"The Problem of Stoning in the Islamic Penal Code”

Aslan argues that while stoning is undoubtedly a grave human rights issue, the only means of affecting permanent change in Islamic adultery laws is through a vigorous Islamic dialogue over the proper interpretation and application of these laws in the shariah. A close analysis of the complexities and contradictions of these laws, combined with a proper reform methodology of the shariah, necessarily demands an end to the stoning practice. Aslan argues that there is no consensus over a precise definition of zina. 

For instance, there is disagreement over whether zina should be applied to instances in which a married person is unable to enjoy his or her spouse due to legally acceptable conditions such as prolonged travel or life imprisonment. Furthermore, while zina is unanimously regarded as a hadd violation, its punishment varies greatly according to circumstance, particularly the marital status and gender of the accused.  Inconsistencies between the Quran and the hadith regarding punishment for adultery further complicate matters, with the Caliph ‘Umar claiming that stoning was originally part of the Revelation but had somehow been abrogated.

Aslan uses reform methodology (meaning, progressive reinterpretation of religious sources) to argue that the hodud should not be understood as the Islamic version of the ten commandments, and that the shariah can in no way be considered infallible. This combined with the legal contradictions inherent in the zina laws is reason enough for shariah scholars to outlaw the practice of stoning.

Aslan, Reza
Source publication: 
Paper presented at Center for Iranian Research Analysis (CIRA) Conference, Portland, OR