Someone is smearing Islam. This time, however, Muslims canâ€™t blame the Zionists, Christian Fundamentalists, or neoconservatives. This time they can find the culprits in the mirror.
In the past Muslims have been indignant about claims made by non-Muslims that Islamic law calls for the murder of non-Muslims or for female genital mutilation, and they have been quick to note how the Qurâ€™an abhors such acts. Yet, Muslims themselves have smeared the Shariah by insisting that adultery is a capital crime in Islam in the face of Amnesty Internationalâ€™ s call for an end to the practice.
Muslim courts often dismiss adultery charges when the high standard of evidence in such cases (four eye witnesses and/or a convincing confession) has not been met. However, in cases in which a woman becomes pregnant, this can have the consequence that only the man escapes punishment. The Muslim legal scholars who argue on the basis of certain hadith that stoning is the Islamic punishment for adultery are in direct contradiction to the Qurâ€™an. The punishment mandated in the Qurâ€™an for zina (sex outside of marriage, whether fornication or adultery) is specific: one hundred lashes (24:2) and that the society must â€œLet no man guilty of adultery or fornication marry any but a woman similarly guilty or an Unbeliever nor let any but such a man or an Unbeliever marry such a womanâ€¦â€ (24:3). There is no mention of stoning for adultery in the Qurâ€™an whatsoever. Further, the second part of the punishment, that those guilty of zina may only marry others similarly guilty or unbelievers would be an absurdity if adultery were a capital crime. The Qurâ€™an has explicitly forbidden killing except as punishment for murder or a capital crime (5:35, 24:190-191) and forbids the killing of believers in any case (13:92).
When the Qurâ€™an, which Muslims believe to be the word of God, is so clear, how can so many Muslims be so deceived? Because the Qurâ€™an is a book of moral guidance rather than a systematic code of laws, Muslims have developed their jurisprudence using supplementary sources, chief among them being the traditional reports (hadith) of the sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad and his companions. These reports were originally orally transmitted and canonized in later centuries. Despite the general principle of Islamic jurisprudence that hadith contradicting the Qurâ€™an may never be accepted, the Old Testament punishment of stoning has found its way into some of these reports and provided a means for Muslims to give a pseudo-religious defense to the ancient, but un-Islamic practice of honor killings.
Muslims scholars who know better have failed to stand up to this travesty of justice because of their fear that an admission that such a broadly practiced tradition is a violation of the Qurâ€™an might marginalize their own authority either by triggering a backlash for challenging that tradition or, on the other side, open up a floodgate of new questions about other traditions. While the opinions of scholars are necessary to an informed decision, the direct responsibility of the individual to the Divinity implied in the most fundamental of all Muslim beliefs â€œThere is no god but God,â€ requires Muslims to follow the advice that the Prophet Muhammad gave to Wasibah when the latter approached him to learn the difference between righteousness and sin. Said the Prophet, â€œAsk your heart, ask your heart, ask your heart.â€
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute