is interpreted by Maududi that when 'Umar said "the Book of Allah", he was actually referring to earlier revelation and not the Qur'an.

Another argument against Rajm is that the Qur'an prescribes HALF of the penalty for "slaves". So how does one HALF-STONE-KILL a slave?

Rajm is one reason one can feel secure about the constitution of an Islamic state to be "based" upon the Qur'an so that the outline of it will not have Rajm in it, and one will take those Ahadith that fit that outline.

So one can  use this issue as a litmus test to determine if someone claiming to be implementing Islam in a part of the world is really implementing it correctly. 

"Although Allah (SWT)  went through a lot of trouble to preserve His Revelation; yet, many do not pay attention to it!"

So then, how do we explain the reports that indicate that the Prophet himself allowed or commanded Rajm?
Simple!  Either these reports are fabricated, or someone simply made an honest mistake,

Mistake in recording something that the prophet (SAW) taught, may be understandable. But mistakes in recording events which thousands of people must have seen, does not stand up to scrutiny.

 Or there is a logical explanation to reconcile the obvious contradiction between the Qur'an and a few Ahadith.

Yes, there is. And it is that the prophet (SAW) himself explained that the punishment of lashes, in the Qur'an, is for unmarried Muslims, and that the punishment for a married Muslim committing zina, is Rajm. This, too, is recorded.  Perhaps, a second mistake to compound the first?

 But it is the Qur'an that supersedes and abrogates Hadith and not the other way around.

The question of superseding only arises where there is a conflict. But there is none. We are talking about two different punishments for two different transgressions, as explained above.

Why?  Because it is logical that the more authentic source abrogates the less authentic one.

Again, this would only make sense if there is conflict over more than one punishment for the same offence. This is not the case.

It is kindergarten logic! Agreed.

We Muslims have made the same mistake that other Muslims (the followers of earlier revelations made) in that we abrogated the simple and clear injunction of the Revelation with other sources. And the Prophet himself warned us not to follow the path of the followers of  earlier revelation. Like the Jews in Madina stoned the poor offenders, but spared those in their own social club. And the prophet himself had to expose the corruption to them in a well-recorded instance.

Punishments for theft and murder are explicitly prescribed in the Qur'an, and any mitigation has to occur within any limits set therein.

Punishment for married adulterer was prescribed by the prophet (SAW), and it is possible that he could have supplicated to God (SWT) for some level of leniency, or prescribed some latitude himself (with Divine Permission).

Plus, this is not an isolated instance of this concept in practice. At the time of takeover of Mecca, one of the people that Rasoolallah had ordered killed, at all costs, was Abdullah bin Abi Sarh. Yet, after repeated intercession from Uthman ibn Affan (RA), the prophet (SAW) accepted his renewed allegiance and spared his life. How can one explain it?

Lastly, when Ma'ez confessed, it was at the urging and advice of his friends and family, and he was, likely, under the impression that the prophet (SAW) would find some way for leniency. This is substantiated
by his recorded words in his state of agitation. Begging people to take him back to the prophet, he is reported to have said," the people of my tribe have killed me".

How easy and nice! No need for punishment law, since every person with a little  brain would prefer to repent and be spared from stoning, etc.

Well, then Ghamidiyya (may Allah Forgive her) did not use her  brain. Because she turned herself in,  not just once, but thrice. This is again a proof that this (Hadith) saying of the prophet could have never occurred.

Moreover, how could the prophet know or figure out, whether God had "accepted his repentance" or not, if they had brought the convict back to him? Would God send an angel to tell the prophet: "The man is forgiven, do not stone him"?

Counter Point: And why not?  One can argue  with the device of "Wahi al-Khafi" (the Revelations to the prophet which have not been recorded in the Qur'an)?

"Purify" of a sin...Hmm, so someone could kill a thousand people, then be   punished and have a smile on his face during the punishment since he knows that no more hell fire will catch him? "I killed, raped and stole, but they punished me and now all is fine again. I go to paradise..." This contradicts the Qur'an.

On another occasion when a person reported a married person's zina to the prophet, he (SAW) was displeased, asking the reporter if he would have incurred a loss by keeping his brother's (the sinner's) secret? This is nonsense, too. According to the Qur'an the one who complains about someone else has to bring up four witnesses. But how should four people witness someone's sex actions without having offended his/her privacy sphere???

Let us say for the sake of argument that, in a fully Islamic society you witnessed an illicit sex act about which there is no doubt whatsoever in you mind.

What would you do?

1. Ignore it and keep quiet about it (thus condoning illicit sexual liaisons in the society)?
2. Report it to the authorities?
3. Keep the secret, but speak to one or both parties privately (this is what one would do)?

That 8th Century practices were barbaric, brutal, superstitious, and bloody can't be surprising but for educated people to entertain these practices as thinkable, debatable legal issues for today is utterly stunning.

Counterpoint: The "8th century" barbaric practice of stoning goes back to the religious law, which Islam abrogated with 100 lashes in the Qur'an!

It needs to be discussed and debated between the Muslims because the majority of the Muslims are under the impression that this penalty from the earlier revelations is still valid and part of the Islamic Law. As one must have heard, wherever these "Islamists" take control, one of the first things they implement as part of the Law of the Land is this stoning to death for adultery, which is then decreed on people, and even carried out, despite what some of the stoners suggest.  Hence, the need to debate and educate other Muslims on this issue.

Many non-Muslims, have been telling us to "modernize" and "refine" Islam. So when some of us Muslims begin discussing issues such as stoning, which many Muslims would like to be part of the constitution of an Islamic state, one should not then turn around and discourage such a debate, and even ridicule it.

There is no need to "modernize" or "refine" Islam. What are needed are healthy debates and discussions in which alternative interpretations of some of the contentious issues are presented in a rational and logical manner.

Many are rejecting stoning and have pointed out that there is no stoning mentioned as punishment in the Qur'an, Islam's only authentic source.

Ahadith become ridiculous when they try to justify stoning by associating a very improbable statement to Caliph Umar (RA) regarding the forgetting of the verse about stoning.

Muslims who stick to stoning are people one cannot understand. One cannot on the one hand point at the Qur'an's miracle of being preserved without manipulation (since Allah says he will protect the Quran) and on the other hand try to revive the barbaric nonsense of stoning by inventing a saying and associating it to a credible person like Caliph Umar (RA).

Yes, Umar (RA) was a great man and believer and absolutely credible, but this is no evidence for him having indeed said such a statement.

Why should just this so important verse be forgotten among so many other verses? Was no companion among those who edited the Qur'an under Uthman (RA) able to remember that verse?

MUTAWATIR

Since this issue was raised, it's appropriate to give some knowledge on exactly what "Mutawatir" means. In light of this, consider how Rajm might have come into existence.

 The following was taken from: http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Hadith/Ulum/asb3.html

 

This technical analysis of what a Mutawatir HADITH is does not alleviate the difficulty in answering some of the points that  have been  raised against the penalty of stoning being an integral part of the Islamic
Law.

It also does not answer the most fundamental question, which is as follows:

IF THE PENALTY OF RAJM IS MUTAWATIR, THEN HOW COME THE OLDEST DOCUMENT ON THE ISLAMIC LAW NOT ONLY DOES NOT MENTION IT, IT EXPLICITLY STATES WHAT THE PENALTY IS?

Let's give the analogy of a chain: It has to have a BEGINNING! Now, how come Rajm is not mentioned in the oldest document on Islam, Al-Qur'an, which was recited, memorized and then written "officially",
and then all of a sudden it appears in another document that was written many generations later, which was neither recited, memorized or written down by the Companions, nor was it written by someone who claimed to be a Prophet of God and presented it as a Revelation from God?

The fact that Rajm is no where to be found in the Qur'an clearly indicates that this chain of information BEGINS many generations after the Prophet!

The chain of Islamic LAW Begins at the Qur'an.

It's high time that we do a critical examination of Hadith and not be discouraged by those who call the critical examiners of Hadith as  deviants, or pseudo-Muslims, or even Kaafir!

http://www.islamicperspectives.com/HadithProject.htm

Certainly evidence exists that it was practiced  prior to the revelation of Surah, An-Noor. It was the already existing law from the prior scriptures.

Just curious, how is it known that the practice was prior to An Noor? Is this an assumption based on the belief that An Noor abrogated Rajm?

When did it come to existence?
Where did it come into existence?
Who brought it into existence?
Which Muslims opposed the individual who brought it into existence?
What were the opinions of the early scholars, and the scholars of the Golden age of Islam?                                

A wrong turn was made and we have not corrected it in 1400 years. However it continues to boggle one's mind how something so blatant and so simple could escape the very people who lived and heard Truth first hand, the most pious of our generations. And if they can unanimously agree on something so blatantly wrong that doesn't speak highly of the consensus on the Uthmanic Qur'an being authentic, about prayer, etc.

One cannot believe the Sahaba (Allah bless them all) were ignorant, they experienced Truth first hand, their hearts were pure, and their Ijma (consensus) is binding.

Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith    8.816 Narrated by Ibn Abbas states:

'Umar said, "I am afraid that after a long time has passed, people may say, 'We do not find the Verses of the Rajm (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 Rajm 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 Rajm, and so did we after him."

There were two objections to the hadith. One claiming it was a forgery simply because Umar (RA) is supporting Rajm, another accepting its authenticity although interpreting "Holy Book" as Torah. Read the
hadith in entirety and judge for yourself.

REFERENCES:

1.        Stoning -Rajm: mac.abc.se/home/onesr/ez/isl/Stoning-rajm.var.html

2.        http://www.livingislam.org

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