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Stoning, or lapidation, is a form of capital punishment whereby a group throws stones at a person until death ensues. No individual among the group can be identified as the one who kills the subject. This is in contrast to the case of a judicial executioner. Slower than other forms of execution, stoning is a form of execution by torture.
Stoning is called Rajm (Arabic: رجم) in Islamic literature, and it remains a legal form of judicial punishment in United Arab Emirates, Iran, Iraq, Qatar, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Northern Nigeria, Aceh in Indonesia, Brunei, and Pakistan; although several other countries practice extrajudicial stoning, while several others have sentenced people to death by stoning, but have not carried out the sentences.
In modern times, allegations of stoning are politically sensitive, as in case of Iran, which describes such allegations as political propaganda.
The methods for carrying out stoning may vary across different histories and cultures.
For example, the 2008 version of Islamic Penal Code of Iran detailed how stoning punishments are to be carried out for adultery, and even hints in some contexts that the punishment may allow for its victims to avoid death:
Article 102 – An adulterous man shall be buried in a ditch up to near his waist and an adulterous woman up to near her chest and then stoned to death.
Article 103 – In case the person sentenced to stoning escapes the ditch in which they are buried, then if the adultery is proven by testimony then they will be returned for the punishment but if it is proven by their own confession then they will not be returned.
Article 104 – The size of the stone used in stoning shall not be too large to kill the convict by one or two throws and at the same time shall not be too small to be called a stone.
Depending upon the details of the case, the stoning may be initiated by the judge overseeing the matter or by one of the original witnesses to the adultery. Certain religious procedures may also need to be followed both before and after the implementation of a stoning execution, such as wrapping the person being stoned in traditional burial dress before the procedure.
The above 2008 version method of stoning was similar to 1999 version of recommended practice for stoning in Iran's penal code. Iran revised its penal code. The new code does not include the above passages, but includes stoning as a hadd punishment. For example, Book I, Part III, Chapter 5, Article 132 of the new Islamic Penal Code (IPC) of 2013 in the Islamic Republic of Iran states, "If a man and a woman commit zina together more than one time, if the death penalty and flogging or stoning and flogging are imposed, only the death penalty or stoning, whichever is applicable, shall be executed". Book 2, Part II, Chapter 1, Article 225 of the Iran's IPC released in 2013 states, "the hadd punishment for zina of a man and a woman who meet the conditions of ihsan shall be stoning to death".
Stoning is an ancient form of capital punishment. There are historical reports of stoning from Ancient Greece — Herodotus reports the case of Lycidas in his Histories, Book IX. Stoning is also mentioned in Ancient Greek mythology — Oedipus asks to be stoned to death when he learns that he killed his father.
The Israelite Torah, which is the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) contained within the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and as such serves as a common religious reference for Judaism. Stoning is the method of execution mentioned in the Torah. (Murder is not mentioned as an offense punishable by stoning, but it seems that a member of the victim's family was allowed to kill the murderer – see Avenger of blood.) The crimes punishable by stoning were the following:
If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which [is] as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; [Namely], of the gods of the people which [are] round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the [one] end of the earth even unto the [other] end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
The Talmud describes four methods of execution – stoning, pouring molten lead down the throat of the condemned person, beheading, and strangulation (see Capital and corporal punishment in Judaism). The Mishna gives the following list of persons who should be stoned.
"To the following sinners stoning applies – אלו הן הנסקלין
Prior to early Christianity, particularly in the Mishnah, doubts were growing in Jewish society about the effectiveness of capital punishment in general (and stoning in particular) in acting as a useful deterrent. Subsequently its use was dissuaded by the central legislators. The Mishnah states:
A Sanhedrin that puts a man to death once in seven years is called destructive. Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariah says that this extends to a Sanhedrin that puts a man to death even once in seventy years. Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Tarfon say: Had we been in the Sanhedrin none would ever have been put to death. Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel says: they would have multiplied shedders of blood in Israel.
In the following centuries the leading Jewish sages imposed so many restrictions on the implementation of capital punishment as to make it de facto illegal. The restrictions were to prevent execution of the innocent, and included many conditions for a testimony to be admissible that were difficult to fulfill.
Philosopher Moses Maimonides wrote, "It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death." He was concerned that the law guard its public perception, to preserve its majesty and retain the people's respect. He saw errors of commission as much more threatening to the integrity of law than errors of omission.
In rabbinic law, capital punishment may only be inflicted by the verdict of a regularly constituted court of three-and-twenty qualified members. There must be the most trustworthy and convincing testimony of at least two qualified eyewitnesses to the crime, who must also depose that the culprit had been forewarned of the criminality and the consequences of his project. The culprit must be a person of legal age and of sound mind, and the crime must be proved to have been committed of the culprit's free will and without the aid of others.
On the day the verdict is pronounced, the convict is led forth to execution. The Torah law (Leviticus 19:18) prescribes, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself"; and the Rabbis maintain that this love must be extended beyond the limits of social intercourse in life, and applied even to the convicted criminal who, "though a sinner, is still thy brother" (Mak. 3:15; Sanh. 44a): "The spirit of love must be manifested by according him a decent death" (Sanh. 45a, 52a). Torah law provides (Deut. 24:16), "The parents shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the parents; every man shall be put to death for his own sins", and rabbinic jurisprudence follows this principle both to the letter and in spirit. A sentence is not attended by confiscation of the convict's goods; the person's possessions descend to their legal heirs.
The Talmud limits the use of the death penalty to Jewish criminals who:
In theory, the Talmudic method of how stoning is to be carried out differs from mob stoning. According to the Jewish Oral Law, after the Jewish criminal has been determined as guilty before the Great Sanhedrin, the two valid witnesses and the sentenced criminal go to the edge of a two story building. From there the two witnesses are to push the criminal off the roof of a two story building. The two-story height is chosen as this height is estimated by the Talmud to effect a quick and painless demise but is not so high that the body will become dismembered. After the criminal has fallen, the two witnesses are to drop a large boulder onto the criminal – requiring both of the witnesses to lift the boulder together. If the criminal did not die from the fall or from the crushing of the large boulder, then any people in the surrounding area are to quickly cause him to die by stoning with whatever rocks they can find.
Islamic Sharia Law is based on the Quran, the hadith, and the biography of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, though there is no reference to stoning in the Quran. Shia and Sunni hadith collections differ because scholars from the two traditions differ as to the reliability of the narrators and transmitters and the Imamah. Shi'a sayings related to stoning can be found in Kitab al-Kafi, and Sunni sayings related to stoning can be found in the Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim.
Based on these hadiths, in some Muslim countries, such as Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, married adulterers will get capital punishment, while not-married adulterers will be flogged 100 times.
Crimes in the Qur'an are divided into three categories based on the prescribed punishment for the offence. The first category is Hudad, which is defined as limits and prohibitions, and committing any of these crimes is equivalent to violating God's limits and the proper punishment considered for such a crime is execution. Zina which refers to any illicit sexual intercourse between a man and a woman, is one of the major offences in Islam and classifies in the Hudad category. The Qur'an forbids all sexual intercourse outside the marital bond as sinful, but makes no distinction between them. The punishment is flogging 100 times for those found guilty. Stoning (rajm) as a punishment for adultery is not mentioned in the Quran (though it is mentioned in Hadith), so some modernist Muslim scholars, like Quran alone Scholars, hold the view that stoning to death is not an Islamic law.
According to the Hanbali jurist Ibn Qudamah, "Muslim jurists are unanimous on the fact that stoning to death is a specified punishment for the married adulterer and adulteress. The punishment is recorded in number of traditions and the practice of Muhammad stands as an authentic source supporting it. This is the view held by all Companions, Successors and other Muslim scholars with the exception of Kharijites."
In hadith (sayings)
Jabir b. 'Abdullah reported that Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) stoned (to death) a person from Banu Aslam, and a Jew and his wife.
Sahih Bukhari 6.79, Narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar
The Jews brought to the Prophet a man and a woman from among them who had committed illegal sexual intercourse. The Prophet said to them, "How do you usually punish the one amongst you who has committed illegal sexual intercourse?" They replied, "We blacken their faces with coal and beat them." He said, "Don't you find the order of Ar-Rajm (i.e. stoning to death) in the Torah?" They replied, "We do not find anything in it." 'Abdullah bin Salam (after hearing this conversation) said to them, "You have told a lie! Bring here the Torah and recite it if you are truthful." (So the Jews brought the Torah). And the religious teacher who was teaching it to them, put his hand over the Verse of Ar-Rajm and started reading what was written above and below the place hidden with his hand, but he did not read the Verse of Ar-Rajm. 'Abdullah bin Salam removed his (i.e. the teacher's) hand from the Verse of Ar-Rajm and said, "What is this?" So when the Jews saw that Verse, they said, "This is the Verse of Ar-Rajm." So the Prophet ordered the two adulterers to be stoned to death, and they were stoned to death near the place where biers used to be placed near the Mosque. I saw her companion (i.e. the adulterer) bowing over her so as to protect her from the stones.
Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 50: Conditions, Number 885: Narrated Abu Huraira and Zaid bin Khalid Al-Juhani: A bedouin came to Allah's Apostle and said, "O Allah's apostle! I ask you by Allah to judge My case according to Allah's Laws." His opponent, who was more learned than he, said, "Yes, judge between us according to Allah's Laws, and allow me to speak." Allah's Apostle said, "Speak." He (i .e. the bedouin or the other man) said, "My son was working as a laborer for this (man) and he committed illegal sexual intercourse with his wife. The people told me that it was obligatory that my son should be stoned to death, so in lieu of that I ransomed my son by paying one hundred sheep and a slave girl. Then I asked the religious scholars about it, and they informed me that my son must be lashed one hundred lashes, and be exiled for one year, and the wife of this (man) must be stoned to death." Allah's Apostle said, "By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, I will judge between you according to Allah's Laws. The slave-girl and the sheep are to be returned to you, your son is to receive a hundred lashes and be exiled for one year. You, Unais, go to the wife of this (man) and if she confesses her guilt, stone her to death." Unais went to that woman next morning and she confessed. Allah's Apostle ordered that she be stoned to death.The stoning was done to the woman because she was a jew and according to torah punishment is stoning.The son got 100 lashes because its the punishment for zina in quran.
As of September 2010, stoning is a punishment that is included in the laws in some countries including Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, Yemen and some states in Nigeria as punishment for zina al-mohsena ("adultery of married persons").
Zina must be proven by either confession or validation of four honest eyewitnesses' testimony. Each witness' detailed descriptions must be exactly the same as other men to be taken into consideration; if not the witnesses will receive eighty lashes as punishment for the false accusation.
Many Muslim clerics, religious scholars, and political leaders—including those in the countries where stoning is practiced—have condemned stoning as “un-Islamic”, as it is not explicitly mentioned in the Quran.
Before the Taliban government, most areas of Afghanistan, aside from the capital, Kabul, were controlled locally by warlords or tribal leaders and the Afghan legal system depended highly on an individual community's local culture and the political and/or religious ideology of its leaders. Stoning also occurred in lawless areas, where vigilantes committed the act for political purposes. Once the Taliban took over, stoning became the official punishment for many crimes. The U.S.-led occupation ended stoning as an official court ruling, but it still occurs unofficially. A Taliban-ordered public stoning of a couple accused of adultery took place in Kunduz on August 15, 2010. Another public stoning occurred in 2011, in Ghazni province, when a group of armed men stoned and shot dead a woman and her daughter. According to official authorities, the Taliban had accused the victims of "moral deviation and adultery".
In October 2013, the Sultan of Brunei announced that stoning, along with flogging and amputations, would be added to the country's laws in accordance with Sharia Law.
