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International Alliance for Advanced Judicial Studies (IAAJS)



Stoning, or lapidation, is a method of capital punishment where a group throws stones at a person until the subject dies from blunt trauma. It has been attested as a form of punishment for grave misdeeds since ancient times. Its adoption in some legal systems has caused controversy in recent decades.

In rabbinic law, capital punishment may only be inflicted by the verdict of a regularly constituted court of twenty-three 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.

Hadith refers to orally transmitted reports of statements or actions attributed to Muhammad. It was forbidden to record any Hadith on paper by Muhammad himself, the first 4 righteous Caliphs after the death of Muhammed and the later Caliphs. They believed the Quran was clear, fully detailed, complete, perfect and sufficient. There were fears that people would confuse hadith with the Qur'an, influence would seep in from other creeds, fear for fabrications by heretics,for personal or political gain. The first Hadith (that have survived) were recorded 200 years after the prophets death. There were tens of thousands Muhaddiths who had each memorised at least 400,000 narrations along with the chain of narrators for each narration. Out of the hundreds of thousands of Hadith only a very, very small percentage were declared authentic (Sahih) by Hadith Scholars. Hadith Scholars used a number of methods of evaluation to determine the veracity of the recorded oral reports. This is achieved by analyzing the text of the report, the scale of the report's transmission, the routes through which the report was transmitted, the individual narrators involved in its transmission and cross-referincing the reports.

For evidence, Hanafi fiqh accepts the following: self-confession, or testimony of four male witnesses (female witness is not acceptable). Hanafi Islamic law literature specifies two types of stoning. One, when the punishment is based on bayyina, or concrete evidence (four male witnesses). In this case the person is bound, a pit dug, the bound person placed and partially buried inside the pit so that he or she may not escape, thereafter the public stoning punishment is executed. A woman sentenced to stoning must be partially buried up to her chest. The first stones are thrown by the witnesses and the accuser, thereafter the Muslim community present, stated Abu anifa and other Hanafi scholars. In second type of stoning, when the punishment is based on self-confession, the stoning is to be performed without digging a pit or partially burying the person. In this case, the qadi (judge) should throw the first stone before other Muslims join in. Further, if the person flees, the person is allowed to leave.

Hanbali jurist Ibn Qudamah states, "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 practice, Islamization campaigns have focused on a few highly visible issues associated with the conservative Muslim identity, particularly women's hijab and the hudud criminal punishments (whipping, stoning and amputation) prescribed for certain crimes. For many Islamists, hudud punishments are at the core of the divine sharia because they are specified by the letter of scripture rather than by human interpreters. Modern Islamists have often rejected, at least in theory, the stringent procedural constraints developed by classical jurists to restrict their application. Several countries, including Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, and some Nigerian states have incorporated hudud rules into their criminal justice systems, which, however, retained fundamental influences of earlier Westernizing reforms. In practice, these changes were largely symbolic, and aside from some cases brought to trial to demonstrate that the new rules were being enforced, hudud punishments tended to fall into disuse, sometimes to be revived depending on the local political climate. The supreme courts of Sudan and Iran have rarely approved verdicts of stoning or amputation, and the supreme courts of Pakistan and Nigeria have never done so.

Beginning on 3 April 2019, any Muslim individuals found guilty of gay sex and adultery will be stoned to death, according to a new penal code announced by Brunei. The punishment will be "witnessed by a group of Muslims." Brunei has become the first Southeast Asian country which officially adopts public stoning as a judicial form of punishment.

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, commuted to prison terms or left unenforced, in part as a result of pressure from human rights groups.

Extrajudicial stonings in Pakistan have been known to happen in recent times. In March 2013, Pakistani soldier Anwar Din, stationed in Parachinar, was publicly stoned to death for allegedly having a love 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.


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