Before presenting this illuminating lecture I have found about the somewhat diverse subjects of stoning adulterers and the treatment of dogs, I would like to say that I have always considered the intricate arguments about hadith (purported sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) along with accusations of modernism that take place among Muslims regarding the issue of stoning to death as an Islamically licit punishment for adultery to be indicative of the communities’ overall intellectual and moral decadence.
The issue is a rallying call for ‘orthodox’ Muslims (much like how they insist that apostates ‘must’ be killed – a fatwa in which many apostates in the West seemingly take an inordinate amount of pleasure – since they are practically assured of it not being carried out and likewise certain of the celebrity status and sympathy it will bring them from Liberals and the far right alike – and Liberals and the far right really are alike), and by ‘orthodox’ it is in fact meant puritanical and salafist orientations within Islam. Like other issues, this is a means for them to show how ‘practising’ they are. Conversely, those who wish to show their liberal credentials amongst ‘religious’ people likewise have their favourite issues to demonstrate their fervour – supporting gay marriage or feminism for instance. In fact this behaviour shows both groups utter degeneracy. Both take positions designed for a priori ideological effect that in fact fly in the face of clear religious texts and common sense (or rather ‘exceedingly uncommon sense’ among puritans and liberals). Anyone who has spent any length of time amongst these people will see how similar they are (they are frequently incestuous with their members in fact – take the oft lamented example of Majid Nawaaz in the UK for example) and will instantly know the stereotyped and unthinking nature of their beliefs (their sense of self righteousness, manifest destiny and ethical superiority is another thing they share in common). You can never find a Bernie Sanders supporter in the US for example with any degree of nuance regarding the issue of abortion or any doubt that there is a ‘pay gap’ between men and women (there isn’t – except in underwear modelling, and even that to the detriment of the male participants). Express any degree of doubt on these issues or that gay couples should perhaps not receive tax deductions unless raising children – and you will instantly be labelled a bigot or a regressive conservative, so certain are they of these issues that their certainty is matched only by how unexamined this sureity is.
Thus it is with Salafis and those influenced by their bent, surely the majority of ‘practising’ Muslims today. We need only concern ourselves with puritans here, because as far as the repute of religion goes, puritans are far more likely to have a detrimental effect than Liberals: people in all religions, from Buddhism to Islam are largely convinced by now that anything difficult is more ‘religious’ and that ease of any kind is suspicious. Since that is the creed of all forms of puritanism, this automatically grants puritanical and salafi orientations a degree of authenticity, even amongst those that do not practice them, that is lacking from Liberals, since liberals protestations of religiosity are so manifestly laughable – it really is stupid to take for example, Micheal Moore as a Catholic when he is at the same time an admirer of ‘South Park’, abortion and gay marriage; virtually no one falls for this apart from other liberals – and not even most of them. This obvious fakery of liberals has not been lost on puritans, and they frequently resort to spuriously labelling the genuinely spiritual and religious as ‘sell outs’ and ‘brainwashed’ liberals, hoping to achieve the same reflex dismissal of religious authority which we would rightly bestow on Micheal Moore, no matter how nice a guy he is, or ‘Catholic’ abortion advocates.
Stoning adulterers is one such issue deployed by Muslims of a puritanical persuasion to show how they are ‘authentic’ and unaffected by what society thinks. Most people interested in religion see these traits as laudable, especially as Liberals have caused them to think this by indeed making it appear that there is a conspiracy against any kind of religious or conservative idea involving academia, mass media and government. Since these institutions uncritically all say the same thing (gay marriage = ‘good’ for example, having previously said that gays needed electroshock therapy), people understandably surmise that this is some kind of collusion between these groups (this belief had much to do with Donald Trump’s recent election in fact – people just don’t believe what academics and celebrities as well as the media that host them say, because they can see the inflexibility, selective outrage and homogeneity of what is presented). Believing in this ‘thought hygiene’ enforced by mass media and celebrity culture, people can easily believe that not giving a damn about society and flying in the face of these things is a ‘good thing’. Puritans deploy this to great effect, because it saves them having to proffer some kind of theological justification for things like stoning adulterers: just the fact that it is against what liberals want and ‘old fashioned’ is enough to make it ‘religious’ in the eyes of both the genuinely religious and liberals, who themselves are ever ready to believe tall tales which disparage religion.