On 14 September 2009, the outgoing Aceh Legislative Council passed a bylaw that called for the stoning of married adulterers. However, then governor Irwandi Yusuf refused to sign the bylaw, thereby keeping it a law without legal force and, in some views, therefore still a law draft, rather than actual law. In March 2013, the Aceh government removed the stoning provision from its own draft of a new criminal code.
An Iraqi man was stoned to death, in August 2014, in the northern city of Mosul after one Sunni Islamic court sentenced him to die for the crime of adultery.
The Iranian judiciary officially placed a moratorium on stoning in 2002; however, in 2007, the Iranian judiciary confirmed that a man who had been convicted of adultery 10 years earlier, was stoned to death in Qazvin province. In 2008, the judiciary tried to eliminate the punishment from the books in legislation submitted to parliament for approval. In 2009, two people were stoned to death in Mashhad, Razavi Khorasan Province as punishment for the crime of adultery. In early 2013, a spokesman for judicial committee of Iran's parliament stated that stoning is no longer mentioned in Iran's legislation, but that punishment will remain the same as it is Islamic law. He questioned Western enmity against Iran, and termed the campaign to remove Rajm as noise against the implementation of Islamic law in Iran. Legal scholars concur that while certain stoning-related passages have been removed from Iran's new penal code, other passages in the new code refer to stoning, and stoning remains as a possible form of punishment under the new Iranian penal code.
Amnesty International has documented 76 cases of lethal stoning between 1980-1989 in Iran, while the International Committee Against Execution (ICAE) has reported that 74 others were stoned to death in Iran between 1990-2009.
In July 2012, a couple who had sex outside marriage was stoned to death by Islamists in the town of Aguelhok in northern Mali.
Since the Sharia legal system was introduced in the predominantly Muslim north of Nigeria in 2000, more than a dozen Nigerian Muslims have been sentenced to death by stoning for sexual offences ranging from adultery to homosexuality. However, none of these sentences has actually been carried out. They have either been thrown out on appeal or commuted to prison terms as a result of pressure from human rights groups.
Stonings in Pakistan are relatively common, especially in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). In March 2013, Pakistani soldier Anwar Din, stationed in Parachinar, was publicly stoned to death for allegedly having a romantic affair with a girl from a village in the country's north western Kurram Agency. On 11 July 2013, Arifa Bibi, a young mother of two, was sentenced by a tribal court in Dera Ghazi Khan District, in Punjab, to be stoned to death for possessing a cell phone. Members of her family were ordered to execute her sentence and her body was buried in the desert far away from her village.
In February 2014, a couple in a remote area of Baluchistan province was stoned to death after being accused of an adultery-relationship. On 27 May 2014, Farzana Parveen, a 25 year-old married woman who was three months pregnant, was stoned to death by nearly 20 members of her family outside the high court of Lahore in front of "a crowd of onlookers." The assailants, who allegedly included her father and brothers, attacked Farzana and her husband Mohammad Iqbal with batons and bricks. Her father Mohammad Azeem, who was arrested for murder, reportedly called the murder an "honor killing" and said "I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent."  Iqbal told a news agency that he had strangled his previous wife in order to marry Farzana, and police said he had been released when a "compromise" was reached with his family.
In May 2012, a Sudanese court convicted Intisar Sharif Abdallah of adultery and sentenced her to death; the charges were appealed and dropped two months later. In July 2012, a criminal court in Khartoum, Sudan, sentenced 23-year-old Layla Ibrahim Issa Jumul to death by stoning for adultery. Amnesty International reported that she was denied legal counsel during the trial and was convicted only on the basis of her confession. The organization designated her a prisoner of conscience, "held in detention solely for consensual sexual relations", and lobbied for her release.
In October 2008, a girl, Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, was buried up to her neck at a Somalian football stadium, then stoned to death in front of more than 1,000 people. The stoning occurred after she had allegedly pleaded guilty to adultery in a sharia court in Kismayo, a city controlled by Islamist insurgents. According to the insurgents she had stated that she wanted sharia law to apply. However, other sources state that the victim had been crying, that she begged for mercy and had to be forced into the hole before being buried up to her neck in the ground. Amnesty International later learned that the girl was in fact 13 years old and had been arrested by al-Shabab militia after she had reported being gang-raped by three men.
In September 2014, Somali al Shabaab militants stoned a woman to death, after she was declared guilty of adultery by an informal court.
Stoning is a legal form of judicial punishment in UAE. In 2006, an expatriate was sentenced to death by stoning for committing adultery. Between 2009 and 2013, several people were sentenced to death by stoning. In May 2014, an Asian housemaid was sentenced to death by stoning in Abu Dhabi.
Several adultery executions by stoning committed by IS have been reported in the autumn of 2014. The Islamic State's magazine, Dabiq, documented the stoning of a woman in Raqqa as a punishment for adultery.
In October 2014, IS released a video appearing to show a Syrian man stone his daughter to death for alleged adultery.
A survey carried out by the Indonesia Survey Institute found that 43% of Indonesians support Rajam or stoning for adulterers.
A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found relatively widespread popular support among the Muslim population for stoning as a punishment for adultery in Egypt (82% of respondents in favor of the punishment), Jordan (70% in favor), Indonesia (42% in favor), Pakistan (82% favor) and Nigeria (56% in favor).
The late American Calvinist and Christian Reconstructionist cleric Rousas John (R.J.) Rushdoony, his son Mark and his son-in-law Gary North, supported the reinstatement of the Mosaic law's penal sanctions. Under such a system, the list of civil crimes which carried a death sentence by stoning would include homosexuality, adultery, incest, lying about one's virginity, bestiality, witchcraft, idolatry or apostasy, public blasphemy, false prophesying, kidnapping, rape, and bearing false witness in a capital case.
Stoning has been condemned by several human rights organizations. Some groups, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, oppose all capital punishment, including stoning. Other groups, such as RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan), or the International Committee against Stoning (ICAS), oppose stoning per se as an especially cruel practice.
Specific sentences of stoning, such as the Amina Lawal case, have often generated international protest. Groups such as Human Rights Watch, while in sympathy with these protests, have raised a concern that the Western focus on stoning as an especially "exotic" or "barbaric" act distracts from what they view as the larger problems of capital punishment. They argue that the "more fundamental human rights issue in Nigeria is the dysfunctional justice system."
In Iran, the Stop Stoning Forever Campaign was formed by various women's rights activists after a man and a woman were stoned to death in Mashhad in May 2006. The campaign's main goal is to legally abolish stoning as a form of punishment for adultery in Iran.
Stoning has been condemned as a violation of women's rights and a form of discrimination against women. Although stoning is also applied to men, the vast majority of the victims are reported to be women. Change.org stated: "The practice of stoning disproportionately targets and polices women and their conduct, and it often further entails a number of civil and political rights violations that follow on from unfair judicial processes and conditions of detention. Women are more likely to be sentenced to stoning when misogynist interpretations of religious laws and cultural mores form the basis of laws governing sexual relationships and the family." According to the international group Women Living Under Muslim Laws stoning "is one of the most brutal forms of violence perpetrated against women in order to control and punish their sexuality and basic freedoms."
Amnesty International has argued that the reasons for which women suffer disproportionately from stoning include the fact that women are not treated equally and fairly by the courts; the fact that, being more likely to be illiterate than men, women are more likely to sign confessions to crimes which they did not commit; and the fact that general discrimination against women in other life aspects leaves them at higher risk of convictions for adultery.
Human rights organizations argue that many acts targeted by stoning should not be illegal in the first place, as outlawing them interferes with people's right to a private life. Amnesty International said that stoning deals with "acts which should never be criminalized in the first place, including consensual sexual relations between adults, and choosing one’s religion".
In the New Testament:
In the Talmud
In the New Testament:
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