Is Rajm a Qur’ānic Punishment ?
Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

The Qur’ān says married slave girls who commit fornication are to be punished half of what is the punishment for a married woman (4:25). This raises the question: Is stoning to death an Islamic punishment and is it mentioned in the Qur’ān because how can you half stone a person to death? Please clear the confusion.


The punishment of stoning to death (Rajm) is not mentioned in the Qur’ān. However, it is based on a Qur’ānic verse1 which prescribes certain punishments for criminals who are guilty of creating a law and order situation and spreading nuisance. One of these punishments is Taqtīl. The words ‘an yuqattalū’ are used for it. They imply that not only should the criminals of this category be executed but that they should be executed in a manner that serves as a severe warning to everyone. The punishment of Rajm is one form of Taqtīl. The Prophet (sws) in his own times, in accordance with this directive, administered this punishment to certain criminals guilty of adultery. Consequently, we can still stick to it or leave it to give way to other severer forms of punishment. The real thing is Taqtīl, which, obviously, can have many forms.

The second thing which needs to be appreciated is that this punishment does not unconditionally relate to married individuals who are guilty of adultery, as is generally understood. The Prophet (sws), while taking into consideration the circumstances and the nature of crime in his own times, granted remission to certain criminals guilty of debauchery by exiling them; similarly, while obeying this verse he stoned to death certain others who did not deserve any leniency. His inquiry into the marital status of criminals guilty of fornication was also based on this pretext ie, whether the criminal deserved any leniency. Our jurists have erroneously inferred from the Prophet’s inquiry that the marital status of a person was actually the basis of the punishment and on this basis maintain that the directive of administering a hundred stripes (the punishment of fornication as mentioned in Sūrah Nūr) is only for unmarried people. Actually, the Prophet (sws) while deciding the fate of such criminals asked many questions to see whether they deserved any mitigation. The question of an offender’s marital status was one such question, but our jurists concluded it was the only question asked and, hence, made it the basis of the punishment. They, thereby, incorporated in the penal code of Islam a totally baseless addition, which is against the Qur’ān as well as the norms of sense and reason.




1. The Qur’ān says:

The punishments of those who wage war against Allah and His Prophet and strive to spread disorder in the land are to execute them in an exemplary way or to crucify them or to amputate their hands and feet from opposite sides or to banish them from the land. Such is their disgrace in this world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom save those who repent before you overpower them; you should know that Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Ever Merciful. (5:33-34)


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