The Punishment for Adultery – Part II

In a previous article, I discussed the issue of the Islamic mandate for stoning adulterers. In that article, I hinted that some Muslims state that the penalty for adultery is not stoning, but rather one-hundred lashes. I researched this quite extensively, and as usual, there is much more to the story.

Therefore, this article will take a more polemic tone. I must confess that I often get frustrated when listening to Muslims describe their own religion. For example, this Muslim speaker [i] denies that stoning for adultery is an Islamic teaching. He says that the penalty of stoning is never specifically mentioned in the Qur’an, which is true. He points out that the penalty as prescribed in the Qur’an is one-hundred lashes.

[24.2] (As for) the fornicatress and the fornicator, flog each of them, (giving) a hundred stripes, and let not pity for them detain you in the matter of obedience to Allah, if you believe in Allah and the last day, and let a party of believers witness their chastisement.

The Islamic assertion is that the harsh penalty of stoning was only in place as per the Old Testament rules until the new and better way was revealed. The punishment of stoning was rescinded when this verse of the Qur’an was revealed. The Muslims would now have a new way of dealing with the problem of adultery. By Islamic doctrine the Qur’an supersede the previous teachings. This is regardless of whether the previous teaching was prescribed in the Torah or if retold in various Hadith. Once the new penalty of one-hundred lashes was revealed in the Qur’an, stoning would no longer be an option.
From the standpoint of a debate, one could never really know for sure whether any particular Hadith was recorded before or after the Qur’anic injunction. Besides, getting knee-deep into such esoteric aspects of Islamic doctrine is not how to win Muslims for Christ anyway. So even if I knew with certainty that a particular Hadith prescribing stoning was recorded after the Qur’an commanded lashes, it would be of little value for saving souls. Sure, it would show Islamic doctrine to be bankrupt, but such debate tactics are almost always fruitless and unprofitable.

However, what if we found that there was a Hadith where Muhammad discussed both penalties simultaneously? What if Muhammad was given a choice between administering either stoning or lashes and he chose both? Just what would that say about what Muslims are really supposed to do after catching an adulterer? Remember, Muslims are supposed to follow Muhammad’s example. So let’s investigate further regarding what kinds of choices Muhammad made.

Consider this Hadith. In it, the option of one-hundred lashes is indeed given to the man, but the woman is still ordered to be stoned by Muhammad.

Narrated Abu Huraira and Zaid bin Khalid Al-Juhani: A bedouin came and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Judge between us according to Allah’s Laws.” His opponent got up and said, “He is right. Judge between us according to Allah’s Laws.” The bedouin said, “My son was a laborer working for this man, and he committed illegal sexual intercourse with his wife. The people told me that my son should be stoned to death; so, in lieu of that, I paid a ransom of one hundred sheep and a slave girl to save my son. Then I asked the learned scholars who said, “Your son has to be lashed one-hundred lashes and has to be exiled for one year.” The Prophet said, “No doubt I will judge between you according to Allah’s Laws. The slave-girl and the sheep are to go back to you, and your son will get a hundred lashes and one year exile.” He then addressed somebody, “O Unais! go to the wife of this (man) and stone her to death” So, Unais went and stoned her to death. [ii]

Remember where this all started? The Muslims assertion was that stoning was only done because the penalty of one-hundred lashes hadn’t been revealed yet! But in this Hadith, clearly it is seen that lashes as the consequence had been already specified. In fact, it was dictated as the punishment for the man. Muhammad considers the punishment, gives lashes to the man, but reverts to stoning for the woman.

So which is it? If this incident occurred before the Qur’anic verse for lashes was revealed, then why doesn’t Muhammad follow the OT law of stoning? Why does he administer a different punishment for the man? Alternatively, if this Hadith occurs after the Qur’anic verse, then Muhammad disobeys the Qur’an by reverting to pre-Islamic rules. In other words, if the penalty is stoning, Muhammad disobeyed by giving the man lashes. If the penalty is lashes, Muhammad disobeyed by stoning the woman. Whichever way it is, Muhammad’s character is plainly shown.

Again, this type of information doesn’t win Muslims for Christ. However, in this more polemic article, I hope to have clearly explained and exposed the often confusing statements made by Muslims regarding Islamic teachings.



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