Does stoning really have "nothing to do with Islam"?
The Stoning of Soraya M. is a great film; I attended an advance screening of it last year in Los Angeles, and strongly recommend that you see it. It is a powerfully moving indictment of the Islamic practice of stoning adulterers, and indirectly of the Sharia in general -- however, those connected with the film are doing their level best to avoid giving the impression that the film has anything to do with Islam at all. The latest to do this, but by no means the only one, is actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, who portrays the victim's close friend. This is understandable in today's politically correct Obamoid climate, but it is unfortunate for the Muslim women who are victimized by this barbaric practice: they will never get justice as long as the world is busy making excuses for what victimizes them, instead of calling to account those who are responsible.
Anyway, Aghdashloo makes a number of factually false statements in an interview she gave Thursday to Todd Hill of the Staten Island Advance -- not just false, but misleading, and ultimately enabling those who perpetuate the practice of stoning. In it, she said that stoning has "been happening since the Stone Age, in Judaism, Christianity, Islam. Other nations and religions have gotten rid of it, and all of a sudden, after 2,000 years of monarchy we're facing it in Iran. What makes me feel devastated is the fact that it's happening there, the cradle of civilization."
"It's been happening since the Stone Age, in Judaism, Christianity, Islam." In fact, no. The Hebrew Scriptures mandate stoning but it has not been carried out in Judaism since the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., or before that. Islamic tradition contains stories of Muhammad confronting Jewish rabbis who try to conceal the fact that the Torah teaches stoning -- they seem to know that Muhammad was a brutal flat-footed literalist who would demand they carry out these teachings literally, when they understood them in a quite different way.
As for Christianity, stoning has never been practiced except among those strange Christians one encounters only in TV dramas. Jesus famously raised the bar for stoning beyond human reach when he said to a crowd that was poised to stone an adulteress, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her" (John 8:7).
Aghdashloo also, according to Hill, "stressed that stoning isn't mentioned in the Koran." She said: "It has nothing to do with Islam. It's under the category of superstitions and traditions, but obviously those who have hijacked Islam are manipulating people and using this as an Islamic law. It is not, really."
Stoning has everything to do with Islam and Islamic law. The caliph Umar, one of Muhammad's closest companions, even maintained that it was originally in the Qur'an:
‘Umar said, "I am afraid that after a long time has passed, people may say, "We do not find the Verses of the Rajam (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 Rajam 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 Rajam, and so did we after him." (Bukhari, vol. 8, bk. 82, no. 816)
"Allah's Apostle" is, of course, Muhammad, who did indeed carry out stonings. Here is the hadith in which he challenges the rabbis about stoning, and in which there is amidst the barbarism and brutality a final act of love and compassion:
The Jews came to Allah's Apostle and told him that a man and a woman from amongst them had committed illegal sexual intercourse. Allah's Apostle said to them, "What do you find in the Torah (old Testament) about the legal punishment of Ar-Rajm (stoning)?" They replied, (But) we announce their crime and lash them." Abdullah bin Salam said, "You are telling a lie; Torah contains the order of Rajm." They brought and opened the Torah and one of them solaced his hand on the Verse of Rajm and read the verses preceding and following it. Abdullah bin Salam said to him, "Lift your hand." When he lifted his hand, the Verse of Rajm was written there. They said, "Muhammad has told the truth; the Torah has the Verse of Rajm. The Prophet then gave the order that both of them should be stoned to death. (‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar said, "I saw the man leaning over the woman to shelter her from the stones." (Bukhari, vol. 4, bk. 56, no. 829)
Even the monkeys practiced stoning, according to another hadith:
During the pre-lslamic period of ignorance I saw a she-monkey surrounded by a number of monkeys. They were all stoning it, because it had committed illegal sexual intercourse. I too, stoned it along with them. (Bukhari, vol. 5, bk. 58, no. 188)
Muhammad's example is, of course, normative for Islamic behavior, since "verily in the messenger of Allah ye have a good example for him who looketh unto Allah and the Last Day, and remembereth Allah much" (Qur'an 33:21).
And so Islamic law does indeed mandate stoning for adultery. ‘Umdat al-Salik, a manual of Islamic law endorsed by Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the most influential institution in the world of Sunni Islam, says this about the penalty for adultery:
If the offender is someone with the capacity to remain chaste, then he or she is stoned to death..., someone with the capacity to remain chaste meaning anyone who has had sexual intercourse (A: at least once) with their spouse in a valid marriage, and is free, of age, and sane....
If the penalty is stoning, the offender is stoned even in severe heat or cold, and even if he has an illness from which he is expected to recover. A pregnant woman is not stoned until she gives birth and the child can suffice with the milk of another. (‘Umdat al-Salik o12.2, o12.6)
The film is great, and depicts the truth. It is a pity that the film's actors and producers feel compelled to deny and downplay the real cause of this crime against humanity. By doing so, they only ensure that it will keep happening.