However, this degree of ‘proof’ for religious ideas is lamentable. Surely religious laws and concepts are to be justified based on some kind of logical or theological principles rather than that they offend liberal sensitivities, are too ‘easy’ or some other emotional justification that appeals to identity politics in much the same way as they LGTBQ+++ lobby?
The issue of adultery is one of the most depressing examples. Apart from the ‘if you believe this you will believe anything’ mentality that results from insisting on it, it is very depressing that most Muslims don’t seem to be able to grasp that something is a major sin or unethical unless it is associated with the death penalty or some kind of violence. It is a child like mentality where only physical punishment or a smack can make them understand right and wrong.
Of course, there is the more disturbing and wider question of why most Muslims regard sins of a sexual nature to be ‘worse’ than sins of far greater moral decrepitude, but this depressing topic will have to wait for another day and/or a particularly gifted psychoanalyst.
Amongst many others, consider the following reasons:
1) With no knowledge of Islam, hadith or Quran whatsoever, it is glaringly obvious that if the punishment for adultery is in fact stoning, then according to Islamic morals, adultery must be worse than child murder, since the punishment for adultery is clearly much worse than that for murder (bear in mind that it is a matter of ‘ijma’ or consensus that if a person is punished in this life for a crime, including stealing or murder or adultery, he or she will be sanctioned no further in the hereafter, thus the punishment really must fit the moral intensity of the crime). Adultery is said to be punishable by stoning (with small stones no less – and according to the Hanbali school, the person must be lashed one hundred times first and then stoned to death) and without the possibility of forgiveness by the aggrieved partner(s) i.e when proved, the punishment must be carried out if evidential standards are reached. Contrast this with the scenario where someone murders a child for no reason whatsoever but is killed in a much more painless manner (beheading) and has the possibility of forgiveness and reprieve from the child’s parents. This makes absolutely no sense in absolutely no universe.
2) Although linguistically, ‘zina’ and ‘zani’ in Arabic undeniably from the classical period of the Quran until now refer to either adultery or fornication (sex between unmarried persons), proponents of stoning for adultery (sadly the majority in Islam) claim that the Quran, which insists that the punishment for zina is lashing only, is referring only to fornication as opposed to adultery or both (which is the only linguistic possibility since zina means ‘illicit intercourse’ whether adultery or fornication). Apart from being the equivalent of linguistic codswallop, this argument reduces the Quran to a bizarre and foolish book which specifies in detail the punishment for the much less grievous issue of fornication by flogging but then omits to mention the more serious issue of adultery, which results in the death penalty. So according to most Muslims, God was badly in need of an editor to tell him what to include and not include in the Quran, since he included lots of ‘minor’ things but left the major issues such as killing and capital punishment to the relatively unprotected hadith canon. Of course, the perceptive will notice that the other salafi and Deobandi (an Indian Subcontinental offshoot of Wahhabism) favourite tropes of killing apostates and homosexuals suffer from this same deficiency of not being mentioned in the Quran but strangely being left to largely contested hadith. It is almost as if these people suffer from a kind of moral erectile dysfunction or fetish: unless violence is involved, they cannot get their moral sense up so to speak and understand that adultery and homosexuality are considered sinful in religion.
They are fond of saying that other important things like ‘how to pray’ are not mentioned in the Quran either (*hoping that you don’t realise that how to pray is not explained in the hadith either) so one shouldn’t worry about crimes requiring capital punishment not being mentioned either. Apart from this being a wonderful illustration of just how far these morally degenerated sects have taken the idea of ‘not caring what society thinks’, it is also incredibly banal for the mere fact that irreligious people will have a field day reminding believers that they think that the nuances of prayer are as important as the rules and reasons for killing – just as they are fond of reminding Muslims that the ‘book in which nothing has been left out’ – the Quran – has managed to leave out most of the reasons for killing another human.
3) Muslims are familiar with the claim that there was a passage about stoning in the Quran but that it was ‘abrogated’ by being totally removed. Quite apart from the fact that this claim is found in the hadith literature and is not Quranic nor mass transmitted nor ‘mashoor’ (famous) even according to the partisans of said hadith literature, the same literature says nothing about ‘abrogation’ at all but instead claims (attributed to A’isha) that the passage in question was in fact lost (that is the word used, not ‘abrogated’) by being eaten by a goat.
So to shoehorn stoning for adultery into Islam, Muslims have willingly acquired the far greater problem of the Quran being incomplete (an idea that is obvious disbelief) with various caveats, none of which will hold up to any degree of scrutiny. Furthermore, they have made the much vaunted mass-transmission and perfect preservation of the Quran totally pointless since they allow it to be abrogated by the not mass-transmitted and not perfectly preserved ahad hadith canon.
4) More concerning, some sahabah have narrated that rather than the ayats (passages) about stoning being in the Quran, the book that was in fact meant was the Torah and not the Quran at all (unlike the Quran, the punishment of stoning is mentioned in the Bible, even in the New Testament, in the story of Jesus’ challenge to would be ‘stoners’ that he who is without sin must cast the first stone, although currently modern Bible scholars seem to have cast doubts on the authenticity of this tract too).
5) Even more glaringly, there is a debate in the classical sources about whether even ‘zani’ in the Quran means someone who commits fornication or adultery once or rather habitually, with some arguing that even flogging is only to be administered on those who commit these transgressions habitually – in the same way that one does not in common parlance call someone who steals just once in his life a ‘thief’ but rather a ‘thief’ or a ‘fornicator’ or an ‘adulterer’ is perhaps thought of as someone who habituates these actions. But of course, this debate, whatever its merits or demerits, is entirely ignored today by Muslims eager to show how ‘authentic’ they are (by ignoring what Islam actually says in favour of their favourite ‘imams’ and sectarian interests).
6) Even if we allow the hadith literature to set up a death penalty in contra-distinction to the Quran (not permissible by the early Hanafite principles nor by reason), all of the hadith referring to stoning during the time of the Prophet (pbuh) are from before the time of the revelation of the Quranic ayats dealing with the issue of adultery (of four relevant hadith, three are from before the Quranic revelation, when the Mosaic Law presumably would have been in effect, and for one the narrator was ‘not sure’ when it took place). So they are in that case completely inadmissible as evidence in favour of the Islamicity of stoning and if anything it is the hadith of stoning which are abrogated as opposed to the Quran (assuming these hadith are authentic – which this speaker is claiming they are not, at least according to the Hanafis, the earliest and most widespread school of Islamic law and dogma).
Muslims today seem to struggle with the idea that not everything morally reprehensible, like adultery, requires a violent punishment. Violence as the sole means to show disapproval is not the method of the God of the Quran at least. Perhaps today’s Muslims seek the angry old man people claim to find in some parts of the Old Testament.
To me, what this issue has already revealed is a worrying sexual paranoia amongst Muslims and an even more worrying propensity to kill people based on highly speculative ‘proofs’, a propensity that crosses barriers, as evidence by both Saudi Arabia and Iran’s commitment to stoning adulterers. And indeed, it does show the kind of blood lust which Islamophobes would love to find. Add to this a wanton and deliberate campaign to ignore the classical sources and redact those which are admitted for the obvious a priori purpose of legitimising stoning, and the brazen hypocrisy, having decimated classical or traditional Islam in pursuit of one’s own puritanical obsessions, of then decrying ones opponents as ‘modernists’ and ‘hadith rejecters’.
I was to this end preparing an article on the issue to illustrate the numerous classical references showing the folly of insisting on this bizarre stance of stoning adulterers. So I was very happy to see this proponent of the Hanafi school take the hadith on stoning to task from the point of view of the Hanafite epistemology (which I understand views the hadith in light of the Quran as opposed to vice-versa).
Although I cannot agree with the learned scholar entirely, he introduces some much needed clarity and honesty into the issue.
As a wonderful and helpful aside he shows that dogs are not the big deal that many Muslims make them out to be as a wonderful illustration of the Hanafite approach to hadith.
Sheikh Atabek Shukrov Nasafi is a noted scholar and specialist in Islamic aqeeda and theological sciences. Undertaking his religious studies at first in secret in Uzbekistan while it was part of the USSR, he has gone on to have an eclectic and comprehensive Islamic education all over the Muslim world.
Already a scholar when he arrived in the Middle East, he studied in Damascus under such luminaries as Mhmd Adnan Darwish, graduating finally from Al Azhar but only after having studied both in Medina and the wider region, for example under Sh. Uthaymeen (and numerous others).
He is currently based in the Northwest of England where he is the founder of the Avicenna Academy.
His book on hadith is available here